The Miami Dade College professor obtained 70% of the votes in a recent nonpartisan election, winning the Miami Springs City Council, Group 4 seat.
Víctor Vázquez became interested in politics and the impact it could have on a community when he was in college. That vision and the desire to serve his community helped him become the only Puerto Rican to be elected on Tuesday to Miami Springs City Council.
Vázquez prevailed over Vincent Medel, president of the Miami Springs Republican Club, with 70% of the votes.
“I got the largest number of votes, being Puerto Rican, in a city where Puerto Ricans are perhaps 3% or 4% of the population. It is a mostly Hispanic population from other countries, and 20% white Americans,” Vázquez told The Americano.
Vázquez focused his campaign on talking to people about what he could do to address the city’s biggest issues. And that strategy worked.
“I chose to run a campaign of a community nature. I sent information about my background to all the voters, and when I knocked on the door they said to me, ‘You are the veteran. You are the professor.’ They connected with me on that level,” Vázquez said.
The councilor is a full tenured professor of history at Miami Dade College. Vázquez has been a college professor for 36 years and has worked at Miami Dade College since moving to Florida in 2005.
Vázquez was born in the Bronx, New York, to Puerto Rican parents. During his childhood, he lived in Puerto Rico for two years. He returned to the island to finish his bachelor’s degree and completed his master’s degree in psychology.
“One of the things that I set as a goal while living there was to visit all the towns on the island. I met many Puerto Ricans who had never been to all the towns,” Vázquez said. “That was an experience that enlightened me a lot and it taught me to appreciate the island a lot.”
When New York City went through a financial crisis 40 years ago, there was talk of closing the Eugenio María de Hostos Community College. It was the only college in the South Bronx and was created so that Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and Blacks would have access to a college education. It was then that Vázquez joined the protests to keep the school open, and the protests succeeded.
After that, Vázquez moved to Puerto Rico and joined other social movements, such including the Villa Sin Miedo community and a strike at the University of Puerto Rico.
“Those experiences kept me active in university and community struggles. And after I returned to New York after I graduated, an organization of Puerto Ricans called the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights had formed […] I joined the New York chapter,” Vázquez remembered.
But despite his continued activism, Vázquez had not considered running for a political seat. As a resident of Miami, he was involved in some initiatives including being the president of the Puerto Rican Leadership Council of South Florida and motivating and helping Puerto Ricans register to vote in elections.
It wasn’t until he knew there was a chance to compete for a seat in the city where he resides, that he considered it.
“The city where I live is relatively small with 14,000 residents and 9,000 people registered to vote. We are just north of the airport,” said the council member. “And after a veteran friend told me that there would be some seats and after consulting with my family, I decided to jump into the ring.”
Among his priorities in this new position, Vázquez wants to address security, lighting, monitoring the speed of vehicles, and promoting economic development projects.
“We have a downtown area, where there are many small businesses. It is an area that has suffered a lot from COVID. There are many businesses that have closed, but at one point it was an area of great effervescence that produced a profit for the city,” the councilor said. “We need to pay attention not only to helping the businesses that are there, but to seeing if we can attract others.”
A Multifaceted Officer
Vázquez is also a veteran. He joined the US Air Force as a teenager. Two years later, he had an accident at the base that severed the popliteal artery of his left leg. After nearly six operations in a week, they could not restore blood circulation, so gangrene set in.
“They had to amputate part of my left leg. I was 19 years old, so I had to learn to walk again. I was discharged with honors,” Vázquez said.
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The councilor is also an author. He began that facet of his life while in Philadelphia, studying the Puerto Rican diaspora and working at Temple University. Along with Carmen Whalen, he wrote the book “Puerto Rican Diaspora: Historical Perspectives.”
Soon Vázquez will be publishing his third book that will be about Puerto Ricans living in Miami.