The story of my ancestors in this country began in 1913 when my paternal grandparents and my father arrived in Topeka, Kansas. My maternal grandparents and my mother arrived in 1920. Like other Mexican immigrants who came to “El Norte” during those years, they were poor, uneducated, and spoke no English. They were, however, people of strong character and they persevered during a time of great adversity.
My parents, Joseph Rodriguez and Jennie Gomez Rodriguez, grew into young adulthood during the early years of the Great Depression, during which they experienced severe economic hardships, pervasive ethnic discrimination, and the sad and final end to their formal education.
I grew up in a neighborhood known as “The Bottoms,” a low income area consisting of 24 square blocks and inhabited by mainly Negroes and Mexican, German, and Russian immigrants, and Native Americans. It was an area rich in cultural, racial and ethnic diversity. It was there in the Bottoms that I learned racial tolerance and where I acquired my strong work ethic.
The era I grew up in was very different from the one we live in today. It was a time when families ate all of their meals together, listened to the radio as a family every night, and when everyone knew their neighbors and helped each other out when times were tough.
As a young boy, I attended Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Grade School until the eighth grade. It was an all Mexican-American attended school. I then attended Hayden Catholic High School and graduated from Topeka High School. After high school I served for three years in the Army. I then went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Kansas, where I also worked on my PhD in Political Science.
I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in April of 1981 with my fiancé and later wife, Doris Soto, and her son, David, age six. For the next five years I worked as the Director of Planning and Evaluation for the Las Vegas-Clark County Consortium, the local employment and training consortium serving a three county area. In 1986, I went to work as a Senior Management Analyst for the County of Clark in the County Manager’s Office where I managed the emerging cable television industry and worked at modernizing the outlying justice court system.
In October of 1989, I began work as the first Executive Manager for Diversity and Affirmative Action Programs with the Clark County School District. I retired from that job in December of 2013, after a twenty-three year career with the school district.
During my thirty-nine years in Las Vegas, Nevada, I have authored eight books, six of them documenting the Hispanic experience in the State of Nevada, and Las Vegas in particular. Two of my eight books were about my years growing up and living in Topeka, Kansas.
Of all of my many activist involvements, the one that I am most proud of is my being the co-founder of the Latino Youth Leadership Conference, which is now in its twenty-eighth consecutive year of existence. Each summer during the months of June or July, 80 to 90 Latino students gather at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where they spend six days living in the dorms and learning how to become leaders. I consider this program to be among my greatest achievements.
Today, I have been retired for seven years and am enjoying the fruits of my labor, which include a life free of any major debts, a house that is paid for, and a retirement income that allows me to live very comfortably. This lifestyle has allowed me to concentrate on creating this website and to start filling it with things that are important to me.