The Associated Press’ “Is the Pope Latino?” Story is a Waste of Space and Time

Mar 24, 2013
9:23 PM

The Associated Press is trying get more “diverse” when it comes to digging deeper into U.S. Latino issues, and so far it is failing miserably. We gave them a pass when it reported the following story, “Rise of Latino population blurs US racial lines”, and the reporters opened the story with the following lede, “Welcome to the new off-white America,” suggesting that many U.S. Latinos don’t identify themselves as white.

Yet this weekend the AP was at it again when it dedicated three digital pages to the ongoing “controversy” about Pope Francis and his background: “‘First Latino pope,’ son of Italian immigrants, revives debate in the US: What makes a Latino?” Apparently, the revival of the debate came from a smattering of opinions that eagle-eyed reporters found on social media sites. We never thought that some of the AP’s stories would sound more like Gawker, Buzzfeed, Twitchy, or even us, but looks like they are. The Pope story read like an primer for third-graders, focusing on a topic that is almost irrelevant to U.S. Latinos and and creating the typical “divide and conquer” mindset. Instead of trying to unite, many people we know fell into the AP’s trap. Best to keep them all debating about a non-issue than focusing on bigger problems.


Let’s just be real for a moment: Pope Francis is from Argentina. He loves tango. He loves soccer. The guy’s name is Jorge. He speaks Spanish. He is more connected culturally to millions of others who live in Latin America and those Latinos who live in the United States. Getting into stale arguments about Europe vs Latin America, indigenous vs. invader, etc. etc. serve no purpose. Like it or not, Latinos in the U.S. and people in Latin America are not only culturally and linguistically connected, they are forever linked. We are the world’s racial and cultural mix, whether it was by force or by choice.

When it comes to self-identity, it is the person who decides and not others. No matter, because the AP story, which actually admits that the views about Pope Francis are in the minority, for some reason still insists that it is an issue, a revival of some really important debate.

It really isn’t. The AP story later admits it when it says, “The logic is exactly the opposite, however, for millions of others. If you are born in Latin America, and share its language, history and culture, they say, you are Latino — period.”

Nonetheless, what could have been summed up in a few sentences has now becomes a “controversy,” with nuggets from people who say things like these, “His parents are Italian … Just because he is born in Argentina does not make him Latino at all.” It speaks to why the U.S. Latino community continues to be force-fed such silliness instead of spending more time taking on real problems. The AP should know better, too, since newspapers from all over the country still publish them. Their content matters in the mainstream.

When we shared this piece with our community, it got a lot of response, and we agree with many of the comments, especially these:

It is a pointless debate that instills further divides among Latinos. We’re the biggest minority and we can have the power to have this country by the balls, but we’ll never achieve that if we continue to engage in nonsensical arguments that highlight our differences and pin us against each other. La union hace la fuerza! Donde carajos esta esa union?

People in the US really seem to want to shove Latinos into a racial category, including Latinos. I think it annoys people that we’re so diverse in color and even culture. People confuse ethnicity and race as meaning the same thing. Not so long ago Eastern European, Italian, and even Irish immigrants to the US weren’t considered “white”.

This entire AP issue also speaks to a bigger problem here: when it comes to issue of identity and who claims to be “more Latino” than others, many are ready to chime in and speak with passion. But when issues of Francis’ past are brought, you hear more crickets and see less comments.

We guess this is the route that the AP will take when 1. it lacks diverse leadership and there is no Latino journalist on its board (we are 100% sure that if this story were pitched and if some of AP’s top editors were Latino and had a clue about why such as story should not have been pursued, the story idea would have been scrapped) and 2. it has no problem publishing three pages of “Is the Pope Latino?” drivel, yet refuses to stop using “illegal immigrant” in its style guide or publish a three-page story about why using such a term is seen as offensive to many U.S. Latinos. So the AP stays stuck in the past, addressing an identity issue that has already been over-dissected. People can self-identify anyway they like, we don’t need a dumb story about the Pope’s background to confirm that.

So the AP succeeded once again keeping U.S. Latinos divided with stories like the one it published this weekend. Luckily, many people see right throught that.