Meet Colorado’s First Latina Speaker of the House

*Something to learn from this story about how Latina leaders are formed: politics was always discussed at her family’s dinner table. VL


By Luc Hatlestad, 5280 (11 minute read)

On an unseasonably warm afternoon this past October, about 100 people are gathered in the airy foyer of the Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building for the annual Latinas LEAD Launch and Power Summit, which celebrates the accomplishments of Hispanic women who live in the region. Minutes before her speech, Crisanta Duran arrives. Her mahogany eyes light up whenever she sees another familiar face, of which there are many in the room, and now and then someone says something that causes her to toss her head back with a robust laugh. About three-fourths of the women are dressed in black. Most of the rest, including Duran, are wearing wine-colored outfits, but the shade she’s chosen is just a bit bolder.

Duran is here to discuss her journey from being a child so shy she hid behind her mother’s dress when meeting strangers to becoming the intrepid young woman who knocked on countless doors during her first political campaign in 2010. She won that unlikely victory in an atypically bruising down-ballot race that made her the youngest Latina legislator in Colorado history.  Duran later became the state’s first Latina House majority leader, and 2016 has become an even more momentous year for the 36-year-old. In November, her fellow Democrats designated her to be Colorado’s speaker of the House; she and former Senate president pro tempore Lucia Guzman are the first Latinas to hold their respective posts.* Duran also spoke at July’s Democratic National Convention, and in today’s address, as she did then, she invokes the memory of her maternal grandmother.

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The woman’s own parents withdrew her from school in third grade so she could tend to the household, and as a result, she grew up unable to read or write. When Duran was old enough, she brought books to the family matriarch’s house so she could help her grandmother learn some basics. Those simple acts of love have informed Duran’s political philosophy. “She never had the choice to determine what she wanted her full potential to be,” Duran says. “It makes me understand how fortunate I am to have done what I’ve done and to have that choice.”

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[Photo courtesy of 5820]

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