Many Latinx Voters Say Candidates Need 'Cultural Competency'

Feb 20, 2020

Democratic hopefuls have made attempts to reach out to Spanish-speaking communities, but voters in Northern Nevada have said candidates are not doing enough to reach them before the caucus.

In the past few weeks, most of the candidates have boosted their efforts to reach Latinx voters, by dropping campaign ads in Spanish ahead of Nevada’s caucus.

“Nevada is going to be the first time in this primary/caucus where a significant population of Latino voters will be able to make their voices heard,” said Danny Turkel, a spokesman for Voto Latino, a national group dedicated to the Latinx vote.

He said campaigns should have started outreach efforts from the beginning of the race.  

“You know, putting an ad into Spanish is not the end-all, be-all of contacting the Latinx community and mobilizing them to get out and vote,” Turkel said.

According to the latest census, Latinos make up almost one third of Nevada’s population, which is why presidential hopeful Tom Steyer made sure to meet with multiple Latinx business owners on a recent campaign swing. 

One of his stops was Mari Chuy’s, a Mexican restaurant in the heart of Reno’s Midtown district, that's known for its potent margaritas. 

Steyer chatted with Jesus Gutierrez, aka Chuy. He’s the owner of the restaurant and has opened up his establishment for political candidates because he wants the Latinx community to be educated coming into the caucus.  

[Original]

“Eso es que queremos ahorita. Que miren, que se informen y que hagan el voto correcto”, dijo Gutierrez.

[Translated]

“That’s what we want right now. Let them look, get informed and make the right vote,” Guttierrez said.

Gutierrez said despite trying to stay on top of all the candidates and policies, he isn’t sure who is being genuine in supporting the Latinx community. 

[Original]

“En la política todos tienen interés ahorita”, dijo Gutierrez. “Ahorita no sabemos quien es que de veras quiere nuestra gente”.

[Translated]

“In politics, they all have an interest now,” Gutierrez said. “Right now, we don’t know who cares for our people.”

For voters like Gladys Murillo, she wants candidates to be intentional with talking about issues that personally affect her as a Latina. 

Murillo recently attended a Joe Biden rally in Sparks and said she wished he had touched on immigration because her family is scared right now. 

“You know, I have family being worried about other family members because of the exact same reason of not being documented,” Murillo said. “And there's also family in Mexico that would wish to come here, but they obviously can’t. So I feel like something could be done about this.” 

While Murillo is most concerned about immigration, Turkel said this community is paying close attention to many issues including health care, education and the economy, but they don’t have enough opportunities to engage.  

“We want to see candidates truly reach out to our community with a high level of cultural competency,” Turkel said. "Instead of in a debate, throwing in a couple of phrases in heavily broken Spanish, just to check off that box, like, 'Okay, I said something in Spanish, I got the Latino vote.' That's not really how it works.”

Turkel said candidates need Latinx representation in all levels of their campaigns in order to have effective grass-roots outreach, and to avoid stereotypes within their messaging. 

“The Latinx community in this country has always kind of been treated as a second-class community,” Turkel said. “We would love to see our community addressed in a way that’s dignified and acknowledges us as American… ”   

According to the Pew Research Center, Latinos will make up the second largest voting bloc for the 2020 election. 

Andrew Mendez is a bilingual student reporter with Noticiero Móvil at the Reynolds School of Journalism