Latinas had the highest unemployment rate this year — and it’s driving them to vote

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from The 19th News

Chabeli Carrazana | 09 Octoboer 2020

At her majority immigrant Catholic church in a small, conservative town tucked between Austin and San Antonio, Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo has watched her community shift.

Four years ago, religious freedom and abortion were the driving forces behind why some members of her largely Mexican-American congregation voted for President Donald Trump, even if they didn’t agree with his stance on immigration. A compromise, they said then.

But this year, coronavirus has reshuffled those priorities. When it was the Latinx community that got sick at higher numbers, when it was them who lost their service sector jobs, and them who had to worry about bringing the virus home to their intergenerational families. When the parade of trucks supporting Trump plowed through the main road in town, scaring Latinx people like Menchaca-Bagnulo’s sister, a hairdresser who already felt unsafe at work because it’s harder to social distance. When all that happened, things changed.

Now, it’s the economy and health care — two issues that go hand in hand in a pandemic — that top their priorities. That compromise from years ago no longer feels comfortable. For some, it no longer feels possible.

And it’s prompting a political awakening among the people who have felt some of the most acute shocks from the coronavirus: Latinas.

As a group, Latinas have experienced the bulk of job losses this year. The Latina unemployment rate hit 20.2 percent in April, leaving one in five Latinas out of work. From August to September, Latina unemployment rose month to month as it dropped for everybody else. It’s still in double digits at 11 percent.