Carlos Menchaca was among the primary winners for the City Council district 38 in Brooklyn. The impressive thing was not the fact that he dethroned the incumbent candidate Sara González, but that his victory marked a new chapter in the political history of the City of New York: Menchaca will be the first Mexican-American councilman in the City Council. He is also openly gay.
Menchaca, the son of immigrant parents from Mexico, is the new face of the fastest growing community in New York. According to the 2010 Census and figures from the City, the Mexican population amounts to about 319,263.
The New York Mexican community brings tremendous entrepreneurial spirit, highly visible in commercial strips from El Barrio to Sunset Park to Port Richmond. And its workers are critical to the restaurant and other industries in this City.
The local Mexican community also faces many challenges. Although they have one of the highest rates of employment, that success comes at a cost. They receive some of the lowest wages and experience workplace abuse. They keep silent because of fear of deportation. Also no other major immigrant group has a higher high school dropout rate than they do.
Menchaca has the opportunity to give voice to these and other issues, as well as to represent the diverse voters who helped usher him into office.
On this occasion, we must also note the rise of openly gay Hispanic male candidates like Menchaca and Ritchie Torres in the Bronx. This yet again demonstrates that the vast majority of Latino voters look at the issues that matter to them and don’t obsess about a person’s sexuality.
Because of a few loud voices, the misconception is that our community is not inclined to support LGBTQ candidates. However, this has been historically debunked with the elections of leaders such as Margarita López, Antonio Pagán and Rosie Méndez.
The inroads made in this election cycle are in line with where the world’s leading city should be headed towards more diversity.