Belén Colón, a longtime human-rights activist in her northeast Rochester neighborhood, died Nov. 12, 2022. She was 84 years old.
Doña Belén was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Rochester in 1964. She became so well-known in Rochester for her advocacy that “Belén was sometimes referred to as the ‘Mayor of North Clinton Avenue,’” noted Father Robert Werth, interim parochial administrator of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, where doña Belén was a member.
“Belén was always advocating for our neighborhood, our health and well-being; she was always in the fight for others,” according to a statement from the Ibero-American Action League, a multi-service agency supporting Rochester-area Latinos. “Whether out for a protest due to injustice or a message to the mayor or other lawmakers, Belén was always there, protecting her own.”
“Her involvement in the community was far-reaching,” agreed Father Werth, who has served at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini for 11 years. He also observed that doña Belén was “one of the greatest supporters” of the late Father Laurence Tracy, who — like doña Belén — was fiercely dedicated to improving the lives of Latinos residing in the North Clinton area.
“She has, throughout her life, proudly affirmed and shared her Puerto Rican heritage,” Father Werth added, “both through her Catholic faith and through her culture.”
Doña Belén is survived by children, Gabriel (Rachel) Vazquez, Mateo (Bonnie) Vazquez, Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons, Borgen Vargas, Norma Diamond, Abigail Gonzalez, Rosin Rivera and Devon Vazquez; 11 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews and friends.
Calling hours for doña Belén are scheduled for Nov. 19, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. Michael Church, 859 N. Clinton Ave., Rochester. Her funeral Mass will follow at 1 p.m. at St. Michael Church with Father Jesús Flores serving as celebrant.
Interment will be in Puerto Rico. Memorial donations may be made to the Latino Youth Development and Resource Center or Friends of St. Michael’s.