The Urgency of Presente

I wish I was the Ezra Klein kind of writer who is fabled to churn out witty, incisive, and relevant copy in 20 minutes.  Until this weekly politics column I write for Latina Magazine.  I wrote it one day before President Barack Obama announced he was pressing the pause button on deportations of students and/or military-bound illegal immigrants aka DREAMers, and offering work permits.

Does political cynicism fill the gap between on one hand, Mr. Obama declaring one year ago at the National Council of La Raza's yearly convention that he can't make the laws, but only enforce them, and on the other, an announcement that does just that with the intention of making an aggressive play for voters casting ballots in a few months?

Is the GOP crying foul play when in fact they had chances to assume leadership on this issue but didn't stand up to the fringe, at best punting, at worst cowering in a corner?

Latino voters are still being defined by others, a situation exacerbated by a disgraceful characteristic--a pattern of "entrenched" non-participation in politics.  We are involved in lots of other things: making babies.  A+ as rated by the extraordinary demographic boom of our community.  Spending lots of dólares at Walmart A++, says our estimated $1 TRILLION DOLLAR buying power.

So what??? if you can't match these attributes with political and social power.


So I look to the kids.  This is the segment of the community that's fueling our demographic boom.  Plus they're U.S. born, meaning they can VOTE.

I'm so tired of the excuses: foreclosures/unemployment has forced people to move who haven't yet registered in their new towns.

Make it a priority to go to city hall or better yet, take your eyeballs off of your friends' chismes on Facebook to go to Voto Latino's voter registration page.  (or NCLR or ¡Ya es hora: Ve y Vota!).

I don't feel el Presidente or el Romney are speaking, much less listening to me so I'm going to sit it out and lodge my protest this way (see above.  They'll listen to you.  So will every Democrat or Republican within a 50 mile radius of your voting booth).

And so my words flow, the writer's lethargy--to not say block--lifts because of the urgency of presente.

The noun version of this word means the present--the here and now.

But the verb means, I'm here!

It says, I matter.

It insists, I count.

It's no coincidence that one group of young gun DREAM Act advocates is called  DREAMers can't vote (and we'll see if they are able to stay to finish their studies, serve in the military, and/or get work permits) because they are not U.S. citizens.

You can.

You can also magnify the voice of your abuelosabuelas, mamis and papis, your neighbors--some who can or can't vote.

It's your obligation to be presente.

It's your duty to become informed, register, and vote so you can shape our future.

Continue reading or click on the link below to my latest Latina Magazine politics column:

Election 2012: Do Young Latinos Hold the Key?

By: Viviana Hurtado

Are you surprised that the Hispanic population is growing?  I’m not.  What does take me aback is how late political parties, the media, and some corporations are to the fiesta. You don’t need to be Latino, a statistician, or a census worker to see the changes happening all around you: the Hispanic population is responsible for more than half of the nation’s growth, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.  If this boom continues, by 2050, one in four Americans will be of Hispanic descent, according to projections by the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center.

Who are we?  Super tech-savvy, U.S. born, English dominant, and young (I’m applying my Mary Kay Time Wise creams).  In fact, 50,000 Latinos turn the voting age of 18 each month. 

So here are some numbers that are a big political buzz kill.  Voter registration among Hispanics, especially young ones, is low, despite Herculean efforts by advocacy groups such as the National Council of La Raza, Voto Latino, and ¡Ya es hora: Ve y vota!, as I mentioned this week when I discussed the Latino vote on Sirius XM’s politics show

What are some of the reasons?  Latinos, especially the youth, are disillusioned with both parties: the Democrats and President Obama for promising immigration reform then increasing deportations, including that of DREAMers.  They are equally turned off by Mitt Romney and the Republican party for failing to reign in the anti-immigrant fringe, and during the debates, taking a hard-line approach to illegal immigration.

Although polls show Hispanics are more optimistic than their general population counterparts, like other “Millennials,” they are stressed about their future.  Is college within reach given the rising cost?  And if I do graduate, what will be my chances of climbing the social and economic ladder in the form of earning potential and ability to purchase a house while the recovery is slow?

These jóvenes don’t see themselves, their families, their communities reflected in both political parties or Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama.  This desencanto is creating apathy, with young conservative and progressive Latinos not motivated to register to vote as reported in ImpreMedia’s Election 2012 blog, Voto 2012.  If they do, they might not show up to the polls in November.

I “get it” – feeling invisible, excluded, like no one is listening to you or even cares what you think.  That’s even more of a reason to not sit out an election but get involved.  Numbers like these mean nothing if our community does not turn our demographic and economic heft into political and social power.  The only way to accomplish this is by being informed and involved in our communities.

People died for our right and privilege to vote.  Those that came before us like our papis and grandparents have struggled at great sacrifice to give us a better life.

Respect that by registering to vote.

Cherish that by educating yourself on the issues.

Honor it by showing up not just this November for the presidential election, but as crucially to your town hall meetings and parent-teacher conferences.

The past and present may have been set by others.  You have the power to determine and define our future.

To read more of Viviana’s politics columns in Latinaclick here.

The Latino community has great potential in the form of numbers.  How will we use it in November?