With more than thirty years of experience in journalism, Maria Hinojosa has become a fundamental voice for the Latino community in the United States.
Changing the microphone for pen and paper, the Mexican journalist will provide a window into her career, and into the “love and hate” relationship that immigrants in this country often feel. In a conversation with NBC, Hinojosa discussed the content of her memoir, published under the title Once I Was You, which will be released next September.
“This book covers many things: our legacy of exclusionary immigration policies, and how that conflicts with the narrative that we are a nation that welcomes immigrants, how journalists of color are often sidelined because of a perception of lack of objectivity, and the feminist reality of growing up as an American, Latina woman,” Hinojosa told NBC News in an interview.
Born in Mexico City in 1961, Hinojosa moved with her family to Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood when she was just over a year old, after her father, Dr. Raul Hinojosa, obtained a position at the University of Chicago.
Even though her intentions were to become an actress when she moved to New York in 1979, her experience at Barnard College would change her mind, especially after hosting a Latino radio show during her student years.
Finally, and with a degree in Latin American Studies under her belt, her career would lead her to be the voice of a community that still feels uncomfortable in its own skin.
“I grew up feeling invisible,” she said. “We never saw anybody who looked like me in the media when I was growing up.”
That’s why the title Once I Was You becomes a kind of promise.
As she explained in her interview, the title came about after a meeting of the journalist at the McAllen airport with an undocumented girl who was being transported along with others by an organization hired by the government during the family separation policy.
After a brief conversation, Hinojosa said goodbye to the girl saying: “I see you — because once I was you.”
“I’m not saying I was ever a child migrant from Central America,” she said. “But I know what it is like to be ‘the other,’ and that makes it easier to recognize ‘the other’ around you.”
Her tenacity made her the producer of one of the first public radio programs aimed at the Latino community, Latino USA, in 1992, where she was a host for over 20 years.
In 2010, Hinojosa founded Futuro Media Group, a platform that offers “community-based journalism that gives critical voice to the voiceless by harnessing the power of independent media to tell stories that are overlooked or under reported by traditional media.”
From her experience as a journalist in large networks such as CNN and PBS to losing loved ones, the journalist recalls in her new book all the stages of her life, and how being a woman and a Latina had a lot to do with her resilience and ability to overcome obstacles.
Today, her work has been recognized with awards such as the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Radio Award, as well as four Emmy Awards, including one in 2002 for her coverage of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Once I Was You is her fourth published book, following Raising Raul: Adventures Raising Myself and My Son (1999), Crews: Gang Members Talk to Maria Hinojosa (1995), and The Latino List/La Lista de Latinos (2011).