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Politics

At the DNC, Hispanic diversity on proud display

During the first day of the Democratic convention, more than a dozen Latinos spoke, in contrast to three during the entire RNC.
26 Jul 2016 – 4:15 PM EDT

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania - Fourteen Hispanic speakers participated during the first day of the Democratic National Convention. During the entire Republican convention last week in Cleveland, there was one.

At Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Arena, at least four of the 14 Hispanics that spoke Monday gave part of their speeches in Spanish. In Cleveland, just 133 out of more than 2,500 delegates were Hispanic, according to organizers. In Philadelphia, Democrats estimate that there are about 700 Latino delegates, almost one-sixth of the total.

The DNC's diversity stood in stark contrast to that at the RNC, where it wasn't until the third day that someone spoke Spanish, when Kentucky State Senator Ralph Alvarado offered a short message as he encouraged the crowd to vote for Donald Trump. To the surprise of some, he wasn’t booed; during the Tampa 2012 Republican convention, Puerto Rican Zoraida Fonalledas was booed by her own party colleagues who shouted "English Only.”

Unlike in Cleveland, Philadelphia speakers highlighted immigration reform, the rights of the LGBT community and "Black Lives Matter," a movement that criticized by some conservative RNC speakers for being "racist." The idea of the United States as an open, inclusive society was on display in Philadelphia, where the unity theme was meant to combat divisiveness in Donald Trump's rhetoric and the potentially "rebel" faction who support Senator Bernie Sanders.

For the Democrats, the sound of Spanish from the podium was greeted with applause and enthusiastic shouts from the audience. When Adriano Espalliat, a Senate candidate from New York, said proudly that he would be the first person elected to Congress that had been undocumented, cheers erupted.

The audience reacted emotionally when Dreamer Astrid Silva shared her experience crossing the Rio Grande in a raft when she was four, or when 11-year-old Karla Ortíz spoke about the fear that her undocumented parents could be deported. Some people cried.

“My family didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us,” said actress Eva Longoria, a ninth generation Texan, who was referring to the state's history as once being part of Mexico.

Anastasia Somoza, a disability rights advocate and a Latina also brought down the house. "I fear the day we elect a president who defines being an American in the narrowest possible of terms, who shouts, bullies and profits off of the vulnerable Americans," she said, speaking on stage from a wheelchair.

Somoza can claim to know a thing or two about abusive politicians: she is the great-grandaughter of Nicaragua dictator Anastasio Somoza.

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