This Is Why This Puerto Rican Family Is All In On Biden


Image Courtesy of Marlyn Rivera

By Mivette Vega

August 27, 2020

A mother of three explains that her family has experienced more racism in Florida during the past few years than in the previous decades.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA — For the Ortega-Riveras, their support for Joe Biden is nothing but a reaction to how their lives in the Sunshine State have changed in the Trump years.

The family moved to Orlando 21 years ago after a traumatic robbery at their home in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, when their first-born son was six months old.

José Ortega and Marlyn Rivera had economic stability on the island. They owned a music academy, and Ortega was a professional musician, playing with big-name artists like Marc Anthony, Danny Rivera, and Tony Vega.

READ MORE: We Break Down the Dos and Don’ts of Voting by Mail in Florida

But the robbery made Rivera look for a job in Orlando. She became one of the first employees to be hired at Disney’s Animal Kingdom when the theme park opened in April 1998.

“They needed many employees to open the park,” she says to The Americano. “My husband stayed behind with the baby, looking for employment. Three months later he arrived in Florida and began working at Universal Studios and playing at the Latin Quarter, a venue in Orlando for Latin music. He worked and played music at the same time. We were both always struggling.”

Eventually, they both landed jobs at a debt management and counseling company. The couple has worked hard since the move to Florida, mainly because they had three children: Alejandro, 22, Amanda 20, and Isabel, 18.

Rivera says “with honesty and regret” that their children don’t speak Spanish, as they were raised mostly by caregivers while she and her husband were working.

Knowing what hard work means firsthand, and bearing witness to many other hardworking Puerto Rican families like them, the Ortega-Riveras feel indignant when President Donald Trump qualifies Puerto Ricans as lazy. Rivera said the public goes along with that line of thought because of the President’s comments regarding the money the island receives from the United States government.

“Every time I speak with a white person, they always ask me why Puerto Rico wants to become a state if it’s fine the way it is,” she says. “They always say they don’t want Puerto Rico to become a state. Since many of them know very little about the island, they think that we just receive, receive, and receive, without giving anything back.”

She also says her family has experienced more racism in Florida during the past few years than in the previous decades. She said people now find it easy to be confrontational and not hide what little tolerance they have for people of other races. She feels the discrimination is especially directed toward Latinos living in Florida.

“I think Trump has brought the racists out of the closet,” Rivera says. “These people did not have a voice, and now they feel like they don’t want to go back into hiding. They feel they can express what they always felt, but did not say.”

All three Ortega-Rivera siblings are members of the LGBTQ community, so protecting their rights is a priority for the family. The Trump administration has either promoted or established the reversal of laws that directly affect LGBTQ people. The family expressed their belief that the Democratic agenda will better protect those rights. 

RELATED: Joe Biden Generating Plan Focused on Puerto Rico’s Economic Development

Rivera is busy doing voluntary work for the Biden campaign. She says it is important for Latino communities to have correct information on hand, but she’s concerned about the turnout: she says that when she calls Latinos on the phone, many say they have no interest in voting in the upcoming elections. The majority of them are Puerto Ricans. 

“We have a lot of work to do on the Biden campaign,” she says. “Each day I try to inspire people. Trump is bringing out the worst in many. He brings out the worst feelings even within Democrats because we are feeling resentment. We are filled with the anxiety that we no longer feel safe in the United States. That is a horrible feeling.”


CATEGORIES: Elections | Floricua | Florida


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