Where does Vote for Pedro come from?
The quirky 2004 independent film Napoleon Dynamite stars Jon Heder as Napoleon, an awkward teenager who befriends another shy outcast named Pedro Sánchez, played by Efren Ramirez.
One of the many storylines in the film involves Pedro running for class president. Napoleon helps his campaign by making t-shirts and flyers that say “Vote for Pedro.”
In climax of the film, the candidates perform a “skit” before the entire school. With Pedro seemingly on the verge of losing, his loyal friend Napoleon (wearing a Vote for Pedro shirt) jumps onto the stage and does an elaborate dance routine, which earns a standing ovation and results in Pedro winning the vote.
Few could have predicted that the offbeat film would end up being a sensation, especially beloved by the millennial generation who were around Pedro’s age when the film was released. The phrase Vote for Pedro, and the dance that accompanied it, became a cultural touchstone that has earned many tributes and spoofs.
Based on the movie’s popularity, the phrase Vote for Pedro was commercialized in the form of millions of t-shirts, hats, buttons, coffee mugs, cell-phone cases, bumper stickers, and so on, which are still sold today.
Not too surprisingly, Google Trends shows that the use of the phrase Vote for Pedro tends to become more popular around US Presidential election cycles, perhaps due to increasing dissatisfaction with the two major political parties. In the 2016 election, “Pedro” was a popular write-in choice for protest votes, meaning people literally did vote for Pedro.
The phrase earned even more traction in the 2016 US Presidential election due to Donald Trump’s frequently racist and derogatory comments toward Latinx cultures. Memes began depicting Pedro and his campaign slogan, Vote for Pedro, in opposition to Trump.
Who uses Vote for Pedro?
For the most part, Vote for Pedro is used as a humorous or nostalgic allusion to Napoleon Dynamite. When a Napoleon Dynamite fan references Vote for Pedro, they might also be referring to the improbably skilled dance that Napoleon does in support of Pedro’s campaign. For instance, one could say, “You made me so happy, I did the Vote for Pedro dance!”
The phrase Vote for Pedro is sometimes used in political protest as a way to express dissatisfaction with the candidates or the two-party system. For instance, one might say “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both corrupt, and I’m sick of it. Vote for Pedro!” When used in this context, the phrase Vote for Pedro refers to the desire to make a “protest” vote.
A kid at my school did the dance from napoleon dynamite for the talent show and the audience chanted vote for pedro and I loved it.
@npeezy_16, February 2018
Why isn't there a spot at the podium for a third party candidate? Literally ANY third party candidate? Is it too late to vote for pedro?
@TheNateRawlings, September 2016
So, if you were counting on ‘the youth vote’ to mobilize on Super Tuesday, I’d start making some alternate plans, because if the ‘youths’ do make it to the polls, they’ll probably all vote for ‘Pedro’ or something.”
Jason Linkins, HuffPost, March 2008