Latinos in the nation’s capital were absorbing the seismic political shift created as Donald Trump took the oath and faced the world as the nation’s 45th president.
For Victor Diaz, 58, of Lansing, Michigan, it was a celebratory time.
“I’m a big Trump supporter; I’m a big supporter of individual rights and freedoms,” said Diaz, who described himself as an “Atlas Shrugged” fan. The book is considered a “bible” for those who advocate for little government and unfettered libertarian policies. “I think Hispanics by nature are driven to more entrepreneurial enterprises to just drive and make the best for their families and that’s what Trump supports.That’s what he wants.”
Erick Walden, 24, born in Nicaragua and living in Virginia, carried with him a Hillary Clinton face cutout. He said he and his father had been to the Obama inauguration and came to this too to continue the tradition.
I think Hispanics by nature are driven to more entrepreneurial enterprises to just drive and make the best for their families and that’s what Trump supports.That’s what he wants
But they stood among a crowd of fellow Hillary supporters and protesters who chanted about Trump, “not my president.” Walden said that made the event “good.”
“I saw him swearing that he’s going to respect the Constitution of the United States — he’s not going to do it,” said Walden. “I don’t believe he’s going to last two, more than two years. He’s going to be involved in too many scandals. He’s going to try to raise money for himself.”
In his first remarks as commander in chief, Trump struck a different tone than the “hope and change” espoused by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
In stark terms, Trump said, “This American carnage stops right here,” describing a country of shuttered factories, dilapidated infrastructure and battered inner cities.
At the Capitol Hill Club, a group of mainly Latino Republicans had gathered to watch the events on television. Danny Vargas, a Virginia-based Republican consultant, said that although he shared in his fellow Republicans’ excitement for the incoming GOP administration, Trump’s speech could have had a different tone.
“They could have been a little less about campaigning and a little more about unity — I could have seen a bit more of that, to begin to ease some of the division and wounds and build more bridges,” said Vargas.
But Theresa Alvillar-Speake, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Energy under George W. Bush, said that she understands why Trump wants to deal with “America first.”
“It’s kind of like when I’m in the airplane and they say put your masks on first before helping anyone else,” said Alvillar-Speake. “Right now we’re in the process of putting our mask on; our infrastructure, our military, our vets, all these things are broken and need to be brought up before we help others.”
Helen Aguirre Ferré, who was named special adviser to Trump and director of media affairs, told NBC that Hispanic families’ concerns “are well in hand — school choice, religious liberty, who is going to be serving in our Supreme Court.”
But for progressives, there was concern about how future policies would impact the nation’s Latinos.
Clarissa Martinez de Castro, deputy vice president for the National Council of La Raza, said there’s the issue of what happens to the millions who obtained health insurance if Obamacare is repealed, as well as the effects of tax policies on vulnerable families and children.
And like others in the immigrant rights and progressive community, she expressed apprehension over any changes in immigration enforcement and policy.
“While we know that almost eight in 10 Latinos are U.S. citizens, we also know that the issue of immigration is central to our nervous system, and what is done to immigrants, is felt through every extremity of the Latino community,” Martinez de Castro said. “We’re hearing a lot of rumors about a scorched earth approach to the immigrant community, and we…are going to fight to protect and defend those vulnerable populations.”
Though a large majority of the nation’s Latino voters did not vote for Trump, his supporters were optimistic that his presidency would bring better things for their families and the country.
“We needed someone to go against the politically correct culture,” said Juan Andrés Caro, 21, originally from Cali, Colombia and a student at Colorado State University. His family owns a small business in the tourism industry in Miami and he thinks that better times ahead will mean they will be able to hire more people.
Miami resident Cesar Lopez, whose wife worked for Trump’s campaign, said that “we elected him, so the politicians have to go by our election. He’s our president and we have to back him up.”
Victoria de Francesco Soto