Nydia Margarita Velázquez Serrano (born March 28, 1953) is the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in the United States Congress,[1] and has served in the United States House of Representatives since 1993. Velázquez, a Democrat from New York 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.

Nydia Velázquez
Nydia Velázquez oficial portrait.jpg
Chair of the
House Small Business Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
Preceded bySteve Chabot
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2011
Preceded byDon Manzullo
Succeeded bySam Graves
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 7th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1993
Preceded byMajor Owens
Constituency12th district (1993–2013)
7th district (2013–present)
Member of the New York City Council
from the 27th district
In office
Preceded byLuis Olmedo
Succeeded byVictor L. Robles
Personal details
Nydia Margarita Velázquez

(1953-03-28) March 28, 1953 (age 66)
Limones, Yabucoa, Puerto Rico
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Paul Bader
EducationUniversity of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras (BA)
New York University (MA)

Early life, education and careerEdit

Velázquez was born in the town of Limones in the municipality of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico on March 28, 1953.[2] She grew up in Yabucoa[3] in a small house on the Río Limones.[1][4] Her father, Benito Velázquez Rodríguez, was a poor worker in the sugarcane fields who became a self-taught political activist and the founder of a local political party.[1] Political conversations at the dinner table focused on workers' rights. Her mother was Carmen Luisa Serrano Medina.[1] She was one of nine siblings born to the couple.[1]

Velázquez attended public schools[2] and skipped three grades as a child.[1] She became the first in her family to graduate high school.[2][4] She became a student at University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras at age 16.[1] In 1974,[2] she received a degree in political science, magna cum laude, and became a teacher.[1][4] 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."[1]

In 1976, Velázquez received an M.A. in political science from New York University.[2] She subsequently served as an instructor of political science at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao from 1976 to 1981.[2] After returning to New York City, Velázquez was an adjunct professor of Puerto Rican studies at Hunter College from 1981 to 1983.[2][1]

Political careerEdit

In 1983, Velázquez was special assistant to Representative Edolphus Towns, a Democrat representing New York's 10th congressional district in Brooklyn.[2][1]

In 1984, Velázquez was named by Howard Golden (then the Brooklyn Borough President and chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic organization)[5] to fill a vacant seat on the New York City Council, becoming the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Council.[2][1] Velázquez ran for election to the council in 1986, but lost to a challenger.[1]

From May 1986 to July 1989, Velázquez was national director of the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources' Migration Division Office.[2] 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.[2][1] 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."[4]

Velázquez pioneered Atrévete Con Tu Voto, a program that aims to politically empower Latinos in the United States through voter registration and other projects. The Atrévete project spread from New York to Hartford, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Chicago, and Boston, helping Hispanic candidates secure electoral wins.[6]

Puerto RicoEdit

Velázquez has been an advocate for human and civil rights of the Puerto Rican people. In the late 1990s and the 2000s, she was a leader in the Vieques movement, which sought to stop the United States military from using the inhabited island as a bomb testing ground. In May 2000, Velázquez was one of nearly two hundred people arrested (including fellow congressman Luis Gutiérrez) for refusing to leave the natural habitat the US military wished to continue using as a bombing range.[7] Velázquez was ultimately successful: in May 2003, the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility on Vieques Island was closed; and in May 2004, the U.S. Navy's last remaining base on Puerto Rico, the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station - which employed 1,000 local contractors and contributed $300 million to the local economy - was closed.[8][9]

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit

Congresswoman Velázquez's official congressional portrait, 113th Congress.

1992 electionEdit

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.[4] Velázquez won the Democratic primary, defeating nine-term incumbent Stephen J. Solarz and four Hispanic candidates.[3]


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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[11]

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.[2]

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.[12]

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.[2]

Committee assignmentsEdit

Caucus membershipsEdit

Velázquez was formerly a member of the Congressional Out of Iraq Caucus.[20]

Political campaignsEdit

In 1992, Velázquez defeated incumbent congressman Stephen J. Solarz in the primary and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing New York's 12th congressional district, and became the first female Puerto Rican member of Congress. The sprawling 12th district encompasses parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Lower Manhattan. It includes such neighborhoods as Ridgewood, Maspeth, and Woodside in Queens; Bushwick, Williamsburg, Red Hook, and Sunset Park in Brooklyn; and part of Manhattan's Lower East Side. She also became the first Hispanic woman to serve as Ranking Democratic Member of the House Small Business Committee. The committee oversees federal programs and contracts totaling $200 billion annually. She also serves on the House Financial Services Committee.[2]


Velázquez's 2010 campaign income was $759,359. She came out of this campaign with about $7,736 in debt. Her top contributors include Goldman Sachs, the American Bankers Association, the National Roofing Contractors Association and the National Telephone Cooperative Association.[11]


Velázquez, who was redistricted into the 7th Congressional District, defeated her Democratic contenders to win the Democratic nomination.[21] Her top contributors included Goldman Sachs, the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America.[22]


Velazquez has been criticized by her primary opponent Jeff Kurzon for her close ties to the banking industry and her reluctance to support reform and transparency measures. A majority of her campaign contributions have come from banks, including Goldman Sachs and the American Bankers Association.[22]

Personal lifeEdit

Velázquez, also known as "la Luchadora" ("the fighter"),[23] married Brooklyn-based printer Paul Bader in 2000.[24] It was her second marriage.[24] In November 2002, Bader was controversially hired by New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson as an administrative manager in the Bureau of Law and Adjudications, joining Joyce Miller, wife of Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler and Chirlane McCray, wife of City Councilman Bill de Blasio.[25] In 2010, Velázquez and Bader were in the process of divorce.[26]

In October 1992, during her first campaign for the House, an unknown person or persons at Saint Clare's Hospital in Manhattan anonymously faxed to the press Velázquez's hospital records which pertained to a suicide attempt in 1991.[27] At a subsequent press conference, Velázquez acknowledged that she had attempted suicide that year while suffering from clinical depression.[27] Velázquez said that she underwent counseling and "emerged stronger and more committed to public service."[27] She expressed outrage at the leak of personal health records and asked the Manhattan District Attorney and the state Attorney General to investigate.[27] Velázquez sued the hospital in 1994, alleging that the hospital had failed to protect her privacy.[28] The lawsuit was settled in 1997.[29]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Maria Newman, From Puerto Rico to Congress, a Determined Path, New York Times (September 27, 1992).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Hispanic Americans in Congress
  3. ^ a b Deborah Sontag, Puerto Rican-Born Favorite Treated Like Outsider, New York Times (November 2, 1992).
  4. ^ a b c d e Mary B. W. Tabor, The 1992 Campaign: 12th District Woman in the News; Loyalty and Labor; Nydia M. Velazquez, New York Times (September 17, 1992).
  5. ^ Frank Lynn, Democrats in Brooklyn Face Hispanic Demand, New York Times (August 16, 1984).
  6. ^ Carol Hardy-Fanta, with Jaime Rodríguez, Latino Voter Registration Efforts in Massachusetts: Un Pasito Más" in Latino Politics in Massachusetts: Struggles, Strategies, and Prospects (eds: Carol Hardy-Fanta & Jeffrey N. Gerson: Routledge, 2002), pp. 253-54.
  7. ^ Morales, Ed (May 11, 2000). "The Battle of Vieques". The Nation.
  8. ^ New York Times: "After Closing of Navy Base, Hard Times in Puerto Rico" April 3, 2005
  9. ^ Los Angeles Times: "Navy Makes Plans Without Vieques - Use of bombing ranges in Florida and other U.S. mainland areas will increase after Puerto Rican island training ground is abandoned" January 12, 2003 Admiral Robert J. Natter, commander of the Atlantic Fleet, is on record as saying: "Without Vieques there is no way I need the Navy facilities at Roosevelt Roads — none. It's a drain on Defense Department and taxpayer dollars."
  10. ^ "Velasquez House Bio". United States. U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  11. ^ a b c "Representative Nydia M. Velázquez". VoteSmart. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  12. ^ Cadei, Emily (December 12, 2008). "New York Rep. Velázquez Out of Clinton Senate Seat Derby". CQPolitics.com. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
  13. ^ "Members". Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  14. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  15. ^ About Nydia Velázquez: Committees and Caucus Memberships
    • Office of Nydia Velázquez (official website) (accessed April 10, 2016)
  16. ^ "Members". House Baltic Caucus. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  17. ^ "Membership". Congressional Arts Caucus. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  18. ^ "Members". Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  19. ^ "90 Current Climate Solutions Caucus Members". Citizen´s Climate Lobby. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  20. ^ Issues: Alternatives to War, Office of Nydia Velázquez (official website) (accessed April 10, 2016).
  21. ^ "Rangel, Long, Meng, Jeffries, Velazquez Declared Winners In Primaries". NY 1. June 26, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2012.
  22. ^ a b NW, The Center for Responsive Politics 1300 L. St; Washington, Suite 200; fax857-7809, DC 20005 telelphone857-0044. "Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez - Campaign Finance Summary". OpenSecrets. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  23. ^ New York Times: "The Biggest Rival for a Congresswoman From Brooklyn Isn’t Even on the Ballot" by Sarah Wheaton June 20, 2012
  24. ^ a b Bob Liff, Rep. Velazquez to Marry Printer, New York Daily News (November 17, 2000).
  25. ^ New York Daily News: "Nydia's Husband Gets Hired - He joins controller staff" by Celeste Katz November 22, 2002
  26. ^ Maite Junco, Dancing in the avenue: Q&A with Puerto Rican parade grand marshal Nydia Velázquez, New York Daily News (June 8, 2010).
  27. ^ a b c d Maria Newman, Candidate Faces Issue Of Suicide, New York Times (October 10, 1992).
  28. ^ Rep. Velazquez Sues St. Clare's Hospital, New York Times (May 14, 1994). Retrieved November 13, 2016.
  29. ^ Online court records for Nydia Velazquez v. St. Clare's Hospital, Index No. 015736/1994, Kings County Supreme Court, accessible in the WebCivil Supreme section of New York's eCourts website.

External linksEdit