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Latina Style: From Wall Street to Washington, D.C., Cristina Antelo’s pathway to success

Born in Dallas, Cristina is the only child of a middle-class Cuban couple who met at a five-and-dime and divorced when she was only two. She and her mother, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Cristina was nine, lived in Cedar Hill, a predominantly African-American and Hispanic town just south of Dallas.

Cristina was a gifted student and, in the seventh grade, was asked to participate in a student talent search. She took the SATs and scored high enough to gain the attention of an organization called A Better Chance, which places minority students in top college-prep schools. She was offered a full scholarship at the Brooks School, a boarding school in North Andover, Massachusetts.

“They were including airfare to and from breaks, money for laundry, money for food—they basically paid for everything,” said Antelo. The school had few minority students, and she joined a support group. “In hindsight, that was to my disadvantage. I started school with a group of friends who were people of color. We thought, ‘The white kids don’t like us’ and ‘So-and-so is really racist,’ and that closed my mind. It took me a while to get over this.”

Three years later, in her senior year, Cristina was a prefect, working with the student body and the faculty. She then applied to Georgetown, got scholarship money, packed her bags, and became a Hoya.

After college, she took a full-time job at Goldman Sachs, where she was a financial analyst in the company’s private wealth management division in New York. There she gained hands-on knowledge about regulatory requirements and reporting and later joined the trading floor in Los Angeles before getting promoted to associate.

One day on the trading floor, she noticed the news flash that Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy who had been living in Miami with relatives, was being returned to his father in Havana. It dawned on her that she should be in politics, not investment banking. “I wanted to pay attention to that,” said Antelo. “I wanted to think about politics and policy issues and not be looking up prices for some rich guy. I realized that I was supposed to do that in my life, not this.”

So she took the LSATs, ditched the golden handcuffs of Goldman Sachs, and moved back to Washington to attend The George Washington University Law School. Cristina was a Legal Fellow on the Senate Democratic Steering Committee chaired by former Sens. Hillary Clinton and Tom Daschle, where she was put on a Latino-outreach team, the sort of job that had launched several Latino careers in Washington, D.C.

After graduating, she landed a job at the government affairs practice of multi-national law firm DLA Piper. She represented national and international clients on health care, litigation, trademark, appropriations, and trade issues before the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts.

When the economy took a turn in 2008, Cristina realized lawyering was no longer for her. “I am not one of those lawyers who can only be a lawyer, so I started to look on the Hill, and I found the best lobby shop and came to the Podesta Group,” she said.

As a principal at the Podesta Group, Cristina advocates for clients in financial services, international trade, health care, technology and transportation, and brings a vault of experience and know-how honed on and off Capitol Hill.

Cristina brings another dimension to helping clients navigate the changing political environment. A native Spanish speaker, she is a founding member and former president of the Hispanic Lobbyists Association, a group of Washington advocates with a vision to organize and associate Hispanic lobbyists across the country to promote communication, ethics, education, and bipartisanship.