Nydia Margarita Velazquez was born March 28, 1953 in Yacuboa, Puerto Rico. She is a politician who has represented New York’s 12th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives since 1993. She was the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to Congress. She is serving as the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, until January 3, 2011.
Her father was a local political activist and from a young age, she would accompany her father to political rallies. His focus was on the right of sugar cane workers and denouncing the abuse perpetrated by wealthy farmers.
At 16 she enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico (Universidad de Puerto Rico) in 1969 and in 1974 she graduated magna cum laude, becoming the first in her family to receive a college diploma. After receiving her Master’s degree in 1976, she became a university professor, the first in the University of Puerto Rico’s Humacao branch 1976 – 1986 and also at Hunter College 1981 – 1983.
In 1992 she became the first female Puerto Rican who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing New York’s 12th District, which covered parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Lower Manhattan. She also became the first Hispanic woman to serve as Ranking Democratic Member of the House Small Business Committee overseeing federal programs and contracts totaling $200 billion dollars annually.
Velazquez was named “Hispanic Business Woman of the Year” on April 3, 2003 by Hispanic Business Magazine, becoming the first woman noted for her recognition of her national influence in both the political and business sectors.