By Andrea Johnson

The Razorback Reporter

Mexicans who have valid identification may be eligible to vote in Mexico’s federal and local elections in July 2018 even while living abroad, officials said. For some UA students from Mexico, the process appears confusing, according to interviews.

Sophomore Guillermo Miranda knows he can vote in Mexico’s upcoming elections and would like to get involved, but a lack of information for how to do so prevents him from pursuing those interests, he said. Born in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico, Guillermo moved to the U.S. at age 14 and is in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.

“I really want to be involved (in the U.S.) because this is the culture I live in, and it’s the culture that has given me so many opportunities,” Miranda said. “But in the same way, I was born and basically raised in Mexico, so I also want to be involved in Mexican politics and be able to choose who represents our people here and in Mexico.”

Mexican voter registration opened Sept. 1 and will close March 31, according to the Instituto Nacional Electoral. The INE serves as Mexico’s autonomous body that administers elections throughout the country.

INE officials invited Xavier Medina Vidal, the Diane D. Blair professor of Latino Studies and an assistant professor of political science, to their forum, “The Mexican Diaspora and the Vote of Mexicans Living in the United States,” Aug. 15-16 in Mexico City.

Medina Vidal gave insight concerning how to better involve Mexicans abroad in transnational politics, he said. He defined the Mexican diaspora as those living away from their ancestral homeland.

“It implies there’s a disconnection, which is a physical one like the border, and the diaspora tends to form its own identity that is tied to Mexico but is unique in certain ways,” Medina Vidal said.

Though he was born in the state of New Mexico, Medina Vidal “grew up on both sides of the border” because his mother’s side of the family is from Mexico, he said. At the forum, he brought the perspective of a U.S.-born person who identifies as Mexican.

“That’s kind of the perspective that’s been missing historically in Mexican-American relations,” Medina Vidal said.

Medina Vidal served as one of three political scientists from the U.S. at the forum who discussed political behaviors, ideologies and media use of the Mexican diaspora. All could determine the level of interest in the 2018 elections, he said. Other officials representing fields such as economics, anthropology and economics also weighed in on how to engage Mexicans abroad.

For senior Soledad Huaracha, the complexity of the voting process and a distrust in recent political leaders in Mexico and in the U.S., discourages her from participating in politics, she said. Born and raised in Durango, Mexico, Huaracha moved to the U.S. at age 24 and has lived in the U.S. for 28 years.

Before her brother died, she discussed politics with him because he worked as a professor in Mexico, Huaracha said. She had lacked political information from Mexico since his death but began discussing politics again after she enrolled in Medina Vidal’s Latino Politics course.

Those with a valid Mexican identification card may register online and if approved, they will receive a Postal Electoral Package by mail. The package will include instructions for voting, information about candidates and electoral ballots.

Medina Vidal advised those seeking information to go to the INE website and contact officials at the Consulate of Mexico in Little Rock, he said. Consulate officials travel around the state, and some will be in Northwest Arkansas Sept. 15 at the Mexican Independence Day celebration in downtown Springdale.

Participation in politics among the Mexican diaspora has been low in past Mexican elections, Medina Vidal said. He strives to educate students in his classes of political issues abroad and reminds Mexicans in the U.S. that their voices can be heard across borders.

A version of this article appeared in the Sept. 13 edition of The Arkansas Traveler.