By Jareliz Diaz

PRLACC celebrated Hispanic heritage month by inviting host and executive producer of Latino USA, Maria Hinojosa, to speak at UConn.

The crowd applauded in welcoming Hinojosa at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on September 10 where she spoke about her career as a Latina reporter and encouraged Latinx students to follow their dreams. She tackled many insecurities Latinx students might face when trying to discover themselves by giving them hope and showing them anything is possible. 

Maria Hinojosa (left) and PRLACC director Fanny Hannon (right) sit on the stage at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, September 18. (Photo: Jareliz Diaz)

Hinojosa said she never pictured her life like this since growing up, Latinos were a great minority in the United States. She said she did not fit in at school and she faced identity crisis not knowing what group she truly belonged to.

“I actually never hoped and dreamed of being a journalist. There were no Latino or Latina journalists on television, so  I could never aspire of being something I had never seen,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa spoke about her demeanor and persistence that made her a successful minority journalist in the newsroom.

“When I got to NPR, I was the only and first Latina there. I was the first Latina to get hired. When I saw what it was to be the correspondent or the anchor, I figured I want to have my own voice… I quit my job and started all over again… I came to understand I have extraordinary privilege. If I have all this privilege, I can’t be silent,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa said she encourages students to dream big.  She let students know that she knows how they feel and she was once in their shoes.

“Latinos and Latinas are having to deal with the psyche of not feeling visible. We actually don’t have time for you as young leaders to be having imposter syndrome. That’s when I got my job at NPR. My message is, you gotta have those dreams and you got to understand that you are in the right place,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa even approached issues such as mental health in the Latinx community. She said she encourages students to see therapists and speak to people about their problems. Hinojosa said many Latinos tend to ignore mental health when it comes to their families, but that needs to stop.

A senior sociology major at UConn, Shariel Rodriguez-Echevarria, said he found Hinojosa inspiring.

“Maria definitely got me motivated. I feel like we could all feel the same way as people of color and Latinx community, we can do anything we put our minds to and our hearts to. The journey might be hard but it’s definitely possible,” Echevarria said.