Latina voters are powerful in Florida. In expressing support for the president, some descendants of wealthy Cuban exiles are spreading the fear that his challenger, Joe Biden, flirts with socialism, Ines Pohl reports.
The lipstick Bertica Cabrera Morris wears matches her well-pedicured red toenails, which, visible in her open leather sandals, form a striking contrast to the green, green grass of her lawn in Orlando, Florida.
Cabrera Morris, a member of the advisory board of the campaign organization Latinos for Trump, is busy planting signs in support of the president in the garden in front of the big brick house.
Her blond hair is fluttering gently in the warm humid air. There is a lustrous sheen on the two big SUVs standing in the driveway.
Cabrera Morris, who was a surrogate for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, has lived in the United States for over 50 years. She was 14 when she fled her home in Cuba — which lies just under 170 kilometers (90 nautical miles) across the Straits of Florida from Key West — with her mother.
“They took everything away from us,” she said. My father was put in a work camp because he didn’t want to give in to the socialists.” That was 1967, eight years after the revolution led by Fidel Castro. The property of international companies and rich Cubans was expropriated.
As the election nears, Cabrera Morris, who runs a business and political consultancy, said she was doing everything she could to ensure that Trump remains in the White House for another four years — and to prevent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from assuming the presidency and vice presidency, respectively.
Cabrera Morris acknowledges that neither former Vice President Biden nor Senator Harris is a socialist. But, she said, she believes that many Democrats would take the country in that direction — people such as the 31-year-old first-term congressional representative from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Bernie Sanders, who has served in Congress since 1991 and is currently the junior senator from Vermont.
The arguments that Cabrera Morris makes are common among the Cubans who left for the United States after the revolution and their descendants. Cabrera Morris and her mother initially fled to Spain.
Her mother was then able to apply for green cards, which enabled them to enter the United States legally. “I believe in the American Dream,” Cabrera Morris said. “They gave it to me.”
And Cabrera Morris stresses that she and her mother entered the United States legally. She does not believe that people who have been displaced from Latin American countries such as Honduras or Guatemala should be allowed into the United States — even if those people are seeking refuge because they fear losing their lives, and not just their property. “We can be an example,” she said. “We can’t be the safeguard of the world.”
Trump’s restrictive immigration stance appeals to Cabrera Morris, as do the policies that enable entrepreneurs such as herself and her husband to remain prosperous.
She is not disturbed by the language Trump frequently uses to describe people from Latin America. “If he criticizes Mexican drug dealers, he doesn’t criticize the Mexican people,” she said. “He just wants to stop criminals.”
Security is also an important topic for Cabrera Morris — both at the borders and within the United States. She considers Trump the best man for the job. “Kamala Harris wants to defund the police,” she said. “I want my children and grandchildren to live in safety.”
Moreover, Cabrera Morris blames Trump’s opponents for the violence in cities such as Portland, Oregon, where federal agents were deployed to put down protests against institutional racism or Kenosha, Wisconsin, where confrontations between armed white supremacist groups and people demonstrating against police brutality led to two people being killed by a Trump supporter in the streets.
Cabrera Morris loves the United States. She said she was fighting for the lifestyle that she and her mother worked hard to achieve. “We didn’t have anything in the beginning,” she said. “My mother worked for 65 cents an hour to give me a future.”
Her garden is a small piece of paradise, a reminder of Cuba. Bananas hang between the thick leaves, lush flower beds surround the patio with its inviting various outdoor seating areas, and there are abundant tangles of Spanish moss growing wild.
She frequently organizes fundraisers and other events here to support politicians. “I helped Marco Rubio get elected,” she said, referring to the Republican senator from Florida, who won his open seat in 2010. The United States has been her home for half a century.
There is no going back for her. And yet her voice quivers when she speaks about the night skies over Cuba and the scents — and the sounds — of the evenings. At Christmas she permits herself a little expedition into the past. She calls it her Cuba day: a day when her family eats traditional roast pork with rice and beans and goes to midnight mass.
“I don’t want to live through what I went through again,” Cabrera Morris said while looking at the lake by the house and the golf club on the other side, which was established in 1911. She and her husband have been members for years.