You could say that Hispanic Heritage Month (which is the only “celebration” that actually straddles two months--from mid-September to mid-October) started earlier with the Democratic and Republican National Conventions which I covered. Rolling out San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro as the DNC keynote address and Florida junior Senator Marco Rubio to introduce Mitt Romney was proof that Latinos are a hot ticket item before a tight election.
This political fight to peel away or hold votes is like any “brand” loyalty battle with both parties a sombrero-wearing Taco Bell chihuahua exclaiming:
¡Yo quiero el voto latino!
Expect more of this now during Hispanic Heritage Month. This is when the Latinos in an organization are showcased, as are diversity initiatives, community involvement, and stories of inspiration and success such as my own keynote address this week at George Washington University. Politicians, media companies, some corporations and institutions will be giving themselves a pat on the back with the events this “month” proof that “they are down with ‘La raza””.
And I mean it.
But, here’s the problem: our heritage should not only be celebrated during one month, but every single day.
I mean, you don’t only love your Mami on Mother’s Day?
The best way to honor our culture is not by waiting for someone else to hire a Latino speaker or sponsor a gala fundraiser. While a good first step, it only scratches the surface, a cultural moment reduced to one success story or that specific moment. It also glosses over the significant issues stunting our community’s potential: although more Latinos are enrolled in college, we have the highest high school drop out rate with an economic impact felt for generations in the form of a limited ability to make a good living, buy a home, and send our kids to college.
Time and time again at both conventions in Tampa then Charlotte, I heard think tank researchers, campaign operatives, and reporters say:
Latinos don’t vote.
And they’re right. In 2008, 50% of eligible Latino voters cast ballots, compared with 65% of eligible African-Americans and 66% of eligible whites, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
This kills me because combined with our “issues” already mentioned, not voting cancels out the power behind our demographic numbers and our $1 trillion dollar buying power. Political parties and the media don’t have an incentive to listen to our needs and partner with us to solve our problems.
Simply put, we are a toothless tiger--big in size but with little bite.
Our community is quick to be slighted, to feel disrespected. And often times we are. But rather than blame someone else, let’s respect ourselves by registering to vote--one of the long-term investments we can put in place this very minute to empower our families and our neighborhoods. Click here on this Project Vote/Rock the Vote link to see how easy it is and free.
No one is ever going to give you anything.
You also don’t deserve anything.
You have to work for it.
You have to earn it.
And yes, at times, you’ll have to fight for it, even battling our community’s mañana tendency.
This post was first published as Election 2012: President Obama Asks for Your Vote on September 13, 2012 in Latina Magazine where I am a weekly politics columnist.
To read more of Viviana’s Election 2012 columns in Latina, click here.