Lucia Alonzo quoted in LATINO Magazine's article, "Sense of Belonging: The Hispanic Lobbying Association Provides Opportunities"

May 1, 2024 | PublicationIn the News

While lobbying has become a multi-billion dollar industry, Latinos have historically not been part of it. There are approximately 30,000-40,000 lobbyists in Washington, D.C., but just a fraction are Latinos, and only a handful of lobbying firms are Latino-owned. 

​While any U.S. citizen has the constitutional right to petition the government on any issue, lobbyists are professionals paid by their clients to bring about a specific result, such as the passage of favorable legislation. HLA’s work is much more than that and includes mentoring Latino youth interested in the field and raise awareness of the work that Latino lobbyists are doing.
The non-partisan Hispanic Lobbyists Association (HLA) is working to change that, not only to increase the number of Hispanic lobbyists but to change negative perceptions of the industry. HLA was founded in 2006 as a nonprofit group with the mission to advance and empower Latino professionals in government relations and public affairs with mentorship and professional development opportunities. 

​HLA president Lucia Alonzo tells LATINO Magazine, “We strongly believe in diversifying the profession so that it reflects the changing face of America.” Diversity brings different perspectives to the table, which is vitally important to the work HLA members are involved in. HLA members do not have to be registered lobbyists, though membership is open to “all individuals who are committed to supporting the Hispanic/Latino community and who have professional responsibilities in the field of government relations and/or public affairs.”

​“We have a unique outlook on things,” says Alonzo, who is with the consulting group Michael Best Strategies. “One needs to stay current and connected, especially in a town as transient as Washington, D.C. That barrier can be lowered a bit. People crave community. We can provide that sense of belonging alongside our professional development focus.”

Alonzo adds that the HLA’s bipartisan board of directors maintain a very collegial environment. She noted all board members are unpaid, but dedicate much of their spare time and professional resources to planning several HLA activities each month. “Our board’s passion and hard work has taken the HLA to new heights.”  

​The group’s diversity is also reflected in the variety of professions HLA members are part of such as government relations, in-house counsel, and community relations. across various industries like non-profits, education, technology, logistics, healthcare, and much more.

“Professional development is another thing we do – mentor and advance and empower professionally our members so that they can keep climbing the ladder. And we see more Hispanics leading their own firms and we also have many alumni as heads of government relations or heads of nonprofits, we are creating a family,” says HLA Vice President Ivelisse Porroa-García, who is with the government relations firm Crossroads Strategies.

Porroa-García began her career as a staffer on Capitol Hill, working for Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Raúl Ruiz and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. She also served as president of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association (CHSA). She decided to get involved in HLA because she’s a firm believer in diversity. “Sometimes if we go to a place that is not as diverse, we miss that sense of belonging and that affects how we interact with each other. I believe that it’s important to recognize the changing landscape and when you talk about diversity, representation means a lot.” 

Porroa-García considers it vitally important that CHSA has partnered with HLA to help mentor and advise congressional staffers, particularly as they move up the career ladder to positions with greater responsibility and influence. She chairs two key HLA projects, an annual fundraiser called the Avanza Awards, which began in 2017 and honors those who have demonstrated leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion. Another project is the group’s cafecito gatherings, which are much more informal get-togethers between members of Congress and HLA members to speak about a variety of issues. Porroa-García noted many HLA board members have lent their own influence and networks to recruit these officials for cafecitos.

“Members realize that there is a whole network of Hispanics in the lobbying world. And for us, it’s important to know the rules and laws that govern diversity to empower us and know our rights to keep increasing Hispanic representation in government relations,” she says.

​HLA has an active board of directors. In addition to Alonzo and Porroa-Garica, it includes: Erica Romero, Vice President of Education Policy and Advocacy, Latinos for Education; Maria Luisa Boyce, Vice President, UPS; José Mercado, Head of Congressional Affairs, DoorDash; Carlos A. Becerra, Associate Vice President Government Relations, Florida International University; Manuel Bonilla, Chief Advocacy & Practice Officer,  American Society of Anesthesiologists; Javier Gamboa, Senior Director of Government Relations, Business Roundtable; Omar Franco, Senior Director, Becker & Poliakoff; Osiris Morel, Senior Manager of Federal and State Lobbying,  Mark Anthony Group; Art Motta, Director of Federal Government Affairs, AstraZeneca; and Norberto Salinas, Partner, Capitol Counsel.

Porroa-García adds that one of the HLA’s key objectives is to increase the group’s membership from its current 170 to 200 within a year. Membership had already grown from 100 to 170 since last year, so it’s an obtainable goal. “HLA creates community and I think it’s important for us to rely on each other. It’s important to recognize the landscape of government relations is changing and diversity is increasingly playing a more significant role and we create a network where we know each other, we do business together, help whenever we can, and mentor each other,” she says. “As an immigrant from Peru I want to bring more people in like me. I’m seeing more diversity and that’s good.”

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