As the person who founded Latino Rebels in 2011 and is still its majority owner, I wanted to gather my thoughts tonight and address what was a challenging day for the talented people who are 100% committed to the group’s mission and believe deeply in where we go next editorially.
Although I no longer handle the day-to-day duties for Latino Rebels, I talked to a few loyal readers and friends who shared their misgivings about an opinion piece we published last Friday, called “In Defense of Columbus Day” and written by Jonathan Marcatoni, a regular contributor to this site. Jonathan has a no-holds barred style that I have always admired, from his provocative “F*ck Being a ‘Latino Writer’ essay to his recent (and just as provocative) op-ed about how native Spanish speakers shame non-Spanish-speaking Latinos. So I was not surprised to see a draft of his Columbus piece sitting in DRAFT form about a week ago.
When I read it, I knew the piece is not something that we would normally publish on LatinoRebels.com, but since we have published op-eds about Columbus Day (see last year’s “Why I Don’t Celebrate Columbus Day,” or the republished “Columbus, Latinos and the Census?”), I suggested that we run a series of op-eds this year about the most controversial U.S. holiday ever.
If Jonathan’s piece was clearly the pro-Columbus one, someone else could write an op-ed that aligned more to the editorial views of Latino Rebels. I didn’t agree with Jonathan’s op-ed at all, but I knew it reflected a side of the issue that many Latin Americans and Latinos espoused, as uncomfortable as that thought makes me feel. So, Latino Rebels deputy editor Hector Luis Alamo and I had a convo about what we would do. Run Jonathan’s piece on Friday the 9th, have Hector write a response to Jonathan’s piece for the 12th. Let Jonathan know, and let’s get it going. Done.
And that is what happened, until we got a bonus: Néstor David Pastor read Jonathan’s piece on Friday morning and by Friday night, had already written “In Defiance of Columbus Day.” On Saturday morning, we published David’s piece. I love David’s work and his voice. His response was the kind of response I would have written.
Today, we published Hector’s piece, as planned. The best decision I ever made was to bring Hector in to write, edit, write, edit and write some more.
I was not surprised that the op-eds generated reaction. I was looking forward to having real conversations about each piece in a forum that allowed for it: just like we have done in the past and will continue to do so. I was happy that a lot of those convos happened on my personal Facebook wall. I also knew that Jonathan’s piece was an editorial risk we would take. We took it. Latino Rebels has always taken risks, and will continue to do so. To some of our readers, the reaction to Jonathan’s piece was visceral and it led to a backlash today, three days after Jonathan’s piece was published. People I respected let Latino Rebels know about it, especially one of our greatest friends and contributors:
It is your right to publish this piece. It is our right to denounce you for it. And make that denouncement public, visible @latinorebels
— BlancaVNYC (@BlancaVNYC) October 12, 2015
I agree 100% with what Blanca tweeted. I also agree that the opinion piece we published shocked some people, even leading to more social media tweets and critiques. A lot of those critiques were valid, especially from those friends whom I have immense respect for. Some critiques, however, just crossed the line. I read them all. They got very personal, to the point that people have now gone into my personal Facebook wall to screen grab my personal and private thoughts. I won’t address them here. In fact, I will never address them. I lost a few friends as well for giving a voice to a contributor who writes for us on a regular basis. (This site has over 160 contributors and I will always publish them when they pitch me.)
I also saw that Latino Rebels Twitter responded to some critics, like we always have done. Some of the critics were very reasonable, some were not. Some of our tweets were respectful, some were not. The vast majority of tweets came from people who had never read us before, never read Jonathan’s piece, never read David’s response, never read Hector’s response or didn’t even know who we were or what we do. Some profiles actually cared about how we could improve from this experience. Others cheered for us to fail and were relishing in the reaction we are getting. Still others got creative with alternative titles that, quite frankly, made me laugh. (I need to laugh today.) Such is the heat one takes in the world of instant commentary. We here at Latino Rebels know how that is like. We are known to dish it so when we receive it, we have to receive it and learn from it. We will continue to raise the bar—just like we have been doing for close to five years.
But we are not going to delete our accounts, as some have suggested. We are not taking down Jonathan’s piece (we said we didn’t agree with it in the actual post, and that is how we will treat it.) We will continue to be who we are and stick to what we do best. It has worked for us since 2011. If some readers disagree with us and want to find other alternatives, thank you for your support and we wish you all the best. But for those readers who are still interested in what we do and what we offer, we will be here.