ILLN Opinion+: Robert Rodriguez

On this week’s episode of Illinois Latino News Opinion+, Dr. Robert Rodriguez, president and founder of DRR Advisors, joined us for a discussion about businesses measuring inclusivity and accepting accountability for the lack of Latinos in leadership roles. He also stressed the power in Latinidad and identity.

DRR Advisors is a firm that consults businesses in building various inclusion initiatives and Latino talent management programs. He has worked with many companies in industries spanning from banking to transportation and while their business ventures range, many of them operate with similar outlooks toward their Latino staff. He says that one of the common factors in the past has been a lack of accountability on the company’s end and the mindset that their Latino employees have not reached leadership roles due to their own issues that need to be “fixed.�

“‘Cause we’re not broke, I’m not fixing anybody but the companies that get it are the ones that say, Robert, help us. Help us as an organization that will create the conditions that nurture their success. Help us improve the systems that we have in place regarding identifying top talent, help us make sure that Latinos aren’t over mentored and under sponsored,� he said.

He says that now many more companies are taking accountability for the systems that have traditionally prevented Latinos from progressing.

Dr. Rodriguez also spoke about his personal struggle in forming his sense of identity as a Mexican-American growing up in the Midwest, and how entering corporate America complicated it further.

“I didn’t embrace my Hispanic heritage. I was never ashamed of it, I just didn’t see it as something that served me well,� he said.

Dr. Rodriguez says that he grew out of this mindset and realized the strength of his bicultural perspective that came from his Hispanic background. He says that he now encourages young Latinos to approach identity and ethnicity on their own terms.

“But what I tell folks is whatever your sense of identity is, you own it, you determine it. Don’t let somebody else determine it for you and as I talk to many young Hispanics, that’s what they’re finding,� he said.

As a writer, Dr. Rodriguez has converted these lessons he’s learned through personal experience and research into the written word, making the information he sought during the early stages of his career readily available for Latinos looking for guidance, something he says he did not have.

“And the reason I wrote it is ‘cause I think there was a story that needed to be told that we are a powerful community, that we contribute a lot to this society and that we are a callus for economic growth. Now that I’ve written three books, I’m super excited now to see more and more Latinos writing books and getting published because our stories need to be told and I’m glad that there’s an audience for those books,” he said.

Resources mentioned in this video:

Auténtico, Second Edition by Dr. Robert Rodriguez and Andrés T. Tapia

DRR Advisors’ Website: https://www.drradvisors.com

Autentico: The Definitive Guide to Latino Career Success https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/672145/autentico-second-edition-by-dr-robert-rodriguez-and-andres-t-tapia/

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Reform Racist Permit Process In OrderTo Build A Healthier Southeast Side

City officials made the right decision by denying General Iron’s permit, but something is clearly wrong when it takes four excruciating years â€“ for everyone involved â€“ to settle a permit dispute. The fight was so intense that it even led to an intervention from federal agencies. Ultimately, it demonstrated the glaring flaws and systemic racism embedded in the permitting process for industry and the urgent need to reform zoning and land-use laws in Chicago. 

From the first day that we heard about the proposed move of General Iron from Lincoln Park to our neighborhood, Southeast Siders didn’t want a facility with a history of fires, explosions, and all the other problems that made residents of Lincoln Park call for it to be shut down for years. We knew that if this facility received a permit, it would be shredding entire cars down the street from George Washington High School for years to come.

As a lifelong Southeast Sider, I’ve lost count of the toxic industries that are allowed to open up shop near me. Every time a new one piles into the neighborhood, there is little transparency, community participation or accountability in the process. 

It seems that we are a sacrifice zone to polluters and that the city’s zoning laws are designed to keep us buried in industry. To Southeast Siders, these laws are not all that different from the redlining that cut deep race divisions between Chicago’s neighborhoods that maintained inequities for communities of color. 

The city’s history of segregation and racism has forced communities of color to suffer a lesser quality of life than wealthy white residents for decades. 

According to the CDPH’s Health Impact Assessment of RMG-General Iron, life expectancy for Southeast Side neighborhoods is two to nearly seven years shorter than in Lincoln Park. All three Southeast Side community areas rank in the bottom half of all Chicago’s community areas for life expectancy, cardiac and respiratory disease, and self-rated health, among other metrics. The CDPH has also identified these areas as having among the lowest child opportunities in the city, based on educational, health and environmental, and social and economic data. 

You can still see those divisions in the way that the city allows polluters to accumulate in communities of color while pouring resources into Whiter more affluent areas for different types of development. Similar clashes over industry amassing in communities of color are playing out in La Villita, Pilsen and McKinley Park. 

The solution is to make clear guidelines to the permitting process that are equitable, transparent, and leave plenty of room for genuine community participation. The health of residents should be the deciding factor, and the city must prevent industry from amassing in communities of color. 

No community should have to worry about breathing neurotoxins or being covered in dust saturated with heavy metals like lead and arsenic from the industries that brush up against houses and parks. The first line of defense for our health should be in the permitting process for new industries. 

If we had an equitable permitting process, the General Iron decision would not have taken as long as it did. The city could have taken into consideration the almost 250 industrial facilities that line the South Branch of the Chicago River and the existing monitors that register some of the highest levels of toxic metals like lead in the entire state. The city would have listened to the neighbors and heard our long list of concerns which would have led to the inevitable denial of this permit. 

Mayor Lightfoot promised to introduce an ordinance that would address cumulative impacts and make the permitting process more equitable. Environmental justice communities will hold the mayor to her promise for a long-overdue legislative fix to a system that isn’t working for anyone.

The Southeast Side was essential in making Chicago and the region what it is today, and it’s still an essential part of the city where the people who live here can decide what our community should look like. We can be an important part of planning and building a healthier Southeast Side whose prosperity will open up new possibilities for our city. 


Gina Ramirez works to further sustainable land use and zoning rules that can provide crucial protections to areas of Chicago, like the Southeast Side, that are burdened with cumulative industrial pollution. Ramirez is an active member of the Coalition to Ban Petcoke and the Southeast Environmental Taskforce. She has a MA focused in sociology from Roosevelt University and BA in communications from DePaul University.

Publisher’s Note: Do you have something to say? We’re interested. Submit ideas for Opinion-Editorial essays and/or finished work to Info@LatinoNewsNetwork.com

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Community Conversation: Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic

It has been a very difficult two years for so many; nearly 8,000 Chicagoans and more than 33,000 Illinoisans have died from COVID-related causes.

The pandemic revealed inequities in healthcare, and other determinants of health among Hispanics-Latinos.

While government leaders celebrate dropping masking requirements and other mitigations, many of the most vulnerable say that for them, the emergency continues.

“I have had students tell me, ‘I’m not gonna get vaccinated now and I never will.’ … I’m really concerned that they could be hospitalized or end up dying,� Dr. Jesu Estrada told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Estrada is the mother of two Chicago Public Schools students, ages 6 and 12. She works at Harold Washington College and serves as chapter chair for Local 1600 of the Cook County College Teachers Union.

Estrada argued a majority of the unvaccinated are the Black and Brown students that she serves. “Our communities, our families deserve nothing less. Keep the masks. Keep the vaccines. Nothing short of that,� she said.

Join Illinois Latino News (ILLN) and WBEZ this Wednesday, March 30 for a virtual town hall to discuss the impact of the pandemic on Hispanics-Latinos on the city’s Northwest Side.

Hugo Balta, Owner/Publisher of ILLN will be the moderator of the discussion between community and health leaders. From broad issues of health equity to the latest guidance on masking and vaccines, this conversation will serve as a gathering place where you can ask questions and find the information you need.

Panelists for this event include:

  • Dr. Geraldine Luna, Medical Director, Chicago Department of Public Health
  • Dr. Anuj Shah, Integrative Family Physician, Heartland Health Centers
  • Dr. Archana Chatterjee, Dean of Chicago Medical School, Rosalind Franklin University
  • Sylvia Puente, President and CEO, Latino Policy Forum
  • Margarita Klein, Director of Member Organizing, Arise Chicago
  • Dr. Marina Del Rios, First person in Chicago to receive the vaccine

Click on this link to register: Community Conversation: Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic

This virtual event will be available in both English and Spanish. You can let us know what issues matter most to you and your neighbors by completing our survey.


Cover Photo Credit: Dr. Marina Del Rios, the first person in Chicago to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Dec. 15, 2020 (Photo: Ashlee Rezin)

This edition of the Community Conversation series is presented with abundant help from our partners: Belmont-Cragin United, Communities United, Esperanza Health Centers, Heartland Health Centers, Illinois Unidos and Northwest Center.

This is the first event in the new Community Conversation series, a partnership between WBEZ and Illinois Latino News that seeks to elevate Latino voices from around Chicagoland through journalism and public programming. In future editions, we’ll explore new topics in different communities as we strive to center the information needs of all Chicagoans.

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Anticonquista Cafe brings a unique coffee experience to the Logan Square and Hermosa community 

Anticonquista Café not only roasts their coffee here in Chicago, but harvests it from the high mountains of Guatemala.

In mid-March, the owners of Anticonquista Café — Elmer Farjado and his wife Lauren Reese opened a location at Hermosa and Logan Square. The shop is nicknamed La Montanita

“My family is very happy that we are going to have our own space,� Fajardo said ahead of the opening. “They know that I sell coffee at farmers markets and now that we have this place, they see how the business is doing very well.�

Not only are they selling their packaged coffee beans and beverages, but also extending the invitation to other vendors in the community.

“It’s one step closer to having a permanent place,” Reese said.

Elmer Fajardo, Co-Owner & Co-founder of Anticonquista Café

In fact, it is one of the many steps they have taken throughout their coffee business.

The path of Anticonquista Café began when they received their license in December 2019. Covid-19 put a delay in their first shipment, but in September 2020 they obtained their exporter’s license and then the coffee arrived in October.

They started selling the coffee at the Logan Square Farmers Market. In 2021, they also began selling coffee via bike, touring the streets of Chicago and making stops at local farmers’ markets and street festivals. 

Farjado was only 7 years old when he learned about the coffee process. At the age of 10, he already knew how to cut, dry andwash coffee. 

Coffee has always been a big part of the Farjado family. 

“We have planted coffee farms since I was a child,â€� Farjado said. “I was born on the farms. My grandparents had coffee farms too.â€� 

At the age of 17, Farjado emigrated to the United States and provided his family with a little money since the farm was going through bad times.

“When I saw the price of a coffee in coffee shops here in the U.S, I remembered how I worked in Guatemala with my family, that there were times when my father lost money from his farm,� Farjado said.

Fajardo and Reese say that when they started selling the product from the farm here in the U.S. and seeing how people support them was a great satisfaction.

“I like to work with my family,� Farjado said. “They are happy with the work we have harvested. I am happy because my family supports us a lot in our vision of Anticonquista Café.�

Fajardo is a big fan and expert on coffee.

“I really like coffee,� Farjado said. “Anything that has a coffee flavor tastes good.�

Reese says that Farjado’s mother roasts the coffee beans on the comal, a smooth flat griddle. When someone buys roasted coffee here in the U.S., the entire coffee bean is evenly roasted. There is more control in roasting coffee beans. 

“A lot of marketing will talk about artisan roasted coffee, but actually when we start roasting it here with the machine, it is very much like a science-based roast,” Reese said. “Artisan roasting happens when Elmer’s mom does it. It’s more intuitive.”

Making coffee is laborious and necessitates a lot of effort to cultivate it. 

At Anticonquista Café they not only sell delicious coffee, but also have workshops that teach the history of coffee.

“We have brought coffee that has not been sorted so our clients can choose the coffee and see the defects,â€� Farjado said. “We want them to see the part of the work that happens on a farm.” 

Reese says it’s important to educate their consumers about how coffee gets here, but also to talk about the history of coffee.

“There are a lot of people who work in the coffee industry, but not by choice,� Reese said. “It is something that is taken for granted among other things here in the U.S.�

“Much of the coffee comes from the farmers,â€� Farjado said. “This is a point I want people to take into account. We want the farmers there [Guatemala] to receive more money for their product.â€� 

Although Anticonquista Café space is not large enough for community programming, their goal is in the future to have a larger space to offer immigrant resource events that organizations in Chicago can help facilitate. 

They not only want to give back to the Chicago community, but also provide opportunities in Guatemala.

“We want to give Guatemalan women employment in our business, because it is difficult for women to earn more money than men,� Fajardo said. “Anticonquista Café can be that change and provide more employment in Guatemala.�


Cover Photo: Anticonquista Café grows its coffee beans in Central America and sells and roasts them in Chicago.Photo: @anticonquistacafe | Instagram

Erika Pérez(@_Kika_Perez) is the Managing Editor of La DePaulia. She’s specializing in Communications & Latino Media. Erika is most empowered when writing about the uplifting stories of the Latinx community. She’s been reporting for La DePaulia’s news section for two years.”Email her at managingladepaulia@depauliaonline.com


Publisher’s Notes: You can read Erika’s Spanish language version of Anticonquista Café brings a unique coffee experience to the Logan Square and Hermosa community by clicking on Anticonquista Café trae una experiencia de café única al vecindario de Logan Square y Hermosa.

Illinois Latino News (ILLN) and La DePaulia are partners in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.

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Conscious Consumerism Beyond Rainbow-Washing

For Charlie Hunts, changing his first name across all platforms was a critical step in transitioning into his true identity as a transgender man. The process was not easy and when Hunts joined One Finance as Senior Manager of Brand Marketing he saw an opportunity to help ease the burden on other trans and nonbinary people.

In January 2021 the One team was brainstorming initiatives to take for Pride month that year.

“We were trying to think of ways that we could show up for the community, that were authentic to the company, that didn’t feel like rainbow washing and could really impact customers’ lives 365, not just in June,� he said.

After sharing his experience as a trans man navigating gender in the banking system, he says the team realized the significance that gender identity can have on customers.

This led to the creation of One’s My Name program, an initiative that displays someone’s chosen name on their bank card, in their account, and during all communication with One. The bank does not require legal documentation of a name change, does not ask customers for their gender, and only uses gender-neutral language both internally and externally.

“Within a matter of months we were able to make it easy for customers to change their first name, no doctor’s forms, no driver’s license change required, just the opportunity to change your first name through a simple three-question form. That was the best Pride month I ever had,� said Hunts.

Hunts described some of the difficulties he’s faced in transitioning his finances from this dead name to his affirmed name, including most recently changing the name on his credit card.

“They kept misgendering me the entire phone call, even though I told them at the top what my pronouns were and that I was trans, they kept using my birth name, wanted me to take a picture of my driver’s license and submit that. There were like three other steps. It was wild,� he said.

Antonio D. Santos is the Executive Director of Gage Park Latinx Council, a queer-led organization dedicated to radical learning, social justice, and creating community on the southwest side of Chicago. 

He says that using a person’s dead name, their name assigned at birth which they no longer identify with, can be harmful.

“Anytime a trans person is forced to use their dead name or look at their dead name, that’s perpetuating trauma and harm onto them. Having to carry around a card in your wallet that does not reflect who you are as a person is a form of perpetuating trauma. Not to mention, if the name on your card doesn’t match your gender presentation that also brings up issues of ‘does your ID match?’ and if your ID doesn’t match what the person is seeing in front of them, it’s kind of criminalization of queer people on assumptions of fraud or that it isn’t their card to use,� he explained.

Santos recently launched Queer Riot Consulting, offering educational opportunities to organizations and businesses in an effort to inform them on LGBTQIA+ history and create greater visibility for queer people in all arenas. 

“I think that banks need to be better educated on pronouns, gender identity, and how that plays into their customers and their customers’ experience. At the end of the day, banks work for their clients. It’s their money that’s being held so learning and serving them in the best way appropriate for them is important,â€� said Santos.

Many leaders in the queer community see sharing information on trans issues as a key factor in progressing traditional institutions to be more inclusive. Center on Halsted’s Director of Behavioral Health, Ing Swenson, says that a lot of the misinformation surrounding gender stems from the way we have been taught to understand it.

“I think [the biggest misconception is] that there’s only two choices. One is woman, female, feminine and the other is male, man, masculine and there’s no in-between that. I think gender is more like an ocean, you know, we’re just in this social construct in this society… When it comes down to it, that doesn’t even exist,� said Swenson.

Hunts says that banks are deeply-rooted in this conventional idea of gender, but adopting programs like My Name is a step in the right direction.

“Traditional banks don’t make space for lives that aren’t necessarily that cisgender, heteronormative imagination of what life is if that makes sense. I think they were created by cisgender men, and cisgender white men predominately I’m sure, and so the imagination for other lived experiences wasn’t there and I think now I’m starting to see a little bit of light through the cracks,� he said.

In the last few years, there has been a movement towards more ethical consumerism or conscious consumerism that aligns with one’s social, political, or environmental viewpoints. People want to know the values of the companies that they spend their money with.

“I’ve been doing that in my own life for over ten years and I think a lot of us LGBT folks, or anybody really who’s marginalized, has an eye in that detail a little bit more just because we’re all more aware. I mean we have digital everything available to us and so now information is more available to us, so we’re going to make better choices,� said Swenson.

Santos believes that social media and easier access to information is a driving force in this trend. 

“I think that because we have social media, because we have a voice, communities that were erased in the past, even though they existed, now have buying power and social power,� he said. “I think that millennials and gen-z are pushing forward this demand by being vocal. I think social media has a huge part in it. We know that people want to support things that support their values, and I think that people are becoming more uncompromising in having their values reflected where they spend their money.�

Hunts agrees and says that One’s commitment to not supporting the tobacco or fossil fuel industries, as opposed to other banks, initially led to his interest in joining the company. 

“That differentiation, plus our commitment to meaningful change for our customers like through My Name, and not just rainbow-washing or green-washing, I hope that resonates with prospective customers as well, that people can see that we’re trying our best to create a banking service that doesn’t negatively affect the place we call home or each other,� he said.

Hunts, Santos and Swenson all share similar outlooks on resolving the disconnect that banks and other institutions perpetuate towards trans people. They feel that forgoing traditional gender terminology altogether is the best way to align with the trans and nonbinary community.

“I mean the thing is with gender, there’s no end to it. There’s always going to be a new term and especially with new generations, it’s like they’re always creating new language just like with any social construct. So I guess, what’s the point of it? ‘Cause you’re never going to get it completely 100 percent inclusive, that’s just not going to happen. So let’s just take it out,� said Swenson.

Santos said that resisting these changes in language will be detrimental for businesses.

“I think that if banks and other institutions don’t move beyond the binary and beyond the idea of gender, then they’re going to be left behind. Our culture, our society is moving in that direction,� he said.

The push is towards more substantial, institutional change. Swenson says the performative support that many companies show during Pride month, which disappears for the rest of the year, is not going to cut it anymore. 

“What’s the point, besides not genuinely wanting to include us? We want more than allyship, we want an accomplice,â€� he said.


Cover Photo by Isi Parente on Unsplash

Antonio Santos is a member of the Illinois Latino News (ILLN) advisory board, guiding the editorial focus of stories to ensure that they are inclusive and reflective of the Hispanic-Latino community and relevant to their needs.

Santos is a queer, first generation Latinx activist from the Southwest Side of Chicago. He is the executive director and cofounder of the Gage Park Latinx Council. The organization operates a community cultural center rooted in popular education, art, abolition and mutual aid in a latinx community that has seen decades of divestment. Alongside his work in the community Antonio has used his lived experience and knowledge as a queer activist and historian to create and facilitate hundreds of hours of LGBTQIA+ workshops, programs and affinity spaces for universities, highschools and elementary schools. He currently sits on the community accountability committee for the Chicago Department of Public Health’s Racial Equity Plan and serves as the Gage Park lead for the City of Chicago’s Vaccine Equity plan.  

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ILLN Opinion+: Pamela Fullerton

On this episode of ILLN Opinion+, we spoke with mental health counselor and owner of Advocacy & Education Consulting, Pamela Fullerton. Advocacy & Education Consulting supports predominantly BIPOC, Latinx, and undocumented communities with mental health and education-based services and workshops.

Fullerton’s passion towards a career in advocacy, which eventually led her to create this firm, stems from a combination of her love for books plus her negative experience as a first-generation Latina in the United States navigating the education system.

She recalls that her school encouraged her mother to stop teaching her Spanish because it would hinder her English language acquisition. 

“My mom didn’t know any better, you know, first-generation immigrant, just wanted to do ‘the right thing’ and so she stopped teaching us Spanish. That was probably the beginning of how the powers that be in education, the majority white men, white women who didn’t live our lives and didn’t understand our community, they were making decisions on behalf of us and that was wrong,� she said.

Reading about diverse cultures and the issues that marginalized communities face, through the works of Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and Gabriel García Márquez, among others, further sparked her interest in advocating for change.

“I was reading about all these Black and Latinx authors and about you know, how being oppressed, how trauma that’s happened to our people, to our communities, how that’s impacted us and I just felt moved to want to do something in my life to want to support efforts of advocacy,� she said.

Fullerton feels that access to resources and education is the way to establish equity and equality for these groups.

“I do believe in the power of education, especially for minoritized populations. I believe that could be our key to help bring us to every single table that we need to be at at all different industries and sectors of life,� she said.

Because of this she dedicates time to work in schools, offering mental health services to help support needs that are not met due to a lack of mental health practitioners. She currently holds a mental health group for Black adolescent girls, who are statistically experiencing high suicide rates, and she also supervises clinicans at Northeastern Illinois University.

She says it’s especially important to cater services to BIPOC because the mental health of these groups has traditionally been neglected.

“Mental health is still stigmatized in the United States. It’s stigmatized especially among minority populations because the history of mental health is just like the history of racism in this country, we did not take care of Black and Brown and indiginous people in this country. We’re still not. But we’re trying to make amends for that,� she said.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Advocacy & Education Consulting: https://www.a-econsulting.com

Pew Research Center Research on Latinos and COVID-19: https://www.pewresearch.org/race-ethnicity/2021/07/15/many-hispanics-have-had-covid-19-or-lost-someone-to-it/

National Domestic Violence Hotline (English and Spanish)www.thehotline.org

1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224. 

The National Crisis Text Line: (877) 235-4525) 

The Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline: (877) 863-6338 https://www.ilcadv.org/

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7): 1-800-273-8255.

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Latino Summit 2022

Twenty-two years ago, Juanita Perez-Bassler and Dr. Claudia Rueda-Alvarez decided to start an organization dedicated to supporting Latinx students living within the northwest suburbs of Chicago. These two visionary women began with a mission to improve academic achievement among Hispanic/Latinx students and to encourage the pursuit of higher education. They called their organization The Latino Summit. 

The Latino Summit is now in its 22nd year. We operate as a 501c3, serving over 500 Hispanic/Latinx students from 17 northwest suburban high schools yearly. Like our Latinx community, we are stronger than ever. 

Our annual event, which normally takes place in-person in November, will now be a hybrid event due to the pandemic. During the week of March 7th, participants will be engaging in various activities at local colleges or virtually through the Latino Summit app. Those participants looking for educational support will get the opportunity to learn about the college process and transitioning from high school into higher education. They will also get the opportunity to hear from current Latinx college students and professionals about their experiences.  

In addition to educational support and services, participants will also have mentoring and networking opportunities, and pursuits related to personal development and career goals. Though we direct many of our services to high school students, any Latinx community member interested in personal, educational, and career development may use the platform by registering for the event and downloading the app ((http://www.latinosummitnws.org/events.html).

We are a self-and grant-funded nonprofit volunteer organization. All of the funding goes directly to the students we serve. Therefore, you can also support our organization by volunteering to join our college student or professional panel, become a sponsor of our annual event, or donate to this worthy cause (http://www.latinosummitnws.org/partners.html). 


Pamela Fullerton is a bilingual and bicultural Latina Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.

She runs Advocacy & Education Consulting, a professional counseling and consulting organization dedicated to ensuring social justice and advocacy through equitable access to mental health and educational-based services and supports.

Pamela specializes in trauma, immigration and acculturation, BIPOC experiences, career counseling, and life transitions.


Cover Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

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Latino News Network chosen to participate in Democracy SOS

“We are thrilled to welcome the inaugural cohort,�reads the announcement by Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) and Hearken, sponsors of Democracy SOS. �Together, they will experiment with new ways to strengthen democracy by working with and for the communities they serve.�

The nine-month Democracy SOS fellowship will support reporters and editors in significantly strengthening journalism’s role in advancing our democracy through innovative approaches that build civic engagement, equity and healthy discourse.

Democracy SOS Fellowship

The Latino News Network (LNN) is one of 20 news outlets accepted to participate in the initiative. “Journalism plays a critical role in preserving democracy,� said Hugo Balta, Owner and Publisher of LNN. �I am grateful that our newsroom will have the support to continue producing coverage that builds understanding, trust and engagement.�

Connecticut Latino News (CTLN) is producing the Advancing Democracy: Connecticut Solutions Journalism, a special series exploring solutions to why Hispanics-Latinos don’t vote by engaging with thought leaders in Connecticut and drawing from the best practices and lessons learned in communities across the country. The six-month program is sponsored by the SJN.

CTLN is one of the five independent news and information digital outlets that LNN oversees in New England and the Midwest.


SUGGESTION: Removing Language Barriers In Voting


“The Democracy SOS fellowship will not only help us expand the solutions journalism, Advancing Democracy initiative to our other markets, but also provide our news team with invaluable training,� said Balta.

Newsrooms will participate in a curriculum that includes training in the Citizens Agenda approach, solutions journalism, asset framing, ethics, solutions journalism and building trust in news alongside timely elective workshops.


Illinois Latino News (ILLN) is one of five independent statewide coverage, Hispanic-Latino editorial focus, English language news, and information websites under the ownership and leadership of nationally recognized journalist and media advocate, Hugo Balta. 

ILLN’s mission is to provide greater visibility and voice to Hispanics-Latinos in Illinois – an underrepresented community in mainstream newsrooms and news coverage.

Solutions Journalism Network (SJN): While journalists focus most of their coverage on what’s gone wrong, SJN seeks to rebalance the news by equipping journalists to investigate and explain, in a critical and clear-eyed way, how people are trying to solve social problems. Since its founding in 2013, SJN has worked with more than 600 news organizations and 25,000 journalists worldwide through in-person workshops and online resources and webinars.

Hearken helps organizations embed stakeholder listening into their growth and operations to build more resilient companies and communities. Hearken has shown that listening leads to stronger relationships, deeper engagement and better decisions, and enables individuals to make an outsize positive impact in the world. In 2020, Hearken worked in collaboration with more than two dozen civic organizations (including SJN) to stand up and deliver Election SOS, which supported journalists in responding to critical election information needs.

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Afro-Latinas stress the complexity of their roots

The first time DePaul junior, Ariana Collazo heard of an Afro-Latina individual in school was last year during her Afro Caribbean class when Haitian American novelist Edwidge Danticat came to speak to her class.  

“Listening to her story was really inspiring and I’ll never forget watching her,â€� said Collazo. 

Collazo said she felt connected to the author’s experience of being ostracized and the way classmates treated her differently growing up, coming from a Puerto Rican and African American background. 

Ariana Collazo in front of Lane Tech High School.
Photo courtesy by Ariana Collazo.

Collazo said she remembers being teased by elementary school kids when they found out that her mom was African American. “Of course, not speaking Spanish, they’d always be like ‘How are you a real Puerto Rican if you can’t even speak Spanish, and your mom is Black?â€� Collazo said. 

Although in the U.S 5 percent of the population identifies as Afro-Latino according to 2019 Pew Research, there are around 150 million Afro Latinos in Latin America’s 540 million total population according to a CRS Report

The histories of Afro-Latinas have been largely erased from most educational discourses leaving individuals to learn about it on their own and deal with the repercussions of not seeing themselves represented. 

The invisibility of Afro-Latinos in popular discourse and media leads many young individuals to wrestle with the validity of their ethnic identity. 

Dr. Jacqueline Lazú associate dean and professor at Depaul said, “Not having your narratives centered in any historical tradition, cultural tradition, that you belong to makes you feel excluded. It makes you feel like you’re not worthy, it makes you feel like your experience and your history and who you are doesn’t matter.â€� 

The community also holds colorist ties causing Afro-Latinos to feel that they must favor their Latino instead of their Black roots in order to avoid prejudice, a common occurrence if they have a lighter complexion. 

Michelle Bueno Vasquez a Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University studying political science and transnational Afro-Latino diaspora, said “For some people, that’s a difficult thing to reckon with, that you’re going to introduce that difference and expose yourself to racist harm, subconsciously some folks just don’t want to go there, they would rather not identify as Black.â€� 

According to a study by the State University of New York at Albany, Latinos who identify themselves as Black have lower-incomes, higher unemployment rates, higher poverty rates, less education, and fewer opportunities than those who identify themselves as “Whiteâ€� or “otherâ€�. 

Bueno Vasquez said the mobilization of Latino political organizations has encouraged many Afro-Latinos to identify themselves with Latinos instead of their Black roots in order to gain more funding from the government.

This tactical behavior leads to minority movement essentialization when minority movements set defining cultural or biological characteristics that are shared by all members to create a unified category that benefits the majority within the minority.

Michelle Bueno Vasquez at Las Terrenas, República Dominicana.  
Photo courtesy by Michelle Bueno Vasquez

“It leaves people like myself, Afro-Latinos or indigenous Latinos, or Latinos who don’t speak Spanish like Brazilians, Haitians in the dust and doesn’t provide for our safety, our inclusion, and our benefits, and uses funds that essentially we helped them get,� said Bueno Vasquez.

Afro-Latino’s denying their Blackness, “It also means you have to deny parts of yourself and probably encounter a lot of microaggressions in order to be in those spaces,â€� said Bueno Vasquez. 

Bueno Vasquez and Collazo were among the many Afro-Latina women that experienced low self-esteem in their youth.  

Bueno Vasquez said she recalls around the ages of nine or 10, “I would pray to God that I would wake up being lighter and having straighter hair and green eyesâ€� whereas Collazo said she remembers thinking she was ugly. 

Bueno Vasquez said educating girls of Afro-Latina histories and seeing them in the media at an early age can be beneficial because it can help bypass the self-hatred and self-effacing period many go through. 

Bueno Vasquez advises people to acknowledge the internal racism that everyone has in terms of one’s appearance and others. She said to question why one may find certain qualities to be attractive because “When we think of sexual attraction or taste, it’s a lot of times reproduction of learned racist hierarchies and things we think afford privilege.â€� 

Lazú said that the problem lies within the dominant Westernized beauty standards that Latin America and the United States have constructed to purposefully cast a negative image of people with dark complexions. 

Lazú said Afro-Latinas must be “willing to understand and change the ways in which we may ourselves be even unwittingly complicit in reinforcing those beauty standards and systems of oppression. We should demand representation and advocate for the inclusion of Black and Indigenous women in the spaces we see us missing.â€�  

For more information on advancing the visibility of Black Latinidad visit the Afro-Latino Forum online.  


Cover Graphic by Jocelyn Diaz

Jacqueline Cardenas

“Jacqueline Cardenas is an undergrad sophomore majoring in journalism with a concentration in Latino Communication at DePaul University. She is a first-generation Mexican-American student and aspires to diversify the news industry. She loves nature and reading in her spare time. Twitter: @jackiecardenas_�


Publisher’s Notes: You can read Santiago’s Spanish language version of Afro-Latinas stress the complexity of their roots by clicking on Mes de la Historia Afroamericana: Afrolatinas destacan la complejidad de sus raíces.

Illinois Latino News (ILLN) and La DePaulia are partners in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.

The post Afro-Latinas stress the complexity of their roots appeared first on ILLN.

Latino artists leave messages of activism through streets of Chicago

Art is more human than even science. It has been a constant form of expression since before written language appeared. The first sample of writing was created about 5,500 years ago, while the first cave painting was created 40,000 years ago.

Art is part of humanity. It is a seed that as humans we plant so that in the future we can see its fruits. As the popular phrase goes, “they wanted to bury us but they didn’t know we were seeds.”

So it makes perfect sense that we continue to use art to see the change in the world around us. It is an excellent tool to communicate beyond what other mediums allow us to.

Activism and art have been excellent allies throughout history — from music that protests against discrimination to paintings that reflect the horrors of war that powerful leaders have tried to make invisible.

William Guerrero AKA “The Kid From Pilsen”

William Guerrero also known as “The Kid From Pilsen”, a local artist, activist, and photographer in the predominantly Mexican neighborhood describes art to be a reflection of the present. But also a form to connect with the community.

For him, art is the way to give your point of view, share your story, and encourage others to do it while they can. It is clear to him that one of the characteristics that make art an inclusive medium is that “anyone can do it.”

Chris Cervantes, a digital artist from the South Side, believes that “digital art democratizes participation.”

Cervantes started with digital art because he wanted to create, but he didn’t necessarily have a canvas or paint resources to start.

He emphasizes the importance of creating a narrative within the art. “Be part of the conversation,” Cervantes said. 

In the face of the message you want to give, he advises you to “say it loudly and honestly”. His message through art is to not worry too much about being correct, but instead, continue to create and participate.

So then, art and activism are very similar, right? The act of doing and acting is what contains the greatest value. 

That’s how Frillz, a muralist and illustrator, also thinks about it. 

As a child, Frillz would ride his bike through the streets of Logan Square, see the art on the streets, and think: “I could do it too.â€� 

“I want my art to inspire others to create as well,” Frillz said.

That’s another factor that art and activism have in common: They’re contagious. “Art is a great way of communicating messagesâ€� and for this reason “the possibilities are endless,â€� Frillz added.

YCA Gallery exhibition, Frillz Chicago

Milton Coronado, renowned muralist and activist, comments that art can serve as a “call to action” for a community. 

Coronado is a muralist and a public speaker. Through his art, his goal is to embody hope. 

For Coronado, his murals have a “strong connection to Latin American culture.” His paintings range from Vincente Fernandez to Vanessa Guillen.

His messages place special emphasis on seeking conflict resolution without using violence. His art, for him, helps him to “share his experience”, “to send a message to demand change” and to create “opportunities for dialogue” between groups with different positions and perspectives. 

Coronado said he desires his art will serve as a long-term plan for change, seeking to “influence future generations.” In all honesty, I think it is being achieved.

Adam Toledo mural, Milton Coronado

My central question from the beginning of this piece was “is art a good medium for activism?� and it is clear that it is one of the best.

Not only because of its accessibility but also because of its ability to send messages that tend to be sometimes even more powerful than words. 

The roles of murals, photos, illustrations, digital art, and many other types of art have the power to promote change. This is the interpretation that I give to Emma Goldman’s famous phrase “If I can’t dance, your revolution doesn’t interest meâ€�: The revolution can be successful or unsuccessful, but it is art and culture that keep the fight alive.


Cover Photo: Artist Milton Coronado commemorated Marlen Ochoa Lopez, a young mother murdered in Chicago, with a mural in Pilsen. Credit: Milton Coronado.

Publisher’s Notes: You can read Santiago’s Spanish language version of Latino artists leave messages of activism through streets of Chicago by clicking on Artistas latinos dejan la marca de su activismo en Chicago.

Illinois Latino News (ILLN) and La DePaulia are partners in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.

The post Latino artists leave messages of activism through streets of Chicago appeared first on ILLN.