Latinos, when Election Day 2016 came, where were you?
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Many in the Latino community have been discouraged by the unprecedented levels of harsh rhetoric directed at our community during this election. Many are angry that intolerance has been given legitimacy and a place of prominence. I do not blame them. 

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But my message to the community is not to lose hope; we are not powerless. Far from it. In fact, we have millions of ways to push back thanks to the millions of Hispanic voters in this nation.

What is apparent in this election is that it is all too easy to sell the idea that all our problems can be laid at someone else’s door. We need to ask our fellow Americans if what we have seen in this election is who we really are and who we want to be. I, for one, believe America is better than that.

The people I live with, work with, and talk to every day do not recognize the picture of America that has been painted in this election. They believe America’s best days are still ahead. They believe in unity, and believe that diversity is our strength. But believing is not good enough. We need to champion that belief. We need to join with others who share that vision of America.

We, especially in the Latino community, cannot sit on the sidelines to watch the ideals that made this country great be subverted. It is our democracy too, and in our democracy, there is only one response that has ever truly mattered: We will vote. Our community’s message is that we will not be silent. We will not be demonized and we are nobody’s punching bag. Our voices will be heard and we will punch back with the power of our vote.

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We will own our voice, we will own our narrative, and we will own who we are. This election will be a turning point — a critically important chapter in American history. It will define the Hispanic community and the direction of this country for future generations. So if you have been discouraged or angered by the tone of this election, voice it by voting. 

If you care about the way people, all people, are talked about and treated in this country, voice it and vote. If you are concerned about immigration reform, your children’s education, or the economic future of your family, use your voice and vote. And do not stop there — make sure you get your friends, your family, and your neighbors out to vote on Election Day.

It’s time for you to act and to participate. If you are an eligible voter, our community needs you like never before. The future of your family, your community, and your country depends on it. There are only a few short days left before this election. The question before the Latino community is: Who among us will be accountable for that future and how? The answer is that we need to write this chapter of American history together. 

We need to think about what historians will say about our community and the role we played in this election. We need to think about what our children and grandchildren will read about this chapter of American history. Will they learn that Latinos were “presente” or “no presente” in 2016?

Our response to them and for the history books must be that with so much at stake, we were “presente:” We showed up and made a difference. 

Janet Murguia is the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).


The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.