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Socorro Ramos-Avilés

Socorro Ramos-Avilés

Civic Engagement Organizer

Socorro was raised on a coffee farm in the town of Lares, Puerto Rico. She went to college at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, recinto de Río Piedras where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration, focused on Public Policy.

After graduating from school, she decided to do community organizing. It was the year where poor communities were under the “3 strikes, you’re out” policy and communities lacked basic needs and were infested with drugs. She worked on a model project empowering women by the creation of two cooperatives: a gardening coop and a childcare program managed by residents of these communities.

Working with the most vulnerable of all, Socorro decided to join with political and community organizations working towards the liberation of Puerto Rico and the military installments established in her country by the USA.

That work brought her to join the Service Employees International Union local 1099 (SEIU1099) and their fight to organize the public sector workers that didn’t have the right to organize until 1998. Struggles against the privatization of mental health services gave her the chance to meet with the island town of Vieques. This town was being destroyed by the military base that was settled in the 1940’s, displacing the people that lived there and poisoning the water and natural resources.

The people from this town had been fighting for decades to shut down the military base, which at the time was the main employer. And people were dying because of the pollution produced by the military bombardments. Vieques has a high rate of cancer, and it wasn’t looking good. In 1999, after a bomb killed a local guard, people decided that it was enough, that Vieques wasn’t going to be the experimental war zone, and with the collaboration of all the society sectors the people began the coalition “Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques” to shut down the military base.

SEIU next sent Socorro to Vieques to collaborate with the community in the efforts of training community members to do civil disobedience during the active marine bombardments, and work with the “Alianza de Mujeres Viequenses,” the group of Vieques Women who decided that enough was enough. She moved to Vieques to understand their pain.

After almost 4 years of continuous meetings, civil disobedience, marches, protests, elections and a local plebiscite, David won over Goliath. The people took the matter in their hands, organized, and shut down the military base. Now these women are working in the decontamination of the land and providing economic development to the community.

The bug for social justice brought Socorro to the USA to work in the Justice for Janitors campaign and the fight for a fair immigration law. Since then, she has worked with different Latino organizations empowering Latino communities in Florida through Civic Engagement programs that have registered hundreds of thousands of Latinos and have elected other Latinos for office. She is excited now for her next chapter in Texas, organizing with Commission Shift to increase civic engagement and promote public participation in oil and gas oversight.