The Reality Show of Voting: You And Your 129 Close Relatives

Your 129 close relatives decided your vote.  No, it’s not a strange Univision reality TV show, after all, you lack fourteen barely-dressed, busty models.  We speak of 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 close childhood for you and your six siblings.  In 1976, the average fertility of an average Mexican woman was an astounding 7.2 children [1], though it’s nearly the same as the USA today at 2.3 [2].  Dad and Mom’s generation was a busy one.

Each of your parents had six siblings.   Of those 12 blood-related aunts and uncles, ten married and each had six children.  That meant 22 aunts and uncles and sixty cousins.    For some reason, three were named Jorge.  It was darn near impossible to figure out who’d be in your wedding party.  You recall Quinceañeras, weddings, Easter and Buena Noche family events were always crowded.  Your family was like a giant stimulus package for the world economy; Paul Krugman owes you a Gracias.  Your grandparents each lived to around seventy years.

When you immigrated to the US at age five, your family absorbed American culture.  Which meant fewer babies and more bowling.  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 attractive spouse was a second generation Mexican-American with two parents and two siblings, one of whom, Marissa, married and had two children. 

You graduated from the University of Texas-Austin and live today as a successful accountant in the pleasant Houston suburb of Katy.  That is correct: nothing could be more American than a general ledger accountant in a ranch house!  Your lawn is trim and TruGreened; you own a Toyota Camry and a Ford SUV.   You fly the American flag from your front porch.  Every Sunday, you attend Catholic mass.   All you need is a white picket fence and they’d use you in insurance commercials.    While politics is of little concern, 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, the Republican President who granted citizenship to your parents back in the 1980s.  Back when “amnesty” was a good thing.

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 of your Americano friends are surprised to learn there’s Facebook and Skype in Mexico.  Some of your cousins 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 in 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.  And no, your car doesn’t run on tacos.  Most of the whites and blacks you come across with are very nice but sometimes you receive 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.  Unemployed or not, no native-born American wants to behead chickens.

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 deporting people and 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, shall we say, icy.  You wonder what would happen if you ever had your wallet stolen in Mexico (always a possibility) 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.  And no one talks of manning that border with rabid wolves to stop the occasional Al-Queda terrorist on a one-way trip from Vancouver to LAX.

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, English is taking the rest of the world by storm.  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 English-language TV shows with Spanish subtitles.  It’s why every young Mexican knows the key points of American English: “shoot!”, “hey baby,” “damn!” and “I got a gun!”  You know #1 hit albums in Mexico in 2012 include English-language hits from Adele, Madonna and that talentless 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?  Taylor Swift at #4? [4]

But there are some small-time Republican sheriffs out west, that Governor of Arizona who improbably owns a Milwaukee baseball team and some US representatives who get mighty angry about “immigration”, “the border” (presumably not the Canadian one) and “the illegals” that “steal jobs”.   You imagine a cadre of nomads from Michoacan, arriving at a Google programming shop, guns drawn, loudly proclaiming in Spanish, “Hands up!  Off your bouncy balls and ergonomically correct flex chairs!  We’re here to steal your jobs!”

You know what a joke “job theft” is.  If all the illegals left tomorrow, America’s lawns would look like the Manhattan skyline and America’s dishes would go uncleaned in the nation’s Olive Gardens.  Now, there’s a reality show:  Who Wants To Be A Maid?  You don’t even remember the name of those 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. 

Question: what’s the only TV with dark-skinned Mexicans?

Answer: Republican TV ads!

The political TV ads these folks ran always showed hazelnut-colored Latinos sneaking under fences.  Whereas Mexican television Univision and Telemundo are all Argentine models and “blancas”, anti-immigration ads are all Oaxaca, all the time.

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 college visa.  But no one runs TV ads about drunken Irish illegals with horrible voices.

You heard something on the radio news about an obscure Republican talking of “live ammo” for the Border Patrol.   Which is odd, they can’t execute a serial killer in Illinois, but they’ll shoot your nanny when she returns from visiting her family!  You shuddered at that, after all, some of your cousins crossed and who knows when your niece Marta might.  Someone said use unmanned drones to take out illegals.  There’s more ACLU concern about doing that to crazy sheiks in Oman.  The US is going bankrupt but we can find money to stock the Rio with alligators?  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 their plates at Applebee’s and towel dry their cars at Spick-N-Span Wash.  You really get the sense some people really don’t like “your type.” 

That bothers you because it cuts against your family.  And no one is more pro-family than your extended family.  Like most Mexican-Americans, you’re grande 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 his women when your dad wasn’t around.  No wonder he had nine children.  These are your gente, your people.    You look at the tiny “pro-family” American families of one kid and think, some people are all hat and no uterus!

That talk about immigration rubs you the wrong way when it’s said “lazy” people 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 balance 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.  Unless it was from making babies with Mom.

That Mitt Romney guy never spoke crazy but he did talk tough about closing down illegal immigration.  Obama promised some immigration reform back in 2008, 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.  Sure, the 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. [3]  Will the Republicans compete for your vote in 2014 and 2016?






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