During election season, we tend to hear a lot about the Cuban vote or the Jewish vote. Both are powerful voting blocs that attract the attention — and promises — of politicians.
A young Brazilian community organizer has his eye on what he hopes will become another voting bloc.
Jonathan Rodrigues lives in Pompano Beach and volunteers at the Brazilian Community Center in Deerfield Beach. He got his undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago and spent much of his time there thinking about home — studying South Florida's Brazilian population and considering his own role in that community .
Rodrigues is a first-generation Brazilian American. “Historically that first generation is the generation that propels the community forward into civic engagement,” he said.
According to the American Community Survey by the U.S. Census, there are an estimated 21,000 Brazilians living in Broward County and another 12,000 in Miami-Dade. Rodrigues suspects that number is actually a lot higher.
“All you have to do is drive down Sample Road or North Federal Highway in Deerfield Beach and Pompano and you’ll see the proliferation of Brazilian small businesses.”
Rodrigues hopes those businesses, and the tax revenue they generate, will help give the Brazilian community in Northern Broward greater political clout.
“I always tell people in our community, our little is a lot,” Rodrigues said. “Even though we’re small and we don’t have the numbers we would like to yet, we can have a real, real impactful presence if we vote together, if we all unite and actually vote.”
Rodrigues doesn’t think his community has the numbers to sway a presidential election. But he thinks Brazilians could affect smaller, local elections, such as state Legislature or commission races.
“It’s not just your vote, it’s getting others to vote with you. And I think in that sense we can have a real impact, we can really punch over our weight.”
The benefits to being part of a voting bloc are tangible, Rodrigues said.
“That way you can demand from local politicians seeking your vote better schools in the area, immigration reform or immigrant friendly candidates, and better access to healthcare.”