warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Washington State's Latinos Find 'Politics Has Not Changed With The Population'

Regina Graham |
October 9, 2012 | 1:18 p.m. PDT



This piece is part of an Annenberg News 21 collaboration with The Guardian examining the Latino vote in the 2012 presidential election. 

Latino farm laborers prepare to install piping on Rosa Hanson's farm in Zillah, Wash. (Regina Graham/News21)
Latino farm laborers prepare to install piping on Rosa Hanson's farm in Zillah, Wash. (Regina Graham/News21)
In the apple- and grape-laden Yakima valley in southern Washington state, Latinos drawn here by fruit-picking jobs have become the fastest growing sector of the population over the last decade. Politically, however, the Hispanic families who make up the majority of this archipelago of 10 towns stretching 40 miles southeast from county seat in Yakima have virtually no voice.

Two neighboring counties are now majority Latino and both the city and County of Yakima are nearing 50 percent Latino—up from 33 percent in the 2000 Census. Yakima County ranks first in the US in the number of all fruit trees that are handpicked yearly by farm laborers—and almost all the field hands are Latinos.

But despite their surging numbers, the anemic political representation for Latinos has stubbornly remained unchanged. "The [Latino] population doesn't have the representation that it needs to speak to its concerns and issues," said state Rep. Luis Moscoso.

Moscoso is one of just three Latino Washington state legislators among 147 and in November he might be the only one. "There are only three Latinos in the state legislature and two of them are retiring this year," Moscoso said. "Unless we elect one or two of the other ones who are running, I will be the only Latino in the whole state legislature."

In this lush valley, where some towns have as much as an 80 percent Latino population, representation is even sparser with only a handful of Latinos being elected to local town government offices and school boards. In the county seat of Yakima, where about half the 100,000 population is Latino, there isn't one Latino among the seven-member city council.

Moscoso has been living in Washington for 37 years and has watched the Latino population boom. He says in that time there were fewer and fewer opportunities for Latinos to win an elected office.

"Particularly here in eastern Washington, it's difficult because we do have two counties that are majority Latino and three more that are nearly majority Latino," Moscoso said. "And yet they are not represented in government or civic affairs."

Read the full story here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.