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How Are U.S. Latinos Integrated into American Democracy?

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Arthur Soto-Vasquez
Arthur Soto-Vásquez

Arthur D. Soto-Vásquez is a doctoral candidate at American University (AU) School of Communication (SOC) where he is researching the social and racial integration of U.S. Latinos into American Democracy.

As a Mexican-American growing up on the U.S./ Mexican border he became interested in studying Latinos in America. He saw two realities – his own culture and what he saw in the media representing his culture to the larger country. After working on a political campaign, he started to question the institutions and practices aimed at increasing Latino voter turnout, and his interest in the topic was stoked.

His dissertation research is focused on the implications of identity formation by using digital platforms to mobilize Latino voters in the U.S. He conducted qualitative research by interviewing communication leadership at non-profit organizations that work directly with Latinos. He also used thematic analysis to study the organizations’ social media and digital communications to look for trends or patterns. His goal was to see whether the methods and tactics that they are using have been working to increase Latino voter turnout.

From his research, he realized the importance of understanding the backgrounds of people who work to mobilize Latino voters in official organizations. He found that they mostly come from elite higher education institutions and have worked on major presidential campaigns. Their background can influence the strategies and tactics they use to mobilize Latinos, which mostly have been drawn from the Obama and Clinton campaigns.

He has found that they have some trouble articulating a clear mobilizing message that appeals to the mass audience of Latinos. His analysis of their digital communications shows that they tend to reproduce much of the racial ideology of the “Latino Project”. The “Latino Project” refers to the creation of a single racial identity for Latinos in the U.S. for marketing and advocacy purposes. Instead of targeted marketing based on ethnic background, geographic origin, or shared cultural traditions of the different types of Hispanics or Latinos, they are grouped together into a “Latino” race or identity. In essence, it conforms the racial politics in Latin America into a more traditional American model.

“I believe there is a serious lack of research on Latinx people’s in the United States. We need a whole generation of new scholars who can critically analyze our historical moment where old prejudices are being reformulated though new political and technological practices”, said Soto Vásquez.

His next research projects will focus on Latino social influencers online and on social media, like Twitter and Instagram. He is also interested in researching Latinas in the tech industry.

Soto-Vásquez will be working as a professor at Texas A&M International University in the fall. He will be teaching a range of courses including a course on Pop Culture, advertising and he is working on developing a course on U.S. Latinos and Media.