Marco Enríquez-Ominami is a Chilean actor-turned-politician who has left the ruling Socialist Party to run as an independent candidate in the 2009 presidential election. In doing so, he has gone against the wishes of his adoptive father Carlos Ominami, a Senator from the Socialist Party. Senator Ominami is the grandson of a Japanese immigrant and son of Carlos Ominami Daza, an Air Force Colonel who was tortured by the military junta and subsequently spent the dictatorship years in exile in Belgium. There’s little to no chance of an Enríquez-Ominami victory, but he’s not exactly a fringe candidate either. (He is expected to tilt the election in favor of the opposition candidate.) Add to that his matinee idol looks and his Japanese connection, and I bet the Japanese media will give him his quinze minutos.
If they notice.
I understand and respect Enríquez-Ominami’s decision to honor both fathers by keeping their surnames as a professional actor. Having said that, I have a question for my Latin American (particularly Chilean, if any) readers here: Does the unusual name Ominami add a touch of the exotic? Or is it like any other name in a land of immigrants?
In Brazil, my guess is that an Ominami would be tagged as part Indio. That is a rare name, even in Japan.
Colonel Ominami was known as “El Chino”, the same nickname bestowed on Peru’s ex-President Fujimori. That’s not unusual; many American kids in the early sixties thought Japan was part of China.
Speaking of Fujimori, I never understood what all the fuss over Japan refusing to hand him over to the Peruvian authorities was about? Japan and Peru do not have an extradition treaty between them, and Fujimori was/is a Japanese citizen. The most the Japanese authorities could have done was to arrest and try him for crimes under the Japanese Criminal Code—say, kidnapping and murder. Did the Peruvian authorities try that?