We at CVIEF believe that our fight for clean air, clean water and a sustainable future is intertwined with our fight for a true and healthy democracy.
In order to achieve true democracy, we need to include everyone’s participation, especially underrepresented communities who have been historically shut out of the process. That includes our Black, Tribal nations, People of Color, LGBTQ+, youth, and low income communities.
For over a century, Idaho’s Latinx communities have been growing and supporting Idaho. Mexican workers and their families had come to Idaho earlier in 1918 under a special immigration agreement meant to fill farmers’ desperate labor needs during World War I. These and other immigrant families began to settle across southern Idaho to not only become the backbone of Idaho’s agricultural industry, but to contribute to every facet of life in Idaho. However, barriers were enacted to keep the majority of New American families out of the decision making process, a difficulty CVI Civic Engagement Coordinator Antonio Hernandez recognizes personally.
“While Latinx families like mine sought to call Idaho home, we were not welcomed,” says Antonio. “I witnessed this throughout my life, then again in 2018 when my work with CVI led me to discover poll workers in Canyon County were being told they could not speak Spanish at the polls.”
For the past three and a half years, CVIEF has embarked on a journey to include more people in our democracy. Beginning with the hiring of a full-time staff member to lead this work, we’ve joined Idaho’s overlooked and forgotten communities in the struggle for inclusion and the upholding of our shared values, such as sustaining our environment. Throughout this journey, our connections to communities have deepened and led us to the creation of a program we’re calling Vota Mariposa (translation: “Vote Butterfly”).
What is Vota Mariposa?
Vota Mariposa is a creative & collaborative event space made to inspire Idahoans to make a difference by participating in our democracy. We partner with artists, young people, educators, community leaders and other organizations to provide nonpartisan voter education. Our goal is to cultivate a culture of civic engagement and active voting participation in Idaho.
Why Vota Mariposa (Vote Butterfly)?
La mariposa monarca (the monarch butterfly) has been a powerful symbol of people, movement, conservation and transformation developed by artists advocating for justice. Favianna Rodriguez is one artist that has worked to develop this symbolism, with the slogan “Migration is Beautiful.” She sees the butterfly as a way to re-envision the way we think about migration and borders. As a child of immigrants, a conservationist, a voter, and artist, this symbol resonated with Antonio.
“I believe we all embark on a journey to transform and realize our truest selves,” says Antonio. “When it comes to our democracy, our aim should be to transform it in order to include all of our voices.”
Our first Vota Mariposa Event: Treefort 2021
Few events in Idaho can match the energy and artistry of the Treefort music festival. Since the beginning of the Civic Engagement program at CVIEF, there has been discussion about bringing a democracy space that could complement that atmosphere. By working with our democracy partners advancing nonpartisan voter education, including the ACLU of Idaho, BABE VOTE, League of Women Voters and others, we hosted the first democracy-centered event at Treefort, bringing local musicians and artists on board from Idaho’s underrepresented communities. You personally may have seen the giant monarch butterfly wings of Vota Mariposa.
“I created the wings to further symbolize the wings we give to our community members when we empower them,” Antonio says. “These wings will travel with us as we register new voters, reignite existing one’s and join those who are working to make Idaho a better place for all of us.”