Rafael Diaz, an intern in the office of Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), has been working on the Hill since mid-September. In January, Diaz, 25, reports back to college to complete his senior year.
“I wanted to be in an office that dealt with Hispanic issues,” said Diaz, a criminal-justice student at Inter-American University in Puerto Rico who acquired his internship through the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars.
Life as an intern keeps him busy, and he sounds as eager as they come: “I get to help in the office and go to the briefings and report back to legislative assistants.” He also sorts mail, answers phones and partakes in his favorite intern task of all — Capitol tours.
Born in Chicago, Diaz was 3 when he moved with his family to New Britain, Conn. At 13, they moved to Puerto Rico, where he attended a “technical public boarding school” that specializes in sports and academics. Diaz was recruited to attend the elite school because of his participation in national judo competitions in the United States. (He says he has never had to use the martial art to defend himself.)
After high school, Diaz joined the U.S. Navy, where he served four years on active duty (1998-2002). He was stationed aboard a Navy ship called the USS Whidbey Island LSD-41, based in Norfolk, Va.
He worked as a cook and prepared meals for up to 600 sailors and Marines at a time. He was also part of Operation Enduring Freedom and completed two tours in the Arabian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea. His tours included stops in Spain, Italy, Croatia, Turkey, Greece, Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
Diaz’s family lives in Puerto Rico in a city called Orocovis, where his father has worked as a bus driver and his mother is a homemaker. He says the town isn’t Americanized like San Juan and is full of farmland and mountains.
Upon graduation, Diaz plans to attend law school in Puerto Rico. He says he isn’t sure whether he wants to be a prosecutor or a defense lawyer.
“Just depends on what I learn,” he says.