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Biographical Note


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Title:Nelson Merced papers
Dates:1966-2002 (bulk 1988-1992)
Call Number:M125

Biographical Note

Nelson Merced, a Latino politician and activist, was born in New York City in 1948 to Puerto Rican parents who moved back and forth between Puerto Rico and the United States. Merced joined the United States Navy in 1965 when he was seventeen years old and served for three years. He lived in Puerto Rico with his parents in the late 1960s and early 1970s and became an active participant in politics in 1971, working with a squatters' rights movement in San Juan. Merced later said that this experience was seminal for him, proving that joint community effort “could accomplish something significant” (“From 'Migrant' To State House in Massachusetts,” New York Times). He returned to the United States after 1971 and received a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Connecticut. During this period, he worked as a paralegal in Hartford, Connecticut. He moved to Boston in 1976 and had a brief stint as an insurance salesman before taking a state job at the Department of Public Welfare. He did graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in urban planning, which he put into direct use when he became director of La Alianza Hispana in 1981. He stayed with La Alianza until 1986, leaving for the post of deputy director at the Boston Public Facilities Department.

Merced had left the Boston Public Facilities Department and was working as a private management consultant when he was approached by community activist Yohel Camayd-Freixas as a potential candidate for public office in the mid-1980s. Merced took advantage of recent Boston redistricting to run from the newly created 5th Suffolk district. He won the seat in 1988 and held it as the first Hispanic elected to the House of Representatives in Massachusetts. He kept his seat in the House until 1992, running a successful re-election campaign in 1990. During his time in the House, Merced was on various committees including the Housing and Urban Development Committee and the Minority Business Oversight Committee. He was also a member of the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus, the English Plus Coalition, and the National Alliance of Latino Elected Officials. In 1992, Merced was forced off the ballot when another candidate, Althea Garrison, questioned the validity of the signatures on the mandatory paperwork to put his name on the ballot. Merced attempted to run a sticker campaign but was unsuccessful, losing his seat to Garrison in the fall of 1992.

After leaving the House of Representatives, Merced was involved with YouthBuild America as the Director of Technical Assistance. He was also involved with The Boston Foundation's Persistent Poverty Project as a member of its directing Strategy Development Group. In 1994, Merced took a position as the CEO of Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción just prior to the organization's proposed merger with the Escuelita Agueybana Day Care Center. The merger never took place, however, and he left the organization in 1996. In 2005, Merced took a position as the Director of National Initiatives and Applied Research with NeighborWorks America, a nonprofit organization sponsored by Congress. Merced is married to Maria Estela Carrion and has three children, Jacobo, Rene, and Raquel.
1948 Nelson Merced is born in New York City
1962Returns to Puerto Rico with parents
1965Moves back to United States; joins US Navy
1971Becomes involved with squatters' rights movement in San Juan, Puerto Rico
1970sCompletes B.A. in Anthropology at the University of Connecticut
1981Takes position as executive director of La Alianza Hispana
1986Leaves La Alianza Hispana to work for Boston Public Facilities Department
1988Is elected to Massachusetts House of Representatives; first Latino elected to state office
1992Loses re-election bid when signatures to place him on ballot are challenged and found to be invalid
1994Takes position as CEO of Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion
1996Leaves Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion
2005Is director of National Initiatives and Applied Research with Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, also known as NeighborWorks America

“Biography,” M125, Box 1, Folder 1

“From 'Migrant' to State House in Massachusetts,” Susan Diesenhouse, New York Times, November 27, 1988

“Latino Scales Beacon Hill,” The Boston Globe, December 6, 1988