Born in El Salvador during the country's Civil War in 1980, Karla Alegria remembers a time that her youthful and outspoken voice had to be squelched in public forums.
Now an active rank and file member of the Freedom Socialist Party and teaching a class called Marxism 101 at the party's community center in South Los Angeles, Alegria recounted her 'blabber-mouth' nature being discouraged in the Central American nation's time of political unrest—a far cry from her current ability to profess her political beliefs, even if her adherence to them means not voting for any candidate at all.
"When I was there, I was growing up in the middle of the Civil War, so it was like talking about politics, talking about who you were going to vote for, talking about what you believed in—that was out the door," said Alegria, now 35.
At the age of 8, Alegria fled from El Salvador with her aunt. Taking a truck, a bus and a train, Alegria crawled through what was then a hole in a fence, crossing the border from Tijuana and into a middle-class suburb of San Diego. Algeria now remembers the experience as surreal.
Detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that same night, Alegria and her aunt spent three or four days in a holding cell until Alegria's mother came to pay a fine and claim the daughter and sister she'd not seen for five years.
But that's not the way it is today, Alegria said. The days she and her aunt spent detained have turned into months for today's immigrants who risk encountering what Alegria called "more lethal" security while digging under or climbing over the fence in pursuit of better opportunity—opportunity that, in some ways, isn't all that Alegria thinks it should be.
The Freedom Socialist Party, according to its website, is a "working class organization composed of women and men of many races, nationalities, sexual orientations and ages who are fighting for a new, just social order that will serve the majority of the human race."
For Alegria, the party has meant more than dreaming of social order. She aims to gain an understanding of what it means to identify as a lesbian female immigrant from El Salvador; she is oppressed because her unique identity does not plug into the cookie-cutter image that capitalism demands.
"Capitalism, not men, is the root of oppression of men and women and people of all colors and shapes and sizes and orientations," Alegria said, adding, "[it] thrives on the fact that you have to have a man and a woman who procreate to make more workers in order for more workers to do more work. . . .It's tradition."
Socialism, Alegria said, is not about tradition, but about constant change. One thing Alegria's brand of socialism is not, she says, is Bernie Sanders.
"Bernie Sanders is great in the sense that he puts socialism out there to talk about. But would I vote for him? No," Alegria said. "He's definitely not saying what I'm saying in the sense of looking at the type of issues that really affect the working people that I'm around."
The issues of queer and transgender people of color, labor, healthcare and immigration are of highest personal interest to Alegria. A broadband cable technical support worker who, as an immigrant, supports an open borders policy, Alegria said she feels that the U.S. owes better jobs to the Latinos she says are virtually forced into the country by its own capitalism.
"[Sanders] doesn't believe in open borders. He thinks this is a right wing move to lower wages," Alegria said. "With his lack of support for open borders I definitely would not vote for him and I'm definitely not going to vote for Trump."
Alegria jumped from the opinionated Republican frontrunner to the platform of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton—a platform that does not appeal to the anti-capitalist.
"As a socialist feminist, people want to know why I'm not going to vote for Hillary, because she's a woman" Alegria said. "As a socialist feminist I don't believe that men are the root of all evils. I believe in equality for everyone—men and women, so I could not vote for her either."
As a Marxist, Alegria says she is constantly thinking of material conditions. When looking at presidential candidates, she says she looks at what is truly going to change.
Asked if she felt it might be beneficial to vote for someone like Sanders who has at least professed himself to be a democratic socialist, Alegria took a quiet moment to think.
"If you want change for a dollar, do you want a dollar back, or would you want 80 cents?" asked Alegria. "I could tell you right now that my eyes are blue, but are they? People can say a lot of things but if your program doesn't back that up, then why would I vote for you?"
For this election, Alegria, as passionate about politics as she is, said she will vote only on the ballot measures and propositions, but not on the candidates.
"I am anti-capitalist," Alegria said. "If you're really a socialist, you're not going to make those sacrifices. You can't say 'It's okay if we have a little capitalism.' No. You're either dry or your wet. You don't get to dip your toes."
Reach contributor Marisa Zocco here.