Melendez, Miguel 1948(?)-
MELENDEZ, Miguel 1948(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1948. Education: Attended State University New York College at Old Westbury; earned master's degree.
ADDRESSES: Home—Bronxville, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Writer and teacher. Boricua College, faculty member; Baruch College, Hispanic Studies Department, adjunct faculty member. Has held executive positions in the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation, Housing Authority, and Department of Education.
We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords, foreword by Jose Torres, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Miguel "Mickey" Melendez grew up in an impoverished New York neighborhood beset with gang violence but where the inhabitants still valued their Puerto Rican heritage. While attending State University of New York College at Old Westbury, Melendez began to study and learn even more about his Puerto Rican heritage. What he discovered led him to become increasingly politicized concerning the problems that Latino Americans faced, including substandard health care, education, and housing. As a result, Melendez and other Latino student activists, including his friend Paul Guzman, formed a group of politically active students and others who would go onto become a group known as the Young Lords.
In his book We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords, Melendez recounts those years during the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Young Lords fought for empowerment in New York's Puerto Rican community. Melendez describes how they established storefront offices in East Harlem, from which the activist group began its efforts to fight for the Latino community's rights and improvements in their lives. Melendez describes in detail the group's many confrontational tactics, including its first "offensive" in protesting New York City's failure to provide garbage services to the city's many "barrios." After sweeping up trash from the streets into a five-foot-tall heap, the Young Lords set the garbage on fire in front of a gathering crowd from the community. The effort resulted in extensive news coverage and the Young Lords were on their way to bringing their community's problems to the doorsteps of city government.
Melendez also details how he helped develop the group's clandestine military branch as the group grew increasingly militant. In one such paramilitary effort, the group took over the Bronx's Lincoln Hospital to secure better health care for Puerto Ricans. In another move, they hijacked a city-sponsored X-ray truck to draw attention to the growing TB epidemic in the barrios. Throughout it all, Melendez describes how the Young Lords also focused on raising community pride and gaining the respect of those in power. Often garnering front-page headlines, the Young Lords eventually brought about drastic policy changes to improve conditions for Latinos and their communities.
Like many other politicized groups of the time, the Young Lords eventually became the target of government infiltrators, which Melendez believes may have played a role in the death of one of its members, Julio Roldan. The increased scrutiny combined with growing ideological differences among its members led to the group disbanding in 1972. Writing in Kirkus Reviews, a reviewer noted, "His memoir depicts turbulent times and exhaustively addresses the essential inequities in minority communities that provoked such strife."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Review, May 1, 2003, review of We Took theStreets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords, p. 662.
Hispanic Magazine,http://www.hispanicmagazine.com/ (February 4, 2004), Rosalinda DeJesus, "The Radical Road to Civil Action."*