Well, it looks as if Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has lived up to the Latin-lover stereotype and his old reputation by revealing to the public this week that he is involved in a relationship with Telemundo television anchor Mirthala Salinas. Raising issues of ethics in the media and questions of character, it seems that our community’s rising political star shines less brightly. This evolving story seems to mimic the novelas on Telemundo. Perhaps Mirthala wanted to star in her own real-life telenovela all along and was waiting for her big break, while reporting the news for Telemundo.
I always suspected that this would happen to our Antonio. I had such high hopes for him when he was elected mayor in 2005. While I don’t live in Los Angeles, I had worked in the city, and of course, in being involved in local politics in the region, I was caught up in the excitement. It had been over 130 years since Los Angeles had a Latino mayor, and it was our time once again. I had seen him at political events during the ’04 election season for Presidential candidate John Kerry. Villaraigosa was one of Kerry’s campaign co-chairs and Latino community outreach leaders. I remember seeing Villaraigosa at an event in Lincoln Park, and I was struck by how friendly and quickly he approached the women campaign workers and volunteers. It was quite obvious to me that he was a lady’s man. Of course, his job is to be charming and personable — he’s a politician, but his ease and eagerness to engage with the women was not very typical of a married man.
At that time, he was gearing up for his own election, and I had heard about his previous infidelity and two daughters born out of wedlock. Enough time passed, combined with his accomplishments as a councilmember and assemblyman, to make the public look beyond his personal life. His wife Corina appeared with him in the campaign trail, and she had managed to reconcile with him after a separation in the early 1990s. It appeared as if he and his family were able to overcome personal issues, including his wife’s bout with thyroid cancer, and work together. I remember seeing this picture with his family that included his two older daughters on his campaign website. They really seemed happy and moving forward to support Antonio and his ambitions.
I guess it was too difficult for Antonio to keep his personal life together. I know that he had a troubling childhood, and his young adult years seemed to be equally dramatic. I am in the same age group as his adult daughters, and I have to admit that I don’t know many Latinas my age whose fathers were having multiple children out of wedlock in the 70s. That sort of thing wasn’t as common as it is now, and if there is one thing that Latinos, especially Mexican-Americans, take pride in, it is one’s family. Siempre la familia. It means everything to us.
It is as if all the blood rushed out of Antonio’s brain and relocated itself to the other head. Doesn’t he realize that an affair could distract from his legislative goals? His name isn’t Kennedy, Clinton, Gingrich, or Giuliani for that matter. Villaraigosa’s efforts to take over and revamp LAUSD have largely failed, as he hits the midpoint of his term, and we still have major congestion, issues with the LAPD, and a homeless crisis in the city. While he is popular, he is still something of an anomaly– our first modern Latino mayor, arguably one of the most influential Latinos in the nation. What possesses him to risk it all? Doesn’t he understand that he not only represents the people of Los Angeles, but the broader population of Latino Americans who seek adequate representation and a voice on the policy agenda?
Latino politicians should be more cautious. While the Hispano settlers, Californios, and multi-generational Mexican-Americans have held various offices in this country since the sixteenth century, we are still considered “newcomers” to the establishment and the American political process. Our representation is lacking in legislatures, the judiciary, business, education, and the presidency. One would think that we would use better judgment in positions of leadership, especially Antonio, who has so much to lose and is poising himself for a run for governor.
I also question the intentions and professionalism of Mirthala Salinas. She has been romantically linked to Fabian Núñez in 2003 while he divorced from his wife. And she has reportedly been involved with Mayor Villaraigosa for at least 18 months. Now pictures surface of Ms. Salinas with the mayor in a professional capacity with her network microphone in hand. Why did she not stop covering the mayor earlier? Could she not cover other subjects and see the mayor off the clock? Also, what kind of Latina is content being the “other woman” for months on end? Obviously, she’s a social climber and seeks power and influence, hopping from Núñez to Villaraigosa, but did she need to announce the divorce of her boyfriend and his wife of 20 years on her network newscast? It was as if she was throwing salt in Mrs. Villaraigosa’s wounds. Or perhaps she was trying to “one up” Corina Villaraigosa on the news, or maybe she did not know how to ask the station manager to have another reporter cover the story? She’s been in the media for over ten years. I’m sure that these ethics issues have been covered in her training. Is this the kind of example that we want to set for young Latinos and Latinas? Speaking of young Latinos, I can’t help but wonder about Antonio Jr. and Natalia and how they feel about this situation. Surely, Antonio wouldn’t want his own children to be caught up in such drama, especially his daughters.
So in ending this post, I give you Mayor Antonio Villasalinas or Villarsalinas, but I agree with Steve Lopez of the LA Times, Villasalinas sounds better without the “r.” Let’s hope that he gets his act together and that he really loves Ms. Salinas because he is going to pay for this indiscretion for a long time. Do you think he’s going to marry Salinas? I don’t, but I don’t know how he could in good faith keep the hybrid name that he created with Corina Raigosa, representing the union that he accepts full responsibility for ruining. Maybe he should take a tip from P. Diddy and reinvent himself with a new name. After all this is La La Land, where anything is possible and high profile divorces proliferate.