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Latino Activists Celebrate At Inauguration, Expect Immigration Reform

Ryan Loyd
Texas Public Radio

The Presidential Inauguration is Monday and Washington D.C. is ready for the massive celebration.

Also celebrating will be San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, and many other Latino celebrities, public officials and community leaders who worked on the Obama campaign. People who now hope to be rewarded with comprehensive immigration reform.

The Latino Inaugural Ball will be more like a star-studded extravaganza concert at the Kennedy Center and hosted by star Eva Longoria. Mark Anthony is performing, Jose Feliciano will jam and Rita Moreno will entertain.

“There aren’t words exciting enough or good enough to describe how I feel about it – I’m jumping up and down like a child,” said Moreno.

The folks going to the Latino Inaugural Ball are in for a historic spectacle – Rita Moreno will for the first time share the stage with another Latina star of Broadway – Chita Rivera. Both won accolades for their portrayal of Anita in West Side Story.

The audience will be a who’s who of Latinos in politics. Moreno said they will have a night to remember.

“The people who are going to be in that show are so extraordinary,” she said.

Making it a reality

Chris Garcia is traveling from San Antonio to Washington D.C. to witness the historic swearing in.

"There’s only going to be one first black president – and there’s only going to be one first black president to get re-elected," he said.

Garcia was an Obama campaign volunteer in South Texas and his wife surprised him with D.C. plane tickets as a Christmas present. He quickly started asking around for tickets to the inauguration. He missed out on tickets to the Latino Ball, but did get tickets to the inauguration, and he’ll be watching closely for both swearing-ins.

“Sonya Sotomayor will be giving Vice President Biden- she’ll be performing the oath with him – and that will be the first time that a Latina judge does that,” Garcia said.

Garcia said he will be listening very carefully to President Obama’s second inaugural address – waiting to hear the words "immigration reform."

“With the Latino turnout and how important it was they have to address immigration,” he said.

The ball and the symposium

San Antonio cultural activist Henry Muñoz III has a ticket to the Kennedy Center Latino Ball – a front row seat. He is the event organizer and worked raising money for the Obama campaign.

“I’m going to take the President at his word – that in 2013 his priority is to pass immigration reform,” said Muñoz.

He said the celebration is not just about Barack Obama's re-election, but also the critical role that Latinos had in that election victory.

"It certainly was a historic election," said Muñoz. "For the first time in the history of presidential politics Latinos contributed more than 10 percent of the vote and I think it’s an important moment to reflect on that moment but also to think about what comes next."

Munoz said he is certain that means immigration reform.     

He said all that Latino political muscle gathered in D.C. will be more than a party. They are holding a symposium to look at how to continue to build Latino participation in elections to turn that participation into power.

Life can be bright in America if you can fight in America.  Fight in the political arena. 

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi