"Cheers on the left, cheers on the right. What do we say? Obama, Obama, Rah, Rah, Rah! Higher, you guys! Haven't you had any coffee today?" And they will all cheer even higher: "Obama, Obama, Obama!"
This was Saturday afternoon in one of the largest Latino neighborhoods of Charlotte, NC, which was getting ready for the Democratic Convention. The person responsible for getting the crowd going took a flight all alone from her farm community of Bakersfield, California the day before. She flew through Houston and arrived in Charlotte, where the DNC will be hosting their convention, past midnight, and was ready at 9:00 am Saturday morning to get the word out to Latinos. We were both here to meet and encourage them to register and to vote in the upcoming election. She is Dolores Huerta: 82 years old and co-founder of the United Farm Workers.
When the Obama campaign was trying to set up their strategy for his first election more than five years ago, they went to her. They wanted to know how to organize and mobilize the people to vote, the same way Dolores did long ago, with Cesar Chavez, for thousands of Latino farmers in this country.
That day, we visited a Colombian art gallery with Latino leaders and several candidates running in various campaigns in North Carolina. They already know how important the Latino vote is for them. At a Dominican Barber Shop decorated with life size photographs of Major League Baseball players, the owner proudly displayed his Obama/Biden posters. Next, we visited a small family-owned Mexican take-out restaurant where Dolores ordered her lunch: a vegetarian "torta" which she cut in four pieces (and ate only three) in between doing press interviews. She's been a vegetarian for the last 20 years of her life.
By the time we arrived at the Compare Supermarket, close to 150 people were waiting outside. On top of the small five-inch-high stage and next to La Raza radio station's van, we were introduced to the crowd. The only problem was that she was introduced as working with Julio Cesar Chavez. Immediately, she brought up her fist and said "not the boxer, but Cesar Chavez the farm union leader." The MC did not know what hole to crawl in, but the crowd started to laugh.
Dolores is in Charlotte for the whole week, one more time helping the president get his word out. "He is our champion," she said. In ten crucial states from here to November, people like Dolores will be knocking on doors, going through small shopping centers, restaurants and anywhere they will listen, to get Latinos to register and vote for Obama, who has done more for Latinos than any other president.
When November comes around, we will all know the outcome. Dolores will probably be attending another inauguration in Washington wearing around her neck the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the things that she is most proud of. There is something else she is proud of and that is the phrase that drives her: "Sí Se Puede"!
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