Tag Archives: Mirthala Salinas

Villaraigosa, Delgadillo, and Racial Identity in Los Angeles Politics

As juls noted in a quick hit, Mayor Villaraigosa’s girlfriend Mirthala Salinas has been put on temporary leave by Telemundo, calling her job into question.  Elsewhere though, the LA Times is all over this latest scandal.  There are 133 pages and counting of users comments in response to the situation and Steve Lopez is wondering “Who needs telenovelas when you have Los Angeles City Hall?”  Lopez brings up several legitimate questions, like whether taxpayers have paid for any part of the relationship and what effect the relationship may have had on the Telemundo newsroom.  But as compelling as all of that is, the real fallout may not be felt until next fall.  In light of scandals for Antonio Villaraigosa and Rocky Delgadillo, the Times is also exploring the extent to which the Latino community may be disillusioned by their political superstars.

The last several years have shown the Latino population gradually moving away from the Republican Party, and in 2006, Latino’s in the West went 72% for Democratic candidates.  This has been coupled in Los Angeles with a city government that increasingly matches its Latino population:

Over the last decade, the city’s government has finally started to reflect its demographics. Los Angeles, with a Latino population of nearly 50%, has a city attorney named Rocky Delgadillo and a City Council on which five of 15 members are of Mexican descent.

As noted in the article, it’s far too early to know whether either Villaraigosa or Delgadillo will personally face political ramifications for their respective scandals.  The potential problem that the Times suggests may be simmering though is that, at a time of major political gains for Latinos, future Latino candidates or future Democrats will have one more hill to climb on the way to election.

Please do read through the article for the full gamut of reactions from both insiders and people-on-the-street.  What’s particularly striking though is that the progression of Latinos into mainstream politics brings along a complex identity crisis.  Indeed, much of the concern reflected in the Times article touches in one way or another on concern that race would be caught up in analysis of the scandal:

“I don’t think it speaks to a problem of leadership in the Latino community,” [Former City Councilman Richard] Alatorre said. “We all make mistakes…. It just so happens that it happened all in one week.”

Will this demoralize the building political engagement and activism in the Latino community?  Will race be unfairly conflated with scandal within the broader population?  Or is Antonio Gonzalez (Southwest Voter Registration Education Project) right in seeing this as growing pains for the still young but increasingly influential Latino voting bloc?  Too early to tell, but the role of race will be something to follow as these stories evolve in the media and the public consciousness.