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Latino Victory

Latino Victory

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Mayra Macías

By Caroline Lester ’14

At 32, Mayra Macías ’10 is a rising political star. She is the first Latina to be the Florida Democratic Party’s political director, and in 2017, she joined Latino Victory, a progressive PAC that aims to increase Latino representation. She’s been credited as the architect behind the organization’s 74 percent win rate in the 2018 election cycle, contributing to the most diverse Congress in US history.

When Macías was growing up on Chicago’s South Side, the political world seemed more transactional than inspiring. Occasionally, she canvassed with her parents, but never with much conviction. “Chicago is such a political city,” she told me. “If you don’t know who your local alderman or alderwoman is, your pothole in the middle of your neighborhood isn’t going to get fixed.”

At Yale, Macías—who double-majored in American studies and ethnicity, race, and migration—wasn’t politically active. “I frankly don’t remember talking about politics,” she says, “because it was one of those taboo topics that you didn’t want to bridge in case you made people uncomfortable.” It wasn’t until after graduating and working for Teach for America in Florida that she realized that not talking politics was a mark of privilege.

Macías went to Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, a top-ranked public school in Chicago. She felt that, as a public-school graduate, she was already aware of the disparities in the US education system. But it took becoming a teacher for her to realize “how many factors, outside of the four walls of the classroom, teachers have to contend with” in order to teach their students successfully.

Macías was placed in Liberty City, Miami—a food desert. Many of her students, she says, might not get anything to eat on a given day besides a school-provided meal. She also noticed that the kids were often dealing with issues like lack of access to health care and affordable housing, “things that 11- and 12-year-olds should not be dealing with,” she says. “These are adult problems.”

In 2012, Macías decided to use her summer break to work as an organizer for President Obama’s campaign. She fell in love with organizing, and instead of going back to teach, she began her career in politics. Since then, she’s worked on increasing Latinx representation in politics. She also spent a year working with Connecticut representative Rosa DeLauro in Washington.

Macías lives in Washington, DC, now, but she is still connected to  Florida, a politically influential state that fascinates her. “It’s such an amazing testing ground for understanding the nuances and diversity of the Latino community,” she says. “It’s a microcosm of the country.” The state’s voting-age Latino citizens, she says, are roughly a third Puerto Rican, a third Cuban, and the rest a blend of Mexican, Central American, and South American. “The way you engage each community varies by ethnic background, but also by region,” she says. The Puerto Rican community in central Florida tends to be New Yorkers who moved to Florida to retire, she explains, and Puerto Ricans in south Florida are more likely to be recent arrivals in the contiguous US.

As we went to press, New Mexico Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez ’82 was expected to win a seat in the US House of Representatives in the November election, which would make her the first Latina graduate of Yale to be elected to national office. That, Macías says, is a wonderful milestone, but it is years too late. “Yale produces leaders worldwide,” she says. “It blows my mind that this is the first time that we’re going to have a Latina from Yale representing us in Congress.”