The Hispanic vote in Florida is anything but monolithic.
In southern Florida, Cubans are the majority, while in Central Florida it is Puerto Ricans. But even these two groups only account for roughly half of Florida’s Hispanic population.
Venezuelans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Columbians and a half-dozen other groups comprise the rest of Florida’s Hispanic population with each arriving in the state with their own backstory and own set of issues.
“You have got to remember the Hispanic voter is not an ideological voter,” said former Republican state legislator Bob Cortes.
Cortes said depending on where you are in the state and which group you are talking to, different issues have different resonance.
“You saw the anti-socialist message resonate in South Florida because that’s where the message does resonate the most with the keeping the mouse working. But here in Central Florida, we have a large population of Puerto Ricans to us but really it’s not the message we want to hear. What’s the message whether you support statehood or commonwealth or status quo in Puerto Rico,” said Cortes.
For many groups how they arrived in the state influences the issues.
“Each has their own set of privilege if you would, Puerto Ricans the ultimate privilege if you would. The moment they come to Florida they can vote, participate fully, they don’t have to go through a process of immigration. Cubans had wet foot dry foot. Venezuelans are coming with the opportunity to seek asylum,” said Marcos Vilar, the executive director of the progressive group Alianza for Progress.
For both political parties, successfully reaching all these groups has proved to be quite difficult.
“Both parties do a horrible job,” said Cortes.
“Nobody gets an ‘A’ in this class,” said Vilar. With Hispanics making up more than 16% of Florida’s voting population, both sides are trying to find inroads into these vast and diverse communities.