To find out the mood of Latinos in Madison after Donald Trump’s surprising presidential election victory this week, we first asked a man whose job is to talk to dozens and dozens of Latinos every day.
“Fear,” says Luis Montoto, the owner and program manager of La Movida 1480 AM radio, without hesitation. “Uncertainty. Surprise. I’ve seen a lot of people cry. It’s hard.”
Suddenly, many Latinos and immigrants are left feeling very anxious on how they will now fit into a Trump-led United States of America. Among other boasts, Trump vowed to build a wall with Mexico, kick out an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and end President Barack Obama’s executive order protecting thousands of young people from deportation.
Luis Montoto and his wife Lupita are in touch with the heartbeat of Dane County’s Latino community like nobody else. Through their 24/7 Spanish-language radio station, their newspaper, their radiothons, and their community work, many Latinos in this community come to them for advice, guidance, and – post-election – for comfort and hope.
“My wife and I went to eat at restaurant the day after the election and obviously all of the help was Latino and I’ve known people at that restaurant for years,” Montoto says. “The owner of the restaurant … he was just crying. It was so sad. So sad. Disappointing. I’m so disappointed in my country.
“Another lady at the restaurant said she was going to take all of her money out of the bank. She was really distraught,” Montoto adds. “The look on this woman’s face I will never forget. There are people who are very scared right now. Part of what we’ve been doing [on the radio] is to keep people from panicking. That’s what we are trying to do right now. We are telling people that we need to keep our heads up and keep moving forward and fighting and struggling for our cause.”
Earlier this morning, La Movida Radio hosted Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, who talked about the upcoming post-election vigil and community forum that will take place at Centro Hispano on Monday, Nov. 14, 6 p.m. It will be a place for Latino families and community members to gather and share their thoughts, how they are feeling, their worries and concerns. Neumann-Ortiz will explain their action plan for creating a front that can defend and protect the Latino community.
“Christine will focus on the promises that were made for Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. The first hour will be a chance for everybody to just let it all out and if people want to share how they are feeling, they can,” says Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menendez Coller. “The second half of the time, Christine will be sharing this action plan initiative and answering questions.”
The vibe this week at Centro Hispano, whose mission is to improve the quality of life of Latinos and others living in Dane County, has been unusually solemn. “We’re just all kind of down right now,” Menendez Coller tells Madison365. “We’re trying to heal right now. It was all so unexpected. I think there are a lot of questions about what now? We’re trying to predict what the future will be. We’re trying to lift our spirits and to make sure that we are there for the families and for the kids, especially.
“I personally feel like a part of my spirit just broke,” she adds. “I think at one point it will feel better, but that point, right now, is a long way away.”
The surprise election results have put a little bit of a wet blanket on the normally festive Centro Hispano Annual Banquet that will take place tomorrow night at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. “It will feel different this year. It will be more reflective than it normally has been,” Menendez Coller says. “The message will still be hopeful, but we need to acknowledge that this hurts and that this is the reality.
“We’re going to move forward with celebrating the success of the kids,” she adds. “We are behind them 100 percent. The families know that Centro is still their home and we will back them up and we will really make sure that they are successful in achieving their dreams even if no one else may think that their dreams matter.”
Montoto is still truly baffled by the amount of Latinos that actually voted for Trump in the state of Wisconsin and nationally. Trump actually slightly outperformed previous Republican candidate Mitt Romney among Latinos. “With all of the rhetoric, how do they not see the racism in this election?” Montoto asks. “The ‘they’re rapists’ quote is the most popular, but that’s just one small part. He has shown clear examples of racism like how he actually thinks about [U.S. District] Judge [Gonzalo] Curiel … because a judge is of Mexican descent, he can’t do his job?
“That is so wrong,” he adds. “And I don’t understand how some Latinos can’t see that. Or just don’t care.”
“Clearly, it was unexpected for a lot of people,” Oscar Mireles, executive director of Omega School, Madison’s first Latino poet Laureate, and a Latino leader in the community, tells Madison365. “It’s disconcerting and unsettling for people. And now the unsettling has shifted to what’s going to happen and what’s going to not happen? And who can provide those answers … that’s where it’s really not clear. And when is it going to happen?”
Some of his students at Omega School on Madison’s south side, where Mireles helps young people get their GEDs, are very upset. “They didn’t think that his was an option,” Mireles says, referring to a Donald Trump presidency. “But there is always an option. But they didn’t think this was on the table.”
I asked Mireles his thoughts on how this happened. “There was a clarity in Trump’s message and people like clarity. Even if it’s not in their best interest. ‘Make American stronger again’ …I mean, can you argue with that? I can’t argue with that,” Mireles says. “He was very confident in what he believed and people like confidence.”
The Democrats may have taken a lot for granted, too, along with making missteps. “Even during the Packers game, I didn’t see any Hillary [Clinton] ads. Someone didn’t understand Wisconsin,” he says. “There are a lot of people who watch the Packer game here, believe it or not. They left that field open to him. And he took it. Let me just say that there were missed opportunities all over the place.”
Obviously, there were many religious Latinos voting Republican no matter what, Montoto says, even if it was against their best interests. “It’s just so confusing. When you look at the candidate himself, there is nothing religious about him,” Montoto says. “With everything he has done and how he has treated people so poorly … it’s simply mindboggling.
“There were warnings ahead of time. Michael Moore hit the nail on the head months ago,” Montoto adds. “So perfect. He knew.”
So where does that leave us?
“Who knows? Not even the Republicans know. Because Donald Trump could change his point of view from one minute to the other,” Montoto says. “Honestly, sometimes I think it’s all just a role he’s playing.
“I hope so anyways,” Montoto adds, laughing.
“If there is a time to pull together, this is the time,” Mireles says. “Everybody has to pull together … Latinos, African Americans, Muslims, Native Americans, Asians. This is the time. Instead of everybody going down their own path and doing their own thing. If not now, when? It’s time to focus the energy on how we can make a difference instead of worrying about the energy that should have been focused on the election. It turns out that a lot of people have a lot of excess energy now.
“Pick up the pieces, move forward, have clarity of purpose and expand the tent,” Mireles adds. “It’s where we really need to be at right now. You can’t focus on the mistakes. The past is the past.”