Jesus Rodriguez was born in 1945 in Zacatecas, Mexico. At the age of ten, his family moved to El Paso, Texas, where he would be one of the first of his siblings educated in the United States. After High School, he joined the Air Force, later using the G. I. Bill to fund his education at Texas Western University (now the University of Texas, El Paso, or UTEP) during the late 1960’s.
While attending college, Rodriguez became active in Chicano movement groups (MEChA, MAPE, MAYA), led an occupation of the university president’s office to demand greater support for Chicano students and Chicano studies, and was the first Mexican-American at his college to be elected student body president. After earning his undergraduate degree in only two and a half years, he was recruited to attend the University of Washington as a graduate student in 1970.
Jesus Rodriguez spent most of the 1970s attending the UW, at one time working as Interim Director of the newly-created Chicano Studies program, where he also served as a teaching and research assistant. In addition, he served as a recruitor for the UW’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and was an active member of MEChA de UW. While on campus, he was involved in intense battles to secure greater university commitment to Chicano studies, the hiring of Chicano faculty and staff, and the recruitment and funding of Chicano students. Though he left the university in the late 1970s, he remained involved in efforts to reform the EOP program at the UW during the 1980’s.
During this time, Rodriguez was also involved in the greater Seattle community. He co-founded the Seattle Chapter of the Brown Berets, and in collaboration with them and UW MEChA, participated in the occupation of the Beacon Hill School, leading to the creation of El Centro de La Raza. He was also one of the co-founders of Sea Mar Community Health Centers in Western Washington.
Jesus Rodriguez shared stories of his experiences and activism in Texas and Seattle in two interviews— one conducted by Trevor Griffey and Monica Perez on November 10, 2005, and the other conducted by Roberto Alvizo and Cristal Barragan on March 3, 2006. To the right are streaming-video excerpts of the interviews.
Video editing by Roberto Alvizo and Michael Schulze-Oechtering. Work on this interview was made possible by a grant from 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.