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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Hector Barreto: The key to engaging with Hispanics

I was reminded this week of 1980, when my father — who was the founder of a national organization representing the interests of Hispanic business owners — got involved with the presidential election in order to support Ronald Reagan.

My dad had been told by his friends that because he was Hispanic he needed to support the Democratic candidate for president. But while he was, of course, proud of his Mexican heritage, my father did not make decisions based on his identity as “Hispanic.” First and foremost, he identified as a business owner and he knew that his philosophy for his business and community were more in line with Ronald Reagan: smaller government, freedom, effective national security, and personal responsibility.

Indeed, my father’s philosophy and Reagan’s were very much aligned. Once he was president, Reagan sought my father’s council both as an entrepreneur and as a Hispanic leader. The two men didn’t always agree, but they discussed their differences and learned from one other.

Who will Donald Trump turn to in the Hispanic community? Will Mr. Trump’s administration actively engage with Hispanic associations and interest groups? If so, which ones, and to discuss which issues? Thanks to some memorable flash points during the 2016 presidential campaign, there will be great interest in the answers to these questions and the Trump team will have to proceed with as much caution as enthusiasm.

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