HBO Latino premiered its one hour special, “Habla y Vota,” on Friday, September 16, but we were able to attend an advanced screening of the special on Thursday night. The star-studded documentary emphasizes the importance of the Latino vote through compelling and inspiring stories from Latino celebrities and personalities on how voting has affected their lives.
The night began in Battery Park as guests awaited the ferries that would transport them to Ellis Island; the screening was held at the Ellis Island Immigrant Museum. The red carpet prior to the event featured Latino personalities such as Julissa Arce (author of My (Underground) American Dream), comedian Gabe Gonzales, Voto Latino President & CEO Maria Teresa Kumar, and actress and singer Jeimy Osorio (Celia). We caught up with them during the pre-show.
The Knockturnal: What is one piece of advice you would give to Latino voters?
Jeimy Osorio: I wouldn’t say advice, but I can definitely use my voice to motivate them to vote, to let them know that your vote is really important. It’s not just one vote. It’s not about the vote, it’s about being present and telling everybody, “Here I come and here’s what I want to uphold to this country.” I wasn’t born in the United States, I was born in Puerto Rico, so I do have to be conscious of the people that don’t have the right to vote, so that’s what I’m trying to do.
Maria Teresa Kumar: It’s not enough to register yourself. Download VoterPal on the Android, iOS, and you can start registering your friends and family. For those people that know that they’re going to vote, I can tell you you know someone who is not. It matters this year. Latinos learn about political conversation amongst themselves more than anybody. So have those conversations. Make sure that you bring people along, you have to drag them along because if we only have 50% participation like we’ve had in the past, it’s going to get harder for our community.
Gabe Gonzalez: I think it’s “Don’t let anyone discourage you and don’t let anybody intimidate you.” Latinos are growing at a wild rate in the United States and we are going to make an impact. I see a lot of discouraged individuals, I see a lot of discouraged youth, and I see a lot of discouraged Latino voters. I want Latinos to be unafraid and to seek out knowledge. We might all come from different places and different races and backgrounds, but I think at the end of the day, when you’re in the United States, being Latino is such a unique experience because you’re sort of one together. Whether you speak Spanish, whether you’re from a country in South America, the Caribbean, we’re sort of thrust together in the US. I think we have to make the best of that and come together and support each other. The biggest thing I could tell Latinos is to go out and educate yourself and walk into that voting booth with confidence because that’s going to make a difference.
Julissa Arce: Register to vote and make sure they register their family because this election is about us and the way to the White House is going to be through the Latino vote. We can decide the future of our country.
The screening of “Habla y Vota” began with an address from Senior Vice President of HBO Latino, Lucinda Martinez. “My parents gave everything and I’m not paying for a g*d d*** wall.”
The special opened with Adrienne Bailon discussing her experiences as a Latina star on Disney channel, saying, “We need to represent the generations that came before us,” in regards to the importance of voting.
Cristela Alonzo’s story struck a chord with the audience; she discussed her mother’s home in Mexico, explaining that the American dream for her mother was having running water. Throughout her life, her mother had a series of strokes. Her medical problems went untreated because she did not want to take advantage of the system. Citing anti-Latino sentiments such as ones that promote the idea that Latinos steal opportunities, she referenced her mother.
“Not my mom.”
Prince Royce called on the younger generation to vote, saying, “We need to be the difference.”
Comedian Gabe Gonzalez recounted being 10 years old and witnessing his parents arguing over which candidate to vote for. While driving one day, his mother mentioned that she might not vote, and even at 10 years old, Gonzalez stated, “Not voting is giving up your voice.”
Award-winning journalist Jorge Ramos explained the power that the Latino vote has in this country.
“For the first time we Latinos have gone from big numbers to power. No one can make it to the White House without the Hispanic vote.”
Julissa Arce spoke on her experiences about being an undocumented immigrant who moved up the ranks of Goldman Sachs, establishing herself as one of the most qualified people who worked for the company.
“You may not know the names of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, but your vote is going to impact them.”
After the screening, Maria Teresa Kumar oversaw a panel discussion with some of the stars of the special. She asked each panelist to explain why they chose to share their story for the special.
“Danger in telling my story and that danger is that the only thing to celebrate is when someone becomes vice president of Goldman Sachs…and that’s not true…I shared my story to say ‘It’s not just about me,’ because the people who are cleaning our homes and picking our strawberries, they make our country grow,” said Julissa Arce.
Jeimy Osorio emphasized speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.
“I feel very lucky so now that I have the opportunity to open my mouth and tell the story and use my voice, why not to do it for the people that don’t have that opportunity?”