Vote With Both Feet On the Ground

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By Luis (Lou) Ramon Chavez, MBA; U.S. Navy, Ret. San Diego, California

In the midst of a bloody revolution against a regime of repression, my father’s family unanimously decided, “enough!”  They had had enough unbearable life under a corrupt federal government.  Although it seemed as if the entire republic was involved in politics and up in arms, my father’s family like many other families just wanted an opportunity to live in peace and a chance to pursue a better life. The families looked to the north. They had heard of a land of democracy with a constitution that declared that “all men are created equal with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The families headed north to the United States of America.

In their minds, they were leaving behind a repressive republic, escaping to a land of opportunity.  They were, in fact, voting with their feet for the land of democracy: the USA. They fled their homeland that had been hijacked by a despot whose disregard for constitutional rights was the order of the day. For their family’s survival and to secure their children’s futures were brighter, they decided, enough.  The journey was not easy, it was dangerous, treacherous and for some deadly.  Those who completed the journey found their adopted nation to be very compatible with their own conservative family values and conservative hard working ethics.  They came not looking for handouts, but for the opportunity to pursue their dreams for a better life. Like my father’s family, other families voted with their feet, risking it all to escape repressive regimes that use many names such as socialism, Marxism, communism and fascism.

My father’s family came to the US at the turn of the century.  Back in the 1800’s, my great-grandfather had supported the forces of Benito Juárez in the struggle for national independence from a foreign power and the establishment of a constitutional government.  Juárez wanted to create a modern civil society with a capitalist economy based on the model of the United States. The 1855 ‘Law of Juárez’ declared all citizens equal before the law. Juárez's famous statement goes down in history in Mexico: "Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace." Juárez replaced a semi-feudal social system with a more market-driven one, but following his death, the lack of adequate democratic and institutional stability soon led to a return to centralized autocracy and economic exploitation under the regime of Porfirio Díaz.

My father’s three uncles were hung to death by the federales for not supporting the regime of the despot Porfirio Diaz in the Republic of Mexico during the journey to the USA.  My grandmother also died along the road from pneumonia, and my grandfather died shortly after completing the journey leaving my father an orphan child.  I am the youngest of seven brothers and four sisters.  My eldest sister was born in 1923, my elder brothers have served honorably in the armed forces of the US during WWII and the Korean War. I, myself, am a Vietnam and Persian Gulf War disabled veteran and my eldest son currently serves in the US Air Force.  We all swore the same oath  those in political office do: “to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America from all enemies both foreign and domestic.” 

As Latinos, we believe in the Constitution and in this land of opportunity. Our commitment to the principles of democracy are evident in the fact that Latinos make up the highest number of those awarded the “Congressional Medal of Honor” for heroism. Three Latinos were awarded in this nation’s Civil War; 13 during World War II; 8 during the Korean War; and 16 during the Vietnam War. We, and succeeding generations of Latinos, in recognition and remembrance of our Latino forefathers’ heroism on the battlefields, as well as in their acts of voting with their feet against repressive regimes, should commit to ensuring that the Latino voice is heard in all local, state and national elections. Our duty to our adopted country as our duty to our forefathers’ determination is to protect and defend the written constitution by exercising our right to vote in this land of democracy.

Lou is a bilingual and biliterate "old vato" from the barrio of San Jose in Albuquerque, N.M. A retired, U.S. Navy way veteran with an MBA from Nat’l Univ. San Diego, CA, he works as a small to mid-sized business sale/acquisition consultant in Southern California.

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