This week Latinovations “La Plaza” Blog highlighted a guest post by Texas State Representative Aaron Peña titled “Hispanic Conservatism: Its Emergence in Texas Politics.” The blog invited Rep. Peña to write about why he switched to the Republican Party. Rep. Peña, along with four other Republicans of Hispanic decent, have formed the Hispanic Republican Conference of Texas.

Below is an excerpt of the post, read the full piece at Latinovations here

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My Latin skin was more than happy to escape the northeast winter with a trip to my hometown of Miami, Fl.  While the reason for the trip was a friend’s wedding and my father’s birthday/retirement party, my BF and I decided to go on an impromptu road trip to Key West during our visit in the summer like weather.

We departed from my family’s home early in the morning and drove south on I-95. The scenic drive to Key West is one of those great road trips I did with my family. The small island paradise is about three plus hours from Miami and offers a unique combination of the Key’s laid back island lifestyle with Pirate lore and Cuban/Caribbean heritage.  Almost everything on the south part of the island is marked with the “Southern Most” or “closest ____ to Cuba.” Clearly as a daughter of Cuban exile, anything close to Cuba is a “must-see” as it is the closest thing we could come to her native country.

Stopping various times along the different keys, we finally got to Key West in the mid-afternoon.  One of my favorite things to do on “vacation” is enjoy the local flavor with a food tour.  Clearly, a tour of Key West would not be complete without a stop at Sloppy Joe’s.


After a few margaritas and some conch fritters we walked to Mallory Square to watch the sunset. Joined with a few hundred people (it was Valentine’s Day, by the way) we saw a perfect Florida sunset.

We had no real plans other than to enjoy warm paradise, and maybe some Key Lime pie. Yet, as a political junkie we did make a stop to a historic landmark – the Harry Truman Little White House. Built in 1890, it was the winter White House for President Harry S. Truman.

I’m a typical American. I love cake, “reality” TV and watching cooking shows. So, when I heard CPAC had combined all three into a tangible little package (cake made by a reality TV celebrity baker), I was very happy.

During CPAC’s Friday night Ronald Regan Dinner, a special presentation was made in honor of President Reagan’s 100th birthday including a video tribute and a cake especially made for the event by Carlo’s Bake Shop from TLC’s “Cake Boss.”

The vanilla and chocolate cake was delicious. Before I could remember to take a picture, I basically inhaled my piece. I had to take a picture of another piece of cake (below) to remember what it even looked like. Considering I have watched “Cake Boss” several times, it was a treat to have a piece of cake, similar to the ones I have seen being made on the show.

It’s day one of CPAC and the conference is buzzing with thousands of activists representing the entire spectrum of the conservative movement.

Hundreds of speakers will take the microphone on issues ranging from the constitution to new media and everything in between.

One of today’s first speeches was given by newly elected Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho. The Republican legislator is a native of the island of Puerto Rico and one of a handful of new Hispanic Republicans elected in 2010.

Representative Labrador walked the attendees through the story of his life. He is a child of a single mother. She was outcasted by many in her hometown for her decision. The two left Puerto Rico in hopes for a better future in the “mainland.” His mother put him in private school, even thought it was above their budget, but she knew a good education and dominance of the English language would ensure her child was successful.

The decisions by Raul Labrador’s mom put him on a path where he knew that he was responsible for his own actions and that in America, the land of opportunity, he could accomplish anything. … He eventually did and today is a happily married father, lawyer and member of Congress.

Like many Latinos, when Labrador and his mother where going through rough times, they didn’t want a handout they wanted a hand up. It was this basic message of personal responsibility and defining the role of government in a person’s life that shaped Labrador.

I was moved by Representative Labrador’s personal story against adversity. A story similar to many Latino families.

I hope that as a new member of Congress Labrador helps get the Republican message out and shows many Latinos that they and the GOP has a lot more in common than the Left would like them to believe.

During a recent road trip driving on the Ronald Reagan Turnpike it reminded me how beloved the former President is in Florida. In my hometown of Miami, Florida, President Reagan is beyond loved, he practically a saint and is regularly memorialized for his legacy. (I think my tias regularly cross themselves each time they say his name.)

Growing up in South Florida, as the child of a Cuban Exile, there are a few things you know for certainty.

  1. Communism is bad.
  2. People who hate communism are good.

So given this basic logic, a person who vowed to destroy communism and was somewhat successful in that attempt is considered a Superhero, a Saint among men. (Read: “A Slobbering Love Affair—Cuban Americans and Ronald Reagan” by Humberto Fontova)

Beyond President Reagan’s stance against the evil empire, his optimistic view of the world and hope for the future drafted a generation of believers in his conservative cause, including the members of my family.

He believed in the greatness of people and the individual spirit. He understood the strengths of coalitions and bringing people together for a common cause.

As a child, my mother was heavily involved in a national Latino organization. President Reagan saw potential in the group, and knew that more conservatives needed to get involved to create balance in opinion in the national Latino debate.  A member of the Regan Administration knocked on our front door and told my mother they needed her to ramp up her efforts and get more involved, and so she did.

President Reagan knew that through the debate of ideas and the ability to find common ground, we could create a winning inclusive coalition. After all, it was President Reagan that said, “Hispanics are Republicans, they just don’t know it yet.”

Now as we celebrate President Reagan’s 100th birthday we look back on his legacy.

Texas’ Hispanic Republicans are growing in numbers and strength. Five Republicans of Hispanic decent were elected to the Texas state legislature in 2010 mid-term elections. The freshmen legislators are joining forces to form the Hispanic Republican Conference. (Follow them on twitter @HRCofTexas)

There were no Latino Republicans in the Texas House in the 2009 legislative session.

The Hispanic Republican Conference, led by the newly elected conference Chairman State Rep. Aaron Peña, a legislature who switched to the Republican Party in December, is trying to redefine how the GOP communicates with Latinos. The group is also meeting with Attorney General Abbot, who is helping lead outreach efforts in Texas.

According to reports from AP, the group is “taking a careful walk through the minefield of hot-button immigration and cultural wedge issues that are sure to spark debate, and possibly legal reforms, in the Texas Legislature this year.”

In an interview with The Monitor Representative Peña said the Republican Party needs to listen to the viewpoints of Hispanics if it wants to increase its attractiveness to the state’s fastest-growing population.

“Demographically speaking, if Republicans do not get in tune with the Hispanic population, they will cease to exist as a relevant party in this state,” Peña said. “But the same is true for Democrats, who for decades took us for granted. Now because of the leverage we achieved in the last election cycle, they’re forced to compete (for the Hispanic vote).”

Despite the recession, the growth of Latino use of digital media, and  general trends of U.S. newspapers, America’s Spanish-language newspapers and magazines have maintained their relevance and have seen moderate growth in circulation and advertising revenues. According to a new report released on Monday by Hispanic Marketing Weekly, U.S. Spanish-language papers have experienced an increase of 6.4 percent in revenues from the previous year.

Some individual publications are reporting increases of as much as 11% in circulation.

Like most newspapers, Spanish-language media has had to adapt to changes on how consumers acquire information by incorporating much of their traditional content into online version, both on the Internet and readable on mobile devices.

An example of the growth of Spanish-language newspapers is ImpreMedia, the leading Hispanic News and Information company in the US, which reported impressive growth in readership for its weekly publications – El Mensajero (San Francisco), La Raza (Chicago) and La Prensa (Orlando). Its portal, impre.com, and its newspaper websites also reported a substantial increase in unique visitors and page views.

According to Scarborough’s 2010 R2 Hispanic custom study, San Francisco’s El Mensajero’s monthly readership increased 11% while Chicago’s La Raza grew an impressive 10% compared to 2010 R1. Orlando’s La Prensa also saw an increase of 10% in its monthly readership to an audience of at 109,191.

impreMedia’s portal, impre.com, and its publication’s websites also reported  growth in traffic over the last six months almost doubling monthly audience and reaching 1.2 million unique visitors in December 2010 according to Omniture. The websites surpassed 5 million page views in a month and continues to steadily grow and expand its digital footprint.

Hispanic use of online technology has grown at a faster pace than the general market in recent years. Over 45% of Latinos report using smartphones, which is above the average of the general market. Only 27% of white (non-Hispanics) mobile users reported owning a smartphone.