Brent L. Probinsky

MA in Latin American Studies, 1978

August 13, 2012

Brent L. Probinsky is a Florida lawyer with a long history of organizing and personally funding many cultural, educational, and health projects in Mexico and in Mexican-American communities in Florida. His interest in humanitarian efforts began early - as a young man he was sympathetic to the plight of Mexican farm workers and began volunteering in the migrant labor camps of Homestead, monitoring working conditions and insuring that the farmworkers’ children were able to attend local public schools. In the summers, Probinsky visited southern Mexico where he studied Spanish and learned local customs and history.

In 1975, Probinsky graduated magna cum laude from Boston College with a BA in theology. In 1978, he was awarded a MALAS degree from the University of Florida, where he specialized in Mexican and Central American history. After receiving his law degree from Nova Southeastern University in 1982, Probinsky began a lifelong career of protecting the rights of Mexican farmworkers in Florida.

Brent Probinsky

In conjunction with his professional career as an attorney, Probinsky is dedicated to community projects both in the US and Mexico. His humanitarian projects in Mexico include: providing academic scholarships to students in the small village of San Sebastián Coatlan, creating a computer research center and supporting the establishment of a traditional medical clinic in Oaxaca, and coordinating disaster relief efforts to flood victims in Tabasco in 2007.

In May of this year, Consul General of Mexico Juan Miguel Gutierrez-Tinoco conferred the Ohtli medal on Attorney Brent L. Probinsky for his lifelong personal and professional efforts in improving the education and health of Mexicans in Florida and Oaxaca. Attorney Probinsky joins US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and actor Edward Olmos in receiving the prestigious Ohtli, which in the native Nahuatl language means "road or path" for others to follow.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Providing legal representation to campesinos from Mexico and Guatemala who now live in Florida. I travel frequently to Oaxaca, Mexico to visit students who are recipients of my academic scholarships.

How did your MALAS degree and the Center help prepare you for your career?

Without the MALAS degree I earned in 1978 and my concurrent travels and studies in Mexico and Guatemala, I would not have been prepared to be a lawyer for the Mexican State Department and the Consulates of Mexico in Orlando and Miami. An in-depth foundation of the history, politics, culture, and geography of Mexico and Central America, through course work at UF’s Center for Latin American Studies opened many opportunities in my subsequent career as a lawyer.

What let you to initiate community projects benefitting Latin America as part of your law firm’s activities?

Traveling during the past ten years to southern Mexico, particularly to Oaxaca and Chiapas, I found socioeconomic conditions little-changed since my first travels there in the mid-70s. Many young people wanted to finish high school and go on to university to study for professional degrees. The scholarships I provide each year to about 15 to 20 students from Oaxaca allow them to finish high school and graduate from many universities throughout Mexico in many professional areas, including architecture, education, archaeology, economics, and education.

What advice would you give to recent graduates who are interested in integrating community service with their careers?

Never feel as though you don’t have the time or financial resources to help organize and promote community service projects. You can find many financial resources and organizations to help. If you want to organize and undertake the development of your own community service project, you can do so on a small scale. Many times, just providing good information about resources available and helping facilitate the availability of those services is enough to make a big difference. Moreover, you will be highly respected by your peers in your profession. Most successful people have a large base of organizations and people they contribute to, whether time or financial resources. Not to mention the personal satisfaction of making a big difference in the lives of others – especially young people.

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