In the midst of the “Guerro de los Cristeros” (Cristero War), a conflict that ravaged Mexico in the 1920s, my maternal grandmother was born in Jalisco, Mexico. A decade earlier and to the west in Baja California, Mexico, my paternal grandmother was born during the Mexican Revolution and at the onset of the First World War. They both entered into this world in war time during an era where the prospect of voting was legally restricted for them purely due to their gender. Both my grandmothers and my mom immigrated to the United States and as legal residents were still unable to vote despite the U.S. granting women the right in 1920. My paternal grandmother would gain citizenship in her twenties and vote in 1940. My maternal grandmother moved to the United States later, leaving Mexico right before Mexico granted women the right to vote in national elections in 1958. She did not become a U.S. citizen until 1995 and voted for the first time when she was 69. Voting was not a right my grandmothers or mom were born into. My mom became a U.S. citizen after 1998, when the U.S. allowed for dual U.S. and Mexican nationality. At the age of 19, I cast my first vote for president, alongside my mom who was also voting in her first U.S. presidential election. As the first woman in my immediate family to be born at a time where I knew when I became of age, I had the right to vote; I take my role in meaningful political engagement seriously. The stories of my grandmothers and mom taught me that the right to vote was hard earned and a powerful tool for protecting and advancing our rights.
I vote to continue the tradition that my grandmothers started, as the first generation of women able to vote. I vote as a woman, I vote as a daughter of an immigrant, I vote as a Latina, I vote as a Californian.
I vote because entering into the voting booth this year, I care about reproductive rights, gender equity, gun control and health care. I vote because these issues uniquely impact women and as a woman, I will cast my vote to move these issues forward. Your story, your vote counts; make it heard this Election Day, Tuesday November 8, 2016.
You can find your polling place and review your voter registration at canivote.org.
Melissa Torres-Montoya, JD, MPH, is the Project Director for the 30 for 30 Campaign. She started her political engagement at the age of 17 in the California state legislature and after earning her law degree from UC Berkeley, has spent the past five years working to protect and expand sexual and reproductive justice in the U.S.