Sister Camille: Alicia, many New Yorkers relocate to Florida to enjoy retirement, or the warmth, or the slower pace of living. What drew you from the home in which you grew up and our community in Brooklyn to the Sunshine State?
Zapata: As a novice I spent the last six months of my novitiate and the first six months in first profession in Panama, Central America. On my trip home for first vows I stopped in Florida to visit a friend, Sr. Pearl McGivney. I went with her to visit the farmworker families in the area. At one home there were two little boys playing outside. They had the base of a car jack and were playing with a live mouse. When it came time for me to decide on a ministry, I knew that the farmworkers in Florida were as impoverished as the people I met in Panama.
In my youth I was not thinking about a slower pace of life nor sunshine but instead how I could be present to the most marginalized population in this country. My intent has been to walk side by side with those in most need.
What year did that happen?
I arrived in Florida in September 1984, 10 years after having entered the community.