LatinaLista — Last Saturday, July 14, Henry Cisneros, former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the Clinton Administration and currently the CEO of a national housing investor group called CityView was awarded a LifeTime Achievement Award from the Worldwide Association of Mexicans Abroad.
What this award means by being given to Cisneros is that there is life to do politically good after committing the hormonally stupid act of having an extramarital affair.
As a little background, Cisneros, the rising star among Hispanic politicians in the 90s, was the first Cabinet member of the Clinton Administration to plead guilty in a case spearheaded by an independent counsel.
To make a long story short, he lied to FBI background investigators about the amount of money he paid to a former mistress who happened to be a political fundraiser. As part of his plea agreement, Cisneros had to admit that he lied.
When addressing the judge, Cisneros said:
It is my hope that other people who aspire to and follow in public service will also perhaps learn . . . that truth and candor are important in the process of selecting people for governmental positions.
In other words, when you get caught doing something bad — don’t lie about it, admit it upfront.
It seems to be the only lesson from what happened to Cisneros that Los Angeles’ Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has learned well.
It’s been a couple of weeks since the notorious revelation was made that Los Angeles’ first Hispanic mayor in over 100 years, and the collective Hispanic community’s Golden Boy, Antonio Villaraigosa, admitted cheating on his wife with a Telemundo anchorwoman.
From all vantage points, it seems that unlike Henry Cisneros, and most politicians who have extramarital activities, Villaraigosa and his wife aren’t even going to pretend they’re Los Angeles’ happy First Family any longer.
And it’s a sad situation.
But what makes it doubly sad is that Villaraigosa didn’t just let his family down or his children or the woman who stuck by him for so long and endured the public rumors of his “roving eye”— he let down a nationwide community.
Though the US Census officially confims that Latinos are now “the nation’s largest ethnic or race minority, constituting 15% of the total population,” we are pathetically behind when it comes to Latinos who are in positions of real political power.
Because there are so few, their success is our success, their disappointments are ours and their irresponsible conduct that reflects badly on the content of their character is an embarrassment to us all.
Maybe Villaraigosa is naive or maybe because he lives so near what the rest of the country considers La La Land, he’s not connecting with reality, but he seems to think that his private behavior will have no impact on his political future.
And maybe it won’t, but then again it possibly could.
Both Latinas and Latinos are registering their disappointment with Villaraigosa.
Whether Villaraigosa likes it or not, we hold those Latino politicians who have achieved particular high-profile positions on a higher pedestal than others.
And when they fall, without true remorse or effort to make things right, the Latino heart isn’t so forgiving — nor do we forget.
When Henry Cisneros agreed to admit he had lied to the FBI as part of his plea agreement, one of the agreements was that he would still be free to seek political office.
But it’s hard to overcome the cynical doubt of la Raza who don’t take kindly to having their trust and faith abused.
So, for whatever reason, Cisneros never did seek office again — but his wife did.
In May, Mary Alice Cisneros won her first political office as a city councilwoman in San Antonio’s District 1.
If Antonio Villaraigosa is unwilling to learn from the Cisneros example, we can only hope that his ex-wife-to-be, Corina, takes it to heart.