The Latinidad of Ted Cruz: Does it Even Matter?

Ted Cruz has gotten further than any other Latino presidential candidate in history. His campaign says he could be the first Hispanic president, yet Cruz has faced criticism for not being “Latino enough.” Cruz has also been criticized for not supporting immigration reform, for not speaking Spanish well, for not using the words “Latino” and “Hispanic” to self-identify, and for not aligning with “Latino values,” which we know can vary from family to family.

Either way, people have been asking just how Latino Ted Cruz is? But even the thought of this question being asked is insulting to some people, because asking someone to prove just how Latino he or she is, goes against an important part of the Latino community: its diversity.

Major funding for Latino USA‘s election coverage provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Featured image: Ted Cruz (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In the Heat of New Hampshire Primary, Rubio Campaign Downplays Candidate’s Latino Roots

GOFFSTOWN, NEW HAMPSHIRE — In a 2016 election where Marco Rubio is one of two leading Republican candidates who could make history as the country’s first Latino presidential nominee, a spokesperson for the Rubio campaign downplayed the Florida’s senator background, instead emphasizing Rubio’s appeal to a broader group of voters.

“He’s running as someone to unite all Republicans,” Rubio campaign communications director Alex Conant said in the spin room after Saturday’s Republican debate at Saint Anselm College. “Our focus is on winning the Republican primary, uniting Republicans, and then inspiring the nation and beating Hillary [Clinton].”

Conant’s comments were in response to a question about whether the Rubio campaign thinks about the possibility that Rubio could become the first Latino presidential nominee in the history of the United States or that he is a Latino candidate in the top tier of GOP candidates, a point Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus called a “big deal” after Texas senatorTed Cruz won the Iowa Caucus last week and Rubio placed in third.

The Rubio campaign, Conant said, is focusing first on trying to secure the nomination before it can address the historical moment of it, if indeed Rubio were to become the nominee. However, Conant added, that doesn’t mean that the Latino vote is not important.

“We want to win as many votes as we can and that includes winning as many Latino votes as we can,” Conant said. “And obviously Marco speaks Spanish, does Spanish-language media regularly. He’s always done well with Latino voters in Florida. I can tell you this: Hillary Clinton doesn’t want Marco Rubio to be the Republican nominee, in part because she knows he will do very well with Latino voters.”

In a December poll that focused on the Latino vote, Rubio, who is Cuban American, had the highest marks among Republican candidates.

“I think he’s going to be the Republican nominee because his life story is one all Americans can relate to,” Conant added.

In contrast to the Rubio campaign, a spokesperson for the Cruz campaign said that the Texas senator has acknowledged the possibility that Cruz could become the country’s first Latino presidential nominee if he were to win the GOP race.

“If we’re able to capture the nomination and go up against Hillary in the general election, I think there are a number of different groups where Ted Cruz has a story to tell,” Cruz spokesperson Jason Miller said. “Hispanics definitely would be a large bloc. Having the opportunity to be the first Hispanic president… I think there are a number of other groups that he could do very will with. Talk about Millennials. Talk about Jewish American voters. You can talk about Reagan Democrats. I think there’s a good case as to why Ted Cruz will do well with women.”

“Obviously, he’s proud of his heritage and this historic opportunity,” Miller added, saying that Cruz talks about his family history “all the time” and “it is something that’s important to him.” Cruz’s father is of Cuban descent.

Miller emphasized that people should look at how in Cruz outperformed Mitt Romney in the 2012 election with Latino voters in Texas. Romney received 29% of the Texas Latino vote in his race against President Barack Obama, while Cruz earned 35% of the Texas Latino vote against his Democratic opponent.

A new poll out has Cruz and Rubio tied for second place in New Hampshire, the day before the state’s primary.

Democratic National Committee communications director Luis Miranda said that despite talk about two Latino candidates performing well in Republican contests, both Cruz and Rubio are supporting policies that are not aligned to the Latino community.

“[Cruz] himself has rejected the Latino label pretty strongly,” Miranda said. “More importantly, it’s the policies [Cruz and Rubio] are advocating that are bad for the country generally, but particularly harmful to minorities and the Hispanic community.”

Miranda cited Cruz’s positions on immigration and the economy that he finds problematic.

“I don’t think Cruz’s background plays much of a role here, considering his extreme positions,” Miranda said.

Miranda did acknowledge that Cruz’s Iowa win was a historic moment for Latinos but that the historic moment was not the “overarching factor.”

“If we are trying to look for a Latino candidate who’s Latino, that’s the wrong approach,” Miranda explained, “I frankly don’t think that’s useful in either party. I think the issue with Cruz is the policies that he takes and how problematic they are for Latinos of course, but plenty of other communities across the country.”

Miranda also added that in his travels across the country, people are telling him that “by and large, what you hear is that [Cruz and Rubio] don’t really seem to want to be Latino. They seem to be running away from their heritage to be able to win a Republican primary, or maybe that’s just who they are. But it’s certainly not inspiring confidence.”

Cruz and Rubio Spar Over Immigration (Again) at #GOPDebate

Continuing a theme they started in the last Republican debate, senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both sons of Cuban immigrants, had another testy exchange over immigration at last night’s debate in South Carolina. The tone of last night’s comments positioned immigration policy as a national security issue, a far cry from the bipartisan 2012 “Gang of Eight” bill, which Rubio supported.

Are Cruz and Rubio ‘Traitors’ to Latinos or Do They Just Have Different Views?

With another Republican debated slated for tonight in Las Vegas, more and more attention is being given to the two GOP candidates of Cuban descent—Texas senator Ted Cruz and Florida senator Marco Rubio. This morning, a Washington Post headline blared, “Liberal Hispanic activists assail Rubio, Cruz as ‘traitors’ to their culture.’ The story, written by Mary Jordan, the newspaper’s national correspondent, told how Democratic-leaning groups such as the Latino Victory Project and community icons like Dolores Huerta put Cruz and Rubio in the same box as Donald Trump when it comes to immigration:

At a Monday gathering in Nevada of Democratic Hispanic leaders, ahead of tonight’s GOP debate in Las Vegas, photos of Cruz and Rubio were plastered alongside Trump’s picture, as all three were criticized as anti-Latino. A press release noted, “While Trump continues to grab headlines with his hateful anti-Latino, anti-immigrant language, the positions and records of the two Latino presidential candidates in the race are equally dangerous for Nevada communities.”

Dolores Huerta, an influential labor leader and civil rights activist, called Cruz and Rubio “sellouts” and “traitors” at the gathering and said the Hispanic candidates “are turning their backs on the Latino community.”

Partisan politics aside, the question remains: Are Cruz and Rubio ‘traitors’ to Latinos or do they just have different views? Latino USA asked several noted Latino politics observers. Here is what they told us:

Esther Cepeda, Nationally syndicated columnist, The Washington Post Writers Group

It’s true that all’s fair in love, war and politics so from a tactical perspective trashing Latino politicians on policy makes sense. However, in a time when so many others are demonizing Hispanics, it’s disconcerting to see our own ripped apart on the basis of their fealty to an amorphous idea of what Latino identity should be. Cruz and Rubio’s politics and policies are fair game, criticize away. But it denigrates all Latinos when some of us decide to become arbiters of what is or is not “truly” Latino. We spend a lot of time telling people outside the Hispanic community to understand that we are not monolithic – we should follow our own advice.

Stephen A. Nuño, contributor and Associate Professor, Department of Politics and International Affairs, Northern Arizona University

The truth is that Latinos have great potential to contribute to all sides of the political ledger if only those in the GOP would see the greater long-term opportunity in expanding the party message rather than consolidating it with white voters. I think Latino organizations, both conservative and liberal, are right to challenge Cruz and Rubio on their policies, but to suggest that one’s loyalty to identity rest on certain leaders’ assertion of a political test, and to cast accusations of ‘traitor’ should they not pass that test, is no less fascist and dogmatic as the Trump crowd.

Pilar Marrero, Senior Political Reporter, La Opinión

Even before all of this activism and partisan campaigning started pointing fingers at Cruz and Rubio, we wrote a couple of stories about the inconsistencies between these two politicians life stories or family stories and their positions on immigration and other issues of interest to most of the Latino voters in this country. We should hold politicians accountable, and not just the Republicans, the Democrats too. All of them. But if these two are going to be a “threat” to democrats by peeling off latino voters, they have a lot of work to do. I am not convinced either of them is a threat at this time. First, there´s an issue of the Republican brand, which is seriously damaged among Latinos and getting worse thanks to continuous demagoguery on immigration and race. Then, there´s the fact that most Latino immigrants in this country are Mexican and these two are Cuban. And Mexicans know that Cubans, even today, still have a privileged immigration status that basically offers legal residency and public assistance as soon as they set foot in the country or come to the border to request refuge status.

Albert Morales, Director of Latino Engagement, Democratic National Committee

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are both using extreme rhetoric and backward-looking policies that would be harmful to every American, including Hispanics, by dragging us back to the economic policies that were in place on the way to losing 8 million jobs, to seeing foreclosure signs paper streets all across America, and when hard working and middle class Americans of all backgrounds had to choose between bankruptcy and getting the health care they needed. That both of these candidates are the children of economic and political refugees from Cuba only makes the tone of their campaigns and their tax-cuts for the wealthy economic policies that much more offensive.

We also got some tweets, and as expected, the opinions varied:

A similar debate occurred on Facebook. Here is what Joe Laughon said:

To me people who use terms like “traitor” are playing dangerously close to white supremacist rhetoric of “race traitor” that used to be thrown around in the American South, Germany or South Africa. Furthermore it denies a desperately needed robust political disagreement among Latinos as to how to better our community. “Traitor” is the cry of someone who wants to shut down debate for their own aggrandizement.

Gabriel Reyes said this:

Cruz is Latino only in name. Rubio is playing the Latino card because GOP is a diversity desert. In order to be a traitor, you have to have an actual following to betray. Neither of them have a meaningful Latino following.

Marisel Moreno explained:

I have 2 observations: 1) Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are both “Latinos”, whether people like it or not. Their family roots are in Latin America, therefore, they are Latinos. There’s not “one” way of being Latino/a, and we have to embrace that diversity. 2) they’re perceived as “traitors” because their concerns don’t line up with the majority of US Latinos/as, who tend to be underprivileged in general terms. This mostly reflects a class rift. Their attitude isn’t surprising, it happens all the time, the difference is that they’re on the spotlight, thus we get a chance to criticize them. Pan-Latino unity is situational. Maybe if their circumstances and social position were different, their ideas might have aligned better with the majority of people who define themselves as Latinos/as.

Finally, this is what Carlos Flores said:

I don’t agree with some of their policies… but that doesn’t make them any less Latino than me, or any other Latino. The “No true Scotsman” fallacy or in this case “no true Latino” is weak rhetoric that doesn’t speak to the issues.

What do you think? Tweet me your thoughts to @julito77 or add your comments below.

Ted Cruz Brings His Conservative Message to the Republican National Convention

The Republicans kicked off their national convention in Tampa on Tuesday with a program starring a line-up of GOP all-stars. They also carted out many of their Latino headliners. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and First Lady of Puerto Rico Luce Fortuño had their chance to speak before what looked on TV to be a blindingly white audience. But the real Latino standout was Texas U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz.

The Texas delegates, dressed in bar-b-que outfits- Texas flag shirts and cowboy hats – cheered him on. The audience repeatedly jumped to their feet to applaud Cruz during his 12-minute speech. As I watched it I kept thinking, “Why do they keep applauding? He’s not saying anything and what he does say makes no sense!”

I’ve written before about the many things that Cruz, a fellow Cuban-Texan from a conservative family, and I have in common. Our backgrounds aside, I can honestly say that Cruz and I agree on almost nothing. Cruz is a tea party favorite for his extreme rhetoric that includes abolishing the IRS and the education, commerce, and energy departments. But he didn’t come right out and say all of that crazy stuff in his speech. That would have alienated the less extreme members of the GOP. Now is a time to watch what you say.

Speakers at the convention kept repeating the same information:  “Obama put us 16 trillion dollars in debt, 23 million people unemployed,” and keywords like “We Built It”, “freedom, liberty, free market, grass roots,” and “We the People”. Cruz hit all of the talking points and quoted famous lines like, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” and Martin Luther King Jr’s line that men should be judged, “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It’s the equivalent of a band that only plays their greatest hits, only Cruz is playing other people’s songs. Of course the delegates cheered: Reagan’s Berlin Wall quote is the Freebird of Republican rhetoric.

Cruz even spoke in Spanish. He told the story of his father’s immigration to the United States after being imprisoned under the Batista regime in Cuba. He said of his father, “No tenia nada, pero tenia Corazon (he had nothing, but he had heart)” in the thickest gringo accent you ever heard to limited applause. This was a calculated move to prove his Latino cred, and what good is a token Latino if he isn’t “Latino enough”?

Through the haze of tired rhetoric and familiar quotes, he said something that caught my attention, “Unfortunately, President Obama’s campaign is trying to divide America. To separate us into groups. Telling seniors that Medicare will be taken away. Telling Hispanics that we’re not welcome here.”


Let’s put aside for a second that the Republican party platform calls for overhauling Medicare so that seniors would have to buy private insurance with some government assistance. But Obama is telling Hispanics that we aren’t welcome?

Wasn’t it vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan who described arresting and deporting undocumented workers with the fishing term “catch and release”? Cruz supports Ryan even though he is in favor of throwing out so-called “anchor babies”? Cruz repeatedly talked about how much he loves the Constitution, but I guess he forgot that the 14th Amendment provides equal protection under the law to all citizens. Since “anchor babies” are born here, they too are citizens, Ted.

Or perhaps it slipped his mind that he opposes any form of amnesty, including the DREAM Act or the president’s immigration reprieve. Cruz also favors the building of a border wall as well as the terrifying phrase “boots on the ground” along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mitt Romney is hoping that during the fall campaign Latinos will forget all of the anti-immigration rhetoric he used during the primaries and concentrate on how badly the economy has hurt Latinos. Cruz touched on this when he said that there were 2.3 million Latino small business owners being hurt because Obama had “declared war on small business”. He didn’t go into how exactly the president was doing this. Latinos count the economy as their top concern, which isn’t to say that immigration isn’t a close second for most of them.

Latinos won’t soon forget that Cruz, a son of immigrants that grew up in a state with a huge Latino population, has sided with a party whose platform opposes their very presence in this country. How can you trust a man who turns his back on his own people? Cruz repeatedly talks about how his father achieved the American dream by coming to the U.S. and going to school in order to make something of himself. Why then does he oppose today’s Latino youth from doing the same?

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr.  

Jack Tomas is a writer, filmmaker, and editor working in New York. He’s originally from Houston, TX where he earned a BA in Theater and Communication from The University of St. Thomas. Later, he received an MA in Media Studies at The New School. Jack has worked several years as a professional filmmaker and his films have appeared in several film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival, The LA Comedy Shorts Festival, and The New York Independent Film Festival. He has also worked as a professional blogger since 2009 writing for,,, and He lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with his wife Marybec and two cats.

Getting to Know Ted Cruz

Days after Ted Cruz won the Texas Republican Senate primary by a healthy margin, he landed a coveted speaking spot at the RNC in Tampa. San Antonio Express News metro columnist Ricardo Pimentel fills us in on the life and politics of this young Cuban-Canadian politician.

Click here to download this week’s show. Image courtesy of Ted.Cruz.Com.


Ricardo Pimentel is a metro columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. He is a former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and a former editorial writer and columnist for the Journal Sentinel.

Understanding Ted Cruz – A Fellow Cuban-Texan Explains the Rising GOP Star

Last month, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz beat out Lt. Governor David Dewhurst in a runoff election for the Republican nomination to run for Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s Senate seat.

It was a big upset: Republican rock stars from Governor Rick Perry to Mike Huckabee endorsed Dewhurst. Cruz, however, was backed by some of the state’s more hardcore tea partiers, (I know, more hardcore than Perry?).  Much like fellow Cubano Marco Rubio, Cruz’s strong opposition to anything smelling of political moderation has led to endorsements from the likes of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Though I am a liberal Democrat and opposed to everything he stands for, I can’t help feel a certain kinship to Cruz, a fellow Cuban-Texan.

Let me explain. Though some of the facts about his family history have been questioned, his “When we came from Cuba” stories are similar to my own. Like Cruz’s family, my grandparents were strong supporters of Castro during the revolution against dictator Fulgencio Batista. Cruz says his dad Rafael, “was a guerilla, throwing Molotov cocktails and blowing up buildings.” Batista later tortured him. My uncle Pedgie was a guerilla fighter under Che Guevara and was murdered in cold blood by Batista’s thugs. Unlike my family, Cruz’s father fled before the triumph of the revolution in 1959. Lucky him.

Rafael Cruz came to Austin in 1957 with only $100 sewn in his underwear. The story reminds me of my grandfather leaving Cuba in 1969 with his medical diploma cut into small pieces and sewn in his boxer shorts. Except for a brief stint in Canada where Ted was born, the Cruzes settled in Texas rather than the Cuban exile mecca of South Florida.

The Lone Star State is also where my grandparents landed. Despite their first house being five blocks away from the Ku Klux Klan’s east Texas headquarters, they felt welcome. My grandfather described how he and his Cuban friends were the only Latinos in the Houston suburb of Pasadena where they settled.

Why would hardcore Texas conservatives welcome immigrant Latinos like my family and the Cruzes?

The answer is similar ideologies. Our families were both cartoonishly anti-Communist. Their disillusionment with Castro led them to react against anything  even remotely progressive.

During the revolution, Castro promised to establish a democratic republic with free elections modeled on the American system. That sounded pretty good to the 98 percent of Cubans that supported him, including my family and probably the Cruz family too. Pretty quickly after his victory it became apparent that he was allying himself with the Soviet Union and was setting up a Communist dictatorship. For a lot of Cubans not only was this an ideological betrayal but a personal one. My grandmother fell into a deep depression when her friend General Huber Matos was imprisoned and he revealed to her that Castro was a Communist. It was like a break-up for a lot of them, and often just like in a break-up you hate the “other woman.” For many Cubans Communism was the other woman.

I suspect that in the Cruz household, as in my own house growing up, the words “Democrat” and “Communist” were synonymous. My grandmother had a picture of Ronald Reagan next to a picture of Jesus by the family Bible. True story.

Like a lot of old-school Cubans, they blamed the Democratic Party for the failures of the Bay of Pigs invasion which led to my grandfather’s imprisonment by Castro for his involvement. My grandparents also thought that Democrats wanted to have too much of a hand in their lives.

My abuelo lived through 3 dictatorships in his lifetime (Machado, Batista, and Castro) only to come to the U.S. in time for Watergate. He simply didn’t trust governments and wanted to have as little interaction with them as possible. He always told me that all politicians, even guys like Reagan, were all “hijo de puta mentirosos (son of a bitch liars).” In ultra-conservative Texas circles, these ideas are as ingrained in the culture as bar-b-que and cowboys.

Today I am considered a heretic in my “Cu-Tex” family. My cousins mostly still think the way we were brought up to think. I simply cannot discuss politics with most of my older relatives. They tell me they’re glad my grandparents didn’t live to see what I’ve become.

When I look at Ted Cruz, I reflect on how easily I could have been him ideologically. If I hadn’t drifted to the left in my teenage years, perhaps like Cruz, I too would want to abolish the commerce, education, energy, and TSA departments as well as the IRS. Maybe I would also say things like, “I’ll throw my body in front of a train to stop anything short of its complete and total repeal” in reference to “Obamacare.”

Maybe if I had read more Ayn Rand?

There but for the grace of God go I, my friends.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr.

Jack Tomas is a writer, filmmaker, and editor working in New York. He’s originally from Houston, TX where he earned a BA in Theater and Communication from The University of St. Thomas. Later, he received an MA in Media Studies at The New School. Jack has worked several years as a professional filmmaker and his films have appeared in several film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival, The LA Comedy Shorts Festival, and The New York Independent Film Festival. He has also worked as a professional blogger since 2009 writing for,,, and He lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with his wife Marybec and two cats.

Will Latinos Play A Key Role in the 2012 Presidential Election?

Will the economy or immigration drive Latino votes? Is Ted Cruz the new face of American politics? In this podcast episode, Fi2W executive producer John Rudolph interviews senior analyst Sylvia Manzano from the polling firm Latino Decisions for a midsummer snapshot of Hispanic voters.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Podbean

In 2008 Latino voters played a pivotal role in sending Barack Obama to the White House. But this year things could be different; the economy is still in recovery and the president has not kept his pledge to bring about significant immigration reform.

Pollster Sylvia Manzano says the margin of support for Obama will be similar to 2008: 70-72 percent of Latinos say they would vote for Obama versus 20-22 percent for Mitt Romney. The big difference will be turnout. The lack of immigration reform and record numbers of deportations of undocumented immigrants under President Obama has meant Latinos are less enthusiastic about his candidacy than they were four years ago. However, enthusiasm has increased this summer since the announcement of the deferred action program and the Supreme Court’s decision striking down major portions of Arizona’s immigration law known as SB 1070.

The number one issue for Latinos is the economy says Manzano, which sounds good for Romney, except she points out that Latinos are much more likely to support Democratic strategies, like raising taxes on the wealthy, government investment and increased spending. There’s not much support among Latinos for Republican prescriptions including tax cuts and cuts in social services.

Latino Decisions has identified five states where Latino voters could be the deciding factor in the presidential contest.  They are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia.

According to Manzano, Texas, a state not on the list, represents the future of American politics. She focuses on two rising stars – Republican Ted Cruz who is running for the U.S. Senate in Texas and Julian Castro the young mayor of San Antonio who will give the keynote address at this year’s Democratic convention. This is about national demography says Manzano: more Latinos means more Latinos in both parties.

Manzano argues that the growing Latino electorate in Texas means we’re likely to see the emergence of a more moderate Republican party rather than a quick shift to electing Democrats. She says this is like New Mexico where Latinos tend to vote for moderate Democrats or liberal Republicans. She says Arizona, another state with a growing number of Hispanic voters, is more likely to follow California and turn blue over time.

For more analysis from Sylvia Manzano, make sure to check out the Latino Decisions Blog.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of Flickr