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Politics & Society

All Roads Lead to LULAC

Signs welcome attendees to the 79th Annual LULAC National Convention & Exposition in Washington, D.C. Arwa Gunja, NPR hide caption

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Arwa Gunja, NPR

Supporters of both candidates were among the large crowd in attendance. Arwa Gunja, NPR hide caption

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Arwa Gunja, NPR

Lee, here...

The weight of the Latino vote may have gained even more mass this week in the race for the White House. Yesterday, both presidential candidates Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama addressed the annual meeting of LULAC, the nation's largest membership organization of Hispanic Americans, to make their case for the U.S. presidency. The duly noted participation of McCain and Obama set a new high in the candidates' vigorous competition for the Latino vote in November.

To capture all the hype and talk to some of the attendees, we sent a few of our colleagues to the meeting site (the venue was, literally, across the street from NPR ... how could we resist?). TMM producer Jasmine Garsd set up shop where Republican candidate Sen. John McCain made his pitch. She brought back this observation:

When addressing yesterday's LULAC audience, presidential candidate Sen. John McCain said little on the topic of immigration. Indeed, the focus of his speech was on Latino small business owners and measures that would help them survive the recession. When we approached exiting audience members, we learned that many of them were business owners who were very interested in McCain's promise not to raise taxes and to protect small business. ... Politicians will, of course, focus their campaigns on those who can give them the vote: legal citizens. But many civil rights groups are asking, who represents the undocumented Latino population, which does not vote ... and whose members often provide cheap labor for both Latino and non-Latino business owners?

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Thanks, Jasmine.

Another TMM producer, Arwa Gunja, camped out among those attending a speech by Democratic Sen. Barack Obama:

I arrived at the conventional hall around 2:30, more than two hours before Sen. Barack Obama was slated to speak. The lobby was buzzing. There were signs in support of either candidate decorating the walls and floors. The high-security — at times was annoying. Though it was a LULAC conference, attendees spanned all demographics —- mostly Latino, but, certainly, a good number of African-American, white and Asian attendees were there as well. One of the first things I noticed was how young so much of the room was — it seemed more than half the room was under 35. ... One of the first women I found was this lady, Zayda. When I first approached her, she said to me I will speak with you, but I am from Puerto Rico, I can't vote so I don't know if you want to talk to me. But I did want talk to her. And once we started talking, she shared with me her frustrations feeling like a "second-class citizen" to the U.S. — being a part of the country, but without voting rights. The people in that room were young and old, white and brown. And they have been waiting to matter in the political process.

Thanks, Arwa.

If you're Latino, or of another ethnic minority in the U.S., how do you rate the candidates' progress in aggressively reaching out to groups to which you belong? ... Are you feeling the love?

And, when you look around your community, what specific issues (and/or cultural disparities) will be on your mind in November?

Tell us more.

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