A photo of Senator John McCain in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has drawn mixed reviews from Hispanic voters around the country. Some claim it shows his attempt to reach out to Hispanics, while others contend that politics and religion should always be separate.
The photo, which was displayed by groups at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, has been sized-down and printed on hand-held cards. These cards are being handed out by Republican supporters to attract the support of Hispanics, a group currently dominated by Senator Barack Obama in swing-state polls, reports the Las Vegas Star.
Xavier Rivas, who has one of the cards, maintains that it illustrates McCain’s attempt to reach out to the Hispanic population in the United States. The message it sends, he explains, is that Our Lady of Guadalupe “represents a symbol of our culture, our feelings ... and (the photo) is sending a signal to Mexican-Americans that McCain is saying, ‘I know and care about your community’.”
One voter, Fernando Romero, says the card gives him a better feeling about McCain. “He made the effort to visit something spiritual that is in the hearts of all Mexicans.”
However, not all voters agree. According to Mexican news reports, while McCain was in the basilica someone yelled, “you can’t play around with people’s faith!”
Rivas admits that once in awhile he comes across similar reactions among fellow Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. “But then I explain why I’m doing it, and they understand.”
David Sanchez, an assistant professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University and expert on the Virgin told the Las Vegas Sun using the photo is a logical consequence of the social conservatism Republicans embrace. “Part of that is religiously based social conservatism, and it is powerful for them to use these images.”
“Religion is so embedded in political discourse these days, I’m sure we’ll see more of this,” he said.