Gonzalo Venegas ordered his chicken mofongo to go.

Venegas and his brother Rodrigo, who comprise the Bronx hip-hop duo Rebel Diaz and also co-host a show on TeleSur English, had come to Sabrosura 2 Restaurant to get some lunch. But their plans quickly changed once they found out that Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, fresh on the heels of his win in Wisconsin last night, would be arriving shortly to hold a meet and greet with a group of ministers and Bronx residents.

Lunch would have to wait. First, the Venegas brothers had something to say to the Texas senator.

“He’s coming,” Rodrigo said. “Let’s go.”

Within moments, he was face to face with Cruz, shouting, “Why are you in the Bronx if you’re such an anti-immigrant?”

Behind him, a Cruz supporter in a camouflage baseball hat yelled, “Keep up the good work, Ted.”

Cruz passed Rodrigo by, but he was undeterred, following Cruz into a back room meeting, where he continued shouting about Cruz’s stances on immigration and climate change. Minutes later, both Venegas brothers were being ejected from the restaurant.

“Ted Cruz has no business being in the Bronx. This is an immigrant community,” Rodrigo yelled as police escorted him out. “We deal with climate change every single day, and he wants to say it doesn’t exist. We’re one of the poorest congressional districts in the country, and to receive this right wing bigot is an insult to the whole community.”

The scene was a far cry from the warm welcome Bernie Sanders received at an 18,500-person rally in the South Bronx just last week, where the only protesters I could find were a trio of animal rights activists holding a banner that read #LetAllBirdiesLive.

But in the Bronx, where 34 percent of the population is foreign-born, Cruz’s support for deporting undocumented immigrants, eliminating some visa programs, ending birthright citizenship, and most recently, conducting surveillance in Muslim neighborhoods do not go over well.

Neither does his approach to the environment. After President Obama unveiled his Clean Power Plan, Cruz condemned the plan as a “lawless and radical attempt to destabilize the nation’s energy system.” But here in the Bronx, high levels of air pollution have caused children to contract asthma at roughly twice the rate of children in other parts of the city. The situation is so grim, in fact, that some have referred to parts of the South Bronx as “asthma alley.”

Add to that the fact that the South Bronx is predominantly Latino and black, while exit polls show Republican primary voters are predominantly white, and the South Bronx seems an even odder choice for a Republican candidate just weeks away from the New York City primary to campaign.

Cruz appeared alongside Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr., a Democratic New York state senator and minister, who is deeply controversial for his opposition to abortion and gay marriage. Earlier in the day, Diaz’s son and Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr., denounced Cruz as a “hypocrite.” Diaz Jr. acknowledged his father’s meeting with the Republican candidate, saying, “Like many sons and daughters, I dare say that our parents aren’t always right. They quite often get it wrong.”

Cruz is already trailing Donald Trump and John Kasich in New York polls, and this divisive visit to the Bronx, where supporters were outnumbered by protesters and members of the press, seems unlikely to change that.

As Cruz addressed a small crowd inside, an ad hoc protest formed on the sidewalk outside the event. Edna Ferrer waved the flag of Mexico outside the beauty salon, where she works as a hair stylist, directing her anger not just at Cruz, but at Trump as well.

“Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are going to do the same thing. This is going to be Donald Trump States. We’re not going to call it the United States no more,” said Ferrer, who was facing off against Emmanuel Caraballo, a Puerto Rican-American Trump supporter outside.

“It’s a shame that you be talking like that when you’re Hispanic,” Ferrer yelled at Caraballo.

“I’m Hispanic, but I’m American first,” Caraballo shot back.

Inside, Cruz was peppered with questions from reporters about his win in Wisconsin last night, which is considered a direct threat to Trump’s primary season momentum and key to denying Trump the Republican nomination. Cruz said that his success in Wisconsin was a sign that the party is coalescing around him as a candidate. “We saw Republicans come together and unite,” Cruz said. “And that’s really what this election is all about. It’s about unity.”


Ted Cruz’s Bronx Campaign Stop Just Backfired Big Time Because Duh