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'Wave' Of Influence…"How Hispanics Will Choose the Next President"

Author Cites Latino 'Wave' Of Influence


June 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Houston Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Calling all those interested in filling the U.S. presidency: Wake up and smell the demographic revolution.

Jorge Ramos wastes no time in telling you this; just take note of the title of his latest book, The Latino Wave: How Hispanics Will Choose the Next President (Rayo, $24.95).

"Latinos have reached a critical mass," he said in a recent phone interview. "For the first time in history, no candidate will be able to get to the White House without support of the Hispanic community."

Ramos co-anchors Noticiero Univisin, a popular newscast from the Spanish-language network Univisin that is broadcast across the United States and 13 Latin American countries. It airs locally at 5:30 p.m. on Channel 45.

The Emmy-winning journalist from Miami drew crowds recently while in Houston to promote his sixth book, including a signing attended by an estimated 1,000 fans.

As "a bridge between Latinos and non-Latinos," Ramos, 46, hopes his book will help Hispanics realize their newfound power and non- Hispanics understand "we are a very important part of this country, and we are not going anywhere."

Latinos today are more politically savvy than they were during the last presidential election, so gaining their support will take more than "sombrero-and-taco politics," Ramos says. "It's perfectly OK to try to reach us in Spanish . . . but they have to understand the Hispanic experience."

Which is that 40 percent of the population is poor, 60 percent do not have health insurance and 8 million are undocumented immigrants, he says. "And that Latinos want to be accepted as any other person in this country."

Nearly 39 million Hispanics make up 13.5 percent of the U.S. population, a number that continues to grow because of immigration and a high birth rate, Ramos says in his book. Close to 6 million Latinos voted in 2000; about 13 million were eligible.

A 2002 study shows that for every registered Hispanic Republican, more than two are registered Democrats, Ramos writes, yet "the gains made by George W. Bush during his 2000 campaign turned the Hispanic community into a battleground." Latinos, for example, tend to hold Republican views on such issues as homosexuality, divorce, abortion and contraception.

Ramos expects those serious about wooing Hispanic votes "to offer concrete solutions to specific problems:" jobs, education and health care as well as immigration amnesty for Central Americans and Mexicans, the fall of Fidel Castro and the definition of the political status of Puerto Rico.

Born in Mexico City, Ramos came to the United States more than 20 years ago. He joined the Los Angeles affiliate of Univisin in 1984 and, two years later, moved into his current job as network anchor.

Although his book focuses on politics, Ramos says Latino influence stretches beyond that. He cites these examples: A greater amount of tortillas and salsa are sold than bagels and ketchup in this country; Baseball player Alex Rodriguez makes an astronomical salary; America has the world's second-largest Spanish-speaking population, after Mexico.

"We are transforming the way the United States sounds and the way Americans communicate with each other," Ramos says.

The close proximity of their native lands - unlike, for example, the Italian immigrants who came before - have helped Latinos stay close to their culture, Ramos says.

But "it doesn't mean that we want to create a nation within a nation," he adds.

In his book, Ramos cites a study noting that the majority of Hispanic respondents believe this country offers better opportunities than their homeland but also feel the moral values of their homeland are stronger than those here.

"In a society plagued by divorce and separation, a group that defends the family and family values could only be a marvelous addition," Ramos says.

What will evolve is both the Latinization of the United States and the Americanization of Hispanics, he notes. "A mutual transformation."


Book excerpt Excerpted from The Latino Wave: How Hispanics Will Choose the Next President by Jorge Ramos.

It's a sad fact that whenever the country is facing serious problems, immigrants are often singled out as scapegoats. Economic recession, high unemployment, terrorist attacks - it's the immigrants who are to blame. But the vast majority of immigrants now living in the United States are peaceful people who are happy to be here. Immigrants as a whole do not deserve to be held responsible for the enormous failures of the CIA and FBI that allowed four separate planes to be commandeered and turned into flying bombs.

The government should certainly refine its intelligence services and prosecute any terrorists inside its borders. Nobody is questioning this. If the CIA, FBI, and the dozen or so related agencies had done their jobs well, September 11, 2001, would have gone down in history as just another sunny, cloudless day in Washington and New York. But they were wrong. Terribly wrong. Nevertheless, trying to make up for these mistakes by treating any given foreigner as a potential terrorist is akin to going after mosquitoes with a howitzer.

The National Immigration Forum clearly summed up the dilemma faced by many immigrants after the terrorist attacks. "Under the microscope of government scrutiny, immigrant communities across the U.S. are feeling under siege," it stated in a press release. "Unfortunately, the government's actions since September 11 - particularly the actions of the Justice Department - seem disorganized, scattershot, and aimed more to create fear and confusion in immigrant communities than to increase the safety of Americans in general."

Fighting terrorism and increasing our safety is vital: everyone who lives in this country wants to feel more secure. But treating all immigrants, foreigners, visitors, and tourists as suspects is counterproductive, exaggerated, and a waste of time.

Immigrants as a body are neither terrorists nor criminals. Nor should anybody feel the need to question the patriotism of immigrants who have decided to make the United States their permanent home. After the September 11 attacks, there were American flags waving in immigrant neighborhoods across the country. People who weren't even legal residents were willing to enlist and fight in the United States Army.

Discussing The Influence Of Latinos On American Politics

Charlie Rose

July 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004 FDCH / eMedia. All rights reserved.

PBS: The Charlie Rose Show

CHARLIE ROSE, HOST: Welcome to the broadcast tonight. Jorge Ramos, a well-known Latino broadcaster, talks about the influence of Latinos on American politics and the ability to elect a president.


JORGE RAMOS, ANCHOR, NOTICIERO UNIVISION: Since Ronald Regan, every single Republican candidate who gets more than 30 percent of the Hispanic vote wins the White House. Since Ronald Reagan. So the challenge for...

CHARLIE ROSE: So if Kerry gets 65, he loses?

JORGE RAMOS: It`s not enough. Al Gore got 67 percent in the year 2000, and it was not enough. So the big challenge, the huge challenge for John Kerry is to get not 67 percent. We know it`s not enough. The challenge for Kerry is trying to get 70 percent or more of the Hispanic vote.

CHARLIE ROSE: Jorge Ramos is here. He`s an author and journalist in television broadcast. He`s been an anchor for Noticiero Univision for nearly 17 years. He also writes a syndicated weekly column, which appears in 35 newspapers in the United States and Latin America. His books include "The Other Face of America," and "No Borders." He has a new book. It is called "The Latino Wave." I am pleased to have him at this table. Welcome.

JORGE RAMOS: Great to be here.

CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me the title, "How Hispanics Will Elect the Next American President." Why is that?

JORGE RAMOS: Here`s the argument. The country is divided politically between Bush and Kerry, polarized by the war. And we have eight million Hispanic voters that will go to the polls on November the 2nd. These eight million Hispanic voters are concentrated in many Hispanic states, with more than 10 percent of the Hispanic population...

CHARLIE ROSE: That includes California, Texas, Florida...

JORGE RAMOS: New Jersey, Illinois, New York. But the most important thing is that they are also concentrated in five battleground states -- Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. Therefore, if things go as they are right now, with Kerry and Bush fighting for every single vote, Latinos will decide who the next president of the United States is.

It`s not only my opinion. I had the opportunity to talk to President Bush in the year 2001. And he told me that he believed the Cuban-American vote decided the 2000 election. And I asked him.

CHARLIE ROSE: Because Florida was pivotal or for other reasons?

JORGE RAMOS: Because Florida was pivotal, and because the Cuban- American community was so against Al Gore and so against the Clinton administration, that at the end those 537 votes came from the Cuban- American community.

CHARLIE ROSE: Just for history`s sake, why were they so against it, because of the young boy?

JORGE RAMOS: Remember Elian Gonzalez? He was the 5-year-old rescued at sea, and who was sent back to Cuba by the Clinton administration. Al Gore couldn`t distance himself from that decision. And at the end, he lost Florida. Not only that, he gave up on Florida. He made a huge mistake during the last days of the campaign in the year 2000. The Democratic Party did not spend at all in Spanish language advertising. And at the same time, the Republican Party outspent the Democrats. George W. Bush kept on trying to speak Spanish in Florida.

CHARLIE ROSE: He actually does speak Spanish reasonably well, does he or not? Not so.

JORGE RAMOS: Both of them -- both of them try to speak Spanish.

CHARLIE ROSE: OK, let`s talk about Bush for a second, because Bush you see Bush speaking Spanish. I`m asking you, is it -- how would you characterize it? Be honest.

JORGE RAMOS: It`s very difficult to have a conversation with him in Spanish. Bill Clinton used to say that he wanted to be the last U.S. president who didn`t speak Spanish. George W. Bush is the first U.S. president who speaks Spanish, or if you want to say, he`s the first U.S. president who thinks that he speaks Spanish. But what`s so interesting...

CHARLIE ROSE: Now, is this your politics or you`re just saying this is the way it is?

JORGE RAMOS: No, no, no, that`s the way it is. What`s so interesting is that when he was a candidate, not as president right now, but when he was a candidate, he didn`t mind making mistakes in Spanish. He tried to communicate with Hispanic voters in Spanish. I remember the last interview I had with him. I asked him about 27, 28 questions; 14 of them he answered in Spanish.

CHARLIE ROSE: The mayor of New York is taking Spanish lessons. He even takes Spanish lessons, as I`m told...

JORGE RAMOS: And many members of Congress.

CHARLIE ROSE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Some of his future rivals, like city council president, taking Spanish.

JORGE RAMOS: John Kerry is...


JORGE RAMOS: As a matter of fact, I.

CHARLIE ROSE: He speaks fluent French, they say.

JORGE RAMOS: That`s what he says, and some German. John Kerry, I was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a few weeks ago, and John Kerry read a whole speech in Spanish. He also could be -- he mastered several words in Spanish, just as George W. Bush. I mean, they can say "viva Mexico, viva Puerto Rico." But they have to go beyond that to win the Hispanic vote in this election.

CHARLIE ROSE: OK, but I want to come back to that. Let`s just stay with it. If, in fact, John Kerry had chosen Bill Richardson, would that have won the election for him, in your judgment?

JORGE RAMOS: I think so.


JORGE RAMOS: They did not subscribe to the theory that the Hispanic vote was going to decide this election.

CHARLIE ROSE: They, the Democratic strategists? The Kerry campaign?

JORGE RAMOS: Yes. If they would have decided that, if they would have thought that, they would have chosen Bill Richardson Lopez, the governor of New Mexico. They decided that the election was not going to...

CHARLIE ROSE: It is -- it`s Bill Richardson Lopez?

JORGE RAMOS: Exactly, it`s really interesting. Bill Richardson Lopez, because that`s how many Latinos identify the governor of New Mexico, because his mother, Maria Lopez, was born in Mexico. And Bill Richardson actually grew up in Mexico City. He was born in California, but we -- the Hispanic community, we use two last names, your father`s and your mother`s. So he`s Bill Richardson Lopez.

Anyway, Democrats did not subscribe to the theory that Hispanics were going to decide this election, at least not wholeheartedly. And they went for John Edwards.

CHARLIE ROSE: For John Edwards? Oh, Kerry chose John Edwards.

JORGE RAMOS: Of course.

CHARLIE ROSE: People also make these distinctions -- Latinos in Florida are different from Latinos in Texas. And Latinos in Texas are different from Latinos in California, in terms of their interest, in terms of what motivates them to vote a certain way. Obviously, those in Florida are influenced by the Castro phenomenon, less so with the young than with the old.

JORGE RAMOS: That`s the case. And the Hispanic community is not monolithic.


JORGE RAMOS: It`s not a solid bloc. A Hispanic could be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) across the border illegally yesterday, from Tijuana to San Diego. And Cuban-Americans, who have been living for four decades in South Florida. And the family of Raul Isairre (ph), who has been living -- whose generations in New Mexico, they`ve been in the state for centuries.

So 70 percent of Hispanics tend to vote more for the Democratic Party than for the Republican Party. And it is very difficult sometimes to find common ground. However, there is common ground. In Spanish, in the importance of bilingual education, in jobs.

CHARLIE ROSE: Immigration?

JORGE RAMOS: Immigration, yes. The majority of Latinos tend to believe that something has to be done about eight or nine or probably 10 million undocumented immigrants living in this country.

So yes, even though it`s a very diverse community, and even though it`s funny -- because when you ask a Latino to identify himself or herself, first he will say, well, I`m from Mexico, I`m Mexican, or I`m Puerto Rican or I`m Cuban. Then they might say, well, I`m Latino or Hispanic; and later maybe they`ll think to identify themselves as Americans. So it`s a double consciousness or a double identity.

CHARLIE ROSE: What is the appropriate way to speak? I mean, you use the word Latino. That`s why I picked up on that.

JORGE RAMOS: And Hispanic. Hispanic is interchangeable with Latino.

CHARLIE ROSE: There is not one that`s preferred by the community?

JORGE RAMOS: In the East Coast, people prefer Hispanic. In the West Coast, it`s Latino.

Actually, we were baptized by Richard Nixon in the 1970s. He realized that he did not have enough Latinos or Hispanics in the government, in the federal government, and he imposed this definition of Hispanic for the 1970 census. People at the beginning had decided to use the word Latino, but it was so close to another word that it has a negative meaning in Spanish, ladino (ph), that they decided to go to with Hispanic.

CHARLIE ROSE: They are the fastest -- they, you -- the fastest growing population in America or not?


CHARLIE ROSE: Continues to be

JORGE RAMOS: Not only that. Not only that. Hispanics grew 50 percent in the last decade. We are 40 million Latinos right now. In 50 years from now, there will be 100 million Latinos. And this is the amazing news. In 120 years from now, there will be more Hispanics than non- Hispanic whites.

In other words, the United States will have a Hispanic majority. What does that mean? Does it mean the United States will be a bilingual country? I tend to believe that. At least some states will be bilingual.

Does it mean that Latinos want to take cover? I don`t think so. Does it mean that Hispanics are creating a nation within a nation? I don`t think so either, because Latinos are integrating very fast into the society. However, what`s so amazing is that this country will have a Hispanic majority, and many people of course are afraid of that. They do not understand that this is a multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial society, and that we are just emphasizing what`s the most important about this country.

CHARLIE ROSE: You can`t predict -- you can`t necessarily articulate this in an easy way, simply because it`s difficult to know. What do the most -- the majority of Latinos want from America?

JORGE RAMOS: They want to be accepted. They want to be respected. And they want to be recognized as an important part of this society. Latinos want to be part of this country. Latinos are part of America.

A common misperception is that all Latinos only speak Spanish and that all Latinos are immigrants. The reality is that 60 percent of Latinos were born here in the United States, like my son Nicholas and my daughter Paula. My wife is Puerto Rican from Cuban descent, so my son is Puerto-Cuban- Mexican-American. In other words, he`s a new American.

CHARLIE ROSE: Samuel Huntington has a controversial book out.

JORGE RAMOS: Very controversial.

CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me what you think of it.

JORGE RAMOS: He`s wrong.

CHARLIE ROSE: He says watch out.

JORGE RAMOS: And he`s wrong.

CHARLIE ROSE: Watch out, because it`s going to change America. He`s right that it will change America. You just will argue...

JORGE RAMOS: For the best.

CHARLIE ROSE: That it will be for the better rather than the worse?

JORGE RAMOS: He says that Latinos are a threat to the integrity of the United States. But he doesn`t understand. He doesn`t -- Octavio Paz, the Mexican poet.

CHARLIE ROSE: Right, great poet.

JORGE RAMOS: He used to say that the most important challenge for the United States was to recognize itself as a multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial society. And Huntington doesn`t get it. He simply doesn`t get it. He doesn`t understand that Latinos are assimilating very fast politically and economically. Second-generation Latinos, like Nicholas and Paula, feel more comfortable in English than in Spanish. Third-generation Latinos tend to marry outside the Hispanic community. There are four million Hispanics right now in the process of becoming U.S. citizens.

Last year, I spent three weeks in Iraq and Kuwait. And I happened to meet dozens of Latinos, many of them who are not U.S. citizens, who were willing to risk their lives for the United States, even though...

CHARLIE ROSE: You mean serving in the military?

JORGE RAMOS: Serving in the military, even though they`re not U.S. citizens. In other words, it would be unfair and unwise for Huntington and for any other person to question the loyalty and patriotism of Latinos. Latinos, again, they want to be accepted, respected and be part of this country.

CHARLIE ROSE: When do you think we`ll see a Latino president?

JORGE RAMOS: Hopefully, he has been born. Actually, I dedicate.


JORGE RAMOS: I do dedicate the book to the first Hispanic U.S. president. And it could be Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico. Not obviously in this year, but maybe four years from now, or eight years from now. If you believe the Republicans, it could be George P. Bush, the nephew of President Bush, the son of Jeb Bush, governor of Florida, and his wife, Colomba.

CHARLIE ROSE: The president says that?

JORGE RAMOS: Many Republicans believe that George P. Bush could be the first Hispanic U.S. president. He`s a very young...

CHARLIE ROSE: Very attractive young man.

JORGE RAMOS: . ambitious, intelligent young man. I met him.

CHARLIE ROSE: What does he do?

JORGE RAMOS: He`s studying law and he`s working for a judge. That`s why we haven`t seen him in the campaign right now. He was probably the most important asset for President Bush to be elected in the year 2000. He was not only on the cover of "People" magazine, but he speaks Spanish and English obviously.


JORGE RAMOS: Fluently. And not only that, I remember having now President Bush and Governor Bush and George P. Bush, and journalists wanted to ask questions to George P. Bush, not to the candidate.

CHARLIE ROSE: If you had to predict today, today, let`s say not in terms of where we`ll be in November, who has -- where do you think the vote would split in the Latino community if the election was today?

JORGE RAMOS: No question Kerry will win the Hispanic vote. But it`s a matter of percentages. Since Ronald Reagan, every single Republican candidate who gets more than 30 percent of the Hispanic vote wins the White House. Since Ronald Reagan. So the challenge for...

CHARLIE ROSE: So if Kerry gets 65, he loses?

JORGE RAMOS: It`s not enough. Al Gore got 67 percent in the year 2000, and it was not enough. So the big challenge, the huge challenge for John Kerry is to get not 67 percent. We know it`s not enough. The challenge for Kerry is trying to get 70 percent or more of the Hispanic vote.

The last poll that I saw from "The Miami Herald" was that George Bush had about 33, 34 percent of the Hispanic vote up to this point. And John Kerry was close to 60 percent. That`s not enough. That`s why I say that Bill Richardson could have helped the Kerry ticket much more than any other candidate.

CHARLIE ROSE: And what are your ambitions?

JORGE RAMOS: Just to be a journalist. That`s it. What else? It`s the greatest opportunity. I came to this country because I was censored in Mexico. My full report on TV was censored. It was not that important, but I was criticizing the then-president (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I was 22, 23. And I was censored. So I decided to come to this country, because I wanted to be a free journalist.

And it has been a fantastic ride. As Ariana Falacci (ph), the Italian journalist likes to say, this is an extraordinary but at the same time terrible profession, because you see the best. I have seen the fall of the Berlin Wall and I`ve talked to more than 60 presidents, and I`ve seen the worst. I`ve been to five wars. So I couldn`t have asked for a better profession or for a better life.

CHARLIE ROSE: It`s great to have you here. Jorge Ramos, the book is called "The Latino Wave: How Hispanics Will Elect the Next American President."

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