Hispanic Bar Group Sees Need For More Progress
Cruz grew up the Bronx, where her father owned a florist business. Other relatives were entrepreneurs, which Cruz said taught her to take risks. After she moved out of New York City, first to attend Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., and then to the University of Connecticut School of Law, she often found herself the only Hispanic in the room.
That did not change when she got her first job at Connecticut Legal Services in Waterbury. "I was the only Hispanic lawyer there," she said.
In 1993, Cruz put her energies to work to improve the professional lives of the state's Hispanic lawyers by helping to create the CHBA. The bar group now has 146 members.
"When we started, we wanted to increase the number of [Latino] law students who stayed in Connecticut and we did it," Cruz said. "We wanted to help set up court service centers and improve interpretation services in the courts, and we did that too."
In the Pipeline
A new generation of Hispanic lawyers is now filling the ranks of CHBA leadership positions.
Walter Menjivar, a commercial litigation attorney at Day Pitney's Hartford office, is among them. He is the bar group's treasurer.
Menjivar, whose parents immigrated from El Salvador before he was born, grew up in Florida and attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
While studying in Tennessee, Menjivar helped organize a program to raise awareness of the economic contributions made by immigrants. He followed his now-wife to Connecticut a few years later when she went to dental school at the University of Connecticut and he attended the university's law school.
At UConn, Menjivar said he joined the Latino Law Student Association, which led to his "getting in the pipeline for the CHBA."