MIAMI — It was billed as a "coming out" party, a safe space for Hispanic women to find camaraderie over beers and celebrate their "fearless" support for a certain presidential candidate.
Yes, him. The one who launched his campaign by promising to build a wall to keep out all the "rapists" from Mexico. Who tweeted a picture of himself with a taco salad and the declaration "I love Hispanics!" And who recently claimed that a federal judge could not be fair in a civil fraud case because of his Mexican heritage.
One by one, at a waterfront bar called American Social in downtown Miami Tuesday night, dozens of women — from millennials to an octogenarian — pulled on bright red T-shirts over their cocktail dresses and publicly declared themselves, for the very first time, Latinas for Trump.
"Wow, we've said it out loud," said Denise Galvez, a 41-year-old owner of a public relations firm who helped conceive the event. "We've been laughed at and mocked and called names. All of us have been afraid to say it publicly at work. I thought, what is this — a communist country?"
Galvez received 100 RSVPs. About 70 showed up, including Democrats and a few libertarians. Men attended as well. For some, it was their first Trump event, having supported other candidates during the primary — most notably, native sons Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. Others had been with Trump since the beginning.
Perhaps it should not be surprising that such a support group formed in Miami-Dade County, where Republicans outnumber Democrats among Hispanic voters.
Among Cuban-Americans here, 41 percent support Trump; 29 percent prefer Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee; and 30 percent are undecided, according to a recent Miami Herald poll of registered voters.
But the poll also shows Clinton trouncing Trump in Miami among general election voters as a whole — 52 percent to 25 percent — even if they are pretty evenly matched statewide. And nationally, Trump remains deeply unpopular among Hispanics.
As the women dined on flatbread pizzas and burgers, and mosquitoes nipped at any exposed skin, a Trump staffer buzzed between the patio and the bar recording the women with his cellphone — delighting at the opportunity to present a counter narrative to Trump's unpopularity with Hispanics and women.
"Why are you for Trump? Are you a Latina?" Juan Fiol, Trump's vice chairman of Miami-Dade County, asked the women, who answered good naturedly between bites.
"It's not about him. It's about him coming and breaking up the establishment," said Ileana Garcia, a 44-year-old television personality who co-hosted the event. "I like his attitude. We call him 'Macho Trump.' "
She particularly appreciates his exclamation-point-filled late-night tweets. But what of the constant charges of Trump spewing racist rants?
"I did not feel offended," Garcia said. "We all have an uncle who goes off like that but he means well."
Garcia, an independent voter who changed her registration to Republican just so she could vote for Trump in the primary, had in previous general elections voted for Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Bill Clinton.
"When you tell people you voted for Trump it's like, oh my god, which side of my head are you going to cut off first?" Garcia said. "I like everything he represents, and I shouldn't have to apologize for liking him."
Behind the women, a red, white, and green neon sign glowed: "Trump por Presidente."
Andrea Narvaez, a 38-year-old interior decorator who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, said she is drawn to Trump's projection of strength and his outsider status.
"The thing with him is he just has no filter," Narvaez said.
Diana Castillo, a 59-year-old financial adviser who immigrated from Honduras 30 years ago, said she likes Trump's positivity and optimism. "We're going to win, win, win," she said.
Eva Landau, a 38-year-old immigrant from Bolivia, said she got her US citizenship last October so she could support Trump. She thinks his business background is the perfect fit for a capitalist country.
"He's created thousands of jobs in his hotels for Latin people," said Landau, a Broward political consultant.
And therefore, many gathered this evening reasoned, Trump cannot be racist.
Madeline Moreira, a 28-year-old lawyer, said she was predisposed to like Trump because her sister, who worked in guest services at Trump's resort and golf course in neighboring Doral, had spoken frequently of the kindness he showed his employees.
Moreira also backs his positions on trade — "We are fighting with one hand tied behind our backs while China has nunchucks," she said — and immigration — "Illegal immigration is crushing us every day." And his focus on "making America great again."
"It has nothing to do with hating anyone. It has everything to do with loving those of us who are already here," said Moreira, whose family fled Cuba in 1971.
"I'm a millennial. I'm a woman. I'm Hispanic. I'm none of the things that are supposed to be a Trump supporter."