“There’s this misconception that Latinos are not involved in the political process, or that in our culture, we don’t talk about [politics], but we’re trying to change that.”
Leslie Hernandez, a 23-year-old Mexican American, who lives in Houston, Texas, became civically involved after seeing a great need in her community.
As a census organizer for Jolt, a Latino organization based in Texas, she knew the best way to contribute and make a difference locally was to encourage others to make their voices heard through voting.
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“I think it’s really important for our own community to have these conversations within ourselves,” the sociology student attending A&M University said in an interview with The Americano. “I’m sick and tired of my community being taken advantage of.”
In her outreach work, Hernandez reminds people that politics affects their everyday lives. Taking part in the census and voting are a way to plan ahead for Latino families, she says.
At home, her mother chose to not talk about politics at the dinner table but she made sure Leslie registered to vote when she turned 18. Registering to vote was something she was looking forward to. However, the process wasn’t as easy as she thought. Hernandez had to consider what county she would be living in during the election—and she also had to research political candidates that represented her in that county. But when the time came to vote, the hard work was worth it.
“It felt so good to go and vote,” Hernandez said. “I had previously gone with my family to vote when I was little, and I remember the machines, but when it was my time to go and vote, it was cool to see how the ballot boxes work. It was just cool to experience it and getting those cool ‘I voted’ stickers at the end.”
For her, when it comes to voting in the 2020 presidential election, it’s not “about whether you want to vote or not, it’s kinda like ‘you have to.'”
But she understands why some Latinos would feel disappointed by politicians and why they’d want to skip voting. She says that depleted mentality is precisely what some politicians want.
“They want to exclude us. They want us to feel powerless,” Hernandez said. “But in order to have a good and active democracy, you need to be active yourself. You have to go and check the people in power.”
Leslie has encountered some Latinos who feel disappointed by the political system. Her hope is for them to vote regardless, not only to exert their own right, but also as a way of advocating for their community, family, and friends.
“Don’t think about it as if you’re voting for this politician… you are voting for farmworkers, who are providing food for our families,” she said. “Your vote matters because there are kids in cages. Your vote matters because we are pushing for progressive change. And change doesn’t happen in a day or two. History has taught us that if we want a seat at the table, we are going to have to pick the seat ourselves.”