TWLC's New B-F-F is Arianna Huffington!

This headline grabbed your attention, didn't it?

Actually, better than being Arianna's B-F-F, the Huffington Post asked me to contribute to their newly launched HuffPost Latino Voices.  I'll be joining other thought "act" leaders such as the National Council of La Raza's Prez and CEO Janet Murguía, Voto Latino's Executive Director María Teresa Kumar, and New Latina's publisher Angélica Pérez-Litwin.  Some fellas are adding their perspectives including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former New Mexico Guv and 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate Bill Richardson.

Viviana, how ever did this happen?  By mobilizing ganas, guts, moxie, chutzpah, sheer locura. I marched right up to Arianna in the Macy's green room right before the Latinas' Brunch at this year's NCLR annual convention in DC which I covered in "Anatomy of an Immigration Debate: Presidential Carne Asada at NCLR".

Viviana Hurtado & Eva Longoria at NCLR Latinas' Brunch

"Hi Arianna," I smiled broadly, but got right to the point.  "You have a problem.  You don't have any Latinos contributing on a regular basis to HuffPo."

Although the half-a-second that passed after this stake-in-the-ground statement advanced with the deliberate tick-tock of a wind-up Timex, Arianna didn't miss a beat.

"You're right," she affirmed, slightly shaking her head in a "yes" gesture.

"That's OK because I'm your solution," I replied, braced by my determination and perseverance.  Then I handed her a memory stick with my resume, writing samples, and TWLC blog, each "i" and "t" dotted and crossed with passion.

Now HPLV was in the works under the direction of AOL Latino top dog Miguel Ferrer.  Plus all of us know that my name is Viviana Hurtado and not Jesus Christ therefore I'm not THE solution to the Universe's ills.  But I get that the societal and political tectonic plates are shifting, making it critical that what Hispanics say--and it's a lot--not just be heard, but acted on.  Our community, which is part of this nation, has a significant role to play in rebuilding our country.

It's been noted that HuffPo Latino Voices is just one more attempt to snag a piece of the Hispanic-$1-trillion-dollar-buying power action, as have hundreds of corporations before it, including media companies Fox News Latino (which beat "usual suspects" to the punch) and the soon-to launch Univisión and NBC websites devoted to Hispanic issues in English. For years, Latinos have been largely invisible to the media, corporate America, and politics, giving rise to hundreds of outlets addressing, servicing, and covering this perspective.

The challenge for HuffPo Latino Voices will not be to identify and talk about the issues.

That's been done.

It will be to add perspective and place into context a politically and socially emerging community with its possibilities girded by its liabilities; where brilliant minds are committed to hold those in power--politicians, community leaders, families--accountable for lack of vision and action; to clearly articulate a social and political commitment to economic and social advancement and civic engagement, rooted in knowledge and emotion, in brains and soul.  To work toward achieving these goals every day with discipline and conviction.

HuffPo Latino Voices

My first post looks at 21st century U.S. "Latino" identity and it's 19th century roots in Pan-Americanism.  As it appears in HuffPo Latino Voices launch edition:

"Our America"

Before Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro promoted an ideologically driven Pan-Americanism, Cuban Independence-era philosopher José Martí dreamed of a united Latin America, an idea that was pulsating among the intellectual class from Mexico to Chile.  Nuestra América--the dream of one continent, one people, one identity--was principled on the hope of the New World and was rooted in Simón Bolívar, South America's George Washington who inspired the 19th Century Independence Wars of the Andean vice-royalties, from Spain.  But even the larger-than-life Libertador--the Liberator--and his dream of One America would be defeated by regional infighting, dying a broken man in my father's hometown of Santa Marta, Colombia.

Nearly two centuries later, I fill out a form for a mortgage, a job application, a government service such as the 2010 U.S. Census or a passport. I am faced with limits embodied by boxes that force me to check:



Chicano/a, depending on the institution and the cultural and political preference of a region.

Nearly two centuries later, my Yale-PHD-flawless English or my parents' immigration sponsored by my San-Francisco-State-economics-professor godfather on an Avianca plane, as opposed to swimming across the Rio Grande River/Río Bravo, is erased when a xenophobe calls all people of Latin American descent -- "illegals."

Nearly two centuries later, in a great irony of history, the values embodied in Martí's Our America has taken root further north in the United States, not driven by a lofty philosophical ideal of Independence, but by an umbrella term that heaps us into one bubbling, overflowing cultural cauldron--one people, one identity defined by accelerated immigration due in part to extraordinary demographic growth and U.S. hunger for cheap labor, combined with continuing corruption and violence in other countries that have forced people to uproot their families seeking a better future.

Hispanic.  Latino.  I've even heard "onslaught of Latins" (to be clear, the only "Latin" of which I have knowledge is the dead language doctoral requirement that almost cost me my Yale degree.  I failed the test twice).  Several terms refer to the same ethnic group and have produced what I call "happy talk"--the #1 minority in the U.S. continues growing, led not by immigration which draconian state laws have curbed, but by U.S. births.  They wield an approximately $1 trillion dollar buying power; Latino-owned businesses are opening at a faster pace than any other group.  Indeed, these statistics have an "onslaught" of marketers hungry to get a piece of the Latino action to grow market share as I just witnessed in the vendor Expo-palooza at the BlogHer '11 conference in San Diego.

The "Happy Talk" contains economic and demographic truths but not proportional political or social clout.

What happens when looking closer unmasks an emerging community whose frontier of possibilities is braced by significant liabilities?  Educational attainment is shamefully low. Health disparities, particularly around obesity and diabetes, are setting off deafening alarms. Representation in politics, media, and at the corporate decision-making level is non-existent or eroding.  Bigoted societal and community expectations turn into the reality of high incarceration and teenage pregnancy rates, instead of demanding all of us channel our inner Tiger Mother and demand educational superiority from schools, parents, government, and students so they can become the future's flexible labor force on which U.S. economic recovery and global competitiveness can thrive.

The time is now to no longer solely think and identify the issues but to mobilize ganas--literally guts--to act and lead by holding the stakeholders--politicians, community leaders, families--accountable for a paucity of vision, action, and civic engagement while we continue to support those performing small and large miracles every day, such as the National Council of La Raza, Voto Latino, or the leaders and congregants of Alabama churches who stand against that state's anti-immigration laws.

"Latino/a = Mainstream" is the motto on the back of my blog The Wise Latina Club's business card.  This is where we are going demographically.  It is crucial to our national, economic, and political interest to ensure that these most American of Americans buy into the idea and reality of this nation, as millions for centuries before them did.

This country belongs to all of us.

It is: Our America.

A former ABC News correspondent, Viviana Hurtado, PHD is the bespectacled Blogger-in-Chief at The Wise Latina Club.

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