Actress and activist Eva Longoria Baston, along with fellow actress America Ferrera have teamed up for a special initiative to galvanize the influence and power of Latinas across the country.
Kicking off Hispanic Heritage month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), they recently joined Know Your Value contributor Daniela Pierre Bravo on "Morning Joe" to talk about a digital lifestyle platform they helped launch, She Se Puede. It's designed to empower Latinas and elevate the issues that matter the most to them.
Inspired by Dolores Huerta’s enduring phrase, “Sí, se puede!" the nonprofit initiative was also founded by experts in the political, entertainment and organizational worlds: Alex Martínez Kondracke, Carmen Perez, Christy Haubegger, Elsa Collins, Jess Morales Rocketto, Mónica Ramírez, Olga Segura, and Stephanie Valencia.
“It’s a media platform that … inspires and affirms and informs Latinas on how to leverage our power in a way that transforms our lives, our families and our communities,” Longoria Baston told Pierre-Bravo.
Ferrera added that Stephanie Valencia of Equis Labs has led the way in research specifically targeting the Latina electorate. “While a lot of people assume that Latinas don’t show up because they’re disillusioned, or because they’re checked out or they’re not plugged in – what we find in the research is it’s actually the opposite … [but] there’s unfortunately, a real confidence gap in the Latino community when it comes to voting and participating,” she said.
According to Pew Research Center, 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election, making them the largest minority group in the electorate. However, Latinas historically have lower turnout rates than other group, according to research from Equis Labs.
“We have a self-esteem gap,” Longoria Baston. “We’re very intimidated, and voter suppression is real my friend.” While Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the country, she emphasized that numbers alone are not enough. “Unless we build a culture that allows Latinas to see our power, to believe in our power and then to act on that power, then we’re never going to see the full force of our potential in this country.”
“What’s at stake when you leave women out of the political narrative?” Pierre-Bravo pressed.
“Latinos being resourced and … having the capacity to show up in our democracy is about the health of the whole nation,” said Ferrera. “The power that we have to make a difference is undeniable, but the challenge is how to do we see that power, own that power and then be resourced in a way to act on that power.”
And as candidates look for ways to secure the votes of their Latino constituents, Longoria Baston has this to say: “I think the biggest misstep that candidates do is focus on ‘Latino issues.’ They think Latinos want to hear about immigration reform and citizenship. The No. 1 issue Latinos care about is the economy. The No. 1 issue Americans care about is the economy. I think you need to approach our community with that in mind. And no, we’re not monolithic.”
Indeed, the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Latinos especially hard. While they account for 18 percent of the population in the country, they are at least 21 percent of the country’s essential workers.
“COVID didn’t cause issues that we’re facing in our community – it’s magnified them,” Longoria Baston explained. “… We are bearing the brunt of the economic engine of this country, so we should have access to equity … to everything we need to live dignified lives.”
Ferrera added note of precaution: “Don’t come for us two months before your election … Invest long-term, be meaningful and thoughtful in the way you’re engaging in the Latino community.”
She Se Puede is a community where Latinas can find information that addresses our unique needs and supports us to move ourselves, our communities, and our country forward. To learn more, go to shesepuede.org.