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Associated Press

Bush Celebrates Hispanic Heritage


October 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON (AP) - Aided by the sounds of Latin music and the presence of Miss Universe and Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, President Bush threw a White House reception Wednesday in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

"Our country is a strong country because of our diversity," Bush told a buoyant East Room audience, mixing a smattering of Spanish into his remarks. "We welcome the great values that our Hispanic Americans bring to America, the values of faith y familia. Part of our entrepreneurial spirit is made stronger by the Hispanics who live in America."

But the event drew sneers from the Democratic Party, which accused Bush in a statement of "perfecting the art of 'mariachi politics' with a White House celebration that includes food, music and a photo op with 'el Presidente' Bush."

"The Hispanic community deserves more than a nice pat on the back and a few scattered words in broken Spanish from President Bush," said Terry McAuliffe, Democratic National Committee chairman.

Mindful of the political importance of the growing Hispanic constituency, Bush took pains to introduce nearly everyone in the standing-room-only crowd - numerous Hispanics he has appointed to posts in his administration, Latino sports luminaries and presidential friends.

"I appreciate my friend Emilio Estefan ... and I see my friend Raul from Texas," went the litany of acknowledgments of those joining Justine Pasek of Panama, crowned Miss Universe two weeks ago after the initial winner was dethroned, and Garciaparra.

Bush also treated his guests to a briefing on the education reform law he signed at the beginning of the year, a slap at the Democratic-controlled Senate for lack of action on a Hispanic judicial nominee, and a version of his stump speech on Iraq.

Bush nodded and smiled through the musical performances from Texans Jennifer Pena and Jaci Velasquez and Latin Grammy-nominated Gian Marco of Peru.

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