As former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) kicked off his presidential campaign in Miami, Florida, his ties to Hispanics were prominently featured.
As a college student, Bush traveled to Mexico, where he met his wife, Columba. Fluent in Spanish and referring to himself as an “Honorary Latino,” Bush has emphasized his ability to reach out the Hispanic community as one of his strengths as a candidate. However, he has also drawn sharp criticism from conservatives unhappy with his moderate positions on immigration, especially comments like when he described those who cross the border illegally as doing so “out of love.”
Signs with Bush’s campaign logo — “Jeb! 2016” — were seen in the crowd with the Spanish punctuation, “íJeb!”
The program kicked off with music from the Chirino family. Headed by Willy Chirino, who fled Cuba as a child as part of “Operation Peter Pan” in 1960. Three of Chirino’s daughters sang while one accompanied on guitar. The melting pot culture of Miami was on display as the sisters started with some salsa music and then played a hit by the Bee Gees, who had made Miami their home, and then when one of the sisters said, “we gonna git ‘er done” as they worked to fix a microphone problem.
The Chirino sisters were then joined on stage by Willy and Lissette Chirino, and the whole family did a beautiful rendition of the national anthem.
“Let’s celebrate freedom tonight,” said Willy Chirino, as the crowd cheered, “In our native Cuba that opportunity hasn’t happened in the last 55 years.”
“God bless the United States of America!” added Lissette Chirino, the phrase then echoed by her husband.
The next speaker, Bethany de la Rosa-Aponte, introduced herself as a “proud naturalized citizen” from Columbia. Speaking in both Spanish and English, she thanked Bush for supporting programs that helped her daughter, who has autism, and credited him with making her a Republican.
Bush’s son, George P. Bush, who was elected Texas Land Commissioner last fall, also addressed the crowd in Spanish and English. “No matter where I go or what I do, he loves me, no questions asked,” he said affectionately. “My Dad has always been there, standing with me, and now I’m proud to stand with him”
“I’m proud to say that Jeb Bush is the greatest man that I’ve ever known, and he’s going to make an excellent President of the United States of America,” George P. concluded.
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