The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 21, 2013

Latinos take on bigger role in Obama inauguration

(Continued)

A children's choir from San Juan, Puerto Rico, closed out the show, singing "This Land is Your Land." They were joined by a larger Latino choir, including Hispanic members of the U.S. military, in singing "America the Beautiful."

Earlier Sunday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee who is the first Hispanic justice on the highest court, administered the oath of office to Biden. And Richard Blanco, a son of Cuban exiles, is Obama's inauguration poet.

Latinos have a distinct presence at this inauguration after raising funds and turning out the vote for Obama in the 2012 election. Hispanics voted 7 to 1 for Obama over his challenger, Republican Mitt Romney, whose Hispanic support was less than any other presidential candidate in 16 years. Analysts said Romney's hardline stance on immigration was a factor.

San Antonio philanthropist and business leader Henry Munoz III, who coordinated the Latino inauguration event with Longoria and other Obama supporters, said this is a special moment when the Latino community is positioned to take an expanded role in shaping the country's future.

"Without question, the presidential election of 2012 proves that Latinos are perhaps the most important influence from this point forward in the election of the president of the United States," Munoz said. "It's important that the leadership in Washington view us not as a narrow interest group but as a vibrant political force" that carries not just votes, but influence and financial resources.

Organizers planned a series of symposiums, dinners and events ahead of the inauguration to keep people talking about issues that matter to Latinos, from immigration reform to building a Latino history museum on the National Mall. Munoz led a presidential commission that called on Congress in 2011 to authorize such a museum within the Smithsonian Institution, but Congress has not yet passed such a bill.

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