It’s funny how Ted Cruz can be the first Hispanic/Latino to win a presidential caucus or primary and quite literally no one is excited for this first. I can absolutely assure you if Julian Castro had done so, it would’ve been trumpeted all over the media, day in and day out.
But Ted? No one’s excited about the guy. La Opinion asks,
¿Por qué no estamos celebrando?
That’s because whether or not Ted is even “Latino” is up for debate. If you want a layman’s view of it, go enter, “Ted Cruz Latino” in Twitter’s search bar and watch all the various Popes of latinidad y hispanidad excommunicate poor Rafael Edward Cruz and declare him anathema. Uncharitably my guess is that it’s uncomfortable to progressives that a Latino isn’t “one of them.”
It’s fascinating that no one (usually) questions Marco Rubio being Latino, that is unless you are a white progressive. My hunch is it comes down to a few factors. Politically Rubio is pretty clearly in the pro-immigration column. While he’s backed off of comprehensive immigration reform, he’s still in favor of some kind of path to legal status for most of those who are here illegally at the moment. With something like 85%+ (and closer to 90%) of those who identify as Latino/Hispanic in the US being in favor of a path to legal status, that’s a huge litmus test. While that’s not going to translate into immediate GOP support from Hispanics, it could allow the GOP to make their case to unbiased ears. When 61% of Latinos who voted for Obama in 2012 say, “Yeah I’ll give a pro-immigration Republican a listen to,” that’s not nothing.
Ted on the other hand is written off. Even though I would put money on Ted compromising on a path to legal status, given his past history, the guy just rubs Hispanics the wrong way on it. While no doubt some Latinos see immigration as an us vs. them sort of issue, my guess is they, like most Americans, tend to see immigration as a net positive. And while they are surprising hawkish on border security, hearing long diatribes on illegal immigration sounds an awful lot like a dog whistle for attacking their place in America in general.
Culturally it comes down to two factors. The first is that Marco speaks Spanish and does so publicly. Ted doesn’t because he can’t. Secondly, Marco grew up with a clear sense of a communal sense of being Latino/Cuban, while it seems Ted grew up with a personal sense of being Latino/Cuban. Marco grew up in a Cuban-American neighborhood in Miami, whereas Ted grew up in Texas where there are relatively few Cubans. There’s no shortage of Hispanics in Texas (who tend to be seen as odd ducks, as they are usually more established, fonder of the term Hispanic over Latino, more middle class and more conservative), most are Mexican, not Cuban. Ted and Marco’s connection to latinidad is probably akin to a white guy who’s half Irish in, say, Kansas and someone who grew up in Southie going to an all Irish-Catholic parish.
All in all, I come down on the conclusion that Ted is pretty obviously Latino. You can read about why over at Latino Rebels.