Candidate for: United States Representative, NY 7th District
Office: Representative (D–NY 7th District) since 2013
Previous office: Representative, NY 12th District (1993–2013)
Nydia Margarita Velázquez (born March 28, 1953) is a Puerto Rican politician who has served in the United States House of Representatives since 1993. Velázquez, aDemocrat from New York, is the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to Congress, and she was the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus until January 3, 2011. Her district, located in New York City, was numbered the 12th district from 1993 to 2013 and has been numbered the 7th district since 2013.
Velázquez was born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico on March 28, 1953. She grew up in Yabucoa in a small house on the Río Limón, one of nine children. Her father Don Benito Velazquez was a poor worker in the sugarcane fields who became a self-taught political activist and the founder of a local political party. Political conversations at the dinner table focused on workers’ rights. Her mother was Dona Carmen Luisa Serrano.
Velázquez attended public schools and skipped three grades as a child. She became the first in her family to graduate high school. She became a student atUniversity of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras at age 16. In 1974, she received a degree in political science, magna cum laude, and became a teacher. While in college, Velázquez was a supporter of Puerto Rican independence; by the time she ran for Congress in 1992, Velázquez no longer addressed the issue, “saying that it must be left up the Puerto Rican people.”
In 1976, Velázquez received an M.A. in political science from New York University. Velázquez then returned to Puerto Rico to teach, serving as a professor of political science at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao 1976 to 1981.
Velázquez returned to New York City and taught at Hunter College from 1981 until 1983 as an adjunct professor of Puerto Rican studies.
In 1983, Velázquez was special assistant to Representative Edolphus Towns, a Democrat representing New York’s 10th congressional district in Brooklyn.
In 1984, Velázquez was named by Howard Golden (then the Brooklyn Borough President and chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic organization) to fill a vacant seat on the New York City Council, becoming the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Council. Velázquez ran for election to the council in 1986, but lost to a challenger.
From May 1986 to July 1989, Velázquez was national director of the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources’ Migration Division Office. From 1989 to 1992 she was named by the governor of Puerto Rico as the director of the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs in the United States. In this role, according to a 1992 New York Times profile, “Velazquez solidified her reputation that night as a street-smart and politically savvy woman who understood the value of solidarity and loyalty to other politicians, community leaders and organized labor.”
Velázquez pioneered Atrévete Con Tu Voto, a program that aims to politically empower Latinos in the United States through voter registration and other projects. TheAtrévete project spread from New York to Hartford, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Chicago, and Boston, helping Hispanic candidates secure electoral wins.
Velázquez ran for Congress in the 1992 election, seeking a seat in the New York’s newly-drawn 12th congressional district, which was drawn as a majority-Hispanic district. Velázquez won the Democratic primary, defeating nine-term incumbent Stephen J. Solarz and four Hispanic candidates.
In 2003, Hispanic Business Magazine honored her with its first “Woman of the Year” award, citing her support of minority small-business owners. As a Representative, Velázquez has focused on building a legislative agenda that lobbies to increase the opportunities for the nation’s 47 million Hispanics, including the over 2.3 million Hispanics currently residing in New York City.
Throughout her career as a New York Representative, Velázquez has consistently and fully supported pro-choice and family-planning interests groups such as the NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Planned Parenthood. Velázquez has consistently shown support of the National Farmers’ Union. She has shown no support of interests groups that are against animal rights and animal rightists.
In 2009, Velázquez voted against the amendment Prohibiting Federally Funded Abortion Services. In the past year, Velázquez has supported the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations, the Unemployment Benefits Association, and the Unemployment Benefits Extension. Velázquez has also consistently voted in favor of bills attempting to strengthen women’s rights, such as the Employment Discrimination Law Amendments, Equal Pay Bill and the Inclusion of Consolidated Appropriations.
On September 29, 2008, Velázquez voted in favor of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. On November 19, 2008, Congresswoman Velázquez was elected by her peers in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to lead the group for the 111th Congress.
Prior to removing her name from consideration, she was considered a possible candidate to be appointed to the United States Senate by Governor David Paterson after New York Senator Hillary Clinton was nominated to be a member of President Barack Obama‘s cabinet.
Among her firsts are: the first Hispanic woman to serve on the New York City Council; the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in Congress; the first woman Ranking Democratic Member of the House Small Business Committee. Velázquez became the first woman to chair the United States House Committee on Small Business in January 2007 as well as the first Hispanic woman to chair a House standing committee.
- Location New York
- Listing categories House of Representatives, Political Representatives
Washington, DC Office
2302 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2361
Fax: (202) 226-0327