Latinos take on bigger role in Obama inauguration

Presence reflects rising influence

WASHINGTON — Latinos are taking a more prominent role in President Obama’s second inauguration, from the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice swearing in the vice president to a star-studded celebration of Latino culture.

Eva Longoria, a cochairwoman for Obama’s campaign, hosted a salute to the president Sunday evening. Antonio Banderas, Rosario Dawson, Marc Anthony and other entertainers appeared in ‘‘Latino Inaugural 2013: In Performance at the Kennedy Center.’’ The lineup also included Jose Feliciano, Prince Royce, Frankie Negron, Rita Moreno, and Mario Lopez.

Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, who gave the keynote speech at last year’s Democratic National Convention, was to address the audience.


Meanwhile, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee who is the first Hispanic justice on the highest court, administered the oath of office Sunday morning to Vice President Joe Biden.

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Latinos have a distinct presence at this inauguration after showing their growing political influence in the 2012 election. Hispanics voted 7 to 1 for Obama over his challenger, Republican Mitt Romney, whose Hispanic support was less than any presidential candidate in 16 years. Analysts said Romney’s hardline stance on immigration was a factor.

San Antonio philanthropist and business leader Henry Munoz III, who coordinated the Latino inauguration event with Longoria and other Obama supporters, said this is a special moment when the Latino community is positioned to take an expanded role in shaping the country’s future.

‘‘Without question, the presidential election of 2012 proves that Latinos are perhaps the most important influence from this point forward in the election of the president of the United States,’’ Munoz said.

Organizers planned a series of symposiums, dinners, and events ahead of the inauguration to keep people talking about issues that matter to Latinos, from immigration reform to building a Latino history museum on the National Mall. Munoz led a presidential commission that called on Congress in 2011 to authorize such a museum within the Smithsonian Institution, but Congress has not passed such a bill.


Longoria has taken on a new role as political advocate since her days on ‘‘Desperate Housewives,’’ helping to push for the Latino museum and cochairing Obama’s reelection campaign.

Longoria said that she hopes to help influence policies, including immigration reform, and that Obama will make this his top priority as an economic issue.