MY TURN By Rubén Estrada

| 22 Feb 2012 | 01:36

    The critical role Hispanics play in Republican politics “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican.” I am appalled and insulted with such a question from the U.S. Senate Leader Harry Reid. I can only attribute the question as a sign of desperation. He realizes that Hispanic Americans are a significant major electorate who are no longer guaranteed to the Democratic party, and are not only Republicans, but Conservatives, and yes, Tea Party members. For my entire teenage and adult life socially and at the work place I have had to answer such a question as this one by Reid. I was fortunate to have been born and raised in East Harlem (El Barrio) by my parents, both Puerto Rican who instilled life’s rules and values which today are interpreted and defined as very conservative. I see them as just values. I must share some relevant history of my hero and role model, Oscar Garcia Rivera. Oscar Garcia Rivera served in the New York State Assembly from 1937 to 1940. He was the first Puerto Rican to be elected to the Assembly and first to elective office in the continental United State. Moreover, he was a Republican. His election was a milestone since he was able to unseat a 24-year Tammany Hall incumbent Democrat. Personally, Mr. Garcia has played an important role for me as a role model in my political life. As a young Republican growing up in East Harlem, it was very lonely as it must also have been for Oscar Garcia Rivera. As an out spoken and active Republican I experienced much difficulty since my party affiliation was not embraced, accepted and was outright dangerous. For many years I felt that the Republican Party, and that which it represented was truly reflective of my personal thoughts, values and those of my community. Understanding the great obstacles and adversities of which Oscar Garcia Rivera must had endured made my situation a bit more tolerable and yet more persistent. As a young man, and as it is today, I believe the Republican Party is the true party of inclusion, reform, prosperity and peace. Comments by the likes of Harry Reid are a continued effort to use race in polarizing Americans. He as well as many others Democrats continue to ask how, and why, a Puerto Rican or Hispanic can be a Republican. These are the same Liberal Democrats who have always spewed their rhetoric - that they are advocates of equality, women and inclusive of all. Except, that is, if you are a pro life conservative thinking female, Latino - or other free thinking person with values other then the progressive liberal. These free thinking people need not apply at the Democratic Party. We Republicans must take pride in being the party with demonstrated leadership in diversity by our past policies, sensitivities and major Hispanic appointments. Let us not forget the many Hispanics appointed by Republican presidential administrations in my time, dating back to President Nixon. As Hispanic Republicans we must see the question posed by Senator Reid as a call to action. The timing is such that we, as a party, cannot allow Democrats to develop any reasons of perceived conflicts with our Hispanic community, and, we should embrace the Hispanic electorate. It is not us to be seen as haters, or exclusive. I truly believe the party leadership, with its interest of inclusion of the Hispanic community, must regroup with the main objective of maintaining our position - as the party of Hispanic’s. This can only be achieved by toning down the attacks, and galvanizing the historically loyal Hispanic Republicans for a positive unified approach. Rubén Estrada is president of Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Orange County as well as President of the LULAC Council-Hudson Valley Latinos.