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Orlando Sentinel

Boricua Hits Streets To Enlist Voters

By Kelly Brewington | Sentinel Staff Writer

October 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

Hispanic activists are making a last-minute push to register voters and draw their attention to some of the biggest issues confronting Hispanics in Central Florida this weekend.

The Orlando chapter of the National Boricua Human Rights Network, joined by chapters in cities such as Chicago and New York, will canvass neighborhoods making a pitch to register voters. The deadline to register for the November general election is Monday.

The Orlando group also will hold a series of seminars concerning issues that range from building a local Hispanic coalition to delving into the turmoil in Vieques, the Puerto Rican island where the U.S. Navy has a bombing range. The workshops will be at 12:30 p.m. at Valencia Community College's East Campus.

In addition, the Office for the Government of Puerto Rico in Orlando is also involved in a voter-registration campaign as part of Puerto Rico Gov. Sila Calderón's three-year, nonpartisan voter-education campaign.

The group will take part in events surrounding Sunday's Puerto Rican Day parade, which starts at noon at Mills Avenue and Robinson Street and ends at Orlando Festival Park.

Advocates hope the last-minute push will result in a huge Hispanic turnout.

Politicians know that the Hispanic vote in Central Florida is crucial to nearly every campaign this year.

"Anyone that looks at the demographic shifts in Florida and the increase in the Hispanic population since 2000 knows their vote is important," said Susan MacManus, political science professor at the University of South Florida.

MacManus said how Central Florida's Hispanics will vote remains a toss-up.

Irving Forestier, spokesman for the Orlando chapter of the National Boricua Human Rights Network, said he's not interested in whom voters support, as long as they make it to the polls Nov 5.

While much of the weekend's events focus on the Puerto Rican population, organizers with the Boricua Human Rights Network said they hope to stress the importance of a Hispanic coalition.

"We need to start saying, 'We are different nations, but we have many issues that we have in common,' " Forestier said.

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