Este informe no está disponible en español.


Latino power on the rise

Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is first Puerto Rican to become a member of the governor’s cabinet in that state


June 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Pedro A. Cortés never imagined he would become the first person in his family to attend college, let alone become the first Latino in the state of Pennsylvania to become part of the governor’s cabinet. If that wasn’t enough, he became the first Puerto Rican outside of Puerto Rico to become secretary of state for any state in the continental U.S., all of this while still in his thirties.

On April 2, 2003, Cortés was appointed secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by Gov. Edward G. Rendell and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on May 13, 2003. As secretary he administers the State Department, an agency with a $198 million annual budget.

"The State Department protects the public’s health, safety, and welfare by licensing nearly one million business, health, and real-estate professionals," he explained.

By statute, the secretary is a member of the Property Board, the Finance & Revenue Board, the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement Board, the State Athletic Commission, and the Navigation Commission for the Delaware River & Its Navigable Tributaries. The secretary is the keeper of the Great Seal of the Commonwealth and has the duty of authenticating government documents by using the seal. Cortés is also the Commonwealth’s chief election official.

As chief election official, one of his goals is to boost the Latino electorate. "During the past elections in Pennsylvania, approximately 20% of the $2 million media campaign was geared toward the Latino community. Our campaign, ‘Ready, Set, Vote,’ aimed to empower the Latino community and encourage the community to make choices. That the way to determine the future of a state is through the election of its leaders," emphasized Cortés. "While the population of Pennsylvania is 12 million, Latinos make up almost 4% of the total population. Out of the 450,000 Latinos in Pennsylvania, 58% are Puerto Rican or of Puerto Rican descent," said Cortés.

During the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials Educational Fund conference to be held in Puerto Rico June 23 to 25, Cortés will discuss the Latino vote in 2004–what happened and why.

"The Bush campaign recognized the importance of the Latino vote and successfully attracted it. The Latino vote is one of the many factors that contributed to President Bush’s re-election. Out of the 8 million Latino voters, 47% voted for the Republican Party in the past election," Cortés pointed out. "That’s something we are looking to achieve in Pennsylvania–to mobilize the Latino vote," he added.

Top on his priority list is economic development and support for Latino business initiatives. "The Latino community in Pennsylvania traditionally has owned small businesses, [such as] local supermarkets, or what we call <I>bodegas</I>, and utility stores," explained Cortés. He noted there is an office in the State Department geared toward Latinos to aid, advise, and expedite the process of starting a business.

"Nationwide, Latinos have a strong economic presence, with over $760 million in capital earnings and purchasing power. We hope to increase business initiatives for the Latino community here in Pennsylvania as well," he said. He also pointed out the growing nationwide presence of Latinos not only in the government, but also in the private sector.

Cortés earned his bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant & travel administration from University of Massachusetts, followed by a master’s in public administration from Pennsylvania State University and a law degree from Pennsylvania State’s Dickinson School of Law. He also holds a certificate in public-sector human resources management from Pennsylvania State University.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
For further information, please contact:



Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback