Adrienne Peña Garza remembers the insults at least as vividly as her triumphs. In 2018, Peña succeeded in her campaign to lead the Hidalgo County Republican Party, based in McAllen, becoming the first Hispanic woman to sit as chairwoman. As someone proud to call herself raza (a word Mexicans use to describe themselves as a race), a woman of color, and a Latina, the win meant something special to Peña: it wasn’t just for her, but for South Texans who looked like her. That feeling of warm pride, however, soon clashed with the caustic burn of scorn. When she began leading meetings at the HCRP office, two women swung a sledgehammer outside, smashing open a coconut. The symbolism wasn’t subtle. With the shell cracked, Peña could see the brown on the outside and the white on the inside.
In 2018, that disdain from fellow Mexican Americans was not unusual for Republicans in Hidalgo County, especially with then-president Donald Trump in the Oval Office. In response to the indignities, Peña formed deep connections with the other Latinas who came in the HCRP office doors. In particular, Peña remembers when she met Monica De La Cruz and Mayra Flores. De La Cruz, a local insurance agent, started attending meetings the same year that Peña was elected head of the local party, and eventually volunteered as a precinct chair. In 2019, Flores, a respiratory nurse whose husband is a Border Patrol officer, began coming in for events supporting immigration agents during the government worker furlough. Peña recalls how the two immediately brought fresh energy into the office, as if someone had turned on music in a room that had been quiet. “I just thought, ‘Wow. You’ve got that something,’” Pena says. “‘And we need your help.’”
Through 2019 and 2020, the women worked to increase Republican turnout in South Texas, with Flores running the HCRP’s Spanish-language outreach. For the most part, they toiled outside of the spotlight. Even when De La Cruz announced a bid to try to unseat two-term Democratic congressman Vicente Gonzalez, national Republicans—and even the statewide GOP—paid little attention to her campaign.
Story continues at: Latina’s for Republicans