On the Streets of Philadelphia Young Latinos Say “No” to Trump and “No Gracias” to Clinton

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Bernie Sanders supporter Oscar Salazar outside the DNC; photo: Catalina Jaramillo

Maybe it’s the summer heat, but a lot of people in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention are still feeling the Bern.

Since Sunday, thousands have taken to the streets to demonstrate for immigration reform and workers rights, most of them wearing Bernie Sanders t-shirts and stickers. But with Sanders’ speech Monday night, strongly endorsing Hillary Clinton, what are his supporters to do?

It’s a question a lot of new voters, including Latino millennials, are struggling with. An estimated 3.2 million Latinos have turned 18 since the last presidential election, making them eligible to vote for the first time in 2016. Many young Latinos in Philadelphia express distaste for Republican candidate Donald Trump, but they don’t see a big difference between Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

“It feels very bad to hear that if you don’t vote for Hillary, then Trump is going to be the winner,” said Pati Gutierrez, 23, from Santa María, California. “But I don’t think that they are very different in the end. Hillary is just as down for deportations, detentions and mass incarceration as he is. He choses a different language, but they are the same policies. So I feel uncertain.”

Gutierrez, who calls herself a first-generation Chicana, said she will vote for Hillary -but very reluctantly.

“It feels like we don’t really have another choice right now,” she said.

Similar sentiments are heard over and over among young, and not-so-young, Latinos rallying in Philadelphia during the convention.

“I’m going to vote for Hillary, but with guilt,” said Freddy Bernardino, 20, originally from Phoenix, but a local in Philly for the last three years. His father was born in Ecuador and his mother came to the U.S. from Honduras as an undocumented immigrant when she was 14. Four years ago, she became a citizen; Bernardino says that was one of the happiest days of his life.

“There’s no way I’m voting for Trump,” he said. “But it’s saddening, in a way, because Hillary has done so many horrible things to the Latino community.”

Bernardino affirmed that he will vote. After all, the next president could potentially be in office for almost all of his twenties, “And that’s scary,” he said.

Yannette Cuevas, 24, registered to vote a week ago in Philly “to honor the people who fought for the right to vote.” She’s a Democrat, but says she doesn’t really have anything in common with the people Hillary is trying to reach out to.

“I think the people of my age are kind of over the American Dream,” she said. “We just want to survive. And we want to make sure our families aren’t deported, we want to make sure we can work, and live and be safe -and those aren’t really things that she’s talked about.”

What Cuevas likes about Sanders are his ideas on universal health care and a moratorium on deportations. Her father was deported to Mexico when she was 11. Out of eight men in her family, five have been deported and two have been picked up and jailed.

“My whole life has been affected by this,” she said. “We are forced to choose literally between the lesser of two evils. But the fear of Trump is too heavy.”

Alfredo Jimenez, 29, understands this frustration. While waiting for a bus to the Wells Fargo Center where Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders were to speak Monday night, Jimenez recalled that when he first voted for president in 2008, it wasn’t until he was at the polling place that he finally decided to cast his ballot for Barack Obama.

This year, he’s supporting Clinton. “I think she’s better at taking Donald Trump down and that she cares about the Hispanic people at heart,” he said.

Some young Latinos demonstrating on the streets of Philadelphia take offense at the assumption that they will automatically vote for Clinton over Trump. “I think it’s very rude to think that, because they don’t have any other choice, they’re going to pick [Hillary] anyways,” said 26 year old Stephany Olivas.

She’s with the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, a coalition of young voters that marched in Cleveland during the Republic National Convention and traveled to the DNC in Philadelphia demanding justice for Berta Cáceres, the Honduran environmental activist who was murdered in March.

Bernie or bust?

It’s in posters and t-shirts everywhere in Philadelphia: if Bernie Sanders is not on the ticket, many voters are saying they’re either not voting or choosing a third option. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, is getting a close look from some.

Lou the son of a Cuban refugee demonstrating outside the DNC; photo: Catalina Jaramillo

“We are sick of the whole idea of the lesser of the two evils,” said Karla Reyes, 26, an East Harlem teacher who was still supporting Sanders on Monday. “I don’t want to pick between a burnt bread and a kind of burnt bread; I want a good bread. I see them both as racists, and if it’s not Bernie, for me it’s the socialist candidate.”

“If Bernie is not on the ballot, Hillary won’t have my vote. It will go to a third party, and it’s a shame,” said Lou, 24, the son of a Cuban refugee who omitted his last name. “Hillary is mistaken if she thinks after running a sham of the primary season with the DNC, she will get the Bernie supporters. Come November, we will remember.”

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, an anonymous donor and readers like you.  

AboutCatalina Jaramillo
Catalina Jaramillo is an independent reporter and radio producer living in Philadelphia. For most of her career, she has worked toward social justice, writing about inequality and building real and virtual spaces for people to communicate. She is a freelance correspondent for the Chilean newspaper La Tercera and Qué Pasa magazine, and has filed stories for Al Dia, WHYY, FSRN, El Universal Domingo, VICE México and more. Catalina produced The Time is Now, a Fi2W climate change workshop for immigrant and ethnic media and is part of the Unidos team. She’s also an adjunct assistant professor for the new Spanish concentration at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Follow her @cjaramillo.