Ruth Santiago was born in Puerto Rico in 1959 and relocated to the United States with her family when she was three years old. They first lived in Florida, but moved to Rochester a few years later when her father got a job with Xerox. Santiago and her five siblings attended school in Rochester. She became fluent in English, but continued to speak Spanish with her family at home. She attended three years of college at SUNY Geneseo and Nazareth College and began working as an Administrative Assistant at Nazareth in 2004.
In this interview, Santiago discusses the challenges she faced learning English and her early experiences with prejudice. She describes the initial lack of Hispanic community in Rochester and how this has evolved since her arrival in the 1960s. She indicates the economic difficulties that confronted members of her community. The interview also touches on a number of political and social issues, with Santiago deliberating on Puerto Rico's commonwealth status and recounting the racial tensions and racially charged violence that she witnessed in Rochester city schools.