Polly Baca

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Polly Baca-Barragán
Member of the Colorado House of Representatives
from the 34th district
Assumed office
Personal details
Born (1941-02-13) February 13, 1941 (age 74)
Greeley, Colorado
Political party Democratic
Profession Political

Polly Baca (born February 13, 1941) is an American politician who served as Chair the Democratic Caucus of the Colorado House of Representatives (1976–79), being the first woman to hold that office, and the first Hispanic woman elected to the Colorado State Senate and in the House and Senate of a state Legislature. She also was the first to co-chair a National Democratic Convention.[1] She was a member of the Colorado State Legislature for 12 years and was elected to the Colorado Senate in 1978. She was also the founder and director of the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA), as well as its president and CEO. She founded the LARASA nonprofit organization in 1964 to lead and influence change to improve the quality of life for Latinos through advocacy, capacity building, and education.[2] In addition, she currently is the president and CEO of "Baca Barragan & Perez Associates", a consulting firm specializing in political campaigns, multicultural leadership development, diversity training, motivational presentations, policy analysis and development, and government relations.[2] So, still she remains active in her community working on behalf of local and national issues important to low income Americans and she continues to fight on civil rights, political campaigns and consulting with companies and organizations on developing multicultural relations programs.[1]

Early years[edit]

Polly Baca-Barragán was born in Weld County, Colorado, in 1941. She is the daughter of José Manuel Baca and Leda Sierra Baca, descendants of the Spanish and Mexican colonists of New Mexico and Colorado,[3] arrived there in the 1600s. Her parents were farmworkers, but later her father worked for an ice storage company, while her mother worked in fishhook and potato chip factories. In addition, his father was the first head of the church's credit union, which helped the parishioners with small loans.[1] Polly has two sisters: Fernie, now a retired Dean from the University of Colorado and Bettie Baca, a consultant in Washington, DC. Her great-grandfather helped found Trinidad, Colorado.[1]

When she was three years old, the Baca family moved to Greeley, Colorado, a community that allowed segregated churches, theaters, and business establishments. Mexicans and Mexican Americans were separated from the mainstream community. At three years of age, Baca experienced segregation in church that was to shape her.[3]

She was graduated in Colorado State University, with a Bachelor of Arts in political science.[2] During her freshman year in the University,[4] she studied physics, but she belonged to many political organizations,[1] so a professor suggested she change her major from physics to political science, something which she accepted.[4]

Early political career[edit]

She plunged into campus politics, taking the vice presidency, and later the presidency, of the university Young Democrats and CSU;[1][3] she was also secretary for her freshman class. Active as a volunteer for congressional campaigns,[3] Baca-Barragán was a student chairman of the Colorado Viva Kennedy Campaign for John F. Kennedy[1] and worked as an intern for the Colorado Democratic Party. After receiving her BA in political science in 1962,[3] Baca-Barragán was recruited to work as an editorial assistant for a trade union newspaper in Washington, DC.[3][5] In 1966, Baca worked for the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks and was encouraged to help organize the Huelga Committee to support the farmworkers' movement.[1] Shortly after, in 1967, she was recruited to work for President Lyndon Johnson's administration as a public information officer for a White House Interagency Committee [1][3] on Mexican Americans. She left this office in 1968.[1]

In June 1968 she joined the national campaign staff of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy in his bid for President of the United States,[1][3] in the primary. So, she helped organize Viva Kennedy, which was focusing on east Los Angeles. She was staying at the Ambassador Hotel in this city. After the John F. Kennedy death, she helped civil rights activist César Chavez and the farmworkers organize a California memorial march for the senator and also helped control access to the burial site.[1] That same year she served as the director of research and information for the National Council of La Raza in Phoenix, Arizona. A few years later, adding to a long list of "firsts," Polly became an assistant to the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Shortly after, she opened a public relations business in Adams County after returning to Colorado, where her professional experiences blossomed into her political career.[3]She worked on civil rights campaigns, organized committees[4] and she was the Executive Director of the Southwest Council of LaRaza, which she received a $600,000 grant to address the education and economic issues of Mexican-Americans in urban areas.[1] In addition, she became also Special Assistant to the DNC Chairman. She also participated voluntarily in Escuela deGuadalupe and Beginning Experiences [4] and was chief executive officer of Sierra Baca Systems, a management consulting firm specializing in motivational presentations, multi-cultural leadership, and diversity training.[6]

Elections in Colorado[edit]

In 1974, Polly Baca-Barragán won Colorado's 34th district seat in the state's House of Representatives,[3] and four years later she was elected to the Colorado State Legislature[1][3] as the first Hispanic woman senator. In 1977, she was elected the first woman chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and in 1985, she was elected chair of the Senate Democratic caucus. She was the first minority woman to be elected to the Colorado Senate and the first Hispanic woman to serve in leadership in any State Senate in the United States. As a freshman legislator in the House of Representatives from Colorado, Baca-Barragán broke an old rule of seniority system which imposed a "watch and wait" attitude of seasonal first. In the 1975 session of the Colorado legislature, she introduced nine House bills and carried six Senate bills in the House. Two of these House bills and three of Senate bills were passed by both houses and signed into law by the governor. Throughout her term she sponsored 201 more House bills and 57 additional Senate bills. Of these, 156 passed both houses and are now law. Some of her most notable bills are Senate Bill 118, providing for the protection of deposits of public monies held by the state and national banks (1986); Senate Bill 87, providing authority to the Colorado district courts to enforce foreign subpoenas, (1985); Senate Bill 139, concerning assessment of civil money penalties by the state banking board, (1985); House Bill 1117, continuing the short-term-loan revolving fund in the division of housing, (1985); House Bill 1336, regulating the operation of non state post-secondary institutions in Colorado by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, and many others. In addition, she introduced legislation to protect public monies in state national banks. In 1980 and again in 1984, she was elected Co-Chair of the Democratic National Convention and chaired the Colorado delegation to the 1978 Democratic Mid-term Conference. Baca-Barragán also gladly shared her extensive foreign affairs experience as a participant and panelist to major international conferences in Colombia, Mexico, the USSR, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Canada, Belgium, and West Germany. After the long campaign Baca-Barragán retired from public office and became President of Sierra Baca Systems, a consulting firm specializing in program development and evaluation, leadership training, analysis of emission, and motivational presentations. In addition, Baca-Barragán has frequently appeared as a political commentator on both television and radio. In 1988, she was honored as one of the original 14 members to be inducted into the National Hispanic Hall of Fame and being listed in the World Who's Who of Women.[3] Though Baca-Barragán has no political aspirations at present, she continues to be active with national civic groups and serves on a bipartisan Commission on National Political Conventions. More recently, Baca-Barragán has been devoting her time to heading up the Colorado Institute for Hispanic Education and Economic Empowerment, whose mission is to "create a pool of Hispanic leaders who are sensitive to cultural differences and gender issues, and who will jump on the fast track to leadership positions,". She was, also, the President and CEO of the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA), founded 1964,[1][2][7] for improve the quality of life for Latinos throughout Colorado with the belief that when you improve the lives of Latinos in Colorado, you improve the lives of all Coloradoans.[7]

In addition, she was the regional administrator of the General Services Administration for the six-state Rocky Mountain Region and the executive director of the Colorado Hispanic Institute, a nonprofit organization whose aimed is promoted multicultural leadership development. In 1994, Baca was elected as special assistant to then President Bill Clinton and director of the United States Office of Consumer Affairs.[2] She held again positions in Colorado state Legislature and in the House representing Adams County and state senate, as chief consumer advocate for the Clinton administration.[1]

She left public service on the year 1998, after which she began a consulting firm and full-time participated voluntarily with the Center for Contemplative Living, dedicating to renewing the contemplative dimension of the Gospels in everyday life. Polly Baca also holds honorary degrees from the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley and Wartburg College.[8]

In 2011, Baca started to serve as the State Chair of the Colorado Democratic Party.[9]

Others medias[edit]

She has appeared in a number of TV and radio programs such as ABC's Nightline and the The NewsHour.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Polly Baca met her future husband, Miguel Barragan, a Chicano activist and former priest, in the National Council of La Raza in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1968. The marriage in 1970 produced two children, Monica and Mike, before ending in divorce.[3]


  • She obtained, between other many awards, the Archievement Award from the Colorado Democratic Party, in 2006.[2]


External links[edit]