‘Si, se puede’: With inauguration, Latina legislators make history in Congress

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Congress’s youngest member, its first two Texan Latinas and first South American were sworn in on Thursday.

The youngest woman ever elected to Congress, first South American and first two Latinas from Texas: With their inauguration on Thursday, a group of Hispanic women made history in the 116th Congress.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., enters the Congress as its youngest woman elected and its current youngest member. Ocasio-Corterz, 29, of Puerto Rican descent, beat a veteran Democratic incumbent in the primaries with a grassroots campaign focusing on progressive policies such as “Medicare for all” as well as free higher education or trade school for all. She has publicly said she willoppose her own party’s rules against deficit spending if it takes money away from areas such as health care.

On Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted out a picture of her and other incoming women legislators with the phrase “Si, se puede,” (Yes, we can), the words that were coined by labor activist and United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta and then immortalized by President Barack Obama during his campaign.

Another women in the picture is Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, one of two Latinas who are the first to represent Texas in Congress.

Escobar takes the place of Beto O’Rourke, also a Democrat, in representing Texas’ 16th Congressional District, which includes the heavily Latino border area of El Paso. She was previously a county commissioner and county judge.

On Twitter, Escobar took on Trump’s insistence on $5 billion for a border wall — which has led to the current government shutdown — by writing that “the border has never been more secure” and “immigration is lower today than it was a decade ago.” Escobar instead argued for the need to work with Central American countries to address the root causes of migration.

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

This 26-Year-Old Latino Biologist Wants to Become Philly’s First Gay Councilman

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Adrian Rivera-Reyes, a democratic socialist, has officially announced his City Council at-large bid as “a nontraditional candidate.”Adrian Rivera-Reyes, a Penn grad and labor organizer, announced on Wednesday his bid for an at-large seat on Philadelphia City Council.Rivera-Reyes says he is running on a progressive platform that centers the working class, people of color, LGBTQ community members, and millennials. He’s already aware that he’s a “nontraditional” candidate (Latino, gay, and millennial) in what is shaping up to be a crowded race — but has hope that his campaign will bring “moral clarity” to the city and secure a victory.

Tell us a little about your background.
I was born in Puerto Rico to a struggling working-class family. Despite the struggles we faced, I was fortunate to receive an education that allowed me to come to Philadelphia to continue dedicating my life to developing cancer treatments at the University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is my home. Here I’ve grown as person, came out of the closet, made many friends, and found community. In Philly, I’ve had the opportunity to work on improving healthcare, to organize workers alongside fellow graduate students fighting for proper work protections, and to ensure everyone has a welcoming home in our city through LGBTQ+ advocacy work and diversity and inclusion initiatives. I am also a dues-paying member of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and I’m running a grassroots campaign as a democratic socialist in the Democratic primary for an at-large seat on Philadelphia City Council. I am also currently working as postdoctoral fellow at Penn doing cancer research while running for office.

You’re currently a cancer biologist. What made you decide to switch from science to politics?
Issues such as housing instability, job insecurity, an underfunded education system and toxic schools, and the opioid epidemic echo those of my own upbringing. Our local government is not investing in and providing the opportunities necessary for working-class Philadelphians to succeed. I decided to switch to politics because people like me don’t have proper representation in City Council, and I will bring a public health and healthcare mentality when finding solutions for our problems. Our local government is overwhelmingly made up of lawyers, businesspeople, and career politicians. It is no wonder that the policies they enact do not benefit the many. I will be a voice for the voiceless, for the working class, for people of color, for millennials and the elderly, for the LGBTQ community, and for immigrants, Hispanics, and Latinos.

You’re entering what has become a crowded City Council at-large race. What do you think makes you stand out from the rest?
It’s not very hard to determine that I’m a nontraditional candidate running for office. I am a cancer biologist running as democratic socialist because I recognize that our current systems favor the few, at the cost of the many. My platform reflects the interest of the many as well as my background in healthcare. My campaign will be radical, bold, and about moral clarity. To paraphrase Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, throughout our history radicals have been the ones to change the country.

Continue onto the Philadelphia Magazine to read the complete article.

Councilwoman and hotel housekeeper: Latina lawmaker redefines public service

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Carmen Castillo, re-elected to the Providence City Council, has defied political odds as a working-class candidate, say experts.

By day, Carmen Castillo works as a hotel housekeeper, making beds and cleaning rooms. By night, she’s sitting on committees and voting on decisions at City Hall — she was recently re-elected to the Providence City Council.

Sitting at her kitchen table, Castillo laughed with her friend and assistant Martha Siddique when recalling her re-election campaign.

“This was headquarters,” Castillo said, gesturing around her home. “We moved the couches in the living room, hung up charts on the wall, and all the volunteers came over. We would go out knocking on doors in the rain, and then stay up working until 3 a.m.”

“We were always tired,” Siddique added, “because we had to go to work the next day.”

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Castillo immigrated with her three daughters to the U.S. in 1994. After working in a factory, she took a job as a room attendant in a downtown Providence hotel, a job she has held for 24 years. At the hotel, she helped organize a union and became an activist for workers.

After being active in her community and her union for many years, she was elected to the City Council in 2011, then re-elected in 2014 and 2018.

At the local level, Castillo embodies the trend of political candidates becoming more diverse in terms of gender, class and ethnicity.

WORKING-CLASS POLITICIANS? ‘ALMOST NEVER’

According to Nicholas Carnes, associate professor at Duke University and author of “The Cash Ceiling: Why Only the Rich Run for Office — and What We Can Do About It,” it is atypical for a working-class person to run for and win elected office.

“Manual, clerical and service jobs make up a little over a half of our labor force, and working people are still the backbone of our economy,” he said. “But working-class people almost never go on to become politicians.”

In Carnes’ view, people like Castillo and former Wisconsin congressional candidate Randy Bryce are exceptions to this rule.

Although many working-class people are qualified to run for office, Carnes noted, there are structural barriers in the political system working against them. A great deal of moneyand free time is usually needed to run for public office. And the gatekeepers who recruit candidates often pass over working-class people in favor of business professionals.

Continue onto NBC to read the complete article.

Latina progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be youngest member of Congress

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Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

Heavy rains on Tuesday didn’t stop voters from showing up at the polls and assuring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of her congressional victory.

At 29, she will become the U.S.House’s youngest member of Congress.

“Rain is hard for turnout, sometimes people literally decide not to vote because is raining. Don’t do that,” said Ocasio-Cortez during Cosmopolitan’s Instagram-takeover on Election Day.

The newly-elected Congresswoman won on Tuesday night against her Republican opponent Anthony Pappas in New York’s 14th congressional district, which includes parts of Queens and The Bronx and it’s considered a safe Democratic district. “As the Congresswoman for New York’s 14th district, my job would be to basically commute between The Bronx and Queens and Washington D.C. to really write and pass the laws that would really govern this land,” said Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday morning during a radio interview with the New York-based station HOT 97.

Ocasio-Cortez first made national headlines back in June when she won her district’s House primary against Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley with a proudly progressive platform to address issues surrounding immigration, healthcare, education.

“We’re really fighting for a working class agenda. We’re fighting for universal healthcare. We’re fighting for tuition free colleges and universities. A 100 percent renewable energy, this is what — not just what our district needs — but what the city needs and what the country needs,” Ocasio-Cortez told HOT 97.

The 29-year-old first-time candidate of Puerto Rican heritage represents a district that is 46 percent Latino, 24.6 percent white, 16.4 Asian, and 11 percent black.

Continue on to NBCnews.com/latina to read the complete article.

The key to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s successful journey? It’s books

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“I saw the possibilities of things that I could have never imagined without reading,” Sotomayor, the first Latina Justice to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, said.

She has one of the most influential positions in the country, but as a girl who did not grow up privileged, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor credits her incredible journey to one thing.

“The key to success in my life, it’s the secret that I want to share with kids and how I became successful. I’m here as a Supreme Court Justice only because of books,” said Sotomayor.

The first Latina Supreme Court Justice spoke to a packed main hall of over 2,000 people at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday at the 18th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival.

Organizers said Sotomayor is the first children’s book author invited to speak on the main stage at the festival. After the main hall filled up, several hundred more watched on monitors in the hallways.

“I wish every kid here could see that if I can do it so can you!” said Sotomayor.

An avid reader growing up, Sotomayor’s new book for young readers, “Turning Pages: My Life Story,” is a richly illustrated book that chronicles her life growing up in New York City.

“Reading books opened the world to me. Especially for children growing up in modest means as I did, books give you the chance to explore the wider world. Television and especially now the Internet don’t let you imagine,” said Sotomayor.

As a young girl growing up with limited economic means, it was a chance to explore and imagine a world beyond where she was living, with endless possibilities at her fingertips as she turned the pages.

“The power of words is in creating pictures in your mind and that is very special. As a child, I explored the world through books. I saw the possibilities of things that I could have never imagined without reading,” said Sotomayor. “I could have never imagined traveling to faraway places and now I do it, but that wish to meet other people and go other places came from reading. Books were the key to deciding to become what I am today.”

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

Google Doodle Celebrates Mary G. Ross. Here’s What to Know About the First Native American Woman Engineer

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Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 110th birthday of Mary G. Ross, the first Native American woman engineer. Over the course of her five-decade career, Ross achieved many firsts and made major contributions to the aerospace industry.

Here’s what to know about the trailblazer, born on Aug. 9, 1908, who opened the doors for future female engineers in the field.

Who Was Mary G. Ross?

Great-great granddaughter to Chief John Ross of the Cherokee Nation, Mary G. Ross was born in the small town of Park Hill in Oklahoma. Raised with the Cherokee value of learning, Ross pursued a path considered nontraditional for women. After receiving a degree in math from Northeastern State College, Ross taught math and science until she returned to school to earn her master’s in math from Colorado State College of Education.

What were her contributions to aerospace?

In 1942, Lockheed Missiles and Space Company hired Ross as mathematician. But after a manager recognized her talent, Ross was sent to UCLA to earn a classification in aeronautical engineering. Lockheed then rehired her as their first female engineer. Ross would go on to work on major projects such as the Agena rocket, which was a crucial step in the Apollo program to land on the moon. She also was a part of SkunkWorks, a top-secret 40-member think tank where she was the only women aside from the secretary. Ross’ work there involved developing initial design concepts for interplanetary space travel, including flyby missions to Venus and Mars.
“Often at night there were four of us working until 11 p.m.,” she once said according to Google. “I was the pencil pusher, doing a lot of research. My state of the art tools were a slide rule and a Frieden computer. We were taking the theoretical and making it real.”

How did she open the door for women?

Ross also devoted herself to encouraging women and Native Americans into careers in the field of STEM. She was a fellow of the Society of Women Engineers, where she established a scholarship in her name to support future female engineers and technologists. To support fellow Native Americans, Ross also worked closely with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and the Council of Energy Resource Tribes to develop their educational programs.

Continue onto TIME to read the complete article.

Who Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

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In a stunning primary upset, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — a young socialist activist, woman of color and political newcomer — has unseated leading House Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s deep-blue 14th Congressional District.

Ocasio-Cortez, 28, a former organizer for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and a one-time staffer for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, ran on an unalloyed leftist progressive platform, calling for a “political revolution” that includes Medicare and higher education for all, gun control measures, an end to private prisons and the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

The district Ocasio-Cortez hopes to represent is in the Bronx and Queens; roughly 50 percent of the people there are immigrants — and she says they’ve been yearning for a representative who speaks to them, and speaks for their needs.

“We’re having an affordability crisis in New York City,” Ocasio-Cortez told NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition on Wednesday. “We have a security crisis with our current immigration system, and I think I was able to allow our community to really feel seen and heard, and visited and advocated for.”

Ocasio-Cortez said she wants to abolish ICE because the agency represents the militarization of immigration enforcement.

“What we’re basically saying is that the structure of ICE — in a similar manner as the structure of the Patriot Act — is kind of built on a scaffolding of questionable civil liberties infringement and abuse,” she said. “So what we’re really talking about is re-imagining immigration to be humane, and in a way that is transparent and accountable.”

Ocasio-Cortez defeated Crowley, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, whom many saw as a possible successor to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should Democrats win a majority in November.

As for whether she feels Pelosi should continue to lead Democrats in the House, Ocasio-Cortez said she’s open to the idea of new leadership in Congress. She added: “I think it’d be inappropriate to commit to any one individual before we’ve even won back the House in November. Let’s make sure we do that, and then we can have that conversation.”

Meet Ralphy Lozano, the Veteran Making History as the First Gay Latino Mayor of this Bordertown

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Years before Will and Grace became a groundbreaking hit TV show and even before comedian Ellen DeGeneres came out, Ralphy Lozano was standing up for the LGBTQ community. In popular hangout spots, such as bars and restaurants, around his traditionalist town, the teen and his high school-aged friends gathered and refused to hide their true selves, essentially disrupting the status quo. Now, the 35-year-old Air Force veteran has made history by becoming the first openly gay candidate elected to public office in the South Texas town of Del Rio. The proud first-time candidate received 62 percent of the vote and dethroned incumbent Robert Garza, who served as mayor for four years.

Lozano ran on a platform for change and unification for all in Del Rio. For him, this meant focusing on the issues and values that connects his constituents. “I don’t believe I’m going to get too far if I start going under one identity. I have to think about unifying the city,” Lozano tells me.

He didn’t receive campaign donations from any LGBTQ groups, and he didn’t necessarily seek their support. As a matter or fact, Lozano is about $5,000 in debt after his successful grassroots campaign. But his queerness is an important aspect of his identity. Last year, Lozano marched as part of Del Rio’s Veterans Parade in heels, which garnered national headlines – something that caught him by surprise. He didn’t view his choice as a political statement, but rather something that is part of who he is.

“I’ve always thought that veterans’ parades recently have been so dreary, and I feel like we should be celebrating veterans,” he adds. “Some of us have experienced some really traumatic experiences in war zones and losing friends and suffering from PTSD, but we survived. We survived the worst that humanity has (to offer).”

Continue onto Remezcla to read the complete article.

Dr. Ellen Ochoa: Standing Up for STEAM

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Dr. Ellen Ochoa

By Brady Rhoades

When NASA Hall of Famer Ellen Ochoa encourages young people to reach for the sky, she’s not just using a figure of speech.

It’s literal.

Ochoa became the first Latina astronaut to venture into space when she went up in 1993. She served four tours and 1,000 hours in the cosmos from 1993 to 2002.

“I believe a good education can take you anywhere on Earth and beyond,” she said.

After her trips to outer space, Ochoa served as Johnson Space Center’s director of flight crew operations and deputy director before becoming the head director in 2013. She is the first Latina and second female to lead the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Ochoa, who is retiring this May after 30 years with NASA, said NASA has done a good job of hiring Latinas and other minorities, but more can be done to urge minorities into STEAM fields.

“I plan to continue after retirement to encourage kids and adults—and especially women and minorities who are under-represented in STEM/STEAM fields—to reach for the stars!” she said.

Even as she was making history as the second woman and first Dr. Ellen Ochoa on Flight deckLatina in space, Ochoa’s focus was laser-sharp, her goals stratospheric.

She has a message for Hispanics, especially those held back by poverty and prejudice: STEAM is freeing.

“There are a lot of interesting and exciting careers when you study math and science and related technology fields,” she said. “For me, the key was really my education, so I tell people that it’s important to study and continue to take science and math classes throughout high school. I tell them to graduate from high school and go on to college. That will really give you a lot of options. I realize that a lot of the students I speak to may not end up as an astronaut or may not be completely interested in those fields, but I want them to at least make sure that they have options in their careers and that they think about setting high goals for themselves. People who become astronauts are very similar to a lot of these kids. They put in a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication and they set high goals for themselves. That’s something that anybody can apply.”

Ochoa, married to Coe Miles and mother to two sons, was born in 1958 and raised in La Mesa, California. Her grandparents on her father’s side were Mexican.

Ochoa, a flautist who considered majoring in music, earned her bachelor’s degree in physics at San Diego State University in 1980, a Master of Science degree from Stanford University in 1981 and her doctorate in electrical engineering from the same university in 1985.

In 1983, Sally Ride became the first woman in space. That sparked a new passion for Ochoa, and she applied to NASA’s astronaut program. She tried three times before being accepted and worked at Sandia National Laboratories and the NASA Ames Research Center. In 1990, Ochoa was accepted into the astronaut program.

Aboard the space shuttle Discovery in April 1993, Ochoa became the first Latina in space.

AstronautsThe nine-day mission was sent to study the effect of solar activity on the Earth’s climate and environment. Ochoa served as a mission specialist and used the robotic arm to deploy and capture the SPARTAN-201 satellite, which studied the solar corona.

She went on to serve as the payload commander aboard the space shuttle Atlantis in 1994, a 10-day mission to further study the sun’s energy output and the Earth’s atmosphere. She also served as the flight engineer and mission specialist in the 1999 and 2002 missions to the International Space Station.

After retiring from flying, she took to her directorial role at Johnson right away.

“Leadership provides the ability to influence the things you care about most,” she said.

And what does she care about?

“I care deeply about NASA’s mission and its value to our nation—expanding scientific knowledge, engaging globally, providing both economic benefits and technology transfer applied to issues on Earth, and especially serving as a source of inspiration and pride,” she said.

Retirement is just a word. Ochoa’s work continues. She’s vested in the next generation of women and Hispanics.

Her message?

“Go for it!” she said. “There are many interesting, challenging, and rewarding careers associated with STEAM. Often, you have the opportunity to work as part of a team, solving problems and fostering new discoveries. As the tag line for the International Space Station says, we are working ‘off the Earth, for the Earth.’

“As a center director, ‘accomplish the mission’ is expanded to mean not only today’s mission but also tomorrow’s mission, ensuring that we have the appropriate workforce, facilities, and processes to lead human exploration well into the future. Taking care of our people has many aspects—recruiting a diverse group of people, ensuring they have career development and training opportunities, and focusing on an atmosphere of respect for each other where people feel valued.”

Ochoa has earned many awards and honors, including NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal. She has also received the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, and the Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award.

Ochoa won the 1995 Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award and was Spaceship Tunnelthe Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation Engineer of the Year in 2008. She has six schools named after her.

She was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in May 2017.

“I’m honored to be recognized among generations of astronauts who were at the forefront of exploring our universe for the benefit of humankind,” Ochoa said at the time.

Ochoa is a double pioneer: She’s one of an elite number of people who’ve meandered among the stars, and she broke ground for Hispanics while doing it.

She said she always looked at her heritage as a positive.

“It has added a whole dimension, I think, to my job,” she said. “When I originally applied to be an astronaut, I wasn’t really thinking about the whole sort of role model aspect of it. I was doing it because I was fascinated by space. I was studying to be a research engineer and realized you could do a lot of unique and interesting experiments in space. And so it was really wanting to be part of America’s space program and being able to apply my research.”

Along the way, she saw firsthand how important inclusiveness is—to a profession, to society. It makes sense to draw from a broad talent pool of Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, Caucasians, females, males, you name it.

She started off working in STEM, for instance, and that’s evolved into STEAM, to include the arts. Bringing many unique perspectives to the table—be it with regard to culture, ethnicity and thought (let’s bring some artists onboard!)—is almost always a successful methodology, in her experience.

“We’d like to have all kinds of minds involved in our challenges, as well as in telling our story,” she said.

WWII Navajo Code Talker Roy Hawthorne Sr. dies in Arizona at 92

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Navajo Code Talker Roy Hawthorne, who used his native language as an uncrackable code during World War II, died Saturday.

At 92, he was one of the last surviving Code Talkers.

Hawthorne was 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and became part of a famed group of Native Americans who encoded hundreds of messages in the Navajo language to keep them safe from the Japanese. Hawthorne served in the 1st Marine Division in the Pacific Theatre and was promoted to corporal.

The code was never broken.

“The longer we live, the more we realize the importance of what we did, but we’re still not heroes — not in my mind,” Roy Hawthorne said in 2015.

But Hawthorne’s son, Regan Hawthorne, said Monday his father leaves a proud legacy.

“They went in out of a sense of duty and a spirit of responsibility to their country,” Regan Hawthorne said, adding he didn’t know about his father’s military service until he was in his 20s.

“I grew up not knowing my dad was a Code Talker. He never talked about it, didn’t see the need to talk about it,” he said.

The Code Talkers believed they were just doing their job, he said, and shied away from receiving accolades for their service.

“When we read about the effect the Navajo Code had on shortening the war because of its effectiveness, we think about the guys who did that,” Regan Hawthorne said. “(But) they’re simply humble men who performed what they sensed to be a duty to protect all they cherished.”

He said his father and other Code Talkers returned home from the war and “simply came back to work and went back to making a life.”

As of 2016, there were about a dozen Code Talkers still living. The exact number of Code Talkers is unknown because their work was classified for years after the war ended.

Continue onto AZ Central to read the complete article.

Retiring this year, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, first Latina in Congress, defies stereotypes

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As she exits Congress, Ros-Lehtinen goes out as a Latina who has stayed close to her community while keeping herself from being pigeonholed.

In biographies and profiles, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is often followed by, “the first Latina” or “the first Cuban American” in Congress.

Ros-Lehtinen has always embraced the descriptions tagged to her name, but as she exits Congress, she goes out as a Latina who has stayed close to her community while keeping herself from being pigeonholed.

“She’s really an icon in the community for a number of reasons,” said Eduardo Gamarra, director of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University. “Not only is she a Republican congresswoman, but she’s been able to transcend the rigors of just being (known as) a Cuban American woman.”

In an interview Tuesday, she tried to answer the questions of an NBC News reporter while also being the doting grandmother, dressing up a Latina Barbie on her granddaughter’s electronic device while they waited for the Natural History Museum to open.

Actor Richard Gere and the television personality and Olympic medalist Caitlyn Jenner were to be in Washington Wednesday for the annual Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute’s annual gala. But the star of the event is Ros-Lehtinen.

The institute is recognizing her with its Leadership in Public Service Award and Leadership in International Relations Award. The institute is renaming the latter award The CHLI Ileana Ros-Lehtinen International Leadership Award.

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.