Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took the Democratic party by surprise early July when she won the primary race against long-term incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley. Since her victory, Ocasio-Cortez has been on the spotlight as a young, Latina and Democratic Socialist congressional candidate.
But she has also been the subject of attacks.
At a campaign event in Orange Park, Florida, Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis dismissed Ocasio-Cortez. “You look at this girl, Ocasia-Cortez [sic], or whatever she is — I mean, she’s in a totally different universe. Basically, socialism wrapped in ignorance,” stated DeSantis.
Running as the Republican candidate for Florida’s governor race, DeSantis received President Donald Trump’s endorsement in the primary. In a recent ad, DeSantis brags about his Trump endorsement and is shown teaching his children to “build a wall” and say Trump’s slogan: Make America Great Again.
In a tweet, Ocasio-Cortez clapped back.
“Rep DeSantis, it seems you‘re confused as to ‘whatever I am,” she told the candidate. “I am a Puerto Rican woman. It’s strange you don’t know what that is, given that 75,000 Puerto Ricans have relocated to Florida in the 10 months since [Hurricane] María.”
But it doesn’t end there. Her words for DeSantis are certainly shared by Puerto Rican women across Florida.
I recently had a conversation with Nicole Ortiz, a Puerto Rican woman who recently moved to Ocala, Central Florida, from Puerto Rico due to last year’s devastation brought by Hurricane Maria. Her experience reflects the prejudice she has repeatedly encountered from people like DeSantis. “They don’t consider us Puerto Ricans part of the people, even though we are,” expressed Ortiz.
An estimated 1.2 million Puerto Ricans live in Florida, a population that has grown substantially since 2000 and that currently rivals the number of Cubans. Hurricane Maria’s widespread catastrophe undoubtedly sped up the pace of migration as large numbers of residents like Ortiz have been reported leaving Puerto Rico and moving to the U.S. mainland, with Florida being a prime destination.
These voters of Florida could make a difference in a state where national and local elections have been so close.
The recent attacks by DeSantis referring to congressional candidate Ocasio-Cortez as “whatever she is” amplifies the deceiving message that Puerto Ricans should be treated as second-class citizens.
Puerto Rican women in Florida just as Ortiz clapped back.
In a two-minute video produced in partnership by Catalino Productions, Alianza and Janqueo Boricua, Puerto Rican women from across Florida sent their message to DeSantis loud and clear – they are ready to vote for people who embrace our rich diversity and culture.
And they will unite the vote in Florida.
“Out of 1.1 million Puerto Ricans in Florida, 550,000 are women and we vote,” is echoed in the video, which includes nurses, social workers, scientists, professors, retail workers and executive directors.
“Now you know who we are and in November you will know how we vote,” concluded these voters.
Unlike his Republican opponent, the Democratic candidate for Florida Governor Andrew Gillum has taken a strong stand with the Puerto Rican community.
In his platform, Gillum includes Puerto Rico as a key issue explicitly stating that he is “proud to stand with our fellow citizens from Puerto Rico — both as they recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and as they strive for better-paying jobs, better-funded schools, and a state that puts everyday people first.”
After last month’s primary, Ron DeSantis made his positions crystal clear to the people of Florida. He told voters that they should not “monkey this up” by embracing the agenda offered by the winning Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Andrew Gillum.
Historically “monkey” has long been a racist slur against the black community. The racial undertones taken by DeSantis do not reflect our values as a diverse community. If elected, Gillum would be Florida’s first black governor.
This November, Floridians have two clear choices: Andrew Gillum, a candidates who embraces our rich diversity, or Ron DeSantis, a candidates who promotes division and prejudice.
And Florida voters, including women, Latinxs and black citizens, are paying attention and ready to vote to embrace our rich diversity.