Filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz Underscores Latino Voters’ Strength, Diversity in Timely Documentary

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PBS documentary Latino Vote: Dispatches from the Battleground explores how both political parties are communicating with Latinos—a minority group who can ultimately decide the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Directed by two-time Emmy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz (Reportero), Latino Vote is a compelling look at the differences between Latine voters—from members of the progressive wing of the Democrat party to evangelicals influenced by the pro-life movement and issues of religious freedom. Ruiz also includes segments that touch how the coronavirus and killing of George Floyd might impact voters.

Traveling across battleground states like Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Texas—a state that has not voted for a Democrat president since 1976 but is predicted to be up for grabs this year—Ruiz speaks to organizers, activists and voters themselves to learn why they believe the 2020 election is the most important of the modern era. It’s an eye-opening examination and reminder that we’re not a monolith.

“There’s no such thing as only one Latino community or one Latino anything,” Ruiz tells Remezcla. “We’re very different. I think the film tries to highlight the diversity within and show the potential growth of Latino political power.”

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Reaching out to Latine voters, however, doesn’t include “hispandering” to them. Remember when the Hillary Clinton campaign published the article “7 Ways Hillary Clinton Is Like Your Abuela” in 2016 and got dragged on social media? How about this year when President Trump was photographed sitting at the Resolute desk posing with Goya-brand products? Overall, have politicians learned how to appeal to Latine voters authentically?

“I think when campaigns make a long-term investment in Latino communities, that’s where you see the difference,” Ruiz says. “Hispandering is usually a last-minute kind of thing and a cheap attempt with Latino voters. Long-term investment means you’re hiring Latino staffers who are from the community, so you can have cultural competency.”

One of the “million-dollar questions” this year for Ruiz is whether Democrat challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden will get support from voters who were backing Bernie Sanders during the primary. The support is there for Biden, Ruiz says, but it’s also joined by enthusiastic anti-Trump coalitions.

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“There’s a groundswell to defeat Trump,” he says. “His anti-immigrant policies and his handling of the pandemic have really reduced his support. So, a lot of organizations are saying that his Latino support is dropping. It might be an angry vote, but it’ll be a vote nonetheless.”

No matter what the reason is, Ruiz urges everyone to make a plan and go to the voting booths or mail in their ballots as soon as possible.

“I think people are feeling that it is going to be critical for them to vote this cycle,” he says. “We’re looking at a potentially historic turnout among Latino voters.”

Watch Latino Vote: Dispatches from the Battleground on PBS or stream it below.