Record Breaking Representation: Latinas in U.S Government
By Alanis Alvarez | Photos given by the UN
For the first time in the United States, 100 women were elected to Congress.
Also, for the first time in the United States, 14 of these women are from Latin America or the Caribbean.
In the United States, Congress is divided into the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate consistently has 100 Senators- 2 from each state. However, in the House there are 435 representatives total- distributed among the states according to population determined by the national census. The fewer people, the fewer the representatives. This structure is worth noting because when Latina citizens accurately fill out the census there is greater opportunity for representation in government at a later date. That later date may have very well been last week.
As of November 6th, the House of Representatives is the House of 13 Latina Representatives. These women will serve alongside the only Latina elected to Senate — Mexican-American Catherine Cortez Masto (Democrat-Nevada) — who kept her position through these past midterms. In New Mexico, Michelle Luján Grisham (Democrat-New Mexico) became the second Latina in the United States to ever hold a gubernatorial position- right behind Susana Martinez(Republican-New Mexico).
As we prepare for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25th, we’re highlighting some unstoppable women who push us closer to the peaceful initiatives that make up the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Regardless of political affiliation, when people of a certain demographic see themselves represented in government, they are more likely to feel valued by the nation’s powers. SDG’s- like equality among all genders in any field- will only be achieved when our democratic institutions are peaceful and just- a function impossible without inclusion. Therefore, the more Latinas run for office, the more Latinas WILL run for office — and it seems those currently in politics know that.
Launching her career in Greeley, Colorado, Rochelle Galindo eventually won the House District 50 race by just 1,468 votes. Galindo was the first openly Lesbian Latina member of the Greeley City Council, where she first gained a following, proving her dedication to improving education and boosting jobs. Galindo recognizes the importance of mobilizing Latinos: “We were making sure every voice was heard,” she stated “That’s how I won the primary, and that’s how I was sure I was going to win the general.”
Meanwhile, there are two new powerful women serving the state of Texas. While running to be El Paso’s first Latina representative, Veronica Escobar explains that for her, elections should be “about the ideas” and “the historic nature of the race,” not about her personally. She will be working with Sylvia Garcia who won Texas’ 29th Congressional District. These Texas natives will be the Lone Star State’s first Latina representatives ever, to which we say ‘Don’t Mess With Texas (Latinas)!’
While Congress is being celebrated, other influential positions are also being filled by Latina politicians. According to Florida Representative Ron DeSantis, Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Núñez(R-FL) is soon to be the “highest ranking Hispanic female in the history of the state of Florida.” Born to Cuban parents in Miami, Núñez has always supported her fellow Latinos in politics. Now in office, she hopes to create “more jobs, more businesses and more opportunities for students… that’s important for every community: Puerto Rican, Cuban, Venezuelan, you name it.” A theme of this election seems to be — more than ever — that every vote should count.
While voting may increase the number of Latinos in politics, representation can make it more likely that Latino citizens will have an advocate in government. Originally elected in 2005, Grace Diaz (D-RI) was the first Dominican-American Woman to be elected to state office in United States history. Since then she has served Rhode Island’s 11th district and remains a member of the Black and Latino Caucus Legislators — who push for the voices of Black Latinos to be heard. Diaz, like all mentioned, has relied on public support and engagement for her victories. These womens’ victories show there are many women who wish to be represented in politics, and the number will only continue to grow.
¡Por más mujeres en la política! Porque toda la sociedad se beneficia.
UNDP is joining the UNITE to End Violence against Women campaign (UNiTE) of the Secretary General of the United Nations to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, which is a worldwide international campaign that is carried out every year. It begins on November 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and concludes on December 10 on Human Rights Day.
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Alanis Alvarez is an intern in the Latin America and Caribbean Bureau of the United Nations Development Programme.