The Year of the Latino?

09/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Over a decade ago a number of Latino leaders and activists thought we were going to have the year of the Latino; some said that it was the beginning of the decade of the Latino. Why they thought it was beginning that year was never thoroughly explained, they said it and many of us excitedly believed it. As it turned out it was not the beginning of the Latino decade, we were early, the only debate this year in Latino circles is just how early were we?

This year again promised to be the biggest Latino year in political history. This was a year when the citizenship numbers were increased by hundreds of thousands of Latinos in key swing states thanks to constant immigrant bashing by ratings hungry right wing talkers. This was the year that Latino natural born citizen's numbers had reached a new peak as did their own resentment of what was widely felt as unfair media treatment of Latino immigrants. This was also a year when even Hollywood had begun to realize that the color spectrum on TV and movie screens displayed brown as richly as any other color. Things were in place for a powerful showing at an important election then came the only thing that ruins important elections: the campaigns.

Latinos who strongly supported Clinton were unapologetically derided as racist for their choice. Why wouldn't Latinos vote for an African Americans was the constant politically debilitating question. During a year when Latinos should have been advancing aggressively as a real power within the Democratic Party the community was placed into a position of playing defense. To put it bluntly Latinos are not great at either political role and powers within this country's two major parties know it.

Latino leaders were shamed into a weird silence and did not forcefully remind pundits that Latinos have constantly voted for African American politicians. Obama himself was carried to victory by Latino voters. Congresswoman Maxine Waters in Los Angeles currently presides over a near Latino majority district. And nationwide there are many examples of inclusive Latino voting patterns.

As soon as the primary campaign was over about 65% of Latinos moved in to the Obama column. Suddenly the talk of the racist Latino voter was muted. No apologies from the accusing political operatives, no retractions from the pundits crying racism, just silence.

This week I will be moderating a panel on the now famous Black/Brown divide. It's called "United We Vote?" and is sponsored by Seachange at the Starz Pavilion. It will be, to say the least, provocative.

The question for me is not if Latinos and African Americans "can" collaborate -- our communities have proven they can. The question is how do we move forward even more forcefully united after a divisive period. Can Latinos overcome the disappointment of a primary campaign season that seems to have again put off the long held Latino dream of flexing political clout in order to play a secondary but major role in delivering a dream that on the surface may appear to be another's'? If so this ultimately may be the year of the Latino.

Mario Solis-Marich blogs on and hosts a radio program that can be streamed on and heard over the air on AM760 in Denver, KHRO 1650 in El Paso and KTLK AM 1150 in Los Angeles.