Why Climate Change Should Encourage Latinas to #VoteLikeAMadre
President and CEO of the Latino Victory Project Nathalie Rayes believes that Latina mothers are the CEOs of every household, and is set on rallying them to vote in the interest of their children on an issue that affects them most: climate change.
The #VoteLikeAMadre campaign, which launched on September 1 and will run until election day, is urging Latina moms to mobilize their communities to register to vote on or before November 3. Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba, and Salma Hayek have joined the campaign to urge these mothers to use the hashtag #VoteLikeAMadre to make pinky promises to their children on social media to back candidates that prioritize climate action.
So, why target Latina mothers? Nearly 1 out of 2 Latinos in the U.S. live in counties that make them most vulnerable to climate change, and nearly 55% of Latinos living in Texas, Florida, and Arizona are already experiencing dangerous outcomes related to climate change, including severe drought, record-breaking heat, storm surges, and flooding.
Nathalie Rayes spoke to Supermajority News about how the Latinx community can take climate change action in this election — and not just on a federal level.
Can you tell me more about how the Latino Victory Project was started?
We were a group of Obama supporters that got together and raised nearly $40 million Latino dollars for [his reelection]. This was an incredible, powerful move from a few of us including Henry Muñoz, Eva Longoria, Leopoldo Martinez, and others that are still part of this cohort.
When Obama won, we said we have to do something to continue this momentum and continue building Latino political power, a lot of [which involves] raising funds to ensure that we do win in key races. So we said, let’s create Latino Victory, which allows us to continue supporting progressive candidates.
So that’s how I first got started in helping launch it, and then two years ago I joined the board and I was the only woman out of five total board members. I was the first woman in the history of the organization to serve as a board member and that was really exciting.
I believe to my core that we have to invest in Latinos, ask for their votes, and continue engaging them off-cycle as well so they can be part of the fabric of our civic operations in this country. For us a great equalizer is being civically active. Communities that are more civically active are represented better, they have better school systems, they have better streets, their problems get fixed — you name it. We have to be civically active so we can have a seat at the table, so we can change policies that matter to our community.
How did the #VoteLikeAMadre campaign begin and why did you choose to tackle climate change?
As we know, Latinas, las madres, are the CEOs of every household. Nobody crosses mi mamá. We said we want to target Latina mothers because we know that when a mother is energized to do something, the community follows. They can change the course of this election.
Climate change is one of the top issues for the Latinx community. We want fresh water for our children and clean air, and there’s nothing more important than that — without that we don’t survive. It has been a mess these last four years so we want to refocus and create an environment for generations to come.
We need to acknowledge that climate change is real and man-made — to believe in the science. Unfortunately, in the last four years, we’ve let that go, but science does matter and science does dictate what we should do and how we should adapt our policies accordingly.
We should also hold big polluters accountable. We in the United States are the leaders — we lead by example. The fact that we’re exiting important pacts and deals with other nation-states is an embarrassment. We need to go back to the [Paris] climate accord and we should protect vulnerable communities.
How have you spoken to your children about climate change and how can mothers address this topic as they do their pinky promises?
I involve my children in every part of the political process. I take my kids with me to the voting booth every time that I go, and I go often. I don’t miss elections and I ensure that my kids realize that it’s not only every four years that there’s an election, [but that] there’s an election happening every year, really, [on the] local, state and federal [levels]. That is what we can give to our children: the understanding that this is our country, this is our world, and if we don’t protect it by ensuring that we have progressive leaders pushing progressive politics like climate change, then shame on us.
My kids talk to me about the climate and their concern at 9 and 11 years old is what’s going to happen to their planet and water. It’s pretty scary for a little kid thinking that the air [could become] so polluted that they could not breathe, that their water is going to be so dirty they can’t drink it — these are basic things. Although as a mother you don’t want to share too much of the darkness behind lack of enforcement as it relates to our environment, I speak to them like I would be speaking to you. I never baby talk to my children, so I talk to them just like I’m talking to mi vecino.
I encourage every mother to not sugarcoat the importance of this election and every other election because if we’re not vigilant for our children, and for our future and our environment, no one else will be.
What are some actionable steps individuals can take daily to do our part to reduce climate change?
Obviously recycling, biking, and walking instead of using the car, all those things that we do on a daily basis. But the major focus is ensuring that our government and elected officials have climate action as top of mind on their agenda. Voting [for] people [who will] make changes on a policy level is critically important. I don’t want to only focus on the federal government and Congress, but also local and state governments. They are critically important as well in changing climate policies. We want to make sure we have leaders that care about the climate.
Ask questions of our leaders before you go and vote. Ask if they’re going to protect our environment and hold big polluters accountable. For us at Latino Victory Project, that’s critically important; [the Latino Victory Fund] endorsed over 68 candidates and that’s a question that we do ask [them].
Do you have any advice for younger generations looking to get involved in Latinx voter participation?
Absolutely. There’s a slew of things [they can do], from phone banking to finding a candidate [they] like and supporting them in any way that [they] can. Every dollar counts. I don’t want anybody to think, “I’m out of politics because I can’t give a big check.” If you have time to volunteer then volunteer, if you have money to give then give it.
Everybody has a social network and everybody now can talk about the policies they care deeply about on their social platforms. That is my advice. If you want to be active, choose the issues you care deeply about, choose candidates that you care deeply about, volunteer, give generously, and let your voice be heard on your social platforms. Amplify the candidates you care about and become a part of the fabric of this new way of leadership and new direction the country is going.
Everybody should be part of this political system, everybody has a voice, and everybody should be heard.