Words by Radhamely De Leon
Illustration by Katie Herchenroeder
There is something truly unreal about seeing people you admire in person. In looking at Maria Hinojosa as she reflected on her time as a journalist, it became clear that this did not come easily to her. Her 25-year career was forged through reporting on the hard-to-swallow truths of sexual assault, human trafficking, poverty, immigration, and more. She even started her own non-profit media company, Futuro Media, as a way to take control of the narrative surrounding Latinx culture.
Hinojosa is one of those people who I look at and think, “Wow, we have the same 24 hours in a day. What am I doing with that time?”
The talk proved to be refreshing and motivating. Although it was advertised to be a chance to learn more about the border crisis, her mix of personal anecdotes and truths brought the ongoing immigration crisis into a new light. Her refreshingly honest manner took the audience on a ride through personal and national politics as we all tried to understand what was going on in the world around us. As soon as she got to the podium, an understandably intimidating symbol of academia, she referred to herself as a “Chaparral,” or Spanish slang for short, and launched into the evening.
“I loved her talk, I’m also Mexican so when she made anecdotes about eating chilaquiles and men who wait for work early in the morning I felt that she was talking about our community in a way that is not commonly represented in media. She showcased immigrants as normal people who do everyday things. Not just criminals and not just victims,” says Diana Bacat, a 20-year-old English student at City College.
Having to report on topics that are so close to home is becoming increasingly difficult as so much political controversy now surrounds the human identity. Hinojosa touched on the rising question of “How can journalists cover immigration today without seeming like ‘Activist Journalists’ with an agenda to push?” In conjunction with her role as a journalist, it is clear that her personal identity is integral to her success. The Latinx experience, especially for immigrants, is closely entwined with what is happening in today’s political climate.
The talk had reached a particularly tender moment when Hinojosa recalled watching Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony against then Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh and felt particularly touched as a survivor of sexual assault. Further, the ongoing immigration crisis continuously puts her own identity of being a Mexican immigrant at the forefront, as well. Hinojosa, who certainly comes from a somewhat privileged background as well, is not the only one whose trauma and identity clashes with the headlines daily.
Being so open can make such a huge difference for your audience by humanizing these types of experiences. Real people are going through similar struggles every day, especially on a campus such as City College, and talking about it boldly matters. The biggest takeaway from Maria Hinojosa’s visit to City College, for me at least, was to take control of your identity and your narrative. You are your biggest advocate.