May 9, 2024 - World

Latino activist's memoir traces Hispanic political power

Luis A. Miranda gestures his hand out while standing behind a microphone

Luis A. Miranda Jr accepts the Truth Icon Award in Aspen, Colo., on Aug. 26, 2023 . Photo: Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for The Latinx House

Luis A. Miranda Jr., a longtime political strategist who has devoted much of his life to building Latino political power, put decades worth of lessons and anecdotes into a book out this week.

Why it matters: Those lessons could be key for politicians trying to woo the estimated 36.2 million Latinos eligible to vote in this year's U.S. elections — a record high.

  • When Miranda, the father of "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, came to New York from Puerto Rico in the early 1970s, roughly 10 million Latinos lived in U.S.
  • Today that figure is more than 62 million — or 19% of the population — but Latinos have the lowest rates of voter turnout among all racial and ethnic groups and remain underrepresented in corporate America, elected positions, Hollywood and STEM fields, to name a few.

The big picture: "Relentless: My Story of the Latino Spirit that is Transforming America" walks readers through the evolution that turned Miranda from a psychology doctoral student who planned to go home to Puerto Rico after his studies, into an organizer and government worker who devoted his career to helping Latino organizations and schools get more funding.

  • Miranda, a Democrat, worked for some of New York's most well-known mayors, including Ed Koch, David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani, whose administration he resigned from over ethical concerns.
  • Later, his son's success with "Hamilton" and other projects helped the family increase their political clout. The Mirandas have used it to get more aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and to fundraise for Latino organizations like the Hispanic Federation, of which he was the founding president.

What they're saying: Miranda says the recipe for winning over Latino voters includes taking the time to learn about their values and what issues matter most to them, while understanding that Latinos are diverse and can have wildly different views on government, depending on the Latin American country they have ties to.

  • A candidate's radio ad, for example, might focus on what's important for Latinos in general, but it should also take into account how Venezuelans who fled an autocratic regime don't want government to play a major role in their lives.
  • "All politics are local, and then you move through the ladder in terms of what makes us tick as a community," Miranda says.

What to watch: Miranda says he is hopeful that as Latinos have grown in numbers and become more dispersed around the country, their political power will grow. He cites the 2020 elections in Georgia in which Democrats won by a narrow margin.

  • Latinos were only 11% of the population and just 3% of voters in that election.
  • "But Georgia was decided by a handful of voters, so that 3% becomes key to keep the electoral votes of that state," Miranda says.

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