latinas in politics

5 Latinas who made political history 

Latinas throughout history have paved the way for Latinas in leadership today. These five Latinas are just a few of many trailblazers who were the firsts in their positions, making it possible for greater Latina representation in politics.

In our world today, we need more diverse leaders so that all populations get represented and Latina issues are heard by leaders. 

Let us celebrate some of the Latinas who made political history and inspire future generations of Latinas to become our next leaders. 

Soledad Chacón 

Soledad Chacón , Photo source: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Soledad Chacón, nicknamed Lala, was the first woman elected to be the Secretary of State of New Mexico, and the first Hispanic woman elected to statewide office in the United States.

She served as acting Governor of New Mexico for two weeks in 1924 when Governor James F. Hinkle traveled to New York for the Democratic National Convention. The lieutenant governor had died in May, leaving Chacón as next in line for the highest position in the state, making her the second woman to act as chief executive of a U.S. state.

In 1934, she was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives. In this position she served on several committees, including as chair of Rules and Orders of Business. 

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Photo source: United States Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1989, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen became the first Cuban American elected to Congress. She was also the first Republican woman elected to the House from Florida. Previously she had served as Florida’s first Hispanic woman to serve in the State House of Representatives in 1982 and the first to serve in the Florida Senate in 1986.  

In 2011, she gave the first Republican response to the State of the Union address in Spanish in, and gave the third in 2014. Throughout the course of her career she was elected to fourteen full terms, never winning with less than 58%.

Aida Álvarez

Aida Álvarez, Photo source: latinocf.org

Aida Álvarez is a Puerto Rican businesswoman, journalist and politician. From 1997 – 2001, she served as the 20th Administrator of the Small Business Administration under President Bill Clinton and was the first Latina ever to serve in a Cabinet-level position. 

Prior to her role as Small Business Administrator, Aida served as the first Director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, appointed by President Clinton in 1993.

Sonia Sotomayor 

Latinas in politics

Sonia Sotomayor, Photo source: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Steve Petteway source, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Sonia Sotomayor is currently an associate justice of the Supreme Court. In 2009, she was nominated by President Barack Obama becoming the third woman to hold the position and the first Latina, and first woman of color to serve on the Supreme Court.

During her time on the Supreme Court, Sotomayor has championed for social issues and been identified with concern for the rights of defendants. She has called for reform of the criminal justice system, making impassioned dissents on issues of race, gender and ethnic identity.

Listen to your favorite books by Latinas on Audible today!

You might be interested: Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor teaches children how to build a better world in her new book

Catherine Cortez Masto

Official portrait of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) Date 9 January 2017. Source: senate.gov/

Catherine Cortez Masto is an American lawyer and politician serving as the senior United States senator from Nevada since 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, she was the 32nd attorney general of Nevada from 2007 to 2015. 

She became the first woman elected to represent Nevada in the Senate and the first Latina elected to serve in the upper chamber, taking office in 2017. Later, in 2019, she became Nevada’s senior senator. 

“I think there’s an important role for women to play. And I’m all about tearing down those barriers,” she said in 2017 to NBC News. “I have always said it’s important to have diversity in the United States Senate.”

These Latinas are just a few of many who have broken down barriers to pave the way for greater representation of Latinas in politics. 

According to LatinasRepresent, an initiative led by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda to increase Latina participation throughout the civic engagement continuum, Latinas currently only makeup 2.6% of Congress. With Latinos making up over 18% of the US population, with 26 million being Latinas, this group needs more leaders representing them. 

Let us continue to support and make room for Latinas in politics and elect them to government positions so that the powerhouse population that is Latinas has their voices heard.


*This article contains affiliated links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission. 

reproductive rights

NJ Governor Murphy delivers remarks on reports of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade 

Roe v Wade, 410 U.S. 113, was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. 

Roe fueled an ongoing abortion debate in the United States about whether or to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, and what the role of moral and religious views in the political sphere should be. 

This debate continued even after the Court’s ruling on January 22, 1973, where the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision in favor of “Jane Roe” (Norma McCorvey) holding that women in the United States had a fundamental right to choose whether to have abortions without excessive government restriction and striking down Texas’s abortion ban as unconstitutional.

Roe v Wade, reproductive rights, abortion

Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) and her lawyer Gloria Allred on the steps of the Supreme Court, 1989. (Photo attribution: Lorie Shaull, on Flickr.)

However, this past Monday, on May 2, 2022, Politico obtained a leaked initial draft majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito suggesting that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v Wade. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the leaked document in a statement released a day later, although he noted that “it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case

Read about Women of Color Reproductive Rights

In response to this news, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a statement yesterday, May 3, 2022, regarding the future of reproductive rights in New Jersey.

New Jersey Governor

NJ Governor Phil Murphy. (Photo source: Phil Murphy on Flickr)

“I want to briefly address the reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to overturn the long-standing precedents of both Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey and eliminate the federal protection of a woman’s reproductive freedom.

Quite frankly, while enraging, this news is hardly surprising. This is exactly why we took the step we did earlier this year in enshrining every New Jerseyan’s full reproductive rights into state law. 

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. ( Photographer: Steve Petteway / Public domain)

When I stood with lawmakers in October 2020 to introduce the Reproductive Freedom Act, it was just six days after Donald Trump selected Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. 

 It was as clear then as it is now that this Court, stacked with Trump appointees, could not be trusted to protect women’s reproductive rights.

 If the Court takes this awful step, this decision will have no impact on New Jersey state law or the full right to reproductive freedom under our state law. This remains fully intact, because here in New Jersey, instead of hoping for the best, we prepared ourselves for the worst.

Throughout my governorship, I have fought for a single, basic principle: this must be a decision made between a woman and her doctor, period.

If a right-wing Supreme Court cannot recognize this simple truth, our elected officials in Washington must take matters into their own hands. 

Congress must immediately pass federal legislation protecting the reproductive rights of all Americans, everywhere across this nation. If that means reforming the filibuster, then we need to reform the filibuster.  

We must ensure that every American woman has the freedom that every New Jersey woman has.

And if this Congress won’t protect reproductive freedom, America needs to elect a Congress in November that will.”

As we wait for further developments regarding the state of reproductive rights on the federal level, all eyes are on the Supreme Court.

Evelyn Padin

Evelyn Padin’s nomination to the U.S. District Court Judge in NJ is “a victory for our community”

President Biden has nominated Evelyn Padin, the former president of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA), to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge in New Jersey. This pick continues Biden’s pledge to appoint more diverse individuals to high level positions. 

During the 2020 election, he promised to nominate “the most diverse Cabinet in history,” stressing that he wanted leaders that look like America. 

“It’s a cabinet that looks like America, taps into the best of America, and opens doors and includes the full range of talents we have in this nation,” Biden said. 

Evelyn Padin is a Seton Hall Law Alumnus, Class of ’92, a former social worker, and a trustee of the Hispanic Bar Association. Additionally, she is a successful entrepreneur who runs her own family law and civil litigation practice in Jersey City.

Continuing a line of historic strides forward for women of color in government positions, Padin is the second Latina to be nominated to this esteemed bench since the Honorable Esther Salas, U.S.D.J., former HBA-NJ President, was nominated over a decade ago. In 2019, Padin also became the first Puerto Rican and Latina to be sworn in as NJSBA President in the history of the association, which dates back to 1888.  

In a press release, the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey (“HBA-NJ”) issued a statement congratulating Trustee and friend, Evelyn Padin, on her nomination to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.  

The President of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, Tabatha L. Castro, had this to say about this momentous nomination:

“To hear that Evelyn Padin has been nominated for the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey is a victory for our community. I have known Evelyn for many years, from being part of the Board of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey to President of the New Jersey State Bar Association and everything in between. She serves New Jersey with zeal, passion and integrity and will be a great asset to the District Court, which is why our JPAC Committee endorsed her. We will continue to promote and support the ascension of qualified Latino members of our community to the bench and other important leadership roles in New Jersey.”

Evelyn Padin

Evelyn Padin is the second Latina to be nominated to the esteemed position of U.S. District Court Judge in New Jersey. (Image Source)

Padin brings over 30 years of legal experience to her role, if confirmed. Throughout her career she has supported groups and organizations that empower underserved communities. She has been a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, New Jersey Family Law Executive Committee (since 2007), and she serves as Vice President and Founder of the Carevel Foundation, whose mission is to educate and empower underrepresented members in the community.

Over the years the Foundation has partnered with organizations such as NJ Women Rising, The Boys & Girls Club, Community Food Bank of New Jersey, and Autism Awareness of Jersey City. Most recently, fundraising efforts have focused on supporting victims of the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. 

As a frequent lecturer, Padin has actively served as a speaker on behalf of the National Council of State Bar Presidents, the New Jersey State Bar Association, and the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education. She is also a former Trustee of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey and previously served on the board of New Jersey Women Lawyers. 

For Latinas everywhere, Padin’s confirmation to the esteemed position of U.S. District Court Judge in New Jersey would signal a great step forward in the movement for greater diversity and representation in government. 

You might be interested: The strides toward diversity in politics continue in historic firsts for women of color 

women of color in politics

The strides toward diversity in politics continue in historic firsts for women of color

In recent years, we have seen a rise in women of color elected into office. This rise is a step forward for minority women in politics, who have historically been underrepresented in elected office. 

According to research from Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics (CAMP), “of the 144 women serving in the 117th U.S. Congress, 50, or 34.7%, are women of color. Women of color constitute 9.2% of the total 535 members of Congress. The record high for women of color serving in Congress was 52, set between January 3, 2021, and January 18, 2021.” 

Additionally, of the women serving in statewide elective executive offices, 19.1%, are women of color and women of color constitute 5.8% of the total 310 statewide elective executives. In positions of state legislators, women of color makeup 26.5% of the 2,290 women state legislators serving nationwide and constitute 8.2% of the total 7,383 state legislators.

Last year’s election saw a big, historic first for women of color, with Kamala Harris becoming the first woman of color, the first Black person, and the first South Asian person elected to the position of Vice President. 

Other firsts include Cori Bush, who won her general election race, making her the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress and Marilyn Strickland, who won her race in Washington’s 10th Congressional District Making her the first African American member of the Washington state delegation and the first African American from the Pacific Northwest in Congress. 

This year, the stride toward greater diversity continued with more historic firsts for women of color in politics. 

The historic firsts continue for women of color 

In Boston, Michelle Wu became the first woman and the first Asian American elected as the city’s mayor. Prior to Wu, Boston had only elected white, male leaders. Her win is a progressive step forward for diversity and representation in politics. 

women of color in politics,

Michelle Wu becomes first woman and Asian American mayor of Boston. (Image via Instagram)

In the city of Durham, N.C., another woman was elected as mayor in a historic first. In her victory speech, Elain O’Neal told supporters, “Together you have given me the honor and trust of being your next mayor — the first Black woman mayor of Durham. This is a dream that I never had, but it’s now my reality.”

New York City also saw Shahana Hanif become the first Muslim woman elected to City Council. 

“We deserve a city that protects its most vulnerable, a city that has equitable education, a city invested in climate solutions that are local and driven by communities, a city where our immigrant neighbors feel at home and heard and safe. This work requires all of us to keep showing up even though the election is over,” she said in a statement Tuesday. 

You might be interested: Alma and Colin Powell’s lasting American promise to the nation’s youth 

Finally, Republican Winsome Sears became the first woman elected to the office of lieutenant governor in Virginia. 

“It’s a historic night — yes, it is — but I didn’t run to make history. I just wanted to leave it better than I found it,” Sears said in a speech Wednesday morning. “I’m telling you that what you are looking at is the American Dream.”

New Jersey Governor

New Jersey Governor Phill Murphy projected winner of second term, first in 44 years to be re-elected

Gov. Phil Murphy , a former executive at Goldman Sachs, became the projected winner of the governor’s race in New Jersey. He is the first Democrat to win reelection in the Garden State in 44 years. The last to do so was Brendan Byrne, in 1977. Jack Ciattarelli, a Republican and former assembly member, has not conceded yet.

For a while, Murphy was ahead in polls by double-digits, and while those numbers dwindled recently, most surveys continued to show Murphy up anywhere from 4 to 11 percentage points. Many were not expecting the close race we were seeing as results continued to come in. 

NJ residents divided over state issues and pandemic response

Throughout the campaign, popular issues of focus were the pandemic, taxation, and the state’s economy. Republican residents have pushed back against Murphy’s increasingly liberal policies, with the governor losing the favor of many residents during the pandemic for his strict mandates. 

As the race continued, the response to COVID-19 became the defining issue. Throughout the pandemic, Gov. Murphy was adamant about stopping the spread of the virus in the state. He was one of the last governors to repeal the mask mandate for the state and among the first to require teachers to be vaccinated or submit to regular testing, The New York Times reported. 

With the virus also disrupting the state’s economy and impacting small businesses, The Murphy Administration put programs and resources in place to help businesses recover financially. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, right, watches as Maritza Beniquez, RN, reacts after receiving a vaccination for COVID-19 at University Hospital in Newark, NJ. Beniquez was the first person in New Jersey to receive the vaccination. (Photo credit Kirsten Luce for The New York Times)

Ciattarelli, however, disagreed with Murphy’s pandemic response. Gaining the support of anti-vax voters, Ciattarelli opposed the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and mandatory masking in schools. Additionally he believed early lockdown orders were responsible for hurting the state’s small businesses. 

Ciattarelli was able to win over four counties that had previously voted for Murphy: Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester and Somerset.

However, Murphy continued to carry cities and counties with larger urban populations, as his liberal policies throughout his first term worked to benefit urban and minority communities. Additionally, the number of registered Democrats currently outnumber Republicans by more than 1 million in New Jersey, giving Murphy another advantage. 

Still, the divisive issues made this election an unexpectedly close race.

You might be interested: Excluded New Jerseyans Fund to provide pandemic-related financial aid to undocumented individuals

As it became clear that results would not be in last night, both candidates made their speeches to their supporters. 

“We’re gonna have to wait a little while longer than we hoped,” said Murphy, speaking at the Asbury Park Convention Hall, just after midnight. “We’re gonna wait for every vote to be counted. That’s how our democracy works.”

“We’re all sorry that tonight could not yet be the celebration that we wanted it to be,” Murphy continued. “But as I said: When every vote is counted — and every vote will be counted — we hope to have a celebration again.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Jack Ciattarelli (@jack4nj)


In Bridgewater, Ciattarelli addressed his gathered supporters. “I wanted to come out here tonight because I prepared one hell of a victory speech,” he said. “I wanted to come out here tonight because we won. But I’m here to tell you that we’re winning.”

Phil Murphy built his campaign around progressive measures he signed into law, such as an increase to $15 an hour minimum wage, paid sick leave along with taxes on the wealthy, access to child care for all, and the multiple subsidies to small businesses that suffered during the Covid-29 pandemic. He also brought on Democratic allies, including Senator Bernie Sanders, to campaign for him.

Colin Powell

Alma and Colin Powell’s lasting American promise to the nation’s youth 

Colin Powell was a trailblazer and role model for Americans. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell spent 35 years in the Army and rose to the rank of four-star general before serving as the country’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. 

Powell passed away on Monday after complications of Covid-19, his family said in a statement on Facebook. Powell had been vaccinated, however he was being treated for myeloma, a blood cancer that impairs the body’s ability to fight infection; this compromised his immune system and the effectiveness of the vaccine, The Associated Press reported. 

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family said. 

Honoring America’s Promise to the nation’s youth through life of service

Born in Harlem to Jamaican immigrant parents, Powell grew up in the South Bronx. His childhood was marked by financial struggle and hardship. In his 1995 autobiography, My American Journey, Powell wrote, “Mine is the story of a black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx.” From these humble beginnings, he rose through the ranks, becoming a prominent public figure in America and breaking barriers. 

Speaking on how Powell’s early years influenced his actions in life, President Biden said, “He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others.”

Alma Powell, author, advocate, speaker and Chair Emeritus, America’s Promise Alliance. (Photo Source)

After retiring from the military in 1993, Powell began dedicating more time to fulfilling that promise. In 1997, Powell became the Founding Chairman of “America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth”, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in America. Together with his wife, Alma, they worked to advocate for and improve the lives of children and youth by ensuring that Five Promises are fulfilled in their lives. 

Alma Powell later wrote the children’s book, “America’s Promise” as a way to teach and exemplify America’s Five Promises to children.

In the playful picture book, Alma Powell introduces young readers to the basic principles of America’s Promise — caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, marketable skills, and opportunities to serve.

“Our mission is to mobilize people from every sector of American life to build the character and competence of our nation’s youth by fulfilling five promises for young people,” Alma wrote

The Five Promises ask Americans to step up and create a world where the nation’s children can thrive and achieve adult success: 

  1. Caring Adults in Every Child’s Life – Develop relationships with parents, tutors, mentors, coaches, and other adults with an interest in the child’s well-being.
  2. A Safe Place After School – Create locations with structured activities during non-school hours.
  3. A Healthy Start -Provide good nutrition, protective immunizations, and sound dental care and hygiene.
  4. Marketable Skills – Offer effective education and practical experiences for career development.
  5. Opportunities to Give Back – Encourage community service – so that the cycle continues.

Throughout his life, Colin Powell exemplified these values as a youth advocate, public servant, parent, and leader. His accomplishments and historic firsts as a person of color also made him an inspiration and role model to many young Black Americans. 

Colin Powell

Colin Powell was a trailblazer and role model for Americans, inspiring many through his work, Kamala Harris shares. 

“Every step of the way, when he filled those roles, he was by everything that he did and the way he did it, inspiring so many people,” said Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking on his influence. “Young servicemembers and others not only within the military, but in our nation and around the globe, took notice of what his accomplishments meant as a reflection of who we are as a nation.”

You might be interested: Teaching leadership: Helping children become leaders and develop strong communication skills

By the time Powell retired from the military, he was known as one of the most popular public figures in America, “owing to his straightforwardness, his leadership qualities and his ability to speak in blunt tones that Americans appreciated.” (The New York Times) 

“He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam,” said George W. Bush in a statement Monday. “Many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience. He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”

Colin Powell lived a life of service and achieved great accomplishments through his merits. He leaves behind a legacy as trailblazer and role model who broke racial barriers in our nation. As an inspiration to many, his work will continue on, with his lasting American promise to make the world a better place for our youth.

women in charge

Internships in Congress overwhelmingly go to white students

James R. Jones, professor at Rutgers University – Newark , examines data surrounding the racial disparities in paid congressional internships. The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

When it comes to paid congressional internships, white students get more than their fair share, but Black and Latino students don’t get enough.

That is the key finding of a new report I co-authored with Tiffany Win and Carlos Mark Vera for Pay Our Interns, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that is pushing to increase the number of paid internships in various sectors.

These racial disparities come despite 2018 legislation that provides House and Senate offices with allowances exclusively for paid internships. I investigated whom congressional offices hired with these allowances during the first year that this funding was available in 2019.

I found that while white students make up only 56% of undergraduate college students nationwide, they accounted for 76% of paid interns in Congress. In contrast, Black and Latino students make up 14% and 19% of all undergraduates, respectively, but accounted for only 6.7% and 7.9% of paid congressional interns, respectively.

Why it matters

Racial representation among paid congressional internships is important because internships often lead to paid staff positions. In a 2020 study of congressional staff, over 50% indicated that they started their careers on Capitol Hill as interns. Accordingly, if people of color are underrepresented among paid congressional interns, they will similarly be underrepresented among legislative staff.

That matters because congressional staff are important behind-the-scenes actors in making American law. They provide critical advice, guidance and analysis to lawmakers. Congressional staffers are also involved in nearly all dimensions of legislative work, from coming up with ideas to providing services for constituents to the oversight of the federal government and day-to-day operations of the legislature.

internships,

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

If the only staffers in the room advising members of Congress on policymaking decisions are white, then the policies this nation makes may not be as richly informed as they would otherwise be.

In addition, congressional employment provides a stepping stone to elected office. Today, the highest-ranking women in government, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, both began their political careers as congressional interns.

When people get firsthand experience with how American democracy works, it better enables them to see themselves as leaders and public servants.

What still isn’t known

While our report examines the racial makeup of paid congressional interns, Congress does not collect or publish data on unpaid interns. To this end, it’s not known how many unpaid interns there are or the racial makeup of this group. Some congressional offices may pay their interns with funding beyond the allowances they get for interns, but we don’t believe many do.

What’s next

There are still a lot of unknowns about who works in Congress. My future research will continue to examine racial representation among congressional staff and the mechanisms that lead to racial inequities on Capitol Hill. I also plan to continue to urge Congress to adopt more transparent hiring practices so that this problem can be better understood.

You might be interested: So-called ‘good’ suburban schools often require trade-offs for Latino students

How we do our work

We analyzed congressional payroll data, which provides the names of every paid intern. From the list of people who interned in Congress between April and September 2019, Pay Our Interns researchers conducted an online search for photographs, social backgrounds and past employment data of all interns. We obtained data from a variety of sources, including Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. We collected racial demographic data for 96% of Senate interns and 95% of House interns.The Conversation

James R. Jones, Assistant Professor of African American and African Studies, Rutgers University – Newark

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

latinos nominated to the cabinet

A closer look at the Latinos nominated to Biden’s Cabinet

Many changes are underway as we settle into the new presidency. Among issues of immigration reform and COVID-19 relief, another key topic is that of President Biden’s cabinet nominations. Representation and diversity have been central to President Biden’s choices for top White House positions. During the 2020 election, he promised to nominate “the most diverse Cabinet in history,” stressing that he wanted leaders that look like America. Among the Cabinet nominations are many historic firsts including multiple Latinos nominated to the Cabinet. 

Julie Chávez Rodriguez has been appointed as Biden’s director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations (Photo credit: White house photo office, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

“A Cabinet that looks like America”

The Cabinet’s role is to advise the President on any subject he or she may require relating to the duties of each member’s respective office and comprises some of the most senior positions in the executive branch. Historically until now, these positions have remained mostly male and white. However, if all of Biden’s nominees are confirmed, his Cabinet will contain more women and people of color than any other Cabinet in U.S. history.

“It’s a cabinet that looks like America, taps into the best of America, and opens doors and includes the full range of talents we have in this nation,” Biden said. 

Data shows that among the Cabinet appointees confirmed in the first 100 days of the last three presidential administrations, almost 72 percent were white, and 73 percent were male. Additionally, women have never made up more than 41 percent of a presidential Cabinet, and Black Americans have never accounted for even a third of the Cabinet.

Among Biden’s first 100-plus staffers, around 60 percent were women, more than 50 percent were people of color and 20 percent were first-generation Americans. 

Latinos Nominated to the Cabinet 

Latinos nominated to the Cabinet

Xavier Becerra, nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services. (Photo credit: Office of the attorney general of California, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Xavier Becerra, nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services

Biden has nominated California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services, a critical Cabinet position as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and navigates a nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Becerra would be the first Latino to serve as HHS secretary. Prior to becoming California attorney general, Becerra served 12 terms in the U.S. House, rising to a top leadership post and helping to steer the Affordable Care Act through Congress.

Miguel Cardona, nominee for secretary of Education

Connecticut Public Schools commissioner and former elementary school teacher Miguel Cardona is President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nomination for secretary of the Department of Education. With his nomination, President Biden delivers on his promise to nominate a teacher for the top education job. Now Connecticut’s top education official, Cardona began as a teacher at his former elementary school. He became the state’s youngest principal in 2003, and eventually the district’s assistant superintendent. 

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Cardona would be tasked with helping the administration get students and teachers back in the classroom after the COVID-19 pandemic forced at-home instruction in districts across the country.

Latinos nominated to the Cabinet

Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for secretary of Homeland Security (Photo credit: official Department of Homeland Security (government) portrait, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for secretary of Homeland Security

Alejandro Mayorkas previously served as deputy secretary of Homeland Security and as U.S. Customs and Immigration Service director during the Obama administration. In 1998, Mayorkas became the youngest U.S. attorney in the country. He served as the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California until April 2001. He’s currently an attorney at the global law firm WilmerHale. If confirmed, he will be the first Latino and immigrant to hold the job. 

Isabel Guzman, nominee for administrator of the Small Business Administration 

Latinos nominated to the Cabinet

Isabel Guzman, nominee for administrator of the Small Business Administration (Photo credit: State of California, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Latina business leader, Isabel Guzman is the first Latina named to a cabinet-level position. Biden nominated her to head the Small Business Administration as Latino businesses struggle to survive with fewer resources and less funding.

Guzman is currently the director of the Office of Small Business Advocate in the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. Prior to her work in California, she worked in the SBA during the Obama administration as deputy chief of staff and senior adviser. Guzman has also started small businesses as an entrepreneur. 

“And as head of the SBA, Isabel will be leading that critical mission to not only rescue small businesses in crisis, but to provide the capital to entrepreneurs across the country so they can innovate, create jobs, and help lead us into recovery,” Biden said when introducing Guzman as his choice.

Latinos nominated in other areas of government

In addition to the Latinos nominated to the Cabinet, President Biden has also continued his mission for diversity in his selections for other positions. Other Latinos who have been appointed to high-level positions include: Julie Chávez Rodriguez who has been appointed as Biden’s director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, and Adrian Saenz has been appointed deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement. 

“It’s not going to be easy. I don’t go into any of this with rose-colored glasses,” said Chávez Rodríguez, the granddaughter of the civil rights leader César Chavez.

Chávez Rodríguez will work with governors and local officials who are worried about security, pandemic surges, the challenges of mass vaccinations and states’ economic hardships. Despite the “overwhelming” challenges ahead, she said there’s “a real hunger” among governors of both parties and mayors to help solve problems.

“While, yes, we have multiple crises we are facing, I think there’s a real moment for a collaborative government that I am really excited and energized by.”

Confirmations for Biden’s cabinet nominations are expected to continue over the coming weeks. As of now two of Biden’s 23 nominees have been confirmed.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz behavior damages the Latino brand and leadership

Ted Cruz, Senator for Texas, continues to damage the Latino brand.  In light of the assault by extreme individuals to the Senate yesterday during the affirmation of the Electoral College vote,  I remembered an article I wrote in October 2013 –a version of which follows– that is appropriate still today. Although LatinasinBusiness.us is not a political publication, we still believe it is in our best interest as a community to discuss matters of branding and leadership.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz meets with President Trump and First Lady in El Paso, TX Aug. 7, 2019. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A personal brand is an asset that needs to be cherished and promoted. We, as professionals, business owners, leaders and influencers in our communities know this concept very well. There are certain values that, as Latinos, we all treasure and recognize as important such as personalism, respect, loyalty and a sense of community.

Despite our differences, based on country of origin, degrees of acculturation or even political views, when one member of the pack is attacked, then we react as a whole. We have earned our reputation of a hard-working community with no little pain and we would not accept otherwise.

So when the disturbing behavior of a U.S. Senator of Latino origin, beyond his political position and party, generates the type of damage that Senator Ted Cruz causes to the Hispanic people of this country, it is worth to analyze his position under the lens of a cultural approach.

A comment made to me in a conversation about the government shutdown put me over the edge, not politically but culturally. “One of your people,” said the person in question. It really hit home.

Is Ted Cruz one of “my people?”

Cultural characteristics of a Latino leader

As a community, Latinos have made incredible advances in economic and political power.  We represent the largest minority in the country at almost 55 million Hispanics and expected to reach 106 million by 2050 with a buying power projected to 1.5 trillion for 2015. The Latino vote also defined the last presidential elections of Republican President Bush and Democrat President Obama.  Moreover, those who dare to oppose the Latino community interests and concerns are politically doomed, and great efforts are being made by certain candidates to schmooze the Latino voter.

Ted Cruz position on immigration.

Ted Cruz position on immigration.

The need to increase leadership among members of the Latino community is, however, a matter of constant action and concern for Latino leaders from all walks of life and across the country. One particular concern is related to the lack of political representation of Latinos in federal, state and local governments.

So when “one of our own” reaches a position of power, it is desirable that he or she portrays the values that are close to our community’s heart.

What are those values that make us who we are as a people? What are those characteristics that unite us and project us to the leadership positions we deserve while making important contributions to the American society?

Latinos treasure and build interpersonal relationships around personalismo, respect, loyalty and leadership, with a high level of collectivism based on a deep care and concern for family and community.

True Latino leaders practice personalismo as a value that enhances the importance of the other person over the task at hand. Putting personal ambition over the interest of the community is an undesirable trait seen as self-centered and individualistic. The individual that practices such behavior is rejected as an outcast – un avivado or ventajero, someone who takes advantage of the rest to his own benefit.

Latinos also interact with others with this collectivist worldview that puts the interest of others over the interest of self, especially maintaining closeness and dependency with family members, which influences the way Latinos make decisions and perceive and respond to external stimulus.

Differences might be discussed among the members of a family but the young and inexperienced are never to stand up to their elders out of respect and loyalty. The same sense of fidelity towards family and friends is translated into the work environment, with respect for their work hierarchy chain or positions of authority.

Ted Cruz position on the American Healthcare Act (ACA).

Ted Cruz position on the American Healthcare Act (ACA).

Individuals who break from the pack are seen as deranged or defiant – locos, irrespetuosos or insolentes, someone who believes, in his or her immaturity, they know better than the collective wisdom of the pack.

Finally, true Latino leaders would look after their community, never building obstacles to impede the achievement of the common good. Based on Christian principles of charity and compassion, they would never refrain from offering aid and assistance to those that suffer or have unfulfilled needs, as we “see Jesus Christ in each other.”

For those who derail from the Christian principles of the faith to avoid finding solutions for ongoing social problems are deemed to face the wrath of God.

“Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.” Then they will answer and say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?” He will answer them, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matt. 25:41-45)

A version of this article was written for VOXXI on October 2013.