Bernie Sanders holding campaign rally in East L.A.



Juvenal “Juve” Quintana was never really into politics until he learned about Bernie Sanders’ first presidential campaign.

In 2016, Quintana heard the Vermont senator’s talk of providing everyone with health insurance and thought that would help Latinos in his hometown of Modesto, but he didn’t think they were getting the message from Spanish-language media. So Quintana, the lead singer of Grupo La Meta, wrote a ballad: “El Quemazón,” or “The Bern.”

“He’s the man with a vision to better this country,” the corrido begins, in Spanish. “Bernie Sanders is his name. Now you’re going to feel his burn.” Quintana’s song has had hundreds of thousands of views since then, and the message still stands, he said in an interview.

“Bernie’s talking about the same exact things that I wrote about in 2016,” said Quintana, 30. “I’m 100% for Bernie. I feel like he’s the candidate who will listen.”

Young Latinos like Quintana were strong supporters of Sanders in 2016, and the candidate is reaching out to them again in hopes they can help him capture primaries nationwide, and particularly California’s March 3 Democratic contest. Sanders is headed to predominantly Latino East L.A. on Saturday for a rally at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, and thousands are expected to attend.

The Sanders campaign debuted its first California office in East L.A. and opened another in the Central Valley, an area overlooked in past campaigns but where Democratic candidates this year are looking to capitalize on increasing diversity. Sanders had planned tours at colleges in Fresno and Bakersfield, but had to cancel after he suffered a heart attack; he stopped in Fresno on Friday. Outreach to Latinos has been integrated into the campaign since the start, for instance in the form of senior Latino staff and bilingual ads, said Chuck Rocha, a senior advisor with the campaign.

“There’s lots of Latinos in California, there’s lots of working-class young people, and working-class voters and lots of folks who have a history of standing up against power,” said Rocha. “Bernie Sanders is their candidate, and all we have to do is give them the tools to be reminded of when to vote and where he stands on the issues and they will show up.”

Nationwide, Latino voters are expected to be the largest minority voting bloc in 2020, surpassing black voters for the first time. But campaigns have failed to mobilize their full potential: Voter turnout for Latinos falls behind black voter turnout. And Latino voters in the U.S. skew young: Of the estimated 32 million eligible to cast ballots, 43% are 18 to 34, according to the research firm Latino Decisions. The average age of Latinos in the U.S. is 30.

Sanders polls well with Latino voters. Nationally, 34% of likely Democratic Latino voters under 30 supported him, compared with 11% for former Vice President Joe Biden, a November youth poll by the Institute of Politics at Harvard found, according to its polling director, John Della Volpe. And in a California poll released Wednesday by the Latino Community Foundation, 31% of Latino registered voters surveyed said they planned to vote for Sanders, compared with 22% for Biden and 11% for Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

And Latinos are donating to Sanders’ campaign at a rate far higher than to his opponents, according to an analysis of ActBlue donations by marketing firm Plus Three, which used census data to identify Latino surnames. Sanders raised more than $4.7 million from Latinos nationwide in the first six months of the year, millions more than the next candidates. Los Angeles was the top city for fundraising from Latinos, and California the top state, according to the analysis.

Some of Sanders’ local support stems from his previous run. At 19, Estefany Castañeda became a volunteer organizer in Lennox for the 2016 California primary. She knocked on doors for Sanders, which exposed her to the needs of her community, she said. So in 2018, Castañeda challenged an incumbent for a seat on the Centinela Valley Union High School District board, and won.

Castañeda, now 23, said Sanders, whom she calls el viejito bueno, “the good old man,” has a track record of supporting minorities. Even her older family members who voted for Hillary Clinton over Sanders in 2016 are taking him seriously, she said.

“This time around now, my cousins thankfully saw the light of day, and now they actively do discuss Sanders as a possibility,” she said. “The more that you get to know the Bernie campaign, the more that it checks off the majority, if not all, the issues that Latino families are facing in California.”

For Stacy Tapia, 27, those issues are healthcare costs, housing and immigration. Tapia lives at home with her family in Panorama City and helps her mother, who works as a housekeeper, make rent. A “Bernie” sign is displayed in a window of the home.

Tapia said she voted for Sanders in the 2016 primary, and this August went to his housing town hall in Northridge.

Sanders, she said, speaks to the issues that concern her family: “If you’re an immigrant, if you’re struggling with healthcare costs, there’s just something that he provides.”



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