THE GIANT STILL SLEEPS

A film by MIGUEL ALVAREZ

Pundits seem convinced that a purple Texas is just around the corner due to its burgeoning Latino population, yet the state gets redder and redder. One factor is that Latino turnout remains low. Our study case is Pasadena, a city just outside the limits of Houston, where Oscar Del Toro is registering and motivating potential voters as he plans his own city council race.

The Backstory:

Texas is one of the reddest of red states, a place where Republicans have won every statewide office easily for two decades.  It’s big enough to have boosted five Texans and former Texans in the race for President this primary cycle (Cruz, Bush, Perry, Fiorina, and Paul).  It’s state legislature, with overwhelming GOP majorities, has passed some of the most conservative legislation – restricting abortion, cutting taxes, Voter ID, open carry – in the country.

But will demographics change that?

Pundits in this minority majority state (56 percent other than non-Hispanic white) have been waiting for the Latino voter wave to finally appear for years and turn Texas, if not blue, then at least purple with contested general elections.  Latinos make up over forty percent of the population (not counting the undocumented), are posed to exceed white population by 2020 -- but they make up under 20% of the statewide vote.  While new voting restrictions have an impact, extremely low Hispanic voter turnout has been a given for years.  Another question, when 40 percent of the Hispanic voters in ’14 voted Republican in the statewide races, is when the Latino wave comes, just how blue will it be? 

About the Film:

The answers to how soon change might come and what it’ll mean to the state’s politics may be found in the grassroots.  It’s here that neighborhood organizing and Latino candidates for local office can be found.  Our case study is Pasadena, a city just outside the limits of Houston, once famous as the site of Gilly’s, the fictional locale for URBAN COWBOY (even if the “cowboys” and their friends were played by extremely non-Texans John Travolta, Debra Winger, and Scott Glenn).  It’s 70% Latino, with Anglos still holding onto slim control of the city government after a redistricting plan that would have been rejected under the old Voting Rights Act.  That hasn’t deterred Oscar del Toro, a small businessman, immigrant from Mexico, and a man who won’t take no for an answer in registering and motiving potential voters as he plans his own city council race.

About the Filmmaker: 

A native of San Antonio, Texas, Miguel Alvarez is an Austin-based filmmaker. A former mechanical engineer, he decided to pursue a lifetime interest in visual storytelling. He has received awards from the Directors’ Guild of America, Panavision’s Emerging Filmmaker program, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, and the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund for his previous films, Tadpoles, Veterans, KID, and Mnemosyne Rising. He was a Screenwriting fellow for the 2013 Latino Screenwriting Project sponsored by Cinefestival and Sundance and is currently a lecturer in the Radio Television Film Department at the University of Texas at Austin.