News and notes about the South Florida social media and blogging scene, with a little tech thrown in for good measure. And maybe some other random events, too.
Attending the National Association of Hispanic Journalist’s Convention last June was a real eye-opener for me. I never even considered thinking of myself as a “Latina” writer until fairly recently, when I began to connect with other women writers and bloggers of Hispanic descent and understood the impact of the LATISM (Latinos in Social Media) movement.
The truth is, I never liked the idea of being a Latina writer, blogger or Latina anything. Sí, I’m Cuban-American, sí, my roots are in Spain and sí, yo hablo Español perfectly, but I am loath to label myself, to pigeonhole myself into any category. That's simply too limiting.
I’m even uncomfortable with the word “Latin” because it was fabricated as a reaction to government census stuff. (For a great explanation of “Latin” versus “Hispanic,” listen to Dan Grech’s interview of demographer Maria Aysa over at WLRN Under the Sun.)
And sometimes in the often overly-enthusiastic, crazy world of social media, cultural labels can get out of hand and become gimmicks. (Yeah, I know I'm gonna get some shit for saying that.)
However, going to NAHJ helped me come full circle and see things from a broader perspective. No matter what I write, I really can't take my ethnic and cultural background for granted.
MY ASS IS BIG BUT THAT DOESN'T DEFINE ME
I’m white and blue-eyed and can get away with not looking Latin. Perhaps because of my appearance, being Latin has never, to the best of my knowledge, held me back personally or professionally.
Or maybe it has and I don’t even know it.
It's a whole other song and dance for Latinas who don't look like me. I can't speak for them, but I think it's safe to say we've all had different experiences because of and in spite of our backgrounds – some negative, some positive.
And this is ridiculously screwed up, because Hispanics, Latins, whatever you want to call us, come in many shapes, sizes, colors and variations of humanity. Judging a book by its cover doesn’t work here. But that’s what “they” seem to be doing – or at least according to the overwhelming consensus at this convention – despite the fact that Latins are a huge force in this country. “They” being that part of America that puts a mirror to us and says: “hey, you’re not like us.”
Whenever someone asks me how I could possibly be Cuban, I simply sigh. They’re ignorant, I tell myself.
This is especially palpable for me living in Miami, where I am perfectly comfortable, yet constantly listening to the “why can’t Miami be like the rest of America” chatter. Get over it, people. Not all of us wear fruit on our heads.
(If you want to see how Hispanic culture is coming soon to every corner of America near you, see this video by Univision: The New American Reality.)
When I look at the bigger picture, I find that I do have to stake a claim on my Hispanic heritage. It just feels right in my gut. Because we’re not all alike and if we don’t make that clear, if we don’t represent who we are, nobody will listen.
But regardless, as writers, we all want and need the same thing; I don’t care where you’re from or what you look like. This is about owning every aspect of yourself and not denying any side of you just because someone will think less of you if you do. It’s about having the freedom to do that and being able to express yourself. It’s about embracing your passion to share and educate through words.
THAT'S WHAT RICK SANCHEZ SAID
Rick Sanchez and other panelists (all stellar female journalists) drove the point home in a talk entitled “Latina Journalists Wanted.” Despite the phenomenal growth of the Latin population in the U.S., there is still a dearth of Latina journalists in the newsroom. There are some, but not enough.
Why aren’t more Latin women taking advantage of this to carve a niche for themselves? Today, Latinas in journalism -- and blogging, for that matter, all self-publishers and communicators -- have the opportunity to become trailblazers.
I caught Sanchez, the Cuban-born journalist who started his career in Miami before eventually moving on to CNN, at a cocktail party after the panel. Sanchez, who was fired from CNN last year for a politically incorrect rant, has never been one to mince his words. People either love him or hate him.
In this quick interview, he pretty much summarizes what was discussed in the panel.
(Incidentally, Sanchez just announced he’s back in Miami and about to begin a stint as a broadcaster for FIU’s football team. Read that story over at the Miami Herald.)
After attending NAHJ, will I still refuse to label myself as Latina? Yes and no. I will certainly not label myself as anything just to cater to brands or because it’s trendy. I have one foot in two worlds and that's my real writer’s identity.
But spending a couple of days with hundreds of other writers with ties to Hispanic culture made me realize that I am in fact carving a niche, one blog post at a time. Like it or not, I am part of that bigger picture. I am "Latina." And I am everything else, too.
Many thanks to GM Southeast for sponsoring my trip to NAHJ.