Latinas’ Victories Empower Women in Albany

Marisol Alcántara won the State Senate seat for the 31st District. (Photo via El Diario)

Marisol Alcantara won the State Senate seat for the 31st District. (Photo via El Diario)

On Tuesday, Dominican candidates Carmen De La Rosa and Marisol Alcantara made history when they came out on top in the New York State primaries for the 72nd Assembly District and the 31st Senate District. The sentiment their feat generates is that their arrival in Albany will mark a new milestone in the struggle of Hispanic women in the political arena.

Alcantara, a community activist and union leader, will replace veteran politician Adriano Espaillat, also Dominican. Espaillat left the post to move on to the U.S. Congress. Alcantara will be the only Latina in the New York State Senate.

Additionally, she will be a key figure when the time comes to support bills, as she announced that she will join the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group that has obtained positive results working alongside Republicans on a number of initiatives.

“Part of doing this job well is to learn and have the capacity to negotiate with other people. The IDC, consisting of five Democratic members, has achieved success on issues such as the $15 minimum wage, paid family leave and universal pre-K. They negotiate with the governor, who is a Democrat, and create alliances with Republicans.”

One of Alcantara’s visions to guarantee better representation for women in Albany is to promote a project to offer them more support.

“In many places in Latin America there is a minimum quota for women in power, but that is not the case here and it is very hard, so it would be important to have a bigger voice and send out that message,” she said.

Woman power in the Assembly

De La Rosa’s victory also represents an important step toward a better presence for women in the state’s legislature. She is now being considered a figure with enormous political power after defeating fellow Dominican Guillermo Linares, a Hispanic political heavyweight.

Aside from becoming the youngest Assembly member in Albany, De La Rosa will further amplify the power of Hispanic women in the lower house, already represented by Assemblymembers Carmen Arroyo and Maritza Dávila.

“This is a triumph for women in general: for Latina women, for immigrant women, for poor women, for women who are fighters, and it is an example that demonstrates that, if I could do it, my daughter can also do it, as well as any other woman and any other person who educates themselves,” said the soon-to-be Assemblymember. “That’s why I’m going to work for my daughters to have that opportunity and to show them that dreams do come true.”

The new representative for the 72nd District – who arrived in New York as a baby after losing her biological parents and being adopted in Las Terrenas, in the Dominican Republic – pointed out that her story shows that one can go as far as one wants.

De La Rosa will be the youngest Assembly member in Albany. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El diario)

De La Rosa will be the youngest Assembly member in Albany. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

“The sacrifice my parents made to take in a little girl that wasn’t theirs and raise her and educate her and teach her values means a lot and shows that humble people in our community can fight and work for the well-being of everyone,” said De La Rosa.

Alcantara agrees with her compatriot that winning the election is an example to new generations of women, especially immigrants.

“This is very important and it is incredible, because there are no Latinas in the New York State Senate, and the best part of this victory is to tell girls in schools that, regardless of where you were born, the important thing is where you end up, and that it does not matter if you are not fluent in English in the beginning or have immigration troubles, we must fight to break the barriers because we all deserve a place at the table to make decisions,” said Alcantara, adding that it was Donald Trump’s campaign of hatred and division that propelled her to run for state senator.

“Latina women no longer settle for playing second fiddle, and I think that the anti-woman and anti-immigrant rhetoric that Trump has promoted this year has motivated Latinas like me to run for public office,” she added.

“The year of women”

Lucía Gómez, a community activist and union leader at Local 78, described the victory of the Dominican politicians as a testament to the fact that the time has come for Latinas in the legislature.

“The fact that these two women won is a source of pride and a triumph for all Hispanic women. They have shown that we cannot be counted out of the life of the state, and they are opening doors for more women who will continue to fight,” said Gómez.

“Marisol practically came out of nowhere and had a tough run against Robert Jackson, and it was faith and hard work that placed her on top. Carmen is a woman who, despite her [young] age, demonstrated that she is ready to fight for our rights with the strength Hispanic women have,” she said.

Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. said that Alcantara and De La Rosa’s arrival will generate the strong and renewed drive the legislature has needed.

“They are the voices the Senate and the State Assembly need right now, because this is the year of women and they are intelligent and capable,” he said. “There were no Latina women in the Senate, so Marisol is making history by being the first Dominican to get there and being a voice in favor of workers’ unions.”

Alcantara mentioned that she hopes that when she takes office in January, there is a change in the Senate and that Democrats have the majority. However, she said that if the Republicans continue to lead, it will be important to form coalitions.

De La Rosa is also clear that she will work to find political alliances to move forward projects in support of affordable housing, education and pregnant women.

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