This week we get into What We Don't Know About the Latino and Hispanic vote with journalist and founder of Project Pulso, Liz Alarcón. These past few months, we have discussed the 'black vote' and the many grassroots organizations that rallied new voters, which helped drive Biden and Harris to a win and keep hope alive for the current run-off race in Georgia, but what about the vast Latino vote?
Alarcón is a Venezuelan-American and activist. She graduated from the University of Miami and still resides in Florida, fighting the good fight to bring awareness to her community. Liz has taken her long, diverse career from a producer at Univision, a reporter, site director, and journalist, which has catapulted her into activism since the 2016 Trump win. She joins us this week to talk about Pulso, a nonprofit media start geared towards outreach in the Hispanic and Latinx American community, and to give us her thoughts on Latinx representation and contributions to society and the presidential race.
The Backstory Of Hispanic America
We touched on the topic of America's consistent racial disparity through our discussion with Rashad Robinson last month. America has never existed without cultural conflict, and as with all colonization and immigration, the US has a long and complicated story.
We could go as far back to Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon's search for the fountain of youth in 1521 as the first Spanish person to find the new world. Various explorers would follow, such as admiral Pedro Menendez settling in the then "Spanish Florida" and conquistador De Peralto in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1609.
Check out this video for a quick review of how the US gained Mexican territory
The 1800s saw quite a bit of change and development, consisting of the Mexican-American War, Mexico gaining independence from Spain, and the US taking over many territories, including Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas, and Arizona.
"Remember the Alamo" is a famous war cry still said today (also remembered fondly by Gen X'ers from Pee Wee's Big Adventure) by Texans in remembrance of Texans' deaths by Mexican soldiers in 1836. Spanish priest Antonia Olivares founded it in 1718 to convert Native Americans to Christianity.
The 40s and 50s brought about racial tensions and divisions alongside African Americans' plight during this pre-civil rights period.
Check out this link for the Zoot suites riot story
Cubans fled Castro in 1980, leading Regan to instill the Immigration and Control Act allowing for immigrants' legal status but with various restrictions. By the 90s, the political controversy of how to handle immigration slowly began to become a common topic, but by 2016, DACA and DAPA were formed to protect immigrants and children of immigrant parents despite Trump's attempts to overturn them in 2020 along with the still current issues with ICE and family separation at the border. Today, some are still learning what it means to be an immigrant or a Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx American and voter.
What is Latinx Exactly?
The acclimation and identification of minorities in America have changed along with our education and diversity throughout the years. Hispanic and Latino American roots typically trace back to either Spain or Latin America leading to being labeled as either Latino/Latina or Hispanic, with Latinx being the most recent term to cover everyone while excluding gender specifications. However, the name is so relatively new that only3 % of Hispanics use this terminology.
Getting The Hispanic, Latino & Latinx Vote Out
In 2016, some key states with a high Latino voter turnout were Texas, 28.1%, California at 28.0%, Arizona, 21.5%, and Florida with 18.1%.
As seen in this past election, every vote counted, and candidates scrambled to reach all demographics to win. Americans have become accustomed to political rhetoric such as "black vote," "gay vote," and the "Latino vote." Some would argue that there is no way to place an entire race into one reliable partisan vote, nor should one demographic be blamed for a loss. For instance, the Latino vote pushed Biden to win Arizona, but some feel upset about the 54% of Republican Cubans and Venezuelans in Florida.
However, Alarcón urges that we not overlook the more prominent factors in Dems losing Florida. "We can't focus on marginalized communities first before we look at the main voting blocks and how they participated." Alarcón says, "If you're going to talk about Florida, let's talk about the white vote..how the Democratic party could not win back some of the folks who voted in larger numbers for the Republican candidate."
It's not hard to believe that many Latinos were among the least active voter blocs in 2016, according to a Pew Research center poll that reported that half of the Latino voters were unmotivated. It wasn't until 1974 the bilingual ballots became available under the Voters Act of 1965. 2020 saw a change with a history-making voter turnout; many Latino voters are still bombarded with misinformation and discrimination. Advocates like Liz are working to bring awareness to this bias blame game and simultaneously educate and empower Latinx voters.
Next to getting the black and brown votes, politicians build their campaigns to appeal to youth. Young voters tend to be democratic and liberal and, these days, eager to have their voices heard. This fact crosses all cultural and racial boundaries. Generation Z is the most ethnically diverse generation, and the most tech-savvy, so digital movements are crucial to many campaigns. There's still much work to be done in this regard as registered Latinos 50 and up are much more engaged politically than those 18-49 years of age. Alarcón’s Pulso helps to change that while also highlighting the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos for generations.
Pulso came to be after the 2016 election of Trump, which inspired Alarcón to take her journalism skills into the would of digital outreach and advocacy for the 3 million eligible Latino voting population. Alarcón explains Pulso's goal of "Engaging our community with stories for us and by us but with the ultimate mission in building independent political power."
This non-profit reaches people through Instagram, Twitter, the Pulso Podcast, and Facebook messenger. Pulso’s unique model has already acquired over 2 million subscribers. Users search Pulso in their messenger app, and they can subscribe and add through their English or Spanish channels to receive content that includes cultural stories, important news, and events.
Pulso reached 50,000 people as part of their 'get out the vote' campaign by setting up prompt dates for users on voting and registration days, creating sharable and comprehensible information, and increasing the ease of spreading the word with 'forward' a friend ability on posts. 40% of people under 24 years of age say they get their news from social media. We're all on our phones more than anything, which is why many activists are leaning in on improving and expanding their grassroots organizations to the digital world.
Connect easily to Pulso by clicking here
You Take The Good You Take The Bad
Grassroots start with a community goal to connect and inform. Social media and online connections also function through small community sharing by everyday people to friends and neighbors, making them go hand-in-hand.
Initially, when we think of grassroots, our minds go to social injustices and political campaigns that are usually spot on, but in a free country, everyone can start a grassroots campaign, so there's the good and bad. The extreme far-right takes to Parler, a social media site created in 2018 consisting of Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists.
The hope for smaller digital communities like Alarcón’s is that the good overpowers the bad that often occurs within the giant digital platforms, like Facebook, Google, and Apple, by spreading truth and bringing people together for empowerment instead of hate adversity.
Other great minds and leaders like Andrew Yang are also bringing awareness to the ups and downs of technology and the spread of misinformation. Yang believes that technology is moving faster than the government can handle and pushes for increased monitoring to prevent threats and protect personal data through his movement, Humanity Forward.
These past months, we've highlighted multiple grassroots organizations whose beginnings came from a desire to empower and engage communities previously suffering from discrimination, insufficient funding, and voter misinformation. These communities and their leaders are more than a box to be ticked on the voter bloc agenda during election season, but a force to reckoned with as organizations like Pulso continue to grow.
We are a diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multidimensional, colorful complex community and all of those nuances need to be allowed to exist and need to be explained when we talk about Latinos." -Liz Alarcón
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