Mariano Vega, Jr.
Former Jersey City Council President
Mariano Vega, Jr. was born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico and migrated to Jersey City, New Jersey when he was three years old. A graduate of Montclair State College with a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in human services, Mariano Vega, Jr. used his leadership skills to help establish many Hispanic organizations on campus. The organizations include the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), the Hispanic Caucus Fortune, and the Hispanic Alumni Association. While working in the admissions department for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), he aggressively recruited Latino students into study in the field of medicine. In 1985, Mr. Vega became the first Latino Director of Municipal Welfare where he reformed the department to provide job training opportunities, information on daycare for mothers, and helped design the Families First Card, which distributed benefits through a debit card instead of stamps. His work in Jersey City led to his appointment as the Director of the Hudson County Division of Social Services. He was also elected as a Jersey City councilman, and served as the city council president, where he was deeply invested in providing more outdoor green space for his urban constituents.
Prepared by Elizabeth Parker, Associate Archivist.
Hear Mariano Vega, Jr. discuss the importance of being multi–lingual:
“In Europe, all the cultured people speak more than one language, usually three or four. It’s only… America that is so provincial; that [it’s] English; [that it’s] my way or the highway. English only, I mean, what a silly idea. What a silly idea! You’ll never become a world–class citizen with that attitude. So I often embrace the idea that we need to be more than what we are today. And we can be. And we can influence the world a lot. Think about what’s going on in this world today. The nations, the countries, the world’s richest company’s a Mexican [company]. How’s that grab ya? More than [Bill] Gates [CEO of Microsoft]! Countries like Brazil, are just coming above the radar for Americans and yet, they lead in alternate fuel, petrol fuel, and making sugar cane into ethanol for consumption of gasoline. They’re leading the world. So, obviously, speaking a little Portuguese is helpful for the economy. Speaking languages helps us do business better. And I believe that… [is] where we need to go next: global citizens of the world.”
Text edited for clarity. For a full verbatim transcript of the quote, please see p. 39-40 of the complete interview transcript.
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