6 Afro Latino Politicians Making An Impact In America
This Hispanic Heritage Month ends as a number of Black Hispanic politicians serve their communities and the country as a whole.
October 14, 2022 at 6:00 pm
As Hispanic Heritage Month ends this weekend, it’s important to recognize the specific contributions of Afro Latino politicians to the American government and society. Here are six politicians of Black and Hispanic descent who continue to make an impact today.
The oldest politician on this list, 92-year-old Charles Rangel retired from Congress in 2017 after serving 46 years in Congress — one of the longest tenures in Congressional history. Rangel spent this time representing various congressional districts in New York.
Born to a Black mother and Puerto Rican father in Harlem in 1930, Rangel joined the Army at 17 and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his service in the Korean War. Going into law and then politics after his military service, Rangel was active in the Civil Rights Movement, was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and chaired several committees during his time in office.
When Rangel retired, his seat was won by Adriano Espaillat, who achieved two important “firsts” when he was elected to represent New York’s 13 District in the U.S. Congress. Espaillat is the first Dominican American, as well as the first formerly undocumented immigrant, to be elected to Congress.
In addition to his own success, Espaillat has gained a reputation for successfully supporting other Dominican American politicians as they run for elected office in New York. He has assembled a group of elected politicians under his mentorship that has been nicknamed the “Squadriano” by one profile.
The “Squadriano” nickname is of course a reference to “The Squad,” the diverse collection of congresswomen who have become the face of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in Congress. Perhaps the most prominent member of “The Squad” is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Puerto Rican politician from New York whose surprise electoral victory in 2018 made her the youngest woman to be elected in the history of Congress.
While gaining national prominence from her stances on a number of issues, Ocasio-Cortez has celebrated the African portion of her heritage on multiple occasions. In 2018, she wore a braid in her hair as a nod to her African roots, noting that her “family is Afro-Latina” and stating that she wanted to “let every little girl out there know that they can bring their braids to Congress, too.”
In 2001, journalist Rosa Clemente made waves with her article “Who is Black?” recounting the challenges she has faced as an Afro Latina Puerto Rican woman. This is one of many articles Clemente has penned, with her work touching on everything from Black Lives Matter to hurricane response to the #MeToo movement.
Currently, Clemente is completing her Ph.D. at the W.E.B. DuBois Center, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is also undertaking research on the Black Panthers and COINTELPRO, and she is poised to continue to impact national debates for years to come.
Candace Valenzuela sought to make history in 2020 when she ran for Congress in Texas’ 24th District, as reported by Blavity. Though she did not win, her candidacy broke ground in Texas and made national headlines.
Since then, her political career has continued. President Joe Biden recently appointed her as the Southwest regional administrator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And in this new position, Valenzuela will be able to continue to promote housing and food security, issues that are important to her due to her own challenging childhood.
Valenzuela and the other politicians on this list continue to represent the Black and Hispanic communities in America while working to make the country better for everyone. As we mark the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s note the hard work that they and many others are doing to make the U.S. a better place.