Latinas Lead the Way at the Democratic Convention
Anita Perez Ferguson, Visiting Scholar for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and
past president of the National Women's Political Caucus
The DNC convention is launching a new brigade of leaders this week. Some are political candidates, but most are behind the scene movers and shakers. All of them are women with Hispanic family roots.
Just last year a respected marketing firm reported that the most popular name given to newborn males in the U.S. in 1999 was...Jose. J-O-S-E, as in Jose Feliciano, a popular singer in the 60's and 70's. Jose, translated, Joe, short for Joseph, as in Mary and Joseph.
The report drew conclusions about the racial and ethnic future of our population based on the numbers of newborns being given the name of Jose. It then stated that no other unusual names appeared in the top ten list of names for girl babies which included; Maria, Gloria and Dolores along with Tiffany, Kimberly and Nichole.
Hello! Just how closely must we examine the women bearing these names to see who is getting things done and rising to the top in public and private enterprise before we celebrate our Marias, Glorias and Dolores?
The National Democratic Convention at Staples Center in Los Angeles was awash in Latina power this week. The CEO of the convention, Lydia Cammarillo and the Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Host Committee, Noelie Rodriguez, teamed up to run the billion-dollar operation. Cammarillo is a grassroots organizer who skillfully balances her career & a seven-month-old infant, and Rodriguez, is an LA player moving in all the city's inner circles. These two women are indicative of what the future can hold for our Latina population.
The powerful Hispanic caucus meetings, co chaired by Ramona Martinez, started with a disclaimer to shame the Republican Latino speakers in Philadelphia; "We are not rented Latinos, hired by the party - we ARE the party" the roomful of hundreds of delegates chanted.
The group was addressed by White House and Gore campaign leadership, which included Maria Echeveste, Janet Murgia and Aida Alvarez, head of the Small Business Administration and the first Puerto Rican ever on the President's Cabinet.
The delegates were urged to support their candidates and elected officials including LA Councilwoman Gloria Molina, US Representative Lucille Roybal Allard and State Senator Hilda Solis in her bid for the congress.
In the midst of the hoopla I found Latinas everywhere, even involved in the controversies of the weeks events. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, the highest-ranking woman on the Democratic National Committee, made the news with her planned event at the Playboy Mansion - which the DNC convinced her to relocate. That event, by the way, raised thousands to support a new generation of Hispanic candidates from California and elsewhere.
Corporate sponsorship of the convention was another controversial issue. But the support and attention of businesswomen like Public Affairs Director Maryann Reyes, of Southern California Edison gave Latina leadership yet another dimension.
Once the anticipated demonstrations turned into conflicts between some protesters and police, letters and complaints were filed with, none other than Los Angeles City Attorney, Deborah Gonzalez.
The activity of all these Latinas was reported by Journalist Val Zavala and many of her Hispanic colleagues on the major networks. And at the end of the day the delegates, elected officials and candidates enjoyed the music of Celia Cruz - icon in the music industry.
But perhaps the most influential part of the DNC event as regards California Latinas was not the personalities but the party platform, which includes positive initiatives for education, employment, housing and health care. Hispanic women in positions of power are only as effective as their ability to uplift others.
One of the most inspiring stories of the week was the recess the Hispanic delegates took from the Convention Center to register thousands of newly sworn-in American citizens in downtown LA. From the first steps of citizenship and voter registration to the power positions in public leadership, our state's Latinas, all those Marias, Glorias and Dolores and others, are setting the stage for a new American dream.