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First-Time Voter Becky G: 'It's Our Responsibility, How Dare We Not Vote?'
Few artists have rallied for voter registration as emphatically as Becky G. At only 19 years old, this will be the Los Angeles-born singer’s (real name Rebbeca Marie Gomez) first time voting, but the responsibility weighs heavily on her as the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who crossed the border any way they could -- and are now proud U.S. citizens.
Becky G spoke exclusively to Billboard about their stories and about what has driven her to be passionate about voter registration.
My grandparents immigrated here from Jalisco, Mexico, from a very poor town. I feel like without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. On my dad’s side, my grandpa Miguel was the first to come. He already had four of his sons in Mexico and left them with my grandma so he could come to the U.S. to establish a secure home and stability for them. He crossed over without proper paperwork and it was scary for him.
He had to be away from his family, from my grandma, from his sons. I can only imagine how hard that is, how brave you have to be to do something like that. Soon after that, my grandma came with my uncles. My uncles were able to enter the U.S, but they sent my grandma back and she was away from her kids for a while.
My dad Francisco is the first one born in the U.S. and they call him their miracle baby because he changed it all for them. On my mom’s side, my grandfather Angel came here multiple times in the trunk of a car, always with the fear of, ‘Am I going to get caught, am I not going to get caught.’ He actually was deported once. He was working at Santa Monica Mall and immigration came and said, ‘Angel Esquiviez?’
He said, ‘No, no soy.’
He lied. And he ran. He ran all over Santa Monica mall and eventually thought he had gotten away and was exiting the mall and the police came up and they had him in handcuffs.
It’s hard to get real jobs when you don’t have proper paperwork. I can imagine someone reporting him, saying, ‘Hey we have an undocumented’ -- what’s that word that I hate -- ‘alien?’
My grandparents tell these stories with a big smile on their faces, and I think it’s because they feel so blessed that it worked out on their end. But I put myself in their shoes and I think it’s a really scary thing to go through. It takes a lot of bravery, and you have to be willing to do anything and everything to have a better life.
When people ask if I’m proposing not having a border, I do see both sides of it. But I think that instead of judging people on the color of their skin, their sexual preference or what they religion they stand for, we have to really treat people as individuals and judge them on their actions as human beings. And that’s how I was raised in my house. If someone has brown skin it doesn't mean they’re going to hurt me.
And if someone is having a dream and is coming to the U.S. and not having a problem and not causing any issues except they have a need for a better job and a better education, I think they should be allowed to have that and maybe we could make some changes in the immigration system to be a little more efficient and a little more proactive so it’s not such a lengthy process. I’m not only talking about people from Mexico.
Our country was built on immigration and it’s the land of opportunity and I don't feel we should take that away from people. I feel my generation, the millennials, are a bit more accepting because we are a more multi-racial generation and people are more open to each other. And although it’s an intimidating responsibility to go out and vote, it’s a responsibility we have to own up to and really act on.
People have died for that. There has been bloodshed, tears shed. Especially for women, we’ve had to overcome so many obstacles. We have it right there; how dare we not act on it?
I think it’s so important to educate ourselves on things that matter to us. For me immigration and deportation are so important to my story, they’re part of where I am today. My grandparents came from Mexico with the clothes on their back and no money in their pockets and made something out of nothing. And even though I was born here, I was also in a situation where I had to make something out of nothing for my family as well. Although the choices are different and evolving it’s still the American dream.
I’m proud to be American, and I’m proud to be Mexican as well. There’s a scene in Selena, one of my favorite movies, where her dad says: ‘You’re either too American for the Mexicans or too Mexican for the Americans. You can never be in the middle.’
People like me, we are living examples of being right in the middle. We carry the traditions and the morals and the unity as Mexicans and Latinos, but at the same time, we are Americans and we’re proud to be here, we’re proud of the acceptance, we’re proud of the sacrifices the generations did before us and allowed us to be in this country and have the opportunities that we have. I’m always thankful to my grandparents. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have been able to follow my dreams.
As told to Leila Cobo.