Latino Voters Lift My Spirits

As the Coronavirus rages on amidst Trump’s lie-spinning campaign, the most unlikely thing has rescued me from television television news angst: Telephone conversations with complete strangers. Latino voters all over the country are a rising Blue Wave that is lifting my spirits.

I am one of several thousand volunteers across the country who are making calls for Biden to Latino voters, an effort named Llamando Contigo (Making Calls Together). I was a bit skeptical — I mean, does anyone answer their phone when they don’t know the caller? The answer is yes, although some immediately wish they hadn’t and hang up.

At any rate, the automated dialing system shields us volunteers from all the failed connections, while also protecting our privacy by interposing a dedicated telephone number as the source of the calls. When a real person picks up, and confirms that they are the person we think we’re calling, that’s when the magic begins.

Latino voters speak my language
Janie, Fina, Susie, circa 1958

First of all, I’m speaking Spanish. I’ve come to appreciate in writing my memoir that my first language was Spanish, learned from the woman from Galicia, Spain who lived with my parents and infant me (and, about a year later, my sister) in my father’s first Foreign Service post in Caracas, Venezuela. Josefina did not speak English, so home, which had been monolingual Minnesotan English for my first six months, morphed into a bilingual space. Dad, Mom and I spoke English to each other and Spanish with Fina, and my sister was born into this bilingual reality, she and I played together as easily in Spanish as in English.

Spanish was my family’s “private language” during my childhood — never more so than when we lived in the States — and is the language that my brain turns to when I have something to say quickly and privately. Being bilingual surely gave my Latino husband the inside track in our courting days. Still does. Spanish is in my corazón. Call me a Norwegian Latina.

Latino voters raise my spirits

”Hola,” I say to the person at the other end of the line, identifying myself as a volunteer with the Democratic Party. Now and then, I find a Republican, though a courteous Latin one. I’ve heard about abortion, but only from one woman, and a couple of Biden supporters argued that he should be stronger in his response to civil unrest.

But, mostly, my “Are you supporting Joe and Kamala?” Is being answered with, “¡Claro que si!¨and ´”¡Por su puesto!” Of course! And we are smiling, laughing, knowing that we can make America the land they migrated to. The optimistic, if imperfect, democracy in which we are making our way.

Latino voters appreciate voting

I spoke to a woman who will become a citizen next year, and cannot wait to vote. I spoke with a woman who ran out of time to register to vote, but will register now so her voice is heard next time. I spoke with a determined 85-year-old widow whose husband did not want her to learn English but whose her son will come to help her fill out the paper ballot. I shared the website with men and women unsure of how-where-when to vote, and glad for the support. I spoke with a man who had never thought about volunteering for campaigns but now knows it’s part of American possibilities. Herés where to learn more about volunteering for Biden at the 2020 Victory.

In their recent article about President Obama’s passionate campaign speech in Miami in support of his Vice President, Palm Beach Post reporters Christine Stapleton and Wendy Rhodes quoted a Venezuelan in attendance:

We [Americans] need to go back to a country that respects people. We need normalcy, empathy – we need a president that puts country before self.

José Vivas, Lake Worth Beach

¡Amen, hermano! My spirits are lifted by the rising blue wave of Latino voters rolling toward November 3.

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