MI GENTE: A CALL TO ACTION
From J. Balvin and Bad Bunny to the trendy restaurants serving elote and tacos for $15 a plate, not to mention the over $6.5 billion spent on Spanish-language advertising in 2019 alone, the Hispanic community is making our presence known more with each passing day in the United States.
Our presence isn’t new but each time we have some pop culture representation it’s called an EXPLOSION – as if we were waiting outside the door by the bus load. I know you remember Jennifer Lopez bringing Selena Quintanilla Perez to the masses and Ricky Martin living the crazy life in the 90s. While continued and more consistent representation is nice (finally!), the truth is that we’ve been here for centuries. In fact, one of my favorite sayings is “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” That is true for many Mexican Americans. The land that eventually became the U.S. state of Texas originally belonged to Mexican people after they won their independence from Mexico in the 1800s. Over time, Anglo immigrants, yes Anglo immigrants, began to disenfranchise native Mexicans and indigenous people – they outnumbered them in government seats, restricted and outright took away their right to vote, used police violence against them – sound familiar?
Today’s Hispanic and Latino presence in the U.S. is Mexican, but it’s also Honduran, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Salvadorian, Cuban, Brazilian, and much more. We speak English, we speak Spanish, we speak Portuguese. We eat chilaquiles, we eat arepas, and tostones. Like any group we are not a monolith – representing different languages, cultures, traditions. But what we are is massive in number. According to the Pew Research Center:
- There are over 60 million Latinos in the United States.
- 32 million Hispanic people will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election. That represents the largest ethnic minority of the electorate for the first time in history.
- We make up 30% of the Texas electorate.
- In the midterm elections of 2016, 29 million Latinos were eligible to vote. Only 11.7 million did.
So why are we moving culture and entertainment but not “moving” on the issues we care so much about?
WE CARE ABOUT:
The Mistreatment & Detainment of Immigrants.
These issues are top of mind for Hispanic people, today more than ever.
Education: with 1 in 2 Texans under the age of 18 being Hispanic, of course education is top of mind for us and it is impossible to miss the disparity of resources facing Hispanic children in the classroom. The result is that more than ¼ of all Hispanic adults in the U.S. have less than a ninth-grade education. Inequity starts early in life for our kids and is a life-long fight.
Unemployment: the recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Hispanic people especially hard, as with all recessions. Between February and April 2020, the unemployment rate of Hispanic workers skyrocketed from 5.5% in to 20.5%. For perspective, the unemployment rate for Hispanic workers during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 peaked at 13.9%.
The mistreatment and detainment of immigrants: Unfortunately, the mistreatment and detainment of immigrants isn’t new in our country. From the detainment of unaccompanied women and children at Ellis Island to the internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans (many of whom were U.S. citizens) in the 40s, America is well-versed at drawing the line on who we consider welcome. The practice is continuing today at the Texas border with 21 people dying in ICE custody during the 2020 fiscal year alone; the highest annual death toll since 2005. Approximately 6 million immigrants have been detained by ICE since 2004.
Even though these issues directly impact us and our country, where were we in 2016? Where will we be on November 3rd?
Receiving Spanish-language postcards once every four years that say VOTE FOR ______ is eyeroll-inducing. Not getting a reach out at all is also perturbing, though not surprising. We feel disenfranchised because of the lack of outreach, but they don’t reach out because we don’t vote. It’s a vicious cycle that will go on forever unless we change it. We have the power to change it. No, we won’t all vote the same way or have the same issues top-of-mind, but regardless of what we want to say or who we want to say it to, 32 MILLION PEOPLE can make some real noise.
Hispanic Heritage Month has ended for some, but year-round we celebrate our culture, our passion, and our pride. Let the celebration continue by making your voice heard with your VOTE on November 3rd.
Associate Vice President of Marketing
YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas