When politicians, advocates and interested citizens gathered in Denver earlier this month to roll out a new organization called LatinasRepresent - which will seek to boost the number of Hispanic women holding public office - they were confronted by some bleak numbers:
--No Latina has ever served in the U.S. Senate.
--Only one, New Mexico's Susana Martinez, has ever served as governor of a state.
--Of the 7,383 state senators and representatives, 1.1 percent, or 79 women, are Latina.
--Of 320 statewide executives - including lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and the like - 48 states have no Latina high officials, while New Mexico has four and Nevada one.
With an estimated 25 million Latinas in the nation's population (about 8 percent), those numbers reflect the fact that they are vastly underrepresented in elective office, which sets the table for the work of the new organization. LatinasRepresent is a partnership between Political Parity–whose focus is to increase the number of women in the upper levels of government–and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda.
Colorado was chosen as the roll out state because Latinas alone make up 6 percent of the Colorado General Assembly, The Denver Post reported.
"Part of the research is going to look at what is working here, what are some mistakes that have been made, and what are some of the challenges these Latinas had to face," said Hector Sanchez, executive director of National Hispanic Leadership Agenda.
"We would have a different country and different world if more women were in office," former ambassador to Austria Swanee Hunt told those assembled. She is chair of Political Parity, one of the sponsoring groups.
Hunt also said Latinas would make ideal candidates because they would draw support from many demographics.