Políticos: Latinos Celebrate the Inauguration and the Arts in the Nation's Capitol

Tricia O. Ortiz

I had to get "celebrity-ready" to work my first red carpet at the Latino Inaugural Ball at the Kennedy Center.

Makeup. Check.

Dress. Check.

Miss Texas hair. Check.

Photographer extraordinaire Tricia O. Ortiz. Check.

I had stiff competition - behind the red velvet rope were light-eyed beauties - Telemundo’s Carmen Dominicci and CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux. Walking the red carpet were Broadway legends Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno, outgoing Secretary of Labor Hilda Solís, as well as the co-chair of this Washington, DC event - actress and activist Eva Longoria.

After years of political reporting, I’m more comfortable with President Obama’s highest-ranking Latina cabinet member than a Hollywood actor. I’m even skeptical of "La La Land's" commitment to advocacy.

What do people with publicists know about real people’s struggles?

I found out that the answer, at least among this crowd, is a fair amount because many of these performers come from humble beginnings. Despite the glitz, a social spark in them ignited and each talked about the need to use their celebrity to help Hispanics access more opportunities, especially young Latinos.

Wilmer Valderrama - who killed it when he recited a poem by Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco - stressed the importance of staying engaged after the election. He said that next up for him is working on immigration reform and promised not to rest until a comprehensive deal is passed by Congress.

Did you know that Prince Royce is fun and “political”? I asked him to give me a sneak peek at his bachata moves during his performance. He did, with me in his arms (swoon)! He also warned of the dangers of political apathy and urged our youth to make a difference by becoming involved - right away - with neighborhood and community issues.

Latinos needing to achieve in the classroom and the business boardroom is a theme that came up virtually with every star. Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno, who paved the way for today’s performers, insist that Hispanics now have more opportunities than they had when they started out. But we must fight and be persistent to achieve success not just for ourselves but our families, community, and country.

The person who shined brightest among a constellation of stars was Eva Longoria. She is using her celebrity and money to advocate for the Latino community. Her commitment isn’t only limited to co-chairing the Inaugural Ball. She co-founded the Futuro Fund, a special interest organization focused on advancing Hispanic issues (it was started to raise election money for the President). Before her amped-up political involvement this election, she started a non-profit devoted to helping young Latinas in need - the homeless, women who need small business loans, and with scholarships. If last night is any indication, her power as a national political player is just coming together.

Eva’s Futuro Fund co-chair and San Antonio business man Henry Muñoz summed up the mood after an evening of dance, music, and song when he asked, “Now wasn’t that American talent at its best?” [Ed note: Author's emphasis]

It was.

This performance at the Kennedy Center (which has been criticized by the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts for the lack of more Latino Kennedy Center Honorees) is over.

So is Election 2012 which marked the rise of a new Latino political voting bloc with the power to win elections or sway politician’s votes on issues.

If we use it.

Viviana Hurtado, founder of the Hispanic woman-focused news and current events website The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics columnist. Read more of Viviana's political posts here.

Share this 
Like this post? Contribute to the discussion!