Mariano Vega, Jr. - Newark Public Library

Mariano Vega, Jr.

Mariano Vega, Jr.
Former Jersey City Council President

Mariano Vega, Jr.

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.

Access to full verbatim interview transcripts and audio recordings are available by appointment only. Contact an NJHRIC archivist at, (973) 733–4791, or via mail, NJHRIC at The Newark Public Library, 5 Washington Street, Newark, NJ 07102 with your request.

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

Copyright Statement:
All uses of these transcriptions are covered by copyright agreement between the interview participants and the NJHRIC at The Newark Public Library. Under “fair use” standards, excerpts of up to three hundred words (per interview) may be used without the NJHRIC’s permission, so long as the materials are properly cited (see citation note). Any excerpting beyond three hundred words requires written permission of the Project Archivist, appropriate citation, and may require a fee, especially if this is a commercial publication or production. Under certain circumstances non-profit users may be granted a waiver of the fee. Please contact for copyright questions.

New Jersey Historical Commission New Jersey Council for the Humanities

This project was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

Additionally, any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the Newark Public Library or the New Jersey Research and Information Center at the Newark Public Library.