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  Patricia Torres Ray's incredible journey
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ContributorCraverguy 
Last EditedCraverguy  Mar 31, 2010 04:30pm
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AuthorJennifer Vinas-Forcade
News DateTuesday, December 19, 2006 06:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionWhen she takes the oath of office on January 3, Patricia Torres Ray can look back on a 20-year, 3,000-mile journey that brought her from a small city in Colombia to the Minnesota Capitol – and ahead to a new challenge as the first Latina state senator.
Born and raised in Pasto, a regional capital about 75 miles from the Ecuador border, Torres Ray was the seventh of eight children in a middle-class Catholic family. Her father was a mechanical engineer and her mother a traditional, stay-at-home mom.

Although Pasto then had a population of about 250,000, “my world as I was growing up was a very small place,” Torres Ray said. “It was a very sheltered life. I didn’t know anything about what was happening in the outside world.”

It was a life ruled by traditional family values. “My mother was so conservative, so afraid, she never wanted to take any risks; she wanted to do things the way she was taught. My father was exactly the opposite; he was very adventurous, always taking risks, inventing, making things. I don’t know how they stayed together,” Torres Ray said.

Education was a core value in the Torres family, and Torres Ray spent most of her days, from early morning to late afternoon, at a girls-only school. She had numerous friends among the boys and girls in her neighborhood, and in the “very safe community” of Pasto they enjoyed “the privilege of being outside until late in the evening without [our] parents having to worry.” Friendships were very close, she said. “We considered each other family.”

“I really wanted to go to college,” Torres Ray recalled. “I wanted to work on social issues. … I had a vision of being an attorney and changing things.” Later, as a law student at the university in Pasto, she joined classmates and professors on social projects, traveling in rural areas and working mainly with peasants and women. It was through these projects that Patricia met her husband, Jack Ray, a native Minnesotan.
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