The rise of white nationalist Hispanics
Nick Fuentes, identified as a "white supremacist" in Justice Department filings, made headlines last week for hosting a white nationalist conference in Florida. His father is also half Mexican American.
The big picture: Fuentes is part of a small but increasingly visible number of far-right provocateurs with Hispanic backgrounds who spread racist, antisemitic messages.
Driving the news: Cuban American Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the Proud Boys, a group the Anti-Defamation League calls an extremist group with a violent agenda, was arrested Tuesday and charged with conspiracy in connection to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
What they're saying: Experts tell Axios far-right extremism within the Latino community stems from three sources: Hispanic Americans who identify as white; the spread of online misinformation; and lingering anti-Black, antisemitic views among U.S. Latinos that are rarely openly discussed.
- Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University, said in an interview that the trend is "part of the mutation that takes place as the racist fringe tries to become more mainstream."
- Racism is deeply rooted in Latin American and Caribbean nations, where slavery was common, Tanya K. Hernández, a Fordham University law professor and author of the upcoming book, "Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias," told Axios. "In Latin America, white supremacy is alive and well.”
- Even families who have been in the U.S. for generations can often bring those biases with them.
Between the lines: The U.S. trend, fueled over the course of Donald Trump's presidency and the pandemic, extends beyond movement leaders to a broader network of participants, some of whom have faced hate crimes charges.
- Last month, Jose Gomez III, 21, of Midland, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court to three counts of committing a hate crime for attacking an Asian American family, including two children, he believed to be responsible for the pandemic.
- In 2018, Alex Michael Ramos, a Puerto Rican resident of Georgia, was sentenced by a Virginia District Court to six years in prison for his role in a beating of a Black man in Charlottesville, Virginia, following the "Unite the Right" rally.
- Christopher Rey Monzon, a Cuban American man and member of the neo-Confederate group League of the South, was arrested in 2017 for attempting to assault anti-racist protesters in Hollywood, Fla. He later resigned from the group and said he regretted using slurs for Black and Jewish people.
Context: At the conference in Orlando, which made headlines because U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) accepted an invitation to speak, Fuentes drew attention for comments of his own:
- "And now they’re going on about Russia and Vladimir Putin is Hitler — they say that’s not a good thing..." He then laughed and said, "I shouldn't have said that."
- Fuentes has questioned the Holocaust, criticized interracial marriage and defended Jim Crow-era segregation. The ADL describes him as "a white supremacist leader and podcaster who seeks to forge a white nationalist alternative to the mainstream GOP."
- Tarrio, 38, has previously faced charges: He was sentenced to five months in jail for setting fire to a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a historic Black church in Washington, D.C.
- "I'm pretty brown, I'm Cuban. There's nothing white supremacist about me," Tarrio told Insider in 2020.
- But Tarrio was suspended from Twitter in 2019 for posting anti-immigrant threats, has denigrated transgender people and has used racist language to describe a Black actor.
But, but, but: There are limits to how accepted some far-right Latino activists can become in white supremacist and neo-Nazi circles, Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the ADL's Center on Extremism, told Axios.
- Some extremists on 4chan and 8chan say Fuentes' Latino heritage disqualifies him from speaking on white supremacy, Pitcavage said. Meanwhile, some white supremacist elements of the Proud Boys dismiss Tarrio as a leader but so far he has withstood the criticism, said Pitcavage, who monitors the chats.
Tarrio's lawyer, Lucas Dansie, did not respond to emails seeking comment. Fuentes' American First Foundation also did not respond to requests for comment.
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Editor's note: This story first published on March 10.