Will Latinos transform Arizona?

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Michel Labrecque (access the author's page)

Tucson, population 550,000, Arizona's second largest city. Tucson is a college town, progressive, and 45% Latin American. For a year now, a Latina has been running the city. Regina Romero, 46, has become a symbol of the growth of this community in Arizona.

My parents were Mexican farm workers with no education. All of their children have university degrees. And their youngest daughter is the mayor of Tucson. But there are still obstacles for many of us. Access to success remains limited for our community.

Regina Romero, Mayor of Tucson
Medium shot of Regina Romero, smiling.

Regina Romero Mayoress of Tucson

Photo: City of Tucson

Regina Romero is a Democrat. She campaigned on improving public schools, investing in inner city neighborhoods and tackling climate change, an increasingly urgent problem in Arizona.

Ms. Romero is part of a new generation of Latin Americans entering politics and wanting to transform Arizona. We are more and more and more and more young, said the mayoress, speaking of her community. We can become a deciding factor in an election and even more so in the future.

For the moment, this Latin political wind is blowing more towards Democratic candidate Joe Biden than towards President Donald Trump.

Distant shot of Eduardo Sainz standing in his office.

Eduardo Sainz, director of the Mi Familia Vota organization for Arizona.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Michel Labrecque

<q data-attributes = '{"lang": {"value": "fr", "label": "Français"}, "value": {"html": "Arizona was an epicenter of racism; and now we are a tight state (Battleground state) "," text ":" Arizona was an epicenter of racism; and now we are a tight state (Battleground state) "}} 'lang =" en”>Arizona was an epicenter of racism; and now we are a tight state (Battleground state), says Eduardo Sainz, Arizona director of Mi Familia Vota (My Family Votes), a national organization that wants to get Hispanics more involved in politics.

Eduardo Sainz can tell you for hours about the racist history of Arizona, including Native people, Blacks and Hispanics.

Let us limit ourselves to recent history. Between 1993 and 2017, Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes Arizona's metropolis of Phoenix, had a reputation for terrorizing minorities. A badass, who had installed a tent city for illegal immigrants whom he compared to a concentration camp.

In 2010, Arizona enacted Law 1070, which allowed police to arrest anyone who looked like an illegal immigrant. It terrorized the whole community, said Eduardo Sainz, who was a student at the time.

It is true that at that time illegal immigration and drug trafficking were out of control. The majority of voters supported the law. Until the overtly racist aspect emerges. The point was that we felt bad, until we left Arizona, continues Eduardo. He has seen friends and family move elsewhere in the United States, or even Mexico.

But those who stayed, like him, created progressive organizations to abolish the law. They succeeded, and the mean Sheriff Arpaio was defeated by a Democrat in 2016.

We said to ourselves: enough is enough; we have to build real political power that takes our values ​​into account.

Eduardo Sainz

Today, Republicans and Democrats are almost neck and neck on the Arizona Capitol. Story to follow.

Trump and "the internalization of racism"

Medium shot of Silvia Menchaca in her restaurant.

Silvia Menchaca, restaurateur

Photo: Lori Weinberg

At Silvia’s off the grill, we eat Mexican; specifically, the cuisine of the state of Sonora, which borders Arizona. Latinos get it wrong when they think Democrats will help them, says the owner, Silvia Menchaca. It is the Republicans who promote growth. Silvia is a 3rd generation Hispanic; she admits she doesn't speak Spanish very well. She is also a conservative Catholic, like many Latinos. Republican values ​​suit him very well.

It would be wrong to believe that all Latinos are Democrats. But Silvia Menchaca recognizes it: the majority of my latino friends are democrats. His only hope: with Trump, some are starting to change their minds.

My daughter and her boyfriend were staunch Democrats. Last week, she phoned me to tell me she was going to vote for Donald Trump because he's the one who represents ordinary people. I said to myself: finally she understood, thank you my God.

Silvia menchaca

Donald Trump and his family are gleefully wooing Arizona's Latin electorate. Does it works? Not sure yet. Republican though she is, Silvia believes illegal Latino immigrants to the United States should be given some sort of path to citizenship. Ronald Reagan, a preeminent Republican president, legalized 3 million of them in 1986. But Donald Trump has not shown much interest in this kind of reform.I believe in him, he will fix everything, believes Silvia.

Wide shot of Karina Rodriguez, standing, in the evening.

Karina Rodriguez works for the University of Arizona at Tucson.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Michel Labrecque

I don’t understand how a Latino can vote for Trump; it must be the internalization of racism, says Karina Rodriguez, at the door of a Mexican supermarket in Tucson.

Karina Rodriguez refers to the president's many controversial remarks about rapist and criminal immigrants. And what's more, local Republicans have practiced racial profiling to extreme levels., she adds. And Trump has raised the level of racism incredibly.

Karina grew up in Phoenix, which is 40% Latinos. My grandparents don't speak English, she specifies. In her neighborhood, English was spoken at school and Spanish in the streets. It's a lot like that in the southern part of Phoenix.

And then she went to Tucson to continue her education at the University of Arizona. It was an intense culture shock, she says. For the first time in her life, she found herself in the minority in this largely white environment.

Fortunately, there were neighborhoods and Latino grocery stores, where she could trace her roots.

The 28-year-old studied higher education and French. And then she got a job at the university. She is in charge of recruitment for the Faculty of Humanities. It has changed here now, there is a special office for Latinos, we see more, adds Karina. And in Tucson you can hear Spanish everywhere. Karina Rodriguez believes young Latino voters are politicized and thirsty for justice. They chat with their parents, their grandparents, and that can change a lot of things, she concludes.

A wall, a city cut in two

Medium shot of Evan Kory, smiling, in front of his business.

Evan Kory runs a business on the Mexican border.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Michel Labrecque

Nogales. It's a city in Arizona… and Mexico. It's a binational city separated by a wall, says Evan Kory, who grew up here. A sort of Berlin what. There's Nogales, Arizona, 20,000 people who are 95% Hispanic. And Nogales, Sonora, 250,000 inhabitants. And since 1995, there is this wall that separates the two. Nogales existed before the creation of Arizona, so before the border, says Evan. His family, which has Lebanese and Hispanic roots, owns two stores on Main Avenue in Nogales, Arizona, which on Saturday, September 26th, looks like a ghost town. Our clients are predominantly Mexican and, due to COVID, they can no longer cross the border, continues Ms. Kory.

Even before the pandemic, the border gradually transformed.

There has been a kind of hardening, unpredictable wait times at customs; it looks like the US government is trying to discourage people from crossing. Because of this, Mexicans tend to stay at home.

Evan Kory, trader

And since Donald Trump came to power, it has become even more complicated.

A wall of barbed wire cutting the town of Nogales in half.

The wall seen from Nogales, Arizona, set with barbed wire.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Michel Labrecque

In 2018, soldiers arrived and installed accordion barbed wire all along the wall. In the center of our city, as if we were at war, it was very shocking, says Evan Kory. No one in Nogales knew about it. The city council protested, to no avail.

Pretty much everyone in Nogales has family on the other side. The wall seems unreal to these people. But it forces migrants to take more dangerous routes.

And behold, not too far away, the Trump administration is building new segments, even bigger and higher. From my back yard, I see them destroying part of the national forest to build this wall. That does not make any sense, Evan sighs.

Because this wall also has environmental impacts. This Sonoran desert is rich in biodiversity and the wall is killing it all. Of course, the Wall Extension has supporters in Arizona. But, according to a recent poll, that's less than 30% of the population. Evan Kory will, like most of his fellow citizens in Nogales, vote for Joe Biden for the presidency.

This president is a shame, he promotes hate, he said of Donald Trump.

To listen to Michel Labrecque's report on the importance of the Latin American community in Arizona, click here.

The report on the border town of Nogales will be broadcast at Desautels on Sunday, from 10 a.m. on ICI Première.

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