The Floricua city commissioner never imagined being part of the political arena after surviving a serious accident and a few evictions. Now she’s running for mayor.
FLORIDA — Olga González never imagined that someday she would be a city commissioner in Kissimmee. She had zero political aspirations and a life full of struggle.
When commissioner Wanda Rentas called González to suggest she should run for city commissioner of Kissimmee, González deemed that impossible. At the time, she suffered from a lung condition that kept her from walking.
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Rentas thought González could contribute much as commissioner because of her experience as an activist in Latino communities and work with nonprofit organizations.
“When God gave me that message, I said, ‘How can I do this, if I can’t even walk?’ You’re going to have to glorify yourself as he glorified himself,” the Kissimmee city commissioner told The Americano.
González is now running for mayor of the city of Kissimmee. She confesses to not having a specific campaign plan or platform for her candidacy. She believes her initiatives in helping various communities speak for themselves.
The candidate says her plan is to follow a chain of command: “getting to know people, learning the process,” to then go to Washington D.C. or Tallahassee and advocate for the needs of Kissimmee residents.
“Then, when you have the opportunity to speak, you speak because you know what you’re talking about. I can’t say I have a platform. My platform is none and my platform is all,” the commissioner explained.
A Competitive Race Amongst Boricuas
González is part of a historic race for the Kissimmee mayoral chair. On August 18, she will face two other Puerto Ricans in the primaries: Lisandra Román, and Jackie Espinosa, both business owners. Community activist Freddy Villanueva, school teacher Alvin Codner, and city commissioner Angela Eady will also be in the race. After the primaries, two out of six candidates will remain.
The needs of the working poor are high-priority for González. Especially since she has helped many in the communities through her nonprofit organization Church and Community Assistance Program.
Through her organization, González said, she has seen firsthand the needs of single mothers who do not have enough money to pay the rent and electricity. The commissioner explained some people in need don’t even know there are organizations that can help them to cover those expenses.
“I know what it is to be a divorcee, a single mother. I know a lot of things that I’ve experienced throughout this life. I know what it is to be homeless,” González explained.
The candidate says she had been homeless twice. In 1983, González was evicted from the apartment she rented for 10 years. By then she lived with her husband, Raúl González, and her three children.
Since they had nowhere to go they sought shelter in the basement of her mother’s house in the Bronx.
“There was no bathroom, no fridge, no heating. We were there for like a year,” González remembers.
After that experience, the family moved to a new apartment complex in Manhattan. But in 1993, when the commissioner separated from González, she returned to live in her mother’s basement, this time, only by herself. The couple had a nine years old daughter, that remained with her father.
That second time Gonzalez recounts living in the basement for three more years. After she suffered a serious accident, she returned to her home with her husband.
“My husband took care of me, even we were separated,” González explains.
Now the couple owns the building that belonged to the commissioner’s mother, where the basement that became her home twice is in.
González considers another issue that affects most deeply, the welfare of Latino communities is the lack of knowledge.
“My people perish for lack of knowledge. They don’t know where to go, who can help them, what to do. But guess what? We are out there to help and direct them to where they need to go.”
A Life of Struggle
González was born in New York City. For her, being part of a multicultural family has a special meaning.
“My father was born in Barranquitas. He was from a Spanish family. They were all white with blue eyes. My mom was a black taíno woman,” González said. “My father loved my mother so much that he left Puerto Rico, moved to New York City, changed his last name, and separated from his family.”
When González was 13 years old, she moved to Santurce, PR, with her mother. She says she had the most amazing experiences studying at the local Federico Asenjo School. She remembers eating jobo fruit; going to Gaby, Fofó y Miliki clown shows; and hanging around Old San Juan.
“I have many memories of Puerto Rico. I was not born there, but the island was born in me.”
González got married when she was very young. The marriage lasted about four years; after getting a divorce, she became the single mother of two daughters.
González said that when she had a son years later, the father of the child did not recognize him.
When her son was 4 years old, the candidate married to González. Marital problems brought an eventual separation. Raúl moved to Florida from New York to live with Olga, after five years of living apart. Since then, they have been together for 17 years.
González said she wants to write a book about her story. A near-death experience and her many struggles directed her life to a path of faith.
“Nobody can imagine the things I’ve been through. I’m standing here strong for my Lord and declaring that my life is what he wants it to be,” said González.
“I stand with my God; he’s going to protect me. I don’t fight any fight; he fights the fights. I’m just there to show the people that we can do this if we stay together.”
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This story is part two of the series “Know Your Candidate: Kissimmee Mayoral Race.”