"Why is it always the week of elections that we're trying to engage the Latino community," Eva Longoria Bastón recalls discussing with fellow actresses America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Saldana, and Gina Rodriguez two days before the 2018 midterm election. They were on a campaign trip to Florida, trying to get the Latinx vote out. They felt the dialogue with Latinx communities, especially Latinas, was often limited and didn't show these communities their real power. But they decided to set out to change that. Two years later, as the country now approaches an all-important presidential election, their vision to step up the outreach is coming alive as Longoria Bastón and Ferrera join a group of founders to launch "She Se Puede," a digital lifestyle community created for Latinas.
Inspired by Dolores Huerta's rallying phrase “Sí, se puede!" from 1972 — this nonprofit initiative received the blessings of the civil rights activist, whom Longoria Bastón calls the madrina (godmother) of the project. The founders of She Se Puede — Alex Martínez Kondracke, Ferrera, Carmen Perez, Christy Haubegger, Elsa Collins, Longoria Bastón, Jess Morales Rocketto, Mónica Ramírez, Olga Segura, and Stephanie Valencia — felt inspired by Huerta's work to pursue social justice when thinking about how they could take personal responsibility for encouraging Latinas to engage civically.
"Everyone is always talking about Latinos being the fastest-growing demographic in the United States. Yet, demography is not destiny," says Longoria Bastón in a phone interview. "Just because we are more, that doesn't mean we understand the power we have. So, we want to inspire and inform Latinas to let them know: Not only are you powerful, but think about how you want to use and believe in that power."
Ferrera also stresses the figures, pointing to the Latinx spending and voting power in this country. Yet, it seems that the strength in numbers isn't as represented as it should be, and the Superstore star feels it all comes down to the messaging gap. "Our research shows that Latinas don't have the confidence that they know enough to engage and participate in the voting process, and that is heartbreaking because Latinas have everything they need to know what is important and best for their lives," says Ferrera.
Both women have been heavily involved in political campaigning throughout their careers. Ferrera remains a Voto Latino Foundation Board Member, and Longoria Bastón recently emceed the Democratic National Convention — a turn that was faced with criticism online, including a tweet from Sen. Marco Rubio. "Brilliant move! No one is more in touch with the challenges & obstacles faced by everyday Americans than actors & celebrities," tweeted the senator from Florida.
Longoria Bastón says this statement only inspired her to keep going. "I've been a political activist for over 20 years, and I showed up that night as a ninth-generation American, as a daughter of a veteran, a daughter of a teacher, and as a mother to a child who's going to live in this country. I wasn't there as a celebrity or as Eva Longoria. I was there as an American citizen, " she tells us. "I am so much bigger than what I do. 'Why are you talking about politics?' Because politics injects itself into every part of our lives, whether we like it or not."
She Se Puede will continue beyond the election. "As important as this election is this year, this project of shifting culture cannot happen in one election cycle," adds Ferrera. "That is not something that any of us think is going to happen overnight. It's going to happen with real investment and commitment to our community."
This initiative aims to serve as a digital destination with more in mind than politics: health to civic engagement and food and fashion to parenting. The goal is to share "relatable articles, videos, and photos celebrating Latina achievement stories big and small." Additionally, the founders also aim to launch virtual events, text message notifications, weekly emails, and more.
Ultimately, Longoria Bastón and Ferrera are all too familiar with the narrative that is often portrayed of their communities in the media — and they hope that this platform will provide Latinas with the messaging they themselves didn't see throughout their career. "I grew up in a culture where I never saw myself, and my career has largely been about trying to create images that didn't exist for me," says Ferrera, as Longoria Bastón adds, "We need to tell our own stories. We need to believe that if we share inspirational and informational content, that we can have the influence we deserve."