Your 129 close relatives decided your vote. No, it’s not a strange Univision reality TV show, though there sure are many of those. It was the 2012 US Presidential Election.You see, you’re a middle class American and you were born in lovely Guadalajara, Mexico in 1975. Your average family meant a busy childhood for you and your six siblings. In 1976, the average fertility of an average Mexican woman was an astounding 7.2 children , though it is nearly the same as the USA today at 2.3 . Dad and Mom’s generation was a busy one.
Each of your parents had six siblings. Of those 12 blood-related aunts and uncles, five of the six married and they had the average six children each. That meant 22 aunts and uncles and sixty total cousins. For some reason, three were named Jorge. You recall youthful Quinceañeras, weddings, Easter and Buena Noche family events were always crowded. Your four grandparents each lived to around seventy years.
When you immigrated to the US at age five, your family absorbed American culture. Only four of your six siblings married, and they each had just three children. That gave you 12 total nieces and nephews. You married your high school sweetheart and had just two children.
Your spouse was a second generation Mexican-American and had two parents and two siblings, one of whom, Marissa, married with just two children.
You graduated from the University of Texas and live today as a successful accountant the pleasant Houston suburb of Katy. Your lawn is trim and green; you own a Toyota Camry and a Ford SUV. You fly the American flag from your front porch. Every Sunday, you attend Catholic mass. While politics is of little concern to you, you’re generally for reasonable taxes, helping those who need help and like most Mexican-Americans, you’re uncomfortable with abortion. You remember your Dad liked Ronald Reagan, who granted citizenship to your parents back in the 1980s.
At least once a year, you go back to visit relatives in Mexico. You lost touch with some of your cousins, but most are a phone call away. Some stayed in the large commercial city of Guadalajara, a few moved to the capital of Mexico City or to the growing metropolis of Monterrey, and others moved to California and Illinois. Your siblings live in Texas, Florida, Arizona and the two sisters live in different suburbs of Denver, Colorado.
You were underwhelmed by the economy 2009-2012 but you have deep roots in Mexico. You are, first and foremost, an American but on occasion in your life, someone screamed “wetback” or “Spic” at you from a car. No, your car doesn’t run on tacos. Most of the whites and blacks you come across with are very nice but sometimes you received unpleasant stares. Last summer, when your cousin Isabella visited from Jalisco state, her husband played some ranchero music from the rent-a-car and some local teenagers laughed loudly through their open window. These things are not a really big deal to you, the economic opportunities and freedom in the US make it well worthwhile.
But, deep down, you’re always a tad bit aware that some people don’t much like “Mexicans” and, American-citizen that you are, it’s always there in your mind. You know your cousins Rosa and Maria snuck into the US with their husbands and have been living illegally in an apartment in Iowa, of all places, where they work at a slaughterhouse doing work no native-born American will do.
You heard about legislation in Arizona to demand proof of citizenship for anyone who looked like they could be an illegal immigrant. You sure didn’t like that; you wondered why a Mexican-American citizen of the USA like yourself would be apt to get stopped when your Chinese-born and Korean-born coworkers would not, to say nothing of the rest who simply looked white or black.
At times, there was national press about some obscure Republican from Colorado, a Tom something or another, who ran for President on a platform of shutting down the border. You hear that term from time to time, shut down the border. Since you cross it periodically to visit relatives or for vacations, you know it’s already shut down. It can take eight hours to cross the line and the Border Patrol agents often are a bit icy. You wonder what would happen if you ever had your wallet stolen in Mexico and lost your ID; getting back into your own country, the USA, would be a nightmare. You have a hunch it’s a lot easier to cross from Canada.
Prominent national Republicans seem reasonable enough; you were okay with George W. Bush, who actually spoke Spanish. You’ve already forgotten some words from disuse all these years, but you’re aware a lot of Americans are strangely obsessed with the Spanish language. Which is odd, you know every aspiring Mexican wants to learn English and people in Mexico grow up listening to American pop music and watching US movies and TV shows with Spanish subtitles. You know #1 hit albums in Mexico in 2012 include English-language hits from Adele, Madonna and that boy band called One Direction. There aren’t any Spanish-language #1 albums in the USA. You laugh when you hear English is “under attack.” From what?
But there are some small-time Republicans, some sheriffs out west, that Governor of Arizona and some US representatives who sometimes get mighty angry about “immigration”, “the border” and “the illegals” that steal jobs. You know that last point is a joke. If all the illegals left tomorrow, America’s lawns would grow long and America’s plates would go uncleaned in the nation’s restaurants. You don’t even remember the name of the Republicans, they were low-level ones, mostly out West, but a few spoke of taking away birth right citizenship, which struck you as deeply unfair and targeted at Mexican-Americans. The political TV ads these folks ran, you saw excerpts on national TV, always showed dark-skinned Latinos sneaking under fences. It’s never an Irish college kid who over-stayed his Visa, which is funny, because that guy Martin in the computer lab at work, the programmer guy – yeah, the dude who actually sings about Guinness beer – he was an illegal when he over-stayed his visa. But no one runs TV ads about drunken Irish illegals.
You heard something on the radio news about an obscure Republicans talking of “live ammo” for the Border Patrol. You shuddered at that, after all, some of your cousins crossed and who knows who else might someday. Other crazy ideas were sticking alligators in the Rio or using unmanned drones to take out illegals. You know there are Minutemen out there who spend their free time wandering the Arizona desert to stop immigrants. They’re trying to stop the same people who clean the dishes at Applebee’s and wash cars at Spick-N-Span Wash for those same Minutemen. You really get the sense some people really don’t like “your type.”
That bothers you because it cuts against your family. Like most Mexican-Americans, you’re big on family. You loved your grandparents, your parents and your uncles and aunts. Uncle Jose is the one who taught you to pitch a baseball! Uncle Pablo was a blast when he used to tell you and your brothers stories about women when your dad wasn’t around. These are your gente, your people. And no one is more pro-family than your extended family. Some people are all hat and no uterus!
All that talk about immigration rubs you the wrong way when its said “lazy” people want to come to the US for its welfare system (you’d go to Spain for that!) or to drop by and have “anchor babies.” Anyone who thinks Mexicans are “lazy” has never seen your brother Ricardo juggle three jobs like an acrobat. If anything, the Mexicans you know probably work too hard, they should relax once in a while. That’s why your Dad always looked so tired with his full-time janitor job plus the side job as a handyman.
That Mitt Romney guy never spoke crazy but he did talk tough about closing down illegal immigration. Obama promised some immigration reform, but he didn’t even try, which frustrated you. Still, he eventually came up with this complicated half-measure, a “Dream Act.” It wasn’t much, just letting some college kids stay for two years. You noted their parents and siblings could still be deported in the meantime. But… it was something when the Republicans offered nothing so you took the meager Dream Act and thought, well, it’s a start. And you voted Obama in 2012. Like 71% of other Latino American voters.  Will the Republicans compete for your vote in 2014 and 2016?