A Personal Political Process

Leer en español

I’m 16 and can’t vote yet

But Oh, Lord do I hope Bush wins

My US high school is abuzz

Teachers try to calm us unruly teenagers down as the nation waits

An election so close it will require a drawn out recount process


Political ideologies formed by my family

Feelings of excitement,

Like a leaf being blown

By a wind that is a part of me but that I

Don’t control

I’m 24 and proudly voting for the 2nd time

Our nations future seems to quiver

I feel it in my bones, in the air, in many around me

Billboards hope, “It’s time to change”

Others warn “Socialism Coming Soon”


I head for work, home visits today

A foster home caring for abused kiddos.

My city is so divided racially

Who I will see today is based on neighborhood

South Chicago suburbs: an African American family


Together we watch the results

And converse about discrimination experienced in their lives

Anticipation in the air, the house erupts in celebration

Our country, so torn and crushed by racism

Has our first black president!


Political ideologies formed by life experiences

The needs of my city,

Cries for the state to respond

Feelings of sacredness,


I’m 28 and nearing 3 years in Puerto Rico

A Free Associated State – a legal term invented to disguise

To appease the world, the UN

It’s election time and the people brace themselves for massive shifts

Here, political affiliations mean hiring, firing and sometimes federal prison

(Just ask Oscar Rivera Lopez)


I enter my voting place, wearing my favorite shirt

Una Sola Estrella: Libre

An abuela leans on her cane, peers at me, “Independentista?”

Pues.., si!”, But I’m conscience of the oddity

That an estadounidense would hold such a position


A smile spreads across her wrinkled face

Assertive embrace, boricuan style, “Independentista hace 60 anos!”

I return home, praying that my country might repent

116 years and still colonizing

I dream of Puerto Rico, stronger, freer, one day independent


Political ideologies formed by ethics,

Historical understanding

An entire country, a people struggling

Feelings of citizenship and conciencia,


I’m 30 and have been in Colombia 7 months

It’s election time, the nation is abuzz

The best option for achieving peace?

Strategies revolve around voting for the least-worst option

Deep desires for ending her 50 years of armed conflict


I accompany a friend to her voting place, there is no line,

Lists of registered voters unfilled, where are our neighbors, el pueblo?

Nonconformist with the candidates, mistrust in the democratic process?

Broken promises and abuse by the state?

Not voting is also a political message…


Youth from Soacha living in vulnerability

Consume the daily bread of survival, a pedagogia of violence

A cycle taught by older youth, adults, and armed groups who prey on the weakest

Fed by machismo, a lack of access to opportunities, few alternatives,

A national political-social conflict yet unresolved


Our cycle here: Youth act out their learned violence,

The community reacts; a call is made to the ‘police’

But here it is well known,

There are ‘police’ but no state presence

That calling risks abuses of power, tagging for social cleansing[1]


In this area on the margins, ignored by the state

We sense the possibility of ‘falsos positivos’[2]

I remember the words of a professor,

La justicia tiene clase social

And we fear for the lives of these youth more than our own safety


Political ideologies largely still in process

How will national policies affect our most vulnerable?

Feelings of hunger to understand more

Desire for policies that transform the violence and



[1] One of the social practices of the Colombian armed conflicts; social cleansing has been practiced as a way of eliminating ‘undesirable’ persons including transgender people, prostitutes, street children, and juvenile delinquents.

[2] False positives: during the Uribe administration (2002 – 2010) and under a government system of incentives and rewards with little accountability, armed forces performed thousands of extrajudicial executions on civilians who were disguised and presented as guerillas killed in combat.


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