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Polly Baca-Barragán: 1941—: Politician, Media Relations Specialist

Showed Early Interest In Politics

As a teen-ager, Baca became an orphan; her father was killed in an accident and her mother died not long afterward. She was suddenly faced with the responsibility of caring for her three younger brothers—but she was determined to stay in high school and finish her studies. A bright student, she won a scholarship to Colorado State University and planned to major in physics, even though she was more interested in political science and had aspirations of becoming a politician. Part of her decision to major in physics came from a science teacher who told her that a science career would be better for her because as a Hispanic and a woman her chances of success in public life were twice as slim. This was something that Baca would remember throughout her career. Knowing that as a Hispanic and a woman she would have a harder time achieving success was hardly a detriment; actually it gave her the impetus to try harder. It was perhaps not surprising that although she did enter college as a physics major, before long she had switched to political science.

While in college Baca became active in campus politics, serving as freshman class secretary. She also became active in her campus chapter of Young Democrats (a group she had been involved with in high school), becoming vice-president and then president. She did volunteer work for the Democratic Party and helped with the campaigns of local candidates; she was also active in the Viva Kennedy clubs that promoted John F. Kennedy to the Hispanic electorate.

At a Glance . . .

Born in 1941 (some sources say 1943), in Greeley, CO; married Miguel Barragán, 1968 (divorced); children: Monica, Michael. Education: Colorado State University, BA, political science, 1962; American University, graduate courses, 1966-67.

Career: International Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulfite, and Paper Mill Workers, AFL-CIO, editorial assistant, 1962-65; Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks, AFLCIO, editor and assistant director of research and education, 1966-67; White House Cabinet Committee on Opportunities for the Spanish Speaking, public information officer, 1964-68; Robert F. Kennedy presidential campaign, Hispanic division, deputy director, 1968; National Council of La Raza, director of research services, 1969-70; Democratic National Committee, Spanish speaking affairs, director, 1971-72; Colorado Committee on Mass Media and the Spanish Surnamed, director, 1972-73; Colorado state House of Representatives, 1975-78; Colorado state senator, 1979-86; Sierra Baca Systems, president, 1985-89, CEO, 1999–; Colorado Hispanic Institute, executive director, 1989-94; General Services Administration, Rocky Mountain Division, regional administrator, 1994-99.

Memberships: InSites; Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA).

Awards: National Hispanic Hall of Fame, 1988; Colorado Women's Hall of Fame; honorary doctor of laws, Wartburg College, Waverly, IA; honorary doctor of humane letters, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO.

Upon graduation in 1962, Baca moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked on the editorial staff of two trade unions (both branches of the AFL-CIO) that represented paper mill workers and rail and air employees. In addition to giving her valuable experience in writing and editing, these jobs also gave her the chance to see how public policy was made both within the union and the federal government.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Miguel Angel Asturias: 1899-1974: Writer to Don Berrysmith Biography - Grew up in the Pacific NorthwestPolly Baca-Barragán: 1941—: Politician, Media Relations Specialist Biography - Showed Early Interest In Politics, Began Political Career, Created Strong Ties As Politician