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México del Norte

Op Ed by: Jorge Mújica Murias

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On the (Lack) of Latino Leadership

“Who is the current more important Latino leader in the country?” asked the Pew Hispanic Center a few weeks ago to 1,375 adult Latinos, and published its results a week ago. Notimex, the Mexican news agency reported the most relevant finding in a single line: “There is no Hispanic leadership in the USA.”


It first gave me the impression that they were reporting a no-news item, since everybody knows nobody is recognized as a national leader is this community, despite being already about 15 percent of the population. “About 64 percent of answers were ‘I don’t know’ when asked who did they consider the most important Latino leader in the country,” reported Notimex. Another 10 percent answered “nobody is leader in the Latino community.”


What surprised me was the next part, which actually named names to the unknown Latino leadership: “Exploring the issue of Leadership, presenting some names of nationwide prominent Hispanics, the name most often recognized was that of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, with about 7 percent, followed by Chicago’s Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, with 5 percent.”


Right there I got so surprised, because it does not sound weird that three out of every four Latinos recognize “nobody” as a leader, but that the rest consider Sotomayor or Gutiérrez as “leaders” sounded really worrisome. It got even worse, as I kept reading: “Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was considered as Latino’s leader by 3 percent, and TV news anchor Jorge Ramos got 2 percent.”


Just to think that the Latino community may be led by Sotomayor, Gutiérrez, Villaraigosa, and Univisión’s Jorge Ramos is so scary that I looked up the whole study to check the results.


How to Make A Leader When You Don’t Have One

Pew’s study is titled “National Leader Latino Leader? The Job Is Open.” As any poll, good and bad, this one does lead the answers to a certain point.


It happens that after the first question, pollsters asked directly about a dozen names to measure name recognition. Besides the aforementioned, people were asked about César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, Bill Richardson, Janet Murguía, and someone by the name of Barack Obama, maybe a Latino from Rumania because the name does not sound like Spanish.


Out of the 8 that got some votes, only two were recognized by more than half of the respondents: Sotomayor and Ramos. The next four were recognized by an average of one in four: Villaraigosa, Gutiérrez, Bill Richardson, and Dolores Huerta. The last two got one out of every ten answers. The guy with the weird name did not get a single supporter as “Latino leader.”


The real trick was in the third question. Those who recognize a name were directly asked if that person was a “leader.” In order, the “recognized leaders” were Sotomayor, recently appointed to the Supreme Court, Univisión’s anchor Jorge Ramos, L.A.’s mayor Villaraigosa, and Luis Gutiérrez. The rest got recognized as “leaders” by less than 20 percent of those who recognized their names.


My initial surprise was gone after catching the trick. The most recognizable names are people who frequently appeared on TV. It sounds more like “popularity” than “leadership” or it does speak about the good wish that there was a real leader. In that case, Pew could as well have asked for Los Tigres del Norte, and there would have been unanimity in the recognition. By the way, bad news for Univisión.


But the problem starts with the first question. It is true; there is not a Latino national leader. I guess this happens because of two main reasons: first, the nostalgia of having a personal Leadership like that of Martin Luther King or César Chávez, and second because of the media.


I believe there is leadership, but no individual. Thousands of activists—not Judges nor congressmen nor news anchors—are the everyday leadership, in the streets, in the barrios, getting people out of jails. Is like a political party without a name. They are the ones really leading the struggles of the community, but they are not on TV, and that’s a problem.


And the big problema is to assign a leadership to people like Janet Murguía, Director of the National Council of La Raza, someone who may be very well known only at home but who meets with politicians all the time to talk about meaningless things like immigration reform and act as “the voice of the Latino community.”


On the Internet: http://pewhispanic.org/



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