MAN OF THE PEOPLE: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CONGRESSMAN ROBERT GARCIA
Congressman reflects on the impact of the civil rights movement on the Hispanic community, particularly in New York.
by Robert Garcia
Publication Date: April 30, 2023
Format: Trade Paperback
Not yet published
Three weeks into his first term as a US Congressman, Robert Garcia found himself sitting down for a second time with the president of the United States. The son of a laborer at the Central Aguirre sugar mill in Puerto Rico, he couldn’t help but think, “Only in America!”
Garcia grew up in the South Bronx and in his autobiography—published posthumously—he shares his story of struggle, rising from poverty to become a Korean War veteran, New York State Assemblyman and Senator and ultimately a US Congressman representing his beloved community.
When Garcia was a boy in the 1930s and 1940s, the South Bronx was a poor but safe working-class neighborhood. He and his family did suffer cold and hunger, but he recalls a “happy childhood full of love.” Somehow, he avoided drugs when they hit the neighborhood, though his mother surreptitiously checked his arms for needle tracks. At 17, he joined the US Army and went to Korea. Afterwards, he took advantage of the GI Bill, got married, had children and successfully moved into the middle class.
Garcia writes his life was forever changed when he gathered signatures to help nominate John F. Kennedy as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. That pivotal moment, combined with his excitement about involving Puerto Ricans in the political process during the heady days of the civil rights movement, led to his immersion in politics. He was the first Latino elected to the New York State Assembly in 1966; he became a New York State Senator in 1967 and a US Congressman in 1978. He recalls key moments, like the founding of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) and the Attica Prison Riot, where he was appointed to a mediation committee by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Garcia also details his indictment for extortion and bribery, his brief time in prison and the ultimate reversal of the indictment by the appeals court. This informative autobiography spotlights one of the first Latino elected officials who is considered a pioneer by later generations of leaders, including Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, who wrote a prologue for this book.