Connecticut Latinos Gaining Influence in Politics, Media and Economics
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Alverio, a veteran print and broadcast journalist, started CT Latino News in early 2012 out of her own frustration over this “huge blind spot” in traditional media coverage. “CT Latino News was needed because, as the census shows, more than 70 percent of the Latino community speaks English,” she says. “I instinctively knew this but only have had it confirmed since starting CT Latino News.”
Not only did Alverio get no pushback from the Latino community, she quickly found a receptive audience there. Spanish-language media, however, were less welcoming.
“They wanted to know what we were doing that they weren’t already doing,” she says. “But we have different audiences. Their audience needs to read in Spanish, many are newly arrived and some are bilingual. Our niche is local, and that’s why it works. We offer context to topics and issues. We’re producing our own material according to the highest standards and ethics. We criticize Latinos. This isn’t a pro-Latino site, it’s a site for news about the Latino community. We have Latino and non-Latino readers.”
All this is in keeping with Alverio’s sense of mission. Born in Puerto Rico, she was brought to Connecticut as an infant. Her father, a World War II veteran, earned a GED high-school diploma, spoke English and found a manufacturing job in Meriden, where Alverio was raised. She knew firsthand what she calls “the misperception of Latinos, and the negative stereotypes.” It is her contention that these sorts of misperceptions, rather than outright prejudice, are the biggest obstacles to Latino progress.
“As a reporter by training, I want to give as much information as possible to my readers,” says Alverio, who also runs her own public-relations firm in Farmington. “Media shapes values and attitudes. We are simply offering a broader base of information, filling a need that no one else was filling. We are also developing Latino journalists and getting them into the pipeline of the mainstream media.”
Fifteen years ago, when Alverio was the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, this did not seem possible or even conceivable. The technologies that have evolved since then, however, have allowed the Latino community to circumvent the boundaries that once seemed insurmountable, foremost of which was the dearth of Hispanic journalists in state newsrooms.
“We can now build something of our own,” she says. “We’re doing this here in Connecticut and others are doing similar things in other parts of the country. We have a small staff and a team of about 15 freelance writers who cover local issues around the state, writing in-depth stories and columns.”
One of the signs of the website’s success is that original stories are being pilfered and posted elsewhere without attribution. Although she’s not happy about it, Alverio does see a silver lining.
“Other outlets have been prodded into covering stories of interest to Latinos and that’s a good outcome,” she says. “News media are now using our stories and actually crediting us. We have 10 media partners, including CT Mirror.org, the Norwalk Hour, Bristol Press, NPR and NBC. People in key positions read us, from the governor’s office on down, from Senate and Congressional members. I think we have shifted some things in the state, made people rethink things.”
It seems that many factors besides the confirmation of Carmen Espinosa as a state Supreme Court Justice, are contributing to the burgeoning power of the Latino community—not least of which was, of course, the March election of the first Latino pope in the Roman Catholic Church’s history, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, now known as Pope Francis. As Orlando Rodriguez says, the numbers “plain and simple” make this rising tide inevitable. He reiterated this point in a commentary he posted on the Connecticut Voices for Children website. “In-state population growth is coming from the minority population. People moving to Connecticut are also mostly minorities. From 2000 to 2010, roughly 81,000 non-Hispanic whites left the state and about 127,000 minorities moved in,” he wrote. “The U.S.-born children of immigrants are making America more American as they expand our immigrant heritage, and they will make significant and needed contributions to the country’s and Connecticut’s economic growth. What is quintessentially more American than the Americanized children of immigrants?”