CLEVELAND - Chanting "O-BA-MA, O-BA-MA," a feisty contingent of the recently formed Latinos for Obama marched in the front of the annual Puerto Rican Parade here Sunday, right behind Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and parade officials.
The crowds along East 9th Street joined in the chants, wildly waving red, white and blue Puerto Rican flags and cheering the marchers.
Carrying a large banner with the Obama campaign insignia reading "2012 - I'm In," the marchers continued chanting "Obama, Tranquilo - El Pueblo Esta Contigo!" (Don't worry, Obama, the people have your back!) and "Si, Se Puede!" (Yes, We Can) along the one and a half mile route downtown to the grounds of the Latino Festival at the municipal parking lot just below the shore of Lake Erie.
The three-day festival, organizers said, drew a crowd of 60,000 to party, dance and watch a continuous show of Latin bands, and performance groups, feast on Caribbean delicacies and enjoy carnival rides.
Latinos for Obama had a tent where they registered nearly 200 new voters, distributed Spanish-language campaign literature, signed up volunteers and gave out invitations to a family picnic the following weekend at Roberto Clemente Park.
Visitors to the booth signed a huge card greeting the president on the occasion of his 51st birthday, which was Saturday. Among those signing was Wilson Cruz, the celebrated Puerto Rican TV, stage and film actor and gay rights activist.
Cruz came here especially to help the Obama volunteers at the festival, and gave a rousing speech to the crowd.
While Latinos For Obama made a huge splash at the parade and festival, the campaign for presumed GOP candidate Mitt Romney was absent. Latinos make up a little over 3 percent of Ohio's population, but polls show Obama has the support of over 70 percent of Latinos. He currently leads Romney in this critical battleground state by only a few points.
Photo: Rick Nagin/PW