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Edwina Garcia

Edwina Garcia

A young Latina who overcame prejudice and abuse to become the first woman of color to be elected to the Minnesota Legislature as a representative of Richfield.

Born: Clovis, NM, United States
Heritage: Latina

Never let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish your dreams. Success is never ending and failure is never final. But if you don’t take a chance, you’ll never get anywhere. Finish high school. Go to college. What’s inside you is very special. It doesn’t matter who you are. You can do it!

Edwina Garcia

A young Latina who overcame prejudice and abuse to become the first woman of color to be elected to the Minnesota Legislature as a representative of Richfield.

My name is Edwina Garcia. I was born in Clovis, New Mexico, on December 8, over seventy years ago. I had a difficult childhood. I witnessed alcoholism and domestic abuse in my home. I have few memories of my early home life. Most of memories from childhood are of school.

In those days, good Catholics went to Catholic school. The nuns were very strict. I remember being hit with a ruler for taking some stickers. I was afraid and so I obeyed the rules. My parents divorced, my family moved, and my mother let me choose public school. That was the year that I discovered my learning disability. My 5th grade teacher, Mr. Pittman, taught me to read. Waking up to learning was like being let out of the dark place I had lived for my whole life. It was great at that school and I became a great learner.

My mother’s goal for my life was that I finish high school. She was worried that I would fall in love, have babies, and drop out of school. She wanted me to finish my education. I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school. I did fall in love, but it was very important to me to honor my mother’s wish first. My boyfriend wanted to get married, but I kept saying no. After a while, we were married.

My husband is a good man. He went into the Navy and avoided the problems that took his younger brother’s life. He had a bad childhood, too. It was important to us to break that cycle and build a better life. We were blessed with one child – a daughter. The GI bill bought my husband technical training and a better life for our family. It was his career that brought us from New Mexico to Minnesota. We lived in Bloomington and then settled in Richfield.

I went to Normandale Community College and decided I liked political science. Eventually, Normandale kicked me out and I went over to the University of Minnesota. I liked it so much; I decided to go to law school. Law school taught me that if I wanted to accomplish something, I had to be hungry for it. I t was really hard for me and I stuck it out there. My background hadn’t prepared me for that world but I wanted to finish and I did.

In Richfield, I was asked to join the Democratic Party and work on local issues. I was one of two people of color in the room and the only woman of color, but they asked me to run for City Council. Beating the incumbent, against all odds, was a gift from God and the start of my career in public service. I was the first woman of color to serve in the Minnesota legislature. My political strategy has been the same since day one: I won my first election by knocking on every door in the district – twice. I did the same thing in the legislature and in my run for Minnesota Secretary of State. Talking to people about the issues and building relationships is the key.

I have seen a lot in my life. I have overcome the obstacles of childhood trauma, disability, racism, and sexism. I demand respect because I have earned it. I am old now and one day you will be where I am.


No Me Siento Mal Por Exigir El Respecto

Honoring Edwina Garcia

No Me Siento Mal Por Exigir El Respecto
(En Honor de Edwina Garcia)

Soy más vieja y un día
Serás tan viejo que soy yo
Sin amor, que existe?
No me siento mal por exigir el respecto

No recuerdo mucho de mi niñez
Pero las partes que recuerdo
no fueron buenas
Tenía que portarme
y obedecer las reglas
De las monjas
de la escuela católica
Mi papá se emborrachaba
y le pegaba a mi mamá
Que podía hacer para terminarlo?
Cuando se divorciaron, me alegró.
No veo mucho mi papá.

Mi mamá preguntó, “Quieres asistir a
La escuela católica?” Le dije, “No!”
La escuela pública me animó
A vencer mi discapacidad.
Con un deseo intenso;
Lo que te lleva dos horas, me lleva cinco.
De odiar escuela a enamorarme
de los libros
Yo lo querría más que el tiempo
que me tomé.

Jugamos un juego que se llama
“Quiz Kid”
Tenía la motivación a trabajar y ganar.
Memoricé los cuarenta y nueve estados
Fui la primera para graduarme.
Después me casé y viajé a
Minnesota, assistí la escuela de leyes

No pasó mucho tiempo
hasta que me aburrí,
Empecé a llamar a puerta a puerta.

Mi esposo dijo, “No puedes ganar.”
“Por qué?” “Porque eres mexicana,”
“También, eres mujer y te
enfrentarás a una derrota
si haces una campaña a favor
del consejo municipal”
Dije, “Ok!” y decidí hacer una campaña
Por supuesto- sabes que yo gané
Del consejo municipal
a representante del estado
Donde yo derroté
el representante al cargo

La primera mujer minoritaria
Elegida para representarte
En la legislatura estatal
Y por casualidad, has oído
El poema “No se puede”
Pero dije “Yo seré la persona que puede”
Enfrentarse a lo que no es posible hacer
Si nos enfrentamos, habremos ganado

Words and music by Larry Long with Lynn Harper’s 6th grade class
Richfield, Minnesota.

© Larry Long 2009 / BMI