By Pablo Jaime Sainz
When Remigia “Remy” Bermudez migrated from Mexico to the United States when she was 8 years old, she had a hard time adjusting to a new school, a new language, and a new culture.
At that time, 1960, there was no bilingual education, so Bermudez was placed in English-only classes, where she felt like an outsider.
“I used to feel humiliated when the other children would laugh at me for trying to speak English,” she said. “When I tried to speak, I would struggle. It was a very traumatic experience.”
So, in order not to go through all the laughing and pointed fingers from other children, she stopped participating in class.
“One day I decided I wasn’t going to talk in class anymore,” Bermudez said.
Childhood experiences like those were the ones that made her decide, in 1999, after 20 years of working in redevelopment for city government, to get a bilingual teaching credential and become an elementary school teacher.
But it wasn’t only her own experience that made her decide to change career tracks: throughout her service in government, she would visit schools with high percentages of Lati-nos and she would notice that the highest drop-out rate was among Latinos.
“I decided that I needed to do something about this. I decided that it was time for me to share my experience with other children who, like myself, were immigrants and didn’t speak any English.”
Now Bermudez wants to take all of her experience in city redevelopment and education, and apply her knowledge for the benefit of all of San Diego. That’s why she has decided to run as a candidate for the District 8 seat in the San Diego City Council.
District 8 includes communities such as Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, Otay Mesa, and San Ysidro, all with high concentrations of Latinos.
Bermudez said that if elected she will look for the interests of District 8 residents in particular.
“Services have not been delivered to the community. It has been neglected for a long time,” she said. “I will empower people with information about government. I will make sure the office is responsive to the needs of the people.
Bermudez will bring more than 20 years of experience in government: she worked in the city’s Planning Department, in two independent corporations of the City’s Redevelopment Agency, and in the San Diego Association of Governments.
That experience in redevelopment, together with her grass-roots activism and work, makes her the best candidate for the job, Bermudez said.
“I am from the community,” said Bermudez, who lives in Sherman Heights since 1987. “I have suffered the problems that the communities in this district face. People see me and they see themselves or their mothers and daughters. They know that I have struggled just like them.”
She added that even though she’s the only woman among the eight candidates for the seat, she feels as an equal to the other candidates.
Bermudez also said that many Latino politicians use the names of leaders such as César Chávez to bring attention to their campaigns, making promises that they will follow on his footsteps.
“The reality is that when they are elected, they forget about Chavez’s legacy and they forget about their communities. One doesn’t get to office by himself or herself. The people trusted them to represent them, to be their voice,” she said.
When it comes to solving the City’s financial problems, Bermudez said that she will bring her redevelopment experience to make a difference.
“The city’s financial problems weren’t created in one day. These go back a long time. The solution is going to take time but it can be done. I understand the process and will apply what’ve learnt.”
If elected, Bermudez said that she will prioritize redevelopment funds to be used to enhance community services.
Bermudez said that she’s been endorsed by Latino leaders such as former San Diego State University Educational Opportunity Program director Gus Chavez, and by human rights activist Roberto Martinez.
She said she’s been endorsed by the San Diego Democratic Party and by the San Diego Democratic Club.
Kathy Vandenheuvel, a candidate who dropped out from the race, has endorsed Bermudez as well.
“I feel she will be the perfect person to meet the needs of the district,” Vandenheuvel said. “She has no personal agenda.”
Bermudez said that District 8 residents should vote for her because she will remain true to her community.
“A vote for me is a vote for every family in the district,” she said.
District 8 special election will take place on November 8.
To learn more about Remy Bermudez’s candidacy visit www.remyforcouncil.com.