SALT LAKE CITY -- Building a leadership pipeline to get more Latinas involved in politics is one of the main goals of national Hispanic groups, and advocates spoke about the critical need for their voices at this year’s League of United Latin American Citizens Convention, which was held at the Salt Palace.
Every census shows the Latina population is growing, yet they are underrepresented not only in national political offices, but on the state and local level as well.
“In Utah, there are three of us that serve,” said Rep. Angela Romero, D-District 26. “Two in the House and one in the Senate. Representative Chavez-Houck [D-District 24] and Senator Escamilla [D-District 1] and myself.”
Romero said she counts herself lucky to serve among the few Latinas in the Utah legislature. She said there's room for more voices but said many feel disconnected from the political process.
She explained: “Many times people will say, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter; the legislature doesn’t represent me or my views.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I’m at your door, and I look like you, and I hope we share the same values, so that’s why you need to get out there and vote.’”
Romero represents one of the state’s most diverse districts in the west part of Salt Lake. She sees the value in serving in public office and wants to open doors for other Latinas.
“It is rewarding because you can create positive change,” she said. "I've been very successful in passing sexual violence and assault legislation, and those are issues maybe my colleagues wouldn’t have thought about or thought were important.”
Nadia Farjood is the manager for strategic initiatives for a non-profit called Political Parity that aims to increase political representation for women.
“Of the 12,000, approximately, people that have ever held office in Congress, or been members of Congress, only 11 have been Latina,” Farjood said.
Farjood said with 25 million Latinas living in the US, their input is more crucial than ever.
“The numbers are changing,” Farjood said. “They're changing fast, and Latinas are underrepresented and we need their voices represented in our local communities, on school boards, on city councils and to build a bench up to get more Latinas to run for Congress and higher level offices.”
The biggest hurdle for Latinas seeking political office is they may not have the resources at their disposal. Representative Romero said it’s important leaders from both sides of the aisle offer support so Latinas can get to the next level.