Latino rally draws Austin political figures

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Several hundred gather to remember community leader’s accomplishments

In memory of Emma Barrientos, the wife of a retired state senator, the Travis County Democratic Party and the Austin Tejano Democrats sponsored an early voting rally Tuesday at Zaragosa Park in East Austin.

The rally included not only dedications to Barrientos, but also a Democratic candidate at the top of the ticket this election cycle, Bill White, and Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor Linda Chavez-Thompson.

Several state officials made appearances, including Emma Barrientos’ husband, former state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh and the Democratic candidate for land commissioner, Hector Uribe. A local band, The Mexican Revolution, also performed at the rally in front of several hundred supporters.

“If there’s ever a state that needs new leadership, it’s Texas,” Shapleigh said. “We’re here to celebrate the life of a great, great woman who would have wanted us to celebrate our lives.”

Barrientos actively participated in community politics and was among the first Texans to advocate for the establishment of the Mexican American Culture Center in the city, which was named after her. She also served on the founding board of the Mexic-Arte Museum, a museum that focuses on Latino contributions in Texas and as board president of the Austin Museum of Art.

She contributed to countless political campaigns, and fought, along with her husband, to ensure the recognition of Latinos in Austin’s history.

“Austin is a special place,” Barrientos said at the event. “We have not finished the race, but we all have to do our part. We have to work, produce [and] make money to provide for our children.”

Bill White and Chavez-Thompson made speeches urging the city’s Hispanic community to vote. The Democratic candidates stressed the importance of the minority vote in the upcoming election.

“We want our kids to have a better future, those are the dreams of Texans,” White said. “We need to prepare the next generation better. You can affect change, but it takes hard work. It starts during a special time called election, when you have the opportunity to take part in history.”

Republican Gov. Rick Perry has left the state in worse condition than when he took office in 2000, White said.

“One million people are unemployed, twice as high as it was before Rick Perry was elected,” he said. “He’s content to lag behind the other states in high-wage jobs. He’s selling state government to the highest bidder. Insurance rates are $600 more per household than the average of other states, and Texans are being priced out of earning a home.”

State reps. Dawnna Dukes and Eddie Rodriguez, who both represent parts of Austin, were among other political officials present at the rally.

“We’re going to show Rick Perry what East Austin can do,” Rodriguez said. “The future of this state is at stake.”

Early voting ends Oct. 29, and Election Day is Nov. 2.