“Latinos in the I-4 corridor hold the key to who will be the next president of the United States,” Andrés W. López, a prominent attorney from Puerto Rico, told an audience of about 100 last week at UCF. He spoke about Latino leadership in the I-4 corridor, Florida and beyond.

López described the I-4 corridor as “a political holy grail that can deliver many gifts, including the U.S. presidency,” emphasizing just how pivotal a role Hispanics will play in the upcoming election.

In reference to the growing Hispanic population, López said, “Few places in this country have seen as dizzying a change as the I-4 corridor.” But he cautioned that Hispanics are not voting in high-enough numbers and have yet to grab hold of their potential, as evidenced by the lack of Hispanic candidates in Florida’s new 9th Congressional District.

In 2009, López led a commission to study the creation of a Smithsonian National Museum of American Latino History, alongside UCF Dean Jose Fernandez of the College of Arts & Humanities, and 21 other prominent Hispanic-Americans. Two years later, López spearheaded the effort to secure President Obama’s historic June 2011 visit to Puerto Rico, and was recognized by PODER Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the United States.

As he recounted his personal experiences as a Latino-American from modest beginnings, López focused on the importance of education, describing it as “the key to self-worth.” He praised Fernandez for paving the way for up-and-coming Hispanics, and emphasized the importance of fostering Latino leadership throughout the country.  

“Every single month for the next 20 years, 50,000 Hispanics become 18,” López said, reinforcing the increasing prominence of the Hispanic community. As of 2010, Hispanics became the largest minority group in the United States, with a population of more than 50 million.

López referenced Puerto Ricans in Florida as “the biggest battleground community in the biggest battleground state of the country.”

When asked about what particular strategies could be more effective for reaching out to Hispanic and Latino voters, López answered that it is difficult to specifically target the Hispanic community as a whole since there are very few specific “Hispanic issues.” But he stressed that speaking with a heightened level of sensitivity towards the Latino community is one of the most effective ways of winning over the Hispanic vote. 

In response to a question on the potential effects of supposed “voter-suppression laws” on the Latino vote, López said that while these laws will have an effect, the real challenge to face is apathy. “If apathy is combined with voter suppression laws, then we’re done,” he said.

In addition to the College of Arts & Humanities, the program was sponsored by the UCF Global Perspectives Office, the UCF Latin American Studies Program, the Global Connections Foundation and other partners.