Jennifer Nov 03, 2022 News

As part of a battle for young Latino voters in Texas, activists have turned to sponsoring quinceañeras, both in Austin and across the state.

Driving the news: Actress and activist America Ferrera recently hosted a quinceañera-themed event in San Antonio with hundreds of people showing up for a parade to a voting center to encourage civic engagement ahead of the Nov. 8 elections.

Why it matters: Pew Research Center estimates 6.2 million Hispanic people in Texas are eligible to vote, making the state home to the second-largest Hispanic voter population, behind California.

Context: Quinceañeras, or 15th birthday celebrations, are a monumental rite of passage for young women in Latino culture.

What happened: Harness, a nonprofit co-founded by Ferrera, and Austin-based Jolt Action, which describes itself as the “the largest Latino progressive organization in Texas,” organized the symbolic “Ride to the Polls” activation.

  • The event featured about a dozen debutantes, lowriders and a mini festival with voting information.
  • Young women in sparkling debutante gowns encircled “La Veladora of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” a ceramic mosaic by Jesse Treviño, to kick things off.
  • Eulogia Rodriguez, 14, participated in the event and said civic engagement isn’t “popular” in her community but she wants to be part of the change by sharing voting information.
  • At her upcoming birthday, Rodriguez will give a speech centered on civic engagement. Jolt, which provides a free photo booth, will also register guests to vote at her celebration.

What they’re saying: Pacita Rudder, programs manager at Harness, told Axios the civic engagement group hopes the cultural relevance of the activation reaches Latinos throughout the U.S. and combats apathy tied to the electoral process.

  • “We know that a lot of times the young folks in families are actually the ones that are pushing their older family members and relatives to make change, so having them speak up about voting is a really powerful moment,” Rudder said.
  • Ferrera noted the teens involved in the event aren’t old enough to vote, but believes the “power and strength” of their early engagement motivates their family and friends to participate.
  • “Our voices are worthy of being in the rooms where decisions are being made,” Ferrera said.

By the numbers: Jolt has held 17 Poder Quince events around the state, including one in Austin — with another scheduled for later this year.

  • Jolt registered more than 13,600 voters this year.
  • As part of its get-out-the-vote efforts, the organization has sent out more than 55,000 mailers and more than 19,500 texts.

NextGen, an organization that targets young, likely progressive voters, told Axios a year ago that it aimed to register 150,000 individuals this election cycle — but a spokesperson declined this week to release to Axios its registration figures until after the election.

Meanwhile: Gov. Greg Abbott has been running ads emphasizing his Hispanic connections — one ad features his wife, who is Hispanic; another features a niece, who calls him Tío Greg.

  • This week, Abbott, who has vowed to win the Latino vote, was in Laredo, appearing at the Republican National Committee’s Hispanic Community Center.
  • Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke has been conducting rallies in Spanish, campaigning in South Texas and appearing with luminaries like Dolores Huerta and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

What’s next: Friday is the final day of early voting in Texas. Election Day is Nov. 8.

Source: Axios