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AOC Gave a Speech in Spanish at Bernie Sanders Town Hall

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Sunday town hall in Las Vegas featured not one but two of the most prominent Latinas in politics: NY Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Carmen Yulín Cruz, mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico and a Sanders campaign co-chair. Sanders capitalized on his current popularity with the Latinx community by holding an all-Spanish town hall with AOC giving the keynote speech. She’s been open about her struggle with Spanish in the past so this opportunity was also one for her to practice her first language.

“I’m nervous for this all-Spanish town hall, but I also know that the only way I’m going to improve my Spanish is by practicing it!” She tweeted, adding, “Nevada: Únete a nosotros este Domingo para un… town hall(?) en Español, y probablemente con un poquito de “spanglish” también.”

In Nevada, the Democratic Party has been holding trainings in Spanish to increase Latinx participation in the state’s Feb. 22 caucus, according to NBC News. The publication also reports that Ocasio-Cortez, who refers to Sanders as “Tío Bernie” —  credits him with encouraging her congressional campaign.

In a September Univision/Latino Decisions poll done after that debate, 21 percent of Latinx said they planned to vote for Sanders, the most of any of the candidates including Julián Castro (13 percent), who is the only Latino candidate running. In a University of California IGS survey of California, Sanders is the leading candidate at 32 percent, with Joe Biden trailing him in second place with 19 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, California has the largest Latinx population (in 2014) with 15 million.

“Thank you for your patience, this is my first speech in Spanish. This is a personal project for me because I want to develop my Spanish and improve my Spanish,” AOC said during her speech, according to Nevada Current. She spoke about growing up in a one-bedroom apartment with a mattress on the floor and a crib in the closet: “This is how we started our American dream,” she said. “It took everything my family had to give an opportunity to the next generation. That’s a Latino story, it’s a story of our community.”

The discussion centered around inequality —  a staple topic for Sanders —  with attendees voicing their concerns about the rising cost of living and stagnant wages, as well as immigration issues including deportation.

“The poor and the powerless are faulted for their poverty. It wasn’t until I heard the ideas and the campaign of a man named Bernie Sanders that I started to see a path to reclaim our value as humans,”  AOC said.

Meanwhile, Cruz shared how Sanders’ story is the story of many immigrants whose parents came to the U.S. with little to no money and no knowledge of the English language. His father, Elias Ben Yehuda Sanders, came to this country from Austria-Hungary to escape poverty and anti-Semitism when he was 17 in 1921 and Bernie was born 20 years later in Brooklyn.

“That is the story of many Latino families,” Cruz said. “That is the story of people who come to this country looking for opportunity.”

Before her own time in politics, AOC as a volunteer organizer for the Sanders campaign when he ran in 2016. During an interview with Telemundo, she was asked what’s more important, that Trump lose or that Sanders win?

“That Bernie wins,” she said.

During the town hall she discussed the dangers of colonialism/imperialism and how they’ve contributed to “unending wars” and the immigration crisis and the corruption of Trump’s administration. But she also ended it on a note of empowerment: “We shouldn’t just recognize what is broken and what has brought us here, but we should also recognize the principles and actions that will help us move forward.”

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