This post took us about a day to absorb and plot out, because when we wrote our original piece about TIME's Latino vote cover (before reading its content since the cover was released a few days before publication), we saw something good, something different, something positive. Unlike others who might see this cover differently (like this passionate rant from Bill Santiago), we instantly connected.
Not because it was TIME.
Not because it was a picture of real faces, even the one of the non-Latino behind the M.
Not because of the topic, because in the end, the Latino vote is important, yet it is not the tipping point, for this very simple reason: there are 21 million eligible Latino voters in the US this election year, yet, and this is a BIG YET, about 9 million eligible voters will not vote. That is sad.
Which leads us to why we loved the front cover in the first place.
It could have just said, "I Decide." It could have said "I Vote." It could have said "Yo Voto" or "Votar." Hell, it could have said a hundred other things. But it said YO DECIDO, and it resonated.
YO DECIDO means control. YO DECIDO means freedom.
It means not being defined by anyone. It is empowering yourself to be who you want to be and to make your own decisions. It means to you should not follow the sheep, who might tell you one thing because "that is how it was always done and we need to stick together" or "it is now our chance to grasp the American dream."
YO DECIDO means to be independent. To be rebellious. To be a little crazy.
It means that YOU DECIDE.
Want to just speak in English?
Want to just speak in Spanish?
Want to be bilingual?
That is the beauty and complexity of the US Latino world. The irony is this: even though the mainstream media wants to put us all in one big Latino Special Edition Marketing Box, we all can't fit in it, and many of us don't even want the chance to be in that box.
Which gets back to the whole discussion about a magazine cover. There are those who praise assimilation and miss the point (Esther J Cepeda's "Just Show Us Repect" column, when she writes "Respect is a universal quality that comes through just fine in English"), and there are others who push a new dynamic of a complex Latino Spring (Giovanni Rodríguez) that goes beyond the traditional "crossroads moment" other immigrants groups have had to choose at other moments of US history.
And guess what? They are both right.
Because each of their pieces speak to a reality, perhaps the key reality: to assimilate or to not assimilate.
Cepeda's piece frustrated us, because it had nothing to do with our world, but we do understand that it might relate to others who live in this country. And unlike other times in media history where a newspaper columnist might sway more opinion when more people actually read newspapers, we respectfully disagree with Cepeda and her views.
We ask, why? Why does this have to be an EITHER/OR? Why does this have to be about "respect" because some of us follow the English-only path? Why do we pretend to be monolithic? Why can't we just look at each other and say, each of us can DECIDE what they want to be. If you want to push assimilation like Cepeda did, go for it, but at the same time, don't tell that to a vast majority of US Latinos. Don't tell that to the Rebeldes. Because we have a manifesto for that.
What Cepeda fails to acknowledge is the following: there is a significant and passionate group of bilinguals and Spanish monolinguals who find success in the very same country Cepeda writes about. Instead of celebrating a Spanish phrase that expresses empowerment in a simple way that culturally connects to many, Cepeda chooses to write about "respect" and says that US Latinos speak English and know that English is the way to go. Memo to Cepeda: YO DECIDO, not YOU.
In this case, we think Rodríguez's piece said it best and speaks to what the real goal is behind the countless pieces we have read about the now famous "Latino Cover:"
At a time when the country is struggling to adjust its estimation of Latino power, Latinos have the opportunity to change the way people actually think about them. It wouldn't be the first time this has happened with an immigrant population. The Jewish, Indian, and Chinese diasporas have all enabled the U.S. to rethink its attitude toward new citizens – citizens who not only help themselves, but who help others, directly or by example, to achieve the American dream. This may be, in fact, the Latino moment, if not our Spring. And while we may have Time to thank for that, the moment is ours.
Let's not mess it up. This too shall pass.
YO DECIDO. TÚ DECIDES. UNIDOS SIEMPRE. SÍ, SE PUEDE.
I DECIDE, YOU DECIDE. ALWAYS UNITED. SÍ, SE PUEDE.
Take a moment to decide for yourself. Use the power of the social medium to tell your own story. Connect with others and stay true to yourself. That is the power you have. Don't let anyone else tell you that.
Either in English or in Spanish.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Cepeda responded to us on Twitter, letting us know that her piece was not "demanding" respect, as we originally wrote and that we were "putting words in her mouth" by suggesting that. We have since removed the word "demand" from the piece and just cited Cepeda's "Just Show Us Respect," which is the actual title of the piece, even though, as she also told us, she has no control over her headlines being a syndicated columnist. We have made these two corrections from the original piece.