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Orlando Sentinel


Blueprint For Hispanic Respect, Power

By Armando Ramirez

June 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.

The Osceola County commissioners' proposal to appoint a Hispanic liaison to reduce the existing chasm separating our community and our local government is delusory.

What our Hispanic community really needs is to elect one of our own. We need a qualified individual with integrity, who takes pride in his cultural roots and idiosyncrasies -- not a sycophant. We are very industrious and proud people. We will never be satisfied by picking up falling bread crumbs from the good old boys' table.

The proposal is simply a political ploy in an election year to lure Hispanics, who make up one-third of Osceola County's population and 45 percent of Kissimmee residents. Proponents want Hispanic voters to be swayed by this fallacious proposition of having a Hispanic appointee with a flamboyant title and no teeth.

It's clear that commissioners running for re-election hope to ingratiate themselves with the Hispanic community.

In the national picture, industry and office seekers are trying to cater to the interests of 35 million Hispanics. They want us to buy their products or to vote for them. However, in myriad American businesses, particularly Hollywood, the same good old boys want Latinos to be ethnically present only to the Latino audience but ethnically invisible to a majority audience. As a recent New York Times article points out, Latinos remain absent from movies and prime-time television shows that seek a mass audience.

Furthermore, if Hispanics want a piece of the action -- the American dream -- and their wish to be represented appropriately in all forums of government, we must grab the bull by the horns. That means we must take the following steps:

    *Register to vote.

    *Be well-informed about social and political issues, particularly about the candidates running for office. Make sure you do a background check on the most viable candidates wishing to be elected.

    *Be pro-active and get involved with our diverse community and not just Hispanics. Encourage others to get involved with their community and to participate in the political process and vote.

Simply put, Hispanics seek respect. However, you must bear in mind that respect is not given. Respect is earned, particularly in the political arena.

Our Hispanic community throughout the United States is growing at a rapid pace. In essence, we are a giant, especially in Central Florida. But, unfortunately, the giant is in a state of lethargy.

It is incumbent upon us, and our duty, to awaken the sleeping giant. Opportunity will be knocking, leading up to Election Day in November. Prepare yourself, inspire others and send an unequivocal message. We can have a tremendous impact on our state legislature, the current administration in Tallahassee and the White House. Then and only then will our community earn the respect we have been yearning and pursuing for such a long time.

Armando Ramirez is vice chair of the Osceola County Democratic Party and a civil- and voting-rights advocate.

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