This op-ed was originally posted in Spanish online and on the print edition of Metro Puerto Rico on November 3, 2016.
My grandfather used to always say that “Puerto Ricans’ favorite sport was politics,” as he hung his party’s flag on the front porch every November 8 – a sign that he had rajado la papeleta or voted a straight party ticket.
Turnout on the island exceeds the continental U.S. by 50%, which means that my fellow Puerto Ricans do not stay home on election day - they go out and vote.
However, enthusiasm for the elections tends to dissipate after they migrate to the mainland and notice the ‘coldness’ with how Americans’ campaigns are handled.
However the current race for the presidency, the fight for seats that will decide control of the Senate and the future laws that are important to our community have sparked the spirit of the Puerto Rican diaspora, especially the one million Puerto Ricans in Florida, where the balance can lean towards the Democrats as much as it can for the Republicans.
Florida has already begun early voting and Hispanic participation increased by 99 percent, compared to 2012, according to BuzzFeed. This means that more than 133,000 Latinos have cast their ballot at the polls.
And from now to November 8, careful attention will be given to the Puerto Rican electorate along the I-4 corridor. For this reason, Puerto Ricans in Orange, Osceola, Hillsborough, and other counties, will play a crucial role in the presidential and state race where incumbent Republican Senator Marco Rubio will fight for his seat against Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy.
Rubio, regardless of his slight lead in recent polls, does not have the support of Puerto Ricans. Proof of this lies during the Orange Street Festival in Orlando last week, where people booed him as he attempted to speak, limiting his participation to a mere nonpolitical greeting. This was a repudiation of the anti-Latino rhetoric during the GOP primaries.
No matter what Rubio promises, Puerto Ricans know he is not a candidate to be trusted. First, despite his Latino roots, he supports Donald Trump – a man who has attacked, insulted, and humiliated Hispanics. For Boricuas, ‘blood will always be thicker than water.’ Second, what is most important for Rubio is his political future. His own welfare is the blood life that drives his career, not the desire to provide a better future for his constituents.
As far as Puerto Rico is concerned, Rubio has never stuck up for us. While fiscal crises were plaguing the island and solutions were being debated, he promised to support legislation, but after being reigned in by vulture funds and deep-pocketed lobbyists, he left us hanging. The same happened with Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and Mari Carmen Aponte’s appointment to the Embassy of El Salvador. Rubio changed his mind so many times, you would have to do a Google search to see if he ended up supporting these Puerto Rican women or not. However, with Sotomayor he remained consistent in his refusal to support our nominee for the Supreme Court.
As the countdown to election continues, they will try to persuade us, claiming we have run out of luck and that the electoral process is a disaster. Others will sell out their personal values like obedient sheep as we become the laughingstock of the Hispanic electorate. Regardless, at the end of the day, the victory or defeat of any candidate comes from our vote.
Boricua, vote on November 8. The deciding factor for the next Florida senator and President of the United States, a country which you have migrated to in order to provide a better life for your children and family members, lies in your hands.