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Latino Millennials: Creating the future in the U.S.

Latino millenials counter the stereotype that today’s youth are complacent and politically apathetic

Latino millenials counter the stereotype that today’s youth are complacent and politically apathetic

Each American generation leaves its own special imprint on U.S. society.

The Lost Generation of the Twenties wrote about U.S. racial strife and the excesses of capitalism. 

The Baby Boomers of the Fifties enjoyed the economic benefits of a post-WWII boom, and initiated the great expansion of a consumer culture.   

Now the Millennial Generation (18- to 32-year olds) emerges at a time of significant unemployment and student loan debts averaging about $26,000 per student. 

Young Latinos became high-profile as the Millennial Nation in the 2012 presidential elections with their voter registration campaigns and get-out-the-vote canvassing. The resulting increase in Latino voters helped propel Barack Obama to another term and grabbed the attention of both political parties.    

Recently, the MTV cable television network surveyed young America in a study titled “Generation Innovation.”  Millennials were interviewed about what they believed, and how those beliefs affected their actions.

 What did the researchers discover?

“What we found was counter to the often-cited caricature of today’s youth as ‘entitled’ and ‘coddled,’” Nick Shore, senior vice president of MTV Insights and Innovations, wrote in a column.   

“Instead, we found a vibrant and strong fixer/maker/builder culture where nearly three of four Millennials believe that ‘our generation is starting a movement to change old, outdated systems.’ Put more broadly, if the American Dream isn’t working as promised, Millennials will take it upon themselves to create the next ‘version’ of America.”

Latino Perspectives elaborated the MTV study findings with interviews with Valley Latino Millennials. We spoke with Antonio Valdovinos, a leader and DREAMer in the informal organization of the Millennial age calling themselves Team Awesome. This group of civic activists were involved in the election of Daniel Valenzuela to the Phoenix City Council, the recall of state Senator Russell Pearce, and advocacy for the federal DREAM Act.  

In addition, we chatted with Andrew Sanchez, 30-year-old Guadalupe town councilman and political activist who has worked to empower his community of 6,000 residents.

Young local Latinos, we discovered,  perfectly express the Millennial traits that empowered them in 2012, and give promise of the achievements that the Latino community can celebrate in the years to come. 

Here are the main takeaways from the MTV study, supported by local Latino responses:

Millennials are highly creative, innovative and express themselves confidently. 

Valdovinos says that the Team Awesome concept of young Latinos driving change came about because of necessity. “We came together at a time when people were counting on Latinos disengaging from politics,” he says. “We knew we had to learn how to move a community and how to defend it against people who were attacking it. Latinos weren’t engaged and didn’t know how to be engaged.”

He adds that Latino Millennials incorporated the very Hispanic trait of “family” into the Team Awesome concept. “We are very organic. We were unpaid students who didn’t want to apply for non-profit status. We are more like a family growing in the Latino community, working for the  sustained involvement that leads to sustained power.”  

Millennials “swarm.” They are a communal generation that crowd-sources ideas and actions. They also “hack,” which in Millennial lingo means to solve problems collectively using few resources but actions infused with sparkling creativity and surging energy.  

Valdovinos says that Team Awesome brainstormed solutions together and worked around obstacles using innovative methods. For the Millennial creative class, group meets and “Tweet-ups” for civic action replace the dance clubs and raves for entertainment. 

Millennials do the “chill-hustle.” They are multi-taskers, juggling several projects at once, and making it look easy. 

“That’s what attracted more of us to Team Awesome. It wasn’t just one issue,” Valdovinos says. “It was getting Obama and Latinos elected. It was about the DREAM Act, police, education and, right now, we are going around collecting cans for the local food bank. For us, it’s not about a (political) party. It was having the choice to choose issues. We challenged Republicans and Democrats to work together. We let it be known that we needed stronger leadership in Arizona.” 

Millennials use technology to interconnect. They use social media and smart phones “to leverage change on a small, and even, large scale.” 

Andrew Sanchez, a Guadalupe councilman who just made out the application to run for town mayor, describes how having access to social media empowers Latino Millennials. 

“Today it’s come to the point where you have to check your social media all the time. It’s an awesome tool for bringing hundreds of people together. It’s been a blessing for organizers. It allows people networks to connect and grow much larger. If you announce a community organizing event or press conference, it reaches more people, and they bring their friends.”   

Millennials “bubble.” Bubbling is the concept of putting an imaginary safety bubble around projects that screen out “haters” and nay-sayers. In other words, it allows constructive criticism, but keeps the negative energy outside.

Valdovinos says Team Awesome doesn’t allow “haters” of any kind. “But we need them as well. When we have backlash against us, such as derogatory comments against Spanish speakers at a public hearing, we tell each other we need to get to the cause of the anger, and try to talk it out. We need to use reason, and that way they (the haters) will respect you.”

He adds that Team Awesome has a philosophy of diverse people coming together. “We have a student from China and two girls from Israel. They recognize that our issues are their issues as well. We have old, white and gay people helping. We are moving together as a community. We are not professionals. We are just people who are driven to do the right things; a small group that is incredibly organized and incredibly motivated by our ideals.”

Sanchez adds that Latinos must show “haters” how not to hate; nor should Latinos become “haters” when they become the majority population in the U.S. “I think ‘haters’ don’t see that Latinos are capable of representing them, too. But I think Latinos will reach out. They will advocate for all, not just themselves. Now is our best chance to change their views. We don’t want to lead by what we were shown. We know what it feels like to be a minority. I think we will be mindful of not doing that to other generations or cultures.” 

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This Article appears on the January 2013 issue of LPM under LP Journal

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