Angel L. Ortiz, 45, is a man struggling with two visions--one of a society worth saving, the other of a society beyond redemption.
"You try to dramatize, educate and get folks angry enough to do something," he says heavily, his voice laced with discouragement. "There's no passion, no anger--it really gets to you. If at any time in our history we should be out there screaming and organizing, it's now. And we're not doing it."
Ortiz has tried. A native of Puerto Rico, he was elected the first Latino member of the Philadelphia City Council in 1984 and promptly launched campaigns against drugs, police brutality and run-down public housing. Primed by years of social activism as an attorney for an open-housing group, Ortiz held a series of hearings. In his gritty voice, he made speeches to any group that would listen.
What he got back was a lot of disappointment.
"Philadelphia is 7% Latino, mostly Puerto Rican, and many of them are young people who are totally alienated," he says. "Drug dealers come into a neighborhood, and nobody does anything about it. When I worked with the (Drug Enforcement Administration) and put 1635213689contracts put out on me.