Luis Carlos Mendez was born in Panama in 1967. Growing up in Panama City in a family with four children, his father operated a tugboat for the Panama Canal and his mother was a homemaker. He went to public schools and then to a Catholic university in Panama, where he studied philosophy. During his upbringing in Panama, he recalls participating in demonstrations against the military regime of General Manuel Noriega and economic hardships resulting from international pressure on the regime. In 1987, he migrated to Seattle, Washington, where his aunt lived. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve and continued his college education, obtaining a bachelor's degree in psychology. He moved to Stirling, New Jersey in 2000. He is a certified drug and alcohol counselor, currently working at Greystone Psychiatric Hospital. After completing graduate school at the Seton Hall University Diaconate Studies Program, he was ordained in 2000 and serves as a Deacon in the Catholic Diocese of Paterson. In the interview, he discusses diversity in Panama, Latinx cultural celebrations in New Jersey, and U.S. intervention in Panama.
This oral history interview was conducted as a part of the Latino New Jersey History Project, directed by Dr. Lilia Fernandez.