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Latinos on McCain: 'He was the personification of patriotism'

Representatives of the Hispanic community nationwide remember the late Senator as "a hero" whose service to the country will never be forgotten.

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Hundreds of people say goodbye this week to one of the most important figures in contemporary American politics, and one of the last symbols of patriotism in the country: John McCain.

After battling brain cancer for months, the veteran and legislator died at age 81 in his home in Arizona.

His long and controversial trajectory has been the object of debate while personages of public and political life in the country have issued statements after his death, dividing those who remember his radicalism at the beginning of his political career with those that have opened their spectrums to acknowledge his evolution from prisoner of war during Vietnam to the man who made his final political gestures and declarations against the government of Donald Trump.

Considering McCain as an epitome of Republicanism, few would dare to think that the Latino community could remember him today as a "hero," much less an ally of Hispanic Democrats. However, Tommy Espinoza, president, and CEO of the Raza Development Fund spoke with KTAR News and recalled his first meeting with the legislator during the 1980s, a moment that grew into a solid friendship. Espinoza would become the godfather of the senator’s son.

"(McCain) was genuinely interested in the issues of our community in Arizona, and primarily in the South Phoenix community where I grew up," Espinoza said.

Similarly, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said, in the voice of its president, that "the country was blessed by McCain's service," KJZZ reported. "Senator McCain's enduring legacy will be as immeasurable as the depth and breadth of his unflinching courage and commitment to serve a greater cause than himself," wrote Gonzalo A. de la Melena Jr. in a statement.

Many remember, on the contrary, the radical positions of the senator during his presidential campaign with respect to border security, whose germ would flourish in the rhetoric of President Trump.

But McCain moved away from these positions and, after winning re-election to the Senate in 2010, joined the group of eight senators who introduced a "comprehensive proposal for immigration reform" that included the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as well as a reinforcement of border security.

The evolution of the legislator was such that even his former campaign manager, Rick Davis, suggested during a press conference that the senator would have wanted a Hispanic woman as successor in the post.

"He’s always been someone who’s encouraged participation in politics, especially in the Republican Party, with minorities and women," Davis said, as reported by The Arizona Republic. "I think a Hispanic woman probably would’ve been his pick for a successor if he would’ve lived long enough."

However, the idea of a Hispanic woman representing the Republican Party might seem utopian, especially at a time when the country's divisionism tends to close racial and gender ranks thanks to a controversially conservative White House.

McCain is remembered then, and especially by the Latino veterans, as a man who closed gaps and knew how to walk in his footsteps, accept his mistakes and rise to the needs of a country in the 21st century.

As the former state senator and veteran Alfredo Gutierrez told KTAR News, McCain "meant something very special to us. He was really a hero."

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