1980s: Political and Judicial Representation Grows

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Image from Taller Puertorriqueño

One of the largest reflections of the growth of Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican community during the twentieth century is in the political sphere of the 1980s. The creation of Latino voting rights groups began in this decade, community members coming together to demand the establishment of Latino legislative districts. The direct challenge that these voting rights groups posed to their local and state officials resulted in the adoption of Philadelphia’s 180th and 197th state legislative districts.

The refinement of districts 180 and 197 led to the election of Ralph Acosta to the state’s House of Representatives in 1985. He was the first Latino to be elected to the House, where he remained for five terms before Benjamin Ramos succeeded him in 1995. Another prominent Latino candidate, Angel L. Ortiz served under W. Wilson Goode, Philadelphia’s first African American mayor, as city records commissioner before being elected to the City Council in 1985. At the time of his election, Ortiz was the first Puerto Rican to serve as a council member. These two “firsts” marked the beginning of an era of change, in which the scope of representation for the Puerto Rican and Latino communities of Philadelphia broadened immensely.

Written by McKenna Britton, a public historian living and learning in Philadelphia. 

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