This election is full of so-called sleeping giants and silent majorities. Ask any pundit, and they will tell you that the secret sauce is here, there, or somewhere in between. But in Florida, a team of organizers and civic organizations is coaxing a very real giant with the sound of musical icon Hector Lavoe. I am talking about the Puerto Rican voters of the I-4 corridor.
Last month, a coalition of organizations from Central Florida and all over the country launched a campaign under the banner #QueVoteMiGente (My People Will Vote); one big push in the final stretch of the election to get that growing roll of Puerto Rican voters out to the polls. The hashtag is a tribute to the landmark song "Mi gente" (My People) made famous by legendary salsa singer Hector Lavoe. With the greater Latinx vote, Puerto Ricans — mi gente — are in a position to decide the 2016 election in Florida and in swing states across the country. United, we can flex our political muscle and make sure that we are heard by the powers that be. Only then will we make sure the challenges of the Puerto Rican community, in the territory as well as stateside, become the priorities of the nation we all call home.
You will be hard-pressed to find coverage nowadays that speaks to the needs of the Puerto Rican community beyond the debt crisis that engulfed the island late last year. But nearly 40 percent of recent arrivals and 20 percent of all Puerto Ricans in Florida lack health insurance. A devastating 28 percent of recent arrivals are unemployed. In fact, a recent poll of Florida Puerto Rican voters by the Center of American Progress Action Fund and Latino Decisions identified the economy and jobs as the most important issue this election. Our president and our Congress have a responsibility to address the needs of the Puerto Rican community and they must be held accountable by voters like you and me.
What's more, Puerto Ricans in Florida are in a position to elect the first of our own to represent us in Congress. Hispanic Federation, Telemundo Orlando, and El Sentinel hosted that candidate, Democratic nominee Darren Soto, as well as Republican nominee Wayne Liebnitzky, at a forum on Oct. 21. It's a sign of our community's growing political clout.
As many as 33 Puerto Rican families are relocating to Florida each day, working hard to make it here but never forgetting their friends and family on the Island. Our vote can help shape the agenda in Washington, where Congress decides whether Puerto Ricans everywhere have equal access to health care and to other federal programs that create economic opportunity.
That is why I am so thrilled to be a part of this historic campaign. I was given a chance to lend my voice — literally — by recording the #QueVoteMiGente anthem that pays tribute to the great Hector Lavoe. I want my people to speak up and be heard. To reach them, what better sound than salsa? When we go to the polls this November, we will have our own soundtrack. And on QueVoteMiGente.com, people all over the world will be able to see the faces of our community who are helping decide this election. Our words, our reasons for turning out to vote, and our beautiful faces will tell the story of how one community in central Florida made history.
Four of 10 Puerto Ricans who are registered to vote in Florida have never cast a ballot for president. We will turn that around this year. We must. Vote early if you can, and ask your friends and family to vote too. Most of all, show up to the polls on Nov. 8. Our vote is a vote for our community and for those back home who are voiceless and underrepresented. En un estado donde el voto latinx es el más importante, los boricuas pueden decidir la elección y tomar las riendas políticas. ¡Que vote mi gente!
Frankie Negrón is a Billboard and Grammy-nominated singer of salsa music of Puerto Rican descent and recipient of two Premios Lo Nuestro awards. He is a Florida resident, and a partner in the #QueVoteMiGente campaign that seeks to mobilize the Puerto Rican and Latinx vote in Florida through the efforts of civic and community organizing groups.