Republished from The Desert Sun on September 28, 2016
By Olivia Rodriguez
I’m the proud daughter of farmworkers in Thermal. I live in a rural, low-income community consisting of migrant families who live and work in unhealthy conditions, lack access to affordable quality health care, and are experiencing a shortage of physicians.
This is far from the only barrier my community faces. We’re also experiencing a lack of transportation and quality education, unjust wages, support and representation for our youth, LGBTQ and undocumented people. It’s upsetting that we live under these conditions, yet knowing my community’s history and our ongoing injustices is what propels me to be civically engaged.
Through voting, I will lend my voice to amplify the issues in my community and collaborate with others to transform our realities. As a Latina, it has been vital for me to embrace my voice that has been historically silenced. Our ancestors fought for our fundamental human rights, it is our privilege and responsibility to exercise our power by being an engaged voter.
As I learn about the battles that have been fought by those who came before me, I realize my voice and my worth and how I can contribute to these ongoing movements that strive for health justice for all.
I’ve heard from people discouraged to vote, saying they don’t think their vote will make a difference. I used to share this sentiment. Perhaps there is some truth here, but I am not expecting nor waiting on a single individual’s vote to make global changes. Throughout time, our community’s victories have shown us that greater changes are made in unity. Cesar Chavez alone did not fight for farmworker rights; one doctor alone cannot solve the physician shortage in my hometown; but our collective efforts can continue to make a difference. It was each individual’s contribution in the Chicano movement that helped bring greater liberation for workers and we must continue to recognize that collective strength.
Through such collective efforts our marginalized populations will, one day, have access to affordable and quality health care. It can be done. Just this year full-scope Medi-Cal coverage was expanded to include undocumented individuals! Californians must continue to educate themselves, unify and demand equity, if we are to continue what progress has been made. The voting process comes with a responsibility of being aware of our community’s issues so that collectively our voices are heard at all levels.
It takes a community to create real change. Although undocumented community members cannot vote, their voices are not suppressed. Many have come out of the shadows to march for immigration reform or are dreamers who continue to demand a right to an education. If our most vulnerable community members are willing to risk being separated from their lives and families to allow future immigrants to have a better life, I can at least do my part by exercising my right to vote. I will not remain voiceless.
After I go to the polls in November, my “I voted” sticker will represent a declaration for a better life for my parents, my neighbors, and many in our nation whose voices have yet to be acknowledged in our democratic system.
About the author:
Olivia Rodriguez is from Thermal, Calif. She graduated from Desert Mirage High School in 2011 and earned her bachelor’s degree in Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley in 2015. Olivia joined Coachella Uninc. in 2015 and one day she hopes to be a health leader and work alongside other community leaders in the eastern Coachella Valley to address health Inequalities in her community.