By Michelle Powers
On a Tuesday night, Maria Bribriesco was heading out with her caucus in a box. She is member of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and she’s training people, especially Latinos, to take part in “el caucus.”
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” she said.
Though Latinos make up only six percent of Iowa’s population, they have more than doubled in the last two decades.
In nearly a dozen towns scattered around the Hawkeye State, Latinos make up more than a third of the population, and most of them are Catholics.
Father Rudy Juarez ministers to some of the largest Latino communities in the state, including Iowa’s first majority Hispanic town: West Liberty.
“It’s been a blessing, a boom and a challenge. We have a saying, if you can vote you should,” says Juarez.
While the influx of Latino immigrants is revitalizing many towns, Father Rudy tells Currents News it’s been tough to persuade the community to become politically active.
Fewer than 3,000 Latinos participated in the 2016 caucuses, but organizations like LULAC are hoping this year will be different.
For the first time, the state is offering six Spanish language satellite caucus sites in an attempt to increase participation.
LULAC is reporting more than 50,000 Latinos are registered to vote, making it a potentially important bloc for candidates. But, their votes are complicated.
Latinos like Angel Rodriguez are torn on issues like abortion and immigration, but he votes every chance he gets, even if that means voting for an unpopular candidate.
“Really hard to vote as a Catholic,” he told Currents News.
But still, it’s he and his wife’s way of turning history on its head.
“The idea we aren’t significant gets pushed from generation to generation,” his wife Maria added.
Despite the increased efforts this year, Maria and Angel believe the party still hasn’t done enough to empower Latinos voters not only in Iowa, but nationally and that could hurt the party in the general election.
The Hispanic community is also young, which suggests they will likely be a force in campaigns to come.
Bribriesco will be a precinct captain come February 3, and she has just one message for those Catholic immigrants who may come to caucus:
“We’re like a big focus group. Continue to be brave.”