POLITICS

How This Latina Woman Is Breaking Barriers In Massachusetts Politics

The 29-year-old political newcomer is ready to advocate for people "who don’t have a voice."

Juana Matias is on her way to becoming one of the first Latina women ever elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. 

Matias beat businessman Juan Pascual and incumbent state Rep. Marcos Devers in the 16th Essex District Democratic primary in September. And because there aren’t any Republican or independent candidates in the general election, she is poised to take the seat next month. 

A new episode of “We The Voters” takes a deep look into Matias’ primary battle and shows how she was able to connect with voters in her district. Matias, who took a grassroots approach during her campaign by going door-to-door, won over 49 percent of voters.

The 29-year-old has never held elected office. But she said her young age is actually an asset, especially considering that the median age of people living in the city of Lawrence, which is big part of the 16th Essex District, is around 31. 

“One of the really unique things about my candidacy and my campaign is the fact that I’m young,” Matias said. It’s important that the district’s representative connects with the issues that resonate with the values of that demographic, she added.  

I know what it is to have a job that pays minimum wage. I know what it is to have parents who don’t understand English, who are trying to navigate the system. Juana Matias

Matias, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic with her family in the 1980s, said her experiences have helped her relate to the community. Lawrence is largely an “immigrant city,” she explained, and 2010 census data indicates that 73.8 percent of its residents identify as Hispanic or Latino.

“I know what it is to have a job that pays minimum wage. I know what it is to have parents who don’t understand English, who are trying to navigate the system,” she said. “I’ve seen many families go through those similar challenges, and a lot of those experiences were really what inspired me to be involved in public service.”

Hear more about Matias’ story in the video above. 

The above video is part of We the Voters, a groundbreaking social impact campaign designed to inspire and activate millions of young Americans through 20 viral films hosted by actors and influencers. The project incorporates real characters, dynamic story lines and celebrity influencers to demystify how the government and elections work and motivate Americans to seize their power by voting in the 2016 elections. For more information, and to see the rest of the films, visit We the Voters.com.

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