A Mother’s Sacrifice: Why this Latina is Mobilizing for a More Inclusive California

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My mom changed the trajectory of my life when she crossed the US-Mexico border with me in her womb. At four months pregnant and with my two kid brothers in tow, she traversed through the dusty hillsides of Tijuana, Baja California, in pursuit of opportunity. Mi mama worked tirelessly to raise me and my five siblings, and because she sacrificed her dreams, we continue to achieve ours.

I knew civic engagement was important when I realized that my story was not a singular experience. Stories of educational inequity, lack of access to health care, unemployment, and immigration are common weavings that make up the Latino experience here in Los Angeles.

But even louder than these experiences, is the ORGULLO and resilience reflected by mi gente in this city. I see it in the dance parties in Mariachi Plaza on Sunday nights, in the activism and marches through Downtown LA, and in the energy I feel every time I step foot through LA’s vibrant vecindades.

I am voting on November 8th because I want to choose leaders, propositions and policies that will foster sustainability and strengthen my community.

I am voting for my future, for opportunities, for innovative approaches to change and for a more inclusive California. I want to see action that reflects the kindness and tolerance that my Mom continues to instill in us.

Vamonos!

Let’s do this!

There is so much power in the Latino experience and voice. We are a bridge to solutions. Go out and vote on November 8th and show these candidates that we are a force to be reckoned with!

About Karla Torres: Karla Torres is a community leader and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Social Entrepreneurship at the USC Marshall School of Business. She is passionate about empowering women and disenfranchised communities, and has developed several programs to increase access to employment and college attainment for minority youth.

To join Karla in voting this election, register to vote online by going to www.latinos-vote.com or text LATINOS to 384-387 to register! It only takes a few minutes.

My Latina Giving Circle Is My Home Away from Home

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Cecilia’s citizenship celebration

By Isidra Mencos

In August 2016, seven years after she came to the U.S. to reunite with her American fiancé, Marc, and later marry him, Cecilia became an American citizen. “It was one of the best days of my life,” recalls Cecilia. “The ceremony was beautiful. The judge said that the U.S. has talent coming from all over the world and that immigrants bring the best to this country. I felt so welcomed!”

Cecilia, previously a green-card holder, had been reluctant to consider U.S. citizenship. After she had her son Bruno, who is now 1 year old, it became a family priority, so they would never be apart in case of an emergency. Another factor that encouraged her to take this big step was the upcoming election. “It’s very scary to see the current politics of hate,” she says. “Before, I felt that if I became a US citizen it would be a treason to Mexico, but now I think that not voting in the U.S. election, if I have the opportunity to do so, is a treason to Mexico and the U.S.”

According to the American Immigration Council, there are over 8 million legal immigrants eligible for naturalization, but only around 800,000 complete the process every year. At $680 dollars for each adult, its cost is a significant hurdle. The fee, however, will only go up every year, and there are significant advantages to becoming a US citizen. Research has shown that being a U.S. citizen can improve your income, workforce productivity and social integration. For Cecilia, having a voice in the political process is also a huge incentive. “Latinos are a significant part of the population and we can make a difference in each election,” she asserts emphatically. “Becoming a citizen is the best way to have a say and to make a change. If you didn’t make it for this election, it doesn’t matter. There are a lot of elections coming up. Better start now the naturalization process, than never!”

Cecilia is very proud of her roots and plans to keep her Mexican citizenship and raise her son bicultural and bilingual. But her job as an online inventory planner for an American corporation and her marriage to a non-Spanish speaker, left her feeling a bit disconnected from her heritage. She was able to fill the gap when she joined the Latino Community Foundation’s Latinas Giving Circle of San Francisco, a philanthropic organization that invests in Latino-based grassroots non-profits. “Being part of this group of inspiring Latinas is like having my little bit of home in the U.S.,” explains Cecilia, “and it also connects me to my culture’s values. In Mexico there is such a big gap between poor and rich, that from a young age you’re taught to give back. The Giving Circle is the perfect way to do it, because my donations have more impact than if I grant them individually.” From her participation in the election, thanks to her brand new citizenship, to her philanthropic efforts, the Latino values of giving back and engaging with social change are shaping Cecilia’s public path.

Please register to vote and encourage others to do the same. We have 2 simple ways to register: register online by going to www.latinos-vote.com or text LATINOS to 384-387 to register! It only takes a few minutes.

The Latino Dinner Table: Why aren’t we talking politics?

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By: Lacy Maria Serros

Imagine eating dinner with new friends, drinking a glass of red wine and being asked, “so, what’s going on with your people in America?” I was living abroad in Europe and was the only American, and the only one with Latino heritage. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into being the spokesperson for all things American or Latino.

Politics, however, kept surfacing in one way or another – what is it about the dinner table and politics?

Whenever the comparisons of European countries to the U.S. would start, I couldn’t help but feel a little ashamed. The criticism would typically start in generalizations, but ultimately, it was about the most pressing and highly publicized issues facing the U.S. – racism, gun violence, police brutality, to name a few.

However, the conversation was always rooted in a question about how the U.S. is going to elect its next president and continue to be an economic leader globally. The underpinning of this elicit question was if the American people would actually vote.

Anytime that I was challenged with this, I shared personal experiences about how I started organizing by walking door-to-door registering Latinos to vote or how in one of my previous roles as a funder I collaboratively provided resources to large national groups that conduct voter protection activities (i.e. bilingual poll monitors).

But, the theme of these conversations is that America has a problem with race, and that we as a people do not know or care to know anything about world affairs, let alone about our own country. To be honest, there were days when I didn’t want to return to the U.S. because of the growing racial tensions, the threat of and actual deaths in Black and Latino communities, and the ensuing apathy of people saying that they weren’t going to vote.

However, as I lamented over how the U.S. was being portrayed at European dinner tables and through the media, community organizations, outspoken celebrities, and other justice leaders across this country were mobilizing people to get and remain active in our democracy. The most prominent example is that of the Black Lives Matter movement, its growing base of supporters and its influence on America’s conversation about race.

Whether we want to admit it, the Latino discourse is not nearly as organized. That is not to say that our community isn’t having difficult conversations about race, or that there aren’t some serious efforts and successes to organize, empower and activate social change within the diverse Latino communities across the country. But, we need to do more.

Maybe we need to bring politics to the Latino dinner table. Maybe we aren’t talking enough about the issues, solutions and the power of our democracy.

We’re still referred to as the “Sleeping Giant,” yet there are people who say we might be finally “awakened” if we as a voting bloc do our job. In fact, Latinos are the largest ethnic or racial demographic in the U.S. and by default we have the capacity to choose the next president through our vote and our ability to mobilize the vote of our family, friends and community members in California and other states.

The urgency to build our political power, ensure our unique needs are heard, and activate the nation’s Latino electorate is ever pressing. It’s important to vote because the fact remains that those in power in this country have influence over all of our livelihoods. Regardless of your position, apathy does not negate the fact that the next U.S. President will have deciding power and great social and cultural influence of our country…and its relation to others.

As we get closer to November 8, groups like the Latino Community Foundation, Voto Latino, The Dolores Huerta Foundation, and others will work to register and get Latinos to participate civically in local politics and the presidential election. People will always want to know where you come from – show them by voting! 

To join Lacy in voting this election, register to vote online by going to www.latinos-vote.com or text LATINOS to 384-387 to register! It only takes a few minutes.


About Lacy Maria Serros

Lacy is a senior advisor and strategist with 15 years of experience in social justice movement building nationally. Originally from the Central Valley, California,  Lacy began her career organizing with the United Farm Workers of California. She currently lives in New York, where she received her Masters in Public Administration, and is working on racial justice and human rights efforts.
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We have to engage — we have to fight — we have to vote!

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By: Carmela Castellano, President and CEO of the California Primary Care Association

I grew up with a strong sense of social justice and civic duty. As a young Latina, I knew that I would stand up for my rights my entire life. I wasn’t going to sit around and wait for someone else to fight for me.

My mom set a great example. As Executive Secretary at San Jose City College, she knew the decisions of the board of trustees had a great impact on the college’s employees, its students, and the community. She couldn’t afford to make big campaign contributions like some, but she walked precincts, made phone calls and put her energy behind the candidates she supported. Seeing my mom involved in the political process from an early age is one of the reasons I am such a passionate advocate today. Like my mom, I fight for the causes I support.

One of them is my concern for the people who want to vote but can’t. All across the country there are processes that are causing the exclusion of voters —particularly Black and Latino voters—, such as the absurdly strict voter identification laws adopted in some states. These laws are a stain on our democratic process and an unfortunate violation of people’s civil rights.

Thankfully, California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla has taken significant steps to make the voting process easier and more welcoming to all Californians:

  • He has championed a new online voter registration process. You can visit registertovote.ca.gov to register, and complete the process in a couple of minutes. All you need are the last four digits of your social security number and your driver’s license number. You can also go to LCF’s site: www.latinos-vote.com
  • He has supported a new vote-by-mail law. Your mail-in-vote will now be counted if it’s post-marked on or before Election Day. In past elections mail-in ballots had a different deadline, resulting in tens of thousands of ballots being thrown out. Now, everyone has the same deadline to vote — Election Day.
  • He has sponsored the new Motor Voter law. This progressive law —only the second of its kind in the country— will register to vote every eligible California citizen who goes to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to get a driver’s license or renew one. In its first year of operation, experts’ forecast that the new Motor Voter law will add two million new voters to the election rolls. Many will come from low-income families who are young and Latino.

Secretary Padilla has shown tremendous leadership by advancing the voting rights of millions of Californians, especially those who are most likely to be marginalized by the process.

Another cause I’m passionate about is the effort that my own constituency —community health centers — is making in getting their communities registered to vote. Health centers already follow federal requirements to offer voter registration when enrolling patients into the Medi-Cal and Covered California Programs. Additionally — in partnership with Community Health Vote and NonProfit Vote—, CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates launched a campaign on September 27, National Voter Registration Day, which runs through the last day to register before the general election, October 24. Through this campaign we hope to register thousands of voters who will advance the issues important to our communities.

Health centers are uniquely positioned to support efforts to increase voter registration and voter turnout, because they are familiar and trusted sources of care in their communities, which also provide additional supportive services, education, and outreach to their patients —often in a language other than English.

These are all exciting innovations that empower disenfranchised communities like those I have dedicated my life to serving. Unlike other states, California is breaking down barriers to voting so that everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard. Like my mom, we have to stand up and do our part to advance the causes of justice that are so important to our community.

We have to engage — we have to fight — we have to vote!

It is our civic duty.

To follow Carmela Castellano’s work – Carmelacastellano.com 


If you aren’t registered, please do it before the October 24th deadline. It takes 2 minutes and you can do it here: www.latinos-vote.com

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Latino Canvassers Unite to Register Voters at Marc Anthony Concert

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By: Jessica Salinas, LCF Communications Fellow, Los Angeles

When Clara came to Pomona, California with her family from Michoacan, Mexico as a child, she experienced injustice first hand. Throughout her school years, she dealt with racism from classmates, and although she learned everything she knew in the United States and had every intention of going to college, her senior year of high school reality set as she found out that it would be virtually impossible as she was undocumented. The door was shut in her face.

That’s why last night Clara volunteered her Friday night with the Latino Community Foundation and Mi Familia Vota to register Latino voters. “I want people to take advantage of the opportunity I didn’t have. A lot of people are scared, and they don’t believe they can make a difference,” she said.

Clara is dedicated to changing that mindset by coming out and helping inform the Latino community on the power of voting – locally and nationally.

She’s not alone.

Stephanie, an aspiring lawyer and political science major at Santa Monica College, also dedicated her Friday evening to register Latino voters outside of the Microsoft Theater during the Marc Anthony Concert in Los Angeles.

“I’m out here because I really care about the Latino vote. There are so many Latinos in our country, but not enough go out to vote,” she said. In California only 17% of all eligible Latinos are expended to vote. “There are also many undocumented Latinos that we should be supporting by going out to vote.”

Stephanie has a special connection to this cause. She has lived with a constant fear of her parents being deported. She remembers being cautious of speaking Spanish in certain areas of LA for fear of people questioning that they belonged. As she grew up, she began to attend rallies pushing for immigrants rights. She became empowered to make a difference for her family and others. That’s why this year, volunteering for civic engagement campaigns was a no-brainer.

“Registering voters is very important in our community. You never know how many registrations you’re going to get. But I feel like I have a bigger reason to be here. Even helping to spread the message of why voting matters is very important,” Stephanie exclaimed.

To join Stephanie and Clara in registering to vote, go to www.latinos-vote.com or text LATINOS to 384-387 to register! It only takes a few minutes.

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Mi Voto es Mi Voz

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Latina Social Entrepreneur Aurora Anaya-Cerda

My grandmother had a dicho for every situation, and if she were alive today, she would say, ‘Tenemos que votar — mas vale prevenir, que lamentar’.

This November 8th, I’m voting because I recognize the power that comes with having a say in the issues that affect my community. My voto es mi voz, and I refuse to stay silent against any candidate that is unfit to lead, instills fear, and plans to implement policies that will cause severe damage to our economy and society.

Since I became involved in campus organizations as an undergraduate student and to this day, my main focus has been to inform first generation high school students that college is an attainable goal. When you are the first in your family to attend college, you bring your family with you—there is so much beauty in that.

When we vote, we bring our community with us. Those of us that have the opportunity to vote must do so for the people in our lives who cannot yet cast a ballot for or against propositions and candidates at the city, state, and national level that can benefit or negatively influence their communities.  

It’s bigger than me. When I think about LA, I think about the people who live here, the people who make this city run. The cooks, the housekeepers, the teachers and students, the abuelitas, the undocumented laborers, the engineers, the entrepreneurs, and the artists. This is my LA.

With so many important issues on the line—education, the environment, small business development, immigration reform, health, gun control, housing, foreign policy—tenemos que votar.

About Aurora Anaya-Cerda

A native Angeleno, Aurora Anaya-Cerda is an entrepreneur, cultural worker, and educator. She founded La Casa Azul Bookstore and is currently an M.S. in Social Entrepreneurship Candidate at the USC Marshall School of Business.

To join Aurora in voting this election, register to vote online by going to www.latinos-vote.com or text LATINOS to 384-387 to register! It only takes a few minutes.

Moving America Forward: Why this Latina Engineer will be Voting Nov. 8th

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Blog writer, Diana Marquez-De La Torre

From a young age I was aware, from personal experience, of issues of inequality within communities. My first civic engagement action happened in middle school. At church, our priest spoke about a group of families that had recently arrived from Oaxaca without knowing anyone. They were living in tents by the river with their children. The next day at school, I organized a food and clothing drive for these families. I had my parents driving me around from business to business to ask for donations. I had my classmates join me in asking their parents and neighbors as well.

However, it wasn’t until I was older that I began to understand how essential it was to be involved in more formal civic engagement to have a greater impact. I helped start a program in our district to help bridge the gap between first-generation, Spanish-speaking middle school students and high schools, so the transition to a new environment would be easier, and would, hopefully, have a positive effect on academics.

I joined the School Board as a student trustee so there would be a student voice at the board level. I staged a student walk-out and protest against H.R. 4437, which tried to classify undocumented immigrants, and anyone who helped them, as felons.

It was thanks to these experiences, and the involvement of some fantastic educators and my supportive parents, that I started seeing how much you leave at the table if you don’t get involved. If you care about your community, getting involved in nonprofits, volunteering, or local politics is one of the most effective ways to bring about change.

This election is particularly important because I can’t think of another in my lifetime where more was at stake for Latino communities and many other communities.

That’s why this Election Day, I am voting.

I am voting because if I don’t, someone else will be voting against my interest.

I am voting because the presidential candidates won’t be the only thing on the ballot this November—there will also be education, tax, health care, and campaign reform measures that affect the community.

I am voting in this election because unless our communities get out to vote on November 8th we are giving up and letting others dictate what kind of policy and culture we have in the U.S. for the next 4 years.

I am voting because the next president will get the choose the next Supreme Court Justice. We risk losing the progress we’ve made as a country in Women’s Rights, Immigration Rights, Voting Rights, and many, many more issues.

California will always be my home. California is much more than LA and San Francisco. California is dozens of small hard-working communities that feed half the nation. California is beaches, redwood forests, deserts, snow-covered mountains, vineyards, all within driving distance. California is progressive and innovative, it evolves quickly, and isn’t afraid of change. It is a driving force of this nation, and I will make sure I am part of moving it forward this November 8.

To join Diana in voting this election, register to vote online by going to www.latinos-vote.com or text LATINOS to 384-387 to register! It only takes a few minutes.

Diana Marquez-De La Torre was born and raised in Watsonville, CA. She is a first-generation American and the first in her family to graduate from college, receiving her BA in Communication from Stanford University. After graduating, she worked as an organizer and eventually as a Senior Field Director for a political consulting firm.  However, her passion remained in education and technology, so she changed careers and is currently a software engineer for an EdTech company, Kickboard, that focuses on creating safe and happy schools through positive school cultures.  

Politics is Now Local for International Latina

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By Isidra Mencos

If Elizabeth Parrott had a magic wand, she would send all Latino youth to live abroad for a little while, because this experience changed the way she saw herself and what she thought she could achieve. Born and raised in California, the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents from humble beginnings—her dad was a gardener and her mom cleaned houses—she grew up understanding how access to great jobs and educational opportunity can impact your future.

With her oldest sister and parents’ support, the income from two jobs, and a few grants along the way, she was able to enroll in undergraduate studies at UCLA, majoring in International Relations and Economics. She decided to make a bold move and packed her bags for London to attend the London School of Economics and Political Science. It was in London that for first time in her life, when she mentioned her Mexican background, people were genuinely interested. “They were very interested in our food, our culture, and were wowed that I spoke another language and excited to learn more,” explains Elizabeth. “I realized that perhaps I had set limits on myself, based on the way society saw me in California. Now I knew that it was my right to be treated like all other young people with big ambitions.”

Elizabeth went on to have a successful career in London, where she also got married and had two kids. After 16 years living in England, she returned home to California as Director of Evalueserve, a global firm specialized in research and data analytics for financial services clients that has offices in London and San Francisco. “Going to the UK allowed me to leave some negative experiences behind, but I also left my community behind,” says Elizabeth. “I had a big hole that I needed to fill. I wanted to speak Spanish, eat our food, talk with other people who shared my experience of having immigrant parents. I wanted to raise my children in this society.”

Back in the US, Elizabeth felt a need to give back to the Latino community immediately. That’s why she joined the Latino Community Foundation’s (LCF) Latina Giving Circle of San Francisco, a philanthropic community that inspires Latino donors to get involved and then connects them to Latino non-profits and to the broader political arena. This year, Elizabeth was part of LCF’s Latino Equity Summit in the state’s capitol, where she participated in meetings with Latino legislative leaders and their staff. These experiences helped to open Elizabeth’s eyes to how important local issues and local leadership really are. “When I was much younger I was a political news junkie, but I tended to think at a high level: foreign policy, the direction of the Supreme Court, the national elections,” explains Elizabeth. “Today it’s more about the local issues that affect our schools, parks and the economic progress of our communities. It’s also about leadership, how can we get more Latinos at the decision-making table?”

The Latino Community Foundation campaign Yo Voy a Votar ¿Y Tú?, which aims to register 10,000 new Latino voters, resonates very deeply with Elizabeth. “Regardless of who wins or loses, what I hope comes out from the voter registration drives is that the Latino vote will be measured and will be recognized so that politicians will walk away with the sense that this is a community that needs to be consulted and supported, and that they need to work for us,” she states. “There’s going to be a lot of value coming out of registering Latino voters.”

Please register to vote and encourage others to do the same by sharing this link: www.latinos-vote.com

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Why Civic Engagement Matters

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Writer, Christian Arana

By Christian Arana

As a public policy graduate student at UC Berkeley, I spend a great deal of time combing through statistics on subjects ranging from crime and education to health care and housing. But during last month’s Mobilize the Latino Vote event hosted by the Latino Community Foundation, I learned of a surprising and troubling statistic: Only 17% of California’s 7 million eligible Latino voters are likely to vote in this election.

As a state with a long history of social movements – from immigrant rights to farmworkers – this is not acceptable.

At an early age, I acquired real-world lessons on the importance of civic engagement. In high school, my best friend’s mother invited me to Sacramento to advocate on behalf of AB 405, a bill banning the use of experimental pesticides in California’s public schools. A fight that began when one of her sons experienced an asthma attack from pesticide use at his school, I joined this cause by speaking with legislators about why I believed the use of these toxins would negatively impact my education and the education of millions of students.

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Warning of toxins sprayed at a school

As a result of our efforts, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 405 into law and later proved as one of the most consequential bills in protecting children’s health in the state of California.

What I gained from that experience has stuck with me to this day. Realizing change in your community can only happen by getting involved. If Latinos aspire to representation in the democratic process and seek improvement in our communities, then we will have to do better than 17% of us voting. This means not only voting in elections at all levels of government, but also encouraging our friends and family to register to vote too. It is only here where we can achieve a democracy that is representative of our needs.

That process begins tonight when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald J. Trump take the stage at Hofstra University in the first of three presidential debates. What they will say or not say will matter immensely for Latinos. As a community, we should attentively watch and listen yet we should never forget that civic engagement necessitates action as well. This is why I am voting and encouraging others to join me in this cause.

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Democracy Cannot Be Taken for Granted

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Un Centro por la Memoria. Contra la represión de ayer y de hoy, Adolfo Luján

by Isidra Mencos

I narrowly escaped a police beating once. Franco, the right-wing dictator that had muzzled Spain for the last 36 years, had just died. His successor, King Juan Carlos de Borbón, promised a transition to a pluralistic society, but it was slow. Demonstrations demanding amnesty for political prisoners and a faster pace towards democracy were frequent.

I had the “brilliant” idea to attend a protest with clogs, which were fashionable at the time. I was in the middle of the Ramblas, in the heart of Barcelona, with a crowd of several hundred. We started marching towards Plaza Cataluña, arms linked, and bellowing slogans: ¡Amnistía, Libertad!

All of a sudden we saw police jeeps rushing to a stop on both sides of the Ramblas. Dozens of policemen in their grey uniforms stormed the street, batons in hand, a plexiglas mask attached to their helmets covering their features. “¡Los grises! ¡Los grises!”.  We sprinted in all directions, amidst terrified yelps and the thump of batons methodically crashing into backs and heads.

My feet kept slipping out of the clogs and I couldn’t run fast. I foolishly stopped for a second to put a clog back on, when I felt somebody grab my arm and propel me forward like a rocket. It was Joan, a friend from college. I looked back for a second and saw a policeman running towards us, baton raised over his head, a mere five feet from my back. It was only then that it dawned on me that this was real, not just an exciting exercise of youthful rebellion. With Joan anchoring me, I ran the fastest I have ever run. We turned a corner and barged through an open door and up the stairs of an apartment building until we reached the terrace. From there we could smell gas and see the police charging and beating as students scattered like flies when you try to swat them.

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Monumento a la huelga de la construcción de 1970 (Granada), Landahlauts

I continued attending demonstrations. They became huge, with over a hundred thousand people marching down the streets.

In June 1977, almost two years after Franco’s death, Spain held its first election in four decades. I was proud to vote in that election, to support the democracy so hardly won, not just by us, but by the previous generations who had suffered and plotted a comeback from exile, from prison, from clandestine political meetings, who had dedicated their lives to giving a voice to every citizen.

That’s why I consider voting not only a right and a privilege, but also a duty. It’s the reason I became a US citizen, after several years living here. I wanted to vote. I wanted to join the growing force of the Latino community and help build their political power.

The statistics are sad. Millennials make up the largest portion of eligible Latino voters. Yet, only half are registered to vote. Out of those registered, only 40% cast their ballots. How can that be?

Democracy can’t be taken for granted. We forge our democracy in every single election, when we go to the polls and express our opinion, when we choose the candidate that best reflects our vision for our future and our children’s future.

Latinos have a lot riding on this election. From immigration reform to subsidized college education, there are issues at stake that can open or block a pathway for our youth to have a better future.

Even if you don’t have a candidate you love, you can support the one whose positions align the most with your personal values. Your voice and your vote are part of keeping our democracy alive.

Please register to vote and encourage others to do the same by sharing this link: www.latinos-vote.com.  Your opinion matters. YOU matter.