Las Vegas Sun

September 24, 2017

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UNLV student discusses Hispanic forum, increasing political engagement

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Leila Navidi

UNLV student and hispanic activist Lucero Gomez-Ochoa on the campus of UNLV in Las Vegas on Friday, Feb. 24, 2012.

Beyond the Sun

To go

  • The meeting will be at UNLV on Friday. The event, free and open to the public, begins with check-in at 6 p.m. in room A-106 of the Carol C. Harter classroom building complex, situated between the student services complex and Lied Library. The program will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

On Friday, UNLV will play host to the Hispanic Voices Town Hall, one in a series of community forums around the country organized by author and consultant Glenn Llopis and his organization, 2012 Hispanic Voice.

The goal of the town hall is to provide a nonpartisan setting to discuss issues facing the Hispanic community, where there can be debate, brainstorming and, perhaps, the formulation of a Hispanic agenda.

Llopis asked UNLV student Lucero Gomez-Ochoa, 20, to help organize the Las Vegas town hall after meeting her in September at a White House event dedicated to Hispanics and education. Gomez-Ochoa, a business major, was born in Las Vegas after her parents immigrated from Mexico. A week before the town hall, the Sun sat down with Gomez-Ochoa to discuss her hopes for the town hall and why it can be the catalyst for further organization.

Why is it important to hold this event now?

It’s important this year because it’s an election year. There tends to be a lot of misconceptions about the Hispanic vote because it is so diverse. So I think it’s important to say this is our voice and this is what we think, and it’s not what the media is saying or what they think we are thinking. It’s important because Hispanics ... we are everywhere, we are conservatives and we are liberals. Maybe we can move toward a common voice.

Is there a “Latino vote?”

I think there is. We are essentially raised on a lot of the same values and culture, so I think there is a point when we all come together and have common issues. I think one of those things is immigration because most us can relate. Almost all of us have a story of a family member, friend or neighbor who was affected by immigration policies. It’s also the economy, because we’re all working families. It’s hard though, because you do have both very conservative and very liberal Hispanics. But the sleeping giant is waking up, and Hispanics are determining every day more and more who gets elected and who doesn’t.

You voted for the first time in 2010, as soon as you were eligible. What motivated you, and how do get more Hispanics to vote?

Obviously my parents are from Mexico and come from a very sketchy political democracy. They were like: “Why are you so excited?” And I had to explain to them that I do believe that one vote matters, and if you add one and one and one, it makes a difference.

It’s a matter of educating people. Like my parents, they came from a broken democracy, and it’s just so hard to tell them it’s worth it. It’s not a perfect democracy but it’s one of the best. It’s a matter of motivating them. If we vote and our uncles vote and the neighbors vote, then we can have more elected officials representing our interests.

What do you hope comes out of the town hall?

I hope it gets us talking more, because only two hours isn’t enough time to talk about all the issues. I hope it leads to us demanding more from potential candidates, and I hope it leads to the development of a pluralistic agenda.

Having grown up Nevada, are you encouraged by the growth in Hispanic state legislators and the start of the first Hispanic Legislative Caucus during the last session?

It’s exciting. We are getting more representatives at the state level, and that’s where we feel the most change. Living in Las Vegas, you feel more change from the state Legislature than anything else, and it’s good to have Hispanic representatives speaking for the community.

Where did your passion for politics and community activism come from?

My family. My grandfather talks a lot about politics. In our household at the dinner table, we talk only about politics and life. My family made it important to know what the issues are. We were taught to not believe in the parties or candidates, but to think about the issues for ourselves and decide what was right. It’s the culture I was raised in.

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