Department

Web Exclusive: Latinos Rising

A look at Colorado's most politically influential Latinos, including four under 40.

August 2008

Click here to read "No Más Mustache," a profile of Colorado Senator Ken Salazar.

 

Today's Latino political players defy the monolithic stereotypes about Coloradans with Spanish surnames. Four centuries after the ancestors of Senator Ken and Representative John Salazar helped to found the city of Santa Fe, and forty years after Corky Gonzalez launched Colorado's Chicano movement, Latinos in Colorado are a diverse bunch of urban and rural, conservative and liberal, native and immigrant.

Notably, Colorado offers an impressive number of Latino leaders from which to choose. That's no surprise, considering the nationwide push for Latino votes by both political parties, as well as Colorado's status as a swing state with a significant amount of Latino voting potential.

Ken Salazar
Colorado's soon-to-be-senior senator rose to his post via the office of state attorney general. His election, along with those of other moderate Democrats in the West (such as Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer), inspired the Democratic Party's Western Strategy, a plan that currently banks the presidential election on electoral votes in the key states of Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. Read "No Más Mustache," 5280 Executive Editor Maximillian Potter's profile of Senator Salazar here.

Federico Peña
Denver's first Latino mayor and namesake of Peña Boulevard maintains a status that is respected by Colorado's business-focused Hispanics and social-justice-seeking Chicanos alike. He served as mayor for two terms before being tapped for Secretary of Transportation during Bill Clinton's first term and Secretary of Energy during his second. Today, Peña serves as the national co-chair of Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

John Salazar
One longtime local campaign manager admitted in 2004 that U.S. Representative John Salazar (the older brother of Senator Ken Salazar) was one of the easiest candidates he'd ever run, a "genuine fit" for Colorado's expansive Third Congressional District. In Washington, D.C., the former Colorado assemblyman balances memberships in both the conservative Blue Dog Coalition and the often-liberal Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Rosemary Rodriguez
This former Denver city councilor was appointed as the vice-chair of the United States Election Assistance Commission by President George W. Bush in April 2007 and was elected chair this year. She is a founder of the successful Latina Initiative and was a featured powerbroker in "Ladies Who Launch," from the April edition of the magazine.

Maria Garcia Berry
The founder of lobbying firm CRL Associates has also made our list of The Most Powerful People in Denver. "Her prints are on every major city project of recent decades," we wrote in 2005. Her Republican politics and Cuban ancestry make her a standout in this group of Democrats, who predominately claim Mexican and Southwest heritage.

Abel Tapia
The president pro-tem of the Colorado Senate got his political start on Pueblo's District 60 Board of Education. He's a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and a former Democratic Caucus Chairman.

Lisa Duran
The executive director of Denver-based Derechos Para Todos/Rights for All People is also a founding member of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. She maintains numerous board positions within the state's most progressive networks.

Paul Lopez
Lopez transitions our list of influential Latinos from the top players to those under 40, but it would be a misnomer to call him an "up-and-comer." At 30, the former Justice for Janitors union organizer is the youngest member of the Denver City Council.

Rick Palacio
A former assistant to state Representative Alice Madden, Palacio's own political bid to become Pueblo County's clerk and recorder in 2006 failed by two votes in a Democratic primary. In 2007, he moved on to the staff of U.S. Representative John Salazar, where he served as deputy communications director and a legislative assistant. In March, Palacio joined the office of U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer as deputy director of member services, where he acts as a liaison for the Democratic majority, crafting legislation, policies, and communication strategies.

Dusti Gurule
This Denver native claims a solid Chicano education, from her formative years at the Escuela Tlatelolco to her BA in Chicano Studies from Metropolitan State College of Denver. For the past four years, Gurule has been the executive director of the successful Latina Initiative. The Colorado Statesmen named Gurule, a nonprofit veteran, among its "50 for the Future" last year. She currently serves on the Denver Latino Commission and the Colorado Conservation Voters Education Fund.

Artiesha "Tish" Maes
Maes is a principal in PradoMaes LLC but also lends her business and political expertise to Webb Group International as an associate. She served as a liaison to local Latino and GLBT communities as an assistant to former mayor Wellington Webb. More recently, Governor Bill Ritter appointed her to the Council of Advisors on Consumer Credit. Maes' extracurriculars include a board post with the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and membership in the Colorado Stonewall Democrats, among various other affiliations.

Vanessa Martinez is the online editor of 5280.

Freelancer Michael de Yoanna contributed to this report.