Marlu Carolina Abarca –The Iowa Caucus is a nationally-recognized phenomenon that is filled with excitement, anxiety, and hope in the political process…or so I’m told. This February 1st, I will be caucusing for the first time. A native Los Angelina, I moved to Grinnell, IA in 2010 to attend college and have been politically active ever since then, voting in midterm elections as well as presidential elections. However, I have never caucused.
I was born in Los Angeles to immigrant parents, one of which is now a naturalized citizen who has participated in local, state, and national elections since I could remember, and the other: a permanent resident who has never had the opportunity to have her voice heard. When I came to Iowa, having grown up seeing my own father take part in the political process, I felt so happy to be able to exercise my civic duty and privilege. And still, I knew nothing about the Iowa Caucuses, why they matter, or why it is immensely important for a Latina like me to participate.
According to the Office of Latino Affairs in Iowa, there are 173,000 latin@s across the state. Of which, only 50,000 are registered to vote. I was one of those Latinos, but I had never been introduced to the Caucus or invited to participate; it was not for lack of political involvement, but for lack of outreach on the part of the political parties in Iowa. The lack of outreach affects college students, high schoolers, and middle schoolers that need the information and motivation to become politically active. Since graduating from college almost 2 years ago, there has been immense outreach on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC for short. They have been increasing their outreach to students—specifically Latin@s– and have conducted caucuses all over the state. It is this type of outreach that should have been available to me and my fellow millennials in 2012.
So, why is it so important for Latinos and Latinas, like me, to caucus?
I am a first generation college graduate. I am set to make approximately $1 million dollars more in my lifetime compared to someone with only a High School diploma. Governor Branstad has acknowledged that by the year 2025, 60% of jobs in Iowa will require credentials past a high school diploma. We need to ensure that the workforce of tomorrow is an educated one. That is why I am going to caucus.
I grew up in the United States, undocumented. Last summer I received my citizenship and I plan on exercising my right to vote. It is a privilege for me to caucus for the first time and to vote for the first time in the 16 years of me living in this country. My country, the United States of America.
I have always been politically active because of my undocumented status. However, now more than ever, I continue to be engaged and also encourage my community to be engaged in the political process. Now is the time for us, Latinos to stand up and be active politically; from local to national elections.
I’m happy I have this opportunity, to caucus and to vote. I’m nervous because I don’t know exactly how caucusing works. I have been to multiple caucus trainings but until February first comes, I will keep on being nervous! Although, I am definitely ready.
I am very excited and proud to be part of the thousands of Latinos who will make a difference by participating in the Iowa caucus this February 1 and vote this November. This past Monday January 11 I attended the Brown & Black Forum and that gave me the opportunity to be present and hear the Democratic candidates talk about very important issues such as immigration, unemployment, equal rights etc.
Today I’m already registered to volunteer at a caucus in West Des Moines this February 1 where I will be participating.
Visit LatinoVoteIowa.com for more a list of Caucus trainings near you!