A White House 20 de julio

Throughout the world, 20 de julio or Colombian Independence from Spain is celebrated by dancing to cumbia and vallenato, toasting with our moonshine–aguardiente, as well as savoring delicacies like beef empanadas or patties, patacón pisao or fried plaintains, and arepas–corn cakes.  That’s what I remember, having marked that day, which falls 16 days after American Independence Day.  This year, however, was different.


Courtesy: Viviana Hurtado

Along with several dozen Colombian-American business and community leaders, I spent my 20 de julio at the White House, attending a special briefing.  The invitation has to be placed within the context of the Obama Administration’s aggressive Hispanic outreach, turbo-charged as the November election draws nearer.  At 972,000, or barely 2 percent of the Latino population, Colombian-Americans are dwarfed in numbers by the nearly 33 million strong Mexican-American community, according to the non-partisan think tank the Pew Hispanic Center.  But Colombian-Americans are concentrated in Florida, perhaps this election’s most coveted battleground state with 29 electoral votes at stake.

Perhaps the Administration’s hardest sell was on the trade and economic front, which makes sense since the weak economic recovery, slow job creation, and the Latino unemployment rate that has trended two points above the national average are weaknesses for President Obama.  U.S. Executive Director to the Inter-American Bank Gustavo Arnavat quoted projections that the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement will add $2.5 billion to the gross domestic product (GDP) and grow U.S. goods by $1.1 billion dollars a year, creating thousands of U.S. jobs.

One businessman, Alberto Peisach, who owns a packaging and container business, expressed to Fox News Latino frustration with the high costs that burden small business, including the health care law, despite credits the Administration has promoted.

Often times, the Latino community feels “invisible” or even disrespected by the actions or inactions of political parties, candidates, and campaigns.   This Colombian-American briefing was a way to make the Obama Administration more hospitable.

But there still are independent or undecided voters like Peisach who the President needs to convince to help him stay “four more years.”

This post appears in Fox News Latino where I am a regular politics columnist as Obama Administration Holds Briefing for Colombian-American Business Owners.

Click here to read my other Fox News Latino politics columns.

Do you think the Obama Administration’s Latino outreach is going to pay off in November?



  1. says

    Wow – what an awesome briefing. I never would have guessed that the White House would reach out specifically to Colombian Americans, given their smaller population in comparison to some other groups as you noted. Very cool.

  2. says

    It will probably pay off somehow.
    We had strong ties with this country in the past, during Clinton and Bush’s administrations.
    Presidents Uribe and Santos had to beg Obama to sign the trade promotion agreement between both Colombia and the U.S.
    Obama is looking for a last minute solution to get the attention of Latino voters.

  3. says

    I also wasn’t aware that the administration targeted specific cultures within the Latino culture. It seems like a smart tactic when trying to win over specific states. We will see how it pans out!

  4. says

    First off, I’m completely ignorant in the Columbian holidays, but I LOVE that the White House had a special briefing to celebrate the day. What a great way to involve all parts of the Latino culture.

  5. says

    Wow is right! I have to say that the Obama administration is showing an intimate knowledge of the Latino community that probably no other president or presidential candidate has EVER shown. This event especially shows that they are acknowledging that Latinos come from different backgrounds and cultural traditions. They are not lumping us all together under that universal “Hispanic” or “Latino” title, which implies that they are seeing the actual people, not just the numbers. Wow.

  6. says

    Although the Invite idea was a good one and much appreciated, the briefing was mostly refried condescending talking points. A little coffee for the gusts and a Colombian and US flags to adorn the room would have gone a long ways to enrich the ambiance and make the morning a pleasant one. Seems to me this was done as a last minute event…
    Best regards,

  7. says

    Happy Independence to our Colombian neighbours! It’s great that the White House did this to celebrate and focus on a specific group of people. Do you know if they did the same for PEruvians on July 28th, our Independence Day?

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