Marcos Vigil '97 is a Deputy Mayor of Jersey City. Vigil spoke to The Daily Princetonian about meeting his wife, "going beyond the walls of the University," and deciding to go into politics.
Daily Princetonian: What was your favorite memory at Princeton?
Marcos Vigil: Only one would be difficult to come up with. There are plenty of memories and, of course, the most important of my personal life was the fact that [Princeton is] where I met my current wife.
DP: How did you guys meet? May I ask?
MV: Yeah. So it was Freshman Orientation [Frosh] week for her; I was a sophomore and she was a freshman. We had an orientation session that was hosted by Acción Puertoriqueña y Amigos and she definitely did not like me back then. But, we coincidentally ended up picking a few classes that semester together, so we became good friends. The rest was history.
DP: How many times have you returned to Princeton since graduating?
MV: I go very often. We try to go every P-rade. We have two older kids now – one is 11 and the other is about to turn four – so they really enjoy the festival atmosphere. The costumes, the music, seeing all the generations of Princetonians go by – it is something we all enjoy.
DP: What was your favorite class at Princeton?
MV: I would have to say there were two, because they were student-initiated seminars. One, which helped me understand a little bit more about the [Princeton] system and understand the responsibilities included in creating a curriculum and syllabus, was with Professor Arcadio Díaz-Quiñones, who was back then in charge of Romance languages, as well as the director of the Program in Latin American Studies. He was not only a mentor to me, but also to many other Latino students on campus. That was one of the fondest memories, having those seminars and going beyond the walls of the University to explore what Princeton had to offer.
DP: What did you major in?
MV: I majored in History with the certificate in Latin American Studies.
DP: What extracurriculars were you involved in?
MV: There was this group that we had created, called the Alien Band, and we performed at Sunday masses at the Aquinas Institute for early morning masses. We played folk music to go with mass. In addition to that, I was vice chair for the Third World Center [, now the Fields Center]. I was a board member of Acción Puertoriqueña y Amigos. I also volunteered at the Admission Office as a Student Admission Associate.
DP: What was the most important thing you learned outside the classroom?
MV: The friendships. To this day, all of my most important relationships date back to those college years, and the bonds that were created are things that – you know, we continue to grow up together and continue to take care of each other. Both the friends that I established and the friends that my wife established, our college roommates – to this day, we all consider ourselves family.
DP: Were you always interested in pursuing a career in politics?
MV: No, actually. I thought I was going to be in some sort of an academic or administrative position in academia. When I graduated, because my wife was a junior, we stayed in Princeton. I worked for two years as an admission officer. I really enjoyed it, but, as it happened, I did apply to law school and went on that route, as something that would perhaps give me a lot of different options in terms of a career. Princeton helped, in terms of – you meet a lot of people going into public service, and you do feel certain responsibilities towards giving back to the communities that you come from. To that extent, when I went into law school, I volunteered for an entity – currently called “Latino Justice,” back then it was the “Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund” – and realized the importance of having public servants that understand their communities, but at the same time have adequate preparation to deal with the issues that come up in government. I practiced law for a while, and when the right opportunity came, I took it. And since then, I have enjoyed my time in public service.
DP: What is one piece of advice you would give to students who are thinking about going into politics or law?
MV: I would say, just be open-minded and expose yourself to as many experiences as possible, whether professionally or academically. Meet as many different people as possible. Do not think that the career in government or in politics is the end-all-be-all, because we work for the people, and the people can change their mind at any point. So, it’s always good to understand who you are in areas that are not limited to just serving in an official capacity. There are many other ways of serving a community, and that can come from the private side as well.