“Do what you fear, and fear disappears” Joseph Schwartz
I moved to South Florida from Tampa exactly ten years ago. There were two experiences that shaped my life in the early months I was here:
1. Having a conversation with the former Chief of Staff of a former Mayor of Miami-Dade County who practically told me there were thousands of “Evelyns” focused on Hispanics and politics. However, if I could show that I had something to bring to the table, the doors would open.
2. I was also recommended by former political colleagues from Tampa to visit Bendixen and Associates. I emailed them and asked if I could stop by. Just like many, I wanted to come close to the man and the company that politicians in the Anglo Saxon world were actually paying attention to in reference to Hispanics. Someone finally had their ear, and his name was Sergio Bendixen. That was the name that you would hear in campaigns. Not that we did not have any good ideas. But their trust belonged to Sergio. I went to his amazing office where his business partner Fernand Amandi met with me. He was so kind. Seeing that Sergio had been able to succeed, was a wonderful example that there was no reason why any Hispanic-American couldn’t do the same in the political world. I am sure he had to climb mountains to get through to some, and possibly he never got through to others.
The truth is: I never met Sergio Bendixen. He passed away last Friday. I received the information for his memorial service, and it was key that we as a Latino community paid our respects. Let me be clear, I don’t know if Sergio was a nice guy or the opposite. I am not sure how many people liked or disliked him. What I do know is that he was able to accomplish what frustrates many of us the most: for governments and political campaigns to focus on Hispanics and understand what makes this multicultural community tick, and get paid well for it.
But more than that, tonight I learned something even more amazing. Our fight as Hispanic-Americans has been a long fight. Our fight as Hispanic-Americans political consultants has also been pretty long. Hearing of Sergio’s early years and his push for campaigns initiatives to come close to Latinos feels like a conversation to me from last week.
I believe tonight, many of us learned a little more about Hispanic-Americans in politics, about the work we still have to do, and the need to understand what makes Latino’s become passionate about government. We also learned that when it comes to crossing through to governments and politicians, the lesson is that you may fall seven times, but you stand eight. The lesson is to be fearless.
It was a beautiful Bilingual memorial service where we were asked to lift our hands by Fernand Amandi. He asked us to lift our hands if we would remember Sergio and his capacity to be fearless. He then asked if we would remember to be fearless. I lifted my hand. I hope we all lift our hand and continue to fight to place Latinos not only at the table, but also once in a while, have them at the head of the table too.
Rest In Peace, Sergio Bendixen.