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Latinas, Politics and Leadership

November 18, 2013

By Samantha Morales (3L)

La Raza Law Students Association and Latinas in the Law of San Diego co-sponsored a “Latinas, Politics, and Leadership” panel on November 6th in the 8th floor board room.

Co-sponsor Latinas in the Law of San Diego, promotes the advancement of Latinas in the legal profession by providing opportunities for personal growth and development. The Hon. Irma E. Gonzalez (Ret.), Mrs. Lilia Garcia, Esq. and Mrs. Anna M. Jauregui-Law, Esq., co-founders of Latinas in the Law and Professor Luz Hererra, adviser for La Raza Law Students Association helped coordinate the event.

The distinguished panelists included: Helen Torres, Executive Director for Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), San Diego County Bar Association President Marcella Ordorica-McClaughlin, National City Councilwoman Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, and Nora Vargas, Vice President of Community & Government Relations for Planned Parenthood. Professor Marjorie Cohn moderated the panel.

The event provided undergraduate students from UCSD and SDSU and law students from USD and CalWestern an opportunity to join TJSL students and members of the legal community. Panelists gave attendees insights on some of the unique struggles many Latinas face on the path to leadership and political office.

“Politics are about the change you make in this world and if you do not understand the structure, it is very hard to succeed,” said Nora Vargas. “A girl from Tijuana,” as she described herself — who ended up working for the President of the United States because at a very early age, her parents charged her with the responsibility to do something that benefited society.

“Growing up in National City I knew that the City Hall decisions did not reflect me as a young Latina. I did not want to defend or fight for legislation, I wanted to make legislation,” said Councilwoman Sotelo-Solis.

“People will always question your qualifications as a woman and as a woman of color,” she shared–noting that men who run for office are not asked about their plans to conceive and start a family.

Marcella Ordorica-McClaughlin, said the beginning of her journey towards becoming the first Latina San Diego County Bar Association President started with one simple question: Why not me? Today her photo on Wall of Past Presidents at the San Diego County Bar Association’s Center is a testament of just how far women can go when they believe in themselves and in their journey.

So what are the biggest obstacles facing Latinas in reaching leadership positions? There are many, and it goes beyond the dynamics of raising a family.

“It is ourselves,” highlighted Vargas. “We want to be prepared, but you just have to do it.”

“We do not look like what a leader should look like,” said Helen Torres –a mother of twin boys and one of the first Latina political consultants in our state. “It is not good enough to have ‘the first Latina City Council Woman, Mayor, President of a Bar Association’, because real change requires a critical mass pipeline of Latinas who are ready to lead and an infrastructure that accepts it,” she added.

Over the years, Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) has been crucial in preparing this pipeline. To date, 422 women including the panelists have graduated from HOPE’s nine-month action oriented leadership training program aimed at ensuring Latinas become civically engaged and active in public policy that affects their communities.