Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Visit With the Hispanic Tea Party

Thursday night, I made the effort to attend the Hispanic Tea Party meeting in Edinburg. They rent the meeting space at Abundant Grace Community Church. I have spoken with Reverend Armando Vera, the group's leader, in the past. I was curious to see who else attends the Hispanic Tea Party meetings. I'm glad I made it; the organization is completely different from what you would imagine. In fact, attending a Hispanic Tea Party meeting is very uplifting.

First, you should know that the way the regular Tea Party is portrayed in the media is a complete mischaracterization of what actually happens at the meetings. When Rev. Vera launched the Hispanic Tea Party, the organization was also mischaracterized in the news. The only consolation they received was from the McAllen Tea Party with a "welcome to the club." 

From my observation, the Hispanic Tea Party is composed of people who understand the heart and culture of Hispanics. The group has a heavy representation of pastors from different Christian denominations who are motivated to educate and lift their congregations out of poverty. They believe that teaching other Hispanics to be good citizens, coupled with their naturally conservative values, will help them prosper.

Reverend Vera, and I understand some of the other Pastors, initially considered the Tea Party a racist organization that would be hostile and completely opposed to their own goals. However, Rev. Vera decided that he should visit a McAllen Tea Party meeting to find out what they were about, having been invited. After attending a meeting, he found that not only were the McAllen Tea Party's values aligned with Hispanic values, which are naturally conservative, they were also completely different from what he had read and seen in the news.

The other Pastors have also experienced the same revelation. They felt somewhat betrayed by the Democrats and the press who purposely misled them into thinking that Republicans were akin to the devil. After realizing that the Tea Party's values were in line with their own, they were motivated to create a similar movement for Hispanics.

The obvious question here is, why a separate Hispanic Tea Party? Why not just join the McAllen Tea Party?

The answer is language. The best analogy I have is the cultural challenges of deaf people. People with hearing learn a great deal about culture, customs, and daily life simply by passively listening. You may not be a part of a conversation; but you can still listen in and absorb some knowledge in the process. Deaf people are not a part of many such conversations because they cannot passively listen to people around them. There is the added challenge that most of us are incapable of communicating with them except through rudimentary gestures. 

The same problem applies to Hispanics, in a sense. The very party with which Hispanics have so much in common is very bad at reaching out to them and speaking to them in their language. This is a serious problem for Republicans who at times can seem hostile towards immigrants. 

I'm not going to equate the Tea Party to Republicans. Being involved in politics, I know very well that they are not one and the same. Even so, both are misguided in their insistence that anything worth doing should be done in English. There was a lady at the McAllen Tea Party who called out Rev. Vera for speaking Spanish and having somebody translate for him. I wanted to knock her on the head. That's precisely the problem; conservatives do not have the missionary mentality when it comes to politics. 

If you're going to be that much of a purist, forget English. You need to talk American! Given that nobody has made an attempt to create an American language, we must rely on foreign languages, like English and, increasingly, Spanish to communicate.

Going back to the main point, Hispanics are in that situation where the only source of information they get is politically biased. Imagine that the only communication you have is American Sign Language, and the only people talking to you are people who depend on Government money. What kind of information do you think you would get? Do you think it would be unbiased?

This is the reason why Rev. Vera, other Pastors, and prominent Hispanics decided to create a separate Hispanic Tea Party. They can translate the conservative news and movement to a naturally conservative audience that wants this information, but is being deprived. 

The Hispanic Tea Party wants to elevate Hispanics to live the American dream. To do that, they take it upon themselves to teach other Hispanics what it means to be an American. They teach the perils of living off of entitlement programs. They teach of the necessity to become educated and self-reliant. 

The main distinction is that other movements begin with politics as the main driving force, which fuels the fellowship. The Hispanic Tea Part seems to be the reverse; they foster fellowship, which culminates in political action. They aim to change lives first.

In my personal observation, many conservatives complain about how immigrants should learn to be American, learn the language, and assimilate. That's as far as things go. They'll complain; but they won't make the effort to bridge the gap between recent immigrant to full-fledged citizen. They are really not helpful in acclimating recent immigrants. They expect recent immigrants who are still learning the language and culture to have a Ph.D. in Americanism overnight. 

Reverend Vera and other Hispanic Tea Party members recognized that in that gap from when somebody enters the country and when their family becomes assimilated into the culture, conservatives have allowed liberal ideas to seduce Hispanics and, in the process, become slaves to ideals that have more style than substance. 

Let me also point out that Democrats invest heavily in Hispanic outreach, hoping that here will be some great turnout amongst Hispanics at the polls. Somehow, the surge in Hispanic votes never materializes for the party despite their heavy investments. 

Republicans have been too complacent in accepting that Hispanic votes will trend Democrat, which has not happened. It doesn't occur to the Republican Party that the reason why Democrats are not able to affect Hispanic turnout is because their message does not resonate, even though they go the extra mile to speak to them in their language. 

The Hispanic Tea Party recognizes that being Hispanic is cultural; but it is rooted in the language. Hispanic is not a race; it is a language. Amongst Hispanics, there are people of all colors. There are light skinned, dark skinned, and even Asian Hispanics. 

Just as English culture has a strong influence on American culture, which is limited to the United States and Canada; Spanish culture has a strong influence on Hispanic countries. If conservatives were willing to reach across the language barrier, they would find one of the strongest conservative voting blocks. 

It is no accident that Hispanics have a bunch of children; abortion is mostly not an option. 

It is no accident that Hispanics come here legally and illegally taking backbreaking jobs; they believe in earning a living. 

Conservatives are missing the boat in reaching out to a natural constituency that has thus far resisted efforts by Democrats to seduce them into turning out in significant numbers. The Hispanic Tea Party is a movement that should be watched closely. This is not a ragtag group of disgruntled taxpayers; this is a group of recognized community leaders. 

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