Discarded lonely Black Lives Matter sign on the streets of Storm Lake, Iowa. Photo by Iracema Navarro.
By Iracema Navarro, Politics Editor
For two days straight, I had a mix of emotions for an upcoming trip. I was excited to see my three aunts and seven cousins who I had not seen for over six years, but I also felt a gut wrench feeling of all the things that would happen in the place where I was traveling to.
My Hispanic family and I were about to travel to the red state of Iowa. A state that President Trump maintained red with over 53% of the votes in the presidential elections after both Trump and Joe Biden traveled in the final week of their campaigns. I had researched more about the politics of Iowa than the weather or my family’s itinerary plan.
Being from the liberal state of California, I wanted to learn how to fit in the conservative suburbia. In order to this, I needed to know how to act, what were the political trigger words, and how to avoid bringing them up in a conversation to prevent myself from being an outcast as soon as the plane landed.
Before the trip, I had a 30-minute conversation with my family to warn them about any possible hardships we might have to face in the six days of living in Iowa. Looking at the faces of my Mexican-born parents brought a deeper fear in me—should we even continue with this trip?
What also helped me prepare for my trip was the constant communication with my 20-year-old cousin who is currently a sophomore at The University of Iowa. She would reassure me that my family and I would have a nice and exciting trip with our loved ones. But it was the last thing she told me that finally put my mind at ease: on her block, there was a home that proudly displayed their Black Lives Matter sign on the lawn.
The moment came when my family and I drove into the city, passing the Storm Lake sign. My parents were sleeping in the back seat and my sister and I couldn’t stop talking about the first traffic ticket I received in my nine years of driving experience on the way to the city.
Driving with the nice welcome of Iowa, my violation ticket reminded me that I was in a different territory. The speed limit was 55 mph, not 56 or 65, roads are pitched black, no vehicles near me, and abandoned homes that I couldn’t keep count of. Hoping to continue the trip with only one nice welcome, I lowered the volume to my music and began driving with two hands on the wheel.
I was hoping to live for six days with no political interaction, where no one could see our large Mexican family and try to politicize us unfairly. My family and I did a pretty good job on that with no Biden and Harris t-shirts on or driving with the windows down and playing as loud as we can the famous YG song.
When I arrived I felt a sudden sense of betrayal by my cousin. Every house on the block had either an All Lives Matter or a Trump/Pence 2020 banner or sign. Looking desperately for the house my cousin had mentioned with the Black Lives Matter sign was nowhere to be seen until I pulled up to my cousin’s driveway.
My cousin’s home was the only one in the block with a Black Lives Matter sign near a newly placed mailbox because the previous one she had was previously smashed down by an unknown person but we shared an inkling as to why.
I couldn’t think any more of what I could do. Unfortunately, I had to remind myself of where I was. I arrived in Buena Vista County where nearly 62% of the votes were for Trump. There was nothing me, my cousin, nor my family could do.
With a population of over 3 million, I was standing in an enemy zone.
It felt and seemed like an enemy zone because people lived much differently in my relatively diverse city of Carson, California. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in May 2018, Iowa was ranked first in pig inventory, corn export value, and egg production in the United States. In every direction, I saw while in Iowa, there were field crops, barns, tractors, and pig factories. It was impossible to forget that Iowa was definitely an agricultural state with more than 85% of the land being dedicated to farming.
Views and issues are different in Iowa than in California. Most farmers are lifelong republicans who have been suffering from Trump’s trade war with China and the current pandemic. Knowing farmers is a key voting and economic group, President Trump and his administration have sent federal payments of nearly $46 billion to support American farmers.
With agriculture issues mentioned and discussed more by Republican representatives, senators, and presidents, it is no wonder why Iowa is a red state.