Archive for the ‘latinas’ Category

As Executive Director Voto Latino.org, Maria Teresa Peterson has learned a lot about how young Latinos are using New media technologies to communicate, share and network with one another. Her organization is one of the leading sites that targets young Latinos under age 30 to educate, encourage and help them register to vote. Started a few years ago as a non-profit that aired Public Service Announcements (PSA) over the air, it has developed into a big powerhouse organization.
She’s heard many stories about how Latinos and Latinas have turned to the Internet, text messaging and other media and mobile technologies to connect and engage with other young people who share the same issues.
While there seems to be a myth out there in the media that Latinos aren’t using technologies at the same rates as other groups, she’s seen statistics that show that Latinos are using text messaging at incredibly high rates, that Latino/Latina bloggers represent one of the highest populations and that they are turning to these new technologies to help them make decisions.
Voto Latino has also launched one of the first text-messaging voter registration campaigns in American history, where young Latinos could register to vote by sending a text message from their mobile phone. On Election Day 2006, those participating received Get-Out-The Vote text message reminders and it helped to increase Latino participation in the polls by 9%.
By listening to their members they’ve initiated creative and innovative ways to capture interest and drive more member sign ups and involvement. They’ve gone out and recruited Latino artists who help to promote voter registration and encourage voter turnout. A new program they’re piloting is to work with local DJs and celebrities to promote voting through programs that encourage the young Latino population to get involved. They are also employing Google ads, Facebook, and viral marketing on websites to reach out to their powerful constituents.
Maria Teresa shared that the young Latinos are what they term the “cultural ambassadors” in their households. That means in many households where parents may not be as familiar with English or the commercial products to purchase, they will turn to their children who will dictate what products and services to choose or that are deemed “cool”. So their children may state that they have to have high speed DSL or cable modem access so they can conduct research online to complete their homework at home. Parents would then ask which brand and where they can find the products. Their buying and consumer influence covers all categories of products including food, electronics, clothing, cars, services, etc. That’s why many savvy consumer brands are courting the Latino youth as a key influencer for making household buying decisions and recommendations.
In terms of voting, Maria Teresa also says that there are many missed opportunities to engage the Latino communities. She said that many candidates, consultants and organizations assume that the Latinos are consuming their media in Spanish only outlets. Citing a recent poll conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, over 79% of all American Latino eligible voters consumed electoral news in English. Additionally, over 50,000 young Latinos turn 18 every month and 93% of them are eligible to vote. So reaching out to this segment of the population requires targeted marketing and savvy outreach with specific messages.
She also said that some of the biggest issues Latinas are concerned about include Health i.e. Obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, sex education for women and AIDS information, Education and Immigration issues.
She said the issues facing young Latinos are different from the ones that their parents dealt with when they first emigrated from their native countries. Our future will depend heavily upon how we reach out and engage this next generation of Latino voters who will heavily influence the future outcome of our nation. Thank you Maria Teresa for the incredibly important and creative work your organization is performing to engage the young Latino voters. Mable


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When Rosario Marin was young, she remembers living in Mexico City in a large family with many brothers and sisters. Her parents emigrated to the Los Angeles area when she was a young girl to provide her with an excellent education. She remembers an important incident that changed her life dramatically. When she first took the standard IQ test and the results were shared with her parents, they were shocked. Rosario had scored only 27 on the test. While they knew that she was a very bright girl, her lack of English proficiency caused her to perform poorly on the English only tests. Her parents immediately immersed Rosario into a school where she learned to speak only in English. Even in their own home, no Spanish was spoken….only English. They wanted to ensure that she and her siblings did well in school as education was the key to improving their economic opportunities.

Rosario proved to be a very good student and accomplished many great things in the years to come. However, before she got involved with politics, Rosario had to endure and persevere through many difficult times. When she gave birth to her son, Eric she found out that he was born with Down Syndrome. She had to give up a promising career in banking to stay home and take care of her son. During this period, Rosario realized that her child was her priority and that he depended totally upon her. She created a support group for parents of children with disabilities to lobby for support and services. She traveled to Sacramento to testify in front of Governor Pete Wilson on behalf of the families she represented. He later appointed her as Chief of Legislative Affairs of Disability Services for the State of California. An opening for the Huntington Park City Council became vacant and she successfully ran and won a seat. Later she was voted in and served as the Mayor of Huntington Park.

Ultimately in 2001, she was appointed by President Bush to become the 41st Treasurer of the United States. Ms. Marin is the first Mexican born U.S. Treasurer to hold this office. She is also the highest Latina to serve in President George W. Bush’s Administration. After her appointment as U. S. Treasurer, Rosario was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to become the Secretary of the External Affairs and the State and Consumer Services Agency for the State of California . She is currently responsible for running and governing 17 departments including the California State Employees Union with 210,000 employees.

She remembers that her entrance into politics was because of the pressing family issues that she had to deal with as a mother of a child with special disabilities. She personally knows of the challenges of balancing the work and family issues that all parents face. As a mother and as head of Consumer Advocacy and Equal Rights agencies, she is familiar with all the priorities facing families today including: Equal pay, Affordable childcare, Healthcare insurance coverage and Education for all children & families. She is in the unique position of being able to understand how important these issues are as well as advocate and make changes on behalf of all her constituents.

Her message to all the women voters out there is simple: Your vote counts! Our system works on a democratic process and we need to have everyone engaged in the voting process. Mothers with children may not understand how powerful their voices and votes are…but they are very important to the legislators. Get involved, get active, vote!

We are very grateful to have such a powerful champion working on our behalf in the California government such as Rosario Marin. We are sure to benefit from the results of her advocacy in the years to come. Thank you Rosario for representing all of us and our families.


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It was raining hard on a cold grey day when I drove up to a small home in a neighborhood in Richmond, CA. The homes were all neatly kept up on a modest street that was quiet when I arrived. However, I knew it was located less than a mile away from “The Iron Triangle”. One of the most violent neighborhoods in the East Bay that experienced a great deal of shootings, domestic violence and crimes. Today I was meeting with Miriam Wong, Executive Director of the Latina Center.

When I first heard Miriam’s name…Miriam Wong, I was little confused. I thought, a Chinese woman running a Latina Center? I needed to know more about her story and how she came to be here. Miriam cheerfully opened the door and invited me into this home that had been converted into a center for all Latinas who needed support and help. The rooms were neat and brightly painted and there were a number of women in a meeting. She explained that many of the women that day were attending a workshop on diabetes and the affects on a family. There were some children playing with toys in the corner, the staff worker fielding phone calls and a lot of energy displayed throughout the center.

Miriam told me her story. She was born in Lima, Peru and came to the U.S. when she was 29 yrs old. Her father was Chinese and her mother Peruvian. Her parents divorced when she was young and her mother and grandmother brought her up. She grew up in a neighborhood where there were a lot Chinese and Japanese families who settled in Peru. The school she went to was diverse and she had Peruvian, Chinese and Japanese friends.

I asked her if her mother voted in Peru and she said yes, occasionally. However, she said the goverment and politics in Peru are radically different than the U.S. In Peru, the goverment was known to be corrupt for many decades. The people understood that voting oftentimes was meaningless because the outcomes were already predicted and guaranteed. It didn’t matter how the vote was tallied. People didn’t have faith in the system and endured a lot of regime changes that made them become disaffected with the government. She said that the feelings of powerlessness, and distrust of the government affects many immigrants that come to the U.S. When they emigrate, even t hough they become citizens and are eligible to vote, they fail to register and cast their votes. They bring distrust, alientation and a sense of apathy from their homelands.

I asked her what it would take to motivate these women to vote. First off, she said that many of the women who came to her center were from homes where they endured domestic violence from their husbands. They needed to take care of their families basic needs like food, shelter, jobs and healthcare before they could think about voting. She shared with me a very telling story…

One day, a woman came to her center. She was accompanied by her 90 year old mother. The woman was so overwhelmed by all her difficulties: lack of food, abusive husband, many young children to care for, lack of money…the list goes on. She was so depressed that she wanted to commit suicide to escape all the oppression and suffering she was going through. She couldn’t see a way out of her life and was giving up.

Miriam spent the next few hours comforting, hugging, listening and supporting this woman. She explained to her that there was support, caring and a community that would listen, protect and provide her with help. She wanted the woman to know that she was an important human being and that there were people to help provide her with solutions. She had no food, money nor hope for the future. Miriam had just collected some food donations that people had brought and told the woman to take all of it home to her family. She encouraged her to come back to seek support and talk about ways that she could plan for her future and reach out for help. At the end of the day, the woman felt comforted, welcomed and most of all… cared for. She promised to come back and Miriam would help her find her footing and plan for a way out.

At the end of the day when the woman and her mother were about to leave, something truly wonderful happened. The woman’s 90 year old mother shared her story with Miriam. She said that she had lived with an abusive husband for 60 years. She endured the punishment, humiliation and emotional abuse for all her life. When her husband died, she finally felt relieved and glad that the oppression had been lifted. However, when she saw that her daughter married, had a family and then lived in the same abusive cycle of domestic violence as she endured, she felt helpless. It was bad enough that she had to endure it. Now her own daughter was going through the same agony, torture and suffering she had undergone. She couldn’t stand it and brought her to Miriam.

As she was getting ready to leave with her daughter who was now feeling hopeful and more positive about living, the mother did something extraordinary. She dug around her pockets looking for something. She dug deeply and felt around the corners of her pockets. She finally fished out a small crumpled piece of paper. She said:

“I do not have any money, but this dollar is all that I have. Money cannot buy what you have given to us today. Please take it and thank you for all that you have done for us.”

At this moment in Miriam’s story, we were both tearing up and feeling so grateful that people can reach out and help one another. That we are all human beings and we all need help. It is not about money and services….it is about the human spirit to give and help another person out. To believe in someone else, no matter what the circumstances and to appreciate life at its most basic level.

Miriam said it was the most beautiful thing that happened. She is an amazing woman and a heroine to many people. The Latina Center www.latinacenter.org is her own non-profit. She started it with her own money without any Federal or State grants and funds it through local city grants, services and donations. She doesn’t have enough to pay herself nor her staff, the center was freezing cold because they can’t afford a lot of the utilities and she receives some in-kind services for immigration and medical support.

As a result of meeting this incredible woman who truly is a guardian angel and has saved countless lives and supported so many women, I am committed to personally helping her receive funding so she can continue to provide the much needed services the community needs.

Miriam is a big believer in voting and seeking higher leadership roles for minority women. She provides educational outreach and sponsors year long classes in leadership participation and teaching the women about civic duty and responsibility. I now am going to donate all my children’s clothes, toys and encourage my friends to do the same to the Latina Center. My children will go next week to bring their toys and clothes to share with the children there so we can perpetuate the spirit of giving and friendship. If you’re interested in joining us, please contact me or Miriam at the Latina Center.

I salute Miriam Wong as one of the unknown heroines who has saved countless lives and families as a result of her dedication and work.

Take care….Mable

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