The rise of the Latino conservative
The Nevada Latinos for Prosperity is obviously doing something right. At a recent town hall meeting headlined by congressional candidate Mark Amodei, I sat cramped in the corner of the tiny El Salvadorian restaurant Asi Es Mi Tierra on Wells Avenue and quietly observed the crowd. What I saw was interesting. Not only was the restaurant packed to the rafters, but the atmosphere was electric. Attendees of all ages passed around pamphlets, chatted enthusiastically, and several new attendees eagerly filled out voter registration forms.
“In Southern Nevada, the Latino community’s buying power is $12 billion a year,” says Elyse Monroy, 24, president of Nevada Latinos for Prosperity. “This is not a number to be taken lightly. Fifty-six percent of the Latino community are homeowners, and the third generation is native born. Our government is getting it wrong, but as our influence increases, they will have to stand up and take notice. Currently the government is burdened, our economy is troubled, and many people tend to look for a scapegoat. It’s really easy to blame someone who is here illegally but remember that not everyone who is a Latino or who is a Mexican is here illegally.”
Carlos Cardoso, an environmental health and safety manager and Cuban immigrant, recently joined Nevada Latinos for Prosperity to offer his talents as a bilingual American. “The Hispanic community—which is a misnomer because it’s a bunch of different countries and cultures being clumped together—are conservative by nature. Our values are more in line with those of the Republican Party, and we are trying to spread the word that this is the political party for us.”
Monroy was vocal in her opinions on immigration. “There is too much of a focus on immigration. Our politicians center all of their rhetoric around illegal immigration and they haven’t figured out that the Hispanic community cares about so many other issues. We care about health-care reform. We care about Social Security and a good education. Home ownership is one of our main goals. My father came to this country illegally as a young man, but he came here for the American dream—he wanted a better life. In 1997, he proudly obtained his citizenship, and anyone coming here should do the same.”
Local resident and self-professed troublemaker Pam Benzing was delighted to pay the modest fee to become a member: “It’s time we start working together as a team. As a conservative, I believe that the Hispanic community has much in common with my beliefs, and it’s time we acknowledge that and do something about it. It’s time to end the isolation between the different groups. This is why I’m so happy to see groups like this one forming. The Republican Party must become more inclusive. This is why I support groups like this one.”
Monroy smiled as she reminded me that her young group was recently voted “Best Latino Social Group” in the Reno News & Review’s 2011 Best of Northern Nevada poll. “This is so exciting for us! We’ve received so much support from so many places, and winning this award has encouraged us to keep putting on great events and to keep active in the community by reaching out not only to Latino voters, but to Latino businesses as well. Our message is getting out there, and people are starting to notice.”
And notice they are. What started out as just a couple of like-minded friends sitting around a table has become a political force that can pack a restaurant in just a few short months. This is a movement that can’t be ignored. 2012 will be the year of the Hispanic voter, and the political parties had better stop pandering and start listening.
For more information visit www.nevadalatinosforprosperity.com or call Elyse Monroy at (775) 762-1773.