Race-work, Race-love

Open Letter to Latina Magazine -The Fascinating Stories Missed in 2012: Rosie Perez, the Castro Brothers, and the DREAMers

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Fascinating story number one:  El Voto Latin@

There It Is

by Jayne Cortez

And if we don’t fight

if we don’t resist

if we don’t organize and unify and

get the power to control our own lives

then we will wear

the exaggerated look of captivity

the stylized look of submission

the bizarre look of suicide

the dehumanized look of fear

and the decomposed look of repression

forever and ever and ever

And there it


Latinos now comprise of over 16% of the US population and there is nothing to suggest that this will decline anytime soon. While this growth in population of a minoritized group captured the attention of media, another story that emerged concurrently was the political power of the Latin@ population. Not coincidentally, this took more steam during election time. Everyone, from media pundits, to consulting groups in advertising and media tried to “figure us out” – our most “pressing” issues and what mattered to our people. But, this was not the only reason why this was a missed opportunity for Latina magazine to highlight. Three reasons: Rosie Perez, the Castro Brothers, and DREAM’ers.

Rosie Perez – The Latin@ Vote took an interesting turn when Mitt Romney showed his true colors regarding his thoughts on Latin@s. After Mitt Romney campaigned with his own “fascinating Latin@ story” – that of having a pseudo Mexican heritage and using his children, who speak Spanish, to campaign for him – Romney was caught saying that winning the election would probably be easier for him if he was Latin@ (contradicting his own claims of a Latino heritage). While this created an uproar among many, the most memorable person to emerge from that mess was Rosie Perez. Using a sarcastic tone, she highlighted the differences between the “privileges” of being Latin@ versus being a white man. Her response was short and sweet and to the point and can be heard here.

The Castro Brothers – During the Democratic National Convention (DNC), we saw President Obama’s camp try to play defense with the Latin@ community. The Obama presidency has seen the most deportations in our nation’s history which has caused many Latin@ voters to wonder if any of the candidates would work for the advancement of the Latin@ community. The Obama campaign pulled many defensive moves, two of them being the Castro Twins, Mayor Julian Castro and his twin brother, now Representative Joaquin Castro. A political powerhouse, these two Latino politicians were given a national platform when they both were given the spotlight during the Democratic National Convention. Julian Castro, in particular, gave the keynote speech as did President Obama in 2004. Some saw this as a political maneuver to keep Latin@s happy while many others were enthralled with hearing familiar phrases like “Que Dios te bendiga”  and were provided with a some laughs when cameras shined on Castro’s daughter, Carina Victoria. While some were, and continue to be, skeptical about the positioning of the twin Latin@ politicians, their history, one that includes a mother who fought for Mexican American civil rights is an interesting one because it also highlights the complexities of Latin@ lives, one that provides just one story from the Latin@ experience, and in danger of setting a narrative for Latino exceptionalism – that of the Super Latino who can make it despite all the odds. This story has yet to unfold – but will be an interesting one to watch in the coming years.

DREAMers – El Voto Latin@ also increased national discussions on the impact of Arizona’s racist laws (SB1070, banning of Mexican American Studies in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) and detainment and deportation of undocumented immigrants through programs like Secure Communities.  But nothing marked el Voto Latin@ the way the DREAM’ers and their allies did. Remember the DREAMersThe DREAMers are young undocumented immigrants who marched, (reminiscent of the Freedom Rides), across the country to protest the deportation of young undocumented immigrants who have lived here most of their lives in the US and seek to pursue higher education. They, along with Latin@ advocacy groups such as Presente.org and the NYSLC (to name just two) contributed to the movement of not only trying to bring an end to mass deportations of undocumented immigrants but also by inspiring underground educational activity such as Freedom University, a higher education institution dedicated to providing undocumented immigrants with a college education.

The DREAMers and allies have achieved a monumental breakthrough when President Obama announced the halting of deportations of DREAM Act eligible students on Friday, June 15, 2012. DREAMers made such an impact on our national imagination of the immigrant experience that many called for their nomination for TIME magazine’s Person Of the Year.  Despite all these milestones in the movement, there are still many things to keep working toward as we think about undocumented immigrants in the US. The DREAMers and their allies, provide us with the opportunity to disrupt the narrative of exceptionalism in the Latin@ community. In other words, the movement reminds us that no one Latin@ Super S/Hero is Enough – it takes all of us, collectively, to make changes in our society. Thus, making clear that  El Voto Latin@ is nothing to be messed with, reminding us that we are strong as a whole community. This fascinating story will only continue to unfold — perhaps even by sending a Latin@ candidate to the Presidency one day. Or changing the way we think about the voting process altogether.


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