As part of the lead-up to the release of Volume 31 of the Harvard Kennedy School Journal of Hispanic Policy (order here!) we are going to be previewing some of the articles in the print edition here on our digital platform.
Maria Hinojosa is a Latina journalist who has dedicated her trailblazing 30-year career to television and radio reporting that elevates the stories of people of color. Hinojosa’s contributions across media platforms such as NPR, PBS, CBS, WNBC, and CNN have been recognized with dozens of awards, including four Emmys and a Peabody Award. As the anchor and executive producer of the radio show Latino USA, as well as the co-host of the political podcast In The Thick, Maria Hinojosa informs a wide audience about the country’s changing cultural and political landscape. During this interview, Maria Hinojosa sat down with the Harvard Kennedy School Journal of Hispanic Policy (HJHP) to discuss topics at the intersection of immigration, journalism, politics, power, and the Latinx community. Follow her on twitter @Maria_Hinojosa.
The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. The full interview is available in the Spring 2019 edition of the Harvard Kennedy School Journal of Hispanic Policy, which you can order here.
What does a Latina in power look like to you? As one yourself – and after speaking to so many leaders like Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – what does she do differently? How does she lead differently?
We have to be deeply authentic. The most honest response to these attacks against Latinas in particular these last few years is to be our authentic selves. In that sense, someone like a Sonia Sotomayor, who is clearly ridiculously smart and can manage her way out of any situation, there’s something about her authentic self, as a Bronx-raised Puerto Rican woman, that she carries with her.
In terms of Alexandria [Ocasio-Cortez], there’s something about her authenticity of just being a young woman who is prepared to take on huge risks. From my own life, part of what I understood was that I was not going to be able to compete with my colleagues at being more controlled and put together and coiffed and all of those things you need to be – so what I’m going to do is be the opposite of that, I’m going to be real, I’m going to say “um.”
As Latinas, we can attempt to create community. Bringing other people in by being our authentic selves. In other words, see me I’m not a threat to you, like c’mon let’s hang out together and let’s talk about these things. We’re not very used to wanting to talk about our egos or talking about our power but, in fact, as Latinas we have to own our power, own our capacity to talk about being strong and powerful.
Your reporting on immigration exposes the ways in which political messaging, language, and even policy work to criminalize and dehumanize immigrants. In the past decade, we’ve seen a lot of “compromise” solutions that often grant citizenship for some subset of immigrants in exchange for tightening restrictions for others. Do you think that the policy proposals we have seen so far include that regard for humanity?
No, I don’t believe that they have a long term human element in them. It has been a quid pro quo and using human beings as kind of political fodder. And if there really was a human element then we would understand that we’re talking about here is not piecemeal immigration reform but rather comprehensive [reform] – and we have gotten so far away from that. The way immigration has been dealt with in this country has been manifested in its increased dehumanization of these people, not a decrease. If there was an understanding of humanity then we would say we understand that there is no security crisis at the border – that this is a fictitious argument. We have not experienced any kind of terrorist attack from the southern border. Sorry but no – there has been no humanity in these immigration policies.
One of the things I admire most about you is your willingness to call out other journalists when you see something that they’re not covering right or that you feel is wrong. Thinking about the latinx community, how can we have tough conversations within our community, call each other out for being complicit, and push ourselves to do better?
The only way that that’s going to happen is by having these conversations, being critical of the racism and the homophobia and the sexism and the antisemitism and the antiqueer realities that exist among and within the Latino communities – us bringing those conversations into our homes, into our communities, into our friend circles, and on social media.
The cool thing that we’re seeing now, in this iteration of Latinos and Latinas in power, is that because it’s a new generation and because of social media – como te puedo decir – it’s like the filter is off in that sense. The positive side of this horror that we’ve been living through is that more of us are talking about [our stories]. We are having to talk about our own immigrant stories when we’re talking about seeing children being ripped from their parents’ arms, we are talking about our own stories as we hear this president talk about “shithole” countries.
It’s really complex and it’s going to become increasingly more complex. Having just returned from Mexico where I was able to pick up on an increasingly nationalistic tide in Mexico, of Trumpists in Mexico – who are like “build a wall and keep the central Americans out,” – I am deeply concerned and we as Latinos and Latinas have to own this dialogue.
Read the full interview in HJHP’s Volume 31 print edition – order now!