by Crisaly Marquez-Santos, NextGen Nevada Digital Director
Growing up, I felt pressure to prove my worth to this country. As a daughter of immigrants, I had to honor their sacrifices. But more importantly, I had to prove to society that I could get an education, that I am worthy and capable and would work hard to prove that I belong.
Now, as a woman, I continue the fight. As the digital director of NextGen Nevada, I work to turn out young men and women just like me; I dedicate myself to uplift our shared struggles and to be the voice of those disproportionately affected to help build a better future for all of us.
I still aim to affirm that my parents did the right thing by coming here. Yet, after years of fighting for change through working with nonprofits and campaign work, I’m starting to see the cracks in my old beliefs. So many children grew up seeking success and happiness. Meanwhile, I had dedicated myself to prove my worth to a country who disregarded my voice, time and time again.
A child should not have to be consumed with the worry that they need to prove themselves, that they need to assure their president that their parents aren’t criminals, carrying drugs across the border or stealing American jobs. Our Latin community doesn’t need to prove anything. Parents come here so that their children have a better life than they had, something any parent, Hispanic or not, can relate to.
One way of honoring my family, and our plight, is to participate in choosing our country’s leaders. Voting is power; it’s the opportunity to speak your mind and elect someone that won’t threaten to build a wall or hurl racist insults. Moreover, I know that my vote means more than just speaking my voice. My vote is the voice for my family, for the members of my community who can’t register and cast a ballot.
My sister is a Dreamer. Before, that used to mean that she was protected, despite her inability to vote. Now, we’re victim to the whims of a president and his racist rhetoric. It has been heart wrenching and infuriating to see my sister's future hang in the balance for years while we fight for DACA. How is it still possible that we still need to prove that she deserves to stay in the only country she’s ever known? My sister is now going to graduate with her Bachelor’s degree in biology, works with a local shelter to take care of animals and find them a home, and is a wonderful human being — kind, smart, compassionate — and her future can still be taken away. We need leaders who will protect us, not marginalize us.
This month is Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s an important reminder of how much the Hispanic community has gone through, and how much we contribute to our country. I am extremely proud of what our community stands for, who we are, and our culture. We cannot afford to sit back and avoid politics any longer, we can no longer decide to opt-out of the voting process. We must fight for our future and for the future of those around us who can’t vote.
*This op-ed is currently running on the Reno Gazette-Journal.