The little camera on my laptop took me thousands of miles away to the offices of Futuro Media, to Maria Hinojosa. Her energy was so strong, and familiar, like family. Her laugh and her passion, visible and felt. Maria Hinojosa is the first Latina to be hired at NPR and she is the Executive Producer and Host of Latino USA. I am constantly looking out for women of color who are journalists to find strength through, and Maria is absolutely one of the most admirable journalists that I’ve had the chance to speak with. It’s beautiful that she embodies the love that is visible in her work.
When Maria Hinojosa speaks about her interest in journalism as a way of combating invisibility, her words fill in the blanks of what I’ve spent the past year trying to explain. I feel as if I’m rambling through ideas trying to explain why journalism is such a difficult space for me to feel comfortable, as a woman of color, and how that discomfort is exactly what makes it so powerful. I’m drawn towards it. That discomfort is something that challenges me and inspires my growth, but it is also an emotional struggle to pursue. I want to be a journalist forever – but that means I will need to expect this struggle every single day. I asked Maria if that’s just something to expect (because it’s so often ignored and not often vocalized) and she replied, with no question, yes. Every. Day. But that’s exactly where we find our strength, by being genuinely invested in our work: body, mind, and soul. It’s a difficult dedication, but this is the life we feel fulfilled by, and everyday it’s worth it.
Journalism is so commonly seen and taught as a career that’s emotionless and objective, but that’s impossible. We don’t walk through our communities as dry, note-taking robots. I try to carry my love and be transparent about my beliefs into every space that I occupy, and into the stories that I give rise to. I do not aspire to be a journalist if it means that I am constraining myself. I want to wear whatever I want and do my makeup as I please, because my femininity does not determine my strength as a journalist. The color of my skin does not determine my ability to tell stories. Maria encourages us to fully embrace ourselves, and to use that strength. Trust our power to be self-defining.
Maria declared to us that journalists need to show humanity, they need to show emotion, and not run from that. Staying in the middle of the road is easy. Neutrality might be comfortable but it’s also stagnant, and this isn’t the kind of world that I want to be stagnant in. I’m not flat words on a page, I’m alive. Maria’s words resonate with me because we do have to take stances in our life, believe in our ideas, and then fight for them. We have survived so many years of being censored, slowly being erased, and accepting this erasure. But we must transform this invisibility from negative into positive, and something of our own. It’s empowering to be able to share a space with Maria Hinojosa and hear how she powers through these same struggles, with both fire and grace. It gives me faith in myself. As our country undergoes shifts and friction and transitions, we are shifting alongside it. Our ability to be intimate and authentic, through story or otherwise, is going to uplift us.