Voices and Stories of a Latino Movement

08/13/2011 08:56 am ET | Updated Oct 13, 2011
  • Axel W. Caballero Executive Director of NALIP & Founder of Cuentame and Metafora Politica

There has been a wealth of bad news hitting the Latino community over the past couple of years. Harsh anti-immigration laws have sprung up across the country from Arizona to Alabama. Home foreclosures and predatory lending have used and abused the community into economic despair. A recent Pew Hispanic Center report highlights that Latino families took the biggest blow during the economic recession. Income levels for Latino workers are at an all-time low. Private prison corporations are "making a killing" off of the incarceration of migrants. The past electoral cycle brought out the worst in racial politics -- not only pitting us against other communities -- but producing countless political ads which peddled the most obscene of Latino stereotypes. A day doesn't go by in which mainstream media ceases to demonize the DREAMER movement (the courageous students fighting for a DREAM Act) and categorically lumps the community into one single word: ILLEGALS. From Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona to Rep. Virgil Peck in Kansas, outrageous rhetoric -- which often advocates the use of violence -- goes unchecked and in many cases is encouraged by their commonly misinformed supporters. It's not only a saddening and infuriating trend but one that has had all the potential to destroy the morale, the hope and the unity of an entire community. Then again, it is clear that they don't know what our Latino community is all about.

Far from splitting us apart -- all these efforts have done is to encourage the building of a greater movement of unity. One in which Latinos, from different backgrounds and living distinct experiences have come together to share one understanding: Our voice is stronger when we stand together. We have seen the exponential growth of online Latino movements from social network organizing to complex, innovative and advanced media campaigns. We have seen powerful actions emerge -- from the nationwide solidarity against Arizona's SB1070 -- to the highest Latino electoral turnout in the past mid-term elections. We have seen the rise of inspirational figures -- from Daniel Hernandez -- the intern who rushed to Rep. Giffords side -- to the same DREAMER students whom in spite of being vilified and persecuted fight against all odds to stay in the only place they can call home. It is through the different voices and personal stories that we open a new window into what our community is all about: Warmth, understanding, patience, courage, patriotism, respect and a powerful resilience in the face of adversity. There are infinite adjectives and words that even the most prolific of dictionaries won't come close to encapsulating what the Latino community is all about and what it can offer. We can only do so through each of our voices, each of our experiences and a collective sense that despite useless attempts to slice and dice us -- there is an engrained identity that encourages us to help each other out in these most pressing times.

The community is at a crossroads -- growing to now more than 50 million in this country - there is a real and latent opportunity for substantial progress and change. One that can effectively translate to the advancement of civil rights, the fight against racial discrimination and intolerance, the advocacy for economic justice, closing the gap on wealth disparity and the everlasting fight for the rights of our immigrant friends and families. Yet, the roads split when we see how the birth of nativist and racially tinged political agendas attack and confuse what the struggle is all about. Fringe politicians backed by these same organizations (from Federation for American Immigration Reform to the vile John Tanton network), financed by corporate juggernauts that profit from immigrant detentions (private prison CCA, GEO group and their investors) and blinded by their drive for political power are fueling a split in the community. They are using their economic power to effectively control the media narrative (Surprise Fox News just launched Fox News Latino?), hijack state legislators and create a public perception that the Latino community is weak, disorganized, split and above all that it is a weight to the economic shoulders of what they see as "real " Americans.

This is precisely the reason why it becomes even more important to tell the true stories of families who work hard day in and day out to build and rebuild their homes. To share the daily struggles that migrants faced working the fields making pennies and contributing actively to the economy -- not only by paying taxes (a fact often gone unreported) but through the rich cultural and social traditions that they offer. To give a glimpse into the millions of individuals, students, families who can relate their success stories, their positive contributions and their giving back selflessly. To highlight the arts, the music, the films and the diversity that makes this country special. These are the true Latino voices that need to be told. We at Cuéntame (which translates into count me in or tell me your story) have told ours and have collected thousands more through hundreds of videos produced over the past couple of years that cover all these. We need more -- we need to unify those voices and tell the millions that have yet to be told. Through spaces like Latino Voices and like Cuéntame we can accomplish that goal. What is your story. ¡Cuéntame!