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How four Latino men in NH are evaluating the upcoming Republican presidential primary

Diego Cataño often spends his mornings at his Manchester restaurant, Antojitos Colombianos, drinking coffee with his brother and talking about family, current events, and politics. Cataño, who's in his 70s, says he’s an independent voter, along with most of his family.

Politics are important to Cataño, who came to the U.S. from Colombia as a teenager and later served in the Air Force for 21 years. Outside of running his business, he shares information from the Colombian consulate and Latino events in New Hampshire and Boston with other community members. He describes himself as an independent voter, and during election season he actively encourages people of his community to vote.

“I advise people to study which candidate has the best qualities, and not to vote just for one or two things they like,” Cataño said.

Increasingly, Latino men like Cataño have been supporting Republican candidates nationwide. According to the Pew Research Center, in the 2018 midterm elections, 25% of Hispanics voted for a Republican and in 2020, nearly 40% went for Trump. In New Hampshire, the issues that drive some members of this voting bloc toward the GOP include immigration, abortion, and limiting gay rights.

For Cataño, former President Donald Trump is the candidate that's resonating with him the most; he voted for Trump in the two previous elections. He also likes Nikki Haley, but says he doesn’t think she’s ready to be president.

Cataño likes Trump because he thinks he is patriotic and knows how to manage the nation's economy. In this election cycle, Cataño is particularly worried about the number of immigrants entering the country.

“Where are these people going to find jobs? Where is the money for their children’s schools coming from?” he said. “We need more control.”

Cataño hopes the next administration will alleviate the backlog in immigration courts and hopes the people who are already at the border should not be allowed to enter.

"I hope people understand that [Latinos who vote Republican] don't have bad intentions, we just have opinions so please respect us."

But he also wants to see the next administration focus on reinforcing education programs that promote sports and arts and more gun control, despite the fact that going to a gun range is one of the Cataño brothers' favorite activities.

Like him, many other Latinos hold distinct views on guns and gun control within the GOP. Compared to non-Hispanic Republicans, a much lower percentage of Hispanic Republicans and Republican-leaning independents prioritize the right to own guns over gun control.

José Lugo is a Puerto Rican who lives in Manchester’s West side. He has been a conservative since he was 17 but disagrees on one thing with Republicans. “I am against guns, and I will never buy one,” he said.
Gabriela Lozada
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NHPR
José Lugo is a Puerto Rican who lives in Manchester’s West side. He has been a conservative since he was 17 but disagrees on one thing with Republicans. “I am against guns, and I will never buy one,” he said.

José Lugo lives in Manchester’s West Side. He’s retired but works part-time in a hotel and as a taxi driver. He says he’s always been a Republican and even helped start a conservative party back in Puerto Rico when he was 17, guided by the spirit of preserving conservative values.

Lugo says he was actively involved in New Hampshire politics in the 90s, running for office and working in the community. He says Latinos in the state were more united back then but have drifted apart because of political differences between Democrats and Republicans.

“People think all Latinos are Democrats and that’s not true,” he said.

Lugo previously supported Trump and plans on voting for him in this year’s primary. He wants to see LGBTQ+ rights curtailed, including gay marriage, and abortions banned. Lugo says that women have too much freedom.

“If a woman gets pregnant, she must give birth,” he said. He blames Democrats for allowing women to have a choice.

Lugo also wants to see more stringent immigration enforcement, but he says Trump might have gone too far when he used Nazi-era rhetoric at a rally in New Hampshire earlier this year, saying immigrants are poisoning America’s blood.

“It’s the media who make him look bad,” he said.

That sentiment colors Lugo’s view of other issues at play this election cycle, including climate change and the environment. He blames any outlet outside of Fox News for amplifying stories about climate change and environmental awareness.

Like Trump, Lugo also sees climate change as a hoax, even though scientific consensus is clear that the fossil fuels humans have burned and continue to burn are warming up the planet. (2023 was the hottest year on record).

“I don’t believe in that. No one is going to turn off the sun,” he said. “Fish can swim in the water even if people throw garbage there.”

Rogerio Souza is a Brazilian carpenter who doesn’t believe in climate change either. Most of his friends are Democrats and when they ask him why he likes Trump he answers because “he is different.”
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Rogerio Souza is a Brazilian carpenter who doesn’t believe in climate change either. Most of his friends are Democrats and when they ask him why he likes Trump he says it's because “he is different.”

Rogerio Souza is a Brazilian in his forties who came to the U.S. in the '90s. He started working at Dunkin' Donuts, and he obtained his citizenship several years later. Now, he remodels apartments.

This isn’t Souza’s first time voting in a primary, and while he has generally agreed with a lot of Democratic policies in the past, he plans on voting Republican in a few days. He says he’s not comfortable with women’s access to abortion and believes Trump is the candidate who would ban it.

In early January, the former president said he was for exceptions to bans, in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother was in danger, and he declined to say whether he would sign federal legislation banning abortion, according to ABC.

In general, though Souza says he likes the way Trump ran the country.

“I like his firmness,” he said.

Souza works with Alessandro, who’s in his twenties. We’re not using his last name since he’s currently seeking asylum. Alessandro makes $17 an hour painting and doing small carpentry jobs, which he says is a big difference from what he could provide for his wife and two children back in Brazil. But lately, he says, it’s getting harder to make it on his income.

Alessandro sits on the apartment’s floor he is remodeling, eating rice, beans, mashed potatoes, and pork from his tiny slow cooker.
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Alessandro sits on the floor of the apartment he is remodeling, eating rice, beans, mashed potatoes, and pork from his tiny slow cooker.

As an asylum seeker, Alessandro can't vote in U.S. elections, but he says his political ideology overlaps with Souza’s. The two supported former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing nationalist. But Alessandro is skeptical about Trump and his immigration policies worry him.

“People tell me he will deport all immigrants,” he said.

Alessandro is puzzled by Latinos who vote for Trump, including Souza. He says while many undocumented people are against Trump, once they become citizens, he’s seen they usually become Republicans. But he thinks he would probably do the same when he gets his citizenship.

He dreams of buying a house one day and believes that would only happen if a Republican were in charge of the economy.

Although these two men agree on some things and disagree on others, Alessandro and Souza are sure of one thing.

“I tell you I like Republicans, but I am a guy who is going to fight for those guys,” said Souza.

Souza said he’ll go to the polls next Tuesday to vote for his conservative values. But even if a Republican were in the White House, he says he’s not so optimistic about the future of the country.

Alessandro eats in his lunchtime, he says his political view is modeled after his experiences living in Brazil, where left and right parties clash repeatedly.
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Alessandro on his lunch break. He says his political view is modeled after his experiences living in Brazil, where left and right parties clash repeatedly.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.