News Column

The 100 Most Influential Hispanics

October 2001

Teresa Talerico, HISPANIC BUSINESS® magazine


Click here to view this year's list.

Like many Hispanics in government, Rosario Marin is a pioneer. Born in Mexico City, she moved to California with her family at age 14. For seven years, she juggled jobs and night classes to earn a college degree, vowing to be prepared when opportunity came knocking.

She never imagined that the President of the United States would someday be at that door. But he was, and today Ms. Marin is the new U.S. Treasurer, the first Mexican-born immigrant to hold the office.

"I was deeply moved by the honor that President Bush bestowed through me to all immigrants," she says. "In my appointment, an immigrant has been given the trust of the nation to produce and to protect the money of the most powerful country in the world."

Ms. Marin and 30 other Hispanics in government are represented in this year's HISPANIC BUSINESS 100 Most Influential Hispanics, a list that underscores the strides Hispanics are making in Washington, D.C., and the Bush administration. Thus far, Hispanics account for 10 percent of the Bush appointments requiring Senate approval.

Larry Gonzalez, Washington, D.C., director for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), says Mr. Bush has demonstrated a commitment to carrying the torch President Clinton lit when he began assembling a more diverse Cabinet and administration. Hispanics accounted for about 7 percent of President Clinton's Senate-confirmed appointments.

"Clinton's outreach efforts were tremendous," says Mr. Gonzalez. "He had a real affinity for the Hispanic community. The Hispanic community embraced him. President Clinton absolutely connected with them. And Bush has done a good job of trying to attract qualified Latinos to the administration."

These Hispanic appointees will not only be attuned to the needs of a community traditionally underrepresented; they also will serve as role models to young Hispanics and inspire them to pursue careers in public service, says Mr. Gonzalez.

"That's absolutely a part of it if you're a young Latino breaking into the profession, and you see people who look like you and may have experienced what you have working at the higher levels," he says. "It's extremely important for our young people to see people who have reached that level. It sends a very strong message. And also it's important to have people at the table who grew up in similar communities and experienced the same things. That's a tremendous advantage for us."

But Hispanic representation among political appointments still doesn't reflect their share of the U.S. population. About 12.5 percent of Americans are Hispanic, according to the latest Census data. They also account for 11.4 percent of the national work force, according to the Department of Labor.

In other words, the Bush Administration has more work to do.

"Let's put it this way," says Raymond Sanchez, the former speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives who was recently re-elected president of NALEO. "It's slowly but surely improving, but it's certainly not where it deserves to be in light of the number of truly talented and educated Hispanics we now have in the United States."

Mr. Gonzalez says that some federal agencies have fallen short in their Hispanic recruitment efforts. He wants the federal government to hire more Hispanics for lower-level jobs, because more than 50 percent of the federal work force is scheduled to retire in 2005.

"It goes hand in hand," he says, "If you let people in at the lower levels, you give them the experience to move up."

He also noted that several Hispanics in the Bush administration are "really sort of leftovers of the Reagan and [first] Bush administrations." Others point out that a Hispanic surname does not automatically guarantee that a person has the best interests of the community at heart.

Still, Messrs. Gonzalez and Sanchez say Hispanics hold positions that are incredibly vital for their community. Hector Barreto is administrator of the Small Business Administration at a time when Hispanics represent the fastest-growing segment of small-business owners. While the nation struggles with the Hispanic dropout rate, President Bush has appointed Leslie Sanchez as executive director of the White House Initiative on Hispanic Education. Other appointees include Mel Martinez, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Cari Dominguez, of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Ms. Marin, meanwhile, has taken over a post that's older than the Treasury Department itself. She is the fourth Latina to serve as U.S. Treasurer.

"This is a very high-honor position, a very distinguished position," she says. "Your name is on the dollar bill. I'm so humbled by it. I'm just very grateful and very honored."

Most recently, Ms. Marin was on the Huntington Park (California) City Council and worked for AT&T as public relations manager for the Hispanic market in Southern California.

Ms. Marin spent several years in banking before getting involved in city and state government. She served as mayor of her family's adopted home city of Huntington Park, which is 99 percent Hispanic, and worked in the administration of California Gov. Pete Wilson, including stints as chief of legislative affairs for the Department of Developmental Services and chairwoman of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities.

"We changed laws that increased the benefits to people with disabilities," she says.

That work was inspired by the birth of her oldest son, Eric, who has Down Syndrome.

"He is the one who has inspired me to do what I have done," she says. "Without him, I certainly wouldn't be where I am today."

As U.S. treasurer, she plans to promote "financial literacy" in the Hispanic community.

"People need to understand how to derive credit, how to balance a checkbook, how to ask for a loan," she says. "Oftentimes we find that Latinos have been victims of predatory lending because they don't know what financial opportunities are out there."

One former Clinton appointee has lauded the new administration for its work in recruiting talented Hispanics such as Ms. Marin.

"Now having more people up there, it makes it a lot easier," says Juan Lopez, who served as White House liaison and special assistant at the Social Security Administration under the last president. "Yeah, we do have a voice. What President Clinton has done and what President Bush is doing is great."

As the U.S. Hispanic population continues to soar, Mr. Lopez says, President Bush must ensure that Hispanic children have access to good education.

"Many kids will be adults in five to 10 years and will have economic power," he says. "We need to make sure they have education now."

Enter Ms. Sanchez, who believes public service allows her to contribute to her community and serve as a role model.

"I always thought public service was the most honorable profession," she says. "In Hispanic communities, if one person can do it – can really succeed – it's like a rising tide that lifts all boats. It's an opportunity to really serve the community."

She says the high Hispanic dropout rate – 36.4 percent, compared to 11.3 percent for Anglos and 19 percent for African Americans, according to the National Center for Education Statistics – is a grave concern.

She is not alone. Seventy-five percent of respondents to a survey of this year's Influentials identified education as the top priority for Hispanic leaders.

Ms. Sanchez hopes to raise expectations and confidence levels of students and their parents. She also says families often aren't aware of the vast array of financial-aid opportunities.

"A lot of times families say, 'Well, mijo, you know we don't have the money for that,' " she says. "But there are scholarship programs. There's federal financial aid. There's financial aid through the state. There are so many different products, but if we don't know how to attain that, and if we don't know we can take advanced placement courses to earn basic college credits, if we don't know about community college as the first step, how can we ever know?"

Meanwhile, NALEO is keeping a close eye on President Bush and the Hispanics in his administration. The group will prepare a "report card" on the administration to see that it carries out its promises affecting the Hispanic community.

View Personal Profiles of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics.



We receive hundreds of nominations for the HISPANIC BUSINESS 100 Most Influential Hispanics™. We accept nominations from readers, Web-site visitors, contributing editors and writers, magazine staff, and the nominees themselves.

This year our editorial board selected candidates who made outstanding contributions in the public-service sector during the last 12 months, together with achievers in business, academia, media, politics, entertainment, and sports. To qualify for the "100 Most Influential" list, individuals must be U.S. citizens of Hispanic origin.

Because of the increasing number of Hispanics in positions of influence, HISPANIC BUSINESS attempts to compile a list that recognizes those who have had recent, national impact. Therefore, many prominent Hispanics are not included, even though they may have appeared on previous lists.

HispanTelligence, the research arm of HISPANIC BUSINESS, designed the survey, gathered the data, and tabulated the results seen in the charts appearing in the article. The survey results are based on responses received from "Influentials" who returned our survey by the deadline. Not all 100 "Influentials" answered this survey. Also, in the case of questions that had multiple responses when only one answer was required, we used a random number generator to determine which responses would be included in the survey results.

We are currently collecting nominees for the 2002 HISPANIC BUSINESS 100 Most Influential Hispanics directory. Please submit your recommendations to the Research Department, Hispanic Business Inc., 425 Pine Avenue, Santa Barbara, CA 93117. Nominations also may be e-mailed to or submitted online at

Research for this directory was conducted by Research Supervisor J. Tabin Cosio and Research Assistants Cynthia Marquez and Mike Caplinger under the direction of Frank Chow, Chief Economist.

Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS magazine

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