In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Hispanics’ message to Scott: Don’t take kindness for weakness

My favorite part of Miami CEO Mike Fernandez’s email to Gov. Rick Scott’s top advisors: “I will say this again, I am not a Yes Man and don’t mistake my smile and courteous nature as a weakness.”

There isn’t a politically-savvy Hispanic voter reading the email that foretold Fernandez’s abrupt resignation from Scott’s reelection campaign and not thinking: “ Así es.”

Right on.

They want our money, our endorsement, and our vote — but we need to stay in our designated place as the supporting choir, not in the starring role of decision-makers.

In some quarters, and in this day and age, that kind of power is still reserved for the “mainstream” — aka, non-Hispanic whites, even if they come from elsewhere in the country to La Florida to run a political campaign and are dumb enough to mimic Mexican accents on the way to Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Or dumb enough to call on undocumented immigrants to “self-deport” in a state where one in five voters is of Hispanic descent. And definitely dumb enough to then bring that guy, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to help you fund-raise, as Scott did Monday night at a $25,000-per-couple dinner at the Coral Gables estate of Fernandez, the healthcare executive who resigned Thursday, post email.

Stranger politics are seldom seen — considering that Romney tried to avoid the unpopular Scott when he was campaigning in Florida — but Fernandez I can understand. The billionaire knows the power of money, and he may be quitting the clueless “homogeneous” campaign team, but he’s not giving up his access to the top.

Money aside, winning the all-important Hispanic vote is going to take a whole lot more than Scott’s perfunctory campaigning. It seems as if Scott, who has ignored South Florida’s needs during his time in the governor’s mansion, has spent most of March in Miami.

He chatted with international coffee lovers at Pasion del Cielo in Coral Gables, had lunch with Venezuelans at El Arepazo 2 and dutifully noted their “fight for freedom.”

He met with children’s advocates, and after a visit to Cuban Versailles, the governor even tweeted pleasantries in Spanish — although not in the Twitter account @ScottforFlorida, reserved for the anti-Obama rants his tea party followers adore. He did so in the @FlaGovScott, where he tweets photographs with Hispanics and African Americans from around the state. In Orlando he visited a Latin bakery and shook hands with Puerto Rican community heroes, and in Jacksonville made the rounds with the African American mayor, a Democrat.

But voters haven’t forgotten: This governor began his term wanting to bring Arizona-style anti-immigrant laws to Florida. This governor cut back voting hours, disproportionally affecting Hispanics and blacks, and carried on a witch-hunt for noncitizen voters. This governor kept the state from receiving needed federal dollars for transportation and healthcare.

No amount of cute kid-of-color hugging and arepa-tasting will save Scott from his tea party-Republican record.

To echo Fernandez’s eloquence, don’t ever confuse our polite smiles in a photo-op for an endorsement.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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