by Ramona Pilar Gonzales
“I resent the fact that I am constantly told that as a ‘Latino,’ I am supposedly ‘culturally handicapped’ or somehow unfit to handle high technology. Once I have the apparatus in front of me, however, I am uncontrollably compelled to work against it — to question it, expose it, subvert it, and/or imbue it with humor, radical politics, and linguas polutas such as Spanglish, Franglé and cyberñol.'” – Guillermo Gomez-Peña, from The Virtual Barrio @ The Other Frontier (or the Chicano interneta) 1997
As the presidential debate season of 2012 winds down, different news outlets make varied claims as to who’s ahead in the polls. Conservative and liberal outlets claim their candidate the winner, while the ever-dwindling “objective” outlets give the win to one person one day, the other the next. Essentially, it all comes down to the reporter’s opinion and point of view of the information they’ve gathered to create their article.
And then there’s Twitter.
After the first presidential debates this election season, The Atlantic Wire declared not President Obama or Governor Romney, but Twitter, to be the undisputed winner of the evening. Live-tweeting the debates this year became a part of the growing town hall forum that now lives on Twitter, making it easy for people to immediately react and engage in the ongoing dialogue. A handful of folks used the opportunity to create satirical Twitter handles, memes and trending topics. Because of Twitter’s egalitarian nature, unlike network news, information consumers are not relegated to a few talking heads they don’t relate to.
In my case, I go to Twitter to hear what other intelligent, educated, (mostly) bilingual brown folk think, because I’m not going to find it on mainstream media or even NPR (which is all the mainstream with none of the funding).
Twitter was actually how I found out about Jorge Ramos’s crazy stunt of interviewing both President Obama and Governor Romney on Univision. The Mexican journalist (and snappy dresser) tweets in both English and Spanish and is retweeted by a bevy of Latinate, social media savvy writers, journalists and artists quick with a quip. Ramos took it upon himself (and Univision) to organize the event after learning that the debate commission had no “Hispanic” journalists scheduled to be present at any of the debates.
“The commission decided that two men and two women were going to be the moderators for the debates, and I really thought it was incredible, truly incredible, that they didn’t choose a Hispanic journalist to be part of the debates…And at the end, what we had to do was the following: If they didn’t want to invite us to their party, we created our own party.” – Jorge Ramos
Considering that the U.S. shares half a hemisphere with Spanish speakers, and roughly 12% of the country speaks Spanish, one would think there might be some interest in speaking to that chunk of U.S. voters. And, evidently, only one news source did.
Speaking of throwing your own party, noted satirist and cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz created the profile for the party of the Juan Percent: @MexicanMittRomneez. The founder of Pocho.com created the Twitter handle early 2012 as a response to the fact that Governor Romney had roots in Mexico that the mainstream media ignored.
Since its inception, the profile of the self-described “most Mexican man in the world” has doled out some of the best political satire available, rivaling anything on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report or Key & Peele‘s Obama Translator.
When performance artist and border brujo Guillermo Gomez-Peña wrote about a Chicano presence in cyberspace, he spoke about his own difficulties with the Internet as a place that was somewhat off-limits to Chicanas and Latinos, often because of lack of access to technology that made a presence a possibility. Fast-forward 15 years and access has increased exponentially. Search Twitter with the hashtag #LATISM (Latinos in Social Media) and there are journalists, news outlets, writers, activists, and fashion bloggers who are active in establishing a presence on the internet and finding ways to engage in discourse so that it’s not just them talking about us or to us, but it’s us talking to each other as well. Even mainstream networks are slowly beginning to realize that we have started our own party. And we know how to party.