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Latinos Are in D.C. to Celebrate, Protest Trump's Inauguration

Though not visible in his Cabinet, Latinos were visible in D.C. for the inauguration of Donald Trump with some celebrating, others protesting.
Image: The U.S. Capitol is seen during a rehearsal for the inauguration ceremony of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Jan.15, 2017.
The U.S. Capitol is seen during a rehearsal for the inauguration ceremony of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Jan.15, 2017.Carlos Barria / Reuters

WASHINGTON - Jason Funes, 32, from Sarasota, Fla. calls himself a proud Salvadoran supporting President-elect Donald Trump.

He’s in Washington, D.C. for the first time, and has been attending Latino-themed parties and galas and seeing the man he helped get elected - as a campaign volunteer and later as a paid staffer in his Florida operation - be officially sworn in as president on Friday.

“I think we are going to see a lot of changes of people getting back to work,” Funes said.

With the imminent transition of power, Latinos are at the cusp of a change: Some are here for the festivities and elated about what is to come, while others are getting ready to protest and express fear and dread over the next four years.

Yicell Martinez, a Washington, D.C. resident who celebrated Trump’s inauguration at a gala hosted by The Latino Coalition Wednesday, counts herself among the former.

“I’m hoping he’ll be able to get rid of the bureaucracy, get rid of the big heavy government, people that are wasting our money and (start) making more jobs for the Hispanic community ,” said Martinez, who is of Nicaraguan descent.

Others are not here to celebrate, but to protest. Carmen Perez, executive director of actor Harry Belafonte’s group The Gathering for Justice and co-founder of Justice League of New York, is serving as a co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, a protest march on Saturday that will follow Friday's inauguration.

There are people who want to be sure Latinos are at the table being heard, and “we have to complement that with being in the streets,” Perez said.

“We’re fighting for the undocumented that came here as children and are at risk of having their citizenship taken away from them. That can happen as quickly as Friday,” she said. “There are so many Latinos who are incarcerated, without jobs, in poverty … we need to make sure we protect our rights and gain our rights.”

Actor Diane Guerrero, known for her roles in "Jane the Virgin" and "Orange is the New Black," is participating in Saturday's women's march, where she said she'd speak about immigrants, health care and women's reproductive rights.

"We are all coming here for one common purpose, for human and civil rights," Guerrero told NBC Latino in a phone interview. "We are saying we are all here together and the important thing is to stay awake and participate - we are not going to let the (incoming) administration do what it wants."

Related: Trump's Presidency Requires Our Vigilance

Trump already is under fire for nominating a Cabinet with no Latinos.

Just two nights before Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president, word came that he had filled the last open spot for nominees. The pick was former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as his agriculture commissioner.

Many leaders of Latino groups and many who are Democrats were attending a dinner organized by the Latino Leaders Network when the news of Perdue's nomination came. Some Latino groups had endorsed former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and hoped Trump would choose him.

"It's clear that Trump is declaring a war on the Latino community," said Hector Sanchez, chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, "and we will fight back and organize. We are more organized than ever. We will fight those policies that are bad for the nation and the Latino community and it's important to remember the Latino vote is more important than ever."

His press secretary Sean Spicer made no apologies for not nominating any Latinos, the second largest population group in the country. The last time a Cabinet had no Latinos was 1988.

“The No. 1 thing I think that Americans should focus on is: ‘Is he hiring the best and the brightest?" said Spicer.

Several Latino groups had been pressing for a Hispanic to be named to the Cabinet. Representatives of conservative and liberal Latino groups raised the issue in a private meeting last week with Trump staff.

“The exclusion of a Latino voice in President-elect Trump’s Cabinet is a historic setback for the nation,” said Arturo Vargas, the executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

When asked about the issue, Idaho Republican congressman Raul Labrador told reporters at a Latino pre-inaugural gala Thursday night that "there are plenty of GOP Hispanics that are the best and the brightest - some of us are in Congress," adding that Trump has "great relations with the Hispanic community and will continue working with them.

Labrador said many will be working at the White House. "It's not just about having Hispanics in the Cabinet - it's actually about making sure that every American has an opportunity to be better.

According to exit polls, which Trump prefers to cite, Trump won about 29 percent of the Latino vote. Latino Decisions, a polling firm, put the number closer to 18 percent.

But many of his supporters point to the many other positions in the White House and administration that Latinos still could fill. At the Latino Coalition gala Wednesday night, attendees were buzzing about Analisa Castillo, former chief operating officer of the conservative LIBRE Initiative.

Castillo was made a special assistant to the president, deputy director of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs to Vice President Mike Pence.

Also Thursday, Trump's team announced that Helen Aguirre Ferré, most recently a Latina media spokeswoman for the Republican Party, was named a special assistant to the president and director of Media Affairs.

Cruz Iturbe and Andrea Azpiazo, both from Miami, were in Washington, D.C. to witness the swearing in as president of Donald Trump. They spoke the day before the Jan. 20, 2016 inauguration about their support for him.Suzanne Gamboa / NBC News

Miami resident Cruz Iturbe made the trip to Washington, D.C. to see Trump take the oath. While she she would have advised him to pick a Latino to the Cabinet, she said it was still early.

“I think there was a, let’s get this done, let’s hurry up and do this … I’m sure there will be some included,” Iturbe said. “I don’t care if he or she is a Hispanic … I want you to tell me what you are going to do for me."

Her friend, Andrea Azpiazo, also of Miami, said “give it a little time. He’ll get there.”

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