18 Latinos with Ties to the White House

Earlier this year, Latino lawmakers criticized President Barack Obama for not doing more to have Latinos serving in his administration. During the President’s first term, two Latinos served in Obama’s first-term Cabinet, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. Following their resignations, it looked like no Latinos would serve on the Cabinet until Tom Perez was appointed this month as the new Labor Secretary. But Perez isn’t the only Latino serving the president in one capacity or another.

Here’s a look at 18 Latinos with a connection to the White House:

1. white house slide 01_tom perez

Tom Perez

Despite heated opposition from the Republican Party, Tom Perez was confirmed earlier this month as the nation’s newest Labor Secretary. With his approval, the 51-year-old Dominican American politician, civil rights advocate and consumer advocate, who replaces former secretary Hilda Solis, is now the only Hispanic member at the Cabinet Secretary level for President Barack Obama's second term. “For 100 years, the Labor Department has been central to safeguarding and expanding the American dream for working families. As the first secretary of the department's second century, I will focus every day on creating more opportunity for more people,” Perez told the Huffington Post about his goals for his new role.

2. white house slide 02_cecilia munoz

Cecilia Muñoz

Cecilia Muñoz, the daughter of Bolivian immigrants, serves as President Obama's chief domestic policy adviser. In her roles as the Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, the 50-year-old longtime Hispanic civil rights advocate, a former official with the National Council of La Raza, is using her high-level position to accomplish one of the goal’s she worked toward for decades: reform of the country’s' archaic immigration laws.

3. white house slide 03_Enrique Salem

Enrique Salem

In March 2011, Enrique Salem was appointed to President Obama’s Management Advisory Board, which provides council and suggestions to the President on bringing insight from the private and non-profit sectors to federal government management and operations, including customer service, human capital, innovative technology and procurement. The Latino businessman, the former president and CEO of Symantec, has 25 years of experience working with high-technology corporations.

4. white house slide 04_James Canales

James Canales

He may be president and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation, which centers on expanding educational and economic opportunities for low-income people in California. But James Canales helps people throughout the country. Since 2011, he’s served as a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions, a diverse group of cross-sector leaders who are helping Obama plot ways build healthy communities.

5. white house slide 05_shakira


Shakira has served as the voice of Latinos around the world long before serving as a coach on NBC’s The Voice, serving as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and launching a number of global education campaigns. In October 2011, the 36-year-old Colombian superstar was appointed by President Obama to serve as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, which aims to close the educational achievement gap for Hispanic Americans.

6. white house slide 06_Nancy Navarro

Nancy Navarro

She may be the president of the county council in Montgomery County, Maryland, but Nancy Navarro has close ties to the President. The Latina politician, who served on the Montgomery County Board of Education from 2004 to 2009, was appointed by President Obama to serve as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

7. white house slide 07_Adrián A. Pedroza

Adrián A. Pedroza

Adrián A. Pedroza, who serves as the Executive Director of Albuquerque’s grassroots, community-based organization Partnership for Community Action, also has responsibilities beyond New Mexico. The Latino activist also serves as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Under his state’s former governor Bill Richardson, Pedroza was appointed to the inaugural Hispanic Education Advisory Council

8. white house slide 08_Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria

Following the end of her star-making stint on ABC’s Desperate Housewives, Eva Longoria tirelessly campaigned for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. As the co-chair of Obama’s re-election campaign, the 38-year-old Mexican American actress proved to be Obama’s secret weapon in obtaining the Latino vote. But that’s not her only tie to the White House… In January, Longoria served as a co-chair of Obama's inauguration committee.

9. white house slide 09_Maria Cristina Gonzalez Noguera

Maria Cristina Gonzalez Noguera

Maria Cristina Gonzalez Noguera is the latest Latina to join the White House family. The Puerto Rican executive gave up her role as senior vice president for corporate communications at Estee Lauder Companies to be First Lady Michelle Obama’s communications director. “MC [as she’s called] brings a fresh perspective and a wealth of expertise that will make her an incredible asset to our team,” said the First Lady’s official announcement. “My time at the White House has been focused on ensuring all our children and families thrive, and as an experienced communications professional who shares my commitment to this mission, I know MC will be an outstanding partner.”

10. white house slide 10_alejandra ceja

Alejandra Ceja

In May, Alejandra Ceja – a Mexican American former Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Public Policy Fellow – accepted a new challenging role, that of director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The initiative is challenged with growing academic excellence and bettering educational opportunities for Hispanics by making recommendations to the President and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Alejandra is a trusted advisor and leader in the Hispanic community," said Duncan. "As director of this important initiative, Alejandra will continue her exceptional work of pursuing academic excellence and opportunities for Hispanics across the country."

11. white house slide 11_Katherine Vargas

Katherine Vargas

Katherine Vargas, a Colombian immigrant who became a naturalized citizen in 2009, is the White House’s new Director of Hispanic Media. The former spokesperson for the National Immigration Forum (NIF), one of the country’s leading immigration lobby groups, succeeds Luis Miranda, held the post during Obama’s first term. "The administration, and Hispanics across America, will be well served by Katherine's deep understanding of the issues and commitment to justice for all," said NIF executive director Ali Noorani in a statement.

12. white house slide 12_J. Ricky Arriola

J. Ricky Arriola

J. Ricky Arriola serves as a private member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues. The successful Latino business executive, the president and CEO of Inktel Direct, is actively involved in the arts and humanities community in Florida, including serving as the board chairman of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.

13. white house slide 13_Victoria A. Espinel

Victoria A. Espinel

Victoria A. Espinel is a White House intellectual… In 2009, the 44-year-old Latina was confirmed as the White House’s first-ever U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, a role that’s earned her the nickname "IP Czar" by several media outlets like TechDirect, National Journal and Intellectual Property Watch. Espinel is responsible for developing and implementing the President's overall strategy for the enforcement of intellectual property.

14. white house slide 14_Francesca López Covey

Francesca López Covey

Miami native Francesca López Covey serves as the White House’s Public Engagement Liaison. Working in the Office of Public Engagement at the U.S. Department of Labor, she assists in the outreach efforts of individual agencies within the department to ensure a wide cross-section of stakeholder participation in all aspects of the Department's efforts.

15. white house slide 15_Felicia Escobar

Felicia Escobar

Don’t be surprised to see Felicia Escobar’s name surface in our nation’s immigration debate. As a senior policy advisor in the White House Domestic Policy Council, she assists in developing the President’s strategy for building an improved immigration system. She’s currently hard at work trying to get meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform legislation passed.

16. white house slide 16_Julie Chavez Rodriguez

Julie Chavez Rodriguez

Like her grandfather, the late civil right activist Cesar Chavez, program manager, community organizer and advocate Julie Chavez Rodriguez has spent her life helping improve the lives of Latinos throughout the country. And now, as a public engagement advisor in the Office of Public Engagement, she has the ear of our nation’s leaders, including the President.

17. white house slide 17_Nancy Sutley

Nancy Sutley

Since 2009, Nancy Sutley has served as the leader of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. In that capacity, the 51-year-old Argentine American is the chief environmental policy advisor to President Obama.

18. white house slide 18_Stephanie Valencia

Stephanie Valencia

Stephanie Valencia has a long history working with President Obama. Prior to her current role as the Special Assistant to the President and the Principal Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement, where she’s worked since 2009, Valencia was art of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team, as well as the Deputy Latino Vote Director on the Obama Campaign. In her current role, she oversees important engagement programs like the Community Leaders Briefing Series and Champions of Change.