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Archive for June, 2013


Exactly two years ago today, while I was covering the latest from Puerto Rico, several of my friends shared a report about the island that, according to them, was a “must watch.” It was a segment called “Puerto Rico: The fiscal experiment,” produced by Al Jazeera. To this day, it is still one of the most comprehensive reports I have ever seen about Puerto Rico’s current situation. The piece was journalism at its best: tell the story, include different points of view, and invite viewers to draw their own conclusions.

I was highly impressed, and it was the first time I had ever really noticed the quality of news content Al Jazeera was producing in English.

Fast forward to the end of 2012. I was in New York City hanging with friends in lower Manhattan when I got a call from Washington, D.C. It was an Al Jazeera English producer for a show called “The Stream.” Would I like to be a guest next week to talk about Puerto Rico’s social media activism and the issues surrounding the “La Comay” controversy?

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Even though my schedule couldn’t accommodate the invite, I was even more impressed that Al Jazeera English was dedicating time to a story that deeply connected with me and millions of others in the Latino online space. Ever since then, I was hooked to the “The Stream.” The combination of conversation and social media was powerful. Here was the new media “60 Minutes.” I soon found out that many of my friends also loved the show, as well as a huge part of our Latino Rebels community.

This Monday, I start my new job as a Digital Producer for “The Stream.” Having met the show’s core staff and leadership, this decision was an exciting one for me, as well as an easy one to make. Simply stated, “The Stream” fully understands the power of the new media. For example, tomorrow they are running an #OpenEditorial for content and ideas. They believe in amplifying stories that come from the ground up, a belief I have been embracing ever since I started tweeting in 2008 and founded LatinoRebels.com in 2011.

Although the Rebeldes will always be with me, my new position at “The Stream” allows me to expand my talents at a ground-breaking award-winning news show I believe is the future of news media.

And no, I won’t be disappearing from the online world. Quite the contrary. I will do my best to get the stories that matter to “The Stream.” If you ever have a story that you think needs attention, please do not hesitate to contact me via Twitter or Facebook. You know where to find me.

This is going to be an incredible adventure. Something’s coming, for sure.

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YAY!!!!

NBC Latino

Last night on “America’s Got Talent,” a pretty amazing Latino voice stole the show.

After meeting and rehearsing for the first time just a few days before the audition for America’s Got Talent, multicultural opera trio “Forte” brought the house down.

As vocalist Fernando Varela – originally from Puerto Rico and brother of Latino Rebels founder and NBC Latino contributor Julio Varela – began the second verse with a powerful belt, judges Mel B and Heidi Klum exchanged looks, both looking shocked and pleased. The trio closed its performance – the very first performance as a group – blending perfectly in a powerful, three-part harmony.

The trio was deemed “amazing” by Mel B, while Klum described the group’s vocals as “beautiful.”

“I like it a lot. I like that you are just regular guys,” said judge Howard Stern. “I like that you have just met. There is something exciting about the…

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As it begins to ramp up the launch of its U.S. news channel, Al Jazeera America will be hosting a unique #OpenEditorial Google+ hangout this Friday June 28 at noon EST. The purpose of the hangout is simple: “Your stories. Your voice. Al Jazeera America wants to know which stories you think the national media has missed and need to be covered.” (Full disclosure: I will be joining Al Jazeera’s “The Stream” next week as a Digital Producer.)

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Here are more details about the G+ hangout:

1. You can RSVP to the event on G+ here.
2. Submit your story ideas on the G+ page or use #OpenEditorial.
3. If your submission is chosen, you will be asked to join us in a live Google+ Hangout, this Friday, June 28, at 12pm ET / 9am PT with Lisa Fletcher, host of “The Stream.”

Editorial crowdsourcing is I have always supported and practiced. Don’t miss out on your chance to pitch a story you believe in.

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Ok, it is official. My amazing brother Fernando Varela will be auditioning tonight at 9pm EST on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” with FORTE.

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If this video clip is any indication of their audition, you can’t miss it!!!
You can follow FORTE on Facebook and on Twitter.

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The latest from the United Nations today.

NBC Latino

Puerto Rico’s current commonwealth status is “the root cause of the economic and social problems that impair quality of life on the island,” said Puerto Rico pro-statehood leader Pedro Pierluisi to members of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization, arguing that Puerto Ricans have expressed a preference for statehood over its current commonwealth status.

“We categorically reject the backwards view, embraced by certain political leaders in Puerto Rico, that the status debate is somehow a distraction from efforts to address these challenges,” said Pierluisi, who is also Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner.

Puerto Rico’s statehood and pro-commonwealth leaders are currently entangled in a bitter debate over a recent two-question non-binding plebiscite vote  held last November 6. Fifty-four percent of islanders said they were not content with the current commonwealth status in the plebiscite’s first question.  But while 800,000 out of about 1.3 million voters supported statehood in the second question, about half a million…

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Originally published at LatinoRebels.com

Who knew? Who knew that a Public Shaming Tumblr post published late Tuesday night (June 11, 2013) would turn an 11-year-old boy from San Antonio into a national hero in less than 48 hours? Yet that is exactly what happened to Sebastien de la Cruz, whose story went from one of ignorance to one of pure joy and love. Like the Buzzfeed headline from a story written by Adrian Carasquillo (full disclosure: my brother from another mother), de la Cruz’s moment showed “a nation how to love again.”

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Less then 48 hours. That is all that it took.

Tuesday afternoon, Sebastien de la Cruz was just one of millions of talented kids out there. He had gotten national attention last year on “America’s Got Talent,” but outside of San Antonio, not many people knew about him. By Thursday night, the Twitter profile of President Obama gave him a shout out. San Antonio mayor Julián Castro was reintroducing him to the world. He was trending on Twitter. National media had descended to scoop up the interviews. He had gone global.

Welcome to the new media.

As expected, I thought a lot about the story late last night. Why this one? Why did the story of a little boy in a charro outfit become the viral story of the week? Here are my random thoughts:

  • The story had honesty and authenticity. It came from “the ground up.” Late Tuesday night, while I was monitoring the Latino Rebels Facebook site, we received three messages from fans and a post linking to the Public Shaming post. Within minutes of reading the Tumblr post, I instantly knew that this story would resonate with our incredible social media community, which is the most connected and most engaged group in the Latino media space today. This story evolved from the real feelings of people. That was it. This story spoke to relevant issues of identity and culture. It was an easy decision from our end to amplify the story, and the results proved it. In the past 48 hours, LatinoRebels.com amassed its highest level of web traffic ever. The response was so overwhelming that it crashed our web server three times. When we posted our first story early Wednesday morning, the story took off. Soon, the story was being linked by Colorlines, Reddit, Jezebel, HuffPost, Latina, Buzzfeed, CNN, Puerto Rico’s Vocero, and countless other links and online forums. LR takes pride in amplifying stories that originate from our community. Mission accomplished.
  • San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich used the story to tell the truth about this country. Even though I am a huge Knicks fan and I still can’t get over what the Spurs did to my team in the 1999 NBA Finals, my respect for Popovich reached a new level when he said the following at a press conference yesterday before Game 4: “I would like to say that I would be shocked or surprised by the comments. But given the fact that there’s still a significant element of bigotry and racism in our nation, I’m not surprised. It still plagues us, obviously. And what I was surprised by was how proud these idiots are of their ignorance, by printing their names next to their comments. [Sebastien’s] a class act. Way more mature than most his age. And as much as those comments by the idiots sadden you about your country, he makes you feel that the future could be very bright.” In a world where anti-Latino racism is raw, Popovich’s words had to be said.
  • Will we as a community continue to amplify other stories that matter? I can only hope that the reaction people generated online to support Sebastian can now turn to other stories that merit even more attention, like the case of boricua David Sal Silva (yes, Silva is half Puerto Rican), whose death at the hands of Kern County officers continues to go under the radar. If we as a community of engaged online Latinos can rally around the talent of an amazing boy, can we also do the same to share our outrage towards a death that was clearly condoned by law enforcement? Changing the paradigm about what it is to be Latino in this country right now must go beyond the feel-good celebration of a boy’s singing talents. We must approach stories like Silva’s with the same vigor and commitment as we did with Sebastian’s story.
  • The real (and sometimes uncomfortable) dialogue surrounding identity cannot stop here. Let’s face it: Sebastian’s social media story speaks to us all. It raises issues that must continue to be explored by the mainstream media, and not just be limited to the social one. de la Cruz proved that the United States is a better place when we celebrate our differences and find the commonalities within those difference. Being Latino in the U.S. doesn’t mean that you love this country any less, quite the contrary. Yet it also doesn’t mean that this country is perfect. It is not. Far from it. We are at a crossroads once again in determining what we want this nation to become. Do we want to be a country that understands that being proud of one’s roots (and for all those suggesting that Sebastien was overlooking his Mexican heritage when he said that he was American, cut the kid some slack—he’s only 11 and I seriously doubt that as he grows up to become a young man, he will shy away from his heritage) does not mean that you are “less American,” or do we want to be a country where an actual congressman freaks out about his office being “invaded” by “illegal aliens?” Sebastien’s story confirms to me that the days of Rep. Steve King (along with the Coulters and Malkins) are extremely limited, and like Popovich said, “the future could be very bright.” Yet that will take even more commitment. Are we ready as a community to continue where Sebastien de la Cruz left off? I think so, because social media has given millions of people the chance to share issues and stories that can literally move up the media landscape and become national issues that form part of our consciousness. That is where the real power lies, and to paraphrase a high-stakes poker player, “Latino Rebels is all in.”

The future is indeed ours. Now let’s keep posting, tweeting, sharing, and commenting on it.

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My latest for NBC Latino. I just figured out this whole WordPress “reblogging” thing!

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I am done with the ignorant haters.

Once people start slamming an 11-year-old boy for singing the national anthem at the NBA Finals, the gloves are off.

Ignorance about Latinos in this country needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.

The last 24 hours presented even more examples about how anti-Latino attitudes and racism (yes, racism) continue to perpetuate this country. I could begin my thoughts with the incredibly classless and undignified manner people online treated Sebastien de la Cruz last night before Game 3 of the Finals, but I will leave that one for last, because it was the final blow to a day that saw complete and utter incomprehension of how many in this country misperceive the complexity of what it is to be a U.S. Latino right now.

Not surprisingly, my journey to Really Angry Julito started with, you guessed it, immigration. Yesterday in Washington, D.C…

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