Think your voice is not represented in higher government? Thing again, because these ladies have your back. Meet the Latinas from all walks of life who are making things happen under the Obama Administration.
Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, Bolivian American, 52
As director of the domestic policy council, Muñoz oversees the branch of the White House that coordinates all domestic policy-making processes in the Obama administration and has strong influence on immigration reform. The high-level position is only the latest entry on an already impressive resume that includes stints as an immigration rights lobbyist, Senior Vice President for the Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s most prominent Latino civil rights organization and winner of the 2000 MacAruthur Foundation genius grant. Her career path was fueled by a jarring incident she experienced when she was 17. The daughter of Bolivian immigrants, Muñoz wrote in an NPR essay, “After a dinner table conversation with my family about the wars going on in Central America and the involvement of the United States, a good friend told me he thought the U.S. might someday go to war somewhere in Latin America. He looked me in the eye and told me that if it happens, he believes my parents belong in an internment camp just like the Japanese-Americans during World War II. My outrage that day became the propellant of my life.”
Katherine Vargas, Director of Hispanic Media, Colombian, 31
This Colombia-born communications maven is the voice of the Obama administration to our media and our community. As director of Hispanic Media for the White House, Vargas works closely with all federal agencies to promote the President’s relationship with Latinos. Her own relationship with her fellow White House Latinas is one of camaraderie, admiration and inspiration. “I gratefully stand on the shoulders of Latina giants who helped pave the way for other Latinas in the Administration,” she says. “There is a strong sense of compañerismo among us, from Cecilia Muñoz, the White House Domestic Policy Director who is incredibly supportive of our goals and dreams to Maria Cristina González, the First Lady’s communications director who is always a phone call away for life and career advice and many other hard working Latinas. We feel honored for being part of the President’s team as he fights to keep the American dream within reach for all who seek it.”
Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Deputy Director of Public Engagement, Mexican American, 36
Rallying the masses is in Chavez Rodriguez’ blood. The granddaughter of famed labor leader and civil rights activist, Cesar Chavez, she urges young Latinas to do their part as public servants. As Deputy Director of Public Engagement, Chavez Rodriguez is the middleman between the White House and the Latino Community and immigration related issues. “We need more of you so do it with the courage your grandparents demonstrated when they paved the pathway of opportunity for your parents and now you,” she says. “Do it with the understanding that one of the best ways to serve our community and our country is to take the leap of faith and become a public servant. And do it with the strength that has guided so many of our ancestors in search of a better tomorrow because tomorrow will not be handed to you, it will be created out of hard work, determination, and deep seeded integrity.”
Felicia Escobar, Special Assistant to the President for Immigration Policy, Mexican American, 37
In her role as Special Assistant to the President for Immigration Policy, this Yale and Harvard-educated, San Antonio, TX native plays a key role in the President’s strategy for building a modern immigration system that includes working with current legislation and future immigration reform. What’s in store for Latinos in the White House? Escobar has high hopes. “I certainly hope that one day there will be a Latino that occupies the Oval Office,” she says. “I am certain that day will come but that’s why we need to cultivate the next generation of Latino leaders, so that day can come sooner rather than later. There are also so many other important jobs in the White House and I hope that after we leave, others will come."
Ximena González, Deputy Associate Director, Michelle Obama’s Social Office, Mexican American, 24
Among the youngest Latinas to serve under the Obama Administration, González gets a wealth of inspiration from the strong and successful Hispanic women that surround her. As Deputy Associate Director in the First Lady’s Social Office, she plans, manages and executes projects for the President and First Lady, including Presidential statements and ceremonies, Head of State visits and heritage events. "[Other Latinas in the White House] remind me where I came from and what I hope to be in the future," she says. "We have fun and candid conversations about how to juggle living in the United States with family abroad. They are my home away from home. I can get my Spanish breaks because there are some words and humor that don’t translate well. [There's] no shame in bringing Latin flavor to the White House!”
Maria Cristina “MC” González Noguera , Director of Communications, Puerto Rican, 39
Noguera attributes her passion for service to her family. Her grandfather, Jose Ramón Noguera was secretary of the treasury under Governor Luis Muñoz Marín. She explains, “There has always been dinner conversation around the culture of service and the idea of thinking not only for you but for the next generation.” With that in mind, she graduated Tufts with a degree in International Relations so she could better understand the relationship between government and business. Her subsequent careers included stints at an investment banking firm, a communications agency, and a global beauty brand. Most recently, she made the jump from VP of corporate communications at Estee Lauder to her current position at the White House, but her family back home in Puerto Rico doesn’t see her any different. “It doesn’t matter that I’m seated at the White House. I’m still Cristinita.”