First vote in new country

By Karen Colbenson

Today 72-year-old Genaro Sanchez will vote, and for the first time in his life, it will matter.

Originally from Mexico City, Sanchez left his home country more than two decades ago to find employment that would support his children’s education. In 1988, Sanchez, a migrant worker, received amnesty and moved to Austin in 1999. He gained citizenship in 2006, along with his daughter Maria Sanchez, 30, who also now lives in Austin.

For Genaro, who is retired, it is a privilege to cast a vote that he knows will be counted. Elections in Mexico are held every six years, but the system is corrupt and a president typically is pre-determined, he said.


"But people always vote," said Genaro, through an interpreter. "Always. To see if they are able to get a good leader."

This year, as new citizens of the United States, both father and daughter will have a say in electing this country’s next leader. It will be a historic moment in a historic election, they said.

"We will never forget our roots, but I believe that our vote and voice will be heard more here than in Mexico," said Maria.

"I’m very happy for it," said Genaro. "We want the Hispanic vote to count."

Liliana Silvestry, executive director of Austin’s Welcome Center, said people might be surprised at how many Hispanics will show up at the polls this year.

"There seems to be a misconception that the town is full of undocumented immigrants, but I think we’re going to see an increase in Hispanic voters. There are many new citizens voting in this election."

The election is important to many new voters, not only because it’s historic but because it’s a chance for the country to grow and change, said Silvestry.

The Sanchezes said the immigration issue is a top priority for them in this election. They believe work visas should be more accessible.


"The reason why we vote is because we’re looking at the well-being of both our family and the country," said Genaro. "I hope we have good change, and I hope the nation will improve."

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