Only in New York City could you find a woman from the Honduran rainforests trying to convince an Indian man to vote for a woman president while they smoked cigarettes outside a salsa bar.
That scene took place Thursday night after Sen. Hillary Clinton supporters watched her debate Sen. Barack Obama over beers and munchies at the Mamosa Lounge in the East Bronx. The Bronx County Democrats put on the event and several political heavyweights attended, including the potential next mayor of the city - comptroller Bill Thompson. This wasn't a surprise considering 48 of 52 elected officials in the Bronx support Clinton.
The Mamosa Lounge hosted a Clinton event Thursday night.
But 32-year-old Ana Mejia stood out as a non-politico in a stylish Hillary t-shirt and slacks. Most of the suit-wearing crowd treated the event as a schmooze-fest with free drinks. A few paid attention to the debate. Mejia, who said she recorded the debate at home, had another agenda. The Bronx resident wanted to talk to politicians about a multicultural voter registration drive that would include blood donations, job applications and free condoms.
"I'm here to network and get things done," said Mejia, who moved to the Bronx from San Pedro Sula, Honduras in 1992 and became a citizen a decade later.
And she also tried to sway voters, including this reporter. Mejia led a 60-person bus trip to New Hampshire for the primary. She organized a canvassing group in Manchester and said that she swayed a lot of voters using what she called the five P's (Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance) -- a sales tool she learned when she worked retail.
"I told [the canvassers in New Hampshire] that they had to listen to what the voters said, which is a big part of sales and then speak from your heart," she said with a sensational smile. "She won that election in New Hampshire by a small margin and I think it's because of people like me and the people that were on that bus."
As she sipped on a Corona, she talked more about why she didn't support Obama, even though she liked him.
"Obama inspires me. He's black. I'm Hispanic. I'm a minority. Now I think I have a chance too," said Mejia, who took vacation days Thursday and Friday to volunteer for Clinton. "But do I believe he has experience or backbone? No."
When asked about the recent media coverage of the perceived divide between blacks and Latinos, Mejia didn't hesitate to answer.
"Sometimes Hispanics get the feeling that blacks look down up them," said Mejia, who works for a Manhattan real estate firm. "They think we come and take all the jobs and services. But we come here and work hard and take advantage of what's here."
She also admitted that her fight to support her son and build the life she wants helped her relate to Clinton's aspirations for president.
The salsa dancers only waited a few minutes after the debate to start dancing.
"They both have the same agenda, but I identify with her more because she's a woman and she's struggled," Mejia said. "I've struggled my whole life, but I know I'm going to get there. Being a strong woman is hard. She's got estrogen power."
A few minutes after the debate ended, salsa dancing broke out in the lounge. Mejia stepped outside for a Newport. She didn't have a light, so she asked the first passerby for one. Salesh Nitu, a Bronx public school teacher who lived in the area, offered the lit end of his cigarette.
They talked for a few minutes. Nitu, an American-born Indian, revealed he's "as left as they come" and he registered as an independent. Mejia then made her pitch about the Clintons' legacy with the economy.
"I remember in the '90s walking down Fifth Avenue and seeing a pair of leather pants for $500 and went and bought them. Me, a woman from Honduras," Mejia said. "The other day, I bought a bag of grapes form Pathmark and it cost me $12 - for grapes. So how can I go from buying $500 leather pants to not being able to afford grapes? "
Ana tries to sway another voter toward Hillary.
Nitu eventually said he would probably vote for Clinton in the presidential race because of her experience. Mejia then reached in her purse and pulled out a Clinton sticker and gave it to him.
"I love stickers, and it's got an American flag too, cool," Nitu said.
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