Republicans for Obama?

A couple weeks ago, a 20-something named Roy Rodriguez phoned the political group Little Havana for Obama to ask for a bumper sticker. A man with a Cuban accent answered the phone and told him, with sass, “No stickers. But Obama will be back soon. He’ll call you back.”

That got Roy thinking, with all the Cuban right-wingers in Little Havana, what if the Barack Obama headquarters had been hijacked by Republicans?

His tale sounded a little strange, so New Times put in a call.

“Hi, is this the Obama headquarters?” we asked.

“Who?” a man on the other line answered. “Oh. Yes, yes.”

Turns out, the office is directly across the street from Versailles on S.W. 8th Street (a big time hubbub for ardent Cuban-American Republicans). Oddly enough, the organization is operated out of a home mortgage company called American Home Lending, which is made up of 90 percent Republicans. These are guys who, despite their party affiliation, plan to vote for Obama, but are running the group on the down-low, thanks to their precarious placement.

“If we put an Obama sign outside, the people at Versailles would burn us down,” explained Jose Manzares, a bright mortgage broker, who moonlights in writing poetry.

“Cubans hate Obama with gusto,” he said. “Because he wants to talk to Castro.”

Yesterday afternoon, out of curiosity, we stopped by, unannounced. Inside the office, brick walls had been painted over with yellow and a stack of brochures were laid out in Spanish. A bunch of Cuban jokesters with dark, slicked back hair, sat in front of their computers puffing on cigars. (We swear we’re not pulling from the book of cultural stereotypes.)

When asked if this was the right place, they answered, “Yeah, this the Obama group -- incognito!”

And while they might be undercover, they’ve raised a ton of money online. Out of all grassroots orgs registered on www.barackobama.com, they have collected the second most funds in the Miami area, founder Damien Zapata says. To date, they’ve come up with about $6,500, mostly by way of ten to twenty-dollar donations -- more than Miami Beach for Obama and Students for Obama. (Just a side note, a group called Hipsters for Obama exists in Miami-Dade. Ten bucks says there’s no Hipsters for McCain.)

So what’s next for this crowd of Eighth Street rebel rousers? Zapata says they’re waiting for T-shirts and signs to come in the mail.

“When the signs come, we’re going to put them up in the window,” he says.

We’ll see if any bombs go off.

- Natalie O'Neill

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