Marcela Mitaynes, a Peruvian who fights for immigrant rights in NY

14:01 | Lima, May. 20.

Marcela Mitaynes, 47, arrived in the United States at the age of nine months. After facing an arbitrary eviction from her home in Brooklyn, she decided that ensuring the rights of immigrant tenants would be her new challenge. Today she is the first Peruvian to win a seat in the New York State Assembly.

Mitaynes, whose maiden name is Marcela Muzurrieta, was born in the 1970s in the district of Rimac in the Peruvian capital Lima. Her grandfather Fabian Muzurrieta —a folklorist from Arequipa, known as "El Cholo Cotahuasino"— and his wife Irene —a native of Huancayo— began a new life with their son and beloved granddaughter, Marcela, in the New York City borough of Manhattan.

Afterwards, the family moved into a rented apartment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where she went to Kingsborough Community College to study accounting, but everything in her life was going to change significantly 30 years later.


In 2006, Marcela received unexpected news: the building where she lived had been bought, and the new owner decided to raise the rent. Most of the residents were Latinos who did not speak English well and were evicted without mercy.

Marcela and her family had to leave the home they had lived in for 30 years, but she did not stay with her arms crossed. She knew that the law did not protect the rights of tenants and, with her fluent English and higher education, Marcela decided to defend the rights of her neighbors before the New York court.

"I wanted to understand how this could be done. I realized that there were laws that made it easier for landlords to evict tenants who paid low rent in order to make room for others who were willing to pay a high price," she explained.

Community leader

Although she failed to win the case, the motivation to continue fighting to enforce the rights of all immigrants led her to become a community leader. 

For this reason, she committed herself to work with Neighbors Helping Neighbors, and tenant advocacy group that advised her in her journey through the court.

In her struggle as an activist, Marcela was arrested for civil disobedience five times, for protesting on the street. Her achievement came a year later, in 2019, when she helped get the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act passed, after several demonstrations to pressure politicians.

New York State Assembly

Marcela realized that immigrants needed a representative to look after their rights and, after meetings with her organization and neighbors, she ran for the New York State Assembly, thus becoming the first Peruvian to win a seat there.


Published: 5/20/2021