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Why This Indiana Activist Works For The Immigrant Community

Courtesy of Maria Duenas Lopez
Maria Duenas Lopez is a first generation Mexican-American who now advocates for immigrants.

Last of a four-part series. As we conclude our series on young activists, we meet Maria Duenas Lopez, a first generation Mexican-American who advocates for immigrants. Side Effects Public Media’s Darian Benson interviewed her about the importance of an inclusive democracy.  

Transcript: My name is Maria Duenas Lopez. I am 22-years-old. 

I am the president and founder of Warsaw Area Voters, a community organization made to increase voter engagement in Kosciusko County elections.

In 2016, I figured I'm a young woman, Latina. You know, it's like what role does my vote have in a Republican supermajority state? Probably not a lot. Indy is more left-leaning, but Warsaw is not. Very conservative. And like, my vote doesn't matter. But then really after seeing [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] win, and after seeing all these other women of color around the U.S. winning in competitive districts, I was inspired. I was like, ‘You know what? What if it does count?’

When we recognize that our vote does count and  that it does make a difference, then we're empowered to cast our vote, we're empowered to take a stand in, in civic engagement and other aspects of our lives.

Democracy means having elected officials that truly represent their constituents points of views. Democracy is having rights … having basic human rights, which include the right to vote, the right to education, the right to drive. And it means a lot to the immigrant community. Because we all came here, in some way, because democracy offers a better life for us, than whatever system of government we had before, whatever we experienced before, and this is why we put our lives on the line when crossing borders. 

The democracy in this country is something to fight for. I can't speak for everybody. But that's why we're here. ... Democracy is the reason a lot of us are here.

Young people have the most important role in democracy. Because we kind of set the tone for what we expect from government. We will protest, if there's injustice, and we will fight through organizing, through activism, through any form that we can through. We will fight for what is right, and set the tone for how people in power should respect us, how they should view us. I think that has been super evident this year."

Behind This Story

Darian Benson produced this story Side Effects Public Media as part of the America Amplified: Election 2020 initiative, using community engagement to inform and strengthen local, regional and national journalism. America Amplified is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. You can follow America Amplified on Twitter @amplified2020.

Read more about what Darian learned in this Q&A:

Q: What did the people you talked to say about the experience of being interviewed for public radio? Each of the four people I interviewed for this project was excited to share their story for public radio. This project focused on younger adults, pretty much every source agreed that this was a demographic not usually represented in public media.

Q: What surprised you about this type of community engagement? I was surprised by how open they were and how willing to share their lived experiences. All of the interviews were done through Zoom, so I worried that a video call would make it more difficult for sources to get comfortable and open up. However, that was not a problem and they were very eager to share.

Q: Do you plan to go back to this group for more conversations? When and how? I do hope to go back to this group for more conversations, hopefully after the election at some point. I think it would be interesting to do a follow up conversation on Zoom, maybe even in person pandemic-permitting.

Darian Benson is a reporter for Side Effects Public Media and WFYI in Indianapolis. She can be reached at