David Rennie in 1843Magazine:
It started with this book. I read this book, and I wrote to the author, and he said ‘come and meet me’,” says Eva Longoria, recalling her political awakening. The book is “Occupied America” by Rodolfo Acuña, a firebrand professor of Chicano studies, (as some call Mexican-American studies, notably since 1960s and among the West Coast left). His book is a densely argued blast written to awaken his students to centuries of colonial oppression and white racism. Longoria met Acuña, and he suggested that she should take his introductory course. “I was so unfamiliar with the word ‘Chicano’. Growing up in Texas where ‘Tejano’ was the term. And also ‘Chicano’ was a very politicised term.” She took Chicano 101 and only became more curious. “So then the next semester he said, you should take a Chicano feminism class, so I took Chicano feminism, and Chicano art.” At the time, Longoria was filming “Desperate Housewives”, then the biggest TV show in the world. “From the set of ‘Desperate Housewives’ I would drive an hour to the school, take a class from seven to ten at night, then be on set at six in the morning. I would be doing my homework behind the sets.”
Even in today’s Hollywood, where liberal politics is de rigueur and activism fashionable, Eva Longoria is unusual. She has campaigned for Democratic presidential contenders since 2004. In 2012 she was a co-chair of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, and, at the height of the campaign in Florida, she addressed seven cities in one day. Political types, Longoria says wryly, call every election the most important of their lifetimes. But in 2016 she is sure that the stakes are unusually high. This time one of the Republican front-runners, Donald Trump, says he would build a wall on the Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it and claims – fantastically – that his government would deport the estimated 11m immigrants in America without legal papers. His chief Republican rival, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, whose own father arrived as a penniless student from Cuba, has promised to rescind the executive orders with which Obama has shielded millions of migrants from deportation, notably those brought to America as children and educated in the country. But the election will also be a test of confident predictions that Hispanics will soon be a demographic block capable of deciding who occupies the White House. The Pew Research Centre, a non-partisan think-tank, predicts that a record 27.3m Hispanics will be eligible to vote in the elections of 2016 – with enough of them concentrated in a series of battleground states to swing the election results in places such as Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Yet Hispanics have, so far, failed to realise their potential power. Turnout among Latinos is woeful.
Longoria hopes to change that.