Immigrant’s story used to inspire minorities at Republican outreach session

Norwalk District A Republican Enrique Santiago shares his thoughts with other Republicans.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Pete Torrano began a Republican outreach Wednesday with a meeting in which he sought opinions of young Americans, immigrants and those with a strong ethnic background in an effort to understand how the perception of the Republican Party has changed so much since the days of Democratic Gov. George Wallace, a segregationist, and Republican President Ronald Reagan, who many pundits say would be too liberal for today’s GOP.

It was clear that Enrique Santiago, a young Latino who was born and raised in Norwalk, is impressed by the story of his immigrant grandfather.

“In Puerto Rico, people hate politicians because everyone there is in some way breaking the law or just helping themselves out to the government money,” he said. “But here in the United States it is different. Republicans try to help out people but they just think we are just rich people looking to help ourselves and fill up our pockets, and Democrats are the ones trying to help out the middle class and the poor people and we don’t care about poor people, or anything like that. But I am not rich or anything like that. I want to help everybody.

“I believe that we shouldn’t be living on handouts from the government at all,” he continued. “My grandfather came here from Puerto Rico an orphan at the age of 6. He shined shoes for a living until he finally was able to move – he moved to New York and worked as a janitor. He did very well for himself. So there’s opportunities out there if you look for them. You can’t just stay in at home and surf the internet or watch Maury, or whatever they watch now, and think, ‘oh wait, there should be a paycheck in there because it’s the first of the month. I’m OK for this month.’ No, if you are perfectly fine you should be able to get out from your chair and get a job, or do something at least.

“But I just want to be here to reach out to people and tell them that Republicans don’t just care for themselves and they do care for the neighbors next door and stuff like that. I’m pretty nice. People don’t believe that I am a Republican because I do a lot of outreach and stuff like that so when they find out they are very surprised. No, we are not an old white guy counting his money and smoking cigars, although I love my cigars. … Yes government is there to help them but yes I do believe in smaller and smaller government because we have to help the community in smaller groups before we move on to larger groups.”

Another attendee talked about the cultural differences between America and his homeland, India.

“We don’t have a Democrat or Republican Party,” said Lakshmi Singh. “We are totally different. Democracy is big in India but the parties are different. It is not the same as what we have here.”

Torrano asked her what the Indian-Americans in Norwalk think.

“I think the main perception is the Republicans are more conservative, they may not have such an open outlook on embracing all the other ethnicities that are coming to this country. I am not 100 percent sure,” she said.

Councilman David McCarthy, who is not on Torrano’s committee, was sitting in.

“I happen to have a number of friends who are Indian-American,” he said. “I think one thing Americans in general just do that is a mistake is assuming someone from India is someone from India is someone from India. Because I know people who are Indian Catholics and Indian Hindus and in a country of what — 1.3 billion people? — there’s a little bit of variety there. So there might obviously be some different things we can do even within just the community. I don’t really know the demographics of Norwalk specific to that part of Asia, but it’s probably worth keeping track of because it’s a very large and growing population.”

Olga Arteaga, who serves on the Parking Authority, pointed to a disconnect in the Latino community.

“Pretty much in South America by default we think in the Republican philosophy but they think that they practice the Democrat,” said Arteaga, an immigrant from Colombia. “By default, if you are Hispanic you are just a Democrat. But I think it is a generational thing.”

Torrano asked her if she felt welcomed into the Republican Party when she came to Norwalk with her husband, the late Guillermo Arteaga. She said yes, it was a natural fit.

“We always knew that was the philosophy we had even when I was in South America,” she said. “But see, in our countries it is different. The Republican Party you see is high class. So, like I said, the middle class, they go with the Democratic Party. But it is not the philosophy. So when we came to America that is not how we identify ourselves. I was Republican because I believe in freedom of expression, working hard, education, not the government running your life, you run your own life. … Unfortunately my sons are very liberal.”

That got a laugh. It was agreed that her sons went to “liberal” colleges, which were identified as Yale and NYU.

“Brilliant, but very naïve,” she said. “They drank the Kool Aid. That is OK.”


4 responses to “Immigrant’s story used to inspire minorities at Republican outreach session”

  1. EveT

    So, according to Mr. Santiago, if you are a Democrat you believe in “living on government handouts”? And according to Ms. Arteaga if you are a Democrat you believe in “the government running your life”? It looks like the Democratic party has some outreach to do here.

  2. Norwalk Spectator

    The difference between the Democrats and Republicans is how the someone views the role of government in an individual’s life.
    However, the perception is out there that all Republicans are rich and I’ve heard elected officials of another town use “Republican” as a pejorative. I’ve heard people speak about members of the Tea Party in sneering tones and making wild claims about those who are involved in the Tea Party movement.
    There are unpleasant and nasty people across the board, but as adults, we should be able to realize that just because “A” is contentious or rude, that doesn’t mean every person in the country that may have a similar political belief acts or believes the same way. Supposedly, this country celebrates diversity so type casting entire groups of people should have ceased ages ago.

  3. Peter Torrano

    Norwalk Spectator, thank you for a sensible explanation.

    EveT, I’m sorry that out of all the things said by members of the minority community who spoke from the heart about what they perceive, you were only able to pick out those few words. To our point, that is why we need outreach and conversation. Had you been in attendance, and you are welcome to join us next time, you would have heard first hand the very honest discussion we had. The committee didn’t just say positive things about Republicans, but spoke of our perceived shortcomings, too.

  4. Norewalk Lifer

    They drank the Koolaid? and high class? are you people fooling yourselves? you should study up on the speech given by TR in 1910, about “hyphenated Americanism”, it will eventually destroy this country; we are not a South American implant, nor an Indian implant, we are an experiment in cultural diversity, and we have a foundation of “free will” not “birth right” nor “predestination”.

    Once you realize that, once everyone in this country realizes that, including those descendants of the two thirds compromise, we’ll all be better off.

    Work hard, play by the rules, and you’ll prosper here, unless your “birthright” allows you to buy elections.

    Stop that and get back to “One person, one vote”

    Norewalk Lifer

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