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GOP Friendly Cubans vs. Staunch Latino Dems

Hollywood's Esai Morales, Dennis Leoni, Richard Yñiguez and others decipher the great American conundrum

By Elia Esparza, Latin Heat
Published on LatinoLA: September 10, 2012


GOP Friendly Cubans vs. Staunch Latino Dems


Originally published at Latin Heat

The 2012 Presidential Elections has the entire nation engaging in debates like I've never witnessed before. The current flock of Hollywood Latino celebrities and talent are actively participating "up front and personal" in larger unprecedented numbers.

It's as if the guard is changing and veteran actor/activists like Martin Sheen and Edward James Olmos are no longer alone. Today, more Latino celebrities like Eva Longoria and Jessica Alba have forged to the forefront of the re-election of President Barack Obama's campaign.

Recently, I asked "actorvists" (actor/activists) Esai Morales, Julia Vera, Richard Yñiguez and producer/director Dennis Leoni, and actor/yoga guru Julie Carmen if they could explain why Cubans primarily vote GOP and Mexicans and other Latinos tend to favor the Democrats. It turned into one of the most fascinating Facebook conversation panel threads I've ever participated in.

But I'm still not sure the question was fully answered.

Maybe it can't be.

Also participating in this and Henry Puente (Assistant Professor of Communications at California State University, Fullerton.) He has extensive entertainment industry experience and is a former film distribution executive.

We reached out to several high profile Cuban talent to participate but for whatever the reason, they didn't respond as we had hoped. However, hearing Cuban-American TV personality and former host Cristina Saralegui's speech at the DNC convention was inspiring and it touched upon the very topic we are discussing here. Christina's support for Obama and the Democrats is something she is very proud of and she also does much to negate the Cubans like Senator Marco Rubio and other Florida Cubans who tend to vote Republican. Source: Being Latino

However, when I Googled the Cuban/Mexican question, the answers were varied and made it impossible to pin down a credible explanation. Most commentary posted is racist and full of misunderstandings of cultural and economic differences. In a recent Fox News Latino article, a distinction was drawn between Senator Marco Rubio and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro based on their separate nationalities and the politics perceived to originate in those nationalities.

So is it a widely held but misconceived belief that Cuban Americans all come from wealth and vote Republican, and that Mexican Americans all come from poverty and vote Democratic. New Mexico retired Mexican-American educator Moises Venegas, believes the same:

"The Cubans have never been one of us. They didn't come from Chihuahua or Sonora in Mexico and from poor backgrounds. They came from affluent backgrounds and have a different perspective. The Republican Party also has opened doors just for them."

I'm not sure if this editorial will create a Hollywood storm that permeates through diverse Latino communities or not, but here is our best attempt at shedding light on a question that's been brewing on many Latino minds. Recently, while watching the GOP convention with my niece, she asked an interesting question, based on the rhetoric she was listening to on TV:

Are Cuban-Americans Latinos?

Everyone said, "Yes, of course, Cubans are Latinos."

Dennis Leoni: "Their political belief doesn't define who they are ethnically."

Esai Morales: "However, I think Cuban Americans are a unique subset."

Henry Puente: "I don't think that political ideology should determine whether or not a person is Latino."

Q: Marco Rubio said in an interview during the GOP Convention that most Cubans tended to relate more to the Republican philosophy but that there were a few exceptions. Why, in your opinion, do you think Cubans subscribe more to the Republican philosophy and Mexicans and other Latinos tend to side more with the Democrats?

Esai Morales: "Not easy to answer. With the exception of the Marielito 'boat people,' the early Cuban arrivals exhibit a tremendous sense of self-esteem and gumption in general. In my opinion, the 'boat people' may share the colonized mind-set usually associated with oppressed immigrants and other Latinos. The ones who came here first after the revolution were political refugees. Many were among the captains of industry in Cuba; the "haves" if you will. These Cuban-Americans were and still are from the most educated and or monied families who 'ran things on the island.' This group had a lot more business acumen that accompanied them to their new home."

Richard Yñiguez: "Being part of a party is ideology, self interest, and in some cases peer pressure. Cuban-Americans are a very committed block of voters and believe that the Republican platform serves them. You can also look within the ranks of the military, the Law enforcement community and can't help but come away scratching your head with the amount of Republican supporters."

Dennis Leoni: "Many just have a conservative perspective because of their history and their hatred of Castro. Most of those forced to flee to the U.S. were the aristocracy and the bourgeois of Cuba, which is also a contributing factor in their political outlook. With money comes conservatism. The irony of this is that Castro is not really a communist. He only aligned himself with Kruschev, who wasn't really a communist, either, to spite Eisenhower and Nixon, who spurned and insulted him. Castro is really a fascist dictator which is on the conservative far right side of the political spectrum. Coming from a working class Mexican family, personally I will never understand why there are conservative Latinos. Republican Latino seems like an oxymoron to me."

Henry Puente: "I don't believe that a Republican Latino is an oxymoron. I also don't believe that a Democrat Cuban is an oxymoron. I personally feel that neither party has really done much to win support from Latinos in general. Republicans assume that they will not vote for them, so they incorporate policies that do not benefit Latinos. In contrast, Democrats assume that we will vote for them, so they don't incorporate policies that will benefit Latinos. At the end of the day, I always find myself voting for the lesser of two evils."

This is only an excerpt of the editorial. To read the full story, go to http://latinowood.blogspot.com/

Don't miss out on what Julia Vera, Julie Carmen and the rest of the panel have to say about this topic.

Edited by: Casandra Moreno Lombera

Latin Heat Entertainment 2012 All Rights Reserved

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