It didn’t take much convincing for the Valladolid sisters and their niece to pledge their support for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
The daughters of Mexican immigrants from Jalisco grew up in Waterford, California— a small farming community in Stanislaus County with a population just over 8,000. The sisters, Martha, 34, Sujey, 27 and Alexa, 16 first heard about the presidential hopeful late last October when his presence on social media was just beginning to grow.
“We didn’t know much about him until we started to ‘Google’ him,” said Sujey.
What popped up was a video of Sanders discussing his platform. The girls then clicked on a trail of links that led them to articles and videos where he discussed some of his ideas of what he would do should he become the next President of the United States.
The girls were immediately impressed.
“We really liked what we read about him and what we saw. From the beginning we felt like he was a different kind of candidate; like more human than the others. He understands our issues and we felt like he spoke directly to us,” said Sujey.
The three sisters and their niece, Jeylin García, 20 are all Latina millennials making up the fastest growing segment of the voting electorate in California.
According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of Hispanic eligible voters in California (36 percent) are ages 18-29, slightly higher than the share of all Latino eligible voters nationwide (33 percent) and the share of all California eligible voters (24 percent) and of all U.S. eligible voters (22 percent) in that age range.
The Valladolid sisters and García are part of the same segment of the population across the country that has also overwhelmingly supported Sanders.
An NBC analysis that tracked the voting preference of Latino Democrats back in March found that Latinos under 30 supported Sanders on exit and entrance polls in primaries and caucuses held in 19 states.
Sander’s appeal to young Latinos, like the Valladolid sisters and García, stem from their personal experiences, beliefs, values and overall outlook on life. All of them know exactly what qualities a future president should have, and they have a clear view of what they would like he/she to do once they take their seat in the Oval Office.
To them, Sanders embodies many of the qualities they are looking for, not just in a potential president, but also in a candidate running for the highest office in the land.
“The best thing Bernie has to offer are his views on education— on how he wants to make it affordable. That’s a big thing for us because college is getting more and more expensive,” said Sujey.
Both Sujey and García are students at Modesto City College with aspirations to transfer to either Sacramento State or UC Merced. Martha Valladolid, the eldest of the sisters wants to return to college this year and the youngest Alexa is a junior at Waterford High School with sights on attending UC Davis or UC San Diego. Although she is still not eligible to vote, she dreams of one day becoming a medical doctor.
“College tuition keeps rising. It’s so bad that my parents are actually contemplating sending her (Alexa) off to medical school in Guadalajara, México so she could get trained there because the costs would be significantly lower,” said Sujey.
Another thing they like about Sanders— his acknowledgement of all the different ethnic groups in the United States.
“He sees everyone as equal. He doesn’t stereotype or profile people. He sees everyone the same. He doesn’t leave anyone out and he tries to understand what the needs are of every group, everywhere he goes. He truly is a candidate for the people,” said Sujey.
At a campaign stop last Tuesday in Stockton, the Valladolid sisters and García, were among thousands who gathered at the Weber Point Event Center just before sunrise, dressed in ‘Bernie’ t-shirts, patriotic hats, stickers and carrying ‘A future to believe in’ posters, anxious to hear what the Vermont Senator had to say.
This campaign is listening to young people; what young people are saying is that we will not allow the American Dream to die.
Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Candidate
Stockton, a city that is largely overlooked by candidates running for elected office, especially those vying for the White House, is predominately Latino with high rates of crime and poverty.
Before Sanders took to the stage, Erika Andiola, an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States when she was 11 years old and who now serves as the ‘Latino Outreach Strategist for the Southwestern Region’ for the Bernie campaign, spoke to the crowd about the significance of her immigration status and about changing the status quo.
“You will hear many things coming out of the mouths of other candidates and they can call us whatever names they want, but, we are all human beings. We are already here and we are going to show them what we are about and that includes our strong desire to make this country a better place for everyone,” said Andiola, who was received with loud applauses and cheers from the crowd.
Sanders went on stage not just touching on issues affecting Stockton such as high unemployment, mass incarcerations, income inequality and education, but also those he plans to tackle while in office.
“We are talking about a political revolution that all of you are going to be a part of. This country faces many serious crisis’ and this campaign is all about thinking outside of the box. We are going to tell everyone in America, we can transform this nation,” said Sanders to thousands of supporters.
Part of Sanders’ appeal to young millennial’s hasn’t just been the catchy “Feel the Bern” phrase, but his idea of a government that represents all, “not just the one percent.”
Sanders spoke about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour across America, ensuring women, who get paid 79 cents to the dollar a white man makes, receive equal pay, helping people pull themselves out of poverty, creating jobs for those who are unemployed and ensuring young people have the skills they need to survive in an ever-changing world.
Sanders also suggested that public education in colleges and universities across the country should be tuition free and that those who carry a heavy burden with college loans should have their interest rates slashed in order to pay them off quicker.
Human beings are life-long learners and ensuring every child in America has the opportunity to get a quality education will be a priority of his administration.
“Every child in Stockton who studies hard and does well in school should have the opportunity to go to college. When there are kids who never think for one second that they have no possibility of going to college because they are poor or working class— I want to change that,” said Sanders.
Addressing the African-American community, the Native American community and Latinos, Sanders expressed what his campaign would do to address the problems and concerns that exist within each community.
“This campaign is listening to our brothers and sisters in the Latino community and they remind us that there are 11 million undocumented people living in this country today. And here is the truth— many of those workers who are undocumented are being exploited,” said Sanders.
“They are being exploited because when you have no legal rights, your employer can cheat you, do anything he wants to do with you and he will deny you the wages that you earned and you have no recourse because you can’t stand up for yourself and fight back out of fear of deportation.”
Sanders went on to say he would support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for the country’s undocumented. If congress does not allow him to push for its passage, he would use his executive powers of the presidency to do so.
Young people will decide what are the most important moral, economic and political issues are in our time. Don't let corporate media decide.
Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Candidate
“We need an immigration policy that brings families together, not divide families,” said Sanders.
Sanders also spoke about creating affordable housing, investing in public education, holding Wall Street investment firms accountable for selling sub-prime mortgages that led to the loss of homes, jobs and human capital from the hands of ordinary citizens. He stressed the importance of bringing back justice to a broken criminal system and suggested that police departments across America should be diverse, reflecting the communities they serve.
Sanders also talked about ensuring America’s trade policies convince corporate America to invest in the United States, not China.
The Valladolid sisters say Sanders’ message is different from his opponent, Hillary Clinton whom they feel is “fake and not real.”
“She has talked about Latinos and reaching out to our community, but when she talks, it doesn’t feel like its genuine. It feels fake to me and I honestly feel she is only talking to us because she wants our vote,” said Sujey.
Stockton community activist Motecuzoma Patrick Sánchez, and Sanders supporter says it’s not just the way Clinton talks about Latinos, but she, along with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have a track record that has been and continues to be unfavorable to Latinos.
“I have never forgotten what she said when all those children from Central America came to our borders. She said, ‘Send them back’ when in fact, the only reason they came was a result of her involvement as Secretary of State in supporting a coup d’état in Honduras that caused an eruption of violence, chaos and instability in that country,” said Sánchez.
It’s looking at Clinton’s words of what she would do as President of the United States versus action, said Sánchez, who added that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which was signed by her husband, former President Bill Clinton was devastating to Mexican and Mexican-Americans on both sides of the border and led to the rise of the Zapatista movement in Chiapas.
“The passage of NAFTA allowed corporations to buy land that belonged to the indigenous people of México and use it to produce cheap exports. This put a strain on local farmers and merchants and it has been devastating to the very people of México,” said Sánchez.
From the inception of Sanders campaign, Sánchez has been an ardent supporter. One of the main reasons for his support is because of Sanders political record, which he say’s doesn’t reflect any sort of harms that have been done to specific groups of Americans, including Latinos.
When Latinos vouch their support for Hillary Clinton, he doesn’t hesitate to ask them why, and he usually demands specifics.
When Latinos say they will vote for Hillary Clinton because of how ‘good’ Bill Clinton did in office, is a manufactured idea.
Motecuzoma Patrick Sánchez, Stockton community activist
“It’s one thing for Latinos, Chicanos, Mexicans—to know what Hillary Clinton has said and done and ignore it and quite another to ignore it and not justify it and still support her. Again, this is the candidate who said we should send Central American undocumented children, who came to our border, back to where they came from— that’s a strong statement that she can’t take back,” said Sánchez.
The Valladolid sisters add that corporate media, which Sanders spent some time criticizing, has been very generous in providing a lot of coverage on Clinton’s campaign. It is a reason they believe, their father is an ardent supporter.
“All he watches is Univision and all they show is Clinton so ‘she’ is all he knows. We are the ones that have to educate him and tell him about Sanders and what he stands for and what he wants,” said Alexa who is convinced she will be able to persuade him to vote for Sanders before the June primary.
In the following weeks, the Valladolid sisters and García will be canvassing for Sanders in and around the Modesto area. Their hope is to recruit more support among people their age—otherwise known as—more millenials.
They are convinced that the more people know about Sanders, the more inclined they will be to cast their vote.
“When people hear Bernie speak, they can relate to him and the more people know about what he stands for, the more people will want to vote for him, and eventually change their mind about other candidates,” said Alexa.