Redistricting and the Power of Latino Unity (OPINION)

Nov 9, 2021
3:41 PM

Women volunteers for Florida Rising, a grassroots organization helping communities across the state fight for economic and racial justice. (Florida Rising/Facebook)

As a woman who is many things —a mother, a daughter of immigrants, an organizer, a Floridian who speaks the languages of my people (Spanish, English, and Portuguese)— I know the importance of what it means to speak up, what it means to raise my voice and exercise my power.

I’m going to ask you to do the same.

Mi gente, there’s something out there that you can’t always see but can definitely feel it trying to take our power away, and it’s called redistricting.

Redistricting, simply put, is the drawing of lines. Politicians look at a map of our communities and draw lines around them to divide us into groups. Redistricting is a cornerstone of representative democracy, and it is happening right now.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years, following the census. The 2020 census initiated the current impactful cycle. When not watched closing, redistricting can be designed to separate us from one another, to keep us from being together, as one, and thereby weakening our political power. We’ve worked too hard and have come too far to let this happen.

Be included in the process.

In the August 2021 study, “Engaging Latino/Hispanic Communities in the Redistricting Process,” researchers Gabriel Sanchez and Matt Barreto discovered many things we know to be true. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, Latinos communicated that they do place a high level of importance on Latino voices being heard in the redistricting process, with an average score of 8.2. In addition, 80 percent of Latinos say we hold common priorities and political interests.

What this all boils down to is that many of us want and speak up for the same things —for things to be better! Better schools for our kids. Better jobs. And strong communities.

Don’t our communities deserve better? Don’t we want our communities to thrive and have the same resources and opportunities as everyone else? Claro. So it is our job to become more engaged in the redistricting process to preserve and improve what is available to us.

It is up to us.

Remember, the Latino population in places like in Florida is growing quickly. Pew Research Center reported that “the U.S. population grew by 22.7 million from 2010 to 2020, and Hispanics accounted for 51% of this increase.” We have so many new leaders waiting and ready to run for office and lead our communities. By getting involved in redistricting, we help shape the future of our communities.

Therefore, we must not only personally participate in local meetings and get involved in this process, but we must also vote in new leaders who represent us. Who is better at keeping us together besides us? Latinos demand more representation at every level, candidates who speak our language, who look, sound and share our values. We want people that understand us best to have an opportunity to represent us in Congress.

For far too long, Black and Latinx communities have been victimized by voter suppression, misinformation, and intimidation at the polls. We need to ensure that the way district lines are drawn will give us every chance at quality representation. We have to pay attention to the process of drawing district lines to ensure that the next decade of political boundaries shows an America that is transforming.

We cannot stay silent and expect things to change. We cannot just hope that democracy will work in our favor without our participation. If we want to see ourselves represented by our elected officials, we must be part of the change.

Our voices are powerful. We have the ability to influence the future we want to see for our communities. I encourage you to attend a district mapping meeting and call your legislators. Get a clear understanding of the process and how it can affect our communities over the next 10 years. Do not be afraid to ask questions or clarifications, because we deserve to have a process that is transparent and beneficial to everyone in our communities.

Let’s design a future that is better for generations to come. Juntos podemos.


Andrea Mercado is the co-executive director of Florida Rising. She has been working on race, gender, and economic equity issues for 20 years. Twitter: @DREAMERcado