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Democratic National Convention 2012: Me and Cristina Saralegui

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Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Cristina Saralegui gave a speech supporting President Barack Obama’s re-election. As many have said, Cristina is considered the Oprah for Spanish television. She is an incredible businesswoman and talk show host who the Latino and Hispanic community trust and respect dearly. Her talk show was on the air for over 20 years and hit an audience of over 100 million people around the world. She has interviewed many world leaders and has never been afraid to ask tough questions.

There are no words to describe the feeling I got while I watched Cristina deliver her speech. I remembered being a little girl hoping to one day meet Cristina, and this is the closest I’ve ever gotten. Here she was, now involved in this major event — a presidential election.

Cristina’s speech felt like an old friend had come over to give me some advice. She is someone with “no pelos en la lengua,” which in English means that she’s someone who tells it like it is. In my mind, she’s that familiar and trustworthy icon who would never do anything to hurt me. I imagine many people feel the same way about her. Her speech was playful and funny, but it also delivered a very important message:

“Governor Romney’s plan is really just one word: pa’tras – backwards”.

Pretty catchy phrase right?

The moment I heard her use it, I knew how the speech would end. And if you ever watched her show, you’d know as well.

Cristina Saralegui’s endorsement is one of the best things that could have happened for the Obama campaign. Her charisma, her honesty, and her reputation make her one of the most trusted people for Latinos and Hispanics. Her opinion weighs heavily.

In the arena on Thursday, the energy was palpable and the comfortableness of the audience was unparalleled. Cristina made the audience her friend — a quality she has perfected over the years. As our friend, she delivered an important message: she warned us that America is in danger in this election, and that the land of freedom that so many immigrants have come looking for would disappear under a Romney administration. She spoke about immigration reform, Romney’s extreme views and his relationship to Kris Kobach — the author of Arizona’s SB 1070 and other anti-immigrant “show me your papers” laws across the country.

More importantly, in her own words: “If you want to understand the values of the two candidates all you have to do is think about Benita, the lady who introduced me. Romney calls young people like her “illegal aliens”. President Obama calls them “DREAMers”. That is the difference in this election.” With such a strong endorsement, Cristina has certainly caught the attention of Latinos and Hispanics.

Her speech was heartfelt and honest. But her final message was also a tug of the ear for Hispanics – “don’t complain, vote”. As I expected, she ended her speech with her famous and very appropriate phrase “pa’lante, pa’lante, pa’tras ni pa’ coger impulso” (Forward, forward; don’t step back, not even to pick up the pace), a phrase that has been carved in the minds of many Latino and Hispanics for generations.

On Thursday, the phrase gained a complete new meaning: Mi gente, go out and vote, but when you do, remember to pick the path FORWARD.