History of Latinosin Texas A partial timeline by the Jolt...Read More
Before 1953, only two Latinas/os had served in the Texas state legislature. This is not long ago; our parents and abuelos lived it. It took 60 legislative sessions for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus to have enough members to form. After a legislative session like this one, it is easy for those who don’t live in Texas to say that we aren’t worth it. They often believe Texas is lost, that we deserve our elected officials because they were elected, or that everyone in the state must support our government. Within the state itself, conservative leaders and lawmakers tell us to leave, implicitly saying that if we don’t like the conservative policies, we should abandon our home and move to another state. Those of us who live here know that this will not be the future of Texas.
At Jolt, we have always placed our energy into empowering Latina/o communities through voter registration and mobilization. We are well aware of the voter suppression attempts by those who already hold power in Texas, from gerrymandering to voter intimidation. But this past legislative session has reflected to us the multiple and pervasive ways that lawmakers in Texas attempt to silence marginalized communities. On top of voter suppression techniques that organizations like Jolt work to combat, conservative lawmakers spent the 88th session limiting rights and access for already marginalized groups, making it even harder for us to stay in Texas and use our voices.
The attacks on transgender Texans, especially children, are anticipated to force some families to leave the state, largely in pursuit of gender-affirming health care. Virtually no progress was made by either Democrats or Republicans to create exceptions to our incredibly strict abortion laws. Lack of access to necessary healthcare has already forced some individuals to seek care elsewhere or pursue less safe methods, with even these tactics leading to legal ramifications. This session’s plethora of border security bills reflect the intent focus our legislators have to further complicate the immigration process and criminalize migrants and asylum seekers. From creating an entirely new court system to forming a border protection unit made up of deputized vigilantes, lawmakers appear much more concerned with keeping people out of Texas than actually supporting border communities or improving the experience of migrants along our southern border.
These kinds of policies reflect that conservative lawmakers will use all of the tools that they can to create the state that they want. Texans who don’t fit into that vision, Latinas/os and other people of color, LGBTQ+ Texans, young voters, and others are being strategically silenced and marginalized. They are so afraid of our voices that they gerrymander our districts and restrict our access to healthcare to try to make us leave. As horrible as these policies are, they reflect the power that our voices, votes, and presence hold in Texas.
It is more important than ever that our communities across Texas support each other. Attacks on immigrants, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ people, women, etc. are attacks on all of us. Conservative lawmakers continue to limit our access to healthcare, polling places, economic security, and other resources in an attempt to create the Texas they want by silencing the rest of us. Our communities deserve to use our voices, and we deserve to be represented in government. Jolt is looking at the future of voter mobilization as a much broader picture than ever before. When the strategies used to suppress are so widespread and diverse, the tactics we use to empower need to be just as wide reaching. This is what people outside of Texas do not always see, that Texans are pushing back and demanding real representation. Latinas/os are officially the largest racial/ethnic demographic in Texas, yet we only made up 25% of lawmakers in the most recent legislature. As we move forward and prepare for the 2024 election cycle, Latina/o civic engagement is now more important than ever. Progressive young voters are determined to get to the polls.
Texas’s political playing field is unique. Voter suppression strategies here are getting more innovative every legislative session. We must begin to see the connections between all of these policy areas, just as we continue to see all manifestations of oppression as interconnected. Ensuring that Texans are accurately represented in our government will not be an easy task, but it is easy to see that the majority is pushing back against the conservative few. We will not make it easy for them to continue to silence us. As daunting as it may seem, we will not give up on Texas.
Orozco, Cynthia E. “Mexican American Legislative Caucus.” Texas State Historical Association, May 1, 1995. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/mexican-american-legislative-caucus