Four Female Candidates of Colombian Descent Win in NY

Jessica Ramos, with her family at Barriles Restaurant in Jackson Heights on the night of her victory. (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

Four female politicians of Colombian descent made history in New York on Thursday night by winning the Democratic Party primary. (…) Jessica Ramos won the nomination to New York’s Senate District 13 (Queens), Julia Salazar did the same for State Senate District 18 (Brooklyn), as well as Catalina Cruz for State Assembly District 39 (Queens). Nathalia Fernández, who had won for State Assembly District 80 (Bronx) in a special election in April, won the primary in an uncontested race.

Cruz was born in Medellín, Colombia, and Ramos in Jackson Heights, Queens, of Colombian parents. Salazar is a Miami-native born of a Colombian father and Italian mother, and Fernández has a Colombian mother and a Cuban father.

“After decades of struggle, four Colombians were capable of interpreting the needs of immigrants and Latinos,” said Consul General of Colombia in New York María Isabel Nieto, who came to Queens to celebrate with her compatriots. “This is an immense victory for Colombians abroad, because now we have someone to represent us in such an important city.”

Ramos and Cruz’s victories are even more significant for Colombians because the candidates have a closer link to the Queens areas where that community is concentrated in New York. (…)

“This triumph is unprecedented, and it signals a new phase of growth and political maturity for Colombians in the New York metropolitan area,” said Dr. Arturo Sánchez, an urban planning professor from Colombia who specializes in the Colombian diaspora. “As women and political actors, they represent the urgent need to separate ourselves from a conservative, backward and male-dominated society.”

(…) “My victory means that those of us who have worked in the community for a long time and understand its dynamics, we can make it,” said Ramos as the crowd gathered at Barriles Restaurant in Jackson Heights, cheering and screaming. (…)

Born in Elmhurst Hospital in Jackson Heights, Ramos hosted a children’s show on the La Voz de la Gran Colombia radio station in the 1990s and was a beauty queen for the Siempre Colombia Foundation. (…) Her favorite song is “Cali pachanguero,” which the restaurant played during the party held there to celebrate her victory. (…)

“Ever since she was a little girl, she said that she wanted to be president of the United States, and that is why she has always helped the community,” said her mother, Melfy Londoño, from the city of Pereira. (…)

“This is the culmination of more than 40 years of work in the Colombian community,” said her father, Auríbal Ramos, from Buga, who returned to New York to help his daughter get elected. “This is a dream come true and a victory for the family and the community.”

“Jessica’s victory is a win for all Colombians and Latinos in New York,” said Erika Lucía Ramos, one of Jessica’s older sisters. (…)

“Dreamer” Catalina Cruz

“My success is twofold, because I am the first [local] politician born in Colombia and also a Dreamer,” said Cruz at Club Evolution, on Roosevelt Avenue and 76thStreet in Jackson Heights. Cruz entered the country undocumented, and her mother collected cans and handed out flyers to support her family.

(…) “This win belongs to all undocumented people in this country, and now we have to keep fighting inequality, because we will not represent the rich,” she added.

“The victory of these Colombian women means that the time has come for a political revolution of our own for the wellbeing of all Latinos,” said Cruz as she danced to vallenato song “Esta vida” and waved the Colombian flag.

(…) Former Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland said that Cruz’s victory is a clear message that people need new leadership. “Tonight, my Dominican community has suffered a setback because Ari Espinal and José Peralta lost, but we must move forward and fight for the Latino community,” said Ferreras.

Catalina Cruz was born in Guayabal La Raya, a poor neighborhood in Medellín. Her mother, Rosa Agudelo, came to New York in 1992 and brought her daughter soon after. Her siblings, Laura, Mónica and Héctor Cardona were born here. “My daughter’s victory means that we can all achieve the American Dream, because it came true for us tonight,” said Agudelo.

By midnight, some Colombians were still celebrating on the streets of Jackson Heights. “A page has turned in the history of Colombian-American politics, but the question remains: Will the superficiality of the past be the prologue of our political future, or will those new female actors write the progressive narrative that is needed in these complicated times?” concluded professor Sánchez.

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