Celebrating LATINA Leadership on the Hill
“I’m so glad to wish LATINA Style a happy 25th anniversary,” states Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, (D), California. “The magazine plays a critical role in highlighting the many positive contributions Latinas make to our economy and our country as a whole. By profiling Latinas in its pages, LATINA Style creates inspiring role models for today’s Latina youth as they choose their path in life.”
Twenty-five years ago, LATINA Style Magazine launched its premier issue with the three first Latinas ever to hold a position in Congress: Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, (D), California, Nydia Velazquez, (D), New York, and former Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R), Florida. The influence and growing power of Latinas in Congress didn’t halt with three. Today, 13 Latinas are leaving their mark on the Hill making critical decisions impacting not only Latinas but Americans.
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA40)
In 1992, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard became the first Mexican-American woman elected to Congress. She has distinguished herself throughout her congressional career as a dedicated advocate for the dignity and well-being of all Americans. Congresswoman Roybal-Allard is the first Latina to serve as one of the 12 “cardinals,” or chairs, of a House Appropriations Subcommittee, as well as the first Latina to serve on the House Appropriations Committee. She is also the first woman to chair the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; the first woman to chair the California Democratic congressional delegation; and the founder of the Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform.
“I’m thrilled that Congress has more Latinas serving than ever before. Our diverse backgrounds and distinct experiences bring crucial perspectives to the debates on Capitol Hill,” states Roybal-Allard when asked about her thoughts on the current 116th Congress. “The injustices and inequalities we have seen in our own communities and in our own lives deepen our resolve to fight for policies that work for all Americans, no matter who they are or where they come from. I’m so proud to work with my Latina colleagues as we advocate for solutions to the problems that concern our communities and our nation.”
Roybal-Allard believes Congress is more diverse and a representation of the nation than when she started, however, the current polarization makes it harder for them to achieve consensus and pass critical legislation important to the American people.
Congresswoman Roybal-Allard is an original co-author of The Dream Act, which would allow certain U.S.-raised immigrant youth to earn lawful permanent residence and eventually American citizenship. In 2019, she introduced the newest version of this bill: HR 6, The Dream and Promise Act.
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY7)
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez is currently serving her 14th term as Representative for New York’s 7th Congressional District. In the 116th Congress, she is the Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, a senior member of the Financial Services Committee and a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources. She has made history several times during her tenure in Congress. In 1992, she was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In February 1998, she was named Ranking Democratic Member of the House Small Business Committee, making her the first Hispanic woman to serve as Ranking Member of a full House committee. In 2006, she was named Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, making her the first Latina to chair a full Congressional committee.
Born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico – a small town of sugar-cane fields – in 1953, Congresswoman Velázquez is one of nine children. In 1983, Velázquez was appointed Special Assistant to Congressman Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn). One year later, she became the first Latina appointed to serve on the New York City Council. By 1986, Velázquez served as the Director of the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs in the United States.
As the top Democrat on the House Small Business Committee, which oversees federal programs and contracts totaling $200 billion annually, Congresswoman Velázquez has been a vocal advocate of American small business and entrepreneurship.
Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA32)
First elected to Congress in 1998, Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano is currently serving her 11th term. Her Los Angeles County-based district covers several cities and communities in the San Gabriel Valley.
Twenty-one years ago, LATINA Style had the honor to meet Congresswoman Napolitano and since then she has been a champion for the community and Latinas. “You have provided a great service for business in women,” states the Congresswoman about LATINA Style’s mission. “We have been able to show that increasing Latinas in Congress is going to make a difference.”
With seniority comes great responsibility and Congresswoman Napolitano also paves the way for the next Latina in Congress by supporting them and providing advice. “In the beginning, it was a little hard for members of Congress to accept you, not that they discriminated, they ignored you,” she states. When asked about the new Latinas in Congress, she describes them as wonderful. “Each and every one of them is worth an ingot of gold,” she says. “They have new ideas, new energy and they are ambitious in the sense that they are looking out for their own area. What is more salient and needed in your district, that is what you should worry about. We keep fighting.”
Congresswoman Napolitano serves on the House Committee of Transportation & Infrastructure and is the Chairwoman on the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. She continues to advance projects and policies that relieve congestion, improve transit, and reduce the negative impacts her district takes on as a primary shipping corridor from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Congresswoman Napolitano also serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources and is a long-time promoter of conservation, water recycling, desalination, and groundwater management as solutions to Southern California’s water needs.
She is the founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus. She is also the founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Youth Challenge Caucus. The Congresswoman is a member and former Chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which addresses the impact of national issues on the Hispanic community.
Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (D-CA38)
Congresswoman Linda Sánchez has served in the United States House of Representatives since 2003 and currently represents California’s 38th Congressional District. She is dedicated to reducing crime, making schools safe for all children, providing quality education and affordable health care, and cleaning up the air and water in Southern California.
Congresswoman Sánchez served as Vice-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus in the 115th Congress (2017-2019), the fifth-highest ranking position in House Democratic Leadership. She serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and is a co-founder of the Labor and Working Families Caucus. Prior to the 116th Congress, she served in a number of leadership positions. From 2011-2017, she served as Ranking Member on the House Ethics Committee. From May 2014 to December 2016, she served on the Select Committee on Benghazi. In the 114th Congress (2015-2017), she served as the Chair for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), a 26-member organization dedicated to advocating for the important issues affecting our nation’s growing Hispanic and Latino community.
Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (D-CA35)
Congresswoman Norma J. Torres is on her third term in Congress representing California’s 35th Congressional District. She currently serves on the House Appropriations and Rules Committees. The Appropriations Committee is responsible for appropriating all federal spending, domestic and abroad. As a member of the Rules Committee, she helps determine the consideration of all legislation on the House floor. The Appropriations Committee is responsible for appropriating all federal spending, domestic and abroad. As a member of the Rules Committee, she helps determine the consideration of all legislation on the House floor. Previously, she served on the Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and Natural Resources Committees. She also served as a State Senator, Assembly Member, and as a Mayor and Council Member in the City of Pomona. As State Senator, Torres played a significant role in making the Affordable Care Act work for California’s patients and consumers.
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera (R-WA3)
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler was first elected to Congress at the age of 31 to represent Southwest Washington’s 3rd District becoming the She is the first Hispanic in history to represent Washington state on the federal level. Since first taking the oath of office, she has focused on increasing jobs and economic opportunities for residents of Southwest Washington. In 2007, she sought and was appointed to serve as a State Representative to Washington state’s 18th Legislative District by Democrat and Republican County Commissioners from Clark and Cowlitz Counties. She was reelected by 60 percent of the voters in 2008, and served in that position until being elected to Congress in 2010.
While in Congress she co-founded the bipartisan Maternity Care Caucus, the first of its kind in Congress, and has been a champion for maternal and child health. Most notably, she successfully spearheaded legislation that was signed into law to address maternal mortality, the largest step Congress has taken to prevent moms from dying during pregnancy and childbirth.
When her bipartisan ACE Kids Act became law, it allowed children with complex medical conditions to access life-saving treatment – regardless of their family’s income or zip codes. And thanks to her BABES Act, TSA airport security is better trained to accommodate parents traveling with infants.
Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA44)
Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2016, becoming the first Latina ever to represent California’s 44th Congressional district. Born in Harbor City and growing up in its surrounding harbor communities, Barragán’s humble beginnings shaped her interest in issues that matter locally: environmental and health justice, immigration reform, strengthening the economy and affordable and accessible education.
With a desire to give back to her communities, in the late 1990s, she began her career in public service. Barragán was the first woman in 12 years to be elected to the Hermosa Beach City Council, and was then elected by her peers as the first-ever Latina to serve as Mayor of the beach city.
In the 115th Congress, Nanette was elected by her peers to serve as the freshman class president as well as a regional whip, working with her colleagues and reporting back to leadership their thoughts on legislation.
In 2019, she became the first Latina in 10 years to hold a seat on this prestigious committee and only the second Latina ever to do so. She is the Second-Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a member of the Progressive Caucus. She serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security and was appointed to the exclusive House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (D-TX29)
Sylvia R. Garcia was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2018, becoming the first Latina ever to represent Texas 29th Congressional district. A native of Palito Blanco, a South Texas farming community, Garcia is the eighth of 10 children.
Garcia has dedicated her life to her community and to public service. As a social worker and legal aid lawyer early in her professional career, she protected the community’s most vulnerable, old and young. She continued her public service career by serving as Director and Presiding Judge of the Houston Municipal System for an unprecedented five terms under two mayors.
In 1998, she was elected City Controller, the second-highest elected official in Houston city government and its chief financial officer. After two terms as Controller, she was elected to the Harris County Commissioner’s Court. The first Hispanic and first woman to be elected in her own right to the office, she continued her advocacy for working families and made certain Harris County took care of its most defenseless, all while making certain Harris County led the way for new jobs and economic development. In 2018, Sylvia decided to take her fight to Washington D.C.
On January 3, 2019, she was inaugurated to represent Texas Congressional District 29 becoming the first Hispanic member of the Houston Congressional Delegation and one of the first two Latinas to represent the State of Texas in the U.S. Congress.
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-TX16)
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar represents Texas’ 16th Congressional District in El Paso. She took office on January 3, 2019, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives after making history as the first woman elected to this seat and the first of two Latinas from Texas to serve in Congress.
Congresswoman Escobar serves on the House Judiciary Committee, as well as the House Armed Services Committee. She serves in leadership positions on both the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), as the Freshman Representative and Vice-Chair, respectively. She is also a member of the New Democrat Coalition, and the Democratic Women’s Working Group, where she serves as Co-Chair of the Immigration Taskforce.
As a third-generation El Pasoan, Congresswoman Escobar has dedicated her life’s work to improving the lives of El Pasoans. Prior to her service with El Paso County, Congresswoman Escobar was an English teacher at the University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College, Communications Director for former Mayor Raymond Caballero and the Executive Director of Community Scholars, a non-profit that taught high school students how to produce public policy recommendations.
Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM2)
Xochitl Torres Small represents New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, the largest non-at-large district in the nation. Her career began in the office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall. As his first field representative in southern New Mexico, Xochitl was responsible for ensuring local communities’ visions and concerns were heard and addressed in Washington. Previous to her post as Congresswoman, she was an attorney focused on water and natural resources issues. In addition to her legal work, she served on the board of a local co-op and provided pro bono counsel at a homeless shelter. Now in Congress, she is committed to tackling the unique issues facing rural communities like those in southern New Mexico including health care accessibility, infrastructure development, and job growth. She is also committed to bringing the voices of those who live and work in New Mexico to Washington.
Congresswoman Lori Loureiro Trahan (D-MA3)
The first Portuguese-American woman elected to Congress Lori Trahan was born and raised in a working-class family in Lowell, Massachusetts. Her father was a union ironworker and her mother was a domestic worker who juggled various part-time jobs while raising four girls. The first in her family to graduate from college, she earned a scholarship to play Division 1 volleyball at Georgetown University. She joined the staff of former Congressman Marty Meehan as a scheduler, eventually working her way up to Chief of Staff. Following her public service, she began working in the private sector as the only female executive at a tech company before moving on to co-found a woman-owned and operated consulting firm, Concire, where she advised various companies on business strategy, how to create the conditions for employees – especially women -to thrive. As a member of the House Education and Labor and House Armed Services Committees, she is focused on fighting for working families on issues such as affordable health care, quality public education, workforce development, the environment, and working to end the pain and suffering of the opioid crisis. She is also a member of the New Dems and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL26)
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell immigrated to the United States from Ecuador as a young girl with her mother and sisters in search of better opportunities. Mucarsel-Powell was first elected to Congress in 2018. She ran because the same opportunities that allowed her and her family to improve their lives have been disappearing for too many of their neighbors.
Mucarsel-Powell has spent the last 20 years dedicated to improving the lives of underserved communities in Miami-Dade, working for non-profit organizations such as the Hope Center, Zoo Miami Foundation, and the Coral Restoration Foundation, and since 2003 at the College of Health at Florida International University and, since its inception, the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. She has worked tirelessly to establish and grow the Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP program at FIU and improve healthcare access for more Floridians.
When she took her oath of office in 2019 to represent Florida’s 26th congressional district as the first Ecuadorian-American and first South American immigrant member of Congress, she promised to protect and uphold the values that helped her succeed in America.
She stood out in the freshman class of the 116th Congress when she was appointed to the House Judiciary Committee, where she sits on the Immigration & Citizenship Subcommittee and Crime, Terrorism, & Homeland Security Subcommittee. Debbie also sits on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, where she advocates for South Florida on the Water Resources & Environment Subcommittee and Economic Development, Public Buildings, & Emergency Management Subcommittee.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14)
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a third-generation Bronxite, educator, and organizer serving the 14th district of New York in the Bronx and Queens. Ocasio-Cortez grew up experiencing the reality of New York’s rising income inequality, inspiring her to organize her community and run for office on a progressive platform with a campaign that rejects corporate PAC funds. During the 2016 presidential election, she worked as a volunteer organizer for Bernie Sanders in the South Bronx, expanding her skills in electoral organizing and activism that has taken her across the country and to Standing Rock, South Dakota to stand with indigenous communities, then back to New York’s 14th Congressional District to launch her people-funded, grassroots campaign for Congress. Since her swearing-in to Congress in January of 2019, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has remained committed to serving working-class people over corporate interests and advocating for social, racial, economic, and environmental justice.
Note: At the time of photoshoot and interview, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. was not available to participate.