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Latinas: King doesn't need to apologize for 'heart' remark

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By Sherry Robinson

It’s the gaffe that wasn’t.
The latest tussle between gubernatorial candidates is over Democrat Gary King’s paraphrase of a statement by labor activist Dolores Huerta, a New Mexican from Dawson and compatriot of Cesar Chavez.
At a fundraiser, King quoted Huerta as saying that “you can’t just go out there and vote for somebody for governor because they have a Latino surname. She said you have to look at them and find out if they have a Latino heart. And we know that Susana Martinez does not have a Latino heart.”
The governor’s campaign pounced on what appeared to be a gaffe. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez even demanded an apology, which is gallant of him considering that the governor treats him like an insect.
Then Sen. Linda Lopez, an Albuquerque Democrat and King’s former opponent, called a press conference with women who had something to say about Latina hearts.
“I attended the Voices for Children conference as a candidate for governor,” Lopez told me. “She (Huerta) actually said the governor doesn’t have a Latina heart. It resonated with so many people.”
Lopez also heard King’s statement. “He has nothing to apologize for.”
A recent public gathering in Albuquerque included three state legislators, a former elected official, the president and vice president of the New Mexico Federation of Democratic women — all Latinas — and the head of the Democratic African-American Caucus.
You didn’t hear about this because, as nearly as I could tell, I was the only reporter present. The journalistic pack snubbed this event. I like the road less traveled.
Maybe the pack assumes Martinez has the election locked up. The Albuquerque Journal’s poll shows support at 54-to-36 percent, and yet a CBS-New York Times poll shows 48-to-43 percent. It’s not over until the plus-sized lady sings.
At the rally, the issues of these Latina hearts could be summed up in a few acronyms: CYFD, HSD, PED. In other words, how the Martinez administration has addressed child abuse, disability, hunger, poverty and education. “The Latina heart has compassion for the poor, the undocumented, the unemployed, the mentally ill,” Rep. Patricia Caballero said.
Here’s another dimension: There are many Latina hearts in the ranks of teachers and social workers, and their jobs — women’s jobs — are at risk in the shouting match over government.
“The issue is not that the governor doesn’t have a Latina heart — she has no heart at all. The governor has focused on side issues, not the issues that really count,” Rep. Christine Trujillo said.
Granted, this was a staged political event, but it had some telling moments. A young Anglo guy asked what the difference was between a Latina heart and everybody else’s heart. There is no difference, Lopez said.
At that moment, young Shaylyn Garcia Ray took the microphone. “I’m an English teacher. Gary King and Dolores Huerta used ‘Latina heart’ as a metaphor. They used it correctly. We all have the same heart, and we need to have a heart for New Mexico.”
A few weeks ago, disturbed by the beating deaths of two Navajo homeless men and the plight of kids from Central America, I asked what had become of compassion.
I got an email with this message: “You mention Americans who are having a hard time yet you don’t mention that many of the poor in America live in that state totally by choice. You don’t mention how incredibly unfair it is to the millions of hardworking Americans who are being forced, often against their will to support non-working Americans.”
Too bad the folks who believe this don’t know a few poor people. They would find that nobody chooses to be poor, and the “support” is a thinning safety net.
I like the idea of engaging hearts and not just brains and mouths.