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Luz Rodriguez interviewed by Joyce Follet, June 16-17, 2006

 File — Box: 45
Link to transcript of Luz Rodriguez interview
Link to transcript of Luz Rodriguez interview
Link to video
Link to video

Scope and Contents

Rodriguez describes childhood and adolescence on the Lower East Side. Her story underscores the centrality of cultural programs to community organizing in the late 1960s and the difficulty of integrating artistic work and political conviction in later years. Rodriguez describes the organizational challenges and personal costs involved in creating and sustaining small social justice organizations. The interview includes a detailed account of the formation of SisterSong. (Transcript 77 pp.)

Dates of Materials

  • June 16-17, 2006


Conditions Governing Web Access

At the direction of the narrator, the recording of this interview may only be placed on the web if access is restricted to the Smith College community. Please consult with special collections staff at to inquire about the existence of or access to digital copies. The interviewer and narrator for this interview have agreed that the transcript may be placed on the web.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview is open for research use without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

The interviewer and narrator have transferred copyright of this interview to Smith College.

Biographical / Historical

Luz Marina Rodriquez was born in New York City on March 7, 1956, and grew up on the Lower East Side. She was the eldest of three children of Elsa Rodriguez Vazquez and Luis Rodriguez Nieto, Sr., who had both recently migrated from Puerto Rico as part of Operation Bootstrap. Her father held a variety of jobs, including electronics repair and night security work, while her mother worked as an Avon Lady.

After graduating from Seward Park High School in 1974, Rodriguez spent two years immersed in social and cultural activities in her Puerto Rican neighborhood, which became known as Loisaida. She was deeply involved in The Real Great Society, a gang outreach and community empowerment organization created in 1964 to engage youth in addressing local needs, especially sweat equity projects to create affordable housing. She was also an active participant in CHARAS/El Bohio, a cultural center where she taught Puerto Rican folkloric dance.

After studying dance at Pratt Institute, Rodriguez graduated from NYU as a dance therapy major in 1982. College research into the sterilization and birth control experimentation on Puerto Rican women planted the seed of later reproductive rights activism.

Rodriguez defines herself as a servant-leader. She has continued to combine grassroots social justice work with administrative leadership in nonprofit organizations, including Henry Street Settlement, Lower East Side Family Resource Center, Dominican Women's Development Center, and Casa Atabex. In 1996 she became Executive Director of the Latina Roundtable on Health and Reproductive Rights and played a critical role in the formation of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective. A specialist in organizational development and non-profit sustainability, Rodriguez currently serves as bilingual training coordinator at the New York City headquarters of the Foundation Center.

Rodriguez was awarded a Windcall Residency in 1994 for her advocacy work. She is a published poet as well as a playwright and an aspiring sculptor. She remains active in SisterSong. She has two sons, a stepson, a foster daughter, a kinship foster child, and four grandchildren.

Language of Materials