WEST ORANGE, NJ — Rodolfo Rodriguez, deputy mayor of West Orange, recently received the Oscar De La Renta Immigrant Award, which was presented to him by the President Danilo Medina of Dominican Republic.
The Oscar de la Renta Immigrant Award is considered the most prestigious honor that can be accorded to a Dominican living in the United States. De la Renta is a worldwide icon in the fashion industry and a native Dominican.
"My daughter, Jessica Rodriguez, is a graduate from FIT New York, and she is a huge fan of this man," said Rodriguez. "When the consul for the tri-state area from New York called me telling me that among his long list of suggested candidates my name kept coming out as one of the top, I told my daughter, and she went really crazy about it and convinced me to be one of the candidates."
After a long vetting procedure, Rodriguez, who also heads the West Orange Hispanic Foundation, was selected as a finalist.
"This process took more than a year," said Rodriguez. "They investigate all about you, [request] letters of recommendation from the police, the chief of police and Mayor [Robert] Parisi. Basically my life is investigated."
The honor is a distinguished one, as only one winner is selected from each participating nation.
"We are 3 million Dominicans spread out all over the world, and they picked one from each country—one from Spain, Italy, Canada and so on," said Rodriguez. "I am from the USA, where 1,008,000 Dominicans live, and they had a total of 38 Dominicans, one from each country. It was an amazing experience and the greatest satisfaction and honor—plus a great responsibility, because I am what the purpose of this contest is: an example.
"The idea of doing this award is to encourage other immigrants to do well in a foreign country and be an example for those coming on a daily basis. I am honored to say that my wife, Mercedes, and I raised a beautiful family in West Orange [and] worked hard to accomplish what we have today."
Rodriguez thanked Parisi for believing in him and dedicated this award to his daughter, Jessica, who is in the same field as her hero, de la Renta.