28 Jun Among the Latina Leaders to Watch in 2018: Cuban-American Angie Chirino
June 28, 2018–
Growing up the daughter of famous Cuban-American musician Willy Chirino, Florida Republican Angie Chirino is used to the spotlight. She and her siblings would hit the road to tour with her father, who is a beloved musician in the Cuban-American community and won a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement award a few years ago.
With music in her blood, Chirino struck out on her own — performing music she wrote and also writing for musicians including Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz and Marc Anthony. She won a Latin Grammy for her work with Anthony.
But as a single mother, it was difficult to juggle the late hours of a music career with caring for her daughter. So, on the advice of a friend, she joined a local school that worked with children who have autism, leading to a second career that’s become central to her decision to run for Congress to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R).
“Sometimes the life you imagine for yourself is different than the one out there looking for you,” Chirino told The Hill.
Chirino, 49, began bringing her guitar to the classroom, where she said many of the young students were instantly captivated by the music.
“The minute I’d strum my guitar, they’d look at me like, ‘Wow! Look at that,’ ” she remembered. “I discovered I could make a difference, and it felt good.”
After 11 years, Chirino left the school to join a nonprofit that worked with foster children. There, she worked in a variety of roles, including serving as a “guardian ad litem,” an advocate for children in court. The experience cemented Chirino’s interest in running for office.
“You never know what life might offer you — helping others helps you,” she said.
“I want to take that message I’ve been delivering on a small scale for 15 years to the big stage and tell the people of this country — you are not a product of your circumstances, you are a product of your decisions, and I am here to help.”
Chirino is in for a tough climb thanks to the crowded nature of the race and the fact that President Trump lost Florida’s 27th District by about 20 points in 2016. But she said prospective candidates shouldn’t shy away from their beliefs. For example, instead of tamping down her support for Trump’s border wall, she tries to explain the policy to voters so they understand why she would support it.
“Stand your ground, make sure you know what it is you are fighting for and don’t debate, don’t be afraid to say things that are unpopular,” she said. “Make your case with compassion, but make your case.”
— Ben Kamisar