Hispanic Leader Takes D.C. Post

Hispanic leader takes D.C. post
Bazan is appointed La Raza's chairwoman

By Kristin Collins
The News & Observer (Raleigh), June 18, 2008

Andrea Bazan, a longtime leader of the North Carolina Hispanic community, was named chairwoman of the National Council of La Raza's board of directors Tuesday.

The council, based in Washington, is the largest Hispanic advocacy organization in the country, and Bazan is the first person from North Carolina to head its board.

In the 40 years since the group was formed, North Carolina has gone from a state with almost no Hispanic population to one of the fastest growing destinations, and the state's growing number of illegal immigrants has become a charged political issue.

'It's a critical time for the Hispanic community,' Bazan said Tuesday. 'It's really one of the proudest moments for me, personally and professionally, to have been chosen.'

Bazan, 40, has become a prominent advocate since moving to North Carolina nearly 20 years ago. In 1995, still in her late 20s, she helped found El Pueblo, North Carolina's largest Hispanic advocacy group. She later became its first executive director and led a controversial push to allow illegal immigrants to attend North Carolina universities at in-state tuition rates.

She has served on a number of influential boards, including the UNC Tomorrow Commission and the Governor's Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs.

Though she left El Pueblo in 2005 to head the philanthropic group, Triangle Community Foundation, she has remained a strong voice for Hispanics, including those in the country illegally.

Those who have worked with her say she is tenacious, refusing to be cowed by threats and personal insults from those who favor a crackdown on illegal immigration.

State Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, worked with Bazan on the failed in-state tuition push. She said Bazan was stalked and that she and her family got death threats.

'She remained pretty cool and collected,' Harrison said. 'She has been really strong in a pretty controversial time.'

Bazan will help guide La Raza during a period of increasing hostility toward Hispanic immigrants.

Leaders at La Raza said Bazan, who has served on the board for years, was a natural choice to fill the top volunteer spot.

'Andrea brings community-grown leadership and the valuable insight and perspective of our most important constituency,' La Raza President Janet Murguia said in a statement.

Bazan said she wants to continue the group's core missions of improving education, health care and housing for Hispanics. But she said she also wants it to use its voice to remind the nation that Hispanics are an important and contributing part of society.

'We have some challenges ahead,' Bazan said.