Why These Millennials Are Going To “Crash” The Conventions

Photo: Courtesy of FUSE.
Arlene Santana, a television host and actress, will cover the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
An estimated 11.9 million Hispanic millennials will be eligible to vote in this year's election. But all too often, members of the growing and influential voting bloc feel their voices aren't heard in Washington. Arlene Santana and James Villalobos are hoping to change that. The two millennials will be among the droves of reporters flocking to Cleveland and Philadelphia for the national political conventions this July, covering the personalities and policies at the center of the action on behalf of Fuse, a national television network aiming to reach Latinos and multicultural audiences between the ages of 18 and 34. They won the ticket to the convention — and mic — through Crash the Parties, a contest sponsored by Fuse and Voto Latino. Santana, a TV host and actress, will attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, while Villalobos, a college student and member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, will be live from Cleveland with the GOP. They beat out nearly 200 other entrants competing for the opportunity. The two reporters spoke with Refinery29 by phone about why conventions matter, the top issues for millennial Hispanic voters, and more.
Congratulations! What was it like to find out you would cover the conventions?
James Villalobos: "When I learned I won, I was literally completely speechless on the call. I’m excited to witness history. As a 20-year-old college student, to have the opportunity to report for a network such as Fuse at what will probably be one of the biggest events this year, it’s just really surreal." Arlene Santana: "This was something that my entire family got behind. My mom actually found out about the competition…[and] once I figured out what it was about, I jumped at the chance to submit. I feel like this belongs to everybody who got behind me, and I’m excited to represent them and the entire Latino community at the convention."

The 27 million Latino voters, we feel like we don’t have a voice, like our voice doesn’t matter.

Arlene Santana
Why is it so important that people tune in and pay attention and watch what’s happening at the convention?
JV: "It’s an interesting time just because of how divided the Republican Party is, so for me, it will be interesting to hear from the delegates directly and see how they plan on uniting the party behind Donald Trump. Earlier this month, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Meet the Press that he’s concerned about the Hispanic vote, and I say rightfully so. Latinos shouldn’t be brushed away because the Latino vote, especially this year, is crucial. There are 27.3 million eligible Latino voters. I feel like it’s my responsibility to really make sure the issues affecting Latinos are going to be discussed and taken seriously this year." AS: "Sometimes people assume that politics don’t affect them directly. But this election, especially after the immigration proposal from Obama was blocked at the Supreme Court, it’s affecting us more than ever, and in a very up front, obvious way. The 27 million Latino voters, we feel like we don’t have a voice, like our voice doesn’t matter. And if we can harness our voter numbers and our potential political power, I think we can really be a game changer in this election."
Photo: Courtesy of FUSE.
James Villalobos, a college student studying journalism, will cover the Republican National Convention.
What are the top issues for millennial Latino voters this year?
JV: "Immigration is one of the many issues affecting the Latino community, but it’s more than that. It’s education, it’s gun control." AS: "One of the most important issues for me, and why I got involved, is I feel like our community lacks support and education when it comes to our health. As millennials, we start to see our parents become sick with things like diabetes and cancer and, even as young people, we’re also getting Type 2 diabetes. If we want to be leaders in the future, we have to be healthy."

This year we may see the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate, either from Nevada or California — what impact would that have on inspiring and engaging women from the Latina community in politics?
AS: "For me, I feel like when we start to see ourselves represented in Washington, when we start to see ourselves represented in politics, that’s what motivates us. Similarly, like with TV shows, when we weren’t represented in the past, having Latino cops or Latino doctors or nurses on television, it’s hard to identify with those things. The more we see ourselves represented by politicians who are getting nominated by the Senate, and getting nominated to the Supreme Court, the more that we will want to get involved and the more we can get motivated to get involved." JV: "I just hope it shows other Latinos in this community that they matter and we have a voice. The face of this country is changing and that’s something that we have to acknowledge and recognize. We have to adjust. You just can’t ignore it any longer."

Do you have a dream interview that you’re hoping to score?
JV: "The man himself, The Donald." AS: "Bernie Sanders. I think that it’s important to get his perspective." Editor's note: This interview has been edited and condensed.

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