Mexican-Born Treasurer Becomes U.S. Icon
By JEANNINE AVERSA
.c The Associated Press
March 10, 2003
WASHINGTON (AP) - If money is power, Rosario Marin has a whole lot of it.
It's not her own cash, actually, but the nation's. As treasurer of the United
States, the Mexican-born Marin sits atop the money heap, overseeing the makers
of America's greenbacks and its coins - the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and
the U.S. Mint.
Marin's is not a household name, but her autograph, along with that of the
treasury secretary, is carried on billions of U.S. notes, tucked inside the
wallets and pocketbooks of many Americans. The treasurer and the treasury
secretary are the only two people who get to put their signatures on U.S.
For Marin, who came to the United States from Mexico at 14 unable to speak
English, it has been an amazing journey, with unexpected twists and turns.
As the nation's 41st treasurer, and the first born outside the United States,
the 44-year-old Marin is the highest-ranking Latin American woman in the Bush
administration and a key player in the administration's efforts to reach out to
Hispanic voters, the fastest-growing bloc.
She is being floated as a possible Republican contender for a Senate seat from
California in 2004.
``My dad was a factory worker. My mom used to help him by sewing at home. We had
a two-room house in Mexico,'' Marin said in a recent interview. ``There were
five kids.'' A sixth child was born after the family moved to California.
Going to college at night and working during the day at a bank, Marin planned a
career in business. ``I was going to be the owner of my own bank,'' she said.
``I had plans. I knew what my future was going to be.''
But those plans changed with the birth of her first son, Eric, in 1985. He was
born with Down Syndrome. Marin said she stopped working on a master's in
business administration, quit her job at the bank, and she and her husband,
Alex, sold their house.
``It was that turning point in my life,'' she said.
She eventually decided she wanted to help people with disabilities and their
families. Her political career began when she went to work for GOP California
Gov. Pete Wilson in 1992 in the Department of Developmental Disabilities. She
held various posts in Wilson's administration for nearly seven years.
Marin first crossed paths with George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas and
she the Republican mayor of Huntington Park, Calif., a heavily Democratic city
that is largely Hispanic. She worked as an unpaid volunteer for Bush's
After Bush won the presidency, Marin said she was floored when he tapped her to
Clad in a green and black suit - similar to the colors on U.S. dollars - and
wearing coin jewelry from the U.S. Mint, Marin joked that she did not know much
about the treasurer's duties. But she knew her name would appear on greenbacks,
and she had an aim for the job: Promote financial literacy.
``I felt I would have the bully pulpit to go out there and do as much as I could
to educate America about personal finances,'' Marin said. And she has, in
countless speeches since taking office in the summer of 2001.
Marin is especially passionate about educating the poor - a group most likely to
pay excessive interest rates on loans. She has worked to try to get lower-income
people and others into the banking system, helping them to set up savings and
checking accounts. Treasury officials estimate that one in 10 American
households are in the ranks of ``unbanked.''
Mike Madrid, a political consultant at the San Antonio firm Guerra DeBerry Coody,
wants Marin to run for the Senate from California in 2004, taking on incumbent
Barbara Boxer. It's a race he acknowledges would be an uphill battle given the
Democratic Party's stronghold, and would be expensive.
Madrid said Marin was well received when she recently spoke at the California
``She has extremely high name recognition in the Hispanic community and that is
a natural edge,'' Madrid said. ``People reach in their wallets, pull out dollar
bills and look for her name.''
As to her own political aspirations, Marin is noncommital. ``I am incredibly
flattered,'' she said. ``But it is something that I have not sought.''
Marin remembers her reluctance to come to the United States, worried she would
miss her ``quinceanera'' party, a rite of passage for a girl turning 15. She
didn't. Her parents took her back to Mexico to celebrate with family and
``It rained ... my dress was all muddy,'' but she was still thrilled, Marin
recalled. ``One of my little dreams had come true.''
On the Net:
Treasury Department: http://www.ustreas.gov/
03/10/03 09:21 EST
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