Gaitan pulls out a yellow book with the cover picture of graduating males wearing green caps and gowns, titled Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth, by 33- year old Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator and editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, a right-leaning news site.
For 22-year-old Ricardo Gaitan, a Public Health major at the University at Albany and son of Colombian immigrants; the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, is the figure of all time that he looks up to from the Republican Party.
According to Republican Views in 1856 the Republicans became a national party when John Fremont was nominated for president. But it wasn’t until four years later, however, when Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican President. The core beliefs of the Republican Party, as Republican Views state, are centered on the idea that each person has a place in society.
“This is the guy that fought for slavery, the one who preserved the union, this is the guy that fought for freedom,” said Gaitan. “People need to look back in history. The Democratic side they worked for slavery when you think about it, they didn’t want freedom, while the Republicans, they vote for freedom,” he said.
According to the Pew Research for Hispanic Trends (2016), the Republican support from foreign Latino voters was at 18 percent in comparison to U.S. Latino voters at 16 percent said. Also, among Hispanic men who are registered to vote, 30 percent identify as Republicans or lean toward the GOP.
Gaitan is one of the U.S. Latinos to identify as a Republican. He comes from a family of Colombian immigrants and out of his two older brothers, he is the only one born in the United States.
Yet not everyone in the family agrees politically. The only Republicans, Gaitan said were himself, his father, and one cousin.
“I like how I can control my own destiny”, he said. “I can control my own decisions, you know. What they stand for, you know, limited government and making your own choice. So that’s why I picked to become a Republican,” said Gaitan. “Not only that but the way the Democratic side and how they been running and how they treat others that’s not me at all. I don’t want to be viewed as that or be treated like that as well.”
During the 2016 election, Gaitan was 20 years-old, marking it a crucial moment because he was finally old enough to vote. His dad also encouraged him to perform his civic duties as an American citizen and vote. His father who now is a U.S. citizen also aligns with the Republican views.
His mother, however, wasn’t very pleased and blamed his father for instilling such ideals. “She took it in a very negative way,” he said. Her biggest oppositions were the views and remarks of Trump about Hispanics. “I just tried telling her, you know, if you look at the bigger picture and if you did a little bit more research there’s a lot more to it.” But instead, he says, “she swats me like a fly.”
Zack Cuzo considers Gaitan his best friend. He met Ricky on his third day of freshman year back in 2014.
“I saw him tossing a frisbee with some kids and I was like, you know what? I’m never going to get friends unless I approach people, and he seemed like he was talking to a lot of people,” said Cuzo. “I was like this kid looks like he already has friends so I was like yo, can I join? And we ended up teaching these black kids how to play ultimate frisbee and they just destroyed us.”
They are now in their senior year and live together in the downtown college area. From the conversations he’s had with Gatian’s father and phone calls he’s heard, Cuzo agrees that Gaitan’s father had a major influence on his political views. “Definitely,” he said. “Ricky has always been reaching out to his dad over his mom probably all his life and by how their divorced played out, by what I know, Ricky defends his dad side.”
Yet, Cuzo says he relates to Ricky’s relationship with his father. “Both of our dads are immigrants who became professionals,” he said. “My dad is a Social Worker and his dad is a Pharmacy’s Controller. We relate on that idea that our dads came from basically a second world country to come here, work their asses off to get to the point where they’re making all this money, and now they can help us whenever we need it.”
For Gaitan, it was Donald Trump’s meeting with a veteran that became a dynamic moment from watching the 2016 election. “This guy had one arm, no ear, basically disfigured and that was the biggest thing I wanted, is to help out the veterans, because these are the people that protect our country, that fight for our freedom,” he said. “These people lose their minds when you really think about it.”
Once Gaitan noticed the veteran, he realized how horrible the Veteran Administration was being run. It was the biggest imprint to keep him on track of what he wants to do with his life. “I’m a public health major and I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life with that major,” he said. “Once I saw that, I was like I think I know what I want to do and because of that, it’s the biggest thing I can remember.”
Yet, throughout the time that Cuzo met Gaitan, he said he had no idea he was a Republican and never spoke about his political views until about junior year.
“It’s probably the veteran’s bureau, he’s Catholic so he’s anti-abortion, but he also always thought certain ideas about illegal immigration because he comes from a family of immigrants, and even about gun control,” said Cuzo.
“He hated Obama, and his dad always complained about Obama,” said Cuzo. “So I think a lot of the combination of these things started to come together and in Ricky’s mind he started to consider it,” he said. “He was probably already set conservative even before he even knew it and looked into it.”
To Devin Wood, Gaitan’s political views are very surprising. Wood is his third housemate who met Gaitan in 2014 through Zack at a football game.
“I just think he’s trying to differentiate himself from what you would expect him to be,” said Wood. “I wouldn’t necessarily say I agree with his political viewpoints as a whole but there’s a bunch of little details that make sense when he talks about it that I agree with, but as a general viewpoint I don’t agree cause I am a Democrat.”
Joe Bryant who is also a Public Health major met Ricky in the Spring of 2016 through a friend who was his suitemate on campus. He too, agrees that Ricky’s political views were influenced by his father.
“On Ricky’s end, I view it he gets a lot of his political views from his father who has the view of-- I was able to overcome these things and achieve the American dream, so if other people are unable to its more that they’re just making excuses,” he said.
For Gaitan, illegal immigration is a danger to national security and he does not agree with breaking federal law and is especially against sanctuary cities. “It’s kind of like saying criminals can do whatever the hell they want to U.S. citizens that are law-abiding citizens, it’s pretty much a free for all in other words,” he said.
Both of Gaitan’s parents were born in Bogota, Colombia. They migrated legally. “They’ve done the whole vetting process, they did it the right way,” said Gaitan. “They got their visas, did medical examinations to make sure they didn’t have no type of foreign pathogens, answered specific questions and a background check, simple.”
CNN reports that U.S. Latinos population are currently around 55 million. Also, Latinos seem to have different concerns. For example, CNN says Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans do not share the same immigration concerns as Mexican Americans. As well as a new research from Latino Decisions, there were different concerns of Latino voters by region, for example, immigration was the top concern in California, meanwhile, in Texas, Latinos were more concerned about the cost of healthcare. In New York, Latinos were concerned with improving wages, and in Florida terrorism was the top concern for Latinos.
Yet, through a former friend from New Rochelle and a mutual friend with Gaitan, Cuzo learned how different Gaitan used to be before college. “He told me Ricky was Ricardo back home,” said Cuzo. “Apparently, back home he also wasn’t outgoing and friendly like he is now. “
But outgoing is the best word to describe Gaitan according to Cuzo, Wood, and Bryant.
“He became a social butterfly,” said Cuzo. “We have friends who kind of rely on him to get girls at parties or bars,” he said. “Everyone knows who Ricky is.”
Bryant ensures after college Gaitan will certainly find a job because he’s outgoing and charismatic.
Ultimately, even though Gaitan can come off very strong politically, it doesn’t mean he isn’t friendly and close-minded. That’s why Wood said thanks to Gaitan he gained confidence in himself because he’d been able to meet more people. “Ricky knows like literally everybody in Albany,” he said. “He’s always been very outgoing and I kind of just follow his tracks a little bit.”