Personal experience shapes the leadership of Rep. Norma Torres
By LA Stories Staff Pomona
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM PT Jul. 10, 2023
As a toddler growing up in war-torn Guatemala, Norma Torres’ parents once held her up in the car window amid gunfire, hoping that the sight of a young child would deter shooters from aiming at them.
Knowing life would be safer for their daughter in the United States, her parents sent her with her uncle to live in California at just 5 years old.
“It was very, very difficult to learn the language, to learn a culture,” Torres said. “So many people put us in a box and think simply because we share this beautiful language, Spanish, that we’re all the same and we really are not. I had to learn English very, very quickly.”
In the latest episode of “LA Stories,” Torres opens up to host Giselle Fernandez about her rise to becoming the only Central American-born member of Congress, serving the 35th District of California.
After graduating college, Torres worked as a 911 dispatcher. It was her experience there that sparked her political aspirations.
She once answered a call from a young girl who had waited 20 minutes to speak with a dispatcher because there were not enough bilingual people working that night. Torres could hear screams and eventually gunfire. The young girl did not survive, and that moment changed Torres’ life forever — she vowed to fight for better dispatch practices.
“Every individual at some point in their life… they will get their call to duty,” she said. “That 911 call was my call to duty.”
Today, Torres continues to use her personal experiences to shape the way she works in Congress. Despite threats, she’s taken on what she calls corrupt officials in the Central American Northern Triangle.
Torres has fought for women’s rights, immigration and environmental issues. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind, especially when she can be a voice for her community.
“I learned to lobby for a community that I served,” she said. “We need the average American in Congress. We need people like me that see things for what they are, that have the life experience… Our democracy is worth fighting for.”