Former US Treasurer Rosario Marin channels "The power of Latinos"

In an interview with LABS, Marin spoke about challenges and opportunities for Latin America - and Latin Americans

“I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to fill positions that allowed me to see things not how they are, but rather how they could be.” With a powerful and inspirational speech, the Mexican-born Rosario Marin, former United States Treasurer, took the stage of the Latam Cross-Border Summit to talk about “The power of Latinos.”

In an interview with LABS during the event held from September 23-26 in Rio de Janeiro, Marin shed light on her early life and career, the challenges of being the first and only foreign-born to ever fill the position of US Treasurer and her thoughts on Latin America’s moment. 

“I have had the great fortune of being the first in many things,” she said, giving a glimpse of how her life and career could be summed up. “The first Latina, the first woman, the first immigrant, the first mom with a disabled child, the first of my family to graduate from the university.” Listed by Forbes in 2014 as one of the Most Powerful Women in Mexico, Marin served as the 41st Treasurer of the United States from 2001 to 2003, and, among other highlights of her career, she dedicated her life to educating young people on the importance of financial stability, as well as advocating for the mentally disabled.

At times speaking about her journey, and at others about her vision of Latin America’s potential – crossing lines between these two trains of thought every now and then – Marin’s talk was highly empowering. “There are no bigger obstacles than those one imposes on oneself.” Filling the position of Treasurer at the time of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, in 2001, she recalls that “Those were hard times. Life is going to put you in stormy situations. It has put me in many difficult situations – but at the end of the day, it’s your decision. Learn to breathe deeply, and to resist, to struggle, and move forward.” 

We are bigger than what is ahead of us.

Rosario Marin, former US Treasurer

As a Latin woman in such an important position, she highlighted the value of being brave and confident, especially in adverse situations. “There were people who tried to put me down, not to give me a chance – but I didn’t care. I think it is very important that we, as women, throw ourselves, and go for it. I was the first woman in a city where there have always been men, the first Latina to be secretary of the California State and Consumer Services Agency. Today I have no fear. I have everything I need to face the circumstances.”

Financial inclusion in Latin America

Regarding Latin America’s economy, Marin seemed quite positive about the region’s current moment and potential, emphasizing data such as those for e-commerce in Latam, which places the region as the global leader in terms of growth. “Argentina has 93% of its population with access to the internet, and Brazil has 75%. Although Asia has a higher GDP, Latin America is growing faster,” she stressed.

I would say that Latin America is open for business.

Rosario Marin, former US Treasurer

But not all is without its challenges: although the number of internet users is growing, access to digital platforms is still a problem, according to her. It is this particular scenario, however, that is creating room for change – and for growth. The key? Technology. 

“There are great things that technology is making easier. It has facilitated the world for everyone. An online transaction, for example, it is so fast for you, as it is for me; it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, the transaction will take the same time. Technology does not discriminate.”

For her, the moment that Latin America is experiencing, with the power of digital transformation and a rising wave of new solutions coming from the digital economy is a milestone – and is acting as an equalizer for society, giving access for people in the most distant places.

When the word access came up in the conversation, Marin highlighted the importance of Latin America’s current context in terms of financial inclusion. “The financial services industry is dragging more attention than any other industry in Latin America,” she pointed out. Currently, Latam still has a large number of unbanked population – and the surge of fintechs and new solutions are taking the region by storm. 

READ MORE: Mastercard, Visa, and the “invisible payments” trend during the Latam Cross-Border Summit

Marin’s perspective on the financial sector of Latin America has very much to do with her perception of the bond between challenges and opportunities. “Where there are some people that see problems, others see opportunities. And with these opportunities comes great challenges.”

Coming from a poor family in Mexico and arriving in the US to years later become the first and only Latin woman to fill the position of Treasurer, Rosario Marin had chapters and chapters of experience to talk about challenges. “If my son had not been born with a disability, if I had not lost a baby, I would not have gotten here. Things happen as they should be – sometimes life will give you very expensive lessons, and we have to learn from them. After all, at the end of the day, it’s your decision.”

Marin presented her inspiring session in the Latam Cross-Border Summit, a payments-focused event powered by the Brazilian fintech EBANX and held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With more than 200 attendees, among companies and specialized entities such as AMI, Visa, Mastercard, DHGate, and Amazon; the event took place from September 23rd to the 26th.