Passionate. Outspoken. Open-Minded. Innovators.
These are some of the words that are used to describe Millennials.
Disappointment. Joke. Ridiculous. Frustration.
These are some of the words that Millennials, specifically in the Hispanic community, used to describe the upcoming 2016 presidential election.
According to the New York Times, the United States is currently home to 56 million Latinos. One third are under the age of 18, and 27 million are eligible to vote this November.
Adrian Jimenez, a finance senior at the University of Florida, is a first-generation American whose family migrated from Cuba. Jimenez said he has kept up with current events but has not watched the debates, mainly because he feels it has turned into a “bashing session, instead of really talking about major issues in this country and how each candidate will present a solution of hope for all of the major issues.”
Jimenez emphasized that with this election in particular, the majority of individuals don’t feel represented by any party.
“We are the future, we’re going to take over this country and lead this country in whatever positive direction that it needs to be led to,” he said. “However, right now with voting, you can’t really vote. I feel that it is so easy to criticize not just Millennials, but people in general for not really voting because right now we have a two-party system.”
Frustration is an understatement for Puerto Rican student Alexandra Rodriguez, who is unable to vote this election season. Unlike Jimenez, she cannot empathize with those who choose not to exercise what she considers a “privilege to vote.”
“I have to become a resident, and I have not done that unfortunately, because I don’t have the paperwork for it,” she said. “So it’s really frustrating because I don’t have the right to vote, and I want to because this is such an important election.”
The Director of the University of Florida’s Hispanic-Latino Affairs, Gabriel Lara, who is constantly surrounded by Millennials, said he no longer sees the passion college students once outwardly expressed when Bernie Sanders ran under the Democratic Party. Lara said it reminded him of a hope that President Barack Obama once stood for, how he was a voice for the youth. Now all that’s left is disappointment and frustration.
“You could be pissed off about one thing, but if you’re not doing anything about it, nothing’s going to change,” Lara said. “I think that there’s a lot of people who vote party over issues, and I think people just need to be educated on what’s important to them, rather than hearing who their friends are voting for or who their parents are voting for.”
Moreover, Lara expressed the importance of paying attention to the election at a local level moving forward, where more immediate changes can occur.
Jessica Valdes, a third-year political science student at the University of Florida and a Hispanic-Latino Affairs ambassador, agrees that although college campuses tend to be more liberal and the youth is naturally more educated on issues, the consensus seems to be one of disappointment; and it doesn’t help that “we are hard-headed.”
“Millennials say a lot, they have Facebook, they have the highest technology that any person in the United States or the world has had to this point, so they have all the information at their fingertips,” Valdes said. “However, when it comes to turn out, voting is so low.”
Born and raised in Cuba, Valdes moved to the states when she was 12 years old and is proud to admit that she, alongside her mother, recently became a citizen and will be able to vote for the first time this year. She mentioned her concern with regards to Republican nominee Donald Trump insulting the Latino community, because she is very proud of her background and understands first-hand the struggles and hard-work immigrants face every day to contribute to society and, in fact, live the “American Dream.”
Unfortunately, as is the reality with most Hispanic families, both of her parents work two jobs and take care of her 7-year-old sibling, so she said they don’t have time to sit down and watch the debates, nor thoroughly do research on each candidate’s platform. Instead, Valdes takes it upon herself to inform them with updates.
“I think for any American that’s aware and awake and knows what’s going on, it’s ridiculous that international countries see us as a joke now,” she said. “We need to respond appropriately and that is going out to vote, trying our best to become American citizens for those that can and also pushing for immigration reform — an actual comprehensive immigration reform that will actually extend benefits and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that deserve to be here and have a clear record.”
Jeremy Martinez is the vice president of Voto Latino’s UF chapter — a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic media organization. Martinez works alongside Jessica Valdes to spread awareness throughout communities in Florida to encourage Latinos to vote and register at local polls.
“Beyond just a campaign, beyond just a platform, we really need to hold our politicians and our civic leaders accountable to actually bring in change for our communities and not just using us as a token for their election,” Martinez said.
Jose Abastida is a Honduran senior at UF who believes that the Millennial “generation is more reactive than proactive.”
Abastida is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient.
“I do have permission to work in the United States and stay in the United States illegally for a period of two years,” Abastida said. “Every two years I have to renew the application, and it is an executive action, which means the president is the one who assigns the role and it is up to date, until his term.”
Abastida explained that it was President Obama who first established this immigration policy, and moving forward with this election, it is a major concern for him since his future depends on it.
“Whoever wins the presidential race will decide pretty much if 65,000 DACA recipients will get to stay in the country rather [than] being deported to their respective countries of birth.”
Third year political science and Spanish double major, Maria Llanos, was born in Guatemala and was raised in a more conservative, Cuban household in Miami, Florida.
“I was in Spain over the summer and there were so many people that would ask us about the elections and they would say that they would think it’s a joke,” Llanos shared.
Llanos is primarily concerned with how the outcome of this particular election will affect the way the U.S. is seen internationally-speaking. “A lot of countries are going to lose respect for the United States,” she concluded.
Daniela Moya is a proud American whose family is from Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador. Although she typically describes herself as a Republican, Moya said she refuses to vote for Trump.
“He [Trump] is the type of person who is bringing back racism and discrimination especially toward the Latino population, and as a Latin American, Hispanic, I don’t really agree with that,” Moya expressed.
Voting for the general election is less than a month away and Daniela Moya is one of the thousands of torn Americans that has yet to decide on the candidate she will vote for.
“I have to make a decision, I just haven’t made that decision yet, but every day I’m thinking about this because I do want to make a difference,” Moya said.
The fact that a lot of people “don’t believe in the system we currently live in,” is one of the factors that scare Fernando Havier Perez the most. Perez is of Puerto Rican descent and says he is constantly reminded of his ancestors who fought at war and sacrificed their lives in order for him and his family to live in a peaceful place to call home and exercise their right to vote.
“It’s going to be one of the most memorable elections I feel that I will ever have or be a part of,” he said.
Perez emphasized that what’s most important “is going out to vote to represent those that can’t.”
There’s no doubt that Millennials — a generation filled with passionate, outspoken, open-minded innovators — have a voice. Yesterday’s “leaders of tomorrow” are today’s revolutionaries, who have the power to change the world for the better.
How will your voice be heard this election season?