Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, spoke in memory of former Congressman Robert Garcia on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday.
“I rise today as Puerto Rico’s sole elected representative in Congress to speak about a great man who gave up his voting rights in order to live and die in the place he loved so much, my Puerto Rico,” she began. She went on to recognize Garcia’s achievements in the legislature, and continued, “Like hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, Bob Garcia served in the United States Army, in his particular case during the Korean War as a radio operator with the Third Infantry Division. Yet, like his fellow veterans on the Island, his right to vote for the President and a full-fledged delegation in the U.S. Congress was taken away the minute he moved to Puerto Rico.”
Garcia’s parents were born in Puerto Rico, and he represented New York neighborhoods with significant populations of Puerto Rican heritage in both the U.S. House of Representatives. He was instrumental in adding the Hispanic category to the U.S. Census in 1990. The new data collected by the new category led to a greater awareness of the Latino population in the United States, and thus to greater political power. He served as the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for several years.
Garcia was also a co-founder of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, an organization that supports young Hispanics in both the public and private sectors. He was known as a champion for civil rights and also as a builder of coalitions.
Garcia was also known for his support of Enterprise Zones, a plan to offer tax incentives to bring businesses into economically disadvantaged urban areas. This idea, Gonzalez pointed out, is currently being suggested as a means of improving Puerto Rico’s economy.
“As one of the first elected officials of Puerto Rican descent in the South Bronx, including the first one elected to the New York State Senate, Bobby Garcia was a pioneer and a legend, and those that knew him well will never forget him,” noted Congressman Jose Serrano upon Garcia’s passing.
Rep. Garcia died in Puerto Rico at the age of 84.