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The role diversity plays within the Latino vote

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Posted at 10:50 AM, Jun 03, 2022

The theater can be a place for people to escape reality.

“I don’t think you really love anything if you can't be honest with it," said playwright Carmen Pelaez.

But the drama of the real world gives Pelaez plenty of material.

“I think if theater is going to properly affect life, or hold up a mirror to reality, it has to be political in one way or another," she said.

Pelaez isn’t afraid of getting political in her shows. Her latest, performed at a theater in Miami, is called The Cuban Vote.

“We have a candidate that is focused on issues and substance and actions and a candidate that is believed by the community but provides very little in terms of policy of action or change," she said.

Pelaez used to work on Democratic political campaigns, but she said her show isn’t about one political party or the other.

It’s performance drawn from life experience as a Cuban American, a perspective she feels gets lost in the national conversation about Latino voters.

“Socialism is going to mean something very different to a Mexican than it is to a Venezuelan," Palaez said. "Social equity is going to mean two very different things to a Cuban than it is to a Colombian."

According to the U.S. Census, Hispanic or Latino heritage can derive from more than 20 countries.

"We’re a very different community with a few things in common and very different realities," said Michel Hausmann, The Cuban Vote's artistic director.

Hausmann is an American citizen who was born and raised in Venezuela, where the economy has collapsed as a result of political instability.

“I’ve lived through the destruction of my country. I’ve lived through how were the longest run democracy in Latin America and kind of take it for granted,” Hausmann said.

His experience is different from that of Esmeralda Villeda.

“We are no longer 'The Latino vote,' we are a pot of generations, a pot of millennials, a pot of different upbringings and different cultures," she said.

Villeda is a realtor in Las Vegas. She is a first-generation Mexican American who is an independent voter.

“Immigration, it’s a very controversial topic, believe it or not, amongst Latinos as well," she said.

“I think there is a misperception out there that Latinos, immigration is their number one issue and it’s actually if you’re a Mexican immigrant it might be but if you’re a Florida Republican second or third generation, it’s not,” said Northwestern University associate professor of political science Jaime Dominguez.

Data from the Pew Research Center said Latino Voters found seven issues were more important than immigration ahead of the 2020 presidential race. The economy was the top issue.

For this fall's midterm elections, NALEO, a group that advocates for Latino participation in elections, is expecting nearly one in ten voters to be Latino.

Dominguez said more Latino and Hispanic members in Congress will be key to representing the community.

"The opportunity is growing, for example, for Latinos to elect more representatives that mirror that population's growth in the house of Congress. Only then will you be able to have conversations about the diversity and these cleavages within the Latino collective," Dominguez said.

Dominguez also said campaigns need to do a better job of outreach— with an understanding of the growing diversity within the Latino voting bloc, because Democracy, like performance, takes practice.

"You have to work on it every day unless it will fall apart and when it falls apart, it’s almost impossible to put it back together," Hausmann said.