POR Agence France-Presse
Bust of Caesar Chávez in the Oval Office, Spanish returns to White House website and Jennifer Lopez shines at the inauguration: Joe Biden’s presidency heralds a new era for Latinos in the United States.
From day one, the Democratic president spared no signs of recognition and actions affecting the country’s first minority.
Invited as the star artist to Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday at the Capitol, New York singer from Puerto Rico of origin J Lu spoke out loud in Spanish: “One nation under God, not divided, with unity and justice for everyone!”
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Biden later closed a series of decrees, including a halt to the construction of the wall with Mexico that his predecessor, Donald Trump, sought to stop the arrival of illegal immigrants, most of them from Latin America.
While he was signing documents in his new office, the bust did not go unnoticed. Among the family photos behind the presidential office was Cesar Chávez, a late Mexican peasant activist and symbol of the 1960s civil rights movement.
Several orders approved that afternoon marked the start of the ambitious immigration reform Biden promoted, which includes settling 11 million unregistered foreigners residing in the United States, including about five million Mexicans and another two million in Central America.
On the same day, the White House website included something new: revitalizing the Spanish section.
The “White House” portal, created by Republican George W. Bush and run by Democrat Barack Obama, has not been updated during Trump’s four years. The Republican argued that “English is spoken in the United States”, despite the fact that the country has no official language.
Hispanics are the first minority in the United States: they number 60 million and represent more than 18% of the total population. According to the Census Bureau, 41 million Spanish languages are spoken at home.
“President Biden’s gestures indicate a new opening of the White House to engage the Latino community in the United States,” Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials and Designated (NALIO), told AFP.
“During the past four years, only a small segment of the Latin community was able to reach the White House,” he said. “All that changed yesterday.”
Trump garnered strong support among Hispanics in Florida. But of the 20 million Latinos who voted in the presidential election on November 3, 70% did so for Biden and only about a third for Trump.
Clarissa Martinez, vice president of UnidosUS, an association that has championed the rights of Latinos in the United States since 1968, has highlighted the “strength” of Biden’s electoral support. But he said that regardless of who voted, Hispanics agreed on issues they considered priority.
The coronavirus pandemic, the economy and healthcare were on top of concerns for this group, according to a pre-election poll conducted by NALEO and Latino Decisions.
Biden will have to address these issues not only for Latinos, but also for the rest of Americans.
“We see ourselves as part of a whole,” Martinez emphasized. Biden’s signs of inclusion are “recognition of the contribution Latinos make every day, along with other citizens, to the country’s progress.”
He stressed, “This is especially important because this community has seen a lot of distortion in the past four years.”
“Yes you can”
“Placing the bust of my father in the Oval Office symbolizes the hopeful new day that shines bright for our nation,” said Paul F Chávez, the son of Chávez and president of the Cesar Chávez Foundation.
The Foundation reports that the 55 cm bronze work, created by artist Paul Suarez 25 years ago and now exhibited at the center in honor of the California farm leader, was shipped to Washington at the request of the Biden team.
The Agricultural Union, which emerged from the federation Chávez founded in 1962, welcomed Biden’s election and stressed that with unity, there could be a better tomorrow.
“Yes, you can,” he said on Twitter.
Joaquín Castro, the Democrat who chairs the Latino caucus in the House of Representatives of Congress, celebrated the arrival of the “hero” to the White House.
Biden has already added Julie Chávez Rodriguez, the granddaughter of the legendary activist, to his team of collaborators. In addition, if confirmed by the Senate, the new government would have three Latins, which is a record.
Biden chose Xavier Becera as Minister of Health. Alejandro Mayuras, born in Cuba, works for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); And to Miguel Cardona, a citizen of Puerto Rico, to head the education file.