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