I feel a deep sense of gratitude and purpose this Latino Heritage Month. I want to take a moment to highlight a few Latino and Latina leaders:
Former Attorney General of California and current U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra is the first Latino to hold his current position. When he entered his new role, only 5.9% of Latinos had been fully vaccinated while being disproportionately affected by the pandemic. As of September 21, 19.8% of Latinos are fully vaccinated and 14.6% of Latinos have completed all recommended doses.
Alex Padilla, a son of immigrants from Chihuahua, Mexico, is the first Latino U.S. Senator from California. As a State Senator, he passed over 70 bills – including landmark legislation to combat climate change. As Secretary of State, he protected the integrity of our voting systems by making them more accessible and inclusive.
Patricia Guerrero, raised by immigrant parents from Mexico in Imperial Valley, was nominated by Governor Newsom to be the high court’s chief justice and, if approved by voters, will be the first Latina chief justice.
Visibility matters. By simply being Latino or Latina, they have created opportunity.
Just a few weeks ago, Governor Newsom appointed me as California’s second Surgeon General. A state with the largest population in the nation and a state with Latinos making up an estimated 40.2% of the population in 2021. Becoming this state’s Surgeon General is the culmination of my life’s work. We live in a nation where only 6% of physicians are Latino or Latina. And my hope is that through this work, I create opportunities for you. The door has been opened and we need to keep it open for future generations.
As a Latina, I know our community’s contributions to not only California, but the nation. Whether your Latino roots come from across the Americas, Indigenous communities of Latin America, Africa, or beyond – we have made California what it is today. We have shaped California. We are California.
Still, there is much work to do. Our communities continue to suffer disproportionately. And I want you to know that I hear you. I see you. As California’s Surgeon General, I will work to create a healthier, brighter future for all of us so that future generations may grow up with more opportunities than the last.
I am proud to be your Surgeon General. And I am proud to be Latina. ¡Juntos seguimos adelante! (Together, we move forward!)