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I followed politics so closely during the last election when the GOP lost — you’ll remember there was that restricting of the party and everyone asked, “What can we do to not have that happen again?” And everyone said, “Let’s get Latinos, let’s get women.” That was the plan. Cut to four years later and it’s like, wow, someone lost the memo.
The thing about Donald Trump that really has amazed me is that he was the first candidate ever to call out a specific group — Mexicans — and suggest that we’re rapists. Those first remarks always bothered me because he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.” Like people in Mexico get together once a month and say, “OK, how many are we sending this month?” It’s so ridiculous. People come here for a chance, so don’t say that we’re rapists. My mom was an immigrant, and when he said that I was like, “You’re talking about my mom. When you say that, I take it personally.”
What I’m doing in this election is going to different places and giving speeches about how important it is for Latinos to vote — I was at DePaul University this week — because it’s personal to me now. When Trump tweets a picture of himself eating a taco bowl saying he loves “Hispanics,” he doesn’t love us. First of all, don’t call us Hispanics. Call us Latinos. That’s like me saying, “You know, I love white people, they’re the best honkies ever.” That’s so 1970s. And secondly, my abuela never made tortilla bowls. That’s not a thing. If it’s available at Taco Bell, then it’s probably not legit. In my house, if a tortilla is hard it means that it went bad and you throw it away. We don’t eat that.
When you try so hard to add what you think are Latino-relevant topics to your posts and tweets or any kind of effort to try to get the Latino vote, then you stop treating us like real people. It’s kind of like the talk about diversity in Hollywood, and the need to include Latinos in TV and films. You get all these statistics and numbers and nobody knows what to do with them. Die Hard is one of my favorite movies, and not because it has piñatas in it — it’s a good story. People don’t have to try so hard to appeal to us.
Every time I hear people support Trump, I’ve never ever heard any of them say, “Man, I’m voting for Trump because his foreign policy is on point!” With the other candidates you could tell they all had plans. But Trump runs his campaign like he’s running for student body president. He’s like, “Soda machines for everybody! Popsicles during class, any kind of flavor you want!” And everybody’s like, “I want popsicles, I want a soda machine!”
I actually want to thank Trump for making me so passionate about wanting to do my best to stop him. He used his voice and now he makes me want to use mine — to go person-to-person if I have to — to make sure that we stop him. So, he motivated me in the opposite direction that he would’ve wanted to, and for that I thank him. It’s been pretty easy to boycott him as well, because his existence is totally different from mine. It’s not like he and I are bumping into each other at the grocery store as we reach for tortilla bowls. He’s not hanging out in Boyle Heights when I go buy my Mexican candy. And for some gigs I’ve even paid out-of-pocket to stay at a non-Trump hotel. I would rather pay for a hotel then get a Trump one for free.
Once you reach a certain age you start paying attention to politics. But right now we live in a generation where a lot of people are disillusioned with the way things work and the way things are. There was a student at DePaul who said that they would rather not vote than have to vote for whatever candidate gets the nomination. So I always tell people, “You’ve got to vote for the person that you can at least tolerate.” I know that sounds ridiculous, but every candidate has something we don’t like about them. If you don’t vote, then you can’t really have an opinion for the next four years.
I come from South Texas, a border town, and I can tell you that we were never told to vote. Back then, and I’m sure still now, 60% of the people lived well below the poverty line. Life is different; you’re trying to survive. Voting is such a luxury. You have to go out and actually spend time doing it, and some people can’t. So part of the speech that I give now is about telling people that they matter, because I grew up in a little town, in the middle of nowhere, and no one ever really told me that I mattered. In an election like this, you’ve got to show the opposite, you’ve got to teach people, “You’re so important, we need you, we need you to show up.” So I don’t care who you vote for, but I want you to go out there and have your voice heard.
Cristela Alonzo made history when she became the first Latina to create, produce and star in a network TV sitcom. Cristela, which aired on ABC in 2014, paid tribute to her Mexican mother and growing up in a Texas border town.
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