RIP: 1st Puerto Rican Woman Elected to U.S. State Legislature

My mom has been crying for a few days now. Her beloved “Orgita,” more commonly known as the Former State Senator, Dr. Olga A. Mendez, elected to the New York State Senate in 1978, a position she held for 26 years, lost her battle with cancer theis week.

My mother’s beloved friend, was a pioneer. An idol for Puerto Ricans and women everywhere who paved the way for others. She talked the talk and walked the walk. She was a a tireless advocate for the concerns of her constituents and lived for most of her life in East Harlem.

Born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Mendez moved to the Mainland U.S. after receiving a bachelor’s degree from the Universidad de Puerto Rico in 1950. She received a master’s degree in psychology from the Teacher’s College at Columbia University in 1960 and a doctorate’s in educational psychology from Yeshiva University in 1975.

Like many other minorities, “Mrs. Méndez was defined as much by her political pragmatism — some critics said opportunism — as by her ethnicity. (She did, however, proudly insist on being known as Puerto Rican, and vehemently rejected the terms Hispanic and Latino.)”

I just want to say thank you for all you have done. Your memory will be honored by those you left behind. Que en paz descances, Orgita.

A funeral Mass is planned for 10 a.m. on Monday at the Church of the Holy Agony in East Harlem. There will be no wake. She will be laid to rest in the Bronx.

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