What Eric Garcetti’s White House dreams mean for Latinos

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garretti, here greeting then President Barak Obama, has let it be known that he is thinking of running for the Presidency.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garretti, here greeting then President Barak Obama, has let it be known that he is thinking of running for the Presidency.

IF ERIC GARCETTI RUNS FOR PRESIDENT, what will it mean for Hispanics not only in his hometown but beyond?

For Garcetti is the new face of being Latino in America, even as some of his critics have charged in the past  that he wasn’t Hispanic enough, raising a more serious question in this nation’s multi-ethnic society:

Who is or who isn’t Latino?

As for Garcetti, Los Angeles’ 46-year-old mayor’s grandfather was born in Mexico. His great-grandfather, Massimo Garcetti, was a Mexican judge who was hanged during the Mexican Revolution. Garcetti speaks perfect Spanish. He not only considers himself Hispanic, he has also called himself Chicano.

“I’m just your average Mexican-American Jewish Italian,” Garcetti told the 2016 Democratic Convention where he liberally sprinkled his address with Spanish phrases. In his address he described his Italian-Mexican grandfather’s journey across the U.S. border as an infant and the persecution faced by his maternal ancestors, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia.

His Latino critics, though, may have been judging Garcetti as much on his skin coloration. He is as huero as they come in a city and in the Southwest where caramel brown-skinned Mexican Americans make up the majority of Latinos.

Perhaps those critics don’t watch Spanish televisions novelas which is full of hueros speaking Spanish – and on which Garcetti would easily pass.

Just as he easily has passed the test among Latino voters in Los Angeles where, they have largely voted for Garcetti – though in his first mayoral campaign his opponent in a runoff  had the lion’s share of endorsements from Hispanic politicians and leaders, including farm workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, County Supervisor Gloria Molina and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s cousin, Assembly Speaker John Perez.

Villaraigosa, who didn’t endorse in that race, had been mayor and city’s consummate Latino politician – the first Hispanic elected mayor in modern times and at one time the hope of Latino aspirations to higher office.

But he left with those hopes dashed, though he is running for governor next year, and replaced both in office and in promise by Garcetti, who wasted little time in being embraced by all the Latino organizations, especially those that lean Democratically, looking for a fresh face for national leadership.

In his time as mayor, Garcetti has matched or exceeded Villaraigosa’s appointments of Latinos to city boards and commissions — and he has been at the leadership in making Los Angeles a sanctuary city for the undocumented and DREAMers.

“I am proud [that}Los Angeles is the strongest defender of immigrants perhaps of any city in this country,” he told NPR earlier this year. “we absolutely are a city that not only does provide sanctuary to immigrants, but we defend them. I think that’s a step further.

“And instead of getting caught up in terms, it’s important for us to do the work to defend refugees, immigrants, legal immigrants and those undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed serious violent felonies who we should make citizens. And I think the proof is in the pudding. LA stands strong. We are probably the strongest city in the country when it comes to that, and we’re not going to back down.”

In Garcetti, America’s young DREAMers have an ideal role model and candidate: A former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, one of the few American Latinos so honored; a graduate of Columbia who also studied at the London School of Economics; the son of a former district attorney; a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserves; and scandal-free, married to Amy Wakeland with whom he has a daughter, Maya Juanita, a name after any Latino’s heart.

Add to that a built-in political asset that few other Latino politicians have.

Garcetti is Jewish. Jews in Los Angeles today are celebrating that he has been the city’s first Jewish mayor.

“Weekends involved bowls of menudo at my grandparents’ and bagels at my cousins’ house,” Garcetti says of his childhood with a Mexican and Jewish background. “I think if you’re Latino, you’re very comfortable with the idea of mestizo, being mixed.

“So I kind of joke that I’m mestizo double, double mixed.”

It enabled Garcetti to fashion a coalition built around two of the most powerful political elements in Los Angeles – and in America today – Latinos and Jews.

It is also a natural native constituency for Garcetti that now has almost elevated him to a recognizably national level and the precipice of even higher office in America.

And in upsetting preconceived notions about what being Hispanic and what Latino power is today, Garcetti has shown he may have a unique understanding that Latino voters want more than just pandering to their ethnicity

“My grandparents were from northern Mexico, Chihuahua and Sonora,” Garcetti told a Latino group in Spanish at one of his mayoral campaign stops. “But I don’t want your vote just because I speak Spanish.”

Saving Anne Frank

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For two years, Anne Frank’s family hid in secret rooms in Amsterdam, knowing that a curtain left open by mistake, a wayward noise or a nervous conspirator’s phone call to the Nazis could land them all in concentration camps. Of the eight Jews hiding, seven died before the Holocaust was over, including Anne, whose diary was a testament to the horrors of the Nazi regime. She died of typhus at age 15 at Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany.

By Tony Castro

 

AS A THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD schoolboy I grew up wanting to save Anne Frank.

Allow me to clarify that.

As a young man, the son of a World War II army veteran, I grew up wanting to save Anne Frank.

I’m still not clear, I fear.

As the son of a World War II decorated veteran who told me stories of the horror he saw at Nazi concentration camps, I grew up wishing there was some way I could go back in time and save the six million Jews killed in the Hitler holocaust. And when I read Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 2.45.03 PMThe Diary of A Young Girl.  I wasn’t sure if I’d fallen in love with young Anne and wished I could save this damsel in distress or whether I simply wanted to save mankind.

I must confess that about that time I had also seen Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet and had fallen even deeper into a trance of fascination with Anne Frank, whom I saw personified in this beautiful young actress.

Anne Frank. Elizabeth Taylor. What can I say? I was a child of the 1950s. I knew no no young Jews in my hometown. I knew of Jews only through my religion, Catholicism, and its claim at the time that Jews had killed Jesus Christ, which I knew in my heart wasn’t true. Each Sunday at my church, with those enormous murals of the Stations of the Cross adorning its walls, I would see Roman soldiers leading Christ to his death and crucifying him. I didn’t see Jews hammering nails into his hands and feet.

So the only other Jews I knew about were those killed in the Holocaust from the stories I heard my father tell. They were more like confessions, as if he were trying to exorcise those scenes from his mind, to rid himself of the worst horrors he had seen in the war.

And, of course, I knew Anne Frank. I knew of Anne Frank. I was among the many millions touched by her story, her fears, her aloneness, her hopes.

She haunted me, her story and her photograph. She looked unlike any young woman I knew at that time. Of course, as I said, there were no Jews in my hometown, though that’s not correct I now realize. There were no Jewish people  who lived in my side of my home town, Waco, Texas. And, to be honest, for the longest time, I had no idea that my side was the wrong side of town, the poorer, working side of Waco where I felt out of place, as if I didn’t belong there or any other place. Like the Jews the Nazis had killed in Europe.

“Are we sure we’re not Jewish?” I asked my family at the dinner table one night.

“No, we are Roman Catholics,” my mother quickly answered me.

“But that bothers me,” I said. “Wasn’t it the Romans who crucified Jesus?”

“No, the Jews killed Jesus,” mom said.

“Who said so?”

“The church said so,” she said.

“No, they’re wrong.”

“The Bible says they did.” Mom was insistent.

“No, the Bible doesn’t say that,” I said. “It says that the Jews turned Jesus over to the Romans and left it up to the Romans to decide.”

“You shouldn’t be reading the Bible by yourself,” mom said. “Father Dols says you should only read the Bible with the guidance of a priest.”

“Why? What’s to understand that I would need a priest to explain?” I said. “Quod scripsi scripsi, Pilate said. What I have written I have written. Jesus was the King of the Jews, Pilate wrote, and Pilate’s Roman soldiers crucified Jesus.”

Mom looked at my father.

“Eat your dinner before it gets cold,” he said.

I looked at my little sister who appeared to be in another world.

“What are you day-dreaming about?” I asked her.

“I’m thinking about how I really love fillet mignon,” she said.

She was crazy, of course.

“This isn’t filet mignon we’re eating,” I said. “It’s spaghetti.”

“I’m imagining it’s filet mignon,” she said.

This was my family. Full of denial. My mom didn’t believe that it was the Romans who had crucified Jesus Christ. My sister wanted her pasta to be steak. And my father would have nothing to say if it weren’t about the Dallas Cowboys.

And I was in love with Anne Frank, a girl my age, once, whom I felt I knew better than anyone else in the world. For what was it she had written?

“Writing in a diary,” she had said, “is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.”

One day all the world would wish it had saved Anne Frank.

 

Tony Castro is the author of  Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and A Final Rite of Passage.

 

A Conversation With Tony Castro on Hemingway

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Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and A Final Rite of Passage by Tony Castro is now available at Amazon.com.

 

What brought you to this subject and then what compelled you to write an entire book on it?

 I think my lifelong fascination with Ernest Hemingway had its genesis in my youth when an English teacher who had taken a special interest in my insatiable appetite for reading introduced me to The Old Man and The Sea. I quickly found myself devouring that book and in rapid succession every Hemingway short story and novel that I could find – and eventually earned me the reputation of having read every book in my hometown public library in Waco, Texas.

The obsession with Hemingway eventually led to an unauthorized visit to Cuba in the 1960s along with a group of Chicano movement activists and members of the Students for a Democratic Society. The revolutionary romance of Fidel Castro’s Cuba had made it a popular destination for the New Left, but I was hardly the political sort. I was an undergraduate at Baylor University, a conservative Baptist college in the heart of the South’s Bible Belt, and through a Latin American studies professor at the University of Texas made the connection of a lifetime. He had known Fidel Castro in Mexico in the 1950s, and he arranged for me a special tour of La Finca Vigía, the Hemingway home in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba.

So I guess I was a romantic with a destiny of which I wasn’t even aware. A few years after college, I moved into a writer friend’s house in Houston, which had an unexpected connection to Hemingway. Was it simply an incredible coincidence that my friend’s previous housemate had been Teo Davis, the son of the wealthy American expatriates who had hosted Hemingway in his last two visits to Spain before his suicide?

A couple of years later, while on a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, I shared this story with the two professors with whom I was studying literature – the Mexican writer and future Nobel laureate Octavio Paz and Homeric scholar Robert Fitzgerald. Both urged me to also spend time during my fellowship studying the newly opened collection of Hemingway papers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Both Paz and Fitzgerald joined me the first time I visited the collection. Fitzgerald bailed on us afterward, but Paz and I closed down the Faculty Club at Harvard that night toasting Hemingway with shots of tequila.

Then in the 1980s, in yet one more twist of coincidence, I finally met Teo Davis in Los Angeles where we began a friendship that has spanned over three decades. It was Teo who introduced me to Mike Hamilburg, a literary agent who represented me until his illness and death. Mike had known Teo for several years, and he tried for well over twenty years to convince Teo to write a book about his experience as a child with Hemingway when he had stayed in Spain at the Davis villa La Consula in 1959. Mike said he didn’t think Teo had ever written a single word, and if he did, I never read a word of it either. Teo didn’t want to write that book or couldn’t. Finally, after years of trying to coax the story out of him, I gave up. It was then that Teo, somewhat relieved that I was going to stop pestering him about his story, said that I should write the story and that he would help as best he could. This book, though, isn’t the book Mike had envisioned Teo writing, nor is it the book I tried to get him to write. That book Teo took with him to the grave.

So what is this book about?

For me, there has always been in the story of Hemingway and Spain an allure so sharp and fresh that there was never any question of writing this book. There has been, from the start, the joy of rediscovering the world in which he walked and traveled, both in the 1920s and again in 1959. Here was a canvas as generous, colorful, and grand as any in Hemingway’s life. As the story pushed forth, there was at every turn the excitement of history never told, of connections hidden for decades, of old mysteries answered.

The story of Hemingway the icon was well known. The story of Hemingway the man and his friendship with Bill and Anne Davis at their magnificent home had been buried. Getting that story was slow work. After a good while, I felt I had become the crypt of Hemingwayolé en La Consula. As my patient wife Renee used to say (but seldom aloud – for which I thank her) about this project, great effort went in but nothing came out until now.

For me, too, as a child of the 1950s who read The Old Man and The Sea thinking I was the boy Manolin, I suppose I have been looking for Hemingway all my life, and perhaps it seems fitting that I think I have found him at an age when I now see myself in the old man Santiago. Looking for Hemingway about Hemingway at that age we all dread of being: Old, losing our train of thought, unable to do what once came so easily, too quick to show our frustration at our slowness but still holding on to the hope of one last glimmer of youth. And it is not an easy age to face, especially for publishers. More than a few just flat out said they didn’t think any readers, especially Hemingway fans, wanted to read about him as an old man, pathetic at times, feeble and paranoid.

Being a life-long Hemingway lover, I found that hard to believe, unless it’s just simply old age some of us don’t want to face, whether Hemingway’s or our own. For those who fear this life stage, I can only say that I found it inspiring in the research to learn that Pablo Picasso in his sixties was having affairs with gorgeous youthful women more than forty years younger – young enough to be his granddaughters. A dirty old man? Maybe not so dirty if you’re Picasso.

Today, the aging, dying Hemingway is one I have come to love and appreciate as much as the young romantic Hemingway, for in his mortality lie the same fears, regrets and self-recriminations that all of us face in our own way as we reach that stage in our lives.

 

A theme in the book is the Lost Generation. Explain why.

Hemingway made famous the Lost Generation of post-World War I in Europe —

American expatriates thought by many to have been drunkenly decadent, wildly self-indulgent, and irretrievably ruined. It was the cultural backdrop for his breakthrough novel The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926. And it’s a theme not that dissimilar from what emerged in the months of Hemingway’s 1959 visit to Spain. Ernest chased young women as unashamedly in 1959 as he had pursued the beautiful and recently divorced British socialite Lady Duff Twysden in 1925, being as insensitive to Mary as he had been his first wife Hadley back in the mid-1920s. And Hemingway in 1959 behaved almost as badly as he and his entourage did back in 1925. But there were other similarities. A writer who visited the Davis villa in Spain in 1959 said Bill and Annie Davis were “the Gerald Murphys of the fifties, transferred to the new high bohemian playground of the Gold Coast of Spain.” The Gerald Murphys were a wealthy American expatriate couple known for their own lavish soirees on the French Riviera where they entertained writers and artists of The Lost Generation in the 1920s. And this was the exact kind of setting surrounding Hemingway in Spain in 1959.

 

You did a lot of research. Tell us about it.

Of course, there were countless interviews with my friend Teo Davis, son of Bill and Anne. But there was a matter also tracking down memoirs, unpublished and published, letters, journals and books, particularly some in Spain. This period of Hemingway’s life was never written about in any depth by anyone but instead it was finding bits and pieces in various sources, mostly in Spain and Paris where the Davises had homes. I was also incredibly fortunate while I was a columnist at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner of being a desk mate to the late Jim Bacon, who was perhaps the most famous print journalist who ever covered Hollywood. He knew a number of people in Hollywood who had known Hemingway and the Davises, people like Lauren Bacall and Orson Welles. Even in the 1980s, I was playing around with the idea of a book about Hemingway in Spain, the Ms Bacall and Mr. Welles were gracious in providing me with their insights.

In addition to Hemingway, who was the most compelling figure in the book to you?

Without a doubt Bill Davis. It seems that almost everyone who knew him came away feeling that he remained a mysterious stranger to them, no matter how much time they spent with him. To many of them he was Rick Blaine, the Humphrey Bogart character from Casablanca. It took me a long while to understand that even his children Teo and his sister had deeply-seeded personal issues with their father that were never resolved. It is one of the tragedies in their lives that the children never felt as loved by their father, nor their mother, as Hemingway had been. As Teo sadly put it: “We weren’t Hemingway.”

 

Adios, Lucy Casado: The End of an Era in L.A.

Lucy Casado, right, with Renee LaSalle, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Tony Castro at a presidential campaign fund-raising event at Lucy's El Adobe in Hollywood. Photo by Ryan LaSalle-Castro

Los Angeles restaurateur Lucy Casado, right, at a presidential campaign fund-raising event at her El Adobe Cafe in Hollywood with friend Renee LaSalle, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and author Tony Castro  (Photo by Ryan LaSalle-Castro)

ON A PICTURE POSTCARD California evening, a group of Tibetan monks in cardinal robes and gold undershirts traipsed across Melrose Avenue in Hollywood from the direction of Paramount Studios and then walked into Lucy’s El Adobe Cafe. A diner in the famous Tex-Mex restaurant took notice but assumed what many others might have in Hollywood.

“Hey, Lucy,” the diner said to restaurateur Lucy Casado, who was nearby. “It looks like you’ve got some more extras from Paramount.”

Lucy rushed over and embraced each monk as if they had just won an Oscar. They were that convincing, possibly because they were real-life Tibetan monks — and friends of Casado and her  husband Frank, who had invited them to dinner to celebrate a new kinship that had developed over near tragedy and apparent fate.

Only weeks earlier, Lucy Casado had found herself frantically praying over the injured body of her oldest son, James, who had been badly hurt in a traffic accident — hurtled from his pickup near the top of Laurel Canyon as he drove home from the San Fernando Valley.

As she meditated before a makeshift altar covered with candles and religious icons in one of the bedrooms of her home, Casado had had a vision.

“I saw monks praying and chanting for my son,” she later recalled.

James recovered to full health, and the vision stayed with Casado, who soon sought out and befriended a group of monks who came to Los Angeles accompanying the Dalai Lama later that year.

That began a relationship between Casado and the Buddhist monks that spanned decades and  became a symbol of the role she came to play in the pop culture and political salon that often played out nightly for almost half a century at Lucy’s El Adobe.

Sadly, that era has ended. Lucy Casado, the Doña of Los Angeles, died Tuesday at Good Samaritan Hospital where she had been battling cancer. She was 91.

Jerry Brown during his first term as governor with restaurateur Lucy Casado, his beloved friend who died Tuesday.

Jerry Brown during his first term as governor with restaurateur Lucy Casado, his beloved friend who died Tuesday.

Born in El Paso, Tex., Casado and her husband opened their restaurant in the 1960s and in 1968 played host to Senator Robert F. Kennedy during the California Primary of his presidential campaign, just 24 hours before he was assassinated. She would go on develop a close friendship with future governor Jerry Brown in the 1970s when he was on the Los Angeles Community College District board of trustees and then California Secretary of State.

During his first two terms as governor, Brown could often be found at Lucy’s El Adobe. It became a California political-cultural footnote that the Casados played matchmakers in the famous Jerry Brown-Linda Ronstadt romance of the late 1970s — a much-ballyhooed relationship in the news media which some political experts at the time blamed in part for derailing Brown’s 1980 presidential campaign.

Brown regularly used the restaurant’s west room for his virtual Los Angeles office as well as his rendezvous with Ronstadt, who once cruised in on roller skates to give Brown a loving kiss while he met with two suits who looked on enviously.

“Magic happens at El Adobe,” Casado would say of her restaurant. “I don’t make it or control it. It just happens.”

“Lucy is an original,” Brown said in one interview. “She is Mrs. California.”

Now governor for a second time, Brown told reporters this week that he is “deeply saddened by the passing of Lucy Casado.”

Lucy Casado surrounded by Mayor Eric Garrett, actor Robert Patrick, former City Councilman Tom LaBonge and a few Buddhist monks at the dedication of Lucy El Adobe Plaza on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.

Lucy Casado surrounded by Mayor Eric Garrett, actor Robert Patrick, former City Councilman Tom LaBonge and a few Buddhist monks at the dedication of Lucy El Adobe Plaza on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.

“She was friends to the famous and to those who lived nearby and to politicians of both parties,” he said. “I spent many wonderful and memorable evenings at Lucy’s El Adobe.”

The restaurant also became a Hollywood destination for liberal Democratic politicians, while mining for political contributions in California. A wall in the restaurant is covered in photographs of some of the most prominent names in American politics and pop culture — from the late Hubert Humphrey to Ronald Reagan, from Dolly Parton to Drew Barrymore, from Cesar Chavez to Steven Spielberg.

“Eating at Lucy’s and getting her blessing,” wrote Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez.” is almost a rite of passage in L.A. politics.”

Over the years, Casado and her restaurant have also been credited for their role in nurturing and feeding promising young musicians, including Ronstadt, Glenn Frey and Don Henley of The Eagles, Jimmy Webb and Jackson Browne.

One of the musicians on Lucy’s Wall of Fame is jazz saxophonist Mindy Abair who hit No. 1 on the jazz charts with a track titled “Lucy’s.” The night the song topped the charts, Lucy was dining with her friend Tom Selleck, who, upon hearing the news walked over and surprised Abair with his personal congratulations.

Abair, like many others in the music and entertainment industry, suggests that there was something mystical about Lucy’s El Adobe, some nourishing nectar beyond the margaritas and arroz con pollo that always brought success to most who make regular pilgrimages there.

In remembering Casado, Eagles founding member Don Henley recalled her as a fellow Texan and a source of inspiration.

Lucy Casado with songwriter and longtime friend Jimmy Webb at the restaurant. (From Philip Bailey's Facebook page)

Lucy Casado with songwriter and longtime friend Jimmy Webb at the restaurant. (From Philip Bailey’s Facebook page)

“Lucy Casado was a mother figure to much of the L.A. singer-songwriter community,” he said in a statement. “Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she and her husband, Frank, along with their children, welcomed our rag-tag band of troubadours into their little restaurant on Melrose Avenue.

“It was a cozy, candlelit watering hole, where politics, food and music were often the topics of discussion, over a savory plate of mole poblano, washed down with the best margaritas in town. Lucy was as passionate as she was compassionate — a tough-but-tender little ball of fire from El Paso, Texas, who, like so many of us, made the pilgrimage to the City of Angels.

“She encouraged us in our struggling days and she delighted in our successes. We were all her children and we will miss her.”

Lucy was preceded in death by her Frank Casado, whom Republican political strategist Stuart Spencer called “a Mexican Toots Shor.” Frank Casado, who along with Lucy helped found the Mexican American Political Association, died in 1990. Lucy is survived by her daughter Patricia Casado and two sons, James and Darryl.

A memorial mass for Casado will be celebrated at Saint Victor Catholic Church in West Hollywood May 20.

Meanwhile, her tributes have only begun. Undoubtedly, some will be given at the El Adobe Cafe which now includes a piano room, with a baby grand whose keys have been played by the numerous artists Casado has befriended over the years. There is also a room adorned by statues of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony as well as likenesses of the Virgen de Guadalupe and the Dalai Lama.

The piano was a gift from songwriter Jimmy Webb.

“He needed a piano when he’s in town, so be bought one to go here,” Lucy loved to tell visitors. “Every time he’s in town, he comes and plays and eats too, of course.”

Webb even immortalized the restaurant in music, including in the song, “Adios,” recorded by Ronstadt with Brian Wilson, and featuring the line, “Drinking margaritas all night in the old cantina.”

Lucy Casado watches Buddhist monks creating a sand mandala at her restaurant.

Lucy Casado watches Buddhist monks creating a sand mandala at her restaurant.

It is in this old cantina that Casado set aside two weeks each fall for the monks and their making of a colorful sand mandala, which always attracted a steady trek of visitors, much like any other Hollywood roadside attraction.

“The mandala is beautiful,” Casado said in talking about the ritual, “but the tradition is that sand will be returned to sand — to symbolize the impermanence of life.

“Life is like that. We can celebrate it, and we can be celebrated, but we all have a time that is measured, so we should treasure those each grain of sand we have given to us.”

 

Tony Castro books include the 2016 releases DiMag & Mick: Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers (Lyons Press) and Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and a Final Rite of Passage (Lyons Press).

Donald J. Trump, the Presidency, and American Karma

091iAT 11:30 P.M. ON ELECTION NIGHT 2012, outraged at President Barack Obama’s re-election victory over GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Donald J. Trump tweeted, “We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty.”

Karma, of course, has its own cruel irony. The day after Trump’s stunning presidential triumph this week, tens of thousands of Americans unleashed their own outrage by beginning to march, if not on Washington, then at least on the streets of many of America’s cities, trying to stop the travesty they saw in his election.

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-3-44-56-pmThose demonstrations on the streets reflect the feeling among millions in America unwilling to accept Trump’s victory, at least without some kind of protest – chanting their slogans “Not My President” and “Trump and Pence make no sense.”

Racist, sexist, and a homophobe. Correct or not, concerns over those allegations against the brash, outspoken billionaire have left the first days after his election full of doom and gloom for protesters and others mourning the bitter, unexpected defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In response, Trump supporters have taken to social media and denounced demonstrators as hypocrites or worse for not accepting defeat in a democratic process.

This is not new, of course, in American presidential history. In 1969, protesters assaulted Richard Nixon’s inaugural motorcade along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington with smoke bombs, rocks and rotten eggs.

In 2000, thousands of demonstrators attended George W. Bush’s inauguration ceremonies in the nation’s capital where Bush’s limousine was hit by a tennis ball and an egg thrown from the crowd during the inaugural parade.

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, that son of a Bush has got to go,” chanted a cluster of protesters among a group of protesters along the parade route. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 protesters marched in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

And as far back as 1860, news of that year’s presidential victory by a Northern Republican led the state legislature of South Carolina to declare Abraham Lincoln’s election a hostile act and its intention to secede from the Union

Understandably, today the Obama White House is urging anyone choosing to protest Trump’s election, to do so non-violently.

“We’re Democrats and Republicans, but we’re Americans and patriots first,” Obama press secretary Josh Ernest cautioned Thursday, amid what some protesters were calling the dawn of a new fascism.

The concern is being further fueled by the fact that, though winning the presidency through an Electoral College majority, Trump apparently lost the popular vote to Mrs. Clinton, much as George W.  Bush lost the national vote to Democrat Al Gore.

Mrs. Clinton will have won the popular vote by a wider percentage margin than not only Gore in 2000 but also John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Richard Nixon in 1968.

Incidentally, Mrs. Clinton and George W. Bush are not the first candidates to have won the popular vote but lost the presidency, though the others date back to the 19th century.

In the 1824 election, John Quincy Adams was elected president in a campaign decided by the House of Representatives under the provisions of Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution after no candidate secured a majority of the electoral vote. Andrew Jackson had received the most electoral votes, but lost the presidency in the House vote.

Rutherford B. Hayes won the bitter 1876 presidential election despite Democrat Samuel J. Tilden of New York winning the popular vote. Even the electoral votes were in dispute but was resolved in a deal in which Democrats acquiesced to Hayes’s election in exchange for Republicans agreeing to withdraw federal troops from the South, thus ending Reconstruction.

In 1888, incumbent Democratic President Grover Cleveland of New York won the popular vote but was unseated by Benjamin Harrison in the Electoral College when Cleveland ailed to carry his home state where New York City’s Tammany Hall political machine helped defeat helped defeat him.

In all those instances, supporters of the defeated candidates have raised the question of electing a president in a way some see counter to traditional democratic rules.

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-3-45-17-pm“If we really subscribe to the notion that ‘majority rules,’ then why do we deny the majority their chosen candidate?” asked a disappointed Jennifer M. Granholm, a Clinton supporter and a former governor of Michigan, in the wake of the most recent election.

Trump would appear to agree. Or he did, at least, in a Twitter post on the eve of the 2012 election when he called the Electoral College “a disaster for democracy.” At the time Trump believed that Romney, who he supported, had beaten President Obama in the popular vote. He hadn’t.

Today, the beneficiary of the unique indirect election of the American presidency put in place by the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Trump finds that his gleaming black leather size 12 Oxford is on the other foot.

Tony Castro, a former political reporter and columnist, is the author of five books, the most recent being Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and a Final Rite of Passage (Lyons Press).

 

Could Latino Discontent Doom Hillary Clinton?

Will Hillary Clinton offset a potential Latino voter protest by picking Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro as her running mate?

Will Hillary Clinton, should she be the Democratic presidential nominee, offset a potential Latino voter protest at the polls by picking Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro as her running mate?

AMERICAN POLITICAL HISTORY IS rife with presidential elections that were determined well before the year in which the campaigns were held.

The most prominent example in our lifetime may have been Jimmy Carter’s election in 1976 that likely was decided when his opponent, incumbent President Gerald Ford, pardoned his successor, the disgraced Richard Nixon, whose Watergate scandal brought down his presidency.

Four decades later, could that happen again? Has next year’s presidential election been determined by President Barack Obama’s broken promises for comprehensive immigration reform —  which has angered many immigration reform activists, including some threatening a boycott of the 2016 elections?

Could a low Hispanic voter turnout among traditionally Democratic-voting Latinos, caused by disappointment over the Obama failure to secure comprehensive immigration reform legislation, cost preemptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the presidency?

There were renewed signs of that on Cinco de Mayo in Southern California when some Latinos — Union del Barrio-LA, MEXA de ELAC and the Los Angeles Brown Berets — protested Clinton’s appearance at a rally at East Los Angeles College.

“Organizers called Clinton an enemy of the working class,” LA Weekly reported. “They also argue that her Central American policies as secretary of state caused death, destruction and deportation.”

Last fall, members of a DREAMers’ organization confronted the former Secretary of State at a North Carolina rally over the Obama administration’s dismal record on immigration reform, raising the possibility that disillusioned young Latinos could threaten to urge the nation’s 25.2 million Hispanic voters to skip casting ballots in 2016.

Latinos boycotting the election would be payback for the foot-dragging by President Obama on immigration reform, which he promised in 2008 but has put off successfully championing in Congress and has only minimally executed through executive action.

Democrats in California today are still reeling from the likelihood that the notoriously low turnout among Hispanic voters in the 2014 off-year elections likely cost former Assembly Speaker John Perez the state controller’s election.

Perez, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s cousin, finished behind fellow Democrat Betty Yee by fewer than 500 votes, dampening the rising star dreams of the once politically powerful Perez, who had been a favorite to win the office.

Latinos make up more than one of every five registered voters — 22.7 percent — in California. But for Perez’s important statewide election they voted at a rate of just 6 percent.

Although Latinos historically have been low turnout voters, especially in mid-term elections, no one expected the dismally low turnout would cost Hispanics a statewide office and also raise questions about 2016, especially if immigration reform activists follow through on their boycott threat.

The reason for the President continually putting immigration reform on the backburner has been nothing short of playing politics. In 2014, Obama chose not to risk giving Republicans something more with which to rally their faithful in that mid-term year, fearing that the Democrats could lose control of the Senate in his final two years as president.

The GOP, however, captured the Senate anyway and, with control of the House of Representatives, virtually assured that the already sparse Obama legacy would have little more to showcase in his lame-duck years.

It has been theorized in recent years that not only could the ever-increasing Latino vote decide the next presidential election and those beyond, but it could shift the balance of power that will be felt negatively in 2016. A poor Latino turnout would effectively serve as a Hispanic voter boycott.

DREAMers and other immigration reform activists could potentially turn presidential politics on its ear.

“By mobilizing against Mrs. Clinton,” The New York Times reported last fall, “the self-named Dreamers hope to pressure her to commit to immigration change or risk losing critical Latino votes.”

Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, the largest national network of young undocumented immigrants, was even more direct in threatening to launch a campaign urging withdrawal of support by the traditionally Democratic-voting Latinos from the 2016 Democratic ticket.

“If you’re going to pick politics over our families,” said Jimenez, “you should know that you can’t take this constituency for granted.”

This is especially critical for Clinton, considering that the Latino vote could potentially be even more important for her than it was for Obama.

In 2008, it was the overwhelming Latino vote that helped Clinton almost overtake Obama in their bitter Democratic primary battle for the nomination. That year, in Super Tuesday’s 16 primaries, Clinton carried 63 percent of the Hispanic vote compared with 35 percent for Obama.

The question now is whether Democrats will take the threat of a Latino boycott seriously.

It might do them well to acquaint themselves with what amounted to a similar Latino boycott in Texas in 1970, a time when Hispanic voters in the Lone Star State were proportionately the biggest Latino group in America.

Disillusioned with the Democratic Party, young Latino activists urged Hispanic voters not to vote in the 1970 election but instead to sign a petition to get the Chicano movement’s Raza Unida political party on the ballot for the 1972 election.

Texas state laws did not allow voters to both vote in the elections and sign the petition.

Ultimately, the Chicano activists succeeded in getting enough signatures from Latino voters to qualify La Raza Unida for the 1972 ballot. In doing so, though, the low turnout of Latino voters had an unintended historic impact.

U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough, the incumbent darling of Texas progressives who was seeking re-election, was upset in the Democratic primary by businessman Lloyd Bentsen in a defeat that many liberals blamed on Chicano activists and their Latino voter boycott.

For Clinton, her potential problem with Latino voters is now compounded by statements she has made in the past while attempting to support the Obama administration’s decisions delaying immigration reform — as well as comments about the tens of thousands of Central American immigrant children who flooded across the border in 2014.

“I don’t think she had any idea of how that response was perceived by a young Dreamer who is thinking, ‘Um, we’ve elected a lot of Democrats,’” says Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigration group America’s Voice.

“Immigration is not the only issue, but it is the defining issue, and she will need to learn that the old lines and old dynamics no longer apply.”

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

May the joy and peace of Christmas be with you during the holidays... The love of my life in a vintage card from the incredible artist Dennis Mukai.

May the joy and peace of Christmas be with you during the holidays… The love of my life Renee LaSalle in a vintage card from the incredible artist Dennis Mukai.

Can Jorge Ramos Save The Americam Immigrant Dream?

Univision broadcaster Jorge Ramos spars with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump before being booted from the news conference.

Univision broadcaster Jorge Ramos spars with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump before being booted from the news conference in Iowa Tuesday.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S DISAPPOINTING failure to champion immigration reform, what The Washington Post called his “immigration train wreck,” may be the consummate example of the failure of the Obama presidency on Latino issues.

It is also a tell-tale sign of the potential trouble the Democratic Party could find itself in politically, and an incredible opening for the GOP if it could ever decide to take the courageous steps needed to broaden its base and not fumble the opportunity.

Sadly, for Latinos, the 2016 presidential campaign could wind up being a repeat of the last eight years – broken promises from the Democrats, should they once again put immigration reform on the back burner, and frustration because any Republican presidency likely will have no mandate to make history on the same issue.

Whatever happens next year, count on Univision broadcaster Jorge Ramos to continue being the conscience of America on immigration reform, as he again showed himself to be in confronting Republican frontrunner Donald Trump Tuesday.

At a news conference in Iowa, Ramos attempted to grill Trump on immigration without having been called on by the candidate, and it led to fireworks that have been at the top of the political news cycle since then.

“You haven’t been called on, go back to Univision,” Trump said to Ramos, who soon was removed from the news confernce by security.

Trump and Ramos apparently have a negative history not unlike Trump’s with Fox newscaster Megyn Kelly, with whom he sparred during and after the GOP debate earlier this month – and on whom he has not lessened his criticism since then.

Ramos also is hardly non-partisan. His wholesale support of immigrants rights is well know, and he has acknowledged that his daughter now works on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Those leanings, however, never stopped him from his criticism of Obama.

“A promise is a promise,” Ramos famously reminded Obama over his failure to press for comprehensive immigration reform. “Una promesa es una promesa.”

Jorge Ramos’ own championing of immigrants has taken on a life of its own not only because of him being perhaps the best nationally known Latino advocating progressive immigration reform but also by the fact that Univision and its new Fusion network offer him the biggest platform enjoyed by any Hispanic leader.

It’s not that some Latino Democratic leaders haven’t also been critical of Obama’s broken promises, but their criticism has been understandably muted by comparison – their own party’s fate is at stake, after all.

Latino Democrats and partisans also are not about to call the president and their party’s leader a bald-faced liar, which is what Ramos effectively has done — and can get away with, perhaps because he’s not beholden to the Democratic Party but possibly because of that charming accented English of his that allows him to be harsher than he actually sounds.

Any other journalist might be accused of being rude, but not Jorge Ramos who perhaps should be called the linguistic Barack Obama. Like Obama at the height of his popularity in 2008, Ramos is a man of color whose presence and style don’t immediately alienate a white audience.

But Ramos does have some of those Latino Democratic leaders pulling at their hair because they fear that his criticism only adds more fuel to the fire potentially burning their party’s hopes of winning the White House in 2016 and possibly control of Congress.

Over the past year I have had a long dinners with influential Latino Democrats who visibly grimaced when talk turned to Jorge Ramos, his ongoing criticism of Obama’s immigration record, and the fact that the Obama presidency’s increasing unpopularity has become a glaring political weakness for the party.

What will it mean for the Obama legacy? How will he be viewed among other presidents? He has no international conquests like even Richard Nixon’s legacy leans back on, unless you count Osama Bin Laden’s killing, whose hunt began during the Bush administration. Today the country is torn apart over race, not only in Congress but across communities and its national culture. The economic recovery is overblown. The Affordable Health Care Act, remains a mixed bag of hope and promise, at best, like its namesake.

And immigration policies, on which there has been only limited improvement and no reform, have continued to leave Latino immigrants as second class American dreamers, with the Obama history of record deportations qualifying his administration as perhaps the worst of any recent president on immigration.

My Democratic friends have tried to downplay Ramos’ criticism the same way that many of Jorge’s critics have found it easy to dismiss him – that it’s Jorge’s own immigrant background speaking.

Ramos, 57, was already in his mid-20s when he immigrated to the U.S. His understanding of politics was groomed in Mexico, which in the minds of many Americans is a quasi democracy where imperial leadership and essentially a one-party political system formed Jorge’s views of political power.

That may be unfair to Ramos, who in the last three decades has become one of America’s leading journalists. But it doesn’t make him immune from sometimes sounding surprisingly sophomoric and naive, especially given his experience and when other political reporters weigh in their analyses of Obama and other candidates.

But the Democrats’ political considerations aren’t Ramos’ concern, nor should they be, any more than those of Donald Trump who has now assured that Jorge will be recognized even more so as a journalist one of my reporter friends calls “the Latino Edward R. Murrow.”

Perhaps, though, Jorge Ramos has more accurately fashioned himself as our Alexis de Toqueville, the 19th century French political thinker and historian whose writings on democracy in America form the backbone of assigned political science reading at U.S. college and universities.

For it may be the fate of yet another immigrant to help put this troubled nation of immigrants back on the right path to its destiny.

Why Ted Cruz’s presidential candidacy is important

Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday became the first major candidate to declare his candidacy for the 2016 presidential campaign. (AP Photo for Voxxi.com/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz on Monday, March 23, became the first major candidate to declare his candidacy for the 2016 presidential campaign. (AP Photo for Voxxi.com/J. Scott Applewhite)

RONALD REAGAN ONCE said that Latinos were Republicans. They just didn’t know it yet.

Ted Cruz, the Republican U.S. senator from Texas who has become the first major candidate to officially enter the 2016 presidential campaign, is quietly gambling that those words were never truer than in the upcoming campaign where he also apparently becomes the first major Latino figure to run for the White House.

The importance of Cruz’s entry into the race, however, is not that he is running as a Latino. Clearly he is not. Nor, quite frankly, should any Hispanic be running for that or any office on his ethnicity any more than, say, a Jewish candidate entering any campaign as little more than a Jewish candidate.

Instead, the significance of Ted Cruz is that he has not made his Latinoness an issue nor a cornerstone of his candidacy, and that the news media has not been quick to make him being Hispanic the historical importance that it placed on Jesse Jackson when he ran for president in 1984 or Barack Obama when he announced he was entering the 2008 campaign.

All that is important for the large segment of Latinos in America who are not recent immigrants, who are no more the activists of immigration reform than they were of the Chicano movement back in the 1960s.

Those Latinos made up most of the 8 million Hispanic Americans in the U.S. in 1972, and they along with with children and grandchildren still make up the bulk of the 50 million now in the country and, more importantly, of those who are eligible and registered to vote — and who do vote.

They are the ones that Ronald Reagan was talking about. And they are the ones that Republicans are now targeting.

It is not new that many, including some conservative Republicans, believe that Latinos hold the fate of upcoming political elections in their hands.

What is new, though, is just how diligent and undeterred the GOP has been in quietly wooing the traditionally loyal Hispanics, trying to help them discover that, as the party patron saint Ronald Reagan said, they are Republicans and just haven’t realized it.

In the past year, the GOP has spent more than $10 million in improving its Hispanic field operations in key states and flooding the air with Spanish-language advertisements.

The Republican National Committee has also launched “Hispanic engagement field teams” in nine states, with two dozen paid staff members on the ground reaching out to Latinos.

“The message we are going to give Latinos is about jobs, about education and about Obamacare,” says the GOP’s Rosario Marin, the California political operative who was U.S. treasurer under George W. Bush.

Marin, now a RNC advisory board member, insists that the national debate on immigration has not hurt Republicans, pointing to Chris Christie carrying 51 percent of the Hispanic vote in his gubernatorial reelection triumph last year in New Jersey, and the GOP’s David Jolly winning a special congressional election in Florida.

In fact, a Pew Hispanic Center survey agreed that immigration is not the most important issue to Latinos, ranking behind education, the economy and health care.

Marin and others maintain that the anti-Republican sentiment over the congressional impasse is exaggerated and offset by President Obama’s struggles with the immigrant community over deportations.

The GOP is also drawing encouragement from a Gallup poll in Texas in which more Latinos identified themselves as Republican than in the country as a whole.

Democrats hold a 30 percent advantage among Latinos over Republicans nationally, but that difference is only 19 percent in Texas, where Democrats had hoped to make inroads into the GOP’s two-decade stranglehold on the Lone Star State in last year’s mid-term election but failed miserably.

James Duarte, a retired state employee a former Democrat and current independent, typifies third and fourth generation Latino Americans who he couldn’t see himself voting for gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis – paradoxically over the issue that made her the state’s Democratic Party darling.

“I (couldn’t) get behind a candidate whose chief claim is being pro-abortion,” Duarte, an American G.I. Forum leader among Latino veterans, says of Davis, who skyrocketed to national fame last year because of a legislative filibuster opposing an abortion bill.

But Duarte’s disenchantment goes even deeper. Asked if he would be more enthusiastic over a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, he shook his head.

“I don’t see myself being any more interested in a Hillary Clinton campaign,” he said.

“I think I have just lost faith in the Democrats asking us to vote for them but not having one of us as the candidate at the top of the ticket.

Joe Silva In Excelsus

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JOE SILVA WAS the kind of little brother you never wanted around or following you, but he did.

He was my childhood best friend Johnny Silva’s little brother, and in an especially important way he was mine as well.

Joe Silva, who died Monday in Nashville at the age of 65, was our conscience. He was everything good and pure and honest. When you’re a little kid, the last thing you want around you is a good-two-shoes, which thank God he was.

He also saved our lives.

In the fourth grade, Johnny and I had started smoking, secretly, of course, snatching my father’s Camels and lighting them up every afternoon on our way home from school.

Johnny and I lived a block apart and always walked home together along a creek that took us past a golf course, under a bridge on Garden Drive, and through a cemetery with overgrown weeds and vegetation where hobos sometimes camped out, eating wild blackberries growing in the brush and catching crawfish in the waterbed.

We lived in the sticks of South Waco in a dusty neighborhood called Oakwood Addition lined with gravel streets where we were all poor white trash, as a white friend who later became a banker still says of us — to which I’ve always said to him:

“You may be white trash, but I’m a golden palomino.”

So, too, were Johnny and Joe, and we were among a handful of Hispanic kids in what was otherwise a poor, white working class community in the heart of America’s Bible Belt in the 1950s.

One afternoon, walking home along the creek, Johnny and I lit up our Camels and thought more of how we were going to try blowing smoke rings than the care we took in discarding the matches we’d just used.

As we trudged along next to the creek bank, indulging ourselves with our cigarettes, a couple of hobos ran past us, which we thought was strange, though not as odd as seeing Joe running madly toward us with a terrified look on his little face, screaming at the top of his voice.

Joe was in the second grade, and we could barely make out what he was yelling until he was almost upon us.

“Fire! Fire! There’s a fire behind you!” he screamed, pointing toward something behind us.

We turned around and immediately froze in our own horror.

A sea of flames had engulfed the entire cemetery as dried weeds and brush fueled the blaze that was racing toward us and was now perhaps no more than 10 feet away, close enough that we could smell it and hear its crackling.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” Joe screamed with a child’s urgency.

He grabbed our hands, and we ran what must have been the length of a football field under a blistering Texas sun, seemingly hotter because of the fire that roared and burned a cloud of black smoke behind us.

Outside the cemetery field, a fire engine with its wailing siren alerting its arrival turned into the trail next to the creek as a second truck appeared as well.

It was the most frightened I had felt in my young life, and all I could think of was that Johnny and I had almost died and that we were now in a heap of trouble.

I swore off cigarettes. I said Hail Marys. I wanted to turn the clock back.

That night my parents got a phone call from Mrs. Silva, who was also the den mother of my Cub Scouts group, but she wasn’t calling about scouting. She came over to our house, and I immediately apologized to her.

“It was my fault,” I said. “Don’t blame Johnny.”

“Really?” she asked. “Because Johnny says he’s the one responsible.”

“Will I go to jail?” I asked her.

She looked at me, and her tears made me feel worse.

“Should you go to jail?” Her question just hung there and would haunt me for a long time.

Mrs. Silva pulled me close to her and gave me a hug I desperately needed.

The next day our two families were at the Waco Police Department where our parents turned us in and promised to pay for the damage.

We were lucky. Lucky, that is, except that neither Johnny nor I could sit for a couple of days without our butts not hurting from the belt spankings each of us got from our fathers.

But our parents didn’t have to pay for the damage. The manager of Restland Cemetery said that the blaze cleared out the unwanted forest that had swarmed over the graveyard for several years, making it an eyesore that families hadn’t wanted to visit.

“We did ‘em a favor,” Johnny later bragged to some of our friends. “It was like we were heroes.”

We weren’t, of course, except for Joe.

Joe was his brothers’ keeper.