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Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, groundbreaking Puerto Rican activist, runs for U.S. Congress

BY ROBERTA SCHINE | Ana Irma Rivera Lassén is campaigning to represent Puerto Rico in Congress.

LPAC, an organization which seeks to create a place and voice at the power table for the LGBTQ+ community, describes her as “a lawyer, feminist, activist, author and human rights advocate who currently serves as minority leader in the Puerto Rico Senate. From 2012 to 2014, she served as president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association, being the third woman to achieve this, the first Afro-descendant and the first person from the LGBTQ+ community.”

The Puerto Rican primary election for one at-large nonvoting member of U.S. Congress, known as the “resident commissioner,” was June 2. Ana ran in the Citizens Victory Movement primary. The general election is Nov. 5.

Throughout her career, Ana has been a steadfast champion for human rights, particularly focusing on issues of discrimination, gender violence and socioeconomic rights. She has contributed to the legislative process, actively participating in assessments of bills aimed at advancing human rights protections in Puerto Rico. Her tenure as head of the Bar Association of Puerto Rico was marked by significant advancements in promoting gender equality and access to justice. As far back as the ’80s, Ana Irma’s work was groundbreaking for women confronting a macho culture: She sued — and won — when a judge denied her entry to the court because she was wearing pants, rather than a skirt or dress.

Pepe Flores and the candidate during her recent visit to La Sala de Pepe on Avenue C.

Community organizer Andy Praschak introduced Lassén last week at a Lower East Side fundraiser for her campaign.

“When I first met Ana Irma several years ago,” Praschak said, “I did what gay men often do when they meet strong, articulate, progressive women. I got intimidated.”

The crowd of enthusiastic supporters gathered at La Sala de Pepe, on Avenue C, cheered, added testimonials, committed ourselves to helping any way possible, and ate arepas.

Why are Puerto Ricans who live on the Lower East Side so enthusiastic about the campaign of someone who lives in San Juan — and whom they can’t for? Unlike other elected officials in Puerto Rico, Ana Irma takes the needs of diasporan Puerto Ricans seriously. And she would give them a voice at the table.

“I don’t remember any politicians — ever — coming to this neighborhood,” said Pepe Flores, musicologist, dancer, teacher, community activist and owner of La Sala de Pepe. “They’re all in the pocket of the government. We Puerto Ricans living in the diaspora don’t vote, so we don’t matter to them. They don’t care about our opinions on how Puerto Rico should operate and they definitely don’t care about our concerns about things that affect our lives here, especially in the Lower East Side. Ana Irma came to the Lower East Side and visited places that are vital to the preservation of our culture, like Casa Adela and Loisaida Inc. And she came here [to La Sala de Pepe] twice. She takes an interest in our community.”

Ana Irma Rivera Lassén with supporters at La Sala de Pepe.

Tito Delgado, a lifelong activist for Puerto Rican rights, added his enthusiasm for the candidate.

“Even if Ana won’t have a vote [in Congress], she’ll still make waves, bring up issues, make noise, get in the papers and influence those who do have a vote,” he said. “But every obstacle in the world is going to be put in front of her. She needs our help.”

How can people help? Diaspora Puerto Ricans can call relatives on the Island and urge them to vote for Ana Irma Rivera. Anglo allies can make sure Puerto Rican comrades know about her. Same with local political representatives and political organizations.

Elizabeth Crespo, Ana’s wife (and my dear friend), told us how popular Ana is in Puerto Rico.

“Whenever we are out, people from all walks of Puerto Rican life come up to her to express their gratitude and to tell her how much they love her work,” she said. “Most of them don’t have much money. But if each person who loved Ana donated, even a dollar, we would easily — easily — get her elected!”

To donate to Ana Irma Rivera Lassén’s campaign, click here.

Schine is a yoga instructor, former karate instructor, immigration activist and writer living in the Lower East Side. Her writing has appeared in, The Village Sun, Rattapallax, Penmen Review, It’s All Right to be Woman Theater, The AIDS Theater Project, (in Spanish), Perigrinosysuslettras (in Spanish) and other literary publications.


  1. Bella D. August Bella D. August June 26, 2024

    Beautifully written and inspiring article! I am grateful to learn about this remarkable woman

  2. Roberta Roberta June 25, 2024

    Thank you, Phyllis. Yeah, isn’t it good to know something good is happening?

  3. Phyllis Eckhaus Phyllis Eckhaus June 25, 2024

    How heartening to hear about this trailblazer’s campaign.
    Thank you, Roberta!

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