Lessons from Latinas in American Politics

Latinos make up 18.5% of the United States population, according to the 2020 Census. That’s a 53% growth in the last 10 years. Despite these numbers, only 10% of the House of Representatives and 4 of 50 U.S. senators identify as Latino. Based on recent elections, that’s starting to change. In 2021, 6 Latinos were elected to the House of Representatives, making the 117th Congress the most racially and ethnically diverse in history.

Latina politicians are shaping the future of politics in our communities, inspiring a new generation of young Latinas. 

“Watching the steps of Latina politicians as AOC representing Latinos and fighting for real, everyday problems makes me think that it can be me in a couple of years,” Carolina, 26, from New York says.

Lesson to learn from AOC: “Be open to conversation”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, took office in 2018 at age twenty nine, becoming the youngest woman to enter Congress. Since then, AOC’s victory has inspired a younger generation of Latinas. The New York-based congresswoman belongs to the so-called “progressive squad” supporting a political agenda that highlights the importance of universal health care, free college and criminal justice reform, and is in favor of abolishing ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Recently, AOC has invited us to open a conversation with people who do not want to get vaccinated. “Don’t assume that everyone who isn’t vaccinated yet is radicalized or too far gone in conspiracy theories. Talk to them.” As she mentioned that some Americans are too scared of a broken healthcare system.”

Lesson to learn from Sonia Sotomayor: “Remember where we came from, your identity will always be a part of you.”

With Puerto Rican roots, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the High Court. In a recent conference at Brown University, Sonia Sotomayor talked about the challenges that young women face today, inviting young women to be true to themselves and remember their roots, as it will shape our identities.

Sonia Sotomayor was a smart and determined young woman, but her family lacked financial resources, being one of the reasons why thousands of young Latinas can identify with and be inspired by her. Dulce from California, 28, Shares: “One of the reasons why I keep myself motivated through Law School is because I see cases like Sonia Sotomayor, and how her lack of financial resources did not stop her, but allowed her to fight from a young age to become the woman she is today. There is no doubt that challenges help you build character, and in this career you need to be strong and determined.”

Lesson to learn from Teresa Isabel Leger Fernandez: “It is time to protect our democracy and our environment.“

In the 2020 elections, Teresa Isabel, a Yale and Stanford Law graduate became New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. Leger Fernandez has advocated for a “New Mexico Green New Deal,” Medicare for All, a transition to green energy, and a ban on the sale of military-style semi-automatic rifles. She has also supported comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act.

Environmental law student Alicia from San Francisco, 29, says, “Teresa’s determination on protecting the environment has inspired me to follow a career in politics, I believe is the best path for me to fight for a better future for the environment and future generations.”

No doubt these powerful Latinas are opening a political landscape for future generations.

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