On November 6th, states across the U.S. made history in electing historical number of firsts for governors, representatives a, d senators that included representation from the LGBTQ community, those of Native American ancestry, the Muslim faith, and women of color. With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez becoming the youngest woman elected to Congress and more than a hundred other women also have won their congressional races, among them Latinas, we are in a place never before seen in the sphere of American politics.
We’ve voted and supported women who look like us, sound like us, live like us, and understand our concerns regardless of what our paths towards citizenship, education, careers, and past political involvement have been. Leading up to the midterms, together we’ve made our voices heard regarding healthcare needs, women’s rights, immigration reform, education, and other issues affecting our communities across the country.
After canvassing, protesting, donating time and in some cases money we’ve come to a point where Latinas in politics are on the uptick. Many of us hope those numbers will be strongly represented come 2020 for the presidential election, and the legislative years to follow. We asked Latinas who recently voted in the midterm elections what their plans are to keep up the momentum, energy, representation and amplification of Latinx voices following the results of the midterms, and leading into the 2020 elections.
Angelica Cruz, 23, Piscataway NJ
CREDIT: Angelica Cruz, photo courtesy of Angelica Cruz
“I think watching the lead up to midterm elections has been so intense that I realized I didn’t have someone in my family to help me understand politics until recently. After midterm elections, I want to talk to the younger generation of girls in my family about how important it is to show up and show out for our community.”
Destiny Lopez, 24, Waterbury CT
CREDIT: Destiny Lopez in Waterbury, Connecticut, courtesy of Destiny Lopez
“My main goal beyond this election is to educate my family on the importance of their voice. More often than not, my relatives avoid political and social issues because they’ve never been properly educated when it comes to politics and their own roles in the community. I’m still learning a lot myself but, for now, I think I know enough to at least get more of my family on board so we can actively fight for change, rather than simply hope things work out for the best.”
Fabiana Melendez, 23, Austin TX
CREDIT: Fabiana Melendez, photo courtesy of Brandon Hill
“I think one of the most important things to do is to acknowledge, support and accept a wide breadth of voices. Latinxs have a tendency to support celebrities or Latinxs who look like us, but as we consider the future of our nation we need to lift up voices that are otherwise ignored in our activism. We need to address our colorism and include afro-latinxs and indigenous persons as well as sex workers and part of the LGBT community (especially trans and non-binary folx). Their voices are just as important and they are parts of the community that are regularly ignored in political activism. If we want the Latinx community to succeed and truly gain momentum, we must also spend resources and energy including them in rallies, op-eds and more.”
Kathleen Encarnación, 24, Ridgewood NJ
CREDIT: Kathleen Encarnación, courtesy of Kathleen Encarnación
“As a Latina, it is imperative to use my voice to continue making change for my generation. I, myself, am fortunate to be able to grow up in a wonderful community, which lead me to attend University and graduate. However, there are many people that do not have a safe place to call home and attend school. I am a voice for immigrants, that want to start a new life. I will be a voice for those people that have to walk thousands of miles in search for better life. It is important to use this chance that we have to help others, rise above the injustice and move forward for our generation. It’s our well-being that we should have the last word of.”
Michelle Pantoja, 27, Chicago IL
CREDIT: Michelle Pantoja, photo courtesy of Michelle Pantoja
“I plan on keeping the momentum going by supporting, educating, and encouraging fellow Latinas and Latinx in the community. La lucha sigue. This is only the beginning for young Latinx. My fellow Latinas and I are so excited for the women and Latinx empowerment. It’s our time alongside Black women. Latinas and Black women are going to lead our government, corporations, and organizations. Latinas and Black women don’t get the same support as white women and men do. My goal is to provide resources, support, and encourage fellow Latinas and Black women to get it done!”
Nicole Ariza, 24, Queens NY
CREDIT: Nicole Ariza, courtesy of Nicole Ariza
“I plan to focus on education. Educating myself, my peers and my colleagues. Education and communication are powerful tools that are all too frequently overlooked. Positive conversations can bridge gaps and encourage even more dialogues about the issues that matter. Advocating for the Latino community, especially as it relates to my field of work is of utmost importance to me as a Latina in the U.S.As a Speech Language Pathologist I am constantly advocating for the cultural considerations needed when working with Spanish speakers. No family should ever feel they need to give up their language. Language is both identity and cultural, and being bilingual and culturally diverse is something that should always be celebrated!”
Rebecca E. Carvalho, 26, Haledon NJ
Rebecca E. Carvalho, courtesy of Rebecca E. Carvalho.
“I plan on keeping this momentum going by not shutting up. This is a pivotal moment for POC and QPOC, and I won’t let that momentum slow down. I’m having the important conversations with my family, even the more conservative members on why voting and exercising that right matters. I recently found out I have friends who aren’t registered to vote, and my patience has run really thin. How have you not been moved to do what you can in this climate? Personally, representation in my own passions is where I know I can talk about it best. There’s plenty of Latinx poets who don’t get a platform or recognition. Plenty of artists who don’t. I’m happy that some of my favorite mediums–tv and film–are doing more than they have before, but it’s not enough. To get people to change, you have to do it across the board. I want more directors, producers, and writers that are Latinx and POC and QPOC.”
Reza Moreno, 22, Brooklyn NY
CREDIT: Reza Moreno, courtesy of Reza Moreno
“The fight doesn’t just stop here with voting, for all of us Latinx/WOC this is a greater time for us to join our together and help us raise our voices together. And I will do this by using my voice with the collective I am a part of called the Mujeristas.”
Sandra Pons, 26, Washington Heights NY
CREDIT: Sandra Pons, courtesy of Sandra Pons
“I’m not exactly a fan of capitalism, but as long as we’re bound to that structure, I think it makes sense to give money to support Latinx candidates, and there’s power in that. I didn’t think I’d be giving toward political campaigns anytime soon, but it has become a new area of my philanthropic giving that I want to explore. I do also plan to give my time to help campaign, and to do the personal work with friends and family to make sure they vote and have their voices heard. Giving money to political campaigns is a new area for me, though, and I don’t have a lot of it to give, but I want to build it into my overall philanthropic strategy.”
Tommie Brown, 25, Menifee CA
CREDIT: Tommie Brown, courtesy of Tommie Brown
“Yesterday we got to vote for a number count. But we get to vote every single day we wake up because it’s all the same – voting lets our government know where we stand as a people. I think the most important thing after voting is realizing your vote does not mean that you voted for a person to handle it all, but rather you voted for a person who can be the loudest voice for the things you’re fighting for. Voting doesn’t mean you just did your part and that’s where it ends. Our representatives are not gods. They are just reflections of their voters. But as we have seen greatly in the Trump regime, that mirroring doesn’t end at the polls. When a representative gets voted into office they are full awareness, whether they like it or not, that the people who voted them in are now watching and holding them accountable to stick to whatever agenda they pushed. And if the voters stop caring, so will our reps. Voting isn’t a quick fix. It’s just the greatest first step. And coming from Mexico, my heritage doesn’t take any day lightly that we get to use our freedoms to show our country where we stand. So we keep practicing kindness, mindfulness, equality. We keep being examples of what greatness can come from migrants. We educate ourselves constantly. Voting is just one part of it all. It’s the center stage moment. But far more important than center stage is the rehearsals. And so I believe that’s why my family and I are trying to implement.”