Throughout the world, 20 de julio or Colombian Independence from Spain is celebrated by dancing to cumbia and vallenato, toasting with our moonshine--aguardiente, as well as savoring delicacies like beef empanadas or patties, patacón pisao or fried plaintains, and arepas--corn cakes. That’s what I remember, having marked that day, which falls 16 days after American Independence Day. This year, however, was different.
Along with several dozen Colombian-American business and community leaders, I spent my 20 de julio at the White House, attending a special briefing. The invitation has to be placed within the context of the Obama Administration’s aggressive Hispanic outreach, turbo-charged as the November election draws nearer. At 972,000, or barely 2 percent of the Latino population, Colombian-Americans are dwarfed in numbers by the nearly 33 million strong Mexican-American community, according to the non-partisan think tank the Pew Hispanic Center. But Colombian-Americans are concentrated in Florida, perhaps this election’s most coveted battleground state with 29 electoral votes at stake.
Perhaps the Administration’s hardest sell was on the trade and economic front, which makes sense since the weak economic recovery, slow job creation, and the Latino unemployment rate that has trended two points above the national average are weaknesses for President Obama. U.S. Executive Director to the Inter-American Bank Gustavo Arnavat quoted projections that the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement will add $2.5 billion to the gross domestic product (GDP) and grow U.S. goods by $1.1 billion dollars a year, creating thousands of U.S. jobs.
One businessman, Alberto Peisach, who owns a packaging and container business, expressed to Fox News Latino frustration with the high costs that burden small business, including the health care law, despite credits the Administration has promoted.
Often times, the Latino community feels “invisible” or even disrespected by the actions or inactions of political parties, candidates, and campaigns. This Colombian-American briefing was a way to make the Obama Administration more hospitable.
But there still are independent or undecided voters like Peisach who the President needs to convince to help him stay “four more years.”
This post appears in Fox News Latino where I am a regular politics columnist as Obama Administration Holds Briefing for Colombian-American Business Owners.
Click here to read my other Fox News Latino politics columns.Do you think the Obama Administration's Latino outreach is going to pay off in November?