An Interview with an Abuela

The 2016 election cycle has revved the engine of the Internet and produced some memorable and ridiculous content. From the Ted Cruz, Zodiac Killer conspiracy to the Bernie vs. Hillary meme that compared the two candidates on the “issues.” Because of this massive political response online, many politicians have taken to their browsers to churn out hashtags and videos that they believe will get in touch with this young cyber community. Latino voters were one demographic that was specifically targeted: Jeb Bush, whose wife is Mexican-American, sold a “guaca bowle” on his website, supporters of Bernie Sanders, have long referred to him as #TioBernie on Twitter, and the Clinton campaign published a listicle titled “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela.” These attempts at online trendsetting have all been poorly received due to the fact that they’ve used stereotypes to make a joke and attempt to curry favors with Hispanic voters, what the Internet dubbed “Hispandering”. The Meme Team thought it would be interesting to interview a Hispanic voter that some of these ads were poking fun of.

Elba Orna, 82, is an Ecuadorean immigrant that moved to the US in her thirties to start a sewing factory and now resides in a one bedroom apartment in the Upper West Side. She intends on voting for Hillary Clinton. Orna just started using Facebook last year and has since only “Liked” a handful Catholic and healthy lifestyle pages. We showed her Hillary’s abuela post and a recent video titled “Abuela for President,” which shows a woman with a short grey wig talking about how she will enforce “mandatory cafecito breaks” if she is elected president. These were Orna’s thoughts:

(Orna jumped between English and Spanish, the interview has been somewhat translated and edited for grammar)

What were your initial reactions? Have you seen anything like this on Facebook before?

*laughs* No I haven’t, I use Facebook to mostly talk to family and see pictures of people I cannot see very often. I thought the video was funny but generalizing and I did not like the Hillary page. She is trying to call herself a Latina when she has never come close to living like an immigrant in her life. It was tacky.

How do you feel about how abuelas are portrayed in this article/video?

Even though some parts of the video made me laugh it was all about making fun of women my age. Yes, I care about my grandson eating right but I don’t drink coffee. There are many abuelas from all over South America that don’t do these things and I think it’s wrong to think that Latinas turn into neurotic chancla throwers when they age.

For the HIllary article, I thought it was in very bad taste. It is one thing to say that you support Hispanics, but comparing yourself to something that you are not to get votes is just in bad taste.

Has this changed your mind about voting for HIllary?

No I’m still going to vote for Hillary. I have supported the Democrats for as long as I can remember. Although I don’t agree with some of their positions on abortion because of my faith, I think they have cared about the Latino community of the United States much more than the Republicans. Especially with what Trump has been saying.

HIllary is a strong woman that I believe will continue to make this country a safe and successful place for immigrants to succeed in. Even though I did not really like her story.

Do you think alright for politicians to use these sort of ads?

I can see how these things can be used to make someone laugh when they are on their phone, but they have to move past the stereotypes. Latinos are more than just a bunch of votes. Try to connect with us better. Talk about issue that we care about, don’t patronize us. Maybe try speaking Spanish sometimes.

Memes, Millennials and a New Kind of Political Advertising

With the rise of social media, memes have become a new way for both activists and candidates to spread their messages.  However, this method clearly targets millennials who grew up with the technology that memes were born from.  Millennials have less trouble understanding and communicating with memes, which leads to the question of how people who are less connected to Facebook, Twitter and the Internet at large feel about the tactic.  The following is a Q & A with Tim O’Neill, a 61-year-old who lives in Johnson City, Tennessee.  O’Neill watches the evening and morning news and reads the newspaper, but he does not use social media at all.

How have you seen political advertising change in your lifetime?

Kennedy hired an advertising agency, and that was the first person that ever had their image polished or put out there.  That was the start of it, and, now, it’s all about the image.

What is the single most successful political advertisement you remember seeing in a presidential race?

Al Gore leaked that Bush junior had had a DUI, and they said that had a big effect on the election even though Bush won—even though Gore got the most votes.  One of the most effective ads of this season’s campaign was Bernie—he used a Simon & Garfunkel song—but it was more a unity ad than a negative, slam the opponent ad.

Which candidate do you think is “winning” when it comes to advertising right now?

Hillary has outspent Trump three to one.  Trump relies on getting his name in the press—his motto is any press is good press—but I haven’t seen any ads that have really rocked my world from either one of them.  The ads that he’s running are pretty disgusting—they’re so anti Hillary and so bitter.

What do you think about memes?

I think it’s a very powerful way to advertise.  It’s a very powerful way, but it can be a bit sneaky—you use a picture that’s not very flattering for a negative statement, try to use a flattering picture if you’re trying to push.  It’s a powerful way to spread propaganda.

How do you feel about memes compared to other types of political advertising?

It’s like a high tech bumper sticker.  I think, in some ways, it could be more powerful than somebody standing there talking.  I think you can deliver a more powerful shock factor this way than you can by somebody just talking.  Somehow the image and the print is more stark or more to the point—you don’t have to digest anything as long.

So you think it is worth a candidate’s time to advertise this way?

I think it’s probably well worth their time, and I think people tend to believe something written over something stated verbally.