Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995
Nydia Velázquez has a long list of firsts; she was the first in her family to graduate from high school, the first Hispanic woman to serve on the New York City Council, and the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress. In 1992 she was able to win the Democratic Party nomination from Stephen J. Solarz, a nine-term incumbent. She won the general election to New York's 12th District with over seventy-five percent of the vote, and in 1994 she was reelected with over ninety percent of the vote.
Velázquez was born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico on March 28, 1953, where she attended public schools. In 1974 she graduated from the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, and in 1976 she received an M.A. degree in political science from New York University. From 1976 to 1981, she was a professor of political science at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao. Subsequently, she was an adjunct professor of Puerto Rican studies at City University of New York at Hunter College. In 1983, she worked as a special assistant to Congressman Edolphous Towns, New York's Tenth District Representative. In 1984, she served on the New York City Council. From May 1986 to July 1989, she was the national director of the Migration Division Office in the Department of Labor and Human Resources of Puerto Rico. From 1989 to 1992 she was director of the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs in the United States for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Velázquez was elected to represent a district where over half of the population is Hispanic, and of those almost one-half are Puerto Ricans. In Congress she has continued her support of women, the poor, and Hispanics, as she has done throughout her public career. In 1993 she supported both unpaid family and medical leave legislation and the national "motor voter" registration bill. In the U.S. House of Representatives, she won a seat on the Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs Committee, where she served on five Subcommittees including Housing, and Community Development. She also serves on the Small Business Committee, and its Subcommittee on Minority Enterprise, Finance, and Urban Development.
For further reading:
Telgen, Diane and Kamp, Jim, ed. Notable Hispanic American Women. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1993: pp. 406-408.
Official U.S. House of Representatives Web Site: Nydia Velázquez