Election 2012: Hispanic Heritage Month and Your Vote

You could say that Hispanic Heritage Month (which is the only “celebration” that actually straddles two months – from mid-September to mid-October) started earlier this year, with the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Rolling out San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro as the DNC keynote speaker and Florida Junior Senator Marco Rubio to introduce Mitt Romney was proof that Latinos are a hot ticket item before a tight election. 

Expect more of this now during Hispanic Heritage Month. This is when the Latinos in an organization are showcased and our diversity initiatives, community involvement, and stories of inspiration and success are covered. Politicians, media companies, some corporations and institutions will be giving themselves a pat on the back with the events this “month” proof that “they are down with ‘La raza””.

Aplauso. And I mean it.

But, here’s the problem: our heritage should not only be celebrated during one month, but every single day.

I mean, you don’t only love your mami on Mother’s Day, do you? 

The best way to honor our culture is not by waiting for someone else to hire a Latino speaker or sponsor a gala fundraiser. While a good first step, it only scratches the surface – a cultural moment reduced to one success story or that milestone. It also glosses over the significant issues stunting our community’s potential: although more Latinos are enrolled in college, we have the highest high school drop out rate with an economic impact felt for generations in the form of a limited ability to make a good living, buy a home, and send our kids to college. 

Time and time again at both conventions in Tampa then Charlotte, I heard think tank researchers, campaign operatives, and reporters say:

Latinos don’t vote.

And they’re right. In 2008, 50 percent of eligible Latino voters cast ballots, compared with 65 percent of eligible African-Americans and 66 percent of eligible whites, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. 

Combined with “our issues” already mentioned, not voting cancels out the power behind our demographic numbers and our $1 trillion dollar buying power. Political parties and the media don’t have an incentive to listen to our needs and partner with us to solve our issues. Simply put, we are a toothless tiger – big in size but with little bite. 

Our community is quick to be slighted and to feel disrespected. And often times we are. But rather than blame someone else, let us respect ourselves by registering to vote – one of the long-term investments we can put in place this very minute to empower our families and our neighborhoods.  Click here on this Project Vote/Rock the Vote link to see how easy it is and free. 

It's time to start really fighting for our issues.

Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics columnist. Read more of Viviana's political posts here.