Trinity University’s Maverick Lecture series returns this week after a two-year hiatus with a speaker who has persevered in sharing the untold stories of Latino communities.
Award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa will give a speech titled “Latinos in the Media” Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Laurie Auditorium at Trinity University. The event, which hasn’t been held since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be free and open to the public.
“I think the thing I really want people to take away from this speech is that they have power,” Hinojosa said. “That’s really what I want … that the people who come to see my speech leave saying, I am the one that has power. … I have agency in a democracy, I am carrying the future of democracy. I have to carry my humanity and protect my brothers and sisters.”
The Maverick Lecture series, dedicated to longtime San Antonio journalist and civil rights lawyer Maury Maverick Jr., focuses on the issues that Maverick found the most important in Texas.
Hinojosa, who has had a 30-year career in journalism reporting for NPR, CBS, PBS, WNBC and CNN, said she will focus her speech on the perseverance needed to report on hard issues.
In her early career, Hinojosa said she was often the first Latina in various newsrooms. She was also among the first journalists to report on youth violence in urban communities on a national scale.
“I have deep emotional connection to some of the saddest stories of our time,” she said. Hinojosa added she has seen the emotional wear and tear of those stories on the Latino community.
Despite facing criticism, Hinojosa has continued to report on the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where in some cases people die seeking a better life.
“There were people who were like, ‘Why do you want to report on that story?’ It’s been happening forever. There’s nothing new. That’s precisely the kind of story that I want to report. I will not normalize or allow this to be normalized,” Hinojosa said.
When she first started her career, there were few women — much less Latinas — in journalism, Hinojosa said, so she didn’t really have a role model to follow.
“You always feel strange at a new job, but then just added on to that, everybody was looking at me and probably thinking, ‘Oh, she was an affirmative action hire,’” said Hinojosa.
But it wasn’t that simple. Through the discomfort and unfamiliarity of the reporting she was doing on such tough stories, Hinojosa realized the privilege that got her to where she was. She had attended an elite private high school in Chicago, and then Barnard College, which is part of Columbia University.
With that privilege, Hinojosa said she felt a big responsibility to the community she came from. Her journalistic interests grew as she simultaneously found herself wanting to share a clear picture of what Latinos and Latinas experience in the U.S..
“I saw that there was a whole part of the United States that was growing, expanding, impacting, increasingly, the life in the United States,” she said.
In 2010, that responsibility became her motivation and led her to open her own company, Futuro Media, which produces Latino USA, a program for NPR. At that point, she had been in the field long enough to have gathered a multigenerational audience.
Gaining the community’s trust is no easy feat. Hinojosa, who actively reports from the field, said that first, she’s always authentic about what she does. Her goal is simply to report on humanity in a respectful way.
Now she leads a newsroom full of reporters at Futuro Media who aim to do the same, she said, telling stories that challenge the narrative around who Latinos and Latinas are. She spoke on the importance of reaching those communities.
“Latinos and Latinas are a growing audience and population,” Hinojosa said. “That is irrefutable. In San Antonio … the Latino population is the majority. So anybody who is not engaging that population in any way, shape, or form, I’m kind of like, ‘What’s your future? What’s your future plan?'”
When heading into speaking roles like at the Maverick Lecture, Hinojosa said people have a lot of expectations, but she always tries to put the expectation back on her audience.
“Everybody who [will be] there has a deep responsibility,” she said. “We have to change society for the better, and particularly in regards to the future in Latinos and Latinas.”
The annual Maverick Lecture is supported by The William and Salomé Scanlan Foundation. For those unable to attend, the speech will be livestreamed at live.trinity.edu.
William Scanlan Jr. is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of individual members, click here.