Latina/o Studies professor emphasizes importance of Latinos in upcoming election

Sunny Kim

Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a Mexican-American and Latina/o studies professor, emphasized the importance of Latinos in the upcoming presidential election in a speech held Monday at Sid Richardson Hall. 

Soto began with the historical context of Latino demographics in U.S. politics. She explained how former President John F. Kennedy brought Latinos in national electoral polls and how he connected with Latinos through their shared religion of Catholicism.

Continuing Kennedy’s embrace of Latinos, President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 opened up opportunities for Latino populations to vote, Soto said. Most importantly, during former President George W. Bush’s administration, Latino numbers spiked as a result of his micro-targeted campaigns aimed at Mexican-Americans.

“You cannot understand American politics … if you don’t understand what’s going on with Latinos,” Soto said. 

In past elections, Latino populations have been considered swing voters as they could either vote Republican or Democrat, Soto said. However, in this particular election, Soto said Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policies and damaging rhetoric has discouraged a lot of Latinos from voting. 

“[Trump’s rhetoric has] not been inviting, it’s not been something that they’ve explicitly tried to connect with Latinos on,” Soto said. “And the polls don’t lie, the numbers don’t lie. You won’t see a poll where more than 22 percent of Latinos agree.”

Soto said some activists are worried that the Clinton campaign is assuming voter turnout will be higher because Latino voters feel alienated by Trump.

“It’s a dangerous assumption to make because Latinos are infamous for their low voting turnout,” Soto said. “If you don’t actively mobilize, that’s not going to do the trick.”

Government senior Paola Pina said it’s difficult to convince Latinos to vote because of their distrust in government. 

“Latin Americans don’t even trust their own democracies back home,” Pina said. “So they are hesitant to trust democracies here.”

Eric Nava-Perez, a Latin American studies graduate student, said Latinos won’t make a big impact on this year’s elections because he believes both candidates, Clinton and Trump, are distasteful to Latinos.

“We’re notorious to be cast absent from voting, and I actually agree with that and relate with that,” Nava-Perez said. “I think that disappointment will go into this year’s elections, and so even if they do vote, I don’t think it’ll be as much of an impact as we would’ve expected it to be if it was Sanders.”