Our interviewee today is Víctor Rodríguez, who was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents.
Tell me, what was the reason your parents moved from paradise to the Big Apple?
“Puerto Rico is a beautiful island that has incredible natural wealth and people with an unbreakable spirit. It is almost impossible to describe their faith and desire for life. Unfortunately, as is also the case now, in the fifties, there was a migratory exodus where almost half a million Puerto Ricans left the island in search of a better life. My parents met very young and decided to embark on an adventure together. An aunt hosted them in her small apartment in the Bronx. One of the fascinating things about the Latino culture is the fact that aunts extend their love to their nephews as if they were their own children. Almost right after arriving, my father was recruited and served in the army during the Korean War. It was an experience that helped him in many ways. He finished learning the language, as he had studied English on the island in a Catholic school. My parents highly valued education so they worked hard for me to study from high school to college in Catholic schools.”
How many siblings do you have?
“Unfortunately, my mother suffered two losses and I am an only child. However, I have many cousins and when you grow up in the Bronx, surrounded by other immigrants, you end up having a very large and diverse family. They were loving parents but that did not stop them from being strict. They instilled many values in me, especially tolerance and the love to help others. Here, they were forced to change their profession. For example, my mother was a secretary but for more than five years, she worked as a seamstress until she finally got a job as a secretary at a large hospital. My father, on the other hand, got a good position in the health department because he passed a series of exams that qualified him for the job, being one of the first Latinos to achieve it at that time. With their example of life, they showed me that nothing is impossible when desire and the effort to achieve a goal go hand in hand.”
When did you become a lawyer?
“My first professional career was with an electricity company in their collections department. This company supported me in my education and I had the opportunity to continue growing as a professional. However, after more than 10 years of working for them, I appreciated the importance of knowing the law, respecting the processes and also saw an opportunity to help others. At first, I was not very determined, because to achieve it I had to leave my job if I wanted to be a full-time student. My wife and parents played a key role, supporting me in making my decision. I studied from 1997 to 2000; I graduated and took the bar exam, passing it at first try. That was a great cause of joy for my family and my mentor, lawyer José Vivaldi Martínez. Something very curious happened then, and that is, he knew the grade result first and was the one who gave me the news. For many years, I worked with him until he retired and then I opened my own office. Being a lawyer has given me much satisfaction because the clients’ lives are affected, for better or worse, by your actions. I am always realistic, objective and sincere with my clients because I expect the same from them. As lawyers, we must be ethical from the beginning to the end. Only in this way can we contribute to the ideals of this country. I was lucky to be born in a country of liberties, where I can decide what to be and how to do it.”
Tell me about your wife.
“Barbara is my greatest joy, friend and companion. I knew she was the woman of my life only a month after meeting her, but I did not tell her, so as not to frighten her at that moment. Thank God, today, I can say it constantly. My wife completes me as a human being. She is an intelligent woman, strong and noble.” What would be your final message be? “All human beings are born good; circumstances change us. That is why I do not judge people. I always try to look for the best in them. Only then do we receive the best in them. Your perception changes everything, so you have to be positive at all times.”
María Danniella Gutiérrez-Salem practiced law in Venezuela before going after her own American Dream and becoming a writer in the United States. firstname.lastname@example.org.