George EspadaBy Jose B. Rivera
March 1997 - George L. Espada has had a history of community participation. Starting as a youngster and continuing till this day.
George was born in Salinas, Puerto Rico but raised in East Harlem. He attended Public School 57, James F. Cooper Junior High School and Patrick Henry High School. Although he never attended college, George feels that there are many jobs and employment opportunities which exist without the need for higher education. He feels that if you care enough about the community, you can do anything.
Entertainer and Entrepreneur
It seems that Mr. Espada is an entrepreneur. As a young boy he would buy shopping bags for 2-3 cents and go around selling them for 5 cents to lady shoppers who seemed like they needed one. His profit from this enterprise was enough to allow him to pay his own way to the movies. He also made sure he shared his earnings with his mother.
Morris Wittenberg (of Morris Toyland fame) told George that George was in an entertainer at heart. George took up the advice and started his own musical group “Flash and the Dynamics”. This group started by sounding pretty bad, but with practice ended up having a Spanish station number 1 hit record.
After his musical career, George became a semiprofessional wrestler. He toured with professional wrestlers including his brother and Antonio Rocca.
When George’s wrestling career ended he turned his attention to El Barrio. George observed the workings of community politics. He saw that the only ones making money in the community were the politicians and some businessmen who did not live in the community. He described these businessmen as “Mercenaries”. As for the politicians are concerned he believes that “They have sold out to a mechanism/structure that buys votes as opposed to encouraging people to vote.” He has also noticed the current medium of exchange which has existed since the early 60 and has served local officials well; programs of dependency in exchange for votes. (Editor’s explanation: Politicians create programs which they say will help people with current problems. These programs foster dependency and never alleviate the root problems for which they were created. People dependent on the programs then need to keep these same elected officials in power or loose that which they are dependent upon.”) “The local politicians will use any tool to stay in their elected offices.”
Of course the elected officials which George mentions are not part of the poorness of the
community. “You will find that the political person in El Barrio basically just has a house somewhere upstate and an office in government building where you can’t even go to find them.”
George L. Espada working knowledge of East Harlem politics has not prevented him from doing good in the community. He served as the Chairman of the Lexington Avenue Planning Coalition, Chairman of the Happy Hill Community Association which help to beautify empty lots and the Commissioner of the El Barrio Baseball League.
Lately George has been active in community politics. He was elected Republican District
Leader in 1988. He continues in that capacity today. There are over 5,000 Republicans in the East Harlem community. It is a rare individual that bucks the community trend by not enrolling as a Democrat. There are over 55,000 registered Democrats in East Harlem.
(Editor’s Note: A two party system in East Harlem would benefit the community by allowing voters to pit both parties against each other in an effort to see who can deliver the most promises to them. Accountability on various community programs would also benefit all in East Harlem.)
During the last decade George has run for various elected offices so no one is surprised
to see him running for City Council in 1997. He is running for the office which Councilman Powell is leaving to run for Manhattan Borough President. George is running
as a Fusion candidate, hoping to garner both Democratic and Republican party votes.
Most would not give George a shot a winning the race, but for someone who is “under educated” and who has risen from poorness to become an entertainer, pro wrestler, entrepreneur and community leader it is not hard to imagine him overcoming his latest challenge to become a city councilman
East Harlem Online wishes this gentle soul the best in all his endeavors.
Some of the biographical information in this article was obtained from the book by Gary Batson titled “George L. Espada, The Quest for Truth”. We thank the author for their use.
Editor’s Update: (April 19, 1998) George did not win the 1997 City Council race, but we can expect to continue to see him running for office and giving it his best in 1998.
Editor’s Update: (January 15, 2005) Mr. Espada continues to be a Republican District Leader and is still very active in our community.