New Jersey notable latinos
Unanue, Joseph (1925-). Businessman Joseph Unanue, a Puerto Rican, fought in World War II and received a Bronze Star Medal for bravery. He then received a degree in mechanical engineering from the Catholic University of America. Unanue, whose father founded the Goya Foods Company, succeeded him as president of that company in
1976 and retained that position for 27 years. Goya became the largest Latino-owned food distributor in the United States. Unanue has supported numerous Latino cultural institutions.
Hidalgo, Hilda (1938-). Hilda Hidalgo, a Puerto Rican, was a professor of social work at Rutgers University and a civic leader in Newark. She was the first president of the Puerto Rican Congress of New Jersey. In 2007 she was honored by the New Jersey Hispanic Information and Research Center.
Prieto, Yolanda (1946-). Yolanda Prieto, a Cuban American, is a professor of sociology at Ramapo College of New Jersey. She has written about Cuban women in Hudson County and in the American labor force, and about Cubans and the Catholic Church.
Caraballo, Wilfredo (1947-). Caraballo, a Puerto Rican, was a member of Governor Florio’s cabinet and served as director of the Department of Public Advocate from 1990 to 1992. He was elected to the New Jersey State Assembly in 1995, working for a time as assembly speaker pro tem. He is also a professor of law at the Seton Hall University Law School.
Sires, Albio (1951-). Albio Sires, a Cuban American, was mayor of West New York. He then served as a member and in 2002 as speaker of the New Jersey Assembly. In 2006 he was elected to Congress.
Castro, Ida (1953-). Castro, a Puerto Rican, is director of the New Jersey Commission on Personnel and was previously the chair of the United States Employment Opportunities Commission.
Rivera-Soto, Roberto (1953-). Roberto Rivera-Soto, a Puerto Rican, is a graduate of the Cornell University Law School. He is a partner in a law firm, and in 2004 he was appointed to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Bonilla-Santiago, Gloria (1954-). Bonilla-Santiago, a Puerto Rican, is a professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Community Planning and the director of the Center for Strategic Urban Community Leadership at Rutgers University. She organized the LEAP Academy Charter School and the Hispanic Women’s Leadership Institute. She has written on the organizing of Puerto Rican migrant farmworkers and the empowerment of Latina women.
Menendez, Robert (1954-). A graduate of St. Peter’s College and Rutgers University Law School, Menendez, a Cuban American, was mayor of Union City from 1986 to 1992. In 1992 he was elected to the House of Representatives. He was elected chair of the House Democratic Caucus in 2002, which made him the highest-ranking Latino in Congressional history. In 2006 Menendez was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Vas, Joseph (1955-). Joseph Vas, a Puerto Rican and mayor of Perth Amboy, is one of the longest-serving Latino mayors in the United States. He was elected to the New Jersey Assembly in 2004.
Vega, Silvera (1956-). Silvera Vega, a Cuban American, was mayor of West New York and chairman of the Hudson County Board of Freeholders. He was elected to the New Jersey Assembly in 2006.
Cruz-Perez, Nilsa (1961-). Nilsa Cruz-Perez, a Puerto Rican, was executive assistant to the mayor of Camden. She was appointed to the New Jersey Assembly, which made her the first Latina in the state legislature. She later became the deputy majority leader in the Assembly in 2006.
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