If Hillary Clinton plans to mislead, malign and manipulate her way back into the White House, I’d appreciate it if she’d leave my grandmothers out of it.
For Latinos, our abuelas are sacred, and we’d rather not see them turned into political props. The Democratic front-runner and her campaign recently made a condescending attempt to convince Latinos that La Hillary is just like us. Or rather, just like our grandmothers.
Don’t go there.
The post, by Clinton staffer Paola Luisi, listed “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela.” Such as: “She worries about children everywhere.” “She knows what’s best.” “She reads to you before bedtime.”
What a fairy tale. Latino Twitter responded with contempt, immediately giving rise to the hashtag #notmyabuela.
Flash back to that wince-inducing episode during the 2008 campaign when Clinton – out of her comfort zone before a Latino audience in Las Vegas – quipped that their concerns were connected to those of non-Latinos despite the fact that “we treat them as though one is guacamole and one is chips.”
The problem isn’t that Clinton panders to Latinos. The problem is that she hasn’t done the work to learn about the folks to whom she’s pandering. These thoughtless gestures feel like day-old flowers picked up at the last minute from a gas station on the way to a party. They paper over what she hasn’t done to address Latino concerns – on immigration, education, health care, police violence, etc.
Last summer, Clinton said thousands of children fleeing death in Central America “should be sent back” because “we have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.” The message that Latinos got was that Clinton was either clueless or heartless, or both.
Now Team Hillary wants Latino voters to look past their candidate’s wealth, fame and power and see a kind and nurturing figure that evokes childhood memories of kitchens drenched in the smell of empanadas and hot chocolate. They want us to forget that we’re talking about a former first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state who became a bestselling author with eight-figure advances and earned more than $250,000 per speech on the lecture circuit.
What does it matter that the Clintons have amassed a fortune of between $100 million and $200 million? Or that fellow Democrats have such fear of the Clinton duo that neither Bernie Sanders nor Martin O’Malley will lay a glove on her?
This isn’t the sort of life that my now deceased grandmothers – both of whom who were born in Texas, toiled as farm workers, never made it past sixth grade, married in their teens, and raised large families by working feverishly alongside their husbands before going home to cook, clean, and wash clothes – could have ever imagined, much less related to.
My father’s mom, Esperanza, was born in Pecos but spent most of her life in New Mexico and California. My mother’s mom, Aurora, was born in Yorktown, and lived for most of her life in the Rio Grande Valley before settling in central California.
These women sacrificed throughout their entire lives so they could care for their husbands and give something to their children. Whether they had to live in migrant camps, or cook by the side of the road, or sew torn shirts into the wee hours, they never complained, took a handout, envied what others had, or saw themselves as victims – even though most doors weren’t just closed to them but bolted shut.
Clinton’s generation of women complained about the glass ceiling. That’s a luxury when you grow up with dirt floors and your idea of a good job is one where you get to work indoors.
My grandmothers were the glue that held their families together. In fact, it was a blessing that their husbands died first. Had it been the other way around, those strong and proud men wouldn’t have lasted a month without their life partners.
Most of all, my grandmothers had ironclad values and deeply cemented views of right and wrong, and they didn’t barter them away for the sake of ambition or political expediency.
Anyone who believes the silly stereotype that Latin women are weak, passive and submissive has never actually met one. And they don’t know the first thing about abuelas. Neither, it seems, do Hillary Clinton and her campaign.
Ruben Navarrette Jr., formerly of Sanger, is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. His email address is ruben@rubennavarrette. com.