It’s the quadrennial of U.S. presidential elections, so it’s apropos to bring up the image of Ben Fernandez who, as many may have forgotten, was the first Latin-Mexican American, to be precise to run for president of the United States.
It brings reminiscences of where he got this pipe dream that a Latino, and Republican at that, could be elected U.S. president. 
It wasn’t that long ago (actually 1980), but really seems an eternity from the prospect of one day having a Latino sitting in the White House Oval Office.  
Ethnically speaking, we are not even close, as Cuban-American senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio showed in this current presidential party primaries.
For the Republicans, it’s Donald Trump who seems to relate to Latinos largely through his workers, many of them Mexican Americans, in his business empire, and he adds they all love him.
It hasn’t helped that he said he would build a border wall from Texas to California to keep illegals out, mostly Mexican Americans in particular. 
Hillary Clinton, the undeniably Democrats’ choice, doesn’t claim to have the affection of all Latinos although by virtue of her party is heir to their predictable support, and she’s much better at finding commonality that someone like Republican Gerald Ford who when campaigning in San Antonio tried to eat a tamale, husk and all.
The Chicanos weren’t impressed with this attempt at ethnic relations.
In today’s scenario, not many were “feeling the Bern,” Bernie Saunders, that is, and it’s now up to Hillary Clinton to fly the Democrats’ flag with Latinos, and you can safely predict she’s a cinch to reap the rewards, deserved or not.
The candidacy of Ben Fernandez waxes nostalgia about a Latino-Mexican American to be precise--daring to be president, which was just as much a dream then as it is now since no one, not even Rubio or Cruz, have come close to seizing the nomination.
Back then, New Mexico Senator Dennis Chavez was the closest Latinos had to political royalty although Texas’ Henry B. Gonzalez, California’s Ed Roybal and New York’s Herman Badillo had started to pioneer the advent of national political figures, but their political ambitions didn’t travel much further than their local jurisdiction.
I was a press aide in Nixon’s White House and on a president’s Hispanic Cabinet Committee when I met Ben Fernandez, a political appointee on socio economic posts.   
We worked on Nixon’s re-election campaign, which earned us both an appearance before Congress’ Watergate committee.
His persona was the epitome of a supremely confident, self-made Mexican American, a minority who famously liked to recall, was born in a railroad boxcar in Kansas City. 
Back then when Latinos still existed in a bifurcated American society enduring civil rights repression and economic discrimination, Ben was the epitome of “Yes I can” success.
He worked his way through two elite universities earning graduate and postgraduate degrees in economics and finance.   He said he had become a Republican when told it was the party of rich people.
“Sign me up, I’ve had enough of poverty,” he said.
Ben never made it pass the primaries, and he failed miserably in two later attempts.  He retired to an unappreciated existence--even by his once Republican allies--and died at age 75 in 2005.
His name comes up now mostly in trivial political pursuit games.
Ben was a success in almost everything he tried except for the ultimate political enchilada.  He was an ethnic pioneer though the American constituency was (and still seems not ready) to crown a national figure from this ethnic minority whatever the elements.
Rubio and Cruz are passé in presidential ambitions, and they never were in sync with the overwhelming Mexican American community.
There are other Latino prospects from both major parties mentioned as potential presidential candidates in the future although, predictably, all disclaim any interest, and no one has yet reached the national political mantle of a national contender.
The brightest star is San Antonio’s Julian Castro, currently HUD Secretary and now mentioned as a strong possibility for Hilliary Clinton’s vice president nominee.
Others are GOP governors Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Susana Martinez of New Mexico and long-time California Democratic congressman, Xavier Becerra.
All are Mexican Americans. Surely, the time has come for a Latino to be elected to the highest office in the land.  If Barrack Obama did it, why not a Latino.
The ghost of Ben Fernandez beckons. •