Bronx resident reflects on Hispanic heritage and career as a pharmacist

Javier Maldonado reflects on Hispanic heritage and career as a pharmacist.
Photos courtesy of Javier Maldonado

Javier Maldonado’s first job was at Mt. Carmel Pharmacy in Belmont at age 17. Today, the Pelham Gardens resident has returned to his roots and is back working where his career began.

Maldonado, 37, who is Puerto Rican and Colombian, spoke with the Bronx Times about being in the industry and reflected on Hispanic Heritage Month.

“To be where I am today makes me very proud to be Latino,” he said.

He and his brother Juan were raised by a single mom, Elda, on 187th Street and Prospect Avenue in Belmont. Growing up, he recalled that his neighborhood was not the best area.

Elda came to America, learned English, went to college, became a teacher and taught her boys the values of work ethic, compassion and ambition. His mom’s ambition inspired him to be successful.

“She showed us early on what hard work meant,” Maldonado explained. “If it wasn’t for her guidance and leadership my brother and I wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Looking for an easy way to make money as a teen, Maldonado got a job at Mt. Carmel, which was two blocks from his house. He never imagined a career would begin there.

He started out as stock boy and then became clerk, management and did outside sales.

Maldonado working at Mt. Carmel during the pandemic.

For college he experienced a “culture shock,” as he ventured out of the Bronx to Penn State University.

“I grew up surrounded by people just like me,” he explained. “Penn State showed me otherwise.”

He worked at Mt. Carmel for a decade and loved it. In 2009, he left to work on Wall Street during the height of the recession.

Maldonado told the Bronx Times the money was great, but it did not give him the same gratifying feeling of helping people in his community. So last year, he returned to the pharmacy and became director of operations.

“I am certainly grateful for the opportunity to get into corporate America,” he said. “You have to see whether the grass is really greener on the other side. I truly enjoy helping people.

Getting to work back in Belmont meant so much to Maldonado. He noted that many of their customers do not have insurance or primary care doctors, so the pharmacy is quite important to them.

Since pharmacies were categorized as essential businesses, Mt. Carmel has been opened throughout the pandemic.

“Pharmacies are those beacons of hope for communities,” he said. When you close the doors of a pharmacy it impacts the patients you serve. It’s where I had my first job and hopefully where I end my career.”

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