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No Such Thing As The Sleeping Giant

December 12th, 2009 · 10 Comments

The following is another guest blog by David Molina detailing some of the Latino political participation in Oregon.

Yesterday evening, over a dozen Chicana/os and Latina/os, from locally elected to state appointed, from American educated to small business owners, from military veterans to health care workers, and from engineers to educators, gathered around to have a conversation with David Robinson, a candidate for Oregon’s First Congressional District, in the heart of the Silicon Forest in Hillsboro, Oregon. Long-time residents, Emilio & Adriana Cañas, graciously hosted candidate Robinson who is running against Congressman David Wu, whose district represents the northwest corner of Oregon, including Clatsop, Columbia, Washington, Yamhill counties, and a sliver of Multnomah County, Southwest Portland. Wu has represented the district since 1999.

Much has been written about the “sleeping giant,” the term coined during the 1950s by anthropologists referring to Mexican-Americans, further stereotyped by the media of a man sleeping under a cactus–an illustration of a quiet, inept and politically apathetic persona. The stereotype that Chicano/Latinos are politically apathetic is far from reality. In the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, New Mexico Governor Richardson, ran but ultimately conceded and put his weight behind Barack Obama, who ultimately won the presidency. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, current Secretary of State Pedro Cortez is the first Latino to hold that seat. Oregon’s first Latina Superintendent of Public Instruction and former State Senator Susan Castillo and Oregon’s first Latina to serve on the Democratic National Committee is D.F. born Lupita Maurer, a Washington County Democrat-activist is indicative that there is no such thing as the sleeping giant. While the ‘giant’ has historically been excluded from “formal” political activities and institutions, Chicano/Latinos have long been politically active, as organizers, participants, and leaders in their respective communities, workplaces, and political organizations.


Robinson who is a commander in the U.S. Navy shared his diverse experience, ranging from his military deployments to the Horn of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to his experience in the classroom at the Naval Academy. He shared with us his thoughts on leadership, community involvement and national security. He shared his vision on quality education, affordable health care, the economy, small business challenges, and comprehensive immigration reform. He listened intently to questions from Hillsboro School Board member, Adriana Cañas, about public education support, teacher compensation and the need for more vocational schooling.

In homes across Oregon, across the United States, Latinos will continue to invite candidates running for local, state and national elected office because we care about the future. We care about our children and our parents more than anything else. We care about the state of our economy, affordable health care, quality education, good jobs and a chance at the American dream. We’ve purchased homes, cars and sent our students to the best universities available. We understand that the rise and fall of our communities starts with each of us. David Robinson understands that when you run for Congress, reaching out to people in their homes, is critical. Over wine, pico de gallo, good food and laughter, we welcomed him into our home because he wasn’t afraid to ask questions, learn about Latino issues, and be himself. ¡Salud!

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Tags: community organizing and activism · David Molina

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anna // Dec 12, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Re: “In the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, New Mexico Governor Richardson, ran but ultimately conceded and put his weight behind Barack Obama, who ultimately won the presidency.”

    Obama would not have won without our large turnout, but we didn’t demand anything in return for our vote, and we haven’t gotten anything either. Yes, we are a large voting bloc, but having that power doesn’t mean anything unless you know how to use it. In that respect, we have a long way to go.

  • 2 David Molina // Dec 12, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    What we demanded was someone who’d be honest with us, work their ass off and give everyone an equal shot. Undocumented immigrants continue to get rounded up at their nearby grocery store and Oregon denies them driving privileges, even though this group makes minimum wage and pays their taxes.

    Yes, we have Latinos elected and appointed from local to national posts, but until we have Latina and Latino public servants worthy of our respect at every level fighting on behalf of every American, we have zero.

  • 3 WhatThe.. // Dec 12, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    If they are undocumented they are in the country illegally. Driving is a privilege, and not a right, only given to residents of that state. If they are paying IRS taxes, they are usually doing it two way through a false SS; that would be ID theft and a felony, or using an IRS ITIN issued number. But the IRS has not done their job of scrutinizing millions of W-2 forms with names that don’t match a SS number. Minimum wage, well if their illegal they are going to be abused and taken advantage of. This is America’s slave labor. Without addressing the border situation we will continue to have an influx of illegal immigration into the USA. Possibly, the border situation will not be addressed due the need for cheap labor. Even, if we allow many of the undocumented to be US citizens with labor rights, Americans will continue to prefer undocumented.

  • 4 Reyfeo // Dec 13, 2009 at 7:22 am

    The problem with Latinos is our diversity mostly based by regions of the US…for instance in Florida, Cuban-Americans tend to lean right, supporting Republican ideas (but then they all they have to do is set “foot on US soil” to get legal status). Floridians Latinos have voted mostly Republican up until recently that tendency has shifted proven they are not a consistent vote.

    Take California Latinos, they tend to historically be left leaning (Dems), but as I continue to argue here on this website is they are ignorant of the policies these Dem are trying to push such as Abortion, Gay Marriage etc–things most Latinos don’t agree with but still some how get duped into voting for.

    Then you have the upper Northern States like Illinois and Oregon. Mostly left leaning but not always on the same footing as to what they agree with.

    Add to the mix that for many in these blogs/conversations/debates “Latino” is defined as anyone of “illegal” and “legal” status and you can see how we will never agree to anything.

    Lastly, I tend to believe Latino leadership is elected on popularity more than substance (take Villar and the Sanchez sisters…all talk and no concrete action—WHY would Californians and or self respecting Latinos vote for idiots like this I will never know.) and so putting on all the large voting Latino blocs (from the different States as I have done for now) together is depressing and mostly confusing…add to that Latino leadership that is disconnected with its voting blocs, because they are often voted mainly on persona/characteristics (not so much character) and you have yourself a “confused sleeping giant”, better left to stay asleep as it tends to wake up and vote wrongly—can you say NObama? I am sure Latinos did not sigh up for anything he is doing (well except maybe Californians who have lost their way…).

  • 5 Anna // Dec 13, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Re: “I continue to argue here on this website is they are ignorant of the policies these Dem are trying to push such as Abortion, Gay Marriage etc–things most Latinos don’t agree with but still some how get duped into voting for.”

    Nobody is being duped. People aren’t buying the BS the racist Republican Party is selling. I don’t know why you think most Latinos are going base their votes on wedge issues like abortion and anti-gay bigotry, rather than on real issues like the economy, education, healthcare, etc. Get a clue.

  • 6 Reyfeo // Dec 13, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    My point was that its harder to get the Latino base in this country to move togther as one, like Black Americans, becuase of our diversity…but you are also correct, at this point, ‘its the economy stupid’.

  • 7 David Molina // Dec 13, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    1. Licenses: Failure to test, issue and monitor the state’s residents who drive puts everyone on the road at risk. Forget that they are undocumented, the very policy puts your family and my family at risk. This impacts our insurance premiums, etc., and no one benefits (except perhaps the insurance companies).
    2. Labor: Everyone pays their taxes. Employers, that are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, collect taxes which is routed back to state and federal government. The only one that benefits here is the government. I think, to some extent, the government and corporations benefits from the continuation of such labor immigration policies. In a capitalist system, I don’t believe the system wants individuals to make more than minimum wage as this directly impacts profits.
    3. Root Cause: Lack of a border isn’t the cause of increased immigration, but our country’s (as well as world financial institutions) economic & trade policies abroad that erodes countries ability to produce, compete and trade with each other, i.e. Mexico’s peso devaluation in ’94 as a result of NAFTA, collapse of Argentina’s economic system.
    4. Latino Diversity: True. Not only are we are as diverse as can be, but we’re very nationalist & regionalist (I’m NOT Cuban, I’m Mexican, or I’m not chilango., SOY Sinaloanse, etc.). This directly impacts unity on a broader scale, something unattained say by Africans-Americans (mostly an American south). Secondly, generational differences greatly impact the continuation of values (family, religion, etc) and machismo hinders common ground.

    I would hope we don’t cast the vote on the most popular, as done in many parts of the world, but by whoever will deliver the greatest results and our collective interests. Lastly, our cynicism as a whole, not just by our parents and grandparents experiences in their mother country, to an extent is passed onto our kids which directly impacts current elections. The complexities, velocity and diversity of news we receive on a daily basis adds to the challenge of understanding what is real and what is not, which politicians on both sides of the aisle exploit on a population that is for the most part far from college educated.

  • 8 Gabriela // Dec 15, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Watch Lupita Maurer!. She has my vote for anything she runs for!

  • 9 David Molina // Dec 15, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Rayfeo: I agree with your point on diversity by regions which causes heavy disagreement on unity for national legislation. I think people in general are very territorial and guard what is theirs, there are egos, etc. Good point!

    On definition of Latino as either documented or documented, not sure. Certainly, there’s some pride (1st, 2nd, 3rd and maybe, maybe 4th generation) on American’s referring themselves as Latino. It’s a good point though and something for us to look at.

    Gabriela: Lupita is very popular inside the Washington County Dems and even statewide in the party. As I wrote above, her election to the DNC, is testament that Latina/os above all are engaged and not sleeping. Her fluency in Spanish is perfect and she’s an inspiration to many Latina/os on many levels. Watch for her!

  • 10 LA Times Columnist Steve Lopez Chimes in on the City of Bell (or shall we call it Smell?) // Jul 20, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    [...] have heard “sleeping giant” analogies in Latino politics for years, with every election cycle there is some pundit [...]

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