At a critical time for the country, the leadership pyramid has been radically reversed, putting those at the forefront of local efforts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
In Topeka, Kansas, that position is held by a Latina.
Michelle De La Isla, a 43-year-old Puerto Rican, was part of the wave of Latina women taking on top positions in local government during 2018, after serving on the Topeka City Council since 2013.
Born in New York and educated at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez, De La Isla arrived in Wichita Kansas in 2000, where she studied biology and worked as an educator. Five years later, she joined the business relations’ work and team of the Mexican American Women’s National Association (MANA).
Since then, and having firsthand experience in what it means to live in poverty and survive domestic violence and even cancer, the Puerto Rican has been an advocate for the incorporation of Latina women into the political debate and the fight for equal opportunities.
It was thanks to that experience that she decided to enter politics, running for Topeka City Council in 2013 to represent the fifth district. After Mayor Larry Wolgast announced in 2016 that he would not seek reelection, De La Isla opted for the position by winning by a margin of 501 votes, becoming the first Latina elected mayor of Topeka, and one of the few Latinas nationwide to hold the position of mayor.
But in the United States, a lot can change in just two years.
In light of the Trump administration’s aggression against the Latino and immigrant community in the country, many officials have turned their attention to the opportunity to flip seats from Republican to Democrat in the upcoming election.
That is why De La Isla is now seeking to take over Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District representative position, “and join the ever-expanding legion of Latinas in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus,” according to a statement by the Latino Victory Fund, an organization that has endorsed her crusade.
Despite being in the midst of a campaign for a congressional seat in Kansas, the Puerto Rican has not given up her primary role in leading the way during the time of the coronavirus in the United States.
Last week, De La Isla joined the call of other mayors nationwide to formally petition Congress for “$250 billion in flexible, emergency fiscal assistance” as quickly as possible.
Although the electoral outlook in the country is still doubtful, primaries are set for August 4, 2020.