We all know there aren’t enough Latinas working in politics, so when we got the chance to talk with Natasha Marquez, Voto Latino’s Digital Media Director, we had to jump on the opportunity! With a background in public relations and marketing, this Puerto Rican switched over to politics to use her skills to advocate for her community during a politically trying time. After reading this interview, you’ll be grateful to know there are individuals like Marquez working so passionately to make sure the Latino voice is represented in politics.
HL: You’ve worked with so many brands but then wound up working in politics, what lead you to Voto Latino?
NM: Prior to joining Voto Latino, I worked in advertising for more than six years with different brands to help them engage Latinos. I was passionate about marketing and public relations, but as a Latina and Puerto Rican, I also understood the need to do more for the community. I’ve always been passionate about advocating for my community, so it seemed ideal to work in a place that instills civic engagement and education, especially in an election year. It was really satisfying to find myself applying my knowledge and skills to something different – instead of selling a product, I was finding ways to educate our audience and motivate them to register to vote, engage and participate in such historic times.
HL: What are your best tips for other young Latinas who are interested in getting involved in politics?
Read, get involved, make your voices heard, and get organized. Speak to local leaders who might be good mentors, follow civic organizations and add daily or weekly civic actions to your to do list.
You cannot be stopped from bringing on change. We are no less than the rest of the population, if you have a dream it is your duty to pursue it.
NM: Why do you think digital is so important for the political future of our country?
Having a president that is so active on Twitter, digital is key to civic engagement, advocating and standing not only for the issues that matter to the Latino community but to our sister immigrant communities has become an even greater responsibility than before. It is necessary to have a digital presence in an era of interconnectivity where the youth of our country process and engage with news and current events online mostly.
Throughout the 2016 election cycle we saw the power of these platforms on our way to our most successful year with more than 177,000 registered voters. This is just the beginning of a movement. Now more than ever we are seeing advocacy from tweeting or calling members of congress in opposition, or to fight to keep families together and unite as a community for a social good.
HL: How can Latinos get involved now to make a difference?
NM: Civic engagement is a start, but it doesn’t end with voting. We encourage young Latinos to not only get involved by voting, but encouraging others to vote, attend town hall meetings, and start college chapters so that they can begin addressing the issues that matter most.
Volunteer with organizations like Voto Latino, or find a local organization that works on issues you care about and get involved.
HL: What do you think are the most important issues we should be paying attention to?
NM: There are many issues that we should all be focused on, and a lot of attention from the Latino/immigrant community goes towards the issue of immigration because it’s such a personal issue for many of us. The majority of us know someone or might have a family member who’s undocumented, so the issue feels much more personal. But the reality is that Latinos are not a monolith. We care about the economy, and ensuring that our kids have access to quality education and health care. These are issues that matter to us all.
HL: How has Washington D.C. changed since the inauguration of Trump after Obama?
NM: A lot of people here were feeling down. As we saw on Inauguration Day, there were massive protests and people on the street marching against Trump. The next day was the historic Women’s March, which brought hundreds of thousands of people from across the country together in D.C. to march for dignity and equality, so D.C. has certainly remained lively in the weeks and months since the election, but certainly was somber for a little bit.
We all still have a role to play in our struggle for dignity, and some of us continue to do it from here in D.C. in the shadow of the White House.
HL: Is it hard to remain non-partisan as a Latina with all the immigration problems happening with the current administration?
NM: Yes, it can be challenging at points but what we can’t forget is that this is a collective effort and our main responsibility is to continue advocating for Latinos and ensuring that they are informed voters.
We can put a name behind what is happening but it’s on us, the community, to unite and stand up for ourselves, our families and our community. It’s a movement that the younger generations like the Gen Z’ers have started while they advocate for their families. We have seen it with Sophie Cruz, Fatima Avelica, whose father was sadly deported in February. There is so much to learn from this generation of future leaders on the power of determination and fighting to accomplish the dreams that today, some may take for granted.
HL: Who are your role models?
NM: Two people who I look up to and see as role models are Martin Luther King and Lillian Rodriguez Lopez.
Civil Rights activist and social icon, Martin Luther King taught us two things:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Dr. King was a true believer in the power of words, actions and making his voice heard. Through non-violent direct action he taught us there is more to do if we work together towards justice and dignity. Today, we are seeing the continuation of his work by young leaders who are fighting to fulfill Dr. King’s work in ensuring equality for all.
Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, VP of Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations at The Coca-Cola company has been my inspiration and a role model since I met her in 2014. She has empowered the Latino community through the support of Latino-led nonprofits. From leading Hispanic Federation and being the chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, Lillian has shown her leadership and has represented Latinas in many government and policy issues initiatives. She has been recognized as one of the Most Powerful Hispanic Women and as one Most Influential Hispanics. For me Lillian is a friend, a mentor and someone I aspire to be. I am truly amazed and proud of her accomplishments and we can learn many things her. Her determination, affirmation and leadership skills are key to her success when it comes to engaging with the Latino community and having representation.
HL: If you could change anything about politics today, what would it be?
NM: One of the biggest issues in politics is the influence that special interests and corporations have on our elected officials. I believe that they often feel beholden to the money which helped them get elected instead of the constituents who actually voted them in. I think we have to strategically run campaigns so that these special interests are not controlling how our elected leaders govern, we must expose them and make sure voters make an educated decision.
HL: Do you think women, especially women of color and Latinas, face challenges separate from other groups when it comes to getting involved in politics?
NM: Yes, there are many barriers for women to participate in politics, and for so long it’s been a man’s world, especially white men. But now, we’re seeing more women running for office, and we’ve made incredibly strides. Nevada elected the first Latina to serve in the Senate, and there are now organizations dedicated to specifically encourage and provide resources to women who want to run for office. But there is still a lot of work to do. We’re half of the population but not nearly close to fulfilling full representation. And I think one of the major things that last year’s election taught us is that misogyny, especially in politics, is still prevalent, and it’s up to all of us to call it out.
Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.