A Latino Recap of the Democratic National Convention

Aug 21, 2020
4:17 PM

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro at a rally on February 1, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite hitting the mark in so many other ways at this week’s four-day Democratic National Convention, now that it is over many are questioning whether Latinos, the nation’s second-largest bloc of eligible voters, got the amount of face time they deserved.

The consensus seems to be a resounding “no.”

This week’s headlines seem to say it all.

Tuesday on CNN: “Castro criticizes DNC for lack of diversity, saying there should have been more Latino speakers.”

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro was the only Latino to run in this year’s presidential primaries but did not have a speaking role at the convention.

Wednesday in the Washington Post: “Michelle Lujan-Grisham says the convention is less important than what comes after for Democrats’ Latino outreach.”

New Mexico Gov. Lujan-Grisham, a passionate Biden supporter featured in a two-minute primetime video on Wednesday night, downplayed concerns about the lack of Latino representation during the convention.

Thursday on NBCNews.com’s opinion page: “Democrats need Latino voters. So where are the Latinos at the Democratic National Convention?” In her op-ed for NBCNews.com, Susanne Ramírez de Arellano, a journalist and self-described cultural critic, called the dearth of Latino speakers at the DNC “insulting and strategically tin-eared.”

The convention featured just four Latinx speakers in primetime slots as Democrats virtually met to select former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris to represent Democrats in the November presidential election

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto spoke Monday night about defending the right to vote. On Tuesday, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, an outspoken progressive and a rising star in the party, was called on to second the ultimately unsuccessful nomination of fellow democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, who far outpaced Biden among Latino voters during the primaries.

In her remarks, Ocasio-Cortez delivered an unflinching defense of a left-leaning, anti-racist, pro-immigrant, economically progressive agenda, at one point referring to “espiritu del pueblo,” which she later described on Twitter as “the spirit and ethos of the people, the real people…” 

On Thursday, Sanders noted that Ocasio-Cortez was not invited to speak at the convention by the Democratic Party, she was invited by Sanders to second his nomination. Sanders added that the party should have offered Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives “more time” to speak.

Lujan-Grisham appeared Wednesday night in a pre-recorded video that touted New Mexico’s “multicultural identity,” though the thrust of her message was primarily crafted to highlight Biden’s pro-environment platform.

On the final night of the convention, in the lead up to Biden’s closing keynote address, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla partnered with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to present a vigorous rebuke of President Trump’s attacks on voting by mail.

Despite the appearance of four prominent Hispanics in primetime convention slots, many believe Latinos, especially progressive Latinos, were starkly underrepresented at the convention.

Speaking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN Tuesday, Castro, said, “The DNC, I do think, should have put more folks on the platform in the beginning because representation does matter and it does send a strong message about inclusion for the party.”

Yet, Castro also went out of his way to praise the Biden-Harris ticket, saying, “We should make no mistake that in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris we have two fantastic people who have a strong track record with the Latino community.”

Christina Jiménez Moreta, co-founder of the immigrant youth activist group United We Dream, has been unforgiving.

In an op-ed published in the New York Times on the last day of the convention, Jiménez Moreta wrote, “The Democratic National Convention featured not only a slate of the party’s heavyweights, but also several prominent Republicans. Missing from the lineup? Prominent progressive Latinos.  Julián Castro, the only Latino to run for president in 2020 and who delivered a keynote speech at the 2012 convention, wasn’t given any speaking time. And don’t tell me that giving Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising superstar and arguably the most effective political communicator, just over 60 seconds of airtime was enough. She had less time to speak than a former Republican governor.”

Ocasio-Cortez actually spoke for almost two minutes, but the Republican Jiménez Moreta referenced, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, was granted a four-minute time slot to deliver a glowing endorsement of Biden, even as he assured viewers they need not worry about the former vice president veering “sharp left” because the former vice president is “reasonable, faithful, respectful…”

While just a handful of Latinos were featured in primetime slots, the event was hardly void of Latinos, Biden’s defenders say.

Actor and outspoken Latina activist Eva Longoria Bastón emceed the convention on Monday night and offered pointed opening remarks about the tragic loss of 170,000 Americans to COVID-19, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color, as well as the threat that President Trump poses to democracy.

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, appearing during a pre-show portion of the convention on Wednesday evening, fondly recounted her tenure in the Obama-Biden administration.

“The day Vice President Biden swore me in as Secretary of Labor was one of the proudest moments in my life,” said Solis, now a Los Angeles County Supervisor. “My parents realized they’d achieved their American Dream because the daughter of two blue-collar immigrants would make history and give voice to people just like them.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is Mexican American and Jewish, and Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez, who is Dominican American, also appeared at the convention. Nevada State Sen. Yvanna Cancela, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Texas State Rep. Victoria Neave were part of an extended and somewhat dizzying video that featured 17 “rising stars” in the Democratic Party. And in one of the convention’s most poignant appearances, Kristin Urquiza of Arizona blamed President Trump’s gross mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis for the death of her father, Mark Anthony Urquiza.

Bachata singer Prince Royce also delivered a performance that had him trending among young Latinx on Twitter.

Still, some wonder if the Latino electorate, especially younger voters, remains something of an afterthought to the Democratic Party’s elite and the Biden campaign itself.

“I think a lot of young Hispanic voters are asking why vote for Biden in November,” Julio Ricardo Varela, founder of Latino Rebels, told the Washington Post this week. “Someone like Castro could have been a symbol that represents that group of voters. I think it was a mistake not to include him.”

In an interview with USA Today, Janet Murguia, president and CEO of UnidosUS, had this advice for Democrats to consider: “You’ve got to really make sure that representation is not just seen, but is felt. And for us, we need to be seeing that representation.”

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