If anyone wants to know what a majority Hispanic state looks like, you would have seen it in Waco. Hundreds, if not thousands of Hispanics showed up downtown Waco to listen to bands from Zacatecas and other parts of Mexico. The music could be heard from a distance, and the crowds of people kept flowing across the iconic suspension bridge.
As I crossed the bridge, I was one of many Hispanics heading toward the music. The mood was festive, people were laughing,and everyone seemed to be having a great time.
I continued to walk toward the main stage. The music was much louder, people were crowded around the stage, leaving room in front for a street dance. The band was from Zacatecas, and had the large crowd satisfied with sounds of Mexico and a comforting feeling in the air. Kids ran around to the other side of the event, where inflatable jumpers were lined up, cotton candy was being spun, and flashing wands were selling as quickly as possible.
It was a well oiled machine, and the people were happy.
Organized in part by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and La Ley 104.1 in Waco, the event provided a great opportunity to showcase local businesses interested in the Hispanic market. Allen Samuels Dodge / Fiat, The National Bank, among many others boasted fluent Spanish-speaking employees, loan assistants and sales representatives.
It was clear that the future everyone is talking about, is coming quickly. As I was there, I asked a woman standing next to me if she knew which band playing next. She looked at me, unsure of what I said, so I tried my best to ask in Spanish. “No se,” she replied. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that in my opinion, 30-40% of those at the event were not living here legally. The hard-working migrant workers, construction workers, small business owners, and their families, came out to enjoy the night and celebrate Cinco de Mayo regardless of their “status.”
Gabriel Ramirez, Loan Officer at The National Banks of Central Texas, was busy meeting people and working at the bank’s booth. We had a short discussion on the future of loaning money, as well as the future base of potential customers in the Hispanic community.
“We’re one of the few banks who will loan money if an individual only has an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN),” said Ramirez, who continued to talk about the number of Hispanics his branch serviced, adding how difficult it was to find and hire enough fluent Spanish-speaking accountants to satisfy the demand. “I don’t need the kind who kinda know Spanish…I need the kind who speak Espanol,” exclaimed Ramirez, accentuating the accent.
Insurance companies like State Farm were there. Other companies passed out frisbees and were giving away 10$ gift cards to collect names and email addresses for future use. They had three Latinas filling out small forms, talking briefly to people about services they offered, showcasing their ability to not only speak the language, but conduct business.
Everywhere I looked, I saw capitalism in action. I thought, “this is a beautiful sight.” I was happy to know local and national companies were going directly to the people. At a time when the Immigration debate is heating to a boil, the financial benefits to our economy are already making themselves evident.
While some on each extreme argue irrationally, unable to agree on an acceptable approach, the majority of us are concerned about our neighborhoods. We want illegal residents documented, “so they can become contributing members of our society and pay their fair share of taxes.”
Opponents start screaming “AMNESTY!!” In reality, these undocumented/illegal residents are buying cars, renting and buying homes, paying utilities, shopping for their family and spending locally. Sure, some have figured a way to scam the government. Yes, some are abusing the system. But the majority don’t; they just want to work, earn money, and support their family.
The economic impact is already here…we’re witnessing it. Many of us work at companies who sell to these families. We pay our bills because of items or services we’ve sold through our business. To deny reality and act as if the Hispanic community was irrelevant, is not wise.
Fortunately for Republicans, we have people like Marco Rubio leading the charge on immigration reform. He’s taking a bunch of heat from many in his own Party. Yet he stands strong, defending the bill, knowing if people simply read what’s in it, they will understand it is firm but fair. They would understand the border will be secured, and the funds have been allocated. Rubio needs our support, not our vitriol. Republicans have a narrow window of opportunity. Will we allow it to close?