Local leaders encouraged students to stay active in politics as they discussed major issues facing Latino voters this election season, during an event Oct. 7 sponsored by Latino groups on campus.
Issues the panelists discussed included the economy, the achievement gap, Latino political affiliation and illegal immigration.
Political activist Juan Barragan said Latinos tend to vote as a bloc because of commonalities in culture and background. This past year, Barragan worked as the citywide coordinator for Latinos for Vince Gray, a campaign that Barragan said doubled the number of Latinos who voted in the D.C. mayoral contest this year.
Gray, a GW alumnus, won the Democratic primary last month.
“My voting pattern has been affected because of how I identify myself.and I feel strongly that as Latinos, we need to look out for each other,” said Barragan, a Colombian immigrant who also serves as membership committee chair of the D.C. Latino Caucus, the official Latino representation in the D.C. Democratic Party.
Genaro Pedroarias, chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Virginia, acknowledged the left-leaning Latino voting bloc. Pedroarias said while “there is no doubt that Latinos vote Democrat today,” no one can know which side of the aisle Latino voters will stand on in the future.
The Cuban-American explained that the political right has the potential to capture the Latino vote.
“The reason [Latinos] came to this country is because they don’t want to live under policies that don’t benefit them as individuals. We [Republicans] will try our best not to over-regulate you,” said Pedroarias, describing the Latino appeal of the GOP.
Sesen Gidey, a senior from Columbia Heights, an area with a high Latino population, said she decided to attend the panel to become more exposed to political and social issues within this culture. Although she isn’t Latina, she said her parents are immigrants and “immigration is an issue that speaks to me.”
“In every community there are similarities,” Gidey said. “This is an instance where we can find unity within diversity.”