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The First Latina Elected as Harris County’s Top Executive, Judge Lina Hidalgo, Insists on Spanish Updates for Houston Residents After Disastrous Tornado 

The First Latina Elected as Harris County’s Top Executive, Judge Lina Hidalgo, Insists on Spanish Updates for Houston Residents After Disastrous Tornado 
Credit: Melvic Degracia - Melvic Degracia

In a joint press conference, Houston Mayor John Whitmire and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo — the first Latina and first woman elected as the county’s top executive — faced the public to deliver crucial updates following a devastating tornado that hit Houston, Texas. The severe storm left four residents dead and more than 740,000 without power, which could take weeks to restore.  

Several local officials attended The briefing at Houston Transtar, including Texas State Rep. Jolanda Jones (D-Houston) and Precinct 4 Commissioner Lesley Briones. 

Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County’s top elected official and a rising star among Texas Democrats, has been a refreshing force in Houston’s political landscape. Harris County, home to over 4.6 million people, is significantly diverse, with 43 percent identifying as Hispanic or Latino and more than 40 percent speaking a language other than English at home, according to recent census data. Known for her inclusive approach and outspoken stance on critical issues like mental health, Hidalgo has been an advocate for all residents of the nation’s third-largest county. 

The conference took a notable turn when Hidalgo, after thanking Whitmire for his presence, insisted on providing updates in Spanish for the Spanish-speaking constituents. This gesture came after Whitmire finished his comments and attempted to pass the microphone to Briones. “We promised the Spanish media we would go after you, so let me just repeat my remarks in Spanish,” Hidalgo asserted. This move underscored her commitment to inclusivity and ensuring that critical information reaches all community members, regardless of language barriers. And we are here for it.  


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♬ GRISELDA – Carlos Rafael Rivera

Whitmire, seeking to continue the flow of the conference, suggested yielding to Briones temporarily. However, Hidalgo firmly responded, “Mayor, there’s an impact in all four counties, and so whenever we have an impact on one county, the commissioner joins, but all four counties have been impacted, and I don’t feel comfortable with giving special treatment. Everybody was notified that you, as the mayor, and I, as the county judge, are speaking. I’m happy for them to join, but at least if you want her to speak, let me do the duty to the Spanish [speaking] constituents.” 

Whitmire humorously retorted, “Sure. I’m just glad I made the approval list,” to which Hidalgo responded sternly, “Mayor, this is a disaster; this is not the time.” In other words, she told him to stop being a pendejo. 

Judge Lina Hidalgo Has Been Challenged Before

Hidalgo’s inclusive approach has not been without its challenges. In the past, other officials, including Mark Tice, have criticized her efforts to ensure representation for all constituents. Tice, a Texas county commissioner, infamously posted a comment on Facebook saying, “English this is not Mexico,” after Hidalgo addressed the public in both English and Spanish during a briefing on a massive chemical fire. His remarks prompted widespread backlash, leading to an apology where Tice admitted his hasty and inappropriate comments, particularly to Judge Hidalgo and the Latino community. 

Hidalgo’s response to these criticisms has only strengthened her resolve. Her leadership was notably highlighted during the tornado’s aftermath, especially after placing special care to provide clear and accessible communication. This approach reflects her understanding of the county’s demographic realities and commitment to serving all its residents. 

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