The 2016 election cycle has concluded, a cycle that American history will deem one of the most divisive we have seen. The rhetoric used to paint certain communities was laced with vitriol and fear mongering that led to a heightened state of national unrest and division.
The Latino community was not left untouched by this rhetoric; we often took the brunt of it.
At times like this, it can be easy to drift into despair. What does this mean for the tasks of repairing our patchwork immigration system, closing the income gap, fixing our education system, improving race relations?
At times like this, it can be easy to lament about the current state of affairs. Why is our political system so divisive, is it truly broken, will America ever be able to recover from what it has just been subjected to?
But at times like this, it can equally be as easy to miss critical silver linings whose nodes of wisdom, if we take the time to learn from them, have the power of casting light on the brightness of a future to be had, if one is willing to secure that future.
Last night, something profound occurred.
The Latino vote exceeded expectations and turnout from 2008 and 2012.
America elected the first Latina to the United States Senate. Congratulations to Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto.
The state of Florida elected the first Puerto Rican Congressman in its history. Congratulations Darren Soto.
The state of New York elected Adriano Espaillat, making him the first formerly undocumented immigrant in Congress and the first Dominican-American congressman in history. Congratulations, Adriano.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus now has over 30 members, the first time this has occurred in the history of the Caucus.
At a more local and personal level, over the course of the past year, four fellows from the first Latino Center for Leadership Development Academy class ran for office and won. Several others in the cohort serve as appointed officials.
A massive congratulations to newly minted Texas State Representative-elect Victoria Neave, the first Hispanic elected to represent House District 107.
Congratulations to Dallas School Board Member Jaime Resendez, the first Latino ever elected to this position to serve his community. Congratulations to Dallas County Community College Trustee Monica Lira-Bravo, the first Latina ever elected to this position to serve her community. Congratulations to Cockrell Hill City Council Member Claudia Sandoval, the youngest current elected official in Dallas County.
And so, we feel we would be remiss if we did not take the time, at this inflection point in our history, to definitively state that America’s future is bright, and it is bright because Latinos matter, they are making themselves heard, and they refuse to remain on the sidelines.
These next four years present a series of hurdles that we must overcome. Too many of our brothers and sisters remain in the shadows. It is on us to shield them from attacks. Too many of our brothers and sisters go to sleep hungry and impoverished. It is on us to nourish them. Too many of our brothers and sisters remain uneducated. It is on us to secure the knowledge they need to reach the American dream.
Yes, the task ahead is ambitious and filled with many more impediments, but it is achievable.
With more Latinos tuned in to the state of our nation and at the decision making table, it is our hope that what may seem improbable at this very moment is indeed possible.
Stay strong, let’s get back to work, and as always, Adelante!
Latino Center for Leadership Development