Elections

‘Latinas for Trump’ is a ‘coming out’ party

Ileana Garcia, founder of Latinas for Trump, conducts a TV interview in Coral Gables on Wednesday, June 22, 2016.
Ileana Garcia, founder of Latinas for Trump, conducts a TV interview in Coral Gables on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

A gathering of Trump supporters at Trust & Co. in Coral Gables had a different feel than the dozens of rallies the presumptive Republican nominee has held over the past few months.

“I came here for the $5 drinks,” Nicole Aleman, a 36-year-old medical sales consultant, jokingly said. “I’m fearful of coming out in support of him because of the backlash that people can receive.”

The attendees, mostly middle-aged women, wore cocktail dresses and sipped artisanal libations while passionately discussing illegal immigration. There was no hint of animosity or anger in the air. Everyone was nice to reporters and didn’t seem to mind the blinding tally lights emanating from multiple television cameras in the dimly lit bar. Only two supporters donned the “Make America Great Again” hat.

This was not an ordinary Trump event.

On Wednesday night, the well-dressed women came from a variety of political backgrounds but few described themselves as staunch Republicans. A majority voted for Barack Obama in 2008. They all believe immigration is the most important issue of the campaign and that Trump is saying what everyone secretly thinks.

Hispanic voters in America have long been assumed to trend Democrat in their voting habits. But some Hispanics — many of whom are religious, own small businesses, and care deeply about education — tell us they will vote Republican instead.

Aleman, who voted for Obama in 2008 because she didn’t like Sarah Palin and campaigned for Mitt Romney in 2012, was dejected after Obama won a second term in office. She doesn’t think Trump will win the election but supports him anyway.

“Hopefully I’m wrong and it could be also because a lot of people have fear of coming out and supporting Trump,” Aleman said. “Hopefully there’s a lot of people like me out there.”

Aleman was initially concerned about publicly supporting Trump, but Latinas for Trump changed her mind. The group bills itself as a “safe space” for women to support Trump.

Heydee Zamora, 59, had no such qualms. She has supported Trump since Day One of his campaign, even though her kids think she’s “crazy.”

Zamora believes that Trump is a ringer for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but still supports him anyway.

“I think this is all a circus for Hillary Clinton to win, honest to God,” Zamora said. “I’m voting for Trump but sometimes I think about everything and think it’s all a circus that he’s doing for Hillary Clinton. They are really good friends.”

Those at Wednesday’s event had mixed feelings on South Florida politicians like Marco Rubio, who said Wednesday of Trump that he would “encourage him in the right direction but if it’s necessary, stand up to him.”

“I’m glad that he’s running for Senate again,” Latinas for Trump founder Ileana Garcia said of Rubio. “A lot of people here were for Rubio but I was for Trump from the start. Cruz is backing Rubio now and look at what they said about each other. Look at what Sen. [Elizabeth] Warren said about Hillary in 2004.”

Other attendees expressed displeasure at South Florida Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, Republicans who both stated they won’t vote for Trump.

“The division is very sad, but of course it has nothing to do with Trump,” Zamora said. “The division we have in this country is because of our president.”

Garcia, a 44-year-old television personality and self-described Sandra Bullock doppelgänger, came up with the idea of Latinas for Trump after watching Bullock’s most recent movie, Our Brand is Crisis. (Wednesday marked the group’s second event.) The box office bomb featured Bullock as a political consultant in Bolivia who gets an unpopular politician elected by using dirty tricks.

“I remember jumping out of bed and going ‘Oh my God, Latinas for Trump,’ ” Garcia said after watching the movie. “This guy has to get elected.”

Rosy Palomino, a Republican running for State House District 112, had fliers on hand at the event — though that doesn’t mean Palomino is endorsing Trump, according to her campaign. “An overzealous supporter sent the literature,” campaign manager Hector Roos said. “She will support the person on the Republican ticket.”

The non-conventional nature of Trump’s campaign was refreshing to the women in attendance. None of them had any issue with his comments toward Mexicans and Muslims and all of them were in favor of keeping Muslims out of the country, at least for now.

Latinas for Trump aims to host more events in the coming months to challenge the narrative that Trump supporters are mostly angry white men.

“I think he’s funny,” Garcia said. “I don’t have a problem with the things he says. I see right through him.”

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