Bilingual is Better
Nov
06
2012

Why I’m Not Voting Today

Posted by:  |  Category: Roxana's Blog

12

As millions of Americans go out and vote for the next president of the United States today, and the excitement associated with the empowerment brought about by casting a ballot is palpable in the air, I’m left wondering, once again, if the time has come to change my attitude regarding my immigration status. So I figured this would be a great opportunity to share an excerpt from our book Bilingual is Better. This is from chapter 5, ”Between Two Worlds: Identity vs. Assimilation”.

***

I’m not a U.S. citizen. I’m the only one in my family who isn’t.

My husband was born in Puerto Rico—a colony of the United States—and both our children were born in Colorado. So they’re all American by birth. My older sister was born here when my father was a student in Florida. Although they went back to Peru when she was not even one, when we came back to the States many years later, my parents obtained their legal permanent residency through her. Once they were residents, they petitioned for my little brother and I. After spending the five years as legal permanent residents required by law, they all became naturalized citizens. I, on the other hand, opted against it.

The reasons behind that decision have been the source of many an argument between my husband and I and — when he was alive —between my father and I. It’s not really a subject I like to discuss — especially during these contentious political times full of anti-immigrant backlash, but I figured that sharing my personal struggle with this subject could resonate with other people out there who feel the same way.

***

It’s not that I have anything at all against my adopted country. My children wouldn’t have been born here if that were the case. It’s just something that is really hard to ex-plain, but I will try — even though I’ll probably get lynched in the process. I like the United States, but I love Peru. I’ll stand up as a sign of respect when someone recites the pledge of allegiance or sings the national anthem, but I won’t follow their lead. The only anthem I know by heart and can sing at a moment’s notice is the Peruvian one. I think the Stars and Stripes is beautiful, but I only get butterflies in my stomach when I see the red, white and red flag of my birth country. I could go on and on, but I think this will have to suffice.

Even so, three things have made me analyze my decision not to become a U.S. citizen a bit deeper lately.

The first one has to do with the fact that at thirty-nine years old, I have never voted, which is very weird because I’ve always been interested in politics and I am, after all, a journalist. Yet, I’ve never partaken in what I consider one of the most vital parts of belonging to a democracy. I’ve never voted not because I didn’t want to, but because I can’t — although my husband would beg to differ. Let’s see, if we were to get technical, I could actually vote — in Peruvian elections, that is. Yet even though I’ve covered Peru’s elections a couple of times as a journalist, the reality is that I have absolutely no connection to my home country’s politics.

My husband, however, disagrees about me not being able to vote because I could’ve become an American citizen fourteen years ago —meaning I’ve missed almost four presidential elections and twice as many at the state and city level.

I must admit I was jealous of my husband when he voted for Obama in 2008. There was so much presidential buzz going on back then. It was an exciting time for sure! Plus, he actually got to meet Obama during a one-on-one interview he taped for Univision and we both got to cover the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

A few days prior to a recent (local) election, my husband told me he was never going to vote again. “It’s all the same,” he lamented. “They’re all the same.” He, like many others who voted for Obama, was disillusioned. He felt too many promises were broken. “It’s hard fixing something that’s so broken,” I told him. But he didn’t care. Then he covered an event in which a local Latina activist talked about the power of just one vote and he came back a changed man.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” he confessed. “If we all think the way I was thinking, then nothing will ever change.” After he voted, he came home feeling pretty empowered. I hate not knowing what that feels like.

{Photo by whiteafrican}

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