GAIN Power is proud to spotlight another Latina in politics! Liz Lebron is the research manager at Voto Latino.
Can you give us a brief background and introduction about yourself?
LL: I am a proud Latina from Puerto Rico who was the first in my family to go to college. I have worked in communications and research throughout my career, which spanned from the private sector to higher education to elections administration and finally the non-profit sector. I currently work as the research manager at Voto Latino, where I focus on disinformation and voter turnout.
What made you get involved in politics?
LL: I am from Puerto Rico, which means I have been a United States citizen since birth. While the U.S.-Puerto Rico relationship is a complicated one, there is no denying the enormous privilege citizenship affords me. That privilege comes with the responsibility to be an engaged citizen who participates in civic life and the electoral process.
Why did you choose this line of work?
LL: A lot of people believe their vote doesn’t matter, and I don’t blame them. There are politicians and organizations that benefit when Latinx voters stay home on election day, and they spend enormous amounts of resources to convince people their vote doesn’t make a difference. I know that is not true. We achieve so much for our community and this country when we show up and vote our values.
This year alone, Latinxs became safer when Democrats passed the first gun safety legislation in over 30 years; they gained access to more jobs that pay a living wage through investments in the manufacturing sector and the environment in the CHIPS and Inflation Reduction acts, which the Biden administration signed the into law; and millions of Latinx students will benefit from loan forgiveness the Democrats fought for. None of that would have happened if Latinx voters stayed home in 2020. For me, no work is more fulfilling than to empower my community and show them the power of their vote.
What has been the best part of your career?
LL: Lifting others as I rise is by far the best part of my career. I love to empower people, and through this work I not only get to empower my community but also the next generation of progressive activists. When I speak with young people, I aim to be the role model I wish I had when I first started.
What had you wished you had known about getting involved in politics as a Latina?
LL: I wish I had known there is room for me at the table sooner and that, when there isn’t room, I have the tools and skills to make room. It can be difficult to connect with your own agency and realize that the change agents you admire are people just like you who make the decision to show up every day in service to their community. Once I recognized that I am enough to make a difference, my path was clear. I embrace the opportunities I have to affect change in ways big and small each day.
What advice do you have for young Latinxs looking to get into politics?
LL: The best advice I can give young Latinxs who want to work in politics is to ground their work in service to their community, live their values every day, and walk into every room as their authentic selves. Politics, like any other arena, is filled with people who have different beliefs and interests than you. While you will never be in full agreement with every policy that another person or entity champions, your work should not harm your community, betray your values, or force you to diminish yourself. Ask yourself these questions before you agree to work for an organization or candidate: Does this work serve my community? Does this work uphold my values? Can I do this work as my full, authentic self? If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” that may not be the right opportunity for you. Also, be kind to everyone. The person taking notes in a meeting today may be your boss tomorrow.
Lastly, just for fun, what’s your favorite Latin American food dish?
LL: Whenever I’m in Puerto Rico, I have to eat arroz con habichuelas y pernil (rice and beans with roasted pork). Not only is it my favorite meal because it’s delicious, but it also signals family, tradition, and joy. It’s the meal we prepare to celebrate holidays and family milestones, like birthdays and graduations, and it’s the last meal we eat as a family before I fly back to the mainland.