Connecting the diverse communities among Latinos

Latinos are the largest, fastest growing minority in the United States. But that label is not enough to describe the many differences – ethnicity, immigration status, language, culture — among the more than 50 million people in the United States who were born or have ancestry in Latin American countries.

The problem is that not all people of Latin American origin think of themselves at Latinos. That’s a phrase used in America to describe a minority that really has many distinct subgroups. The result is that stories about Peruvians or Nicaraguans or Venezuelans, for example, generally stay within the geographic communities they are written for. They are seldom seen by other Peruvian or Nicaraguan or Venezuelan communities elsewhere in the United States – or outside the United States.

The power is in the people

So I see a great opportunity for the different communities under the Latino umbrella to learn more about each other. I want to find ways to help their independent media share content and bring their stories to affiliated but wider audiences here and abroad. And mobile devices, I believe, will be the best platform.

Stanford and Silicon Valley are certainly the place to learn about these technologies. Nevertheless, for me the most valuable thing about the Knight Fellowship is the people.

I have found in the staff and in my peer fellows a feedback system of ideas and support. Former fellows, like Claudia Núñez (2012) and Bruno López (1999), are also contacts and counselors for my project. I feel that I have known them forever. There is a tacit understanding, an almost family feeling that has helped me to bear my initial skepticism and the doubts that assault me once in a while.

Because the spouses of fellows are allowed to fully participate in the fellowship, I have the great support of my husband, who is developing the technical part of my project and to whom this year at Stanford has given the opportunity to explore other facets of his profession as a software developer and aspiring entrepreneur.

Contagious enthusiasm

Again and again, talking with other people and of their ventures — such as the Peruvian writer Daniel Alarcón, founder of the Radio Ambulante, a pan-Latino stories project — has taught me a lot. Not so much about business plans, like expected, but of enthusiasm and perseverance, as contagious as a virus. And that change is to be expected.

Bastiaan Janmaat, founder of LifeSwap, a marketplace that allows you to try out careers which you may be passionately interested in, told me one must assume that changes in a project are a natural evolution in the process. He was one of my classmates in the Managing Growing Enterprises course at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

I have found inspiration in the many workshops and seminars the fellowships offers. At one of the first workshops, Richard Gingras, the head of Google News, talked about the loss of old channels of news distribution, which confirmed my view that mobile devices offer an opportunity.

And at Stanford, I learned something that I had never thought of before, perhaps through ignorance or skepticism: to constantly ask myself why not — a common line of questioning in this environment.

In that spirit of “why not,” I signed up for the Managing Growing Enterprises class, which I got into through a lottery. I have even proposed a project in StartX, a startup accelerator for Stanford students.

Stanford and the valley that surrounds it form a space where it is perceived that all, or almost all, is possible. A true market based on the bartering of ideas and contributions and where change is the antidote to failure.