Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Young, Hispanic Legislators
September 15, 2022
Today marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month — a month where we recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements for the United States. Last year, we invited young, Hispanic legislators from across the country to share their stories in a live conversation with MAP. Texas State Representative Victoria Neave, Florida State Representative Jackie Toledo, and Nebraska State Senator Tony Vargas joined in a bipartisan discussion that focused on their experiences as young, Hispanic state legislators.
“I’m the daughter of an immigrant. My dad came from Mexico with a dream and hope for a better life. My parents told me that I could be anything that I want to be — a doctor or lawyer, anything you want, but don’t forget where you came from,” said Rep. Neave, kicking off the conversation.
Hispanic Americans are heavily underrepresented in our nation’s halls of power — making up for less than 10% of the U.S. House of Representatives, despite being the second-largest ethnic group in the United States. State Senator Tony Vargas specifically addressed this by saying, “I owe a lot to seeing Latinos not as represented. This drove me to want to do more.”
“What this month means to me is family, dedication to our community, giving more, doing more for others, and finding ways to find common ground,” said Senator Vargas.
Similarly, Rep. Toledo remarked, “We have so many things in common — whether you are from Colombia or Puerto Rico, there are so many things that bind us together.” Rep. Toledo has been an advocate for her community and bipartisan legislation in her state. “There are things like public safety, environment, women, and family issues — that we can come together on. I think because of my background I bring that open-mindedness to the legislature.”
While they do not agree on everything, something the legislators can all agree on is that representation, community, and solving problems is critical in order to build a better world. Rep. Neave said, “Latino Heritage Month means highlighting, uplifting, and acknowledging the work that has been made to make sure we have a seat at the table.” These three legislators have been doing just that.
Representative Neave has helped pass 16 bills into law since being elected. She most famously spearheaded the Lavinia Masters Act — comprehensive legislation to address the backlog of thousands of untested rape kits — as well as several bills to address sexual assault in Texas. She also passed two bills to increase access to higher education and make college more affordable.
Rep. Toledo has led significant legislation such as banning texting and driving, incentivizing STEM-focused classes in higher education, and raising the age limit for purchases of tobacco and nicotine to slow the spread of youth vaping and nicotine addiction. She also has worked over multiple terms to elevate issues of pharmacy reform to lower healthcare costs.
Sen. Vargas has successfully passed legislation on a variety of issues, including equity in education, encouraging technology and innovation, juvenile justice, improving consumer protection, and health care access. He is now running for Congress in his home state of Nebraska.
Hispanic representation is increasing, and our network of Gen Z and Millennial state legislators is paving the way for a more diverse, effective government that improves lives for all communities. Here at Millennial Action Project, we believe that the next generations are the change agents we need to build the largest, multiracial, multiethnic, multi-religious democracy in the history of the world.
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