Latinx Files: The red wave that never came

illustration of a red wave and an "I voted" sticker
What red wave?
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images )

If you spent the last several weeks reading political coverage about the so-called Latinx electorate, your takeaway heading into Tuesday’s midterm election would likely have been that we were on the cusp of a red wave, and that Latinxs would play a crucial role in making it happen.

With headlines like “How the Border Went MAGA” and “How 2022 became the year of the Latina Republican,” it seemed like an inevitability.

And yet, it never came.

It’s still too early to say which party will control the House and the Senate — votes are still being counted in states including Arizona, Nevada and California as I write this, but that red tsunami pundits kept talking about ended up being more of a mist. A trickle, if you want to be generous about it.

Sure, Republicans won big in Florida. Ron DeSantis’ victory in the gubernatorial race was so decisive that he even won the majority of the vote in Miami-Dade County, a Latinx epicenter. DeSantis became the first Republican to do so since former Gov. Jeb Bush in 1998 and 2002.

But this is the Sunshine State we’re talking about.

“Florida just proved itself as a greater exception than the rule,” said Mike Madrid, a Republican consultant.

Madrid, who also co-hosts “The Latino Vote” podcast with former Bernie Sanders political adviser Chuck Rocha, says that just because DeSantis did well with Latinxs in Florida — specifically Cuban Americans — it doesn’t mean that he’d do well with Latinx voters in other states.


“Come sell [your platform] in L.A. or in the Central Valley,” he said of DeSantis.

Or how about the Rio Grande Valley?

The Texas borderland region (puro 956 cuh!) became part of the political discourse after the 2020 presidential election. Despite his anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric, Donald Trump made gains with an electorate that is overwhelmingly Mexican American. This was a huge deal. Three districts that were considered unwinnable by Republicans were suddenly in play. It didn’t hurt that they had drawn the map in their favor the year before.

On election night, Republicans only managed to pick up one seat. It was a historic pickup — Monica De La Cruz made history by becoming the first Republican ever to win Texas’ 15th Congressional District. It was also a race the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided to abandon less than one month before election day.

But it wasn’t the clean sweep we were warned about. In the 28th Congressional District, incumbent Henry Cuellar defeated Cassy Garcia, and Vicente Gonzalez defeated Mayra Flores in the 34th. Gonzalez had previously represented the 15th Congressional District but ran in the 34th this election cycle, unseating the incumbent Flores (she had won a special election earlier this year).

Flores did not take her loss well.

“The RED WAVE did not happen,” Flores tweeted on Tuesday night. “Republicans and Independents stayed home. DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE RESULTS IF YOU DID NOT DO YOUR PART!”

She’s not wrong. There was no red wave, and now Latinxs can let out a sigh of relief. No matter the results of the midterm elections, pundits can’t pin what happens on us.

“I think Latinos have kind of become the fall guy for the Democratic Party when it comes to them losing,” said Marisa Franco, co-founder and executive director of the grassroots organization Mijente.


“I don’t know if I would say that Latinos are responsible for bailing out the Democrats this election — it’s still too early to say — but it’s definitely important for Latinos to be part of the story as well when it comes to the ways in which they have shown up and delivered.”

Franco emphasized that Democrats needed to stop taking Latinx voters for granted. It’s a criticism also shared by Madrid, who says that the rightward shift by the Latinx electorate “is a failure of the Democratic Party to understand the community,” and that Republicans had made gains in spite of themselves.

“If you would have told me in 2018 that the Republicans would have a baseline of 40% nationally with Hispanic voters, I would have said, ‘You’re crazy, no way!’ Now, it’s just commonly accepted.”

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Join us in saying, Gracias Fútbol!

We are two weeks away from the start of the World Cup, and the Latinx Files team needs your help on a project we are calling “Gracias Fútbol.”

For many of us, soccer — and the World Cup specifically — is an opportunity to bond with our parents and grandparents over a shared passion. We want you to share with us your memories about the tournament, good or bad. Maybe it was watching Maradona hoist the World Cup trophy in 1986, cheering a goal by Chucky Lozano against Germany or the mixed emotions of that 2-0 back in 2002.

Email your memories to We want to hear about them!

Things we read this week that we think you should read

— A new exhibit has opened at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes that showcases the often tragic passage many immigrants coming to the U.S. across the Southern border face. The multimedia exhibition, which opened Sept. 17 and will run through July, presents the journeys and testimonies of immigrants who try to cross this dangerous stretch, through testimonies, films and photographs, abandoned objects and other materials.

— It has been several days since the Los Angeles Football Club defeated the Philadelphia Union in the 2022 MLS Cup final, and my voice has yet to fully recover. Who knew I’d get this invested in a team that’s not part of the Liga MX? In his latest soccer newsletter, Kevin Baxter breaks down the numbers and makes the case for why the sport has become part of the American mainstream.

— If you are looking to take your mind off of politics for a bit, give this Remezcla piece on Elvis Crespo a read. The iconic singer talks about his reworking of the classic “Suavemente” and the recent homage by Bad Bunny.

— Are you the victim of discrimination? The city of Los Angeles’ Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department has launched a unit to investigate complaints about discrimination by employers, landlords and businesses. My colleague Karen Garcia has more.