9 Things You Might Not Know About Catherine Cortez Masto

When Catherine Cortez Masto was sworn in to Congress on January 3, she became the first Latina senator. A Democrat, the two-term former Nevada Attorney General assumed the seat previously held by outgoing minority leader Harry Reid. Read on for nine facts about this dedicated freshman senator.

1. SHE COMES FROM AN IMMIGRANT FAMILY WHO WORKED THEIR WAY UP.

Cortez Masto’s paternal grandfather, Edward Cortez, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and immigrated as a young man to the United States, where he met Mary Tapia, of New Mexico. The two got married and started a bakery in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Edward built his own oven from earthen bricks. In 1939, Cortez Masto’s father, Manuel “Manny” Cortez, was born, and in 1940, Edward was naturalized as an American citizen. He served in the army during World War II, and when he returned home, the Cortez family moved to Las Vegas. Edward worked in a bakery and Mary spent her days as a sales clerk, while Manny attended the local public schools.

After graduating from Las Vegas High School in 1956, Manny spent three years in the army before returning to Las Vegas and marrying Joanna Musso in 1960. Cortez Masto’s sister, Cynthia, came along two years later, and Catherine herself was born two years after that. Meanwhile, Manny was attending Nevada Southern University as a pre-law student and working nights parking cars on the Strip. He eventually left college and continued working on the Strip, but in 1969, wanting to move up in the world, he got a job working as an investigator at the District Attorney’s office. In a few years, he moved on to the Public Defender’s office, where he was trained to administer polygraph tests.

A 1972 bid for local assemblyman was unsuccessful, but caught the eye of Nevada Governor Mike O’Callaghan, who appointed Manny administrator of the Nevada Taxicab Authority the next year. Then, in 1976, Manny ran for a seat on the Clark County Commission and won, eventually serving four terms. As part of his duties as commissioner, he served on a number of boards, and became chairman of the board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) [PDF]. In 1991, he became LVCVA president, a role he held for 13 years. Manny had a very successful career in the Vegas tourism industry—in fact, he was responsible for greenlighting the city’s most famous slogan, “What happens here, stays here.” Upon his death in 2006, he was honored in both houses of Congress.

Reflecting on her family’s journey from an immigrant grandfather with a grade-school education to a father who became an important figure in Nevada’s political and business community, Cortez Masto told Mother Jones, “That, to me, is the American Dream.” She and her sister became the first in their family to graduate from college. In an interview with Fusion, Cortez Masto said, “Can you imagine my grandfather if he were alive today and saw his granddaughter who was the attorney general for eight years in the state now running to be the first Latina ever elected to the United States Senate? That’s incredible.”

2. SHE'S HAD MANY ROLE MODELS.

Cortez Masto grew up in Las Vegas, watching her parents and grandparents work hard. “Wow, my grandmother was tough,” she told Latina Magazine of her father’s mother, Mary. “You couldn’t put anything past her. She was a sales clerk and went home to work just as hard. I realized the work ethic, and I knew I had to work hard because of her.” Cortez Masto’s own mother was a bookkeeper, while her father, as previously noted, worked his way up from parking attendant to county commissioner. Cortez Masto told the Reno Gazette-Journal in 2005, “Obviously, he's always been a role model.”

Cortez Masto attended the University of Nevada, Reno, graduating with a bachelor’s in science in 1986, then went on to law school at Gonzaga University in Washington state. She moved back to Nevada, passing the bar exam in 1990 and spending a year clerking for Judge Michael J. Wendell. The judge, who had been on the bench for two decades, also served as a role model for Cortez Masto: “He had great judicial temperament,” she told the Gazette-Journal. “I just learned from him how to be an attorney … how to deal with people.”

She took her first step into politics in 1995, joining the staff of Nevada’s then-governor, Democrat Bob Miller. She was familiar with Democratic politicians: Her father had been a Democrat during his time as county commissioner and he brought prominent Democrats into his family’s life. “Gov. [Mike] O'Callaghan was larger than life and had a big impact on my family,” she told the Gazette-Journal. “My father went to school, and went into the Army with Congressman [Jim] Bilbray. Sen. [Richard] Bryan went to school with my parents.” Cortez Masto found herself thriving in the political environment, and became Miller’s chief of staff in 1998.

3. SHE MARRIED A SECRET SERVICE AGENT.

While serving as chief of staff for Miller in the late 1990s, Cortez Masto was given the assignment of coordinating the logistics of President Bill Clinton’s visit to Las Vegas. The point person on the president’s side was Paul Masto, a Secret Service agent. She later recalled, “He asked me out on a date and he said, ‘Like a good attorney, I asked you out for dinner and you negotiated for lunch.’”

4. SHE RAN FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL BECAUSE “IT WAS TIME TO STEP UP."

Catherine+Cortez+Masto+Harry+Reid+Nevada+Democrats+pJ3EBJYAR7yl

Cortez Masto spent 1999 to 2001 living in Washington, D.C. and working as an assistant U.S. attorney, focusing on drug and victims’ rights cases. In 2002, she moved back to Nevada, becoming assistant county manager of Clark County (where Las Vegas is located), while her husband Paul joined the Secret Service’s Las Vegas office. In 2005 Nevada’s Republican Attorney General Brian Sandoval was nominated for a federal court judgeship, creating a vacancy, and Cortez Masto started to consider her future.

With the support of her parents and Nevada Democratic leaders like Harry Reid, she resigned from her job with the county and began campaigning to become the Silver State’s top prosecutor. “There was never any [political] position I was interested in other than being attorney general,” Cortez Masto told the Gazette-Journal. She had been watching Nevada deal with a methamphetamine crisis, widespread domestic violence, and prevalent elder abuse. She told Remezcla, “For me, those are areas—particularly when it comes to domestic violence prevention and sexual assault—that I had worked in before. I thought it was time to step up and take a leadership role and steer the ship to bring attention to those issues and find solutions to the problems. That’s when I decided to run for Attorney General for the first time in 2006.” She went on to serve two consecutive terms, the limit under Nevada law.

5. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE MADE HER PASSIONATE ABOUT PROTECTING SENIORS.

Cortez Masto had watched her own grandparents “become targets of fraud,” an experience she told Gonzaga University’s law blog was “heartbreaking.” As a result, she said, “Elder protection became my first priority as Attorney General.” Upon taking office in early 2007, she pushed the Nevada legislature to give her office jurisdiction to investigate elder fraud and abuse cases. In May 2007, the governor signed into law Assembly Bill 226 [PDF], creating a special unit within the Nevada Attorney General’s office to prosecute crimes against seniors.

6. SHE CREATED A TASK FORCE TO STUDY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

From 2004 through 2012, Nevada was the state with the highest rate of women murdered by men. As attorney general, Cortez Masto created a 15-person team to review the domestic-violence fatality rate and provide recommendations to reduce deaths. On the team, she and members of her office worked alongside police officers, representatives from the Division of Child and Family Services, and a member of the UNLV School of Social Work. In 2013, they released a report recommending specific actions for law enforcement, district attorneys, and local legislators in order to combat intimate partner violence. Since 2013, the domestic homicide rate against women has dropped in Nevada, but it remains nearly double the national average.

7. SHE WORKED TO COMBAT SEX TRAFFICKING.

During her two terms as Attorney General, Cortez Masto introduced over 40 state bills that were voted into law and signed by the Republican governor. She told Elle that her proudest accomplishment came in 2013 with the passage of Assembly Bill 67 [PDF], which defined the specific crime of sex trafficking (replacing previous statues on pandering) and is aimed at punishing pimps. The bill lengthens prison sentences for those convicted, requires that they register as sex offenders, and allows victims of trafficking to bring civil action against the perpetrators. Governor Brian Sandoval signed it into law in June 2013. The same day, he also signed a companion bill setting up a fund for victims of human trafficking. Masto’s office also produced a series of trafficking-awareness PSAs that aired on television in Nevada.

8. SHE’S BEEN ATTACKED FOR NOT SPEAKING SPANISH …

Though Cortez Masto became the first-ever Latina elected to the Senate, during the campaign allies of her Republican opponent, Joe Heck, argued that she wasn’t Latina enough. A former political director for Heck’s campaign quipped on Twitter that Cortez Masto’s ethnicity was only relevant to her when applying for scholarships or running for Senate, and questioned whether she speaks Spanish. Another former Heck aide criticized Cortez Masto’s campaign, calling it “Hispandering at its finest.”

Cortez Masto responded to the attacks, telling Politico: “It's a criticism for me and other Mexican-Americans. It is an attack on all of us who come here and have worked hard in Nevada to make it home.” Cortez Masto does not speak Spanish fluently, though she can often understand it. Her mother’s family is Italian by heritage, while her father was a second-generation Mexican immigrant who only occasionally spoke to her in Spanish. Cortez Masto noted to Latina Magazine that when her father and his parents moved to Las Vegas in the 1940s, there were very few Hispanic families in the area. “[I]t was about being more American for them,” she said, “that is why my generation doesn’t speak as much Spanish. During that time, it was about assimilating.”

9. ….BUT HER MEXICAN HERITAGE IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF HER IDENTITY.

With senators Kamala Harris, Maggie Hassan, Tammy Duckworth, Dick Durbin, and Chris Van Hollen. Image via Facebook.

Cortez Masto identifies significantly with her Mexican heritage, and she argues that it makes her better able to represent a state whose population is 28% Hispanic. She told Remezcla, “I’ve always felt, particularly as the Attorney General of the state, that the people that served in my office should be just as diverse as the community we are representing. I think that should be true of Congress.” She also argues that, as someone with a different background than most people in Congress, she brings “a different perspective” and promises to focus, in particular, on passing comprehensive immigration reform and advocating for Dreamers (undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children). “We’re working on a future for everyone,” she told Remezcla, “and we’re bringing families out of the shadows.”

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10 Facts About Ernesto 'Che' Guevara
Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

Far more than just an image on a dorm room wall, Ernesto Guevara was a 20th-century Renaissance man. He was a doctor, political philosopher, diplomat, military strategist, and best-selling author who challenged the capitalist status quo with words and gunfire.

Born into middle-class comfort on June 14, 1928, Guevara was introduced to left-wing theories at a young age, thanks to his parents and the radical books in their home library. His Marxist thinking was also profoundly shaped by his encounters with abject poverty throughout South America, and he would eventually convert those thoughts to revolutionary actions in Cuba and beyond. Here are 10 facts about the man known as Che.

1. HE WAS PART IRISH.

Che’s great-great-great-great-grandfather was Patrick Lynch, who emigrated from Ireland to what is now Argentina in the 1700s. His father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, has been quoted as saying, "The first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels." The other side of the family was Basque; according to Guevara’s brother Juan, their father was drawn to the rebellious elements of both sides of the family tree, but particularly appreciated the Irish love of a good party. In 2017, Ireland’s postal service, An Post, issued a stamp commemorating Che using Dublin artist Jim Fitzpatrick’s iconic red, black, and white image of the revolutionary.

2. HE WAS PASSIONATE ABOUT PLAYING RUGBY.

His parents were members of the San Isidro rugby club, for which Che played scrum-half in his youth. In 1951 he published his own magazine dedicated to the sport, called Tackle. The only problem with playing? He suffered from asthma his entire life. His father tried to convince him to quit the sport because of it, but Che responded, “I love rugby. Even if it kills me one day, I am happy to play it.”

3. HE LOVED POETRY.

Because of his asthma, Che was home-schooled, and it was there that he was first introduced to the poetry he would come to love for the rest of his life. At his death, he was carrying a weathered green book of poetry that he’d copied by hand, featuring work from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo, and Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén. He was also a fan of Walt Whitman, John Keats, and more.

4. HIS NICKNAME COMES FROM A DIALECTICAL TIC.

Short, sharp, and memorable, Che is also an Argentine interjection that Guevara used so often his Cuban compatriots branded him with it. It’s a filler word, something like saying dude, mate, or pal. If he’d been Canadian, his nickname might have been Eh.

5. HE STUDIED MEDICINE.

Influenced by his struggles with asthma, Che enrolled in Buenos Aires University to study medicine in 1948. After graduating as a physician in 1953, he did an internship at Mexico City's General Hospital, where he carried out allergy research, but left in 1955 to join Fidel and Raul Castro’s Cuban Revolution as their doctor.

6. TWO TREKS SHAPED HIS EARLY POLITICAL IDENTITY.

During his time studying medicine, Che embarked on two trips through South America—a solo journey in 1950 on a motorized bicycle and an 8000-mile trek that started on a vintage motorcycle with friend Alberto Granado in 1952. On these trips, he saw intense poverty and the exploitation of workers and farmers. After witnessing “the shivering, flesh-and-blood victims of capitalist exploitation,” Che was determined to fight the system. His account of his second journey, first published in Cuba in 1993 as The Motorcycle Diaries, became a New York Times bestseller and a critically acclaimed 2004 film.

7. A COUP HARDENED HIS VIOLENT STANCE AGAINST THE UNITED STATES AS AN IMPERIALIST POWER.

Che settled in Guatemala in 1953 partially because he approved of the way the country’s president, Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, had redistributed land to peasants—a move that angered the country's elite and the powerful U.S.-based United Fruit Company. That same year, a CIA-backed effort forced the democratically elected Arbenz from power. A ruling junta elected the right-wing Castillo Armas to the presidency, and then restored United Fruit Company’s land. Che was radicalized by the event, and it was the first time he participated directly in revolutionary activities, fighting with a small group of rebels (unsuccessfully) to retake Guatemala City.

8. HE WAS HEAD OF THE NATIONAL BANK IN CUBA.

Che Guevara during the battle of Santa Clara
Che Guevara during the battle of Santa Clara in Cuba
Keystone/Getty Images

Following Castro’s revolution, Guevara was given important positions related to finance and the economy, and named President of the National Bank in 1959. That gave him an unparalleled amount of power to direct the country’s economy, which he used to try to reduce Cuba's dependence on sugar exports and trade with the United States in particular. He also made his disdain toward money itself known by signing Cuba’s notes simply as Che.

9. HE ASSISTED IN ARMED REVOLUTIONS IN THREE COUNTRIES.

Che is most famous for his central role in the Cuban revolution, but he also worked to export their model to other countries. In the cases of Bolivia and the Congo, that involved engaging directly in armed revolution in the mid-1960s. He also traveled to the United States, and addressed the United Nations in 1964 in an hour-long speech that criticized the UN itself as well as the United States’ treatment of black Americans.

10. HIS REMAINS WERE MISSING UNTIL 1997.

Che was captured by CIA-assisted Bolivian troops in 1967 while trying to foment revolution in Bolivia, and was executed the next day on the orders of that country's president. They cut off the revolutionary's hands post-mortem to prove his identity before dropping his body in a mass grave with other guerrilla fighters. It wasn’t until 28 years later that Bolivian General Mario Vargas told biographer Jon Lee Anderson that Che’s body was buried near the airstrip in Vallegrande, prompting a massive search. A corpse was uncovered in July 1997 that experts said matched Che's description, in part thanks to its lack of hands and the pipe tobacco found in a jacket pocket. Che was reburied in Santa Clara, Cuba, at the base of a giant statue depicting his likeness.

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iStock
Why Macedonia Is Getting a New Name
iStock
iStock

For the first time since becoming an independent nation in 1991, the Republic of Macedonia is rebranding itself. As CNN reports, the Balkan nation will soon be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia, a name change that will hopefully help to heal the country's tense relationship with Greece.

Macedonia adopted its former title after gaining independence from Yugoslavia 27 years ago, and the name immediately caused conflict. Its neighbor to the south, Greece has a region of its own called Macedonia. Greece claimed that Macedonia's name suggested a sense of entitlement to territory that belonged to them and took it as an insult.

Even decades later, the bad blood stirred by the decision remained. Greece's issue with the name has even prevented Macedonia from joining the European Union and NATO. The new title, which was agreed upon by Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras on June 11, is meant to be a step towards better relations between the two countries.

"Our bid in the compromise is a defined and precise name, the name that is honorable and geographically precise—Republic of Northern Macedonia," Prime Minister Zaev said at a press conference, as reported by Reuters. Macedonia will hold a popular vote to officially change the name in a referendum later this year.

A country changing its name isn't uncommon, but reasons for the revision vary. In April 2018, the country formerly known Swaziland announced it would be called eSwatini, the name it went by prior to British colonization.

[h/t CNN]

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