Latino Inaugural Gala: First with a VP

Photography by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

Latino supporters of President Barack Obama had their inauguration moment tonight, when Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise appearance at a star-studded gala celebrating Hispanic artists and performers.

“One thing that happened this election is you spoke,” Biden told the cheering crowd. “The Hispanic community was a decisive factor in the outcome of not just our election but so many.”

Hispanic voters were a crucial force for the president, backing his reelection by more than 70 percent. Their overwhelming support for Democrats has prompted a wave of soul-searching for Republicans, who fear they are losing one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups.

“I think you underestimate your power,” said Biden. “This is your moment.”

The appearance was the first by a vice president at a Latino inaugural event, according to activist and producer Henry Munoz III.

The event at the Kennedy Center boasted a bold-faced roster of Latino superstars, featuring appearances by actress Eva Longoria, television host Mario Lopez, broadway star Chita Rivera and Ballet Hispanico.

Politics, though, was the star attraction, with speaker after speaker highlighting the growing force of the Latino community.

“It just feels good,” said Puerto Rico-American singer Marc Anthony. “Our united voice got us all here tonight and got the best man for the job in the White House.”

Latino activists have been pushing the president to take up a comprehensive immigration bill, a promise he made in his first campaign. White House officials plan to unveil a proposal in the coming weeks that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants– an idea expected to face fierce opposition on Capitol Hill.

“We have a long way to go to achieve our goals,” San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro told the audience. “The voice of America’s future is in this room and it calls us forward.”

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