Meet the Latinos who voted for Donald Trump

Despite his anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican rhetoric, the president-elect secured at least 18 per cent of the Hispanic-American vote

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The Independent US

On a blistering August day in Arizona, 18-year-old Jorge Ramos was registering to vote on the steps outside Phoenix College, where he is a freshman student. The son of two formerly undocumented Mexican immigrants, he told The Independent he’d been waiting for years to vote and took the privilege seriously. “My parents always told me: ‘Your vote counts,’” he said.

As a first-time voter from an immigrant family in the year of Trump, Ramos seemed like a made-to-measure Clinton supporter. But it wasn’t that simple. “We’re in a big pickle right now with the choice we have,” he said. “We don’t have anyone decent running. I don’t think Donald Trump has what it takes to be a good president. But I feel the same about Hillary Clinton.”

If someone like Ramos was on the fence, then perhaps the Democrat didn’t have quite so much ingrained support among Latinos as her campaign had hoped. As it turned out on election day, the so-called “Latino wave” did not crest high enough to overcome her opponent’s wall of white voters. And meanwhile, many Latinos cast their ballots for the Republican.

Estimates of the proportion of Hispanic Americans who voted for Trump run from 18 to 29 per cent. But Latinos accounted for 11 per cent of voters overall, and even 18 per cent of 11 per cent of the entire US electorate is still a lot of votes for the man who called Mexicans rapists and pledged to deport all of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US.

So what persuaded them?

Robert Alvarado

Robert Alvarado, a 57-year-old sales manager from Dallas, grew up in a conservative Hispanic household and has always voted Republican. He recently married his same-sex partner of 17 years. “After I came out as gay, people automatically assumed I must be liberal,” he says.

During the GOP primary, he was keen on Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, but he threw his support behind Trump as soon as it became clear that the businessman would be his party’s nominee. “Trump’s not an idiot, he’s a businessman and he knows how to get things done,” he says.

Alvarado, 57, is a sales manager from Dallas, Texas

Is he crass? Yes. Then again, he’s honest, he’s a patriot who cares about the country and who said the things people wanted to say. He will surround himself with knowledgeable people. He’s going to be held accountable; he won’t run the whole show.

I don’t mean this in a degrading way, but it’s uneducated Latinos that fear deportation and the wall. Trump’s not really going to do all that, he’s just saying that immigrants have to come to America the correct way. I think when Latinos see what he does, they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I was as surprised as anyone that he won. I had butterflies in my stomach as the results came in from Florida and Ohio. Of course I’m nervous. I see how America is reacting to it, and that’s unnerving. But I’m praying that the right things get done.

I listen to a lot of talk radio. I have a lot of liberal friends who call me brainwashed. My husband is a liberal, but we don’t talk about politics at home. I have a son from my previous marriage who is a little more liberal socially, but I don’t think he voted for Trump or Hillary.

Jessica Reyes

A teacher from San Diego, 37-year-old Jessica Reyes was born in Mexico but is now a US citizen. She served in the US Army, including a tour in Kosovo. After switching her allegiance from the Democrats, she has voted Republican since 2008.

Trump’s offensive comments about Latinos or women didn’t bother her. “The taco bowl issue? I didn’t mind,” she says. “If a politician doesn’t see me as a person worth mentioning in a respectful way, then that’s their problem, not mine.”

Reyes, 37, is a teacher and US Army veteran who lives in San Diego, California

I was a silent Trump supporter. I’m an educator and we’re expected not to discuss our politics or point of view in the classroom. And because of the candidate I was supporting, I would have faced a major backlash had I talked about it.

It’s upsetting to me that as someone who served my country, I fear for my safety just because I support somebody with a different point of view than most of the people that I live around. My students asked me how I voted. I said: ‘That’s between me and my ballot paper.’

One of the main reasons I voted for Trump was because he’s willing to listen to American veterans. Fiscal responsibility is important to me. And the Democratic party had eight years to do something about immigration and didn’t do anything.

I didn’t take his idea of the wall seriously. A lot of people believe his words, but it will be hard to put those words into action. Most politicians are just talk, so you have to decide whether you’re going to believe what they say or wait to see what they do.

I never considered voting for Hillary Clinton. She failed to deliver when she was in office. As a veteran, the way she failed our brothers in Benghazi hurt me the most. A politician who can’t protect our own people? What can I expect from her as Commander in Chief?

Katherine Vasconez

Katherine Vasconez, 30, a corporate lawyer from Los Angeles, is a lifelong Republican. She has always opposed abortion and favoured smaller government, and her family shares her views – they all voted for Trump, too.

That wasn't true of her friends and colleagues. “This is the first election when I have lost friends over a political disagreement,” she says. “It has been intense to a degree I’ve never experienced.”

Vasconez, 30, is a corporate lawyer in Los Angeles

I’ve been very vocal in my support since Day One of his candidacy. I have gay friends and other minority friends. I don’t believe in shutting down other people’s views. But three people defriended me on Facebook. I got emails calling me racist and against women.

Trump really was my first choice. I was attracted to his winning spirit. I’m a hard worker, and there are times when you really just want to win and you’ll go against everything else just to achieve that one goal.

You get Trump as a whole package. You can’t have his winning style and fire, and also have an amazing speaker who never insults anyone. That person doesn’t exist. But I really don’t think he means ill in his heart. I don’t think he’s a racist.

He said and did a lot of things that weren’t politically correct. I can see other people’s perspective on those things, but he’s not trying to be someone he’s not. There’s something to be said for being yourself and owning it.

I’m very compassionate towards Hillary, though. As happy as I was that Trump won, I was saddened for her loss. I can only imagine how she felt.

Juan-Carlos Gomez

JC Gomez was born in Chile but moved to the US with his parents in 1969. Now 50, he works as a computer solutions architect for Hewlett-Packard in northern Virginia. A Democrat as a young man, he says his politics have moved steadily rightward over the years.

He and his wife “see eye to eye,” Gomez says, but the rest of their family did not support Trump – and for that, he blames the media. “A lot of my family listen purely to CNN’s Spanish-language channel. And I know exactly how left-leaning CNN is,” he says. “The arrogance with which they called Mr Trump names, labelled him racist and misogynist – that’s all my family ever heard.”

A lot of Mr Trump’s immigration platform was just noise. That wall already exists; it may not be a huge brick wall, exactly, but a dividing wall does exist and has for decades. I don’t know of any country in the world that doesn’t have some of law that enforces border crossing.

I agree with him that unprotected borders lead to the possibility of infiltration by foreign warriors. I have mixed feelings on mass deportation. There are challenges in just uprooting 11 million people, some of whom have lived here their entire lives.

Mr Trump is focused on levelling the playing field in the global market. The only way to stabilise our economy is to bring jobs back home. I’ve been more and more indignant at policymakers making it easy for corporations to hire workers from abroad to take jobs here, predominantly in the IT market – while in the manufacturing space, they export all the work to overseas labour.

I hold the Second Amendment close to my heart. As a concealed-carry holder, I felt extremely threatened that Hillary Clinton would challenge the Second Amendment and perhaps even force the Supreme Court to change their interpretation of it. Law-abiding citizens like myself would likely have no choice but to turn in our firearms. Meanwhile, the thugs and criminals don’t give a rat’s ass about law and would hold onto their weapons.