Liz Alarcón: Pulso Fam, I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit worried. Despite winning the 2020 and 2022 elections, which, thankfully, has stopped the far right from running our government, there’s a slight trend among Latino men: some of them are gravitating towards the extremist and harmful narratives being pushed by the ultra-conservative. It’s not all Latino men. But, there is a shift happening in some places around the country that I don’t think should be ignored. Let me hit you all with some stats: a study from the Washington Post after the 2020 election showed that the ex-President, you know, the one facing criminal charges…he won the vote of Latino men by 20 points in North Carolina, and by six points in Nevada. To explore why this is happening we’ve invited two Latinos to chat with us about why they align with progressive values and what to do to bring those Latino men we’re losing back to OUR side of the aisle.
You’re listening to the The Pulso Podcast. We’ll be right back.
Richard Guzman: I’m Richard Guzman. I’m a 305 lifer, been in Miami my whole life. I’m a practicing attorney. And apart from that, I’m just, I like to think of regular old guy, and I think a lot of times people think that if you’re like a progressive man, you’re like, I don’t know, somehow like more effeminate or something like that but I think if you saw me on the street, you might actually think that I was, none of those, things. I dress very conservatively, what some people would call, like, American prep. A lot of J. Crew, a lot of Polo. And then when I open my mouth They’re like, oh wow, he’s really not that at all.
Liz Alarcón: I want to ask you a bit more about your family and your background. You said you’re a 305 lifer. You’ve been in Miami your whole life. Were you born in Miami?
Richard Guzman: I grew up in Westchester, so, uh, anybody familiar with Miami Dade County politics knows what Westchester is like.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: I’m not familiar at all. So can you expand on that?
Richard Guzman: Westchester is a very, old school Cuban conservative. Like anti-Castro rallies and, very anti-communist sentiment and anti-left wing politics so, like when big. Political news would happen, whatever it was, whether it was like Elian Gonzalez when I was a kid or when Fidel Castro died when I got older, there were always like huge rallies.
Liz Alarcón: So how do we explain you?
Richard Guzman: Well, part of it is that I’m not Cuban. I was born here, but my parents are Colombian. So we were a minority, in the neighborhood. Not in a bad way, but, there weren’t that many Colombians in Westchester at that time. And then I grew up also with my grandmother’s husband, my step grandfather. And he was an old Cuban guy. But he was also, not super right wing and was not. Going along with the overarching narrative that I think was prevalent in the Cuban community at that time. He was always challenging other older Cuban guys in the neighborhood about why they believed what they believed. And then my father also, was a very progressive person, economically and politics speaking. So, That is where I think part of it came from, and then that put into me at a young age an interest in politics and like learning about more, why people think the way they think, why they vote the way they vote. And then as I got older, it just made more logical sense to me, to be on the progressive side of things.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: Is there a specific moment in your childhood or your young adulthood where you realized, Eh, this isn’t meshing with my views. This is not the way that I want to live my life.
Richard Guzman: So it’s never been, um, like a prerequisite to be my friend to be a progressive necessarily. You know what I mean? Like, those people that I grew up with, There are times when I want to smack them and be like, come on, bro, you’re smarter than this. But, I’m sure there are times they want to do it to me. And I think it’s important that, as progressives, we don’t disconnect from these people, because we’ve got to bring some people over to our side, you know. And we can’t give up on them. When, when, Trump was nominated as a Republican candidate and when he won, especially, I had my disagreements with my friends, especially over the immigration policies And how that is a huge disconnect with what their lived experiences and, with what happened on in the election and January 6th and these kinds of things and trying to like help them connect the dots between how authoritarianism works the same, whether it’s a left wing government or a right wing government, how somebody can get into power and then just like take all the power and do what Castro did in Cuba, the same thing that can happen here if we allow it to happen and we got to fight against. And so that’s why in a sense, I’ve never stopped being connected to it. You know what I mean? These people are still my friends to this day. I get frustrated with them. But like I said, I think it’s important for us to maintain these relationships and that politics shouldn’t be a prerequisite for friendship.
Liz Alarcón: I love that you said that and I agree. We need you there. For that positive example and that other perspective, and I wonder if you feel a responsibility to be that person, not only with your group of friends, but with other people in the community, because you were telling us in the beginning of our conversation, you are in part who you are because of the male role models you had in your life, your step granddad and your dad. Do you see yourself as having that role of being a positive male role model or a progressive male role model in a city like Miami that doesn’t have enough of you, quite honestly?
Richard Guzman: I don’t know if I see myself as a role model. I want to be a role model to my nieces and nephews, and, Show them that hard work is important and doing right by other people is important, giving your word and living by that word, those kinds of things are important. And then if they see that, you know, I’m a person that lives that way. And then as they get older, they start to realize, well, his politics are very progressive. I’m not trying to inculcate that into them. I’m trying just to be a good person. And then they can see that a good person doesn’t necessarily, they don’t just come from one walk of life.
Liz Alarcón: There’s nothing like a good story, so we asked Richard to tell us one about his experiences in the neighborhood to get a feel for what it was like when him and his friends got into it.
Richard Guzman: After the election in 2016, we were at a birthday party for, you know, one of these friends from back in the day and we were talking and, this is the kind of person that usually votes with their pocketbook, right? And this person had bought two houses during the Obama administration, and had made more money than they had ever made. We’re starting a family. Everything was like on the upswing, on the up trajectory. And I was like, well, if all these positive things are happening for you, why would you think you needed to change from that to “Make America Great Again”? Like, where’s the connection there? And. When I asked that question, there wasn’t really a good answer back, it was more like, well, you know, everybody’s kind of doing it, everybody that I know, everybody that I trust is doing it this way. So I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna go with them. If they had voted with their pocketbook, they would have voted for Hillary Clinton, right? To continue the Obama era. Economic ideals pushing forward, um, because they had obviously been a great benefit to him. So why not? It hit me in the heart that day. that politics is not necessarily about logic or math. It’s not about showing somebody that these policies benefit the most people. Their mind goes to an emotional place.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: There has just been a growing number of Latinos shifting towards the Republican party and specifically towards Trump, or that kind of far right mentality. What’s attracting or like driving Latino men to that thought process?
Richard Guzman: I think Latino culture is a very patriarchal culture. What the father says or what the man says is, of the utmost importance, and so I think maybe even subconsciously, when they see something like that, they want to follow that because it creates this, um, perception of power and of strength that they want to, be a part of, especially because I think that the overarching culture. Has dictated to men that they have to be strong, but only strong in a certain specific type of way. Very aggressive, very, sometimes hardheaded, and those are considered positive traits. And they maybe see that in these conservative figures who don’t ever back down. Who never apologize, no matter how many times they’re proven wrong. And I think also part of it is that it shouldn’t be that surprising simply because, if you look at the history of Latin American politics, there’ve been a lot of right wing dictatorships throughout Latin America and they were relatively popular, popular enough to sustain power for decades at a time in Brazil. In Argentina, in Chile, in some respects in Colombia. And so again throughout Latin America, there has been this tendency towards the strong man. When they’re in their own countries, they have come to believe that these strong men are positive because they decrease crime, they think that the economy is stronger, but you know, is it really, or is it just doing better for the people with the most? And then I think finally, men in general in America are like adrift. Men feel adrift because women have come up. Right to a level where men were once by themselves, in terms of economic power, education, the right to vote or to make decisions. So these kinds of things that don’t necessarily bring men down, but bring women up and put them on par, have, I think made men feel somewhat self-conscious about it. And I think also, the government has done a poor job of incentivizing other types of education that would be good for men.
Liz Alarcón: Richard, you got my vote. Where are we signing you up? We’re going to start your campaign. I will be your chief of staff here in South Florida. I could be your comms director.
Richard Guzman: Well, thanks, but I’m not running for office. It’s a crazy time to run for office.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: So he says.
Liz Alarcón: Yeah, don’t worry Maribel, we’ll plan his campaign strategy when we hop off this conversation. The last thing I was going to ask you, Richard, what can we do as progressives to emotionally compel Latino men to vote with our policies?
Richard Guzman: My opinion is that Democrats in the state of Florida aren’t on the ground. You don’t see them in the neighborhoods. You don’t see them drumming up support. You don’t see them registering people to vote. They’re not there all the time. It seems like they only come to town or they only care, when there’s an election happening. And by that time… You’ve already let the other side frame the argument. You’ve already let the other side tell the voters who you are before you’ve ever had a chance to say, no, that’s not who I am. If you are the type of person that feels adrift or that feels like the system is not caring enough about you, we have to say you’re right. There is something about that feeling that is accurate, that is true. But, it’s not that women are holding you down necessarily, right? Or that gays are holding you down, or that trans folks are holding you down. It’s really this, system that has been designed to benefit, Just the most rich, just the most powerful, just the largest corporations at your detriment.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: I’m wondering if you feel that the patriarchy is what’s really damaging to Latino men, and if so, how?
Richard Guzman: I do think so, personally. But, I also think that it would behoove us, in a sense, to talk less about these topics from a very academic perspective and with this kind of academic language that is easy to manipulate, right? The term, the patriarchy, where I understand that from a philosophical perspective. I think because I care about these things. I read about these things and I’m interested in these things. But for somebody else who maybe isn’t as interested, what they’re going to hear is, patriarchy means my dad is a bad person. And their dad is not a bad person. Their dad worked their ass off, worked his fingers to the bone to put food on the table. And sure he may have been a little rough around the edges, but that doesn’t make him a bad person. And so why are we blaming the men of the previous generation for the problems of today? And I think that some people see it that way. But we can’t approach the topic that way, we have to talk about how the powerful have always been in favor of the powerful, right? Who has been the powerful in this country or in the world in general for the last…500 years or whatever, it’s a bunch of white men, so the comparison I usually make with people when I’m having these kinds of discussions is, Republicans never tell you exactly what they’re going to do.
Liz Alarcón: They sell you the emotions.
Richard Guzman: And then they hit you with abortion bans. And then they hit you with slavery was good, but by that time, it’s too late. They’ve already amassed the power. They solidified it. They’ve gerrymandered their way to permanent power. So I think that is a problem with liberals.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: On the far right side, they use that terminology against us. And so you use, when you start using that terminology to start a conversation, it makes sense what you’re saying, people automatically shut off.
Richard Guzman: 100%, so, how do we talk about the subject without necessarily using the nomenclature? That may turn people off.
Liz Alarcón: I think that’s a really point, Richard, that we often don’t realize on the progressive side of things how alienating even our own conversations can be to the everyday person and you’re not even starting from a place of mutual understanding or meeting people at just, just by some of the terms we use.
Richard Guzman: We gotta figure out a way to talk to people in a way that maybe is less, that makes them feel less than.
Liz Alarcón: I had many aha moments from talking with Richard. Why is it so hard sometimes for us to bring people’s real life experiences into our conversations about what we want to see in our country? “Hablando se entiende la gente” is one of my life mottos’ and Richard did just that, he left us with good insights about how to just TALK WITH people. Next, we’re bringing another Latino to the pod who happens to be the newest member of the Pulso Team. Before starting at Pulso, he worked at the influencer and advocacy agency People First. We’re so happy to have you Marley. Welcome to the team. Welcome to the podcast.
Marley Rosario: honored to be part of the team and amazing crew of folks working to raise, progressive, ideas in, Latino culture.
Liz Alarcón: And I think you set us up really well for exactly why you are our guest for this episode, digging into the question of Latino men. And so first, before we dive in, tell us
what got you into wanting to do this type of work.
Marley Rosario: Both of my parents are Puerto Rican. My mom was born on the island to a single mom. My grandmother came here from Bayamon in the early 50s. And my dad was born in Chicago. my dad for about, 40 years has been the lead administrator for The Department of Health and Human Services in the Humboldt Park region of Chicago, the predominantly Puerto Rican area. In his role he is in charge of leading the office, specifically tasked with administering things like SNAP, EBT, Medicaid, Medicare, FEMA benefits.
Liz Alarcón: So lots of policies and benefits that help the working class.
Marley Rosario: A lot of policies and benefits, but a lot of also… What I call the failings of the system generally, seeing how exhausted and tired he was working with folks who he calls his customers and his clients, but a lot of people don’t view somebody who’s coming every day to get, EBT or SNAP benefits a client. Folks who are most disenfranchised and are most vulnerable was something that had a really early impression on me. And, and I just remember all the time coming from baseball practice and having him pick me up and then driving past his job and just seeing the lines of folks around the block of his office waiting, not It’s for the day to open up, but for the next day to open up, this was like right in the height of 2007, 2008, 2009, when folks were losing their jobs, people who are Latinos that lived comfortably their entire lives, finding themselves in need and so I took a lot of those values.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: Can you think of a brief moment in your life, like a quick memory that might come to mind where you were in your teenage years and you were first starting to realize how important those progressive values were?
Marley Rosario: So around 2017, I had a friend that got shot and killed near my grandmother’s house. That was one of probably the biggest moments. I would say another moment was definitely the Parkland Massacre. And really the, the act, the leadership that a lot of those, you know, students sort of like presented. I met a lot of them. That was really cool. Just, their bravery really showed me that it wasn’t something to be scared of. To like be vocal and be proud of your values, to stand up for things that, you know, are wrong.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: Why is it that laws that protect lives against gun violence are considered progressive or viewpoints like that are considered progressive?
Marley Rosario: It’s a great question. I have a lot of friends that vote blue every year that say when they’re able to, they’re going to get a FOID card and get a gun, you know, and most of my friends are Latino or. Black and they say like, yeah, i’m gonna get a gun and get a weapon And so I don’t necessarily think gun ownership is synonymous with progressivism and like the ideas of progressive but I think that the for some reason ,on the right, they have taken the notion that Any form of gun violence prevention is antithetical to freedom. And I think even on top of that, a lot of the, folks on the left associate restrictions to gun as gun violence prevention, when many times what’s going to prevent somebody from actually even thinking of committing violence is resources in their community and the ability to like, you know have a life that that Is worth living because at the end of the day, I’ve had friends of friends who’ve told me that they’ve had relatives and amigos who commit violence simply just to have a warm place to stay in the Cook County Jail. So if you don’t think of housing policy, or economic policy, or jobs policy as gun violence prevention, you probably aren’t doing it right.
Liz Alarcón: Well, all this makes definite sense to me, Marley. When I hear you talk, this sounds like sound policy and practices for a more equitable, uh, society. country world and future for all of us. And yet despite that being my opinion, we know that all of the numbers are telling us that Latino men like you, younger than you, your age, older millennials like Maribel and I, boomers, gen x are to some degree, gravitating more towards the policies and the narratives of, not just conservative side of the aisle, but actually to right wing extremist narratives in the last several years. So why do you think that what to us seems like the best possible course of action for ourselves and our families and our friends is not translating with some Latino in Latino men.
Marley Rosario: Canceling isn’t the right word here, but like the idea of being canceled
there’s that concept. I think that fear. Has for a lot of like Latino men, even if it’s an illogical fear, right? Like nobody’s canceling a Latino men, but that’s that fear is there and so if they don’t share a hundred percent of all of the ideals within the progressive wing they feel like left out and ostracized. And I think that then kicks in like a machismo sort of culture and like a revert back to like, I’m not welcome here. So I’m going to go back to what I know.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: You know what, you just made me realize, the progressive movement isn’t trying to cancel Latino men, but we are talking about getting rid of the machismo and the sexism and a lot of the core values that were ingrained in Latino men. And so you’re talking about when you talk to someone about their identity, about when you’re saying. What makes you, you and what, how you grew up and how you were raised and how you think was correct is not correct. And it is no longer even tolerable. The natural reaction for a human being is to be, woah woah woah, I’m going to self preserve. So now I’m just going to go with the other people because they think that what I’m doing is fine.
Marley Rosario: Even if they don’t agree with you on things like economics, or gun violence policy. Like, when I talk about healthcare policy, like, Yeah, everyone should have healthcare, like, you should be able to go to a hospital and not, like, be turned around because you don’t have enough money, they all agree with those things, and it’s tied to values that, you learned in iglesia and like things that you learned as a kid. But the problem is, like you said, Maribel, if you attack that person at their core identity and like you tell them like actually the way you’ve been thinking for your entire life, it’s wrong and now we’re not going to hang out with you. We’re not going to associate with you because you’re wrong. It starts to make people feel left out and the only, because we have a two party system, the only camp quote unquote for them to go to is the other side and the other side is going further extreme, further extreme, further extreme, like, you know, people saying videos of like, yeah, it’s okay to have multiple girlfriends and cheat on them or what happened to the the old way that men live or like men are weak nowadays. All that content is out there for you to find and if you get into that It’s a full circle and the algo is gonna catch you.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: Do you think that sometimes we, on the progressive side of things, can be a little bit more inclusive? fast to cut ties and a little to cut throat when it comes to being tolerant of the fact that it is going to take some time for people to catch up to the ideas that we are discussing. It’s going to take some time for people to shed those values that were ingrained into them. Because I think there’s this constant debate in progressive circles. If you’re still associating with that sexist pig, then you’re being permissive. You’re allowing them to be who they are and then, and you’re, buying into that type of culture and that’s not okay. So you need to cut all ties and cancel them and what, and it’s like, well, but if you cut all ties and you cancel them and you dissociate completely, then you cannot have dialogue. You can no longer have a connection. So where is that line?
Marley Rosario: It’s a really tough line to draw, Maribel. It’s something I’m dealing with in my personal life. Like at what point do values matter in a friendship? And you say Hey, I unfortunately can’t be your friend anymore. Your values don’t align with my values and I feel unsafe around you, to like, hey I want to help you see my side of things and see where you’re coming from. My uncle runs a very conservative podcast. And I’m not gonna stop loving my tío, like, that’s not gonna happen, like, I can’t dissolve that relationship, but I’ve let him know how I feel, other family members have let him know how he feels, we’ve had open conversations, and I’m thinking it’s starting to work and see his perspective. He realized the 2020 election wasn’t stolen, so that there’s progress in and of itself. He definitely has started to move on pretty basic stuff.
Liz Alarcón: What other strategies, tactics, what type of content would you want to consume?
Do you see your friends wanting to consume to combat the rights accelerated pace towards trying to reach the hearts and minds of Latino men?
Marley Rosario: I honestly think like literally there’s more conversations like this with more Latino men is the tactic and just vocalizing that showing Latino men that there is machismo and pride in being compassionate and showing that equity and equality are values of like, Latino culture generally, you know? It’s going to be really tough conversations happening over and over and over again with people’s tíos, people’s nephews, people’s cousins, people’s friends, people’s fathers, people’s sons. Like those are the, that’s the tactic and figuring out how to scale more of that is gonna be the way that we change hearts and minds.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: Is it inviting them into the conversation publicly more often, like maybe having more open forums for discussion with people who are not necessarily like minded, where they can maybe air out some of their concerns, and we can discuss them in a way that’s amicable? But in that case, I feel like a lot of people complain and will say, why are you giving this person a platform? you’re always going to make somebody mad, right? And what we do when it comes to content, media, you’re always going to make somebody mad.
Marley Rosario: A comparison that I’ve seen really work well is like in the African American community, is the barbershop on the athletic, right? Where a lot of prominent Black men are just, they’re talking. They’re having conversations, like they’re having real conversations about politics. It’s not all politics. That’s what another thing is like talking about life and culture doesn’t always need to be like, did you vote for Joe Biden? They just want to talk about culture. They want to talk about what their life is like, what their values are. I don’t know if that’s that for Latinos to be quite honest. Is it the bodega, right? Like, you know, do. It
Liz Alarcón: It could be the soccer field.
Marley Rosario: The soccer field, you know, the baseball bench, right?
Liz Alarcón: The baseball bench, the bodega, the bar after hours.
Marley Rosario: Yeah.
Liz Alarcón: The takeaway for me as I’m reflecting on this conversation, y’all, is that we also need more messengers talking openly about this. There are not enough Latino men doing what your tío is doing, Marley, but on the other side. So seeing more messengers talking in first person around those things and, in the internet forum. I think it is also important. We need to see more Latino men doing what you’re doing, Marley, talking about this openly.
Maribel Quezada-Smith: I think that we don’t have to label everything like that is such a millennial Gen Z thing to do and it can be really annoying for a lot of people and off putting. it’s making things harder for people to actually feel like, Oh, I get that. I understand what you’re saying, but when you put a label on it and the label gets used in all kinds of ways. And gets taken out of context when you’re trying to have a conversation with someone. If you immediately start by saying sexism, here’s why it’s wrong. Sometimes it can be off putting to someone who might be a sexist, but doesn’t really understand why. Right? So instead, maybe you could start with a more simpler explanation or just a conversation. Not necessarily that starts with labeling.
Marley Rosario: No, a hundred percent. You’re hitting it right on the nose, Maribel. Cause it’s like, I remember talking with my friend about, you know, affordable housing, right? It’s like, okay, like what even is, people can’t even most of the time define what is affordable housing even mean in the, in your city, in your context, right? It’s all relative, right? And then I tell them about the story of a friend’s cousin who told me one time, what I had mentioned earlier, they commit crimes simply because they don’t have stable housing and in the winter, Chicago’s winter is very violent. And so they commit low level crimes, whether that’s breaking into somebody’s car, stealing something from the store just so that can have a warm place to live. That’s housing policy. That’s what affordable housing is. And so more stories and narratives and less terms and jargon and labels, I think brings more people into the conversation.
Liz Alarcón: So how do we bring the Latino men who are gravitating to the right, back to our side? From Richard and Marley I learned that we can start by giving space for the men in our lives to share what they’re struggling with and what their hopes are. We should ask them, and really listen to, what they want to see from our leaders and from our government. And when it’s our turn to share our point of view, we should do it from a real-life-impact-everyday-examples kind of place and not an academic or philosophical one. If we do that, our hope is the same as Richard’s.
Richard Guzman: I’m hopeful that this changes a couple minds, it’ll have been worth it if that, if that happens.
Liz Alarcón: This episode was produced by me, Liz Alarcón. Editing by Jackie Noack and Charlie Garcia. Audio engineering, scoring, and mixing by Charlie Garcia and Julian Blackmore. The hosts of The Pulso Podcast are me, Liz Alarcón and Maribel Quezada-Smith.