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Donald Trump Controversy Highlights Influence Of Hispanics In U.S.


Donald Trump is doubling down on his negative comments about Mexicans and illegal immigration. To recap, here's what he said last month when he announced his presidential run.


DONALD TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime, their rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards, and they tell us what we're getting.

MARTIN: Univision severed all ties with Trump, and NBC did the same. Macy's department store, which had carried a Donald Trump men's line, also dropped him. Trump filed suit against the TV networks in response, and he continues to defend his remarks. Meanwhile, Hispanic groups are pressuring other organizations and businesses to distance themselves from the GOP presidential candidate.

Felix Sanchez is the chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. He says the controversy has made it clear, for the first time, that Hispanic consumers have a new level of influence in this country. Felix Sanchez joins me now in our studios in Washington.

Thanks for being with us.


MARTIN: You say the response to Trump's remarks has been unprecedented. How so?

SANCHEZ: Yes, it's galvanized Latinos across the Americas into what I have termed the Latino spring. It really is an awakening, and a unification, and an acknowledgment and sign of power that is not just within the borders of our country, but outside of our borders, because we're a much more connected world through social media. And social media was the impetus for all of this outrage.

MARTIN: Univision, NBC, Macy's - these huge American companies severed ties with Trump because there was outcry from these particular consumers. How - what form did that come in? Were there petitions, phone calls? How did it happen?

SANCHEZ: The Latin spring, as I called it, brought out everyone's efforts where there were petitions. It was a virtual march on the Internet, and it was over the sense of dignity, over the sense of being disrespected. And talent, you know, came out. J Balvin was probably one the first ones to bring this forward, then Juanes, Shakira, Manar (ph), Roselyn Sanchez, Christian de la Fuente, Ricky Martin. So many others at the outset really said enough, (speaking Spanish). And that was the impetus here, and that's what makes this so significant. It's really an awakening and a change and a utilization of our power as a group. You know, we are $1.5 trillion in buying power. If you are going to run for the presidency of the United States and you make these kinds of statements, we are going to revolt over those comments. And while there's been a response - Jeb Bush, Governor Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Governor Susanna Valdez - against this, it's been passive. Secretary Clinton did acknowledge these remarks, but didn't refer to him by name. That is not the kind of response that Latinos are looking for.

MARTIN: Well, let me ask you about that because is there an argument that, as you say, there were other GOP presidential candidates and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side who did weigh-in, to a degree, and didn't agree with what Trump said by any stretch of the imagination - is there an argument that coming out strong, giving him a lot of attention, that that somehow elevates his comments and perhaps they didn't want to do that?

SANCHEZ: No, we are now at a place where zero tolerance for Latino bashing. So if you're a Latino and you're insulted, you want to see the passion in someone's expression defending you. You don't want to see a passive statement. And Latinos are now not going to settle for political parties and corporations who just want to use them for power and profit.

MARTIN: What does this portend? Is this a one-off, or what does this mean going forward in this election and in future political moments?

SANCHEZ: I think it's broken the mold. I think it's created an understanding that, when we're united, we can do so many things together. And I think that this is a beginning of a big change, not only in the United States, but I would say on a world front.

MARTIN: Felix Sanchez is the chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. Thanks so much for talking with us.

SANCHEZ: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.