Since 1993, NPR’s Latino USA has been documenting one of the most incredible transformations of American life and reality—the exploding Latino population and its integration in the a changing America. Founding executive producer and pioneer Latina journalist Maria Martin had a vision of who should be the voice of this important story of American transformation when she chose award-winning multimedia journalist Maria Hinojosa to anchor the program.
Hinojosa began her radio career at WKCR-FM at Barnard College at Columbia University in New York City. She was the first Latina to be hired at National Public Radio in Washington, and later—based in New York—she became the first Latina correspondent for the network.
Hinojosa has received the Ruben Salazar Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council of La Raza and the prestigious Leadership Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She has been documenting the story of Latinos in America for her entire career. As a young Mexican immigrant growing up on the south side of Chicago, Hinojosa realized that the story of her family and her community was invisible in the mainstream media. “I knew that there were thousands of others like me out there, but our issues, our reality, our American stories were not being told. Something inside of me knew that I had a role to play in bringing forth the voice of Latinos. Though I had no role models and wondered if I could ever find a place in the mainstream media, the urgency in speaking to the voiceless propelled me in my career.” Because of her work with Latino USA, Hinojosa is now recognized as one of the most influential Latino/a journalists in the country. Her voice of integrity, honesty, and humility has become an inspiration for young journalists—Latino and non-Latino alike.
Latino USA is committed to informing Americans about the people who are increasingly becoming their neighbors, friends, and co-workers. But this transformation of America, like all others, has not been easy. Every week Latino USA tells the important news stories about this community and also documents the cultural impact this change is having. Latino USA sees itself as a program that opens the doors of knowledge for Americans about Latinos, but the program also plays a role in educating Latinos about each other. From the outset, Latino USA has understood the complexity of the Latino community and has been driven to break down the notion that there is a monolithic Latino point-of-view. The program has not shied away from reporting on problems and divisions within Latino communities.
In the new century, the drama of Latino immigration has become one of the most compelling yet divisive stories of our country. Latino USA is heralded by thousands of listeners who say that the program keeps them in touch with the pulse of a new America. Over the past year, Latino USA has opened its airwaves and website to increasing the dialogue about what this change means. Says Hinojosa, “When the hate mail I received began to spike, I decided I wanted our listeners to join me in the process of understanding this deep division while at the same time finding a place of communion. I write personal essays about this and invite my listeners to join me in this dialogue and they have. And not everyone is on the same page. But if we can learn to understand more about these divisions, if we can talk about them on the airwaves of public radio, if we can share our fears and our celebration of this community, we are at least creating a place of common ground.”