The 2008 election was an exciting time in my life. I hit the polls only days after turning 18, and I was so determined to have my voice heard I stood in a line that curled around the courthouse for over an hour and a half. It was an unforgettable event in my life.
This year’s presidential election has proven just as exciting to me; however, there are points of focus in this campaign that have hit home in the worst of ways.
Media coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign has highlighted the fact that both the Democrat and Republican parties are seeking to win the Latino vote, so much so that a new phrase, “hispandering,” has been coined.
Hispandering refers to political parties’ penchant for pandering to Hispanics. How does one pander to Hispanics? There were a number of examples shown in both conventions this year. As I sat in front of my television screen watching, I thought the show was more ridiculous than offensive — but offensive, nonetheless.
At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval took center stage in singing the Grand Old Party’s praises. Soon after, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez followed up, spreading the red word. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was the lucky duck that introduced Mitt Romney, only minutes after Romney’s own son, Craig Romney, delivered half of a speech in Spanish.
“It is my privilege to say a few words in Spanish … so please bear with me,” Craig said.
In the following weeks, Democrats hit the nail on the head in Charlotte, choosing San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to be the keynote speaker at their convention. Illegal immigrant Benita Veliz also shared her personal story on stage. Even Cuban-American talk show host — yes, talk show host — Cristina Saralegui made an appearance to wail out a few words in Spanish as she pleaded to her people across the country to vote Democrat.
Even more blatant than these dark-tanned individuals consecutively taking the stage were the video segments produced and presented at the conventions.
“So-and-so cares about the Latino people,” I heard, as images shot in hot climates flashed before my eyes.
Are not these people supposed to care about everyone?
Votes win elections — I get that — but I feel the way in which you try to win the vote is what truly matters. When someone is set in front of a podium that has the same eye shape, hair texture or accent as I do — is that supposed to automatically make me want to vote for the party with which they are affiliated? When did color become more important than policy?
More over, who decides who is “Hispanic”?
What qualifications must one meet?
Being a Mexican- American, I have pondered this question for years. I could not tell you how many surveys and tests I have taken requiring me to check one of the three: White, Black, Hispanic (or other). What always bothered me were the words, “or other,” placed within parenthesis beside the word Hispanic. Is Hispanic, then, any and everything beside Black and White? Or is the definition of Hispanic altered to the benefit of the given situation?
In today’s society, the words “Hispanic” and “Latino” are believed to be interchangeable; in actuality, they are anything but synonymous.
While the distinction is wrought with other details, “Hispanic” largely refers to people of countries that were once under Spain’s rule, and “Latino” refers to people of Rome-ruled countries.
I realize that I am 22-years-old and only beginning to dive into the world of politics, but I am astounded. I’ve heard from a few close friends, “It is politics. They are aiming toward the swing voters.”
They are aiming toward swing voters by repeatedly underlining an issue — immigration — that polls have shown is not the top priority of these Hispanic and Latino citizens.
They are aiming toward swing voters by granting speaking privileges to whoever is willing to put on a suit and blurt out a few words “en Español.”
They are aiming toward swing voters by transparently aiding stereotypes.
They are aiming toward swing voters by laughing behind closed doors at the thought of Hispanics and Latinos being too foolish to actually educate themselves on policy instead of hopping on the first political bandwagon carrying their home country’s flag.
Maybe the process has always been this way, but precedence certainly does not make practice right.
The political campaigns of this country should center around one, united people as far as I am concerned — a beautiful people of all creeds and colors — the American people.