Be Gentle, It’s My First Time Voting

Nacho Cano (Harmless) on becoming a citizen and finally getting to "drive the car."

My journey to the United States polls has been met with unlucky misfortune. My mother and American father married in July of 2001, and we were meant to immigrate to the United States in September of that year. After the attack on the World Trade Center, our immigration plans were put on hold for several months. We didn’t arrive until February of 2002. My first memorable experience at an American school was St. Patrick’s Day; unaware of the green tradition, I was pinched profusely. My limited communication skills and shyness made me feel bullied even though it was all in jest, a somewhat cute misunderstanding.

I was at a bar in West Hollywood when Donald Trump became president. I watched as the crowd became depressingly morose. I don’t think anyone had a good year before that night, and it was clear that things were only going to get worse. In what can now only be described as sitcom-level comedy, the following morning I received a letter notifying me that I had been accepted to become a United States citizen.

During the citizenship ceremony, I sat in a crowd of confused immigrants. It was so quiet you could hear a mouse pissing on cotton. Some sniffles could be heard when Obama’s welcoming video was played. I tried to find some humor in all of this, but I couldn’t help but feel sour. I was interviewed by AJ+ after the ceremony and I leaned into how bittersweet it all felt. “Like for the last two years, I’ve been in the back of a car being driven by other people and it’s careening off a cliff,” is what I think I told them. I went to a bar that night and celebrated with anyone that walked in.

This midterm election was my first time voting. As excited as I was to walk to any polling station, I found myself in a great deal of pain. My body hasn’t been totally right since I was hit by a drunk driver. I didn’t want it to be an excuse, however—I wanted to participate in my civic duties as a new citizen. I had never voted before, neither in Mexico nor the USA. I did what I could and I mailed my ballot in. Although I didn’t get to experience the long lines or the elementary school auditorium converted into a polling station, I still felt fortunate to be a part of something.

When the results of the polls came in, I did my best to not feel sour. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t. I can see why people feel helpless after they vote and they don’t see their vision come true. However, after the long journey I’ve had to be a part of the process, I felt included in the discourse. I felt like I did my part and could finally have an active voice in the discussions. It felt less like I was in the backseat of the car; I felt like I got to drive it for a bit. I didn’t get to pick where we ended up, but at least I got to touch the pedals and steer the wheel. Considering the pain I still carry, participation of any kind is a luxury I don’t take for granted.

Nacho Cano was born in Mexico City and now resides in Los Angeles, California.

He attended the California Institute of the Arts where he sound designed and mixed numerous animated projects that have exhibited in festivals around the world. He helped teach sound design courses for graduate and undergraduate students.

His musical project Twin Cabins has released one mixtape, I’m Sure, and one full length LP, Harmless Fantasies.

He currently works on mixing both music and films for various artists around Los Angeles. Under his new music moniker Harmless, he recently released an EP A Donde Te Vas?.