b-side chat: I AM THIS LAND interview with Maegan la Mala Ortiz of Vivirlatino
Breakthrough’s I AM LAND contest, now calling on people to make a video on diversity to celebrate our differences and win prizes, also wants to share the important work our partners are doing to uplift diversity. Read our first in the I AM THIS LAND interview series with Maegan la Mala Ortiz, Managing Editor and Co-Publisher of Vivirlatino, a daily publication, featuring news, analysis and opinions about Latino politics and culture created for the diverse and influential Latino and Latina community in the U.S. by Latinas.
b-listed: Why did you feel the need to start VivirLatino?
Maegan: Actually VivirLatino was started in 2005 by a company in Spain who wanted to break into the Latino market. The writers who were brought in as editors had already been writing on and off line about Latino issues. The editors became the owners a few years ago and we made a more concerted effort to represent who we represented: Latinas born and raised in the U.S. with strong ties to our home countries with a commitment to justice/love centered human rights who also participate/consume pop culture.
b-listed: How has the response been to your blog from within the Latino community?
Maegan: Pretty awesome. We have always received lots of support and love for keeping it real and honest and true. We also get props for being really independent. We aren’t funded by any organizations and our editors work from home while balancing paying jobs, kids, activism. Our growth and popularity has come from connecting the online work to on the ground work we are all involved in and supporting other such efforts. Criticisms and critiques include doing more stuff in Spanish/bilingually. Conservative Latinos aren’t likely to be fans of us as we are shamelessly progressive/radical.
b-listed: How can online media activism (through blogs, social networking sites and other forms of new media) improve relations between the different communities living in the country?
Maegan: The only way that online media activism can improve relations is if it is connected to real on the ground work. This isn’t a popular position to take, but VivirLatino has never existed to educate or organize people outside the Latino community. If non-Latinos get something out of it, beautiful and we welcome non-Latinos to read and engage but the Latino community is so huge, so diverse that we have so much work to do amongst ourselves (in terms of educating and organizing) and I think it is ok to say that. Where the interconnectivity comes in is that Latinos are more than just Latinos. We are parents, we are queer, we are women, we are workers, we are transgender, we are immigrants, we artists, we are undocumented, we are youth etc etc etc, so we need to support justice driven work for all those intersections and vice-versa. Coalitions, collaborations are beautiful and important things that must be used strategically.
b-listed: How do you think your work in the last five years has uplifted diversity?
Maegan: Just by being real. We have taken alot of heat for not following certain messaging but we have always been honest about who we are, what we experience in our communities and what people are telling us. Diversity has become such a buzzword almost to the point of meaninglessness. Diversity is not about holding hands to cover up difference. It is about acknowledging how difference works, good and bad and how we can build across not through or over difference.
b-listed: What has surprised you most since launching VivirLatino? Good or bad.
Maegan: Besides how much work it is? ja ja. I mean it is so much work. It’s not just writing blog posts or linking to other people. We try to collaborate with what activists are doing and really lend a critical perspective to the idea of “Latinidad.” Being independent is really really hard. It costs money and time and not wanting to compromise means turning away orgs, ads, and opportunities and it means we are really broke. But on the good side, there is a constant amazement of how many people read us and look to us and who we work and collaborate with. VivirLatino really is a few gatos doing this out of a huge sense of love and responsibility. In many ways it is an extension of selves and it sounds corny but when just one person sends us a letter or tells us in person how one post impacted them or made them think, that makes it all worth it.
b-listed: What do you hope for the future as we head into 2011.
Maegan: That we have enough money and time to keep doing what we love. That we see some movement towards justice for our communities including immigrants, queer people, women, mamis, parents…, that we can all find safety in our chosen communities/families and to paraphrase the Young Lords, that each generation keep moving the struggle(s) forward.
b-listed: Complete the sentence: I AM THIS LAND because…
Maegan: I AM THIS LAND because la historia me trajo aqui a traves de de genes, sangre, y lucha /history brought me here through genes, blood, and struggle.
Enter your video on diversity to win at I AM THIS LAND.