Monday, The Wall Street Journal released poll results that stated Donald Trump’s change in rhetoric about Mexico wasn’t “playing well” among Hispanic voters. I’m not surprised, because his comments about Mexican immigrants were hurtful and his change of heart was disingenuous and incredibly convenient, given the blowback.
I recently started a company that reintroduces the art of storytelling to corporate America, and so I’ve tried to stop seeing the dips and turns of ongoing news as stories, but chapters in a broader narrative.
I suspect when we look back at the story of Trump’s vie for the White House, Hispanics will tell the story with mythology interwoven in its pages, because the mere possibility of La Llorona being real excites us.
And a crucial chapter in the story will belong to Pitbull.
On July 16, the pop star/rapper accepted an award at Univision’s Premios Juventud, an awards show covering music, film, Spanish soap operas, sports and pop culture. In today’s news cycle, that’s a lifetime ago, but upon reflection it will be one of the most important moments in Trump’s narrative.
Pitbull’s acceptance speech turned into a political church sermon that might have dipped escaped Mexican prisoner, “El Chapo,” into the fountain of Mexican folklore and turned him into a mythological monster that just might haunt political candidates now and in the future.
“Ten cuidado (be careful) con (with) ‘El Chapo,’ papo!” Pitbull shouted to a roaring crowd after a rousing speech about Trump. It included a call for Hispanics to vote and a charge to the rest of the presidential candidates to “ponte las pilas,” which directly translates to “put your batteries on,” but really means “get your act together.”
His words of warning were laced with the tone of a pissed-off parent. If I weren’t listening intently, I might have thought he said, “Ten cuidado con ‘El Cucuy!’”
That’s a phrase that brought goosebumps to many U.S. border-born babies, like me, throughout our childhoods. “El Cucuy” is the Mexican version of the boogeyman. It’s a parent’s threat. It’s a children’s fear of what lies underneath their bed at night.
“El Chapo” is a drug lord, and for a few days, he was everyone’s badass big brother coming out of prison to beat up, maybe even kill, Trump for bullying Mexicans with words. Never mind that he is actually a drug dealer, one of the labels Trump used to generalize an entire community, but that’s another conversation. My point is that when we look back at the history books that recount presidential candidates, “El Chapo” may not be referred to as a man, but a rallying cry that lost an aspiring politician another race.
On Halloween in 2005, Kevin Garcia gracefully wrote in the Brownsville Herald:
Pre-industrial societies create a conceptual fear creature to keep children away from dangerous places, a theme seen in M. Night Shyamalans 2004 blockbuster film, The Village. These legends often continue as civilization develops, and new names are assigned to it.
Maybe “El Cucuy” has a new name: “El Chapo,” who down the road will be used by Hispanic voters to warn people with Trump’s rhetoric to stay away from dangerous places, like damning a group of people who are emotionally connected, and in many instances, related to a growing and influential voting bloc.
And maybe Pitbull is responsible for it.
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Pitbull, mind you, isn’t Mexican. He’s Cuban-American, but first and foremost, as he said in his acceptance speech, he’s Latino. And Mexicans, as well as Mexican-Americans, are part of the Latino community too. In a moment when attacked by Trump, we came as a packaged deal, and our brethren came to our defense.
What’s the moral of this story?
Regardless of whether you’re running for the White House, U.S. Congress or city council, if you have and promote Trump’s beliefs, you may or may not want to look under the bed on election night.
El Chapo might be waiting for you.