Miguel “Mike” E. Rodríguez
Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce, Essex County
Miguel “Don Mike” Rodríguez was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico in 1934. As a punishment for not completing his college work at the University of Puerto Rico, his mother sent him to live with his aunt in New York City in 1957 to learn the importance of education. Three years later, he married and moved to Newark, New Jersey, where he has lived for over 50 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in city administration from Seton Hall University. Mr. Rodríguez began his public service career in 1968 when he began working for the New Jersey Department of Labor. A year later, he began working for the Model Cities Program where he eventually became the North Newark Regional Director. Through the efforts of the Black and Puerto Rican Coalition and as a result of the Newark Riots (1967), Mr. Rodríguez became the Deputy Mayor of Community Affairs. He remained in that position for 16 years. In 1987, he began his second career working for the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program of the Newark Housing Authority. Throughout his civic career, Mr. Rodríguez became a founding member of the Puerto Rican Lion’s Club (the first Puerto Rican chapter in New Jersey), the Communication International Marketing Award (CIMA), and the Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce of Essex County, where he currently serves as chairman. He retired to Florida in 2004, and now splits his time between the two states in order to continue his civic work in Newark/Essex County.
Prepared by Yesenia López, Archivist.
Hear Miguel Rodríguez discuss how adapting and raising a family in New Jersey would make it difficult for him to return to his beloved island of Puerto Rico:
“Bueno, mi vida aquí, yo llevo ya 50 años fuera de mi tierra. Ya yo estoy adaptado aquí y yo no puedo ahora decir que yo me voy a Puerto Rico–pero siempre mi Puerto Rico es mi Puerto Rico. Si yo tengo que regresar a Puerto Rico por “x” razón, pues, lo haría con mucho amor y me despediría de esto. Pero mis hijos están aquí, mis nietos están aquí y mi gran–nieta esta aquí. Yo tengo aquí tres generaciones y entonces yo voy a Puerto Rico y voy hacer un puertorriqueño que quiero mi tierra, que quiero a mi gente, pero voy hacer un extraño. Y basado en eso pues, son las cosas que uno tiene… que pensar, porque muchos van y se trasladan… de nuevo en Puerto Rico, y tienen que comenzar de nuevo. Yo no puedo pensar que la gente que yo deje para la década de los ’50, yo los voy a—muchos han pasado y me olvidan, verdad. Otros se han ido, no están en el mismo pueblo, los jóvenes del high school que nos, que a donde yo me gradué, no sé, [si] vuelvo, soy un extraño. Aquí todo el mundo conoce a Don Mike Rodríguez (laughs) en esta ciudad.”
Text edited for clarity. For a full verbatim transcript of the quote, please see p. 21 of the complete interview transcript.
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