Race-work, Race-love

Open Letter to “Latina” Magazine and Their Six Most Fascinating Latino Stories

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2012 at 8:38 pm

I write this on the third day of Kwanzaa, in the spirit of Ujima – that of collective responsibility or the understanding that everyone plays a role in the building of their communities. I write this in response to Latina magazine’s “The Six Most Fascinating Latin@ Stories of the Year”   in which George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s murderer, is highlighted as second most fascinating story after Victoria Soto, a teacher who was killed after protecting and saving the lives of all her students in the Newtown, CT massacre.  I write this in the spirit of playing a role in the advancement of magazines such as Latina, one of the few magazines that centers on Latin@ audiences.  I write in the spirit of love for my people with the hopes that it will in some way influence how we use our social media outlets, perhaps more responsibly, in order to use our few magazines not just to advance the Latin@ community, but to educate those who are not Latin@ about who we are as a community.

That being said, I should recognize that this may not be the aim of Latina magazine. Thus, this piece is not written just as a social commentary or critique, but I will also provide my own list of “fascinating Latin@ stories” for 2012. For the next couple of days, I will post different stories, themes that have come up in the media. I may miss a few.  But I expect you, readers in the community, to help this list for future years to come.

Before providing my list, the first issue to address is conceptualizing the idea of a “fascinating Latin@ story”. What does this mean?  What criteria should be employed? Did Latina magazine accomplish their goal of providing a fascinating Latin@ story?

Latina magazine chose to represent a fascinating Latin@ story by using people who either self identify as Latin@ or Latin American or has been identified by the public in such a way. They describe these individuals without really describing why they provide fascinating Latin@ stories.  In so doing, Latina magazine creates the illusion that the individuals highlighted for this piece are “fascinating Latin@ people”.  This is highly problematic. If the sole criterion for having a fascinating Latin@ story is only to self identify or be identified as Latin@, then should George Zimmerman, who it seems, only recently became Latin@, be on that list?  And what of Dania Londono Suarez, Colombian escort to the Secret Service, highlighted as Latina magazine’s third story? Is the story fascinating just because she is Colombian? While I embrace this hermana as Latin American or Latina, I have to ask what is the fascinating story about her? Indeed, if Latina magazine is going to use these individuals to sell their magazine, then I am requesting that Latina magazine treat their audience with more respect: We enjoy a good story. If you are going to tell me that you are going to write me a fascinating story, then, I expect you to write a fascinating story. We are smart enough to handle it.  We don’t need you to throw us some words in Spanish or for you to write some sensationalized story about sensationalized people in order for us to read.  You caught the wrong kind of attention, Latina magazine, and many are fed up with the superficial ways in which you treat your readers.

The second issue to address is the use of social media as platforms for representations of the Latin@ community. There are few platforms that are dedicated to the Latin@ community. Latina, specifically, is a fifteen year old media outlet that, whether positively or negatively, has some readership in the Latin@ community. The lack of rigorous discussions that affect Latin@ communities are demonstrated in the ways Latin@s are constantly being overlooked as researchers, commentators, scholars, writers, and even owners of our own experiences and social realities.  We are not looked upon as Latin@ intellectuals capable of sitting next to other brilliant scholars when discussing politics, education, or other parts of society. While this is part of the mainstream imagination, I also place some responsibility for this lack of visible Latino intellectuals on our own media outlets – Latina  magazine, specifically, with its longevity, for not providing a more comprehensive picture of who Latin@s are; we are not just entertainers and athletes.  We don’t just sing and dance. We also teach, write, analyze, make sense of policies, and this is just to name a few things.

Thus, we must occupy this void.  Yes, I am looking at you — you wonderful, amazing, brilliant Latina/o scholars/ activists/writers/journalists/dancers/fashionistas/educators/etc. — we must be at those discussion tables, board rooms, policy decision making meetings, and even magazines like Latina. We cannot be satisfied with just being on the menu. We can no longer just sit while we hear others talk about us and make decisions on our behalves.  Latina magazine could be an interesting platform for issues that affect our community. Their foci on entertainment and fashion are fine – but why just remain there? In other words, there are very interesting and fascinating stories that could be written out of areas of entertainment and fashion – some I have highlighted in my own examples.  A fascinating Latin@ story cannot just have only one criterion – that of highlighting Latin@ people just because they are Latin@s, as Latina’s Top Six Stories demonstrate. Delving deeper, getting insights from thorough and thoughtful Latin@ writers to contribute to Latina magazine could prove to be a fruitful one – as the case with Ebony magazine demonstrates.

Latin@s have stories, yes, even the monstrous ones, that help us understand the fabric of our Latin@ lives and social realities – our past, our present, and our future. For the sake of our communities and our relationships with allies, we must be more responsible with what we publicly describe as representations of our people. Although I have no official affiliation with Latina magazine, in order for me to truly live in the spirit of Ujima, I must represent Latina magazine as much as Latina magazine represents me. In that spirit, I write these short essays, to provide a strong counternarrative to the poor taste and judgment that Latina magazine employed in their magazine. It is my hope that these conversations continue to not just improve magazines like Latina – but can also be a strong call for the advancement of our people and our community.

The following is a list of the summaries I will post over the next several days. I invite you to share my world, contribute your own stories, or even disagree with the few I highlight.

(FSN = Fascinating Story Number)

FSN 1:  El Voto Latin@

FSN 2 & 3:  Open Letter to Latina – The Fascinating Stories Missed: Librotraficantes, La Casa Azul Bookstore, and La Diva

FSN 4 & 5: Open Letter to Latina – The Racialization of Latin@s, Healthcare, and the Latina Warrior

FSN 6: Open Letter to Latina: The Year of the Latin@ Intellectual & the Fascinating Story I Missed – La Muerte de La Comay

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