What is the Latino experience? Honestly, I’m not sure.
Being born to a Mexican-American father with roots in Brole and Imperial by way of Sonora and Durango, Mexico, and a white mother of Scottish, German and Dutch descent raised in the Midwest and San Diego, my biculturalism affords me two perspectives, neither of which feel at odds with each other.
I think that’s the nature of the Imperial Valley, its demographics, its position on the border and the way its people, no matter the background, have lived in a free-flowing conversation that both is defined by the uniqueness of their race and cultural upbringing and the fact that living here begs for a seamless melding of perspectives and an almost unspoken understanding of each other.
Despite this, there is something to be said for identity, a common theme and narrative that extends through a person’s life, one that is defined in DNA, where we came from, how we got here and how we fit in and thrive in this United States.
The Latino experience is a very big part of that, and it’s one not often explored in print in this paper. And while the population of our county would say that every news report, every opinion, and every story is filtered through the Latino perspective, that is not the reality. We, too, speak to and for a broader audience.
Yet today, the broader audience is becoming increasingly Latino — and always has been in the Imperial Valley — so how do we reflect that without alienating or offending? How do we do that without simply putting a brown face on an issue? That is a concern we have at the Press, but it’s time to throw caution to the wind ... to some extent.
When the 2010 Census numbers came out, Imperial County had the unique distinction of having the highest concentration of Latinos of any county in this vast country at 80.5 percent. In a 2009 survey conducted for this newspaper, it was determined that more than 56 percent of our readers are Latino.
A tailored beat, a series of stories on a recurring basis that gives voice to that Latino experience, makes sense. To us. To the community we serve.
In Sunday’s paper, under a heading yet to be finalized as of this writing, we will deal with that Latino experience, listen to those Latino voices in a very real and new way for us. It’s experimental, that is, it will be an act of evolution, one that struggles not to pander but to move forward a conversation that’s always been there but hasn’t been articulated.
The first story to kick off this new beat will deal with identity and how it defines the individuals who call themselves Latino. It seems like a controversial first shot, maybe even a polarizing one, but for a beat about a people, that identity and connection with a culture will be the filter through which our diversity writer reports on faith, economics, health, education, history, politics and power, and lifestyle.
Let’s make no mistake. This is not the English version of Adelante Valle, our Spanish-language newspaper. Rather, this is the life and stories of men, women and children who are fully American, not the new immigrants. These are not immigration stories.
These are your stories. These are my stories. They’re all of our stories, and they’re worth hearing in a new and interesting way that while culture-specific, lend to a wider understanding that is neither black nor white, or, more fitting, neither brown nor white.