The “Latino-Focused” Republican Debate

The YouTube Republican debate this week, which was translated into
Spanish on Univision was an effort to court the “Hispanic”
vote. As one of the “targets” of the courtship, I felt the need
to give my two cents about the debate.

First off, if the Republicans were actually concerned with reaching
out to the community, they should use the more widely accepted and
less offensive word, “Latino/a” when referring to us as a

Second, let’s analyze the context in which this debate was
conducted. With all of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that several of
the Republican candidates have pushed forward in an effort to get
the immigration foes to vote for them, they have also realized that
the Latino voting bloc will play an important role in several swing
states and the anti-immigrant rhetoric does not play well to this

The GOP decided to rectify the dichotomy by holding the
Latino-focused debate (which was translated and broadcast on the
Spanish language network, Univision) in Miami, where the largest
concentration of Cuban-American and traditionally Republican
Latinos live. Because Cuban immigrants are treated very differently
than immigrants arriving from other countries because of the wet
feet/dry feet policy inked by President Clinton in 1995, GOP
candidates feel they can safely spout anti-immigrant rhetoric and
not lose any ground with this segment of the community.

My biggest problem with the debate came when the candidates, namely
Fred Thompson, tried to find a supposed parallel with the Latino
community: homophobia.

It’s true that the family unit is an incredibly important part of
the Latino community. Culturally, the family is everything. We’re
a close-knit community with strong ties to extended family and a
reverence for these relationships. What is not true is
that because we are pro-family, Latinos are also inherently

It sickens me that political candidates who are not even part of my
community will attempt to transform such a valuable tenet of my
culture into something hateful. Unfortunately, homophobia exists in
every community and the Latino culture is not exempt from it. But
it is wrong to assume that the only notion of family that is
acceptable to our community is the narrow version that has been
imposed by the right.

It is also offensive to insinuate that because our community values
family that it also means we will be less accepting of an LGBTQ
family member. If family is important to the community, then it
also means that if your sister comes out, she’s still your sister
and it won’t matter. If someone in the family reacts negatively,
it’s just as likely that another family member will be

Another way that the importance of family plays out in the
community is that Latinos who also identify as LGBTQ are more
likely to parent than their white counterparts. There is also a
strong intersection between the pro-immigration movement to keep
families together (a policy that reinforces our cultural principle)
and the fight against the discrimination that bi-national gay and
lesbian couples face in our current immigration system.

Latinos are not inherently homophobic, Fred. You are. Don’t drag
my culture and my values down with you.