A U.S. citizen in the news in Mexico nowadays is no doubt Nevada state member of the U.S. House of Representatives Rubén Kihuen. And there is reason for Congressman Kihuen to stand out with Mexican journalists who over the past week broke two news about him.
One, that Rubén led the Democrats amateur soccer team at the House of Representatives that thrashed their Republican counterparts 5-2 in a “friendly” match –if these guys can be friendly.
Two, and this is what’s grabbing the attention of Mexicans, congressman Kihuen was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1980 and over the years became a professional politician having been a member of the Nevada State Assembly and the Nevada State Senate. From there he jumped to Washington after winning the election last November and being sworn into office January 2017.
Rubén migrated legally to the U.S. back in 1988 after his father – Armando Kihuen – went north undocumented and benefited from the 1986 Amnesty Program promoted by Ronald Reagan. Armando Kihuen, who is known in Las Vegas Mexican community as a suit-and-tie gentleman – is a former middle school teacher in Guadalajara, who left the Mexican education system in order to find work as a strawberry picker in California.
With amnesty in hand, he was able to move his family north and then moved to Las Vegas where his wife had gotten a job as a hotel maid but managed to join the powerful Culinary Union – Nevada’s most powerful workers organization with over 70,000 members statewide. That security – and having a green card – gave the Kihuens a place in the Mexican community of Las Vegas, where they are nowadays – father, his mother Blanca – a highly respected family.
Of course the most curious anecdote Rubén tells is that after graduating from the mostly-Mexican school El Rancho High School on east Las Vegas he was then a prominent soccer player. It is no surprise to know that at the time his golden dream was to play professional soccer.
Given his fine performance as one of the finest in Nevada, he was given a try out opportunity with the popular Mexican team the Guadalajara Chivas (Goats) where after three months in training he broke a foot. That was the end of his career and golden dream of playing in the future with the U.S. Soccer Team.
The only choice he had at the time was going back to college and got a degree at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) as a teacher to follow his father’s footsteps.
Yet since his early days at Rancho High he had volunteered to serve U.S. Senator Harry Reid in his campaigns and help him get reelected – more than twice – he struck a great friendship with the now retired Reid and then got a master degree on Public Administration at the University of Oklahoma. Now he was focused on politics.
He won his first post at the Nevada Assembly in 2006 and then served as the state Senate where he got as high as being whip.
What was most favorable to Kihuen is that he made a career with the Nevada Democratic Party and successfully ran in 2016 for the congress seat he now holds.
On a personal basis I was introduced to him by El Mundo weekly newspaper publisher Eddie Escobedo who was also a sort of “godfather” to Kihuen’s political career, of course, in tandem with Senator Reid.
Over the years, while Eddie Escobedo was alive until 2014, he was one of the leading attractions in Las Vegas for the core of the Hispanic caucus of the Democratic Party nationwide and at election times the newspaper offices looked like a Hispanic politico personality runway.
Kihuen was also very much cuddled both by former President Barack Obama and lately by candidate Hillary Clinton, who invited him to speak at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Now as a congressman, Rubén Kihuen has moved into the upper levels of U.S. government and, to begin with, immigrants have a friendly voice in him.
True, he comes at a moment when the Democratic Party is an underdog and can only do so much in terms of changing the mandates of the Republican majority in Congress, but also Kihuen knows that he is part of the new leadership in his political party now that Reid, Clinton and Obama are gone.
This Mexican is indeed oxygen for the creaking political machinery the Democratic Party is nowadays.
But as he put it in an interview last week:
“We’re going to get them in the 2018 mid-term election.”
But for sure, he’s a young man – 37 – who is catching the eye of Mexicans.