By Alexandra Vilchez.
Laura De Castro, the assistant director of volunteers for the Democratic National Convention Committee, or DNCC, has one of the most difficult jobs of any involved in convention preparations: coordinating the activities of 16,000 people.
The 26-year-old De Castro, the daughter of two well-known North Carolina Democratic Party members and of Colombian origin, said that politics "runs in (my) veins" and she has been preparing for this type of task since she was very young.
"I'm the youngest of four siblings, (and) my parents took me to voter registration events, (and I wound up) making calls so that people would go to vote, going to fundraising events, to different party activities. I began early on to be a volunteer," De Castro said in an interview with Efe.
De Castro, who holds degrees in political science and in Spanish, began in February to recruit the thousands of people who had expressed an interest in working with the Democratic National Committee organization.
"The response to our call was impressive. We needed 12,000 volunteers and we ended up with 4,000 more, the majority are from the Carolinas, but we have people from the 50 states of the union," De Castro said.
The young woman emphasized that the experience of coordinating the volunteer department has been a marvelous one, above all because she is part of the select group of people from Charlotte who have worked to prepare for the region's most important political event.
"It's an historic moment that we're experiencing in Charlotte. Many people want to part of this, they're proud and want to show to the world the city we have, what we're capable of doing, and my job is to coordinate them," De Castro said.
Before joining the DNCC, De Castro worked in the office of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis for two years, in the Hispanic/Latino Affairs office of the North Carolina government and with state Sen. Floyd B. McKissick.
She was also the assistant director of the youth vote for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and before that she held leadership posts within the party as president of the Teen Democrats, the University Democrats twice, and up to now she's been a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Party in her state.
"I've had many jobs, but none so demanding as this one. There are hundreds of things you have to coordinate. Without volunteers, I don't think an event of this magnitude could be organized. They are an extension of the work we're doing," De Castro said.
Regarding the participation of Hispanics as volunteers, De Castro emphasized that although many are working on the convention preparations, it will be the young people who currently are in high school and college who will be more active in the future.
"We see it now with the 'DREAMers,' who have been organizing themselves and fighting for a better future. They acknowledge that they have to get involved in political causes to make a difference in their communities," De Castro said.
However, for Puerto Rican Carmen Cruz, 60, becoming a convention volunteer was the way to find a new "purpose in life" and stay active and productive.
"I'm retired and now I can dedicate time to doing something for my community, in the city where I've lived for 12 years, and which I've seen grow and develop," Cruz told Efe.
Cruz said that she had worked at least 70 hours on different tasks that the DNCC had assigned to her, like responding to delegates' questions during convention events and welcoming visitors to hotels and at the airport, among other things.
As for Nancy Gonzales Eastman, who has worked at least 30 hours on various tasks for the DNCC, she says it's essential for Latinos to involve themselves in the organization of a convention to get to know the political process of the country where they now live.
"I was born in Chicago in 1968 when they were holding the Democratic Convention there and for the second time I can participate in an historic event. I couldn't pass it up. How many times can one participation in the nomination and reelection of a president?" she said. EFE