Latinos celebrate at inaugural ball

January 19, 2009 9:16:36 PM PST
Attendees of the Latino inaugural ball spoke of the huge stake they say Latinos hold in the incoming administration of Barack Obama. "We are so hopeful. The Latino community came out in big numbers for him because of the hope and the dreams that he has placed in front of us," said Illinois senator Iris Martinez, (D) Chicago.

At the 2009 event, the Obama-inspired hope was flowing like the fountain in the Organization of American States building lobby.

The event was sponsored by the Hispanic Leadership Institute which is headed by Chicago's Juan Andrade who told ABC7 Latinos need improved healthcare, education and job opportunities.

"We're in the same boat with everybody else," said Juan Andrade, U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute. "But we are very hopeful who really gets it, who really cares."

Andrade estimated that in Barack Obama's November victory, he won the support of 70 percent of Latino voters.

Rudy Lopez of East Chicago says the heavy turnout by Latinos and African Americans helped turn his native Indiana from a red to a blue state.

"They thought that Latinos just wouldn't support an African American but we saw in the general that that clearly wasn't the case," said Lopez.

But activists at the event said to retain Latino support the new president must reform immigration law and must do it before the mid-term elections in 2010.

"If it doesn't happen in the first 12 to 15 months of his first term, it won't happen until 2013. That's five years from now and our community and this country cannot wait that long," said Andrade.

And they told ABC7 they expect the new administration to rethink American foreign policy as it applies to Latin America, especially to the country of Cuba.