As the sharp razor slid up his neck, Julio Villamar remarked that his parents were glad to be moving back to Ecuador now that Donald Trump was going to be the next president.
Villamar, 36, looked up at his barber, who nodded as he sliced whiskers from his longtime client’s goatee. He couldn’t believe that a man who had no political experience, owned a few buildings and vowed to deport millions of immigrants was going to be the United States’ next leader.
“A lot of people are really scared,” Villamar said. “No one knows what’s going to happen. Trump always mentions that wall. He has been very verbal about a lot of things – about Latinos in general.”
On the day after Trump’s surprising election victory, the mood at the Corona Barber Shop in this immigrant neighborhood in Queens was a mix of fear, resignation and hope.
I think he can do some good things for the economy. You know, let’s give him a shot and see what happens.
The election had long been a topic of conversation at the colorful barber and tattoo parlor, with its red walls covered with graffiti paintings. The group of master barbers of Dominican, Colombian and Peruvian descent were not shy about giving their opinions, in English or Spanish.
While most were disgusted by Trump’s rhetoric against immigrants, several barbers chalked it up to politics as usual. Maybe Trump was simply riling people up to get elected, but Hillary Clinton was also possibly corrupt. Trump, they speculated, didn’t necessarily believe everything he said, or at least they hoped not.
“Trump pulled it off, huh,” called out Jose Corona, 42, watching news coverage on the television that was turned loud so it could be heard over hair dryers and electric razors. The Dominican barber with intricate tattoos up his arms brushed off his chair for a customer willing to listen.
Corona respected Trump’s business experience but questioned whether it was the right kind of experience for his new job. Being a businessman takes being tough and selfish, Corona said. But a president has got to have a more balanced approach, he said.
“You can’t just be a hard-ass,” Corona said. “You have to give and take. It’s not just about you. It’s about the people, as well.”
Three chairs down, Luis Concha said he couldn’t believe someone running for president could “behave in such a disgusting manner.” The son of Colombian immigrants who has relatives here without proper legal paperwork, Concha took Trump’s comments personally.
A lot of people are really scared.
Julio Villamar, coffee salesman
He worried about clients who had received temporary protection from deportation through the Obama administration’s deferred action program. Was Trump going to make them leave the country? Would they be deported?
“It has to be a scary feeling for them that it could come to an end,” Concha said.
But he wondered whether some of Trump’s language about deporting millions of immigrants and ending birthright citizenship was more bluster than truth. He hoped a Trump presidency would reflect more what Trump had said during his acceptance speech about bringing the country together than the divisive language of the campaign.
And Concha didn’t believe that all the people who’d voted for Trump were racists. Some people were angry about the economy and Obamacare. Twice, he said, he was almost penalized for failing to pay health premiums. Now he hears premiums will rise. He hoped Trump could use his business experience to do some good.
“A lot of people say it’s a sad day for America, but he’s the president-elect now. What can you do about it, now?” Concha said. “I think he can do some good things for the economy. You know, let’s give him a shot and see what happens.”