Chicano filmmaker, Hector Galán documents the legacy of Willie Velasquez, the Mexican-American activist, who launched a grassroots movement that forever changed the political landscape in the United States in his Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary, Willie Velasquez: Your Vote is Your Voice.”
The film breaks cultural barriers highlighting the importance of the Latino vote and was recently presented at The University of Texas at El Paso’s Union Cinema and was accompanied by a voter registration effort to honor Velasquez’s legacy.
A production of Galan Incorporated and Latino Public Broadcasting, “Willie Velasquez: Your Vote Is Your Voice,” showcases the life of the man who led the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project and launched 1,000 voter registration drives in 200 cities. Velasquez paved the way for Latinos to have a voice in government and underscored the growing power of the Latino vote.
Chicano independent filmmaker, Hector Galan directed the documentary shedding light on the Latino voting revolution. Galán is well known for casting his lens on the Latino experience in America and has won numerous awards nationally and internationally for his work.
As one of the most prolific Chicano filmmakers today, Galán, a Tejano from the West Texas city of San Angelo, has contributed over forty hours of programming to the national PBS television schedule.
“There’s not that many of us out there, I’m talking about Latino documentary filmmakers,” said Galán. “We’ve got a lot of stories to tell, never ending stories, I wanna keep telling those stories and educating the younger people, the millennials, and the new generation coming up because I don’t want these stories to be forgotten. I wanna be able to use my skills to tell our stories, to tell stories that haven’t been told that will enlighten not only Latinos but other viewers in America.”
The documentary demonstrates how Latinos in America have long faced difficulties on the road to political empowerment. Poll taxes and gerrymandered political districts on top of outright intimidation tactics kept Latinos from the polls in local and national elections where they have always had the right and civic obligation to participate.
With his rallying cry of “your vote is your voice” (“su voto es su voz”), Willie Velasquez intended to change all of this. Inspired by Cesar Chavez’s farmworkers movement and the anti-war protests against the Vietnam War, Velasquez’s Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project set out to empower Latinos to vote.
Velasquez’s determination thirty-five years ago continues to shape efforts for getting Latinos to vote today. With the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, Velasquez helped launch the numerous “get out the vote programs” that exist today.
“In today’s politics there is an importance in engaging Latinos to vote,” said Emily Loya, General Manager at KCOS, El Paso’s PBS station. “There is a big push to get voters registered because our community is over 80 percent Latino, we hope to counteract low voter turnout because every vote matters.”
With the upcoming presidential election less than six weeks away, it is important that the American public is aware of the issues facing our country today. The 2016 election may very well be determined by the Latino vote that Velasquez knew was a key driver in deciding the next President of the United States.
According to Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends, Latino millennials make up almost half of all Latino eligible voters in 2016. The Center reports that this rapid growth of the Latino electorate is expected to make up 11.9 percent of all U.S. eligible voters in 2016. Some Latino advocacy groups like the National Association of Latino Elected Officials expect Latinos to turn out in greater numbers than they did for the 2012 that reelected President Obama.
“I’m impressed with young Latinos on social media,” said Galán. “They can get their friends and remind other Latinos to vote and they don’t have to vote one way or another way, but just vote.”
It is no secret that all presidential campaigns are courting the Latino vote. A record number of Hispanic eligible voters today may prove that when they cast their vote. “Willie Velasquez: Your Vote Is Your Voice, aired nationally October 3, 2016 and will continue to play on PBS throughout the election season.