Este Poder team: A cord of three strands is not easily broken
Este Poder, meaning This Power or Power of the East, is shaking things up in and empowering to people of North East Texas. It was created with one mission in mind: to cultivate civic engagement and focus on immigration, healthcare, and wealth inequality and issues that fundamentally and negatively affect our communities of color within rural areas. Made up of three young women, this organization is not tolerating silence in rural communities any longer.
Emily Pinal Oviedo, Lina Ortega, and Belen Iniguez met in college at UT Tyler and quickly bonded over their shared background, culture, passion for politics, and their pressing need to serve their community.
Emily, a long-time Tyler, Texas, resident, was exposed to politics for the first time at a young age. At 9 years old, she went with her dad to an event that ultimately changed the course of her life: a union picket. Unbeknownst to young Emily, she was participating in a larger movement and watching the power of politics in front of her eyes. Emily describes that experience as greatly impacting her life; “I saw the value in speaking up.”
Like Emily, Lina was also raised in the North East Texas area, but unlike Emily, Lina’s exposure to politics came later in her life. The 2016 presidential election shook our nation in monumental ways, and those effects were felt in small-town Tyler. As a student at Tyler Junior College, Lina was working toward a degree in medical stenography when she watched the unfolding of a new era in the Trump Administration. That November was when everything snapped into place for Lina, and she realized that she needed to pursue more than her current plan. She began to learn about the electoral college, how government operates at the state and federal levels, and political elections. This newfound understanding of government encouraged Lina to begin a political science degree at UT Tyler where she “met other people along the way” that were internally moved by the same revelations.
Belen doesn’t share the same upbringing as Emily and Lina. Though raised in Waskom, Texas, Belen was born in Mexico, which made it difficult to share the same life experiences as those around her. She describes a particular moment in high school that highlighted the dichotomy between herself and those around her: “I remember being – it had to be senior year of high school – and someone had come to register us to vote, and they asked, ‘So I am certain all of you can vote, so here’s the breakdown.’ And I was like, hold up – ‘what if you can’t vote?’ They were so certain that everyone could vote, and I was like, ‘well I can’t really vote [because I’m not an American citizen], so what happens next?’ And they weren’t able to answer that question for me.” Even though Belen couldn’t vote, she wanted to stay engaged in the political process and be active in her community, but she didn’t have the resources to equip her for that engagement. This was a major motivation for Belen to fill that need in her community of people who may feel the same way she did.
Together, these women decided that Tyler and the people of East Texas needed their help. They formed Este Poder, an organization dedicated to spreading information and making the current system of government understandable and accessible. Their goal is to reach people who are often over-looked or missed in the political process and to serve them in the ways that they needed. Prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, this meant tackling the 2020 Census. Este Poder hosted a zoom event to talk their neighbors about the importance of the Census and helped them fill out the documents to ensure they were counted. Through its 50,000+ members, the Facebook group La Tiendita hosted this trio powerhouse as they answered the community’s pressing questions on National Census Day. “Lack of information was all that the issue was,” so more than anything they wanted people to know how the Census affects their community and why it’s important to participate. It is reaching those rural areas that are so often comprised of minorities that is Este Poder’s goal. Emphasizing and bringing attention to major issues and ways to be involved in politics can make an incredible impact – people don’t know that they have power and there are “tons of people [in rural areas] who want to get engaged” but simply don’t know how. Their next project is helping people register to vote for the upcoming election and offering information about the candidates. But no matter what it is they are bringing to their community, they are dedicated to spreading knowledge and offering people something they might otherwise be blind to.
Emily, Lina, and Belen each have the same advice for women interesting in pursuing a career in politics: Know your worth and speak up. Don’t apologize for your experiences and the things that you bring to the table. What you have to say is valuable.
These three women have made a difference in their community in monumental ways. Together, they are unstoppable. As the saying goes, a chord of three strands is not easily broken – and neither is Este Poder.
Follow them on Facebook here!
Emily Ivey Bloom