The pandemic has turned this homestead teen’s senior yr on its head. Now his coverage is turned the wrong way up

The coronavirus pandemic turned Jacob Cuenca’s life upside down just before he graduated from high school.

“Literally everything was fine, you know, I went to school, was worried about my math test and suddenly there is no school for three months. We didn’t have a prom night, no older brunches, ”he said.

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Now in a sort of purgatory between high school and college, Cuenca sits at home in Homestead, south of Miami, an area that has become one of the hotspots of the pandemic in the United States

He graduated from MAST Academy high school but has chosen to postpone his academic year at the University of Denver in Colorado for at least a semester to avoid some of the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Politically, the 18-year-old Cuenca is also in a kind of purgatory. He first registered as a Republican in March. He saw himself as a reluctant supporter of President Donald Trump.

But the pandemic has also messed up Cuenca’s policies. Trump’s handling of the pandemic has led him to reconsider his support for the president. Instead, Cuenca has become a reluctant supporter of alleged Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

His trip offers a snapshot into the psyche of a first-time Latino voter in Florida, a swing state that must be won to secure the presidency.

“I think Joe Biden and Trump are both pretty bad people,” said Cuenca. “But if I had to choose a lesser evil, it would be Joe Biden.”

The problem with Biden is that he’s old and touchless and says anything to get elected, Cuenca said. And it doesn’t help that Biden was one of the authors of a 1994 bill that is widely recognized as one of the top causes of mass incarceration in the US, he added.

Still, a Democrat in the White House could help adopt new welfare programs at a time of financial crisis that has affected his own family, Cuenca said.


Cuenca’s mom also says she’s overwhelmed by her options for the November election.

Nohemi Cuenca is Mexican and she leans to the left and is not impressed by any of the contestants in the race. For them it is almost an existential moment for democracy.

“We should have good quality candidates who you can say, ‘Wow, we can get behind this person. ‘I don’t feel like any of them are telling you the truth,’ she said. “Bernie Sanders, yes, I felt like it should be 100 percent the person.”

“Why did you choose Joe Biden?” she asked rhetorically. “I don’t know. Except contact. But so is Trump. I think it’s a really sad time for us in the US when it comes to politics.”

Nohemi Cuenca said she was “in the arms” of whom to choose because “none of them I think are good”.

The budget in Cuenca is politically mixed. Family discussions can become passionate on all sides. But Nohemi Cuenca said it was always informative and respectful to speak about politics with her children’s father, a Republican and staunch Trump supporter.

“He won’t agree with me or I won’t agree and we have our opinions and we talk. But I am listening to what he has to say. He listens to me too, ”she said. “The same goes for the children. When they informed me about something I might have been wrong about, I didn’t really know. You will correct me. So – ‘OK, let me do my research and think about it.’ So we all put up with it. “

Lots of time to think

Talking about politics can be a welcome, if inevitable, distraction from the coronavirus itself.

Jacob Cuenca has seldom left home in the past few months, other than bike rides around the neighborhood. He spends his time playing video games and sleeping in them. He originally hoped to get a summer job before going to school. But his outlook is difficult with such a high unemployment rate, he said.

The situation makes his mother nervous about the world her son is entering as a student, with high unemployment, social unrest and an ongoing public health crisis.

Her family cannot afford to pay for the two weeks of mandatory off-campus quarantine that Jacob Cuencas University would require because he would be traveling from a state with a high COVID-19 case count. This caused it to postpone its launch date to January.

Until then, Jacob Cuenca has plenty of time to spare.

“I’ve been thinking about the world and what’s going on right now,” he said.

He has pondered what he calls Trump’s failure along with the Democratic Party, which he sees as an insincere alternative to the president. A prime example is the response to protests that began after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, Jacob Cuenca said.

“Their reaction was more to encourage them than to try to suppress the looters and rioters,” he said of the Trump administration. “Both sides too, because the Democrats are just trying to kiss everyone in the ass, hold hands and sing kumbaya, and they think that will solve any problem.” How alright. “

But he feels more and more attached to an idea that has become popular on the left and emerged from the protests against Black Lives Matter.

“I think people can do better without the police and without funding them,” he said. “I think they should disappoint the police and put everything into education and make universities and the like for free. I really think so. “

This story is part of Every 30 Seconds, a collaborative public media coverage project that is tracking young Latino voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election and beyond.

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