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Hispanic Heritage Month Brown Girl Spotlight: Denver Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca

Photo Credit: City and County of Denver.

Candi CdeBaca was elected to the Denver City Council in 2019. The Councilwoman represents District 9.

What is your first political memory that made you say, “I love politics.”

Getting $5 to go and drop off flyers about a class action lawsuit in our neighborhood. I was in elementary school. 

What made you decide to run for office?

Witnessing the involuntary displacement of my students and community members who were organizing with me for a healthier community. 

What advice do you have for women that are thinking of running for office?

Do it. Lean on the communities that everyone always forgets about, trust your instincts, trust your ancestral wisdom, and don’t play the political and establishment games that got us to the place that we are currently in.

What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced in elected office and how did you overcome it?

The continued attempts to silence me. Power doesn’t like being threatened or challenged and amplifying the voice of the people is a threat to the typical power brokers/holders. Also, the irrational right-winged attacks on my life, body and character. I chose not to keep that to myself. Instead, I informed the community of what I was dealing with  while remembering that those that attacked me are a small piece of the pie and recognizing that the anecdote to their hatred was to activate more people. I refused to let it distract me from what we set out to do and I chose to operate from a place of vision and “what could be” rather than limiting my focus to the barriers. 

What has been your proudest moment in your political career?

Winning the election with a quarter of the resources against the establishment’s successor for mayor and more than doubling voter turnout in the process and doing it without having to “kiss any rings” or take any lobbyist dollars. 

Photo Credit: Daniel Brenner

Why is it so critical, now more than ever, for Hispanic, Latina, and Afro-Latina women to get involved in politics?

Because we’re the emerging majority and we have proven time and time again that we can save families and communities and that we undoubtedly have the skills, the wisdom, and the community connections to step-up and transform this nation. 

What should politicians be doing better when it comes to engaging the Hispanic community?

Stop pandering, stop exploiting, stop tokenizing. And, as Latinos, we must have a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of our government independent from political propaganda. We have to recognize that we do not live in a meritocracy. Many Latinos want to believe that this country rewards hard work and patriotism because these are values that we are taught. We have to recognize that the existing power structures study our values. They know that we value family. They know that we value hard work. They know that we value a higher power. These values are used to strategically divide us and to blame one another, and ourselves, for being oppressed. These values are used to justify injustice and occupy us with the task of survival to intentionally distract us. These values are used to exploit our devotion and spirituality by teaching us that it is not proper to challenge tradition and power. If meritocracy had any merit, black and brown bodies would be making the decisions in this country. Instead, many are still building somebody else’s dream while experiencing subjugation through the political manipulation of our devotion to god, our families, and our independence. 

What advice do you have for those trying to enter into politics? 

It’s as ugly as we think it is and that’s why we are needed more than ever in those spaces. But, at the same time, it’s not as hard to do the right thing once you’re inside if you’re secure about why you’re there and who you are there to serve. Government is not where electeds go to make friends, it’s where you go to make good decisions for people who are strategically blocked out or left out of the conversation.

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