Economy a Bad Joke: George Lopez Campaigns for Obama Among Detroit's Latinos

Detroit Free Press.)

Lopez campaigns for Obama in Detroit (Photo:|Detroit Free Press)

It was George Lopez doing the talking, but this time the punch line wasn’t funny.

“You cannot be happy with the last eight years,” the comedian said. “Do you like waking up everyday to banks closing?”

Lopez was speaking at a voter registration rally aimed at Detroit’s Hispanic community, held on Sept. 20, to discuss the important role Latinos will play in this year’s presidential election.

Polls in Michigan show Senators Barack Obama and John McCain in a statistical dead heat, with the Democrat enjoying a slight edge. The state is home to more than 400,000 Latinos, and Latinos make up only 4 percent of the electorate. But in an election that seems too close to call, they could decide which candidate wins Michigan’s 17 electoral votes.

Latino voters are the focus of much attention in the battleground states of New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida — but strategists are beginning to see that smaller burgeoning Hispanic communities in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio could have a hand in deciding the winner.

Latinos drove two and three hours to get a glimpse of the famous comedian and listen to what he had to say about his support for Obama.

The Hollywood A-lister is one of many Hispanic stars who are crisscrossing the country and using their celebrity to get out the Latino vote. Movie star Rosario Dawson (Rent, Sin City) has targeted the youth vote while Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria has campaigned with Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) discussing the importance of voter turnout among Latinas.

Although there is no way of knowing how much influence Hollywood stars have on voters, those attending the rally said Lopez’s campaign appearance made them feel that minorities are finally being paid attention to, and that it made the race more interesting. “The other elections were boring,” said 29-year-old Santos Bernard.

Lifelong Republican Edith Castillo, 34, who said she will vote for Obama this year, said she feels the celebrity pit stop will definitely help sway voters.

“People have a connection to George Lopez because he came from the working class,” Castillo said. “For Latinos who are on the fence his presence will have an influence.”

Castillo is excited to be voting for a Democrat for the first time in a presidential election. She said she defected from the GOP because of the party’s stance on immigration and the erosion of individual rights and quality of life caused by toughened immigration enforcement and the slumping economy. “I bought into the idea of change, of giving power back to the people,” Castillo said.

Lopez, the famous sitcom star, cracked jokes, took on hecklers and reminded the crowd that, like Obama and himself, many Latinos grow up without fathers. “His story is our story,” he said to a cheering crowd.

Lopez praised the dozens of volunteers who walked around with clipboards stacked with voter registration sheets. He encouraged those in the crowd to register their grandmothers, aunts and teenage relatives.

“This is our election,” Lopez said. “We can decide who becomes the president of the United States.”

AboutMartina Guzman
Martina Guzmán is a former Feet in 2 Worlds reporter. She has for the past 15 years specialized in creative production with an emphasis on stories by and about Latino communities. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Communication from Madonna University, an A.A. in Photography from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit; and a Master’s degree in Journalism from Columbia University. She currently works as a feature reporter for WDET, the NPR affiliate in Detroit, Michigan.