Nelson Diaz definitely remembers doing the Macarena during the 1996 Democratic National Convention — he just had no idea there was video of that until this week.
The former judge, 2015 mayoral candidate and Philadelphia Democrat can be seen at the 14-second mark doing the Macarena in a video that went viral this week in the days after this year’s DNC. The 20-year-old video from CSPAN shows DNC attendees in Chicago awkwardly dancing in power suits as then-First Lady Hillary Clinton claps along.
“This is the first time I saw it, was on the internet. I had no idea that existed,” Diaz said. “[A friend] sent me an email and they said, ‘Nelson, you look great doing the Macarena!’ I had no idea what they were talking about. I finally had a copy and saw myself, and I said ‘oh, yeah that’s me when I had wonderful looks 20 years ago.”
Diaz has been to every DNC since 1980 as either a delegate or a spectator. Between 1981 and 1983, he was a judge for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and was the first Latino judge in Pennsylvania history. He was later appointed by President Bill Clinton — who was up for re-election during the 1996 Convention — to be the general counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Most recently, Diaz ran for mayor of Philadelphia and lost in the 2015 Democratic primary.
The former judge says he remembers the 1996 convention distinctly. At the time, he was a delegate and the next year he was appointed to be the head of the Latino caucus for the Democratic National Committee.
And he remembers the “happy, happy” nature of that convention, as Clinton was being nominated for re-election after a rocky start to his first term that included Nannygate, the World Trade Center bombing and the abandoning of a tax break plan for the middle class. It was also two years after Democrats were destroyed at the polls and Republicans took over both chambers of Congress.
Clinton went on to win by a landslide and beat Republican candidate Bob Dole and independent Ross Perot.
But “The Macarena” was a huge deal during the ’96 convention. Not only did all those delegates bop around to it, but then-Vice President Al Gore told a total dad joke about it during the same convention, saying “if I could have your silence, I would like to demonstrate for you the Al Gore version of the Macarena.” He then proceeded to just creepily stare into the camera.
At least the veep knew he was on TV at the time. And didn’t find out two decades later.
“Initially I didn’t think anything of it,” Diaz said. “And then I saw myself. And I didn’t expect that 20 years later. And it still exists.”