There are few things that will get me up at 4 am. These days, most of them revolve around catching an early flight as the days of waking up to feed a baby are a decade behind me. But today I got up to poll watch as Chicago embarks on a historical day – we are participating in a run off vote for mayor. I have been volunteering on the Jesus “Chuy” Garcia mayoral campaign since the start of this year. As I wrote earlier on my blog, I feel a personal connection to Garcia. At an event I attended, Garcia spoke of being the Latino candidate who would work to empower the Latino community in a way I’d not seen before. As I shook his hand I mentioned that my dad is also from the state of Durango, Mexico. He lit up and smiled.
But as I spent my time on the campaign and watched him navigate the Chicago media, my admiration for him has grown in its own right, not just because he and my dad hail from the same part of the world. Garcia has not only energized many people in my community with his dedication, he also gained support after a particularly nasty debate moment.
During the last debate, the moderator, formerly-well-respected Phil Ponce, asked Garcia about his son, who apparently was in a gang in his youth. Ponce asked Garcia one of the the worst questions you could ask a parent – If you couldn’t keep your son from a gang, how will you protect the rest of Chicago’s children? I was watching a time zone away in Queens, NY and could feel the punch in my gut.
The grace that Garcia showed while answering that cheap shot should have earned him every vote in Chicago. You could see how he was hurt by the accusation of being a bad parent, but he did not flinch in giving a loving response that he did his best and sometimes that is not good enough. Many parents know that feeling all too well, especially those raising children in the midst of gangs and violence.
I remember when Harold Washington was elected mayor of Chicago. I was just a kid in the suburbs, hoping and dreaming that one day I would live in a city like Chicago and get to experience first hand a historic election. Now I am. Win or lose, this is history and I am so happy to be involved. Tonight night I’ll be crying into my drink no matter what. But I really hope they are happy tears, y’all.
Veronica Arreola writes the blog Viva la Feminista, where she tries to navigate and understand the intersection between feminism, motherhood and her Latinadad. You can follow her on Twitter @veronicaeye. To contact Veronica for an interview or to book her as a speaker, she can be reached at email@example.com.