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Former Rochester City Council President Gladys Santiago, a tenacious 'pioneer,' dies at 75

Gladys Santiago headshot provided.jpg
provided photo
Rochester City Council
Former Rochester City Council President Gladys Santiago

Former City Council President Gladys Santiago has died. City officials said she died on Thursday. She was 75.

Santiago served on City Council from 1996 to 2009. She was council president starting in 2008.

A statement released by Council President Miguel Meléndez on behalf of the council called her “a pioneer and trailblazer in the Hispanic community,” noting that she was an advocate for civil rights, language access and ensuring equity.

Meléndez said that Santiago, who also was a former leader of the Ibero-American Action League, helped drive the La Marketa plaza on the northeast side.

"She was really a voice for the Hispanic community when there was little political voice,” Meléndez said.

That sentiment was echoed by others, including Julio Vázquez, who lead Ibero in the 1990s with Santiago in the No. 2 role as senior vice president in charge of programs.

He spoke of her tenacity, and dogged determination to insure the Latino community was represented and a signature project - La Marketa at the International Plaza on North Clinton Avenue - was realized. When that vision finally became a reality in 2020, then-Mayor Lovely Warren presented Santiago with a key to the city.

"She was very dearly loved by her community," Vázquez said. "She will always be remember as one of our pioneers, one of our pathfinders, who cared — who really cared."

Mayor Malik Evans released a statement noting that both he and Santiago were presidents of their respective bodies at the same time (when Evans was school board president), and he said that he partnered with Santiago on issues including working on improving the relationship between the city and the school district.

Evans said that he is "glad that she got to see her 40-year quest to see La Marketa become a reality."

On Facebook, Monroe County Legislator Mercedes Vazquez Simmons called Santiago, “a fearless leader who advocated for her community.” Vazquez Simmons also thanked Santiago, “for paving the way for many.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
Brian Sharp is WXXI's business and development reporter. He has been covering Rochester since 2005, working most of that time as an investigative reporter with the Democrat and Chronicle. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.