Monday, June 25, 2012

Meeting Mary Gonzales

I met Gonzales at Campaign Academy, an academy where high school students and college students come together to mobilize voters for the democratic party. She was a key speaker that day and we were there to listen to her speak as part of the election reporting tour I'm part of right now.

Gonzales didn't speak for a long time but left a lasting impression. She has engaged in social activism from a  young age seeing that she grew up in "Colines" they are similar to shanty-towns and people there have no access to water, gas, electricity and sewage.

Growing up amidst this poverty, she worked hard, graduated from college and is currently pursuing a PhD.

She is now running as a Democrat for State Representative in District 75 which is El-Paso. She arrived with little fuss. A short woman with her hair in a  bun and the kind-of American accent I heard on sit-coms.

By calling herself a "fighter" for South Texas, the poverty-stricken area she is from, she began her engaging talk. 

Gonzales explained that activism and dedication to a cause has a Last year, she made 17,000 USD and spent 10,000 on tuition. Even now, her work  and campaign are taking a toll on her.

When asked about how she does it all , she said jokingly.

"Very little sleep and a lot of coffee,"

Creating change and making a different has a lot of personal sacrifice, she told us. 

Having seen many activists struggle on a personal and financial level in Sudan made me relate to her. It is a different kind of struggle, but its still the kind of struggle that is so personal and its very difficult to communicate it to other people.

Gonzales brings people together. She is a woman representing youth and is openly gay, the first openly gay representative in her district.

Her candidacy came at an interesting time when America is going through many changes in the area of LGBT rights.

Just last month, Obama was called by Time America's gay president after he said that he will make it possible for LGBT to get married.

To me, her sexual orientation defines her , but also does not define her. She is open about her orientation and appeals to the LGBT community, but she also appeals to other people. She is active in the Hispanic community, as she has latino origins and she was also active organizing graduate students as a student. 

Her method is mobilization is simple. It comes down to being grass-root. I had the chance to ask her about grass-root engagement and how sometimes you become disengaged and find yourself in your office away from your base. 

She told us about block-walking. She walks to different blocks, knocks on doors and talks to people about their issues. 

She said when she block-walks, all the stress goes away.

The stress, I believe is always there. When you are campaigning and reaching out to people, you become the center of attention..and when you become the center of attention, you are bombarded with daily criticisms. 

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