NJ Hispanic Research & Information Center Newark Public Library


Laura Freytes

Laura Freytes came to Paterson, New Jersey from Puerto Rico when she was eight years old. After her parents divorced, she moved back to Puerto Rico for several years, and returned after completing high school. Mrs. Freytes' personal experience with discriminatory hiring practices in New Jersey led her to become deeply invested in the 1960s civil rights movement. As a result, she became active in organizations dedicated to preventing discriminatory practices against the Latino community. After the birth of her daughter, Mrs. Freytes pursued higher education, graduating cum laude from Caldwell College. Subsequent to receiving her bachelor's degree, Mrs. Freytes worked for Paterson Mayor Martin G. Barnes as a program analyst. She was then offered the post of Deputy Superintendent of Elections of Passaic County and five years later became the Superintendent of Elections. She is the first Latina Deputy Superintendent and later Superintendent of Elections in the state of New Jersey.
Prepared by Elizabeth Parker, Associate Archivist.


Hear Laura Freytes discuss the Paterson City Council's attempt to cancel the Puerto Rican Day Parade and her and the community's response.

Text of Audio Quote:
[Text edited for clarity. For a full verbatim transcript of the quote, please see p. 22 of the complete interview transcript.]

"So we, he [good friend, Oswaldo Aguirre] helped me start organizing the community... to get people to go in front of City Hall and protest what the... City Council was doing: that they tried to stop the Puerto Rican Day Parade [in Paterson, New Jersey]... My statement in the letter that I wrote to the Herald News, says as follows–and I said that the City Council was wrong... "The position taken by five members of the Paterson City Council to prevent a 27–year–old city festival is an insult to the Puerto Rican community... The vote was an act of bias combined with ignorance. These council members used poor judgment when rendering their vote and thinking that the parade's board of directors and well–known members of our Puerto Rican community were not going to challenge their unjust decision. Adding insult to injury by displaying their bias against the Puerto Rican community, these same members granted a license to another festival to be held September 12, not even three blocks away from the vacant land where the parade organizers, having all required permit[s] in order, plan to have their festival." In other words, these other community organizers were having their parade... everything was granted, everything was okay for them, but it was not okay for the Puerto Ricans to have... their festival in the place where these council people opposed."

For a more extensive and specific list of peoples, places, organizations and topics discussed in this oral history, please see the Interview Transcript Index.

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