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Latinos take on bigger role in Obama inauguration

Vice President Joe Biden with his wife Jill Biden center holding Biden Family Bible shakes hands with Supreme Court Justice

Vice President Joe Biden, with his wife Jill Biden, center, holding the Biden Family Bible, shakes hands with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor after taking the oath of office during an official ceremony at the Naval Observatory, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Updated: February 22, 2013 6:29AM



WASHINGTON — Latinos are taking a more prominent role in President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, from the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice swearing in the vice president to a star-studded celebration of Latino culture.

Eva Longoria, a co-chairwoman for Obama’s campaign, is hosting a salute to the president Sunday evening. Antonio Banderas, Rosario Dawson, Marc Anthony and other entertainers are scheduled to appear in “Latino Inaugural 2013: In Performance at the Kennedy Center.” The lineup also includes Jose Feliciano, Prince Royce, Frankie Negron, Rita Moreno and Mario Lopez.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who gave the keynote speech at last year’s Democratic National Convention, will address the audience.

Meanwhile, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee who is the first Hispanic justice on the highest court, administered the oath of office Sunday morning to Vice President Joe Biden.

Latinos have a distinct presence at this inauguration after showing their growing political influence in the 2012 election. Hispanics voted 7 to 1 for Obama over his challenger, Republican Mitt Romney, whose Hispanic support was less than any presidential candidate in 16 years. Analysts said Romney’s hardline stance on immigration was a factor.

San Antonio philanthropist and business leader Henry Munoz III, who is coordinating the Latino inauguration event with Longoria and other Obama supporters, said this is a special moment when the Latino community is positioned to take an expanded role in shaping the country’s future.

“Without question, the presidential election of 2012 proves that Latinos are perhaps the most important influence from this point forward in the election of the president of the United States,” Munoz said. “It’s important that the leadership in Washington view us not as a narrow interest group but as a vibrant political force” that carries not just votes, but influence and financial resources.

Organizers planned a series of symposiums, dinners and events ahead of the inauguration to keep people talking about issues that matter to Latinos, from immigration reform to building a Latino history museum on the National Mall. Munoz led a presidential commission that called on Congress in 2011 to authorize such a museum within the Smithsonian Institution, but Congress has not yet passed such a bill.

Munoz said it’s important to keep Latinos engaged in the nation’s capital to push for their policy priorities through the inauguration and beyond.

“Our work is not done. It doesn’t end,” he said. “We have a tendency to look at this phenomenon as ending on Election Day, when the reality is now it’s time to get to work.”

Longoria said this is her first inauguration. She has taken on a new role as political advocate since her days on “Desperate Housewives,” helping to push for a Latino museum and co-chairing Obama’s re-election campaign.

Even though this is Obama’s second inauguration, Longoria said there is still much to celebrate, including Sotomayor’s role swearing in the vice president.

“I think there’s something beautiful to a recommitment to the people of this great nation,” Longoria told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

Longoria said she hopes to help influence policies, including immigration reform, and that Obama will make that his top priority as an economic issue.

“I’m trying to do my part as a citizen and my part as a Hispanic and as a woman and as an American,” she said. “I think everybody should be civically engaged in a level that would affect policy. That’s the point; that’s how our government is set up.”



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