By Stephen A. Nuno
PHILADELPHIA — Democratic National Committee operatives came under fire this week on social media and in posts for leaked emails in which Latinos were labeled as a "brand."
Yet at the Latino Leaders Luncheon on Tuesday, part of the Democratic convention's activities, the event was a clear display of Latino branding and business generation based on the image of Hispanics as an emerging political and cultural force in Washington and throughout our nation.
With almost half of Latinos born in the millennial generation, Latino pop culture will become as valuable as their votes. And their votes matter: More than 40 percent of the eligible Hispanic electorate in 2016 is millennial.
There are about 55 million Hispanics in the U.S., and their purchasing power has been estimated at over one and a half trillion dollars. Corporate America know this; the function was sponsored by companies such as Geico, AnheuserBusch and Southwest Airlines.
All of this "branding" power allows us to flex our political muscle through our numbers and our growing political presence. And politicians take notice.
At the luncheon, the senior senator from New York, Chuck Schumer said to those assembled, "If I become [Senate] Majority Leader, we will pass comprehensive immigration reform."
This statement was immediately followed by a remark from Mickey Ibarra, a longtime Washington lobbyist and Beltway insider, who was the honoree of the luncheon. "And we will hold you accountable," said Ibarra in a friendly but pointed tone. Democratic legislators know they cannot discount the Hispanic vote.
At the event, Latino elected officials rubbed shoulders with consultants vying to expand their network to capitalize on the growing Hispanic image within the Democratic Party and around the country. The long list of elected officials included Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, the Chairwoman of the Hispanic Caucus, former Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, former Governor of New Mexico, Bill. Richardson, and Julian Castro, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
While some may scoff at the notion of Latinos as a brand, any political or social movement must be keenly aware of how they are viewed by society in general and broad acceptance brings power, money, and the ability to change policy. Latinos at the overflowing room of leaders and government officials have spent years honing the Latino brand, and its effectiveness was evident in the room.