Carmen E. Arroyo (born 1936), a native of Puerto Rico, is the first Hispanic woman elected to the New York State Assembly. She is also the first female of Puerto Rican descent to serve as housing developer in the State of New York. Arroyo's 84th Assembly District covers the Mott Haven, Port Morris, Melrose, The Hub, Longwood, Concourse, and Hunts Point sections of the South Bronx.
Arroyo was born and raised in the town of in Corozal, Puerto Rico where she received both her primary and secondary education. She graduated from Corozal High School and then attended the Sixto Febus Business School where she took Secretarial and Bookeeping courses and earned a diploma. She married Pablo Arroyo and together they had seven children; she was eventually abandoned by her husband and she then decided to move to the United States.
In 1964, Arroyo moved to New York City with her children and settled down in the borough of the Bronx. While the idea of the move to the United States was a search for a better way of life she was soon faced with racial discrimination and other hardships. Arroyo became dependent on the welfare and public assistance systems of the state.
Arroyo took classes in English and attended Eugenio María de Hostos Community College, of the City University of New York (CUNY) where in 1978 she earned her Associate of Arts degree. Arroyo studied at night and worked during the day while she attended the College of New Rochelle. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from said educational institution in 1980.
Arroyo organized a group of welfare mothers and formed the South Bronx Action Group in 1966. She became the group's executive director and with the federal funds which the group received she was able to provide the community with services in employment, health and adult education. In 1978 Arroyo became the Executive Director of the South Bronx Community Corporation where she worked to develop private homes in the South Bronx that were sold to families and residents of the South Bronx Community. She was also instrumental in the construction of 194 housing units for senior citizens becoming the first Puerto Rican woman housing developer in New York State.
In a special election held in February, 1994, Arroyo ran and was elected to the New York State Assembly, representing the 84th District which includes the Bronx and thus became the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the Assembly and the first Puerto Rican woman elected to any state assembly in the United States. Among the committees which she has been assigned to are those on:Alcoholism and Drug Abuse;
Children and Families; and
Education and Aging committees.
Arroyo has also been involved with:The Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force,
The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus,
The Women's Caucus,
The National Order of Women Legislators, and
The New York City Commission on the Status of Women
Arroyo's daughter, Maria del Carmen Arroyo has followed in her mother's footsteps and ran for a seat in New Yorks City Council and was sworn in on March 21, 2005 representing District 17 of the Bronx. On April 23, 2004, New York State Governor George E. Pataki presented Arroyo with the Champions of Housing Award in a reception held in Albany, New York.
Carmen Arroyo currently continues to hold her political position and has published her autobiography titled "Carmen Arroyo: Puertorriqueña en Nueva York, mujer de armas tomadas" (Carmen Arroyo: Puerto Rican Female in New York). She also published a book of poems titled "Mis Poemas" (My Poems). Assemblywoman Arroyo currently serves as Chair of the Sub-Committee on the Effective Treatment of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, Chair of the Sub-Committee on Bilingual Education, Chair of the Assembly Office of State and Federal Affairs, and Chair of the Assembly and Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force.