Watsonville, CA – Lots of warm clothing, a Latinos for Obama sign and a suitcase sit on Luis Alejo's bed like an incomplete puzzle. "I got my United Farm Worker flag, I want to take out in the crowd. The problem is going to be is trying to fit all these things in here. I've got these thick jackets to get in there. I got to try and not be over the weight limit," said Alejo.
Upstairs in their Watsonville home, Alejo, his sister Ruth and their roommate Karina Cervantes are getting ready for their trip to the Presidential Inauguration.
The high temperature in Washington D.C. on Inauguration day is forecasted at 30-degrees, so they're packing to stay warm. "We think it's cold here, but it's not until we're on the east coast that you know what cold really is," said Alejo.
The three have been planning this trip since the election, and even back then, finding an affordable hotel anywhere near D.C. was impossible. "So I said forget that we're just going rent a car and if we have to stay in a car that night, driving in on Monday, we'll do that," said Alejo. To keep the trip on, they hatched an even more complicated plan. They're flying into New York City, staying with friends, renting a car, driving to Arlington, Virginia the night before the Inauguration to stay with a friend of a friend and then around 4:00 Tuesday morning they'll take the subway to D.C.
Each has their own reason for wanting to witness this moment in person. Karina Cervantes is a grad student who worked on the local campaign. "It's going to be something memorable that I don't think we've ever seen before at the Inauguration, where it's the people that actually felt like they were the force that got him there. To see him sworn in and to see him acknowledge all the people that helped him get there, I think it's going to be amazing," said Cervantes.
Ruth Alejo teaches at a local charter school. And after building lesson plans around the Inauguration, she now wants to experience this moment for her students. "I think my kids, who are predominantly Latino students, felt a very strong connection to seeing you know first African American President, so I want my kids to embrace this moment because I told them that they're very lucky that this happened during their time, during their existence," said Ruth Alejo.
As for Luis Alejo, he was an Obama delegate at the Democratic National Convention and the President-elect inspired him launch his own campaign for Wastonville City Council. "I said hey, I'm going to work on that same vision, but at a local level. So we know that Obama's not going to do it on his own, it's going to take a lot of people on the local level to really make those changes happen." Alejo won that city council seat the same night as Obama's victory. "For Barack Obama to allow an opportunity for someone like me from a rural agricultural community, heavy Latino, heavy immigrant community, to be at the table, I think that really shows a lot. When you're watching TV on Tuesday and you look across the crowd, look at the faces, the diversity of the faces, the ages, the backgrounds, I think that that really shows that Barack Obama has brought many different people, the spectrum of America to the table and I think that's going to be reflected in that ceremony," said Alejo.
Among the faces in the crowd Luis, Ruth and Karina will be closer to the front. They're part the 240,000 who got tickets to the event.