03/27/2013 02:16 pm ET

Latinos In Pursuit Of Political Careers Take Pride In Their Roots

For immigrant political candidates, the campaign trail can bring unfortunate, and often awkward, questions.

“People would ask me, ‘You have an accent. How do you pronounce your name?’ ‘What does your name mean?’ ‘Where are you from?’ ” said West Harlem’s Dominican-born 70th Assembly District leader Marisol Alcantara.

In a weekend-long “Ready to Lead” training session with nonprofit New American Leaders Project, Alcantara learned how to deftly answer such questions.

“They taught us how to respond and go back to your message,” she said. “Better to say, ‘Oh, you mean my ethnic background?’ ”

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