No sooner had CtLatinoNews.com posted a story yesterday about Latino candidates in New Haven than the texts and calls from the Elm City began arriving, asking why we had described mayoral candidate Henry Fernandez as a Latino. Mr. Fernandez is actually African-American.
An ironic assumption on our part? CtLatinonews.com has written extensively about the difficulty in identifying who is a Latino. We’ve discussed academic definitions, government use of surnames that can be faulty at best, and even how far back in family history does one go to identify as a Latino. The topic has been an ongoing one and has generated much discussion on both sides of the argument, with some Latinos viewing those who have newly discovered their Latino roots as opportunistic, while others are saying the larger the numbers the better off Latinos are, with regard to everything from federal funding and consumer and political power at stake.
Nevertheless, on the Fernandez story, we had to ask ourselves, how did our seasoned reporter miss this fact and how did a campaign misunderstand the focus of a story about Latino candidates?
The story assigned was to focus on Latino candidates in this year’s New Haven races. Campaigns were contacted. Did our reporter ever ask Mr. Fernandez if he was Latino? No, nor would we typically ask anyone else’s ethnic background.
Mr. Fernandez is well-versed on the myriad of issues many Latinos still face; he has worked diligently over the years for the betterment of the Latino community in New Haven. He says he assumed he was being asked questions about Latino political power and importance in New Haven because of his extensive background in working with the city’s political community and because he has done numerous interviews and written extensively about the Latino vote. His campaign manager says he does not remember being told the story was about Latino candidates.
While we appreciate the fact that every day we see so many more in the political world view the Latino community as essential in their quest for office, we have no reason to doubt Mr. Fernandez’s assumption that ours was a generic story. High profile Latino leaders in New Haven say he has never presented himself in their circles as a Latino, rather, they say Mr. Fernandez is a highly regarded civic leader in New Haven and respected by many in the Latino community.
So was it a miscommunication? You decide.