As a first generation American, I never thought of the possibilities of making an enormous impact on our country’s government. I’ve always had big dreams about making great changes, but it always seems as if it’ll be in the distant future. It’ll happen someday. I’ll just keep going to school and sending my e-mails to my senators and representatives, but one day I’ll do more. One day I’ll go to DC and be a part of something great…
DC has always had me in awe, with its magnificent architecture and historical landmarks on each corner. It’s a place of power, where many have marched and picketed to protect their rights, from sitting where they’d like on a bus to their right to vote. But times have changed, and there are different issues to address. As Latinos, we know that there are still basic matters that need to be taken care of, but right now, there is something of greater importance. There are two intertwining issues that if dealt with properly, can get us out of the crisis the last administration got us into. And there we were, a small group of young Latinos, joining thousands of other young people from all over the country, voicing our opinions to our elected officials.
The feeling of holding up signs on Capitol Hill with tons of other people was beyond amazing. But what got me, was walking down the corridors of Longfellow, Rayburn, and Russell. I was standing inside of the office where my senator held his meetings. I was sitting down with my Congressman’s staff member, telling him what I want my Congressman to be doing. I, a Latina, a first generation Costa-Rican American, was telling the governing body of the most powerful country in the world what should be done to address climate change and our crippling economy. I had a voice. I have a voice.
Being a part of Power Shift made me realize how easy it really is to become involved in the democratic process. You don’t have to settle for e-mails and petitions. You can go further than that, and meet with your elected officials. You don’t have to fly to DC to do it either, meet with them in their local offices. Make your voice heard. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white, caramel, yellow, or whatever you want to call yourself. The point is that we live in a society where we can all make our voices heard. We elect these people into office because we believe they will listen to us. There isn’t much listening to be done if we’re not doing any talking.
Y para mi gente. This is our time. We must rise to the occasion and quit arguing about politics around the dinner table and take it to the streets, take it to the offices where those changes we want can be made. My parents came to this country because they wanted more opportunities for their children. Being here, I have the right to voice my opinion; to declare what I believe is right. It doesn’t matter if you just became a citizen or if your tátara tátara abuelo was American, you can speak out and be heard. Latinos are no longer a few among millions (although, sadly, it seemed that way at Power Shift). We are an ever-growing population of passionate people that have been quiet for far too long. Pongámonos las pilas. It’s not about simply chanting “Si se puede” every now and then. We must go out in record-breaking numbers and let everyone in the country know who we are and what we want. We must let everyone feel our presence. We must let everyone see that we are not in this country just to take up space, but to be a part of it and to bring about a great change.