As a D.C. area native, I’ll never forget the energy in the city four years ago when 5 million people descended on the District to joyfully celebrate the historic swearing-in of our first black President. But in the days leading up to the 2013 Inauguration, it seemed that 2008’s enthusiasm was somewhat diminished – projections of Inauguration day attendance were half the size of 2008’s, the number of official balls was reduced to just two, and after four years of bitter partisanship and bickering, I think it’s safe to say that the “hope and change” expectations of many were tempered.
With that said, the 2012 election will always be very important and momentous to me because it was truly a watershed moment for the Latino electorate. Throughout the campaign cycle, Latinos and their interests got more attention than ever before – for example, it was the first time both presidential candidates sat down for meet-the-candidate sessions with a Spanish-speaking television network (Univision), and the first time both parties went out of their way to feature Latinos in high-profile roles at their conventions. In giving President Obama a record level of support (75%), Latinos were decisive in the election outcome, serving as an important wake up call to the Republican party. And in the months after the election, Latinos remained at the center of national conversations about how minority voters are changing the landscape of U.S. politics.
To celebrate the achievements of our community in 2012’s election (and four more years of the President I voted for), I headed down to D.C. with some of the Remezcla team last weekend for an epic corrida de juerga. First stop: the Voto Latino Inaugural Celebration. Our friends at Voto Latino had a lot to celebrate – in 2012, they helped showcase the political clout of Latinos by registering and activating nearly 100,000 voters to participate in November’s election.
Voto Latino CEO Maria Teresa Kumar, 2012 Chair Rosario Dawson and Co-Chair Wilmer Valderrama address the crowd.
After a couple of hours rubbing elbows with elected officials (i.e. trying to discretely following Joaquín Castro around the room), it was off to Latino Inaugural 2013. This Kennedy Center performance, hosted by Eva Longoria, marked the first time a Vice President has ever attended a Latino Inaugural event:
VP Biden, or “Uncle Joe” as I like to call him, showed up with the whole family to deliver a speech about the power of the Latino vote: “We said from the beginning that the Hispanic community was on the cusp of realizing its place in America, one that is so richly deserved,” he told us. Then we were treated to a series of performances that including a stirring rendition of the National Anthem sung by Jose Feliciano, an amazing Chita Rivera – Rita Moreno duet (the first time they’ve ever performed together!), and performances by Raul Esparza and Latin pop star Prince Royce (who pretty meh to be honest), among others.
At the post-performance Gala Salsero Frankie Negrón and three hours of open bar collaborated to keep the dance floor packed with suits, gowns, Latino military personnel, and adorable children – all dancing for democracy.
Around 11pm the party made a vital transition from Latino Inaugural Gala to Rita Moreno Appreciation Forever Society. The legendary octogenarian performer suddenly appeared on the dance floor as if from a moon beam, looking unreal in a peach spandex dress, immediately created a circle on the dance floor, got on stage and played the drums, and almost started a conga line that spanned the entire Kennedy Center. She also said this to a Washington Post reporter: “I almost climbed all over Raul Esparza. I told him, ‘You make me feel like a dirty old lady when you sing like that!’ ” RITA 4EVER.
Capping off the weekend’s festivities was the actual Hungover Inaugural ceremony. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swore in Uncle Joe as Vice President, becoming the first Latina to administer an oath of office in U.S. history:
Miami poet Richard Blanco read an original poem called One Day (full text here) that referenced his Cuban-American heritage:
And last, but never least, this happened. I will never stop watching this ever:
All in all, a great weekend.