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After El Paso, Some Latinos Divided On Trump


The targeted attack in El Paso last weekend made Latinos feel hunted, afraid and heartbroken. Many blame the president's rhetoric and the racialized debate around immigration for what happened. Latinos are the largest ethnic minority in the United States, but they are not a monolith. NPR's Leila Fadel reports.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Carlos and Jose have been friends for over 20 years. And a few days after the attack, as their city churned with sadness and anger, they got on the phone to check on each other.

CARLOS: We had a very intense phone conversation. We were both very emotional. I know I was talking to him with a lump in my throat.

FADEL: That's Carlos. He and Jose both grew up in El Paso. They're both parents, businessmen of Mexican descent, born and raised in United States in a city that's more than 80% Latino. Carlos says the conversation quickly turned to the president. And they disagree.

CARLOS: I just went into a tirade about the way he speaks about Mexicans, and how he fires up the base with talks of the wall, and how he uses the words like invasions and infestations when he talks about people of color.

FADEL: Carlos is angry at the president.

CARLOS: I raised my voice. And I told him, this is his fault. It was the first time I said out loud and I laid the blame at the president's feet.

FADEL: Carlos' friend, Jose, listened and let him vent. Both asked we only use their first name because they fear their businesses might be targeted, either financially or physically. Jose says Carlos' criticism of the president is unfair, and Trump's words are being misinterpreted.

JOSE: I told him he was being ridiculous. I said he was trying to find, you know, blame or fault. And, you know, and I said that's just - I said, not right now.

FADEL: His friend told Jose he was in denial about Trump.

JOSE: It's not denial. I mean, it's not denial. I'm not saying that everyone has their hands clean on this with rhetoric. But I mean, to say this is 100% his fault, like, I mean, that...

CARLOS: Well...

JOSE: That's not...

CARLOS: I mean, it's not 0%.

JOSE: Well, fine. It's not zero. But it's not 100, either.

CARLOS: I guess that's where we're at, as you can see.

FADEL: They're frustrated with each other, but they're doing something elected officials, they say, are not. They're trying to listen and understand each other. And this conversation, well, it's happening among friends and in families across the country. A majority of Latinos identify or lean toward the Democratic Party. And a majority blame the president for policies that hurt Latinos. A sizable minority, though, just under a quarter of Latinos, identify or lean toward the Republican party. Jose is a Republican who supports the president on issues that include economic policies and abortion. But then there are people like Ashleen Mancheco Bagnulo.

ASHLEEN MANCHECO BAGNULO: I think it sounds incoherent to say that I'm a conservative Latina.

FADEL: But that's what she is. She says it with qualifications now because she doesn't support the president. Bagnulo describes herself as pro-life, a very religious Catholic who's from a family that's been in Texas since before it was Texas. And for years now, she's been worried that the Republican Party has been drifting toward racism.

BAGNULO: It's been really alienating for me, the political landscape. It's become almost impossible to look at the contemporary Republican Party and the New Thought leaders of it and to not see, at least, a real contempt for Hispanics and, at most, a kind of hatred.

FADEL: But when she looks at the Democratic Party, she doesn't see herself, either. She feels like her faith sometimes is treated like a joke. Her feeling toward the Democratic Party...

BAGNULO: Alienated.

FADEL: She says when it comes to politics in the U.S., she doesn't know where she belongs. Leila Fadel, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.