Champion of Change: Natalia Muñoz Using Media To Tell the Latino Story

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Natalia Muñoz is very clear about her work and why she founded La Prensama.com, a bilingual arts, culture and political blog in western Massachusetts six years ago.  A former writer for the New York Daily News, the Associated Press and the San Juan Start, she now lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Her professional background is a mosaic of experiences in the communications field, from print journalism to online to film, centered on the premise that information is power.  She is a bilingual and bicultural journalist born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and is skilled in English and in Spanish, as a writer, editor, graphics designer and publisher.
She has also co-produced  the award-winning documentary “Vieques:Worth Every Bit of Struggle,” a profile of the movement in Vieques to stop military target practices from taking place on their island.
A passionate activist for the advancement of the Latino community, in addition to publishing the  La Prensa of Western Massachusetts (www.LaPrensaMA.com), she also volutneers her time on several boards including  serving as a Trustee for  Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College and serves as a Member, Board of Directors, WTCC Radio, a community radio station.   Natalia chose media as her tool for change to give Latinos a voice.
 
1.  You are very passionate about  communicating Latino issues, why is that?
Corporate media does not see Latinos; they interpret us and very badly. This is evidenced by the breath-taking lack of Latinos at the highest levels throughout corporate media. Look at NBC, CBS, The New York Times, the Daily Beast – look at any of them – and you will not find three Latinos, or any people of color for that matter, in the top positions. We remain tokens. In fact, if anyone can name several Latinos in top management positions in media companies, it means that there are not enough! This applies to all people of color; we are still not at the table in most places: politics, education, health care, media. And don’t be fooled by sports teams with lots of people of color on the teams because the management is not at all reflective of who is out that getting kicked on the field.
 
2.  What do you hope to accomplish with LaPrensaMa.com?
Our motto is “Our stories. At last.”  That is because we present our views on everything from pop culture to education to health and politics. When I launched La Prensa in print back in 2007, we had dozens of local commentators on every subject. I actively sought out voices that showed our diversity in views and histories. More than two dozen countries in the world have Spanish as the official language, and our DNA is a fired up mix of indigenous, African, and Spanish. Look at Perú, look at Puerto Rico – such different histories with overlapping commonalities. At La Prensa, we share our stories and provide a space where people can look for jobs in our region.
 
3. What do you see as the future of Western Mass as the Latino population increase?
As the Latino population increases, we will see more Latinos in policy-making positions. Already, Springfield, the third largest city in Massachusetts, has several Latinos running for School Committee and City Council. This is not to say that being Latino automatically qualifies one for public office, because we all know about one Latino or another that has messed up bad in public office. In WMass, we are lucky that there is a growing number of smart, progressive Latinos who are pushing for positive change through elective office.
4. What advice would you give young Latinos in Southern New England?
Find out what you love to do, then follow that dream. Most people are told to fit in somewhere, to adjust their dreams to what some corporation wants. Don’t be led into careers you don’t feel passionate about! Think of the people who have jobs that you would love to have. Call them up and say, “If you have time, I would love to meet with for a cup of coffee to talk about how to got to where you are, because what you do is something that interests me, too.”  You would actually have to leave a message in most cases, but do it anyway. Life is a very short ride. Don’t settle. Aspire.

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