Afro Descendientes

Roberto Fonts: Courage

image543607-copyIt’s been 34 years since Cuba’s mass emigration exodus of the Marielito boatlift.

The more than 125,000 Cubans who boarded the improvised boats to come to the United States were Afro-descendants … Black Cubans. Among them was 22-year-old Roberto Fonts.

Fonts knew from a very young age that something was waiting for him out there.

When he’d go to el Malecón, a five mile boardwalk/roadway/seawall along the coast in Havana, he’d have internal conversations strategizing and planning his life as a businessman. He believed someday he would cross that ocean and trusted the internal conversations would manifest themselves.

The call to those who wanted to leave Cuba was swift. Fidel Castro emptied his jails filled with Afro-Cubans who were disproportionately jailed for misdemeanors and trumped up charges and included those who wanted to leave Cuba. Fonts jumped at the chance.

“I didn’t hesitate,” said Fonts. “It was the miracle I was waiting for.”

While it was a traumatic and terrifying 20-plus hour voyage in the high seas of the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean, Fonts considers himself one of the lucky ones and lives his life honoring those who sacrificed theirs for a chance at freedom.

Fonts said he’s had his repressing moments, has gotten his share of the “short end of the stick” and experienced challenges. His skin color, accent, immigrant status, feelings of isolation did not sway him from the opportunities he saw.

Taking advantage of education and affirmative action programs were instrumental in achieving his goals. Fonts knew he wanted to be a business professional for a major corporation. His internal conversations comforted him during those hard, early days in a new world. Within four years of having arrived on the shores of the U.S. he was an account manager with National Computer Systems on the East Coast; validation of the importance of patience, perseverance and internal affirmations.

Drawing from personal experience and his desire to give back Fonts started a ground breaking Spanish-speaking interpreting and translating service delivering cultural mediation services between those with limited English proficiency and their service providers such as the medical, legal, financial and human service professions.

Dialog One was incorporated in 2006. Its management consists of 20 business associates, and engage more than 7,000 specially certified bilingual translators, interpreters and cultural mediators worldwide. Dialog One clients have access to more than 150 languages, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Fonts has received state and federal recognition for the development of industry standards and professional responsibilities in developing the frame work of cultural specific mediation. He has created cutting edge curriculum – Empowered by Listening – training program and is the first non-traditional apprenticeship program certified by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

Father of four, grandfather of two Fonts continues to live by intention, strategy and leadership. Fonts sums it up matter-of-factly.

“My passion, commitment and love for humanity come from a healthy, profound level of inclusiveness,” said Fonts. “It is how I live my life.”

Visit to learn more about Dialog One and its services.

December 31, 2014
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