Freshman class of the 116th Congress gather for their class photo | Clip Courtesy C-Span
El Paso has now added another page in the history…or rather herstory books! This past weekend the 116th Congress was sworn in and the day was filled with some ceiling-shattering moments.
To begin with there were the big moments like Nancy Pelosi – the first female to become Speaker of The House – making herstory AGAIN by becoming the first person to be re-elected as Speaker.
There was something empowering for all women watching; from 2016 having to listen to a presidential candidate spew misogynistic expletives like “grab them by the *****” and still go on to occupy the Oval Office, to women and girls marching across the nation, in the time of “Me Too” and “Times Up” where women are standing up and calling out their abusers in public…yes watching Speaker Pelosi take the gavel and hold it up, meant so much more.
There were also the smaller moments that some may have missed, like when the cameras were pulling away, we could see Deb Haaland of New Mexico, member of Laguna Pueblo and Sharice Davids of Kansas, member of the Ho-Chunk Nation embrace in an emotional hug.
They have broken through a glass ceiling – as old as human existence – of discrimination, becoming the first Native Congresswomen.
Sharice Davids also breaking another barrier, becoming the first Native LGBTQ Congresswoman. I couldn’t hold back my tears when I saw them hug, I knew that was a “WE DID IT” moment. Something only women of color and marginalized communities can understand, when you become the first, when you are the only one and you are representing all the ancestry of your community. There is no greater honor.
Of course for me the biggest moment was watching our very own Veronica Escobar of El Paso and Sylvia Garcia of Houston take the oath as they made herstory as well, become the first Latinas (both Mexican-American) to ever represent Texas in the United States Congress.
To give you some perspective on what this means, according to history, life in Texas has been found as far back as 9,000 B.C. and the first record of tools by mankind can be traced as far back to around 1,000 B.C. to the original Native peoples.
Texas would (most notably) remain under Spanish rule for 300 years Nueva España (New Spain) then break off and become part of the newly independent empire of México. Later, around the turn of the 20th century, Texas would be given to the United States in a peace treaty.
In this whole woven story of Tejas then Texas, we the people have remained. But as in any story of colonization, the conquered are often left at the bottom of the totem pole. Since becoming part of the United States up until 2018, in the history of the United States Congress there have only been 320 women that have ever served, of those, only 12 have been Latina and NONE have ever been from Texas…until now.
As a brown skinned woman, as a Texas Latina, and an El Pasoan, this moment is almost beyond words. Simply: WE have arrived.
The 116th Congress not only has made herstory with the MOST women ever elected, but also the MOST diverse.
We have the first two Muslim women to ever represent, we have the wave of LGBTQ representatives ever elected, Lauren Underwood the youngest African-American woman ever elected and – my current favorite Latina (Puerto Rican) – Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, has become the youngest person ever elected.
Ocasio-Cortez has everyone shook at the Capitol, with her red lipstick, hoop earrings and dance skills, she has “dared” to be unapologetically Latina.
With so many young people, from different religions and backgrounds now holding seats in Congress, this means that our representatives will FINALLY reflect modern everyday America. This is what America really looks like and we will now have voices speak for us, that actually live and look like us.
What the future holds is unknown. What I do know is that right now, equality is within reach.
In my lifetime, I have never known what it feels like to look at a president that looks like me, sounds like me. While that may or may not happen in my lifetime, what I do know, is that today I can look at our new Congresswomen and men that reflect me, my family, friends and my community.
To all my fellow Texans, those that have been out there fighting for every vote, whether you worked on a campaign, were out there knocking on doors, registering people or just made the time to go vote for the first time, make no mistake ‘We the People’ have delivered.
Change has arrived.