“Social Media Savvy y Todo:” How Online Hispanics Are Crafting The Message and Changing Politics

GUEST POST BY Melissa Salas Blair, founder of Puentes Research and Communications, Inc.

Earlier this year, "the chimichanga heard round the United States" was interesting not just for the fact that Jim Messina, Obama 2012's campaign manager, tweeted the following  —"Line of the day from WAPO's Dana Milbank: 'The chimichanga? It may be the only thing Republicans have left to offer Latinos"—  but for the fact many Hispanic voters from both sides of the aisle were insulted, and social media stepped in and stepped in quickly.

In less than 10 minutes, even though there were tweets of support for Messina, there were also just as many tweets tweets calling for him to apologize. Blog posts then followed, then full-blown articles, then radio and televisions shows added the ‘scandal’ into their programming schedules. And it all started with a tweet, in 140 characters or less.

"Chimichanga-gate" confirmed that there is now a rapid response time by online Hispanics on both sides of the political spectrum. In days long gone, it would have taken some time for a response, and the usual organizations who often speak out would have taken the throne, but not anymore. Left-, middle-, and right-leaning Hispanics are taking control of their words, their messages, and speaking out via Hispanic-owned and/or managed media. And this list of outlets is growing: Latism, Fox News Latino, NBCLatino, the Huffington Post's "Latino Voices"VOXXI,  as well a myriad of popular independent journalism sites such as this page, the Latino Rebels.

Hispanics are speaking out against rhetoric hurled by all sides, left and right, as well as both political parties. And, no one is "safe," which Geraldo Rivera found out rather quickly—very quickly. For example, this page (and others) had a blog post about Geraldo’s controversial statements up within minutes, followed by massive social media buzz, inspiring NBC Latino to cover Geraldo’s unfortunate remarks. It was a STOP IT chanclazo heard by all, and felt by Geraldo!

In recent years Hispanic communities have become the fastest-growing population of tech-savvy individuals. A report by 360i Digital Connections found that “in the last year, the number of Hispanics using social media grew 38% (more than double the 16% growth rate for the general population).” It’s fascinating to see the changes and growth, but also more importantly, how Hispanics are utilizing social media.

In the past much of it was used to support one political party or the other. To support one policy position versus another. But, now you find more Hispanics from all cultural backgrounds and all sides of the political arena apoyando each other and openly discussing policy stances that many on the left, the middle, and the right agree on, like comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) and some versions of the DREAM Act. Not only is social media increasing the reach of the Hispano voice, but it’s making it possible for Hispanics to work together on issues and policies for the greater good of all Americans and their families. It’s allowing for unity in many cases, or at the very least respectful discussions and debates like never before.

I believe the greatest lesson for all is this: careful what you say on social media and in the mainstream media, because you never know where the next chanclazo is coming from or from which direction — left or right! And, you don’t want to be known as the person who got a #NoMames award. That’s just embarrassing.

Dear @milbank: Is It That Hard to Say “Sorry, My Bad” About ChimichangaGate?

We are now convinced that ChimigangaGate has entered the realm of social media silliness, and in the case of Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, we would suggest he go to his local Mexican restaurant and ask for a plate of humildad.

Milbank, who was the one who wrote the following line:

"The chimichanga? It may be the only thing Republicans have left to offer Latinos."

This was a reference to what Senator John McCain said during a Senate session about the confirmation of a Cuban American judge to the federal court system, in response what Senator Rand Paul was doing to stall the vote. The line then became the tweet of the day from Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina and chimichanga silliness ensued.

We have pretty much stated our case about the social media gaffe from Messina, and we were giving Milbank the benefit of the doubt because we actually thought his column was a good one. But after reading his "response" today in The Washington Post, we are just asking: "Dude, really? You just can't say, hey, it was a line that didn't work for some? I am a columnist, I have opinions. My bad." Is it that hard to do?

Here are snippets of what Milbank had to say (the whole column can be read here and you can see that Milbank is taking umbrage with the Republican's demands for an apology, which, as we said, was perfectly legitimate in this case, especially since it is clear that Milbank truly has no clue about what he is working so hard to try and defend). This is what caught our eye today:

Holy mole sauce! The flap spread, to CNN, the Drudge Report, the New York Times,Comedy Central. “Chimichanga is the New Macaca,” said Michelle Malkin. Eventually, calls came from the blogosphere that “both Jim Messina and Dana Milbank should apologize.”

To those demanding my apology, I say: That’s nacho place. I flauta your demands. In the chimichanga wars, I will taco no prisoners — and that’s for churro.

His column ends like this:

As for the chimichanga apology, I’m pleased to report that Messina had a good answer to those demanding his contrition: Not so fajitas. A follow-up tweet said: “Tweeting someone else’s words caused a stir, but the GOP is on the wrong side of every Hispanic voter priority.”

In fact, I hereby demand that the RNC and conservative critics end this sorry episode by apologizing for demanding apologies. If they do, I would consider making an apology of my own: to the chimichanga, for bringing the innocent entree into this cauldron.

You are kidding us, right? Really, Dana, this is a joke, correct? You are missing the point: why are you stooping to tired stereotypical puns about Latinos? Because you are clever? Because we Latinos love a great Tex-Mex menu? Because you don't have a little decency to just admit you goofed?

Really? Saying, hey, I got the message (Republicans were not the only ones who called this whole affair dumb and stereotypical), my bad, is so difficult? Swallow your pride a bit. Focus on the real issues, which was your column that had done until a silly little ending throwaway and stereotypical line ruined it.

In other words, #NoMames.