Saturday, November 5, 2011
Alice Cardona on THE PEREZ NOTES
This interview, was conducted with the late Alice Cardona (1930-2011), on I believe it was May 3rd, 2007, or 2008. This interview, is a part of THE PEREZ NOTES archives. May you rest in peace Alice.
National Institute for Latino Policy
Alice Cardona 1930-2011
Alice Cardona is a Puerto Rican whose advocacy for women's rights and bilingual education, as well as her efforts as founder of various organizations for Latinas, have distinguished her in New York activist communities. She passed away on November 1, 2011 at 2:30pm of cancer.
Cardona was born on March 17, 1930, the first of nine children born to Puerto Rican parents who migrated to New York City in 1923. She was raised and educated in Spanish Harlem ("El Barrio"). Upon graduating from high school in 1950, Cardona began to work in a store. During this period, she also volunteered at the Legión de Maria, visiting and giving psychological support to Black and Latino people in need. This experience helped expand Cardona's understanding of the oppressive social, economic, and educational obstacles that these groups faced in New York.
In 1961, Cardona decided to join the Sisters of St. John, a religious order based in Taylor, Texas. After a short time in the community, however, she decided that the religious life limited her abilities to affect change so she abandoned the religious vocation.
After this experience, Cardona returned to New York where she worked for a financial institution and as a program coordinator for United Bronx Parents (UBP). With UBP, she oversaw programs that facilitated parental involvement in the school system and supervised youth in the summer job program. In 1964, she became involved in the first Head Start program in New York.
Alice Cardona with Toni Pantoja, Yolanda Sanchez, Luis Reyes, Diana Caballero and other freinds
Cardona's career flourished between 1970 and 1978, a period during which she worked at ASPIRA as a counselor for youth and later as director of a counseling program for parents and students. There, she was able to use her abilities to help youths achieve their goals through education. She also had the opportunity to form relationships with administrators and heads of various foundations and educational organizations in addition to parents and students.
ASPIRA prompted Cardona to return to university and complete her degree. In 1973, she received her bachelor's through an independent study program at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. During this period, in addition to her work at ASPIRA and university studies, Cardona was an active member of National Conference of Puerto Rican Women (NACOPRW). In 1975, Alice took an even greater role in NACOPRW, becoming a member of the national board of the organization and making decisions at a local and national level. Around that time she also co-founded HACER/Hispanic Women's Center, which aimed to help Latinas to achieve their professional goals via education.
During the administration of Governor Mario Cuomo, 1983-1995, Cardona was the assistant director of the New York State Division for Women, where she directed the office's day-to-day operations. This position allowed her to further advocate for bilingual education and women, including those in prison. She also worked to combat HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and domestic violence.
Since her retirement in 1995, Cardona dedicated herself to participate as a member or founder in a variety of organizations. She was the director of the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs (PRACA); co-director of Atrévete, a group dedicated to voter registration and political participation organized by the Migration Division; member of the boards of National Women's Political Caucus, National Association for Bilingual Education, and Puerto Rican Educators Association; and a member of various other organizations. During her lifetime, Cardona helped to found over a dozen community or political organizations. In July 1997, Cardona was one of seventy women from the United States to be invited to attend the "Vital Voices of Women in Democracy" conference in Beijing, China to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Women's Forum. She also served as the Hispanic liaison of the office of Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and as a trustee of the National Latina Caucus.
Cardona is the author of the book Puerto Rican Women Achievers in New York City and was the first Latina to receive the Susan B. Anthony Prize, awarded to her in 1983 by the National Organization for Women, the largest feminist organization in the country. She was also recognized with many other awards for her community service, particularly for her work with women, children, and bilingual education.
Her beloved sister, Diana, is following Alice's wishes to be cremated and a service will be held in the near future.