Comunidad puertorriqueña se pronunció sobre los resultados de las elecciones en Florida

Este miércoles las organizaciones Respeta Mi Gente, Alianza para el Progreso y la Federación Hispana se pronunciaron sobre los resultados de las lecciones de mitad de periodo en Florida y su incidencia en los puertorriqueños y la comunidad latina de la entidad.

Por Redacción MiamiDiario

“La coalición Respeta Mi Gente se enorgullece de haber desempeñado un papel importante en romper los récord de décadas de participación de votantes puertorriqueños e hispanos en la Florida Central. La participación a mediano plazo aumentó en todos los condados a los que apuntamos para la participación de los votantes, incluidos los condados de Orange, Osceola Polk y Seminole, y los votantes eligieron un número récord de funcionarios locales de ascendencia puertorriqueña”, dijo Alex Barrio, Director Político de Alianza para el Progreso.

La fuerza política que se demostró en las recientes elecciones llevó a que los candidatos puertorriqueños e hispanos alcanzaran la victoria, lo cual les permitirá trabajar por sus comunidades.

“En este ciclo electoral, lideramos un esfuerzo de participación cívica institucional sin precedentes que nos permitió involucrar, registrar y movilizar directamente a más de 1 millón de votantes en la Florida y en todo el país (…) En el futuro, nuestra visión se centrará de lleno en 2020″, indicó José Calderón, presidente de la Federación Hispana.

Los oradores en la convocatoria destacaron las conclusiones generales de las elecciones del 6 de noviembre y señalaron el registro y las estadísticas de los votantes.

A continuación se presentan los resultados clave anunciados en la convocatoria:

En los condados de Orange, Osceola y Seminole, el registro de votantes superó el año de la elección presidencial anterior: se registraron 77,000 latinos, la mayoría de ellos puertorriqueños (cerca de 50k).

Se espera que la participación estatal, puertorriqueña y latina supere el 13% de la proporción de votantes cuando todos los precintos terminen de contar.

Eso es un aumento del 5% respecto del 8% en 2014, y el objetivo de la Campaña Respeta Mi Gente era alcanzar el 12%.

En Orange, Osceola y Seminole, la Enmienda 4 ganó con más del 60% de los votos, estimamos que la mayoría de esto será el apoyo puertorriqueño. Johanna Lopez ganó y se convirtió en la primera latina / puertorriqueña en formar parte de la Junta Escolar en el Condado de Orange.

Darren Soto, el primer y único congresista puertorriqueño de la Florida, fue reelegido para el noveno distrito del Congreso de la Florida.

El puertorriqueño Félix Ortiz ganó un asiento abierto para el Comisionado de la Ciudad de Kissimmee. Viviana Janer se convirtió en la primera Comisionada del Condado de Puerto Rico en el Condado de Osceola.

Janet Cruz se convirtió en la primera puertorriqueña en ganar un escaño en el Senado del Estado de Florida en Tampa, donde hay una creciente población puertorriqueña.

En total, 271,950 puertas fueron golpeadas por la Campaña Respeta Mi Gente. Se estima que de este universo, el 50% de las personas contactadas resultó votar.

Kara Watkins
Elecciones 2018: revalidan y se suman boricuas en el Congreso

Con una ventaja sumamente cerrada, el candidato republicano a la gobernación por el estado de la Florida, Ron DeSantis, se proyectaba como el ganador de la contienda electoral que se celebró ayer como parte de las elecciones de medio término en los Estados Unidos. El demócrata Andrew Gillum se mantenía abajo al cierre de esta edición, por tan solo 1% de los votos, con el 99% de los votos escrutados.

También con una ventaja muy cerrada, el republicano Rick Scott se proyectaba como el vencedor en la carrera senatorial por dicho estado, con un 50.4% de los votos, versus el incumbente demócrata Bill Nelson, que acumulaba el 49.6% con el 99% de los votos escrutados.

Ambas contiendas se observaban con atención desde Puerto Rico y el resto de los Unidos Unidos, no solo por ser un estado clave en las elecciones, sino porque el voto de la comunidad de puertorriqueños que allí reside sería crucial en el resultado final.

Ayer más temprano Frederick Vélez, director de campaña de la alianza “Respeta Mi Gente”, que durante los pasados meses ha realizado esfuerzos dirigidos a que la comunidad boricua y latina se inscribiera y saliera a votar, aseguró que los puertorriqueños residentes en el estado habían salido a ejercer su derecho al voto. “Estamos bien emocionados con lo que estamos viendo”, apuntó.

Vélez indicó que, hasta el sábado, unos 40 mil puertorriqueños y latinos habían votado de forma adelantada, del total de 77 mil suscriptores. De los que ya habían votado, se estimaba que un 75% era puertorriqueño.

Los números reportados al cierre de esta edición demuestran que, en efecto, la comunidad boricua ejerció su voto en Florida Central, donde reside la mayoría, principalmente a favor de los candidatos demócratas, a juzgar por los números.

El demócrata Gillum, por ejemplo, obtuvo el 59.6%, 62.2% en los condados de Osceola y Orange respectivamente, en la contienda por la gobernación. Respecto a la carrera senatorial, el demócrata Nelson obtuvo el 58.3% y 61.8% en los condados de Osceola y Orange respectivamente. Ambos candidatos también obtuvieron claras ventajas en Miami-Dade, Broward y Plam Beach.  

Revalidan los boricuas

De otra parte, con una clara ventaja del 79.3% de los votos al cierre de esta edición, la demócrata de origen puertorriqueño, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, logró de manera firme la victoria en la contienda electoral del distrito #14 del estado de Nueva York de la Cámara de Representantes, contra el republicano Anthony Pappas.

A sus 29 años, la victoria conviertió a Ocasio-Cortez como la mujer y latina más joven en ocupar un escaño en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos.

Asimismo, con el 96.1% de los votos, el demócrata puertorriqueño, José Serrano, revalidó en su escaño por el distrito #15 del estado de Nueva York en la Cámara de Representantes.

De igual modo, con un 93.2% de los votos, la congresista demócrata puertorriqueña Nydia Velázquez retuvo su escaño por el distrito #7 de Nueva York en la Cámara Baja.

En el caucus boricua también revalidó el demócrata Darren Soto en su escaño en la Cámara de Representantes por el distrito #9 de la Florida, con un 57.8% de lo votos.

Los ojos estaban también puestos sobre la demócrata de origen boricua, Tatiana Matta, quien se enfrentaba al republicano Kevin McCarthy por el escaño del distrito 23 de California. Los pronósticos, sin embargo, eran favorables para McCarthy, líder de la mayoría en la Cámara y quien se proyecta sustituiría al republicano Paul Ryan como presidente o líder de la minoría, dependiendo de los resultados de las elecciones en la Cámara de Representantes.

Al cierre de esta edición, no se había contabilizado ningún voto de la costa oeste de los Estados Unidos. Respecto a la mitad este, se proyectaba la victoria de 117 demócratas y 118 republicanos. Para lograr el control de la Cámara, son necesarios 218 escaños.

Algunos resultados:

• Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Demócrata), distrito #14 de NY (Cámara) – 79.3% de los votos, mujer y latina más joven en lograr un escaño en el Congreso
• Gobernación Florida: Ron DeSantis (Republicano) – 49.9%, ventaja de 1%
• Senador Florida: Rick Scott (Republicano) – 50.3%, ventaja de .6%
• Gobernación Colorado: Jared Polis (Demócrata) – 51%, primer gobernador abiertamente homosexual en la historia de los Estados Unidos
• Sharice Davids (Demócrata por distrito #3 de Kansas) – 53.3%, primera mujer lesbiana y nativa americana en un ocupar un escaño en la Camara de Representantes
• Rashida Tlaib (Demócrata por distrito #13 de Michigan) – 82.2%, primera mujer musulmana al Congreso de Estados Unidos

Kara Watkins
Elecciones EE.UU. 2018: boricuas están acudiendo a las urnas

Los puertorriqueños residentes en el estado de la Florida se han dejado sentir en las elecciones de medio término que se celebran hoy en los Estados Unidos. Así lo aseguró Frederick Vélez, director de campaña de la alianza "Respeta Mi Gente", que durante los pasados meses ha realizado esfuerzos dirigidos a que la comunidad boricua y latina se inscribiera y saliera a votar.

"Estamos bien emocionados con lo que estamos viendo”, apuntó Vélez, quien además dijo que el número de votantes latino y puertorriqueños que participan de estas elecciones de medio término podría superar el número de las elecciones presidenciales de 2016.

Vélez indicó que, hasta el sábado, unos 40 mil puertorriqueños y latinos habían votado de forma adelantada, del total de 77 mil suscriptores. De los que ya habían votado, se estima que un 75% es puertorriqueño.

"Antes de que llegara el día de las elecciones, ya para el sábado por la noche se había sobrepasado los votos del 2014 (elecciones medio término 2014)”, apuntó.

Hasta el día de hoy, además, miembros de la alianza Respeta Mi Gente habían tocado más de 149 mil puertas e hogares latinos y puertorriqueños, haciendo el llamado a votar y habían registrado sobre 37 mil conversaciones sobre los temas y situaciones que afectan a la comunidad latina y puertorriqueña en los Estados Unidos, así como temas de interés general que podrían afectar a toda la comunidad.

"La conversación era, si estos temas son importante para ustedes, tienen que salir a votar”, explicó Vélez.

Millones de ciudadanos estadounidenses llegarán hoy hasta las urnas para emitir su voto en las elecciones de medio término en los Estados Unidos, donde se seleccionarán las 435 bancas de la Cámara de Representantes, 35 de las 100 bancas del Senado y 36 cargos de gobernación estatal.

Si bien no es una elección presidencial, existe consenso respecto a que los resultados de estas elecciones de medio término representarán en gran medida una respuesta –a favor o en contra- a las políticas impulsadas por el presidente Donald Trump y su agenda.

Según datos del Buró del Censo federal, la población puertorriqueña rondaba los 850 mil en el 2010. Sin embargo, se estima que el número actual de boricuas en la Florida supera los 1.2 millones.

Por su parte, el portavoz de la organización Boricua Vota, Jimmy Torres-Vélez, calificó como "buenísima", la participación de los puertorriqueños durante las elecciones que se celebran hoy.

"La gente se está moviendo muy bien, la gente está reaccionando muy bien a la campaña que hemos hecho de sacar la verdad afuera", apuntó, en referencia a denuncias que ha señalado en contra del aún gobernador aspirante al Senado por el estado de la Florida, Rick Scott.

La migración de puertorriqueños hacia ese estado luego del paso del huracán María el pasado año 2017, ha dado paso a que el voto de esta comunidad sea el más codiciado, pues en sus manos podría estar la elección tanto del escaño a la gobernación como senatorial.

Sin embargo, Torres-Vélez indicó que el peso del voto boricua no estaría en los que se mudaron al estado tras el paso del huracán. Aseguró, no obstante, que el desempeño de la administración de Trump y la Agencia Federal para el Manejo de Emergencias (FEMA) en Puerto Rico luego de María, es un elemento clave para los boricuas al momento de elegir a quién dan su voto.

Kara Watkins
The Trump Administration’s Response To Hurricane Maria Could Doom Florida Republicans

ORLANDO, Fla. ― Arleen Sevilla moved swiftly from house to house. With a stack of mail-in ballot request forms in one arm, she used the tablet in her hand to identify homes in the area where registered Latino voters live.

The 29-year-old canvasser works for Vamos4PRAction, one of more than a dozen organizations working to inform and motivate Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in central Florida to vote in the midterm elections on Nov. 6. She is also among the estimated 160,000 to 176,000 Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria who have permanently relocated to the U.S. mainland.

After almost three months without power and water in their hometown of Manatí, Puerto Rico, the former pastry chef and her family were able to buy plane tickets and relocate to Altamonte Springs, a suburban city in North Orlando. They spent two months living in a hotel, with the help of FEMA, and moved into an apartment of their own once the aid ran out.

Since then, they’ve struggled to adapt. Sevilla and her son, who has autism, don’t speak English, and the family says they’ve faced discrimination from people who accuse them of wanting to live off the government. Sevilla and her husband grow particularly upset when people, President Donald Trump included, praise hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

“He did do something: He threw toilet paper at us as if we were crap,” she said of Trump. “It makes me angry because there are so many lies that they’re telling and people really believe they helped Puerto Rico.”

So when a fellow Maria survivor told Sevilla about Vamos4PR, she was eager to join their ranks, despite never having been involved in politics in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Ricans’ political power is growing in central Florida, becoming an emerging political force since the island’s economic crisis sparked an exodus from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland more than a decade ago.

Most of the Latinos that Vamos4PR targets are unlike Sevilla ― longtime U.S. residents who are already registered as either Democrats or independents, but who may not have voted in previous elections.

The organization is endorsing Democratic candidates ― Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for governor and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, whose seat is being challenged by the state’s current governor, Gov. Rick Scott (R). Though canvassers talk about candidates’ stances on a variety of issues ― including universal health care and raising the minimum wage ― Hurricane Maria, and Trump’s response to it, comes up frequently.

Hurricane Maria represents an important political event for this voting bloc, which is largely unhappy with the federal government’s response to the storm and has found ways to mobilize in its aftermath.

“I usually don’t vote at all, this is the first time in many years,” said Pablo Gelabert. The 43-year-old Puerto Rican native has lived in Florida for more than 20 years and had already gone to vote by the time Sevilla knocked on his door. “I have never cared as much as I do right now.”

Gelabert has no family left on the island, but told Sevilla the federal response to Hurricane Maria was “terrible” and that it’s one of the many reasons he supports candidates that are “the complete opposite of Trump.”

Recent arrivals, by contrast, are not as mobilized to vote and require a more fundamental education on how the political system works in the mainland U.S. On the island, Puerto Ricans can only vote in local elections ― which revolve around a multi-party political system ― and despite being U.S. citizens, they are unable to vote in either presidential or midterm elections unless they reside on the mainland.

“The focus has tended to be: ‘Oh, Puerto Ricans are moving from Puerto Rico to the United States. They are U.S. citizens. They can register to vote automatically,’” said Carlos Vargas-Ramos, political scientist and research associate at the City University of New York’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies.

“Yes, that is true, in theory. In practice, we know that for the people who were displaced by the storm, voting is not going to be a priority. The first order of priority is going to be to secure housing, and to secure a job to pay for that housing.”

Instead, Vargas-Ramos said, political science research indicates the longer someone has lived in a particular community the more likely they are to turn up to vote.

The good news for Democrats is that the Puerto Rican diaspora in Florida has been growing since deteriorating economic conditions on the island sparked a mass migration in 2006 ― and when Puerto Rican voters show up, they tend to go Democratic.

“The raw impact of the Puerto Rican vote in central Florida is significant,” according to Steve Schale, a Tallahassee-based political strategist and Barack Obama’s state director in 2008.

“If you go back to just the 2006 midterm election, the counties that make up the Orlando metropolitan area voted overwhelmingly Republican. Today those counties make up very much the core of the Democratic base in Florida, and it’s a function largely of that Puerto Rican population.”

Edwin Meléndez, director of CUNY’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies, told HuffPost he estimates that in the year after Hurricane Maria, between 67,000 to 73,000 survivors joined the more than 1 million Puerto Ricans already living in Florida. Most of them relocated to central Florida counties like Orange and Osceola where the Puerto Rican population is concentrated.

Voter registration data in Florida doesn’t include a breakdown of voters by origin, but a recent Pew Research Center study found that Latino registered voters in the state increased by 6.2 percent since the 2016 presidential election. More telling is that registration numbers for Latinos grew fastest in 14 of the 18 Florida counties with the largest Puerto Rican populations.

Vargas-Ramos estimates that based on census data, Puerto Ricans currently make up about 5.4 percent of the eligible voting population in Florida.

“It’s not a huge number, but in a race that is very tight, 5 percent may make a big difference at election time,” he said.

Early voting data suggests that Latino turnout is higher in Florida this election, according to Schale. As of Monday, there were more early votes by Latinos compared to the same period four years ago. Out of the 1 million voters who’ve already voted in this election but didn’t in the last midterm, 18 percent are Latino, Schale added.

“That says to me that the Hispanic population is bigger but also that turnout is probably a little bit better,” Schale said, adding that there’s been greater turnout among Latinos and Democrats in areas where Puerto Ricans abound. “I think there’s reason to believe turnout among Puerto Ricans is going to be higher than it was four years ago, and there’s a reason to believe that that’s a very good thing for my party.”

But Alex Patton, a Gainesville-based Republican campaign consultant, told HuffPost that an uptick in early voting numbers could merely be a sign of enthusiasm and holds little predictive power.

“Historically, [Latinos] are an unreliable voting bloc in midterm elections,” he said. “I guess the 5 million dollar question is: Do recent events, in the last six months, change that? And we’re getting ready to find out.”

Collaboration Born Out Of Despair

The federal response to Hurricane Maria continues to be a sore subject for Puerto Ricans in the diaspora. Marcos Vilar, executive director of Alianza for Progress, a political organization working to mobilize Latinos in central Florida, pointed to a series of focus groups the polling firm Latino Decisions conducted in May.

The report included commentary from long-term residents and recent arrivals and found that the diaspora largely considered the Trump administration’s hurricane relief efforts to be “inadequate at best, and willful neglect at worst.” The participants also said they felt disrespected and forgotten by federal politicians in Maria’s aftermath.

Florida Senate candidates Scott and Nelson have appealed to Puerto Rican voters by reminding them of their efforts post-Maria. Scott, for example, offered advice and assistance to the island’s Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which struggled to restore power to residents on the island for months. Meanwhile, Nelson worked to advocate for additional aid for both the island and to Puerto Ricans displaced by the storm.

Schale and Vargas-Ramos said there’s no question that Hurricane Maria was key for Puerto Ricans in the run-up to the midterm elections ― both in influencing how they feel about the federal government and how they mobilize.

“The Puerto Ricans that I do expect to be highly motivated and likely to turn out to vote in this election are the Puerto Ricans that mobilized themselves [in the mainland] to assist those who were displaced by the storm whether in Puerto Rico or in the United States,” Vargas-Ramos said.

“They banded together and worked collectively to address the situation with Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico and the United States,” he continued, adding that they found both the federal and local response “insufficient” and that “many of them are likely to vote to express their opinion about what the governmental response was like.”

Even before the election cycle began, the Trump administration’s feeble hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico had mobilized the diaspora to act and help the island.

“Immediately after the hurricane, people here started collecting goods and money and resources to send to the island, and networks were born out of that effort,” Vilar said. “People in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee discovered each other, bonded and created relationships that sort of launched us into the election.” 

In the small, baby-blue house in downtown Kissimmee that serves as Alianza’s headquarters, Puerto Rican flags hang on the wall next to maps of the Osceola County voting district and signs featuring a coquí frog holding a megaphone next to the words “Respeta Mi Gente” (Respect My People) ― a campaign the group began earlier this year to rally Puerto Ricans and Latinos overall during the electoral cycle.

It’s under this campaign that about 10 Latino-led organizations, many with Puerto Rican roots like Vamos4PR, are working to reach registered Latino voters and incentivize them to make it to the ballot box. With the help of its partners, the group intended to visit 110,000 central Florida homes three times before Tuesday.

“If we as [Puerto Rican] progressives are not lifting our part, we are hurting the progressive cause, we are hurting other people that need the same things that we need,” Vilar added. “This way people can say ‘Puerto Ricans came to Orlando and they made a difference.’”

A Vote For The Island

Puerto Ricans are also hoping their votes will help their home island. Wanda Ramos, co-founder of Vamos4PR, told HuffPost the group’s mobilization efforts have not only focused on explaining how the mainland political system works, but also how new arrivals can help the island’s reconstruction efforts by voting.

“In Puerto Rico, we don’t really have representation on the federal level,” Ramos said. “We don’t have elected officials that have the power to vote to be able to help us. So we have to make the effort to reach those people to create change for the island.”

It’s something that weighs on Sevilla and her husband as well. The couple, who will mark their one-year anniversary in Florida on Tuesday, still have a lot of family left on the island and they’re eager to help any way they can.

“Now we have a vote and what we do counts, so we are gonna make the difference,” said Javier Figueroa, Sevilla’s husband. “I don’t like politics, but anything that I can do here that can potentially benefit Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico can count on me. And everything that’s going to benefit all of us Latino brothers and sisters, they can all count on Puerto Rico to support them.”

Kara Watkins
Puerto Ricans Who Fled Hurricane Maria Are Preparing To Vote In Florida For The First Time

ORLANDO — One early morning in October last year, Nydia Irizarry packed what she could from her flooded, storm-ravaged house into a suitcase, gathered her two children, and fled her hometown of Manatí, Puerto Rico.

That was a month after Hurricane Maria wiped out Puerto Rico’s power, water, and medical services. Irizarry’s 23-year-old daughter, who has cancer, had taken a turn for the worse, struggling without electricity and water. Her daughter’s skin started to turn yellow, and at times she couldn’t breathe. The family was airlifted to Florida by the American Cancer Society after a doctor told Irizarry her daughter would die if she stayed in Puerto Rico, where medical facilities could not treat her.

A year later, Irizarry has an apartment and a full-time job working with a church in Orlando that’s connecting other hurricane evacuees with apartments, jobs, and help getting started in the mainland US. She’s staying in Florida because she needed to be somewhere more stable for her daughter’s treatment, for her son to stay in school, and for the family to be able to move on with their lives.

“It’s been so many difficult changes, but it’s been good because it’s forced us to grow, we’ve grown as a family, and we’ve learned a lot,” said Irizarry.

Now, with an election coming up next week, Irizarry and other Puerto Ricans who fled to the mainland are preparing to vote for the first time since a hurricane ravaged their home and, many feel, the federal government neglected them in dire circumstances. Like Irizarry, tens of thousands moved to Florida after the storm, a purple state with two major, close races this year. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is currently running against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson in a tight race that will help decide which party controls the Senate next year, and Republican Ron DeSantis, an ally of President Donald Trump who served three terms in Congress, is running to replace Scott against Andrew Gillum, a progressive Democrat who would be the state’s first black governor.

BuzzFeed News spoke with displaced Puerto Ricans in Florida, as well as several of the groups that are helping them to settle on the mainland and hoping to get them out to vote. The majority of these interviews were conducted in Spanish.

Irizarry and others told BuzzFeed News they feel an extra responsibility to vote in their first federal elections because their friends and relatives on the island can’t. (Residents of Puerto Rico, despite being US citizens, don’t have the right to vote in federal elections.) Irizarry said that after everything her family has been through this year, she wants to vote because “we are spokespeople for the people who are still there [in Puerto Rico].”

“We will vote, and the things we achieve here we achieve for them,” she said. “Donald Trump doesn’t want to give us statehood, but if we have the opportunity to vote here and help the people on the island, that’s a fortunate thing. That’s how I see it. Because the people there maybe can’t leave for whatever reason. The island is pretty destroyed.”

Irizarry says she registered as a Democrat, both because of Trump’s anti-Latino rhetoric and because of her experience with his administration in the aftermath of the storm. Her house in Manatí was completely flooded during the storm, with everything inside destroyed, but FEMA denied her assistance to rebuild her home, she said, because like many on the island, the house’s deed is in her deceased parents’ names.

Puerto Ricans arriving on the mainland don’t necessarily have a predetermined political affiliation because the political parties are entirely different on the island. The majority of Puerto Ricans support either Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s New Progressive Party (PNP) or the opposition Popular Democratic Party (PPD). The question of whether or not Puerto Rico should become the 51st state in place of its current status as a territory is one of the main issues that differentiates the two.

In Florida, displaced Puerto Ricans say they’re assessing candidates on their records, and based on who consistently came to meet them and hear them out over the past year. They’re also thinking about how the president has dealt with Puerto Rico.

“You have to evaluate each candidate individually for the work they have done and their projections for the future, to make a decision that will be good not just for me and my family but for all of us who came here,” said Sarai Perez, who left Trujillo Alto last October because she couldn’t continue her work and sustain the business she owned as a physical therapist without power or water.

“I understand that I can’t complain about things unless I also exercise my right to vote. I can’t exercise my rights unless I’m willing to speak up,” she said.

Yadira Valle, 45, who left Aguada for Orlando in October last year, also said she registered to vote soon after she arrived in Florida. She said she had already been planning to move to Florida, where she hoped to find more work and a new start after getting divorced last year, but the hurricane left her without water, power, or employment, and sped up her plans.

She said she doesn’t want to vote along party lines like she used to in Puerto Rico, but instead wants to consider candidates’ experience when she’s making her decision. She thinks candidates should know that newly arrived Puerto Ricans have been struggling with a lack of affordable housing.

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Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans were forced to leave Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Between 159,000 and 176,000 have left the island since September last year, according to estimates from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at the City University of New York, speeding up an exodus that was already underway because of the island’s dire financial crisis. Of those, some 70,000–75,000 people settled in Florida, according to the center’s estimates.

There are also no definitive statistics on how many newly arrived Puerto Ricans have registered to vote, though advocacy groups say that, anecdotally, they believe many of them did register when they were converting their driver’s licenses and getting Florida state identification.

More broadly, there has been a significant uptick in the number of Latino registered voters in Florida. According to the Pew Research Center, the state has seen a 6.2% increase in Latino voter registrations since 2016, bringing the total to 2.1 million. Puerto Ricans now account for around 31% of potential Latino voters in the state, whether or not they’re registered — the same as the number of potential Cuban voters, according to Pew’s analysis.

But despite the enthusiasm some Hurricane Maria evacuees have for voting, advocacy groups are not really expecting newly arrived Puerto Ricans who are still getting settled on the mainland to turn out in great numbers on November 6.

“In 2018, at least right now, they’re struggling so hard to rebuild their lives, we know just from talking to them at the doors that their turnout is not going to be that significant,” said Alex Barrios, political director for Alianza, one progressive group that has been working on registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns for Latinos.

Barrios says the real impact of this mass exodus from Puerto Rico could be felt in a few years, around the time of the next presidential election, when families have had more time to settle and begin to engage with the political process.

“Right now we’re just trying to build relationships, connect them with the services that they need so that they can resettle and make their way forward. In 2020 though, you will see their impact,” he said.

But Puerto Ricans who were already in Florida and still have ties in Puerto Rico might be more immediately motivated to vote Tuesday, he said, especially after the president has repeatedly denied that more than 3,000 Puerto Ricans died because of the hurricane and has praised his own administration’s response to the disaster.

“I think you’re going to see a huge spike of those people. They are much more engaged now,” said Barrios. “They have relatives on the island from Maria, they are very, very upset about Trump, they have struggled with the issues — housing, health care, jobs; they are struggling. And truly, Trump. The disrespect.”

Scott has distanced himself from the president’s comments about the death toll, but that may not matter to voters like Julio Anduja, who answered the door to Alianza canvassers in Kissimmee on Sunday, and said he has family on the island. He said the way the Trump administration handled the hurricane means he definitely won’t be voting for Republican candidates in the midterms.

“People got affected deeply because of the way the government treated them. We’re not a third-world country, we’re actually part of this nation,” Anduja said.

Father José Rodríguez, the pastor at the Iglesia Episcopal Jesús de Nazaret, works with around a thousand Puerto Rican families who evacuated to Central Florida. Over lunch at a Korean restaurant near his office, which is about a 15-minute drive from the airport Puerto Ricans fly into when they arrive in Orlando, Rodríguez told BuzzFeed News that he’s a registered Republican but that, from what he’s seen, his party has let Puerto Ricans here down and has probably lost the chance to engage these new voters in the process. His church has been working with a coalition of groups, some of them progressive and some nonpartisan, to advocate for families over the past year.

“It takes a very strong person to pick up and move. There is a strength to a person who has left Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria,” he said. “They didn’t come here defeated, they came here for a new start. They came here ready to work, ready to plug in, ready to contribute. But, sadly, the government of Florida, the governor, abandoned the same people he welcomed.”

Rodríguez said a lot of the work of helping families get on their feet has fallen to church groups and nonprofits because of the lack of consistent support from state and federal agencies. At his church, Rodríguez employs six people to help Puerto Ricans find resources — the church maintains a list of affordable apartments in Orlando and Kissimmee and helps connect people with jobs — and Rodriguez himself is constantly fielding calls from families finding it challenging to navigate a whole new bureaucracy as they try to set themselves up.

“When the hurricane happened, [Gov. Scott] set up a welcome center at the airport and he registered them as residents of this state, and then abandoned them,” he said. “He didn’t make any effort to help these families start their lives again.”

Scott’s campaign says he’s done more than set up welcome centers at Orlando and Miami airports, where state agencies and nonprofits provided information to Puerto Ricans in the immediate aftermath of the storm. The campaign cites his eight trips to the island since the hurricane; meetings and phone calls with Puerto Rican officials; a joint letter he signed urging Congress to pass an expanded disaster relief bill; and three roundtable meetings he held with mayors, local officials, and volunteer groups.

“Helping Puerto Rico in their time of need is not about politics. Governor Scott has remained committed to supporting the Puerto Rican community and families both here in Florida and in Puerto Rico. He will continue to fight for what matters most to them in D.C.,” said Scott campaign spokesperson Chris Hartline in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

Scott’s Democratic opponent, Nelson, has also visited the island several times since the hurricane, and the two have split endorsements from local officials. Nelson has the backing of Puerto Rican Gov. Rosselló, while Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in Congress, Republican Jenniffer González-Colón, has endorsed Scott.

Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor, has also spent some time with displaced Puerto Ricans. On Sunday, he held an event at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, where many Puerto Ricans are now living, and was greeted by a few hundred people. Wearing a “Puerto Rico” T-shirt over his button-down shirt and tie, Gillum was accompanied by Democratic Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a Puerto Rican New Yorker who has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria and the island’s financial crisis.

A spokesperson for DeSantis, Gillum’s opponent, did not respond to a request for comment on whether he has spent time in Kissimmee or with displaced Puerto Rican families.

For the 700 or so families who were living in Orlando and Kissimmee hotels through a FEMA program in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, finding housing in the midst of Central Florida’s affordable housing crisis has been a major barrier to getting settled. Rodríguez said there was no transition plan from the state or federal government for those families, which left many of them in a precarious position as the program came close to being suddenly terminated several times, and was finally terminated in August this year.

Rodríguez said he’s seen local Democrats spend time with Puerto Rican families and to individually try to help people find housing and petition federal agencies to do more, while he’s seen relatively little from his fellow Republicans. The officials who have been most present with the community, he said, are state Reps. Amy Mercado and Victor Torres, and US Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto — all Democrats.

“There have been politicians who have been out there in hotels crying with families, there have been politicians who have been out there sweating with the families, holding their hands, being with them,” he said. “We don’t need promises, we need action.”

Last Sunday, thousands of Latino families gathered in downtown Orlando for Calle Orange, a yearly street festival celebrating Latinx culture in Orlando. Among salsa bands, stalls selling tostones and refrescas, canvassers for Alianza and Boricua Vota drew a few dozen people over the course of the afternoon asking how and when to vote.


Nurphoto / Getty Images

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor, speaks to supporters at a rally in Kissimmee on Oct. 28.

Last Sunday, thousands of Latino families gathered in downtown Orlando for Calle Orange, a yearly street festival celebrating Latinx culture in Orlando. Among salsa bands, stalls selling tostones and refrescas, canvassers for Alianza and Boricua Vota drew a few dozen people over the course of the afternoon asking how and when to vote.

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There were also three candidates with booths at the festival — Orlando County Sheriff candidate John Mina, who’s running as an independent, Dean Mosley, who’s running to be a judge in Florida’s 9th Circuit, and Soto.

Lillian Lopez, 55, who was strolling through the booths at Calle Orange with her son, said one of the most pressing issues for her is how Puerto Ricans have been treated by the federal and state governments over the past year. She’s Puerto Rican, but has been living in Florida since before the hurricane.

She said she’ll be thinking about Puerto Rico — “the way we were treated” and “what they went through” — when she heads to the polls Tuesday.

Ivelisse Velazquez was at the festival with her family and is also Puerto Rican, but not a hurricane evacuee. She said she thought Scott had done a good job of responding to the hurricane and that the state has helped people arriving in Florida, something a few other Latino festival-goers echoed.

Another couple, Tony and Sol Martinez, were at the festival with their two kids. They said they have family in Puerto Rico, and while they haven’t decided whom they’ll vote for yet, they’ll be looking for candidates who have specific ideas on how to help Puerto Ricans both in Florida and on the island.

Most of the political outreach to Puerto Ricans in Florida is being done by a handful of mostly progressive Latino groups, including Alianza, actively courting Puerto Rican voters in Central Florida. Under two umbrella groups — Respeta Mi Gente and Vamos4PR — hundreds of canvassers have been out every day since voter registration closed October 9, focusing their get-out-the-vote campaigns largely on Latino neighborhoods.

Some member organizations, including Organize Florida, Vamos4PR Action, and Boricua Vota, have endorsed Democrats down the ticket, starting with Nelson for the Senate and Gillum for governor. Nonpartisan groups like the Hispanic Federation are also a part of the coalitions but are not endorsing candidates.

The groups under Respeta Mi Gente and Vamos4PR have together worked with thousands of newly arrived Puerto Ricans on housing, jobs, and voter engagement. They don’t have an exact breakdown of how many new Puerto Rican voters they registered or have reached in the lead-up to the midterms, but referred to the overall increase in Latino voter registration across the state.

Another group reaching out to potential Puerto Rican voters, Latino Leadership, is nonpartisan but more conservative. The group’s executive director, Marucci Guzmán, told BuzzFeed News that Latino Leadership has been in touch with around 10,000 newly arrived Puerto Rican families, helping connect them with services and get oriented in Florida. The group also spoke to around 1,500 people as part of a phone canvassing effort, in addition to having some canvassers on the ground, Guzmán said, though she couldn’t say exactly how many people the group had registered to vote.

Guzmán pushed back on complaints about the GOP’s outreach to the Puerto Rican community. “For anybody to say that one party did more than the other, they’re being disingenuous. I will say, and I’ve said it often, Gov. Scott did step up,” she said.

Guzmán said Scott met with Latino Leadership staff for three hours to talk about the families they were working with. She said other Republicans, including Adam Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, who lost the Republican primary for governor this year, as well as state Reps. Bob Cortes and Rene Plasencia, had been working on education initiatives in particular for Puerto Rican students to be able to enroll in local schools and colleges.

“It’s not enough to just show up to a hotel. If you’re able to change policy, then do it,” she said, referring to the education initiatives and Scott’s airport welcome centers for Puerto Ricans. Welcome to Florida initiative. “I think that maybe one party did a better job of having cameras while they were doing that work.”

Both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee have devoted resources to attract the Puerto Rican community as well.

A DNC spokesperson pointed to $100,000 the party spent in Florida and Pennsylvania each, funding Puerto Rican organizers “to help connect [Puerto Ricans] to social services in the community and register them to vote.” Ahead of the midterms, they also worked with the MirRam consultancy group, founded by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s father, Luis A. Miranda Jr., to “identify issues of importance and messages that connect with the Puerto Rican community.”

“We want Puerto Rican voters to know that their values are the Democratic Party’s values, and we will continue to fight for their interests here in the states and on the island,” said Enrique Gutiérrez, the DNC’s director of Hispanic media, in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

The RNC’s director of Puerto Rican engagement, Gary Berrios, has hired staff to work on Puerto Rican voter outreach and registration drives, and the party has held training workshops for volunteers and fellows to work in Puerto Rican communities in Central Florida, along with voter registration drives.

Yali Nuñez, the RNC’s director of Hispanic Media, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that the party “understands the pain and devastation Puerto Rico went through,” and pointed to the RNC’s Welcome to Florida workshops, which gave people information about “Florida civics, school choice, and local employment” as well as the billions in federal aid sent to the island to help recover from the hurricane.

“Puerto Ricans know that the president and the Republican Party are there for them,” Nunez said. “We are focused on making them feel at home, and are counting on their support on November 6 so that our shared values continue to unite this country.”

But for some Puerto Rican families, an early impression of Republican politicians in Florida is hard to shake. More than half a dozen people who spoke to BuzzFeed News brought up the party’s annual Sunshine Summit, which took place in Kissimmee this year, recalling the image of Florida GOP leaders driving without stopping past dozens of displaced families who were about to lose their temporary housing.

The families, organized by Vamos4PR, camped outside the conference for two days. Father Rodríguez was there with them. He says that of all the Republican officials at the conference, only Sen. Marco Rubio sent a representative outside to actually talk to the families.

“That was the extent of my fellow Republicans stepping in to help these families, whereas on the other side of the aisle they were personally investing themselves. They were showing up, crying, and holding hands,” he said. “That’s an image I’ll never forget. And if that moved me, that’s permanently seared into the mind of the Puerto Rican voter.”

For Father Rodríguez, the real concern going into the midterms is that all the attention the community is getting could disappear after Election Day, and with it funding for organizations helping displaced Puerto Ricans, like his church, even as most people who have moved to the mainland are likely to bring family members over from the island in the coming years.

“I really pray that I’m wrong, but my heart tells me that a lot of these extra resources that we’ve seen are going to disappear after November 7.” 

Kara Watkins
Commentary: Florida business leaders: Encourage, engage and energize Puerto Rican voters

Efforts to increase voter participation, including registering Puerto Rican voters and ensuring the community get to the polls on Nov. 6, have ramped up with less than two weeks left until Election Day.

Grassroots organizations like Alianza for Progress, Organize Florida, among others, have been the catalysts for these efforts. But, other forces would make an even more significant impact, and that is the business community and business leaders throughout Florida and Puerto Rico. It is the responsibility of businesses to step up to the plate and enforce how important getting out the vote is.

With 3.3 million Puerto Ricans on the island, a vote in Florida for a candidate running for Congress, governor, and other local, state, and national offices will determine the priorities and Puerto Rico's future — issues like recovering from Hurricane Maria and rebuilding the island. We need other leaders in the business sector to join efforts and take on more responsibility because they have the resources and opportunity to help cast a wider net when reaching out to Puerto Ricans.

The fact of the matter is that the right to vote is the most valuable tool a citizen has, and without utilizing it, a person devalues its worth in this country. I hate to sound harsh and blunt, but it’s the truth. If you turn your back on voting in an election, you’re turning your back on this country, your family, your neighbors, your friends. You are letting history repeat itself. Unfortunately, Puerto Ricans on the island do not have a voice when it comes to presidential and congressional elections, therefore Puerto Ricans in Florida -- and throughout the country -- must vote for those on the Island who are voiceless.

The business community has been a group who sometimes are hesitant to get involved in civic engagement because they are afraid it can hurt their bottom line. However, certain individuals in the business world understand their civic duty does not only include casting a vote every election but helping those who are not entirely familiar with the process.

I’ve been a businessman in Puerto Rico for 40 years. I’ve committed myself to help serve in multiple community and philanthropic organizations. I ran for office in 2016 knowing how difficult it would be to win. I understand how critical getting people to vote is and also know the difficulties that come with it.

In 2016, Puerto Ricans in Florida saw great successes with the election of Boricuas to federal and state office. That’s why I’m raising my voice to make sure we continue building on that success. In these upcoming midterm elections, Puerto Ricans who made Florida home after Hurricane Maria have a unique opportunity to send a strong message about the importance of Puerto Rico. Equally as important, business leaders can show their communities that they grasp the urgency of that message and make arrangements so employees can exercise their right to vote. We can use our platforms as business leaders and job creators to encourage early voting and vote by mail, or allow for flexible schedules on Election Day.

That is the approach Puerto Rican business leaders like myself are taking. I believe the Puerto Rican vote is critical, and utilizing your vote to elect leaders who can advocate and fight for issues essential to the community is what the electoral process is all about.

Respeta Mi Gente, a coalition of advocacy, civil rights, faith and civic engagement organizations, announced in a media call that it had assisted in registering over 57,000 Latinos. Now, the group is asking voters who have registered to pledge to vote on or before Election Day on Nov. 6 -- and I’m doubling down on that request.

I am also asking those in the business community to join me in these efforts. By using the numerous resources it has in Florida, Puerto Rico, and across the country, the business community can enhance voter participation in this election, in the 2020 presidential election, and in elections going forward. The Puerto Rican community in Florida, the state of Florida, and the nation will greatly benefit from it.

Manuel Cidre is the founder and president of Los Cidrines, a market leader in the sale, distribution, and manufacturing of bakery products in Puerto Rico. Cidre is a former independent candidate for governor of Puerto Rico.

Kara Watkins
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Frankie Negrón Talk 'Respeta Mi Gente' Latinx Voter Mobilization Campaign

Lin-Manuel Miranda wants to get out the vote for the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

The Hamilton mastermind has teamed with salsero Frankie Negrón to support the voter mobilization coalition Respeta Mi Gente (Respect My People), which is focusing on inspiring voters in Puerto Rican communities in Central Florida to get out to the polls in less than two weeks. 

“There was such a massive influx of Puerto Ricans to the mainland after Hurricane Maria,” Miranda said during a media call on Monday (Oct. 22), according to a statement announcing the effort. “One of the most important things they can do is vote for the candidates [who] have been paying attention to what’s been happening on the island.” That's why Miranda and Negrón joined the drive spearheaded by the non-profits Alianza for Progressand Hispanic Federation to get Latinx voters to the polls with a series of TV and radio ads as well as Negrón's song "Respecta Mi Gente." 

The remix take on Hector Lavoe and the Fania All Stars' 1975 hit "Mi Gente" is an attempt to lift spirits after a difficult 12 months. "We’re using Hector Lavoe’s song and voice to address what a difficult year this has been for Puerto Ricans, and for all Latinos in general,” said Negrón in a statement.

Respeta Mi Gente has a few key goals, some of which include helping Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and encouraging Puerto Ricans in Florida to vote in order to give a voice to their family and friends on the island -- who are American citizens, but are not allowed to vote in national elections. The organization has a full calendar of events planned over the next few weeks, from a senior voting drive on Friday (Oct. 26), to a Scary Phone Bank event on Halloween (Oct. 31) and a Boricua Vota auto show on Nov. 3.

An estimated 5.4 million Puerto Ricans live in the United States, including 30,000 who moved to the mainland after being displaced by Maria in 2017. Florida has the highest concentration of Puerto Rican residents in the country, concentrated in Central Florida, one of the key battleground spots in this year's midterms, according to the organization. 

Kara Watkins
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Frankie Negrón Join ‘Respeta Mi Gente’ Campaign to Mobilize Latinx Voters

In an effort to ramp up Latinx voter participation for the 2018 midterm elections, Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda and Grammy-nominated salsa singer Frankie Negrón announced their support of a new voter mobilization coalition titled Respeta Mi Gente, or Respect My People. By partnering with nonprofit groups Hispanic Federationand Alianza for Progress, the stars are lending special attention to Puerto Rican communities in Central Florida, in hopes to rally them to the polls by November 6th.

“There was such a massive influx of Puerto Ricans to the mainland after Hurricane Maria,” said Miranda during a media call on Monday. “One of the most important things they can do is vote for the candidates [who] have been paying attention to what’s been happening on the island.”

In addition to television and radio ads, the coalition has stepped up its multimedia campaign with a musical contribution by Negrón, also dubbed “Respeta Mi Gente.” Originally sung by the late great Hector Lavoe and the Fania All Stars, the 1975 salsa classic “Mi Gente” is given the remix treatment by Negrón, who boasts the power of the Puerto Rican vote alongside recordings of Lavoe’s voice. “We’re using Hector Lavoe’s song and voice to address what a difficult year this has been for Puerto Ricans, and for all Latinos in general,” said Negrón.

“No campaign is complete without a song,” said Frederick Vélez, organizing director of Respeta Mi Gente. “We’re speaking to our Puerto Rican community in a very cultural way.”

Although residents of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, are not permitted to vote, the number of Puerto Ricans living in the United States — estimated at 5.4 million in 2016 — are able to cast ballots in November. That number rose by approximately 30,000 this year, which accounts for islanders displaced by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Florida currently has the highest concentration of Puerto Rican stateside residents, most heavily concentrated in Central Florida — a key battleground in this year’s midterms.

“Puerto Rican and Latino voters in Florida are a rapidly growing and critical segment of the state’s voting population,” said Jose Calderón, President of Hispanic Federation. “Their concerns and aspirations should be top of mind for anyone running for office in the Sunshine State.” Early voting is currently underway in all 50 states; the general midterm elections take place on November 6th.

Kara Watkins
Retooling classic salsa song, Lin-Manuel Miranda urges Florida Puerto Ricans to vote

Early voting already started in Florida and "Hamilton" composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, alongside the Hispanic Federation, is trying to make sure that thegrowing Puerto Rican population that has settled in the state casts their votes ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Miranda partnered with Billboard Music award-winning artistFrankie Negrón to reinvent the salsa classic "Mi Gente" from belated music icon and Fania All Stars’ Hector Lavoe into a jingle titled “Respeta Mi Gente” — the same name of a coalition that seeks to motivate tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans in Florida already registered to vote.

The new song is part of a multimedia voter mobilization campaign launched on Monday by the nonprofit Hispanic Federation and Respeta Mi Gente that attempts to build political power among the growing share of Puerto Rican voters in Florida.

There are approximately 1 million Puerto Ricans in the state; since the hurricane over 30,000 have settled permanently in Florida.

According to Hispanic Federation president José Calderón, the campaign aims to focus on convincing Puerto Ricans and other Latino voters to partake in the early voting process.

Miranda said during a call with reporters that "flipping this Hector Lavoe classic into a call for action is just gorgeous.”

“We’re literary using Hector Lavoe’s song and voice,” added Negrón, “to address what a difficult year this has been for Puerto Ricans with an inadequate response to Hurricane Maria and for all Latinos in general.”

Luis Miranda, the Hispanic Federation's founder and former president, who is Lin-Manuel’s father, explained that the multimedia campaign consists of two TV ads, a radio ad and a comprehensive digital approach.

One of the ads is a “reminder of what Latinos went through and why now we have to make sure we're voting,” he said.

During the call, both Puerto Rican musicians said they found it was important to keep Hector Lavoe’s original line, "que yo le canto al presidente,” Spanish for "I sing to the president."

“Let’s not forget that the president spends a lot of time in Florida,” said Negrón, referring to President Donald Trump’s frequent visits to Mar-A-Lago. “We are specifically speaking to voters, but this is also a message to our president that Florida is now becoming ‘Little Puerto Rico.’”

“No campaign is complete without a song, without music, a caravan,” said Frederick Vélez, organizing director of Respeta Mi Gente. “We’re speaking to our Puerto Rican community in a very cultural way.”

Organizers at Respeta Mi Gente aspire to knock on at least 100,000 doors ahead of the midterms to make sure people know how to vote.

“We need to communicate with voters,” Luis Miranda said. “It is an educational process to understand that you need to vote.”

Kara Watkins
Lin Manuel Miranda y Frankie Negrón se suman a campaña para movilizar voto puertorriqueño en Florida

WASHINGTON — Los artistas Lin Manuel Miranda y Frankie Negrón se sumaron este lunes a la campaña “Respeta mi gente” para movilizar al creciente número de puertorriqueños y latinos en general en Florida, donde podrían ser clave en los comicios del mes próximo y para moldear el futuro político del estado.

Durante una conferencia telefónica con periodistas, organizada por la “Federación Hispana”, Miranda y Negrón destacaron la urgencia de que los latinos, en particular los puertorriqueños, salgan a las urnas el próximo 6 de noviembre a votar por candidatos que representen sus intereses.

Miranda, autor de la exitosa obra teatral “Hamilton”,  dijo que la campaña incluye la canción “Respeta mi gente”, adaptada del tema “Que baile mi gente”, del fallecido cantautor puertorriqueño, Héctor Lavoe, como “un grito de batalla” para movilizar a los votantes latinos.

Por su parte, Negrón afirmó que la canción también está dirigida al presidente Donald Trump, quien suele pasar mucho tiempo en Florida, con el mensaje de que “nos tiene que respetar”.

“Florida se está convirtiendo en el pequeño Puerto Rico… (el huracán) “María” se ha convertido en el “Katrina” de Trump”, aseveró Negrón, al referirse a la pobre respuesta inicial al huracán “Katrina” de 2015, por el que la Administración Bush fue objeto de fuertes críticas.

La llegada de decenas de miles de puertorriqueños a EEUU tras el paso del huracán “María” en la isla en septiembre de 2017, sobre todo en el corredor “I-4”, ha venido cambiando el panorama político y cultural en Florida, donde se habían establecido poco más de un millón de boricuas ya antes del ciclón.

Se calcula que los puertorriqueños conforman ahora una tercera parte de los votantes hispanos en Florida. Un análisis reciente del Centro de Investigación Pew indicó que los hispanos conforman el 16.4% del electorado en Florida,  y los puertorriqueños han liderado ese crecimiento.

La Federación Hispana, de la mano de otros grupos cívicos latinos como “Mi Familia Vota”, lograron inscribir a al menos 75,000 votantes hispanos antes del plazo de inscripción que venció el pasado 9 de octubre. De éstos, poco más de la mitad son de origen puertorriqueño.

Para los comicios de noviembre próximo estarán en juego para Florida al menos cuatro escaños en la Cámara de Representantes y uno en el Senado, además de la gobernación del estado.  Es un dato que no ha pasado desapercibido por candidatos demócratas y republicanos que cortejan activamente el voto de los puertorriqueños.

Para el pasado 31 de agosto en Florida, 837,000 hispanos se inscribieron con el Partido Demócrata, otros 527,000 con el Partido Republicano, y 775,000 como independientes, indicó el informe de Pew.

A nivel nacional, 29,1 millones de latinos son elegibles para votar el mes próximo, o un 13% del electorado. La cifra supone un aumento de cuatro millones de votantes latinos desde 2014, según Pew.

Durante la llamada, el co-fundador de la “Federación Hispana”, Luis Miranda Jr., explicó que la campaña multimedia consiste en dos anuncios televisivos: uno que actualiza el utilizado para los comicios presidenciales de 2016, y otro que incorpora imágenes del daño del huracán “María” en Puerto Rico.

La campaña también incluye anuncios de servicio público que serán difundidos en estaciones de radio para movilizar el voto hispano, ahora que ha iniciado el proceso de votación por adelantado en Florida, agregó Mirada, padre del dramaturgo.

Sin mencionar candidatos por nombre, Luis Miranda aseguró que la campaña es sin fines de lucro y solo busca alentar a los latinos a que “voten por gente que representa las aspiraciones de la comunidad” y por quienes “han peleado en el Congreso, empujando una agenda progresista” en torno a asuntos como vivienda, creación de empleos y cuidado de salud.

“Cada quien hará su propio análisis de quiénes son esas personas que representan sus aspiraciones”, recalcó.

Además de la campaña de anuncios, unos 45 voluntarios visitaron barrios hispanos en tres condados del sur de Florida, con la meta de visitar al menos 55,000 viviendas en las próximas semanas, dijo José Calderón, presidente de la “Federación Hispana”.

Kara Watkins
Afirman que los boricuas en Florida escucharon la importancia de inscribirse para votar

Orlando, Florida - Por primera vez en la historia política de Florida, organizaciones hispanas de base comunitaria crearon una gran alianza para navegar en la misma dirección y enfocarse en educar a cientos de miles de ciudadanos -principalmente puertorriqueños- sobre el poder y la influencia de su voto en este estado sureño.

“Es la primera vez que se establece una coalición para movilizar hispanos de una manera específica y, con ella, buscamos asegurarnos que entiendan el proceso político acá, pues cuando llegan se sienten intimidados”, dijo Betsy Franceschini, directora de Hispanic Federation en Florida.

Franceschini participó ayer en una teleconferencia junto a otros líderes de organizaciones como Frederick Vélez, del grupo Respeta mi gente, y Nancy Batista, de Mi familia vota.

En la reunión, también participó el congresista de ascendencia puertorriqueña Darren Soto, quien celebró el significativo número de hispanos, principalmente boricuas, que se han inscrito como votantes de cara a las elecciones de medio término del 6 de noviembre.

“La participación que estamos viendo de ciudadanos hispanos va a asegurar que los políticos escuchen”, afirmó el congresista.

Se estima que, en Florida, viven 1.2 millones de puertorriqueños y se cree que, tras el paso del huracán María hace un año, más de 50,000 boricuas se desplazaron a este estado, particularmente en la franja central, lo que se conoce como el Corredor de la I-4.

La I-4 es una autopista interestatal que cruza Florida de este a oeste, pero de forma casi diagonal.

Los puertorriqueños se concentran en diversas ciudades, en condados, en torno a esa carretera.

Más de 50,000 personas se desplazaron a Florida desde Puerto Rico tras María, y he trabajado con muchos de esos que han estado muy activos políticamente y que se han registrado. Pero, antes de María, ya había más de un millón, y muchos de ellos tampoco estaban registrados, pero el esfuerzo de estas organizaciones fue grande para lograr estas inscripciones”, resaltó Soto.

Hispanic Federation registró 27,000 nuevos electores. El 90% de estos son hispanos y, dentro del grupo de hispanos, el 80% se identificó como boricua.

“Nuestras comunidades han tomado las elecciones de medio término muy en serio”, indicó Batista, directora de Mi Familia Vota en Florida.

Esta organización registró 30,000 nuevos electores y el 51% de estos se identificó como puertorriqueño.

Recientemente, el director de Alianza for Progress, Marcos Vilar, estimó en 77,000 la cifra de boricuas registrados como votantes. Este número sale de los registros logrados por siete organizaciones, entre las que figura Hispanic Federation y Respeta mi gente.

Los otros grupos son Boricua Vota, Organice PR, Faith in Florida, Misión Boricua y Vamos por Puerto Rico.

A esto, se suman los registros que se pudieron haber materializado a través de PODER, la plataforma digital que fundó, en Florida, el gobernador de Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló Nevares para incentivar el voto de los puertorriqueños.

El presidente de esa entidad, Luis Figueroa, dijo antier que más de 30,000 personas dieron los pasos para inscribirse a través de ese portal.

Aunque de forma categórica se desconocerá la cifra exacta de boricuas inscritos, el número que asoma es dramático e histórico, según los líderes comunitarios.

“Les hemos estado insistiendo sobre el poder que tienen en Florida y en Puerto Rico si votan”, dijo Vélez, director de Respeta mi gente.

“Los boricuas han escuchado. Están prestando atención, y a base de la experiencia en Puerto Rico con la devastación que dejó María, han entendido y recibido el mensaje sobre la influencia que tiene su voto”, comentó Franceschini.

Kara Watkins