Boxes Without Hispanic Votes
From El Diario
May 25, 2004
By Eva Sanchis
"We need to give Spanish classes to the candidates, and not
let them romance us with a merengue or a mariachi," complained
Maria Elena Salinas, in her immaculate suit, and her best television
But this time, she was not talking to the cameras, rather
to the hundreds of Latino voters, who met recently for a political
at John Jay University in Manhattan.
The audience felt unanimously
enthralled by the presence of the well known journalist; but also
because, as one participant explained,
the Puerto Rican Myrna Font, 62 years old: "We are fed up
with politicians that only look for us during campaigns."
Font, many political analysts consider that the lack of knowledge
about the Hispanic community and the broken promises end up provoking
disinterest on the part of Hispanic voters.
These were two of the
aspects discussed by a forum organized by NALEO, Univisión,
and the newspapers, "La Opinión",
of Los Angeles, and El Diario/La Prensa.
In the debate, Salinaz
explained that her interest in educating the Latino voters began
two decades ago when she worked as a commentator
for Channel 34 of Univision in Los Angeles: "Therefore I realized
that while the Mexican-American community was very large, we did
not have political representation and it was because the people
were not motivated to vote."
Since then the number of Hispanics has tripled, making it the largest
minority in the country.
Nevertheless, while more than 40 million Latinos live in the United
States, the political power has not grown with the same force. Only
6 of the 13 million Hispanic citizens exercised their right to vote
in the elections of 2000. "The form in which initiatives were
presented was so complicated, that the voters lose their interest
in voting," said Salinas.
Maria Perez, a Dominican who has
helped with Hispanic voters in her electoral college in Manhattan
for 7 years, agrees with the
journalist. "Many ask me which is the best candidate. And
I, although I am a democrat, tell you that I can't decide for them,
what their vote is," she explained. The son of Perez, Jose
- an unemployed computer engineer - adds that many Latinos don't
realize the power they could have. "Only if we vote and pay
our taxes will they listen to us," he insists.
During this decade, different organizations of New York have tried
to increase the political participation of Latino voters. Among
those is the Community Service Society, which has to date registered
150,000 new voters.
Latino leaders like Manuel Mirabal, current president of the lobby
of Washington National Puerto Rican Coalition, have changed the
fight in the streets for the fight for the ballot box.
"The Latino lobbyists in Washington are insignificant compared
to those of the large industries. Our real power is in voting,"
he assured. Mirabel believes in the possibilities of an immense
In 2020 there will be 50 million Latinos, and in 2010, they
will be 14 percent of the electorate. "Remember that together
we can make a difference," she urged before abandoning the
forum to Denisse Oller, another journalist from Univision, conscious
that in politics,
a good slogan is everything.
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Translated from Spanish by Charlotte