Powerful Latina journalists reflect on the past & future of Hispanics in media

Published in All Digitocracy.

There are over 54 million Hispanics in the U.S. today according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Attitudes toward this community have improved over the past three decades but four of the most powerful Latina journalists say there’s still work to be done.

Here are three things learned from veteran journalists Maria Elena Salinas, co-anchor for Univision News; Myriam Marquez, executive director for El Nuevo Herald; Cynthia Hudson, senior vice president and general manager for CNN en Español and Shirley Velasquez, executive director at Latina magazine at Hispanicize 2015.

  1.     We’ve come a long way:

Salinas started working in TV over 30 years ago, and she remembers how nobody wanted to cover the Hispanic community, which was once called the “taco beat.”

For Salinas, mainstream media has failed to recognize Latino journalists as one of their own.

“We are not just Hispanic journalist,” says Salinas. “We are journalists and not so different from them.”

As a female journalist, Hudson says overcoming the patriarchal Latino society is another barrier that has slowly torn down.

“We do it better because we do it in heels,” says Salinas.

  1.     Stay true to yourself

Marquez and Hudson have light skin and blonde hair; characteristics that both women say many Americans don’t associate with the Hispanic community. Both say they weren’t seen as Latinas until they started talking and at certain moments would get very loud.

“They have forgiven me for being loud,” says Hudson. “Don’t try to conform…you wouldn’t be doing anyone a favor by changing who you are.”

Hudson says nobody should apologize for who they are or their background. She wants to make it an open policy to encourage young latinos in the community.

“We are here to stay and be productive members of society,” adds Marquez.

  1. Work for the next generation

“It’s going to be very rich if we do things right, now,” says Velasquez.

By mid century the U.S. Census Bureau estimates one third of the country’s population will be Hispanic.

Velasquez says the U.S. can become a bilingual country where Spanish will be a dominant language. When she started working she recalls how speaking Spanish wasn’t important at all.

“Within two years, it became crucial that I spoke two languages,” says Velasquez.

Hudson and Salinas agree; they say Spanish will not disappear from the U.S.

“Today is a different thing, is not assimilation,” says Salinas. “Latinos are bilingual, but if they are watching Univision or CNN, it’s not only because of the language but because of the culture.”

Listen to Shirley Velasquez talk about the next generation of Hispanic journalists:

(Left to right) Myriam Marquez, Shirley Velasquez, Cynthia Hudson and Maria Elena Salinas shared their thoughts and experiences at Hispanicize 2015 in Miami.
(Left to right) Myriam Marquez, Shirley Velasquez, Cynthia Hudson and Maria Elena Salinas shared their thoughts and experiences at Hispanicize 2015 in Miami.

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