By Mia Garza McCord, President Sep. 18, 2018
El Chupacabra—an urban legend of a wolf or dog like creature who sucks the blood from livestock. While sightings have been reported, actual proof of such creature has never been verified. In Latino/Hispanic cultures the mythical creature has been used to explain oddities out on ranches and farms, scare disobedient children into bed, and to describe something that doesn’t actually exist.
On a hot, muggy evening over a year ago, I had a conversation with one of my Tias (aunt) back in South Texas over a beer in the backyard. “Mia, you are like the Chupacabra of Republican Politics. You are Hispanic, a woman, AND a Republican.” After a nervous laugh and a few seconds to process that this comment was meant as both a compliment and a bit of a jab, I proudly retorted “Yes, I am.” In that moment, I absolutely was the odd man out—a myth of sorts. Here is the thing, my Tia, my family and I are not really all that different. How could we be? I grew up surrounded by my extended family in a small South Texas town. We spent our evenings and weekends together. Celebrated every milestone together. And, much like the conversation with my Tia, all these events occurred in a backyard over barbeque amidst hours of conversation and laughter.
Both my grandfathers were war veterans and local elected officials, Justice of the Peace and County Commissioner. Both democrats. Despite the party label I grew up with, I have often told people, I didn’t have to change a single thing I believe and value to be conservative. I have a strong faith in God and at my core believe in traditional family values. I know that “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” success stories exist throughout every culture, and that government is a last resort and rarely ever the answer. “Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres” (tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are). I have lived my life around proud, hardworking Hispanics. I was babysitting by middle school and in the “official” workforce as soon as I was 16. I came by it honestly—learned it from my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. More specifically, the value of hard work was ingrained in me by the strong matriarchs in my family.
I’ve tried but cannot recall either of my grandmothers ever complaining about being tired. My maternal grandmother, who succumbed to Dementia in 2013, sang in the church choir and danced with an elderly Mexican Dance group well into her late 70s. My paternal grandmother, despite her age and poor health, can often be found tending to the weeds in the yard in the middle of a 105-degree South Texas afternoon. This is the same woman who was out working at the ranch a couple of weeks after open heart surgery. Both these women raised large families while helping provide for the household.
Even more than hard work, our culture puts family before anything except God. We celebrate together. We mourn together. Extended family, friends, and complete strangers are all welcome as part of our family circle. We give generously, respect and love life, and have a ferocity deep down that drives us to do more, give more, try harder. Just like every American, each generation’s goal is to provide a better life for the generations that follow. Hot button topics and issues like human and drug trafficking affect our culture as much as other Americans, especially along the Texas-Mexico border. We support legal immigration but have an empathy for those who cross illegally for the sole purpose of the promise of a better life—those who have no intention to harm anyone, but to keep their heads down and work hard.
Do I agree 100 percent of the time with conservative leaders and initiatives? No, absolutely not. I’d love to meet someone who does. Do I think I am the Chupacabra of Republican politics? Not at all! We do exist! And, I believe that when we talk in terms of values and experiences, there are many more just like me in Texas and across our Country. I will join a group of liberty minded Hispanics this week at the Hispanic Liberty Leadership Summit in Houston. I invite you to join hundreds just like me to discuss our state and country’s policies and vision for the future. While “El Chupacabra of Republican Politics” is a term of endearment from my Tia, my hope is that through shared experiences we move beyond a myth and the focus of “outreach” for both parties, and instead are a force and movement that inspires the future of not only our culture but all Americans.
Mia Garza McCord is the Vice President of the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, a non-partisan public policy organization based in Austin, Texas. She has spent over a dozen years working in Texas politics and policy.