President Biden’s Visit to Phoenix’s El Portal: A Nod to Latino Engagement

On the vibrant streets of Phoenix, President Joe Biden made a significant stop at the renowned Mexican restaurant El Portal on Tuesday, March 19. His visit wasn’t just a casual dining choice but a strategic move amid his Arizona campaign trail, aligning with the launch of a new initiative, Latinos con Biden-Harris.

This campaign is set to energize and mobilize Latino voters, a demographic that constitutes about a quarter of Arizona’s electorate, showcasing their pivotal role in shaping the political landscape.

During his visit, Biden, amidst the cozy ambiance of El Portal, addressed an intimate gathering of approximately 75 supporters. The President candidly expressed the importance of the Latino vote, stating, “Anybody that doesn’t pay attention to them is really stupid.”

His speech, lasting around 12 minutes, delved into topics such as the Trump tax cuts and his own upbringing in a “lower middle-class” environment.

El Portal, a cherished establishment with a rich history of over 77 years, served as the perfect backdrop for Biden’s outreach. Owned by Mary Rose and Earl Wilcox, the restaurant has long been a hub for Democratic activism and community engagement.

The Wilcox couple, known for their commitment to the South Phoenix community and their efforts to highlight Hispanic issues, have hosted various political figures and events, including voting rallies and Democratic fundraisers.

The selection of El Portal for Biden’s speech underscores the restaurant’s significance in the local political and social spheres. Beyond its political legacy, El Portal boasts a culinary heritage that adds to the fabric of Phoenix’s diverse community.

From its inception in 1947, founded by Mercedes Zapien and later nurtured by her family for 40 years, to its current status as a community gathering spot, the restaurant has witnessed the evolving dynamics of the neighborhood and its people.

Earl Wilcox, growing up near the restaurant and starting his career there as a teenager, later ventured into public service as an Arizona state legislator. Meanwhile, Mary Rose, with her profound roots in the area and Mexican heritage, has made her mark as a formidable community leader.

From her tenure on the Phoenix City Council to her significant contributions as a Maricopa County Board of Supervisor, Mary Rose has been a trailblazer in local governance and community initiatives.

El Portal stands not just as a culinary destination but as a symbol of community resilience and political engagement. It reflects the intertwining of culture, politics, and social activism, making President Biden’s visit a powerful gesture of acknowledgment and support for the Latino community’s role in American society.

As the restaurant continues to serve traditional Mexican cuisine, from enchiladas to menudo, it also dishes out inspiration and unity, fostering a space where political discourse and community welfare converge. Through this visit, President Biden not only showcased his commitment to Latino voters but also highlighted the essential role of local businesses and leaders in nurturing vibrant, engaged communities.

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