Latinos overwhelmingly support President Barack Obama and they’re lauding him Monday on the inauguration of his second term.
But Latinos are also honoring another African-American that they dearly cherish – Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. It just happens that Rev. King’s birthday, a federal holiday, is also observed on Monday.
It may come to as a surprise to some to learn just how highly Latinos think of Rev. King. The city of San Antonio, the country’s seventh-largest and with a majority Mexican-American population, is home to one of the largest –some argue the largest– MLK Day marches in the country.
Last year it drew roughly 150,000 attendants and this year at least 100,000 were expected on Monday.
“San Antonio stands out on the American landscape as a unique big city that projects inclusiveness over rancor," Julian Castro, the city’s mayor and rising Democratic party star, told Fox News Latino. "The fact that our city has one of the largest MLK marches in the country reflects a history of different groups getting along for a greater purpose."
What’s going on in San Antonio is reflective of the deep sentiment Latinos feel for the legacy of Rev. King and the overall black struggle for equality.
“What this turnout says is that Latinos recognize that many of our civil rights we have today is because of the work and sacrifices of Martin Luther King,” said Cid Wilson, a Wall Street analyst who sits on the board for the National Council of La Raza and is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the country’s oldest Black civil rights group.
“He understood that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Wilson added.
The Latino link with Rev. King expands beyond San Antonio’s significantly large MLK Day march. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, will be the first Latino to deliver the keynote address at the King Center’s commemorative service honoring the civil rights icon Monday in Atlanta.
A prominent Latino evangelist, Rodriguez’s prominent participation also shows that African-American activism today has expanded to include Latinos – and particularly the push for comprehensive immigration reform.
"As the first Latino, I find it to be a gracious extension of God’s favor upon yours truly," Rodriguez told Fox News Latino. "It tells you where we are in the 21st Century. This idea that there’s a great black and brown divide, I’m not buying it."
Rodriguez said that Dr. King's legacy –and his impact on Latinos– is not over.
"We are next, my friend," he said. "When we see the next Latino president, it’s because of Dr. King."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Follow Victor Garcia on Twitter @MrVicGarcia.