May 8, 2012
BOSTON — The Latino population has grown 43 percent in the U.S. in the past 11 years. In Massachusetts, the increase is even greater: 48 percent. They’ve become the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the country — and a pivotal one for Obama and likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race.
Opinions from Boston's neighborhoods
Merengue music wafted through the bodega in Dorchester where Patricia Delmo works as a cashier. She said the best part of her job is talking with the locals. Delmo is still undecided about the presidential election but said immigration is a big concern to her. A close friend was recently deported, torn from her 4-year-old son.
“Her son is a citizen so he doesn’t have to go nowhere, but she has to live in Honduras because of the laws. I think it’s not fair because she didn’t kill no one. The only thing that she was doing was working and taking care of an old lady,” Delmo said.
Across town, Luis Maza and his friend Carlos Lopez gathered at a Cuban restaurant in Jamaica Plain to talk politics and sports. They both lost their construction jobs last year. They are voting for Obama, as they did last election.
“Obama’s administration inherited a disaster," said Lopez. "It’s like the Twin Towers — it took a lot of years to build the Twin Towers, and in one day, they were gone, but to build it back up, it’s very difficult.”
As for why they won’t vote for a Republican, they said they just don’t trust them.
“The Republicans only look for the Hispanic vote only when election times come. Otherwise, they leave us in limbo and I don’t see that they care about us,” said Maza.
The larger picture
While Maza and Lopez know who they are voting for, 17 percent of Latino voters remain undecided. Democrats have traditionally won the majority of the Latino vote, but this time the Republicans are looking to get a larger stake — maybe by selecting a Latino running mate like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Maza agreed that might make a difference.
"You see a Latino running with him, of course that’s gonna happen. If I see a Venezuelan playing for the New York Yankees, I am going to vote for the New York Yankees,” he said.
But others weren’t so sure that common ethnicity means meeting common goals. Local GOP activist Alex Veras said it’s a typical mistake to bunch Latinos in one group.
“We’re not all of one mindset. What unites us is language,” he said.
What also unites them, he said, are the same things that unite the rest of the country.
“When the party talks about hope, about economic empowerment, and the do-goodness and the graciousness of this country — those are the things that anyone can relate to. Those are the things that need to be emphasized,” he said.
And even though polls show Obama leading Romney 2-to-1 with Latino voters, Veras believed Hispanics will choose the next president — and he said it could very well be a Republican.
“When you look at the swing states, when you look at the states Republicans win, the fastest-growing segments of those populations are Hispanics. I think we’re definitely going to have a say,” Veras said.
Veras and over 12 million Latino voters will have their say this November.
ON THE GROWING LATINO VOTE
Sign-up for WGBH News updates, WGBH promotions, and previews of what's coming up on WGBH TV.