Although past elections have shown Latinos as the minority population with the lowest voter turnout in America, Latinos have been identified as the game changers or the “sleeping giants” for this year's election.
Story by Alejandra Martinez
Photos by Alberto Gonzalez Jr.
As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Center of Mexican American Studies hosted “Latino & Election 2016: A Congressional Conversation” on Oct. 5 at the College of Liberal Arts. I showed up early to watch two former U.S. congressmen, Francisco “Quico” Canseco and Charles Gonzalez, discuss the importance of this year’s general election for Latinos.
Prior to the event, both congressmen were nervous to discuss such complicated issues as immigration, education and the economy. Looking at the audience, I could understand their concern. Students, professors and other audience members sat up straight in their chairs and held their heads high before taking out their notebook and pen.
The discussion addressed the five following points.
1. Latinos don’t vote, but need to.
MSNBC political commentator Victoria DeFrancesco Soto shared a statistic demonstrating the lack of Latino voter turnout as less than 50 percent in the last presidential election. “I am tired of hearing ‘my vote doesn’t matter,’” Gonzalez replied. During the conversation, both congressmen agreed that the Latino vote does matter to the future of America. The amount of voter turnout in November’s election will show the importance of the Latino vote, and might create a shift in purple states.
2. Immigrants are necessary to the economy.
Throughout the discussion, it was clear that the idea of deporting 12 million immigrants out of the U.S. is unrealistic. “There would be a decades long fiasco in America,” Canseco says.
There was much discussion on immigrants’ vital role to the economy. Both congressmen agree that this election is forcing America to recognize the power of the immigrant. “Republicans and Democrats know that many of these people [immigrants] are engaged in the American economy, and if taken out, the economy would collapse,” Canseco says.
3. Latinos should be proud to be considered gringo.
In search for the American Dream, Latinos settled in the U.S. many ages ago to become part of America. Like many other Latinos in the room, I could relate to the experience Canseco shared of being called a “gringo” or American. He talked about his Mexican cousins who shamed him for becoming too Americanized, but learned years after that there is nothing wrong with being called a “gringo.” “Come from anywhere, but if you come here, you have to love America. This is our home and our nation. No matter what we look like, we are part of it and we love it,” Canseco says.
4. Latinos are in the spotlight more than ever before.
Should candidates watch out for Latinos who do not take insults lightly? Soto brought up the term “otherize,” the idea of negatively categorizing those born outside of America. This “otherizing” issue has isolated Latinos and spurred on an onslaught of insults towards them during this election.
5. It is up to Latinos.
The conclusion of the conversation was for each audience member to go out and tell their mom, dad, “tio” and “abuelita” that their vote does matter. “We need to be engaged and get our families engaged,” Gonzalez says.
Voter’s registration ends on Oct. 11 and Latinos have the choice to encourage each other to vote. Voting will unleash the giant that both presidential candidates have been targeting.
The next and final Hispanic Heritage Month event hosted by the Center of Mexican American Studies will be on Oct. 6. Director Hector Galán will discuss how voting represents one’s voice in an event titled, “Cine y Cena.”