INK_BLAST | THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH…
By Juleyka Lantigua
As a journalist, I feel I have an obligation to pierce the veil of nostalgia through which many of us remember and imagine our native lands. Sun-swept beaches. Rhythm-endowed mulatas. Colorful ethnic prints. These are part of a stained memory that keeps many of us from embracing and engaging Latin American and Caribbean countries as they truly are. I also take very seriously the task of reminding readers that many of us have become comfortable—some to the point of complacency—with the notion that the umbrella term “Latino” means we’re a monolithic group.
When we speak amongst ourselves, no one debates that Chicanos, Cubanos, Dominicanos and Argentinos are quite different from one another. But as soon as conversations open to include “mainstream” participants or references, we obediently form a cultural chorus line that dances to a forced tune.
This seemingly natural response often misleads non-Latinos into thinking that we are in fact monolithic and that any one of us, or any group, can speak for all. There is no real benefit for us in this reaction: We simply do it as a defense mechanism to protect what very little space we have in this society.
At Urban Latino, perhaps it was the brazenness of our youth that propelled us to seek out stories that other Latino publications ignored. We have dared our readers to learn about slums in Nicaragua, where girls are forced into prostitution from age ten. We reminded those who point fingers at foreign perpetrators that many of the fifty thousand Colombian women prostituting themselves throughout the world were sent there with their families’ blessings. And we have celebrated the rich African legacy of Honduras’ Garifuna people alongside their struggle for land and social recognition.
Journalists have an obligation to the truth. But, in light of the blatant prejudice that often passes for news and information, should Latino journalists always report on their communities in order to ensure more balanced and accurate coverage?
Let me say it again: No. We also shouldn’t bear a special burden to educate “mainstream” America about us. Instead, the responsibility is to arm ourselves with knowledge to combat the deluge of ignorance that floods magazines, daily papers and the Internet. We must seek out the good and the bad. And we must be willing to own up to both.
For me it has been liberating to focus on writing about Latinos. I seldom think about what the mainstream will think if they read my work. Instead, I concentrate on thinking critically while reporting objectively.
"Juleyka Lantigua is a journalist and editor whose work appears in national newspapers and magazines. For more info visit www.juleykalantigua.com ."