As the 2016 presidential campaign season ramps up, there’s a lot of talk about the “Latino vote” and the Latinas behind the 2016 presidential candidates. This relatively new focus on the Latino vote – together with the inclusion of Latinos in campaigns – is a promising sign that Latinos will be taken into account when public policy is shaped. However, Latinas are already making history as candidates in their own right. In fact, Latinas have won seats across the country, and many made history on Tuesday. Even more, many of these Latinas were advocates and champions for their communities even before they decided to run.
Take Judith García for example. At the age of 24, she serves as a bilingual counselor at Health Care for All, where she advocates for members of her community to gain access to health care services. She also volunteers in several capacities to improve housing and living conditions, sustainable waste disposal, and educational success in Chelsea, Massachusetts, where she was born and raised. García was elected to represent her community as a Chelsea City Councilor for District 5.
In Colorado, Jordan Sauers joined Judith in becoming an elected Latina Millennial. Jordan however, made history by becoming the first Latina to hold her seat. No stranger to forging a path where there isn’t yet one, she is a founding board member of Latino Young Philanthropists and ACCESSO. When interviewed by LatinasRepresent about why she chose to run, Sauers was quoted saying, “I understood if I wanted things to change, I had to do them myself.” Now that she has been elected to Northglenn’s City Council to represent Ward 1, she will be able to do just that.
Lorena González also made history when she was elected to Seattle’s City Council Position 9. As a candidate, she has built her platform around affordable housing and social inequality, grounded in her past experience with these issues – and there’s a lot of it. In fact, González has been recognized by several national organizations for her work with civil rights law. During her time as legal counsel for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, she has also helped draft legislation to overcome institutional inequality. This includes helping to introduce and pass a paid parental leave policy for city employees. There is no doubt that her commitment to upholding civil rights and fighting injustice will serve her well in her new role.
In Yakima, Washington, two Latinas have made history as well in a different way. Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union won a case against the City of Yakima because of the suppression of the Latino vote in City Council races. This case, involving the Voting Rights Act, changed the Yakima City Council districts. In the wake of this re-districting, Dulce Gutierrez and Avina Gutierrez ran and won seats on the Yakima City Council. They became the first Latinas elected to Yakima’s City Council – simultaneously. Dulce, only 26 years old, was elected to represent Yakima City Council, District 1. She was raised in Yakima and chose to return home after attending college at the University of Washington. She works at a local business, and has served as State Committeewoman for Yakima County. Avina will represent Yakima City Council, District 2. At the age of 35, Avina runs her own consulting firm, joining the growing ranks of Latina entrepreneurs. On the council, she hopes to improve Yakima’s infrastructure and strengthen neighborhood associations to improve overall public safety.
What do these women have in common? They are all a part of a movement of Latinas getting involved in politics. Moreover, most of these women are the first Latinas to serve in the positions to which they were elected. And consider this: Latinas currently hold a mere 1.7% of the total seats in state legislatures and 1.2% of the total seats in Congress – despite the fact that Latinos make up 17% of the total population. This means that there are 9 Latinas in the 114th Congress, all of which are in the House of Representatives, since the United States has yet to elect a Latina to the Senate. This is not surprising, considering the first Latina congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was first elected in 1989. But as Judith, Jordan, Lorena, Dulce, and Avina have proven, lack of precedent won’t stop Latinas from running for office.
My name is Regina and I am currently a student, living on American University’s main campus. This campus is in Ward 3 of the District of Columbia, and is represented by Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 3D. This past November, I ran and became the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 3D single-member district (SMD) 07. As Commissioner of ANC 3D 07 I represent constituents that live in Anderson, Centennial, Hughes, Cassell, Leonard, McDowell and (part of) Letts Halls on American University’s campus. In order to run, I had to file as a write-in candidate at the Board of Elections. Rory, who was the incumbent was graduating, and decided not to run. In fact, he invited any and all questions I had about being a commissioner, and what running entailed. My race was uncontested, I just had to have enough votes for the Board of Elections to consider my election legitimate. It was, and I was sworn-in to office in January, on the same day that the Mayor, Shadow Representatives and Council Members were sworn in. Standing on stage, being sworn in, and smiling at my mom who was taking pictures honor-roll style has been one of my proudest moments.
My campaign was unimpressive. I spent a grand total of $58 on campaign materials, which covered printing fliers at Staples. I spent about 30 hours handing out flyers, calling my friends which were registered to vote in DC, explaining that DC allows same-day voter’s registration to those interested, and standing at the voting sites explaining that I was running as a write-in candidate. A big part of campaigning, in my case, was explaining to students (who come from across the country), what an ANC was. As someone who has volunteered on several campaigns, I know how unremarkable my campaign sounds in the post Citizen’s United political climate. In my case, becoming a Commissioner was not difficult. Yet, it felt terrifying to decide to run, announce it, and call on my peers to vote for me. The fact that I had so many friends and mentors support me and campaign with me on election day made it easier. The truth is, it was a BIG DEAL.
The idea of announcing that I wanted to run for office, even one with a primarily advisory role, felt arrogant. It was uncomfortable for me to bring it up, or post it on social media without feeling like I had to prove that I was qualified, was running for the right reasons and knew exactly what holding the office would entail. The truth is, I met all the legal qualifications for running. I tried to learn as much as possible about the roles of ANCs and how they fit into the history of DC. I learned as much as possible about the office, the people serving on the commission and the commitments I would have to make if elected. The reasons why I wanted to run were a little harder for me to articulate. As someone who likes to study identity politics and the politics of representation, I wanted to run, because of who I am. I wanted to run because I am a young, Latina, student. People who share my identities are underrepresented in almost all forms of government across the United States. My ANC is part in the wealthiest ward, in one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. People of color, young people, and students are underrepresented at a local level, in MY neighborhood. I saw running as an opportunity to get involved in my community, to sit at the table with representatives from neighborhoods immediately adjacent to mine, and discuss issues that affect us all. I could never speak on behalf of everyone who lives in my SMD, but I believe that as a Commissioner, I am able to represent the student perspective which often gets ignored by DC local government. Students come and go, few register as voters in DC or make DC their place of permanent residence. However, there are over 16 colleges and universities in DC and many students reside in the district. Students often live, intern, work, spend money, babysit, park and pay taxes in the District just like non-student neighbors. The ANC seat I was running for was going to be left open, unless someone ran. After asking around to see if anyone had made arrangements to run, I realized no one had made concrete plans to. I decided to run, because I saw it as stepping up to the responsibility and privilege of representing the interests of students like me, who have made homes for themselves in DC.
On a more personal level, I ran because I kept catching myself trying to find others to run for the seat so I wouldn’t feel the need to. I ran because I have studied the effects of the gendered political ambition gap. I ran because as Girls Just Wanna Not Run points out, “young women are less likely than young men to think they will be qualified to run for office”. Asking people to vote for me was uncomfortable. I know that part of that was the fact that I did not have experience asking people to vote for me, but I couldn’t ignore the gendered nature of that discomfort. I felt arrogant asking for the support of people who knew me, didn’t question my intentions and were excited for me. I felt like I had to justify my desire to run even though I was not being challenged. On a cognitive level, it is easy to understand that the way women are socialized works against them being self-promoting (being confident asserting their expertise), getting involved in politics (which is male dominated) and demanding credit for serving others (which women are expected to do). It was harder for me to understand how these forces played out in my own life, despite the fact that I could understand them abstractly.
Repost from my article published in Feminspire:
As the rate at which Latinas enroll in college increases, it becomes increasingly important to address the barriers that exist for Latinas who are able to access college educations. As a Latina who has had the privilege of talking to other Latinas about their experiences at their respective colleges and universities, I acknowledge that our experiences are incredibly varied and that not all Latinas experience these barriers. But needless to say, many of my Latina hermanas have shared similar stories, making these barriers relevant and important to discuss.
According to an American Association of University Women report, Latinas do indeed aspire to graduate from high school and complete post-secondary educations, but various factors play in to their ability to do so. Factors that affect high school graduation, college choice, matriculation, retention and college graduation are primarily cultural. Due to the fact that the dominant culture in most degree granting, post-secondary institutions is White (approximately 60% of students, according to a report by the Institute of Education Sciences), deep cultural differences may pose added challenges for Latinas who are learning to navigate an academic environment that may be more natural to their Caucasian counterparts.
When Latinas attend college, they are usually thrown into a dominant culture which is unlike their own- often times, the majority of professors, faculty members and students will not be Latino/as. Latino families prioritize culture as a factor in the evaluation of self-identification and worth. When away at college, Latinas are often faced with the challenge of negotiating their cultural identity against a more dominant, White, American culture. These decisions can be as serious as deciding whether to change an area of study because no Latin America Regional Concentration classes are taught by Latinos, or deciding whether to join a Latina sorority to show solidarity with your Latina sister vs. a traditional one for a more “normal” Greek experience. This process of cultural renegotiation may pit a Latina’s connectedness to her family against her desire to be independent and pursue her personal educational and career goals.
The very Latino emphasis on familismo (familism), a concept that emphasizes the importance of family ties, loyalty and interconnectedness, is crucial when discussing Latina success and failure. Familial support, and the social capital that is derived from the larger social networks that familismo encourages, may help Latinas get in to college and navigate it successfully. On the other hand, culturally, Latino distrust of those outside of the family may lead to family members discouraging Latinas from leaving home for college, or if Latinas do leave, they may face feelings of guilt for having done so. Familismo may also pose challenges for Latinas during the college selection process, during which their selection of school and career interests may be subject to discussion and determination by family members, including extended family members.
Even Latinas with the most supportive families may face issues adjusting to campus cultures in which there is little Latino representation. The National Center for Education Statistics reported in 2011 that the ethnic and racial breakdowns of full-time college faculty are as follows: 79 percent White and 4 percent Hispanic. The numbers for full-time professors were 84 percent White and 3 percent Hispanic. The disparity between the ethnicities of faculty and professors may lead to a cultural disconnect between Latino students and professors that would prevent students and teachers from connecting or effectively communicating across their cultural paradigms.
In addition, lack of representation and immersion in a new culture pose additional challenges for some. In areas where Latino populations are minimal, Latinas might be faced with stereotyping and the contingencies that come with them. This includes dealing with slight microaggressions having to do with racial stereotypes that insinuate that all Latinas are feisty, sexy, like being called “mami”, speak like Sofia Vergara, and of course, are all “curvy latinas”. While some of these stereotypes may be true on an individual level, they can still be racial microaggressions that make Latinas hyperconscious of their status as women of color, and their ability to either play in to those stereotypes or prove them wrong.
Latinas face unique circumstances and issues when they decide to go to college, and especially when they move away from home. At a time when Latinas are enrolling more and more in colleges and universities, it is important to address the conflicts that they may encounter. At a time when blatant racism is outlawed (albeit still an issue), but cultural stereotypes, racial and sexist microaggressions ensue, it is important to start a conversation about the additional barriers Latinas are facing and overcoming every day in order to create a more inclusive educational environment.
A Little Contextualization:
I decided to write this post because relationships, at any stage in an individual’s life, are difficult to navigate. As a heterosexual, cis-gendered woman, I acknowledge that my sexuality and gender identification are more easily understood. However, I feel that my identification as a feminist throws up caution flags for possible suitors who may not fully understand feminism, or fear that because of it I will feel a compulsive need to emasculate them and dominate my relationships. The following is a brief explanation for why heterosexual men may benefit from including feminisms into their relationships.
Feminist Relationships Allow for:
1. Increased Communication
- As explained by Erin McKelle in her article “Relationship Social Norms Vs. Feminist Ideals” in Everyday Feminism, “Women and feminine-presenting people aren’t supposed to be active in relationships” When people aim at including feminisms into their relationships, women, and feminine-presenting individuals are encouraged to take increased ownership and initiative in their relationships.
- Implications: Feminine-presenting individuals will be empowered to ask for what they want, removing some of the guess-work their partners may do when trying to figure out how to pique the interest of their counterparts, plan dates, or even establish the boundaries and expectations those involved have of each other.
2. Renegotiation of Expectations
- At different points in an individuals life, and due to various factors- religious, cultural, gender expression, orientation etc. people seek out different kinds of relationships. Due to the fact that patriarchal societies have expectations that delineate that relationships SHOULD be exclusive, SHOULD be heterosexual, SHOULD end in marriage (and when marriages are ideal), that their aim SHOULD be to procreate and a whole host of others, it is even more difficult to navigate the relationship-scene. Certain lifestyles, and personalities prefer alternate types of relationships (WHICH IS TOTALLY NORMAL AND OKAY), and feminist relationships allow for both partners to explicitly explain what they expect to get out of their relationships.
- Implication: When expectations are clear, from the beginning, and are up for renegotiation between partners, the success of relationships are heightened, because expectations are clear.
3. Sexual Freedom
- Sure, people in college and their twenty-somethings have greater freedom to explore different kinds of relationships, but that ends, at least for most women, it ends in their early thirties. In feminist relationships, as Erin McKelle explains,“Feminism calls for all genders to be able to express their sexualities and have sex the way that they please, as long as consent is always present (and able to be given).”
- Implication: Men may benefit from denouncing the slut-virgin dichotomy by allowing their partners to feel more free in expressing their sexual desires, and more comfortable having them as sexual partners.
4. More Room for Individuality
- Feminists acknowledge how repressive the rigid, patriarchal, expectations of masculinity can be for the men, and male-presenting individuals in their lives. On her blog Presence of Mind, Shawn Meghan Burn published “Men Need Have No Fear That Feminists Are Near“. In this article, she wrote “Aspects of traditional masculinity are not a good fit for many men. Some aspects are unhealthy (like the emphasis on emotional control, aggression, and risk-taking), and some masculine ideals (like physical size and strength, high earnings, etc.) are out of reach for many men. This creates a great deal of distress”.
- Implications: By including feminisms into relationships, the pressure that many men have to out-earn their partners,infinitely assert their masculinity through sometimes-dangerous or impulsive actions is alleviated. In addition, men will be more free to express their emotions to their partners without fear of being seen as weak, or less-attractive. Feminist relationships will allow for men to have more room to express their humanity without the pressure of constantly reasserting their masculinity.
Feminists relationships benefit men. (Not that feminism must benefit men for them to value it, but it certainly is a plus!)
Check out this blog post I wrote for BeVisible.soy about Mobilizing the #LatinxVote!
This month, BeVisible Latina hosted a Twitter chat with Erika Andiola on Mobilizing the Millennial Vote. Using the #LatinxVote hashtag, we discussed everything from mobilizing the Latinx vote to the issues that matter most to us. The truth is, Latinx millennials will make up almost half of the Latino electorate and we want to make it count! Here are a few takeaways from our chat:
Latinxs are a force to be reckoned with.
Latinxs are running for president, high-up in campaigns and providing political commentary this campaign season. We’re mobilizing political movements, voters and fighting for change. To sum it all up, we are a powerful voting bloc, and we’re changing the face of politics. It’s time to embrace that power, and do everything we can to mobilize our communities!
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Last night, I had the honor of going to Running Start’s Young Women to Watch Awards. Running Start is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that trains young women to run for office. I first got involved with Running Start last fall, as an intern. In that role, I was not only able to learn the inside workings of a political non-profit in DC, but I was also exposed to a plethora of passionate, young, successful women in politics. This exposure, as well as the fact that I was working at an organization whose mission is dedicated to getting more women involved in politics heavily influenced my decision to run for office. I was invited to speak at the Young Women to Watch Awards, alongside Jessica Smith and Allyson Carpenter; both of which are Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners as well. Being able to share my story, and hearing how other women reflect on their own experience getting involved in politics was incredibly powerful.
On a more personal note, both of my parents flew in from Miami, Fl to be there for me at this event. This was my first time be acknowledged at an event for being a DC elected and I was so appreciative that they were able to share that with me. I have always had unconditional love and support from my family, and I truly believe that my drive to succeed stems from my desire to give back to them. This event was a fundraiser, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. DC politicos, elected officials, donors and young professionals alike were in attendance. My family is not politically active, and we have never gone to fundraising events unless they were PTA fundraisers at the school were my mom works. As a family, we were a little out of our element. However, I knew we belonged where we were- after all, I was being honored as a woman to watch! Being able to share experiences like these with my parents, who have always unconditionally supported and loved me was the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I’m so grateful both to Running Start for opening up the door to the world of politics for me and my family for making me confident enough to walk through it.
At Georgetown’s OWN IT Summit, I attended a panel on Women in Politics. It was at this panel, that I first heard Tara Dowdell speaking about her passion for leveraging politics to make the world a better place. Tara is the President and Founder of her own marketing and strategic consulting firm- the Tara Dowdell Group. Besides being a young entrepreneur, she has extensive experience in different political arenas. Tara was the first African American, and youngest person to serve as the Director of Appointments in the Office of the New Jersey Governor. She has held senior positions on campaigns at the federal, state and local levels as well as worked on issue-specific advocacy. When she was asked about her recipe for success at the panel, she emphasized work ethic, passion and the cultivating of genuine relationships. Her work ethic has allowed her to forge a path for herself, which she uses to help those who come behind her. After being incredibly inspired by Tara’s story, confidence and humility I asked her about her approach to politics, and her reasons for pursuing it. Here are some of her responses:
What got you interested in politics?
I was one of those who was interested in politics since I was a child. I was class representative in the 4th, 8th, 9th and 12th grades. It sounds like a bad cliché, but I was drawn to it, and drawn to leadership. At the same time as I was interested in school politics, I would even watch the president’s State of the Union Addresses. I think what prompted that interest was that I had this idea that I could use policy to influence the world and my community. When I was a kid, the people I saw in politics were definitely not diverse, I didn’t see people like me in office. Instead, I think I was drawn to the idea that through politics, I could make things better for people.
How does your story, and who you are, inform your involvement in politics?
Both of my parents were teachers in economically disadvantaged areas. My parents are very civic minded and committed to their students and communities they taught. I think I learned to want to give back from them. I also, recognize that I have been very blessed. My parents will give you the shirt off their back, they are incredibly supportive and have always given me the freedom to do what I wanted to do and take risks. My parents really let me chart my own course, some people aren’t given that freedom, and I understand it’s a luxury. My mother went to college, and she was constantly looking for more and more opportunities to provide me with. I’m also blessed to have an extended family that was there for me whenever I was in anything. It was like having my own little entourage there to support me. They were there to make sure I wouldn’t fail. Although I charted my own course, I knew I could fall back on them. A lot of people don’t have that. Because I am so blessed, I feel like it’s my responsibility to try and reach back and give to other people.
What issue(s) are you currently focusing on?
Lately, I have become really passionate about access to capital for women and minority women. When people look at the high unemployment rates in Latino and African American communities, they come up with a lot of possible reasons. I think that the truth is that people hire people who look like them most of the time. I think it’s important to increase access to jobs, and access to capital for those people and communities. Our networks are segregated. It’s one of those things people want to pretend doesn’t exist. There’s also something to be said about the fact that when women entrepreneurs are given capital, they do better than their male counterparts. It’s even harder for minority women to get capital and minority men have a hard time as well. Currently, there is a focus on employment disparity in tech but not about investors and the closeness of their networks. It might not be a conscious thing, but it’s so much harder for minority women to access capital because the ones with it don’t look like them. This keeps entrepreneurs from being able to grow their businesses and create jobs for people who look like them, for people who live in their own communities- people in their networks.
Lastly, have you considered running for office?
When I was a really really young staffer, I definitely wanted to run. That was a big part of my participation. As I got more involved however, I saw how cut-throat it can be. I wanna have more money and be in a better place in my life before I run for office. I think that’s something women do more than men, but I just want to have to ask less people for money. Most people want something if they give you money, it is a corrupting part of the system. Some people want something that dovetails with something that is right, and some people do not. I will wait until I’m older, have more money, and have developed more influence on my own. I’m a big democrat, but the way the party system works, the party picks people. If you have influence, you will get picked, or you can run without that anointment from the party. The truth is, my business is marketing. For me to run, my business would be hit because people would go after it. It’s funny that you added a question about running, though. I live in Jersey City, New Jersey and it has really been blossoming and flourishing. Recently, a paper asked a woman I know, who is also in marketing, who she thought could be the female Mayor of Jersey City if they ran in the next election. She said that she thought I could be Mayor. I will not be running in 2 years, but I am so flattered. It makes me feel good, and it’s good to know that people recognize that if I run, it would not be out of vanity. It would be because I would think I can really improve things for people.
Today, I’d like to highlight Arielle Goldberg, a hardworking collegiate politico who is already making strides on Capitol Hill! She is currently a student at American University, in DC, where she is majoring in International Studies, with a focus in National Security and Foreign Policy. Arielle has interned for Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) for almost two years, this exposure has not only opened her up to new opportunities, but it has also been a launching pad for what is sure to be a successful career in politics. Beyond interning at Senator Portman’s office, she has served as a research intern for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations which is a subset of the aforementioned committee. In such a little time, she has proved herself and has been given new roles and responsibilities. In a field that is still predominantly dominated by older men, she is an example of a young woman who has been able to break into the political scene and thrive in it. I have had the privilege of having Arielle agree to an interview about her involvement in politics, and reflections on women’s involvement in it! Check it out here:
How and when did you become involved in politics? Was there a particular event, issue etc. that got you hooked?
I didn’t truly become invested in politics until senior year of high school when I took International Relations. I wrote a thesis paper on the possibility of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians and in doing so, had the opportunity to interview prominent scholars first hand. I was intrigued with their knowledge and understanding of the political system and it motivated me to apply to American because I wanted to be in the forefront of political life. Freshman year, I applied to be an intern for Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and have had the opportunity to be a part of his team since. While I am just beginning my anticipated future in the political world, seeing the inner workings of the government has opened my eyes to a variety of career possibilities.
Does your family have a history of political involvement?
My family does not really have a history of political involvement, however they all keep very up to date on current events. Every night at dinner my parents would discuss what they had read in the news that day. I was always fascinated with these sorts of conversations and they inspired me to be as well versed in political issues as they are.
How do you bring your identities into your politics?
At this point in my life, I try to remain neutral and keep an open mind.
What aspects of politics are you most involved/concerned with (lobbying, running for office, issue areas)?
I am most interested in the behind the scenes of politics. Working for the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has shed light on many issues our nation faces. Prior to working on this subcommittee, I had no idea how much work goes on behind the scenes.
Have you ever considered running for office? Which office?
I have not considered running for office, but you never know. (;
What unique barriers/advantages do you think women have when running for office?
Prior to 1920, women did not even have the right to vote. We are making great strides, but it is a constant uphill battle. Fortunately, there are powerful and talented women in the field today who are trailblazers. I do not think women have unique advantages over men when running for office and in many ways, it is still a disadvantage being a woman because men do not think women are capable. Seeing as women do not receive equal pay for equal work, and have to fight harder for everything they do in a male dominated world, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Why do you think women of color are underrepresented in politics?
Politics is a field that has historically been dominated by white men. Things are changing but there are still numerous obstacles to overcome, not just for women of color but for women in general.