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Florida's Latino voters will be a factor in the primary
Latino demonstrators protested outside the GOP debate in Tampa on January 23.
January 25th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Florida's Latino voters will be a factor in the primary

Editor's note: Watch In America's documentary about the race to capture the Latino vote on CNN in October 2012.

(CNN) - As the attention of the nation turns toward Florida ahead of its primary election, the Latino vote has emerged as an important factor.

For decades, Republican candidates could count on that vote to help them win elections in the Sunshine State, especially in the southern part of Florida where a strong Cuban-American community is a political force.

But a change has been brewing recently.

"Sixty percent of non-Cuban Hispanics are Democrats," said Florida International University Prof. Daniel Alvarez.

New data analyzed by the Pew Hispanic Center seems to confirm Alvarez's statement. Based on figures from the Florida Division of Elections, registered Latino Democrats now outnumber registered Republicans.

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Filed under: Latino in America • Politics
FBI arrests Connecticut cops accused of racial profiling
The U.S. Department of Justice accused the East Haven police in Connecticut discrimination against Latinos.
January 24th, 2012
06:09 PM ET

FBI arrests Connecticut cops accused of racial profiling

(CNN) - The FBI has arrested three East Haven, Connecticut, police patrol officers and one sergeant for their alleged role in the mistreatment of Latinos - the first arrests to stem from a federal investigation into racial profiling in that town.

The men allegedly threatened and assaulted detainees, made false arrests - including one against a local clergy member - and later conspired to cover up evidence of their conduct by falsifying reports and blocking an investigation, prosecutors said Tuesday during a news conference in Bridgeport.

Sgt. John Miller and officers David Cari, Dennis Spaulding and Jason Zullo were arrested early Tuesday for allegedly conspiring to "injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate various members of the East Haven community," profiling residents during traffic stops, performing illegal searches and harassing Latino business owners and their advocates, according to the indictment.

"They behaved like bullies with badges," said Janice Fedarcyk, assistant FBI director in New York.

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January 20th, 2012
01:50 PM ET

Can Romney’s Mexico ties, Spanish ads woo Latino voters?

Editor's note: Watch In America's documentary about the race to capture the Latino vote on CNN in October 2012.

By Rafael Romo, CNN Senior Latin American Affairs Editor

Chihuahua, Mexico (CNN) - In the town of Colonia Juarez, where houses look much like homes in the American Southwest, there lives a family named Romney.

Mitt Romney’s great-grandfather led the first group of Mormons to the state of Chihuahua to flee religious persecution. Mitt Romney’s father George - an auto executive, and Michigan governor who also ran for president in the United States - was born nearby, in a town called Colonia Dublan. He left with his parents when he was only five years old, but Romney relatives still live nearby.

Romney mentioned his family's connections to Mexico on the campaign trail earlier this month, then released a slew of new political ads, including Spanish ads in Florida, a state with a high concentration of Latinos. In one of the ads, Romney’s son Craig, who speaks Spanish, talks about liberty, opportunity and how the United States is a country where “anything is possible.”

“My father, Mitt Romney, believes in those American values because he has lived them himself and he will fight to restore the greatness of our nation,” Craig Romney says in the ad.

For the ad, the Romney campaign also enlisted three influential Latino Republican leaders from Florida, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, his brother, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“Romney believes in us,” Mario Diaz-Balart says in the ad. As it’s customary, at the end of the ad Romney himself says - in Spanish - that he approves the message. “Soy Mitt Romney y apruebo este mensaje.”

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Filed under: Immigration • Latino in America • Politics • Who we are
Opinion: How the GOP could gain the elusive Latino vote
Somos Republicans endorsed Newt Gingrich, but Fernando Espuelas says GOP candidates need to learn more about Latinos.
January 18th, 2012
05:22 PM ET

Opinion: How the GOP could gain the elusive Latino vote

Editor’s note: Fernando Espuelas is the host and managing editor of the national talk show "Fernando Espuelas" on Univision Radio. He is also a political analyst on television, print and online. Espuelas is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Watch In America's documentary about the race to capture the Latino Vote on CNN, October 2012.

By Fernando Espuelas, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Republican political lore has it that Latinos are natural GOP voters. Family-oriented and deeply religious in many cases, Latinos would seem to be a natural segment of the electorate to connect with the Republican social conservative ethos that dominates today's GOP.

But voting patterns have shown a different reality – so far, American Latinos have tended, election after election, to prefer Democratic candidates by wide margins. In the last presidential election cycle, for example, Barack Obama captured 67% of the Latino vote to John McCain's 31%. In key swing states such as Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, Latinos provided Obama's margin of victory.

It is clear, as we head into November's national election, that it will be very difficult for either the eventual GOP nominee or the president to win the election without a strong showing among this growing group of voters. Candidates are eagerly reaching out to Latino voters in South Carolina and Florida with Spanish-language ads and targeted events.

Yet, when I speak with Republican strategists, smart people with records of success in electing candidates, I am struck by how little they seem to know about American Latinos.

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As number of Latino evangelicals grows, it's not politics as usual
January 13th, 2012
05:56 PM ET

As number of Latino evangelicals grows, it's not politics as usual

Editor's Note: What really matters to Latino voters in the 2012 election? Watch the In America documentary about Latino voters in October 2012 on CNN.

By Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor

(CNN) - It’s a greeting that always makes Mark Jobe smile: “I really loved today’s Mass, Father Mark.”

Jobe is the senior pastor of New Life Community Church, which has 14 campuses across Chicago and its suburbs. He said he hears those words at least once a month, usually from newcomers - Hispanics raised in the Catholic faith who’ve started attending his non-denominational Christian church.

When Jobe launched New Life Community Church 25 years ago, the Midway neighborhood where his main campus is located was primarily populated by descendants of Polish, Lithuanian and Italian immigrants. Now, the neighborhood is primarily Hispanic.

Jobe estimates that as much as 70% of New Life’s 6,000 members are Hispanic.

“They don’t typically undermine [the church] where they came from,” Jobe said.
“They value the tradition, but what they often tell me is that they were not learning as much about the Bible and how it relates to their life today.”

The shift at New Life Community Church in Chicago is a reflection of a national trend, according to Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

“While three-quarters of first-generation Hispanics [in the United States] are Catholic, the percentage for second- and third-generation Latinos goes down to less than 60%,” Lugo said. “Generation makes a huge difference. Later generations are much more likely to be converts.”

Why does it matter? According to the Pew Forum, there are key political differences among Latinos based on their religious preference.

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Filed under: Latino in America • Politics • Religion • Who we are
Opinion: Albert Cutié: It's time to talk about sex at church - and marriage for clergy
"Maybe having married clergy will help us all move on from a culture of sexual taboos," Albert Cutié writes
January 12th, 2012
02:13 PM ET

Opinion: Albert Cutié: It's time to talk about sex at church - and marriage for clergy

Editor's note: Albert Cutié is an Episcopal priest and former Roman Catholic priest known as Padre Alberto or "Father Oprah." He is the author of the memoir, "Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love" and hosted the talk show "Father Albert." He's on Twitter @padrealberto.

By Fr. Albert Cutié, Special to CNN

(CNN) - I remember one of the stories shared about an old, revered Cuban pastor in the most popular Roman Catholic parish in Little Havana, near downtown Miami. He was often recognized as an outstanding local hero in the first stop for thousands of Cuban refugees, an area that is now home to thousands of Central American immigrants who also seek a better life in the United States.

One afternoon in the old dark church, 100 or so 7- to 12-year olds from the religious instruction classes known as “catecismo” were preparing to make their Lenten confession. The priest went through a list of the commandments and asked the children to think of any sins they may have committed so they could mention them once they sat face to face with a priest.

He spoke on each commandment for about 10 to 15 minutes. When he got to “You shall not commit adultery," he simply stated, “No hagan cositas feas” - don’t do ugly or dirty things. That was it. The explanation or reflection that had to do with sex lasted less than 15 seconds.

But let’s not blame the old monsignor for his curt approach. When it comes to sex, many Latinos still consider it a taboo subject, especially when there’s a religious component involved. We have the spiciest media, telenovelas, magazines and are perceived as less “prude” than our Anglo counterparts. But when it comes to religion and sexuality, we prefer not to connect the two - and never let them touch. We simply do not feel comfortable talking or dealing openly with sex and religion.

Recently, a prominent Latino auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, Gabino Zavala, was forced to resign as a result of the discovery that he had fathered two children, now teenagers, while he was a priest and bishop. Of course, this was the result of a romantic relationship, sexual and hidden, with the mother of his offspring. We are in the 21 st century and we still hear reactions like “scandal” and “betrayal,” and some talk of “breaking vows.”

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Filed under: How we live • Latino in America • Relationships • Religion • What we think
January 7th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Searching Mexico's census for a clues about American history

By Michael Martinez, CNN

(CNN) - For professional genealogists – and amateurs like actor Edward James Olmos – an extraordinary moment is unfolding for the nation’s Latino community, thanks to the digital age.

It’s the revelation of the 1930 Mexican census, which was distributed free online this year.

Decades ago, such data might not have been as meaningful. But the United States’ own recent census now shows that Latinos are the nation’s No. 2 group in 2010. With 50.5 million Hispanics now in the United States, the 1930 Mexican census offers a glimpse into the heritage and history of an emerging cornerstone community – especially because 31.8 million Americans are of Mexican descent.

“All of the information that we’re getting from the census is really extraordinary because it’s leading us into different realms of understanding of what was happening at the time to our family,” Olmos said. “It’s been quite an experience to go in there, and it’s been very educational.”

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Opinion: Albert Cutié: Preaching the Latino gospel in the United States
Albert Cutié says politicians -- like Florida Governor Rick Scott, center -- strategically reach out to Latinos. But do churches?
December 30th, 2011
01:52 PM ET

Opinion: Albert Cutié: Preaching the Latino gospel in the United States

Editor's note: Albert Cutié is an Episcopal priest and former Roman Catholic priest known as Padre Alberto or "Father Oprah." He is the author of the memoir, "Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love" and hosted the talk show "Father Albert."

By Fr. Albert Cutié, Special to CNN

In South Florida, every time a politician at the state or federal level aspires to attract the Latino vote, they come to a famous landmark restaurant on Little Havana’s Southwest Eighth Street. It’s called Versailles, and they come to drink the infamous cafecito, a Cuban-style espresso that is served at a window counter in front of the restaurant. It’s designed for those who prefer to stand outside and talk about world news and politics, rather than sitting down in a comfortable, air-conditioned cafe.

Regardless of what party or political inclination these people represent, getting acquainted with the Miami community begins with drinking the famous miniature cup of coffee and talking to folks who have made it part of their daily routine for decades. In the world of politics, there is no doubt that reaching Latinos - the largest minority in the United States - has become a priority for most. Yet, when it comes to many churches, especially our mainstream religious communities in the United States, I often wonder if we’ve truly started to make a sincere effort at reaching out to Latinos effectively?

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Filed under: Latino in America • Religion • What we think
Opinion: Fernando Espuelas: Test of institutionalized racism heads to the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Arizona can enforce its controversial immigration law.
December 16th, 2011
01:50 PM ET

Opinion: Fernando Espuelas: Test of institutionalized racism heads to the Supreme Court

Editor’s note: Fernando Espuelas is the host and managing editor of the national talk show "Fernando Espuelas" on Univision Radio. He is also a political analyst on television, print and online. Espuelas is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute

By Fernando Espuelas, Special to CNN

The Supreme Court's decision this week to review the constitutionality of Arizona's anti-immigrant law is a seminal moment for Americans of Latino descent. This case - like other historic cases before the court at critical moments, cases that redefined America's social compact - will have repercussions beyond whether Arizona gets to keep its racist law on the books. It is a test of whether America legislates racism.

Most Latinos across this country see the immigration laws passed in Arizona, Alabama and Georgia as an attack on Latinos, both Americans and undocumented immigrants.

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December 14th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

Opinion: To stop AIDS in America, fight discrimination first

Editor's note: Dr. Paul Curtis Bellman is a physician in private practice in New York City and with New York Presbyterian Hospital.

By Dr. Paul Curtis Bellman, Special to CNN

(CNN) - As a physician who has been on the front lines of the HIV/AIDS epidemic since its beginning in 1981, I have taken care of thousands of HIV/AIDS patients. I believe that the key to stopping the epidemic now depends upon zeroing in on HIV/AIDS discrimination and stopping it cold.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in August that the number of new HIV infections is stabilizing at 50,000 per year, but there is an “alarming increase among young, black gay and bisexual men.”

In fact, there’s a scandalous surge in new cases among blacks and Latinos - men and women - and young men who have sex with men. The CDC reported young, black men who have sex with men is the “only subpopulation to experience a sustained increase” between 2006 and 2009.

It affects women, too. The CDC recently estimated the risk of black women contracting HIV was 15 times greater than for white women. For Hispanic women, it was three times higher.

In America, the battle against HIV/AIDS is at a pivotal moment. The current administration has developed a national AIDS strategy that has laudable goals like increasing access to care. However, this is not ambitious enough in an era in which testing and treatment holds the promise to halt new infections. There are groundbreaking opportunities for change, opportunities we ought to seize.

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Filed under: Black in America • Ethnicity • Health • Race • Sexual orientation • Social justice • What we think
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