Nevada's Hispanic Community Reflect On Influence In Caucus

This story was written by Michael Lyle, The Rebel Yell
Before the Latino communities lined up to make their voices heard at Nevada's caucus on Jan. 19, the Democratic presidential candidates had already won their vote.

Announcements on the radio, signs around town and commercials on TV captivated Latinos in Las Vegas because of the availability of political endorsements in Spanish.

Signs that said "S' se puede" and "Como se llama? Obama" were part of the campaigns appealing to Latinos, with the hope of getting them involved in the caucus and win their vote for certain political parties.

According to the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau, Nevada's population is comprised of nearly a quarter of Hispanic or Latino people; 27.7 percent of Latino or Hispanic people are within Clark County alone. Because of this significant population size, winning the Latino vote could be vital to the candidates.

Despite the influence of Latinos in the caucus, outreach toward the community has been mostly one-sided.

"It was primarily Democratic candidates ... it was only Democrats," said UNLV political science graduate Evelyn Flores. "It was primarily Hillary [Clinton] and [Barack] Obama."

Juan-Carlos Espinoza Cuellar, a Latino student majoring in English and women's studies, said that Republican candidates did not campaign specifically to Latino communities because of their stance on illegal immigration.

"The Republican Party knows Latinos won't vote for them because of all the efforts made by them," Cuellar said.

"I think there is a more humanistic platform presented by Democratic candidates," Flores added.

She said the National Democratic Party held the caucus in Spanish and campaigns would hold meetings and distribute information in Spanish as well.

Shannon Gilson, Nevada state communication director for the Obama campaign, said they held more than 200 mock caucuses, making information available in Spanish.

"We reached out to all constituents to encourage everyone to caucus for change," Gilson said.

As a result, a significant number of Latinos showed up to caucus.

"Hillary's campaign had a very successful tactic," Cuellar said.

He added that he heard 15 to 20 percent of the voters were Latino.

"The community knows what is at stake," Flores added. "The issue of immigration has pushed the community to become proactive through voting."

"Living in an era of anti-immigration, there is a sense of urgency [to act]," Cuellar said.

That urgency was definitely felt on Jan. 19.

Prior to Clinton's Nevada victory and even before the caucus, Flores wondered whether or not Obama would be able to capture the Latino vote.

Even with Obama's surging momentum, she said Clinton was still getting the most media attention.

"Hillary has been on the front cover for the last few months," she said. "Even when Obama won Iowa, his victory was on the last page."

Gilson pointed out Obama's victory in Iowa and how it contradicts speculations that he would not have gotten the Latino vote.

"He got the Hispanic vote in Iowa," Gilson said.

Such speculation, Cuellar said, drives an unrealistic narrative of conflict between the two candidates.

Flores said a New York Times article opened her eyes as to just how bad things had gotten. The media, she said, were simply trying to pit the candidates against each other.

"The article said that there is tension between the [black and Latino] communities and the Latinos won't be able to look beyond this tension," Flores said.

She added that the article should have looked at commonalities that could bring the groups together. Both are disproportionately represented and constantly marginalized, she said, dding that black civil rights leaders collaborated with Latino leaders as well.

"Before Martin Luther King died, he worked with Chicano civil rights leaders," Flores said.
© 2008 The Rebel Yell via U-WIRE