Understanding Latino politics

John A. Garcia, co-author of Latino Lives in America reflects on understanding Latino politics and writing his book.  

Tip O’Neill is credited with the dictum that all politics is local. I would add that politics has a personal strand for most of us. I will not burden you with the details of my personal experiences with authority, institutions, power, influence, and change. Yet, the accumulation of my connections with the above mentioned areas, and, most certainly, the people that affected my development helped to place my personal side into public arenas. 

Latino Lives in America

There were times when my political maneuverings involved persons whom we now refer to as Latinos (Mexicanos, Raza, carnales, etc.). I found my inquisitive nature made me link the personal and the public. Then I fell into an analytical bent and examined my circumstances. Whether I am directly involved in the ongoing connections to  political matters, or observing “from a distance,”  I have a longstanding interest in sorting things out. So, how could I not be immersed, especially, in the study of Latino politics? I do not view this interest as being as myopic. On the contrary, it has been expansive. Studying Latino politics must take you into most realms of knowledge and experiences both personal and otherwise.

There are times when an event, an exchange with someone, or just being somewhere takes you back to another time and place. Having participated in most of the focus groups for this book had that kind of response from me. When we had decided to conduct all of these focus group sessions, in preparation of national Latino survey, the people and the stories that came out from a pre-designed set of “discussion topics” had an interesting effect. I traveled, in my memory, and, as a result, a series of reflective thoughts and experiences arose. In relating to “my living in America”, I recalled the neighborhood I grew up in; a variety of situations, conditions, and people that I knew; exchanging experiences with parents, young people, immigrants, etc. at soccer games, on my street, on playgrounds, and, then my ensuing experiences in higher education and an eventually, a professional career. I feel that I had traveled along some common paths as our focus group participants, as well as some different paths from many of them. Yet, I realized, in some very basic way, “my living in America” has stayed within the domain of most of the Latino/as’ experiences that were shared with us. I would not go as far as saying their stories is exactly my story. But all of these stories are certainly worth chronicling and adding thematic overlays to share with others. Not only are there many stories and accounts of Latino lives, but they can be told through a variety of different mechanisms and this is but just one.

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