The Latina group celebrate Chavez Rodriguez’s new position in the West Wing

On the morning of one of the most important decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, overturning Roe v. Wade, Elaine Coronado landed in San Antonio from Washington, D.C.

San Antonio is his second home and where his parents waited for him with tacos.

The longtime, top-notch event planner is also a co-founder of a network of Latinas called Leonas.

Spanish for Lionesses, the group’s 800 members nationwide are advocating for equity and inclusion, especially in Washington, especially in the White House, especially in the West Wing.

Despite all that is happening — including damning revelations about the insurgency from the Jan. 6 select committee hearings — Leonas has remained steadfast.

Its members, who have raised money for Biden’s presidential campaign, are still unhappy with the number of his Latina nominations.

A year ago, when I first spoke to Coronado and Leonas’ other co-founder María Rita Jaramillo, they felt “ghosted” by Biden’s White House and described his Latina nominations as “Spanx slim”.

Today, they celebrate the elevation of 44-year-old Julie Chávez Rodriguez to the post of Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President. His promotion was announced last week. She will retain her current position as director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

She comes from a family with a civil rights heritage.

His grandfather was labor leader César Chávez, who founded the union that became United Farm Workers.

As with many national events, there is often a local connection.

Chávez Rodriguez is the daughter of San Antonian native Arturo Rodriguez, former UFW president, and the late Linda Chávez, another powerful figure in his life.

Rodriguez, now president emeritus of the UFW, continues to defend the rights of agricultural workers. He graduated from St. Mary’s University and the long-closed Catholic boys’ school, La Salle High, on the south side of town.

He lives in San Antonio with his second wife, Sonia Rodriguez, former president of Communities Organized for Public Service, now COPS/Metro Alliance, for whom she continues to advocate.

Chávez Rodriguez’s parents met in 1973 during the UFW grape boycott in Detroit, Michigan. It was a tense period. Two farm workers had been killed during strikes in California. The Teamsters had sided with the producers.

Less than a year later, her parents decided to get married. His girlfriend said “yes”, but he would have to ask his father César Chávez for her hand.

“Can you imagine that?” said Sonia Rodriguez, both laughing.

Chávez Rodriguez grew up in the UFW union. At the age of 5, she knocked on the doors of La Paz, headquarters of the UFW. Around the age of 8, she discovered the legal system after being arrested with her father during a boycott.

She heard death threats against “her Tata” firsthand, her father said.

At age 10, she was at her grandfather’s side during his last fast, a water-only fast. It lasted 36 days.

She and her sister Olivia measured how much he was drinking and reported it to his doctors.

Chávez Rodriguez is one of the first Latinos to serve in the West Wing.

“This is great news,” Coronado said. “Leonas advocated for a Latina in the president’s circle.

“We need more Julie Chávez Rodriguezes in this administration,” Coronado said, pointing to little-known data. “By 2060, one-third of all women in this country will be Latinas.”

Chávez Rodriguez will meet with the President alongside White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, Deputy Chief of Staff Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and Director of Communications Kate Bedingfield.

They will sit in the Oval Office, where a bronze bust of his grandfather sits behind the president’s desk – just a generation between them.

It’s the kind of heartbreaking story that belies the promise of democratic ideals.

That’s what gave me hope amid the devastating news from Washington on Friday.

“When Julie told us about her promotion, I was not surprised,” said Sonia Rodriguez, in tears. “She became such a role model for Latinas.

“Letting her pass would have been horrible.”

Leonas would go one step further. Given what the administration will face in November, much more is better done.

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