Nogales, Arizona: The myth of the monolith Latino voter dispelled in microcosm

Let me tell you about how complex the “Latino” vote is in Nogales.

Prior to the 1980’s, Santa Cruz County was the most stable democratic county in the state of Arizona. The demographics skewed highly in favor of established families who’d lived along the border for generations. The voting population was mostly middle class Greatest Generation and their boomer kids. They were loyal to FDR and the New Deal and to Kennedy/Johnson. Carter not so much.

Then Reagan ok’d amnesty and there was a rush of immigrants from other parts of Mexico. Suddenly there were a lot of new economic pressures on the county, but especially on social services. Nogales couldn’t really absorb the sudden and massive influx of immigrants. The federal government didn’t create an economic stimulus plan to help border towns cope with the additional pressure and Nogales suffered for it. It has never recovered.

Ironically, GenXer Nogaleans bought into Reaganism because they didn’t like paying for the social services given to the new immigrants Reagan allowed in and they liked Reagan’s message of smaller government and lower taxes.

So now you had resentment and Republicans gaining steam in Nogales.

If you look at the town anecdotally, you’ll see that, while the county is still blue, you have all these Republican assholes in power constantly trying to dismantle any social service they can, including the community college system that would be the best solution for the 28.3% unemployment rate.

Moreover, these monkeys running the city and county have doubled down on international trade and tourism as the base of the local economy. International trade relies on the valuation of the dollar, the peso, weather factors that govern the produce market that flows through Nogales, and a host of international trade agreements/issues that are completely out of local control. Tourism is also governed by currency markets but also by closing of the border due to unforeseen circumstances like terrorism and Covid. They crippled their own economy by being short-sighted when they could have stimulated an internal economy by courting business that would create jobs and keep tax dollars in the county.

Additionally, you now have a lot of immigrant and first-generation Americans in Nogales and those groups historically are more economically conservative.

You have Mexican-Americans resentful of immigrant Mexicans. And immigrants who bootstrapped themselves so they like Trump’s message. The economy was bad pre-Covid and now is worse due to the border closures. And this is why Trump was able to pick up Latino voters. There are levels to this shit.

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