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Latina Leaders Make Their Mark In Connecticut

by Cindy Pena

Latina leaders are unfortunately not so common in the United States. As a Dominican woman who aspires to break into the political arena, it is incredibly disheartening. However, that certainly will not stop me from being a future leader. The lack of Hispanic representation motivates me even more to represent this community. To address this disparity, we must encourage our successful Latina leaders to flourish and inspire the next generation of potential leaders. Here are a few Latinas making an impact today:

1. Dr. Zulma Toro

Central Connecticut’s president, Dr. Toro, is one leader making an impact right here on campus. Dr. Toro was appointed in 2016 and became the 13th president of CCSU. She is not only the first Hispanic president of CCSU, but is also the first woman to hold the position.

She is from Puerto Rico and a former chancellor and graduate of the University of Puerto Rico. Even from the start of her career, she was breaking traditional societal standards as she began her academic career in industrial engineering, a field predominantly made up of men.

At CCSU, she has made a tremendous impact. I would be very surprised if a student has not seen Dr. Toro at least once, as she has made it a priority to attend CCSU events and meet face-to-face with students and faculty. Her leadership is inspiring to myself and to many others on campus.

2. Jeanette Portalatin

Another local Latina leader is the recently appointed New Britain Police Department police captain, Portalatin. She is the first Hispanic and female to hold this high-rank position in the 147-year history of the NBPD. This isn’t the only time Portalatin has made history in the department; in 2013, she became the first female police lieutenant.

Portalatin is a New Britain native and grew up in the city’s school system. She is a New Britain success story that will inspire other young students in the city that they can also pursue a career in law enforcement.

3. Carmen E. Espinosa

A leader making an impact in Connecticut’s judicial branch of government is Justice Espinosa. She was appointed by Governor Dannel Malloy in 2013, making her the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice in Connecticut.

Espinosa has roots in New Britain, as she previously served in the New Britain District Superior Court in 1992, where she became the first Hispanic Superior Court judge in Connecticut. She also attended CCSU and received her bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a major in Spanish and French in 1971.

Although Espinosa has declared last year to take senior-status, a form of semi-retirement, she has demonstrated not only what a CCSU alumna can achieve, but what other Latinas in the state can do.

These three women are just a few leaders flourishing and inspiring the Latina community. Overall, each of their leadership roles have had a tremendous impact on many people around CT, including myself. I am sure there will be many more of these leaders in the near future and I certainly will be one of them.