Why Voting is a Creative Act

Why it's important that Latino writers -- as members of the largest minority in the U.S. and as members of the artistic com

By Marcela Landres
Published on LatinoLA: November 1, 2008

Why Voting is a Creative Act

Unless you are a political writer, you probably don't consciously think about politics when you write. Yet, the government wields enormous influence over your writing life. Politicians decide how much (or how little) money to allocate towards the arts, libraries, and schools. If art funding is cut, how
many non-profit presses and literary journals will disappear? If library budgets decrease, how many of the remaining dollars will be spent on Latino books? If educational resources dwindle, how much time and attention will be devoted to creative writing classes?

Voting is not only a political act; it is a creative one. With your pen or keyboard, you shape future generations of readers and writers, but voting is how you shape your future. You create your art by writing, and you create your country by voting.

On November 4th, put down your pens, walk away from your keyboards, and vote. Don't vote alone. Grab your abuelita, best friend, significant other, boss, staff, preacher, congregation, teacher, class, mentors, and prot?®g?®es and make sure they vote too. On this election, it is not sufficient for individuals to vote—we must vote as a community.

I posed the follow question to various writers: Given that the President makes decisions that affect the arts, why is it important that Latino writers -- as members of the largest minority in the U.S. and as members of the artistic community -- vote on November 4th? Below are their answers.

"This election demonstrates that our government officials and wannabes want us and the world to believe that a typical American is "Joe Six Pack', `Joe the Plumber', and `Soccer Mom.' These stereotypes are meant to counter the terror-induced image of Americans as intellectual, high minded, eloquent. These luddites don't openly say that Joe Six Pack, Joe the Plumber and Soccer Moms don't read, don't go to museums, don't think too much or too deeply about anything beyond the basic necessities. That might be offensive. But they loudly proclaim that the `average American' prefers to drink reality into oblivion through liquor, are obsessed with sewage, and prefer
to stand on the sidelines while someone else runs after the ball. It is up to intellectuals and artists to proudly and loudly elevate the discourse and to ennoble and dignify what it means to be an average or typical American. These are not issues of ethnicity or race. They are issues of citizenship."
-- Esmeralda Santiago, author of "When I Was Puerto Rican," "Almost a Woman," "America's Dream," and "The Turkish Lover"

"As I'm thinking about the upcoming election, the needs of our nation are far more important than my personal needs as a writer. Our nation is facing enormous challenges--a financial crisis, two wars, a health care crisis, a broken education system--that hit the lowest on the socio-economic ladder, including many Latinos, hardest. We can't thrive as individuals or as artists if all our time and energy is spent on the struggle to survive.

Latino writers, many of us immigrants or the children of immigrants, are especially sensitive to the importance of financial and social stability. We value the rights we are granted here, including freedom of speech. When we vote for a candidate who will work to improve living conditions for all
Americans, and not just those on the upper tiers of society, then we all benefit, including the writers and artists."
-- Marta Acosta, author of "Happy Hour at Casa Dracula," "Midnight Brunch," and "The Bride of Casa Dracula"

No one said it better than Audre Lorde. She wrote, "Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action." As a cultural activist, I've witnessed the veracity of this statement time and again.
But the myth that art and entertainment are apolitical not only remains pervasive, it hurts most those communities who have a history of marginalization in the United States. Even a cursory glance at the history of social movements in this country will reveal a strong artistic component.

Latin@s may be the fastest growing minority in the U.S., but I think the current presidential campaign proves that the Black-White racial paradigm continues to exist. Art and entertainment is the way we assert our visibility, imprinting the collective consciousness with our views of the way the world is but also our vision of how it could be. This is true whether we write
literary magical realism or commercial "chica lit." Therefore, Latin@ artists of all stripes must get to the polls on November 4th to support the candidate we believe will invest in the arts and unequivocally stand against censorship regardless of his personal views and aesthetic."
-- Sofia Quintero, President of Sister Outsider Entertainment, and author of "Divas Don't Yield" and the Black Artemis hip hop novels.

"Funding the arts is like funding health insurance in this country. It's the first to be cut when times are hard. The arts are important in so many ways, especially to children. Writing, playing a musical instrument, singing, painting, drawing--the whole spectrum of the creative arts--is a way that
kids, especially at risk kids, can express themselves in a constructive way. I know that throughout my life I've written in my journal to express my thoughts and feelings especially at difficult times. At some point, journal writing became fiction writing and I love it! So, vote for the presidential
ticket that will support the arts."
-- L.M. Gonzalez, author of "Too Late for Romance?"

"As a travel writer, I live on the road, so have seen firsthand how the Bush Administration has devastated our standing in the international community. On November 4th, we have a precious opportunity to reverse the terrifying direction our nation has taken. And that is by casting our ballots for Barack Obama. He is beloved throughout the globe: Kenya, Indonesia, Cuba,
Venezuela, Jordan, Germany--even France. He alone has the potential to restore people's faith in us. We must vote for him not just as writers or Latinos but as citizens of the world."
-- Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author most recently of "Mexican Enough:
My Life Between the Borderlines"

"I cut my satirist fangs on Ronald Reagan when I was a college newspaper cartoonist, so my gut, (and this election year) tells me John McCain is easy prey. McCain would guarantee gaffes and unintended hilarious viejito moves for at least 4 years. But his--or President Palin's--arts strategy would likely be to promote arts suitable only for the discount racks of Wal-Mart. But I'll take one for the team: Vote Obama, and put political satirists out of work!"
--Lalo Alcaraz is a nationally syndicated cartoonist, and author of "Migra Mouse: Political Cartoons on Immigration," "La Cucaracha: The First Collection from the Daily Comic Strip," and illustrator of "Latino USA, A History of Latinos in the US" by Ilan Stavans.

About Marcela Landres:
Marcela Landres is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published. She was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster and is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. For more info visit http://www.marcelalandres.com/
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