10 Arab Americans Urging you to Vote: Magdalena Matari
By: Diala Ghneim/Arab America Contributing Writer
I spoke with ten Arab Americans about voting. These individuals come from different age groups, industries, and political orientations. They are teachers, lawyers, students, stay at home mothers, IT professionals, etc…. They are active members of American society and they are all voting on November 3rd. This article is Magdalena Matari’s interview, and one of a series of ten articles (one for each interview).
You can find your state and register to vote here.
Magdalena Matari, 80, Grandmother
Tell me about your background, career and immigration story.
I am a Brazilian American of Palestinian descent. I am a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother. When I was younger, I used to work as a seamstress and a factory worker. I was born in Brazil, but my parents were immigrants from Palestine.
My father was a photographer by trade; he would take pictures in a park where many tourists came to visit. Back in the 40’s and 50’s, the photos were in black and white, but my father would offer his customers a new kind of experience. He would color the photos by hand and people would pay to get colored pictures of themselves. It was a unique career for its time. My mother was a homemaker who spent her life raising me and my five sisters.
By the early 1960’s, the situation in Brazil began to deteriorate, the economy was very weak, and the country’s currency was devalued outside of its borders. My husband and I decided to immigrate to the United States for a better quality of life. We arrived to America in 1964.
And while I am a first-generation Palestinian Brazilian, we were and still are connected to Palestine. Our national identity is strong, and our roots run deep. The conflict in Palestine had a devastating impact on many Palestinians. My husband and I would send money to our less fortunate family members back home in Palestine. We had nieces and nephews who lost their parents at a young age and have become orphans, we had brothers and sisters who could not make ends meet. My husband and I tried our best to help in whichever way we could.
Why are you voting?
I’m voting because it is a right and a privilege to do so. In many countries around the world, people cannot voice their opinions or speak freely about their current governments. I am very passionate about human rights and care deeply about the right to self-determination.
When voting, I look for at a candidate’s integrity, honesty and their understanding of our ever-evolving world. For this year, I am voting for the most qualified candidate to govern and lead this great country of ours.
In your opinion, what are the challenges that face the Arab/Muslim community in the US?
A main hardship faced by Arabs and Muslims in America is Islamophobia. I also believe the community’s greatest challenge is the prevalence of political leaders who gain popularity by feeding prejudice and ignorance. These demagogues perpetuate xenophobia of all people who are different.
What would you tell people from your community who believe their votes won’t make a difference?
I would tell them to ‘Wake up!’ I would also remind them how in their countries of origin they probably could not vote. Their votes didn’t count and didn’t matter then. But now, the situation is different. You are now living in the greatest country in the world. We should protect this country and make sure it stays that way. And the best way to do that is by voting.
Parting words for all grandmothers who might think their demographic is unimportant?
Your voice always matters, regardless of your age or experience. We moved here for things like the right to vote- and we should always exercise that right. I would tell all grandmothers ‘The life you and your children are living now is a result of our generation’s participation. I encourage you to continue your activism and to always vote.’
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