Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dolores Gresham: first Latina in the Tennessee State Senate

Tennessee Senator Dolores Gresham
Republican State Senator Dolores R. Gresham is a San Antonio native, the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants to the U.S., and the first Latina State Senator in Tennessee history.

Known as Dolores Noguera Gresham to her fellow alumns of the University of the Incarnate Word (BA '64), she was first elected to the House as Representative of Tennessee's 94th District in 2002, and then in 2008 she was elected to the represent District 26 in the State Senate, becoming the first Latina in the Tennessee State Senate.

Gresham was a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Marines. She worked at Quantico, Virginia in 1978 and was an inspiration to other Latinas in service.

Gresham's Mexican-American heritage has come up in the news recently in the context of her sponsorship of a law to bring immigration checks to every local jail in Tennessee. She told Joe White of WPLN:
I’m proud to be an American of Mexican descent. I am the granddaughter of immigrants who fled the violence of the revolution in Mexico, just after the turn of the 20th Century. My father was a member of the greatest generation. He served in the United States Army in World War Two. My parents had seven children, and five of them wore the uniform of the U.S. armed forces.
And to counter arguments that her bill would lead to racial profiling, she told Travis Loller of the Associated Press:
If there's racial profiling going on, since I'm Mexican-American, then I would be in jail.
Interestingly enough, the WPLN piece revealed two instances of stereotype profiling: Gresham assumed Nashville attorney Gregg Ramos was an immigration attorney because he's a pro-migrant Mexican-American lawyer (Ramos tells me he's the person whose phone call Gresham describes in the piece), and Ramos assumed that because Gresham is a Mexican-American and a Catholic that she might be reluctant to sponsor such a bill. Both were wrong.

Ramos and Gresham are both natives of the Southwest, of Mexican heritage, with roots in Chihuahua, Mexico.

The Noguera children offered a glimpse into their family scrapbook with this Christmas 2007 video:

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