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Getting married by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor—the first Latina to sit on that court—is only one highlight in the lives and careers of Ingrid Duran and Catherine Pino, founders and CEOs of Washington, DC-based consulting firm D&P Creative Strategies. Before their paths crossed, each woman made a name for herself through years of experience in the public service and advocacy space. Together, they’ve achieved even more.
By the time she met Pino at a DC tea dance in 1992, Duran had already served four years in the Marine Corps, finished her undergraduate degree at Park University, and begun working on Capitol Hill. She had just made the jump to legislative affairs when a job opened up with the House Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
After obtaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico, Pino moved to DC to work for New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman and the National Council of La Raza (now called UnidosUS). After she met Duran in 1992, she moved to New York City to pursue her graduate work.
When introduced, Duran and Pino immediately bonded over their shared passions, including their mutual determination to support and bring the Latino and LGBTQ+ communities together. However, despite their intense connection, they didn’t see each other again for ten years.
In the interim, Duran volunteered for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus after working on that Committee, held a legislative assistant position under Texas Congressman Gene Green, and ran the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ DC office. She then accepted a role leading the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI).
Meanwhile, in New York, Pino earned a master’s degree in public policy and administration from New York University. Upon graduation, she moved back to DC to work for Independent Sector, where she created their young leader’s initiative and did government relations. She then returned to New York City to work for two charitable foundations: the DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, now known as the Wallace Foundation, and Carnegie Corporation of New York.
In 2002, Duran’s CHCI communications director told her about “this great Latina lesbian” who chaired the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York and worked at the Carnegie Corporation, who would be a “great asset to the CHCI board.” Duran remembered Pino and asked her to serve on CHCI’s board shortly after they reconnected.
A chance dinner together added a new dimension to their relationship. “We didn’t talk about work at all. That dinner, for me, was a turning point,” Duran says in retrospect. She left for a trip the next morning but talked to Pino on the phone every day while she was gone.
“Ingrid asked me, ‘What are we doing here?’” Pino recounts. “I said, ‘Let’s run away together and change the world.’ And the rest is history.”
History, indeed. Driven by the same shared passions that sparked their initial admiration for each other, Duran and Pino created D&P Creative Strategies in 2004.
“We knew that we could play a bigger role in bridging the divide between the LGBTQ+ community and the Latino community,” Pino says. Duran adds, “At the time, there were no Latina-owned firms, let alone Latina- and LGBT-owned firms. We wanted to be an example to others.”
Setting that example meant being entirely out as lesbians. Still, despite the stigma of being in a same-sex relationship, especially during that period, Duran and Pino decided to prioritize their desire to inspire and give hope to Latino youth struggling with their LGBTQ+ identities. Unapologetically, they chose not to worry about how society would perceive them, as a couple or individually.
As it turned out, the founders’ embrace of their identities ultimately propelled D&P Creative Strategies from triumph to triumph. Since joining forces, Duran and Pino have not only empowered young people along their professional journeys, but have also developed a close-knit company with employees, fellows, and interns working to effectuate change at the national level.
The couple agrees that creating a national campaign to help educate Latinos about the LGBTQ+ community during the fight for marriage equality stands out among their most coveted accomplishments. Duran and Pino built coalitions in the Latino community and crafted a public education campaign, Familia es Familia, centered on Latino and LGBTQ+ issues.
“It was an amazing campaign,” Pino enthuses. “And it was instrumental in changing the perception of marriage equality in the Latino community,” Duran adds.
Changing hearts and minds runs as a theme across Duran’s and Pino’s work. Through one of their two production companies, Freemind Beauty Productions, the two collaborated with HBO and PBS’ American Masters on a series of documentaries featuring prominent members of the Latino and LGBTQ+ communities: The Latino List (two volumes), The Out List, The Trans List, The Women’s List, and The Boomer List. They are also associate producers of The Harvest/La Cosecha, a documentary they worked on with friend Eva Longoria Bastón about the exploitation of children farmworkers.
The documentaries fully align with Duran and Pino’s personal goals for D&P Creative Strategies. “It’s all about bridging that divide,” Duran explains. “In each film, we made sure to include members of both communities.”
Looking to the future, Duran and Pino will continue to increase Latina representation in Congress through their by-Latinas-for-Latinas political action committee, PODER PAC, whose mission is to increase the number of Democratic, pro-choice Latinas serving in Congress. They also seek to undo the damage done to their communities by the Trump-Pence administration.
The award-winning couple has a talent for storytelling and a strong network of political, corporate, and nonprofit connections to help them. Still, Duran and Pino’s common values remain at the core of their combined strength. Whether working out together or collaborating to make a difference in the world, each has the other’s back.
“We really live, love, and work together,” Duran says. Pino adds, “There is not a day that goes by where we both don’t realize how incredibly blessed we are.”