“This year we’re going to march together into the Promised Land,” Dallas anti-violence activist Blanca Martinez told a group of young, mostly Latino pilgrims recently at a peace summit in Washington, D.C. Her statement may be prophetic indeed, for after years of wandering in the American political wilderness, Latinos are poised to ford the mainstream and make a stronger political impact than ever before.
For some time now the political juice of the Latino community has been boiling around issues such as April’s videotaped beating of undocumented immigrants by Riverside County police, California’s Prop 187, affirmative action rollbacks, and sharp new punitive measures that are applied disproportionately to people of color. Left with few alternatives, the diverse—and, at times, antagonistic—political, racial, and cultural factions of the U.S. Latino community are taking advantage of this election year to defend their rights—and perhaps some of America’s most preciously held values as well ...
It’s not often that you hear teenagers—most of whom are too young to vote—talking about building multiracial coalitions of people to create change through the ballot box. But the time has come for these young people, who have already seen too many friends and relatives die violently on the streets of their communities. They understand the urgency that is needed for the healing of their communities.
Aaron McCarroll Gallegos was a member of Sojourners editorial staff when this article appeared.