Three years ago today (May 5, 2011), a small group of crazies launched LatinoRebels.com. As the Lead Loco who came up with the idea of forming a new type of site the would try to tackle (and celebrate) what it is to be a “US Latino” in a digital age, I wanted to take a moment to write about the last 36 months. How did a blog with no plan, money or expectations become one of the top independent Latino media sites in the world? The answer is simple. Hit it, Ringo.
“We got by with a little help from our friends.”
You see, as someone immersed in social media since 2007, when I was in between day jobs and spending a lot of time in early 2011 trying to figure out how to take the early successes from my personal blog and get others in the US to question and challenge the misunderstood “Latino giant” more authentically, the only way to impact the dialogue was to meet it head on. In order to change perceptions, you needed to disrupt it. Instead of just being the “crab in the bucket,” I sought other crabs. We created our own bucket and helped others who wanted to be in that new bucket with us.
It was one of the best decisions I had ever made. This group of about 20 friends began to meet virtually every day to seek stories and content that mattered to us—a bunch of bilingual, bicultural individuals who would quote you lines from Monty Python in the morning, then drop knowledge about Latin American politics at night. This was our world, one you rarely saw (if at all) in US media, and we were just going to do it.
Now with 2.7 million total pageviews and over 2 million unique visitors, we did it.
In just 36 months, LatinoRebels.com has catapulted into the upper tiers of the Internet, become required reading for anyone who follows Latino media. Our followers are passionate, loyal and intelligent. As one reporter wrote last year, “Latino Rebels in many ways shapes conversations about Latinos in bigger outlets by being the first, the fastest, and the most opinionated. Where many “legacy” news sources refrain from offering harsh critiques of the media and corporate America, Latino Rebels dives in head first, often with the loudest and harshest indictments.”
Those “indictments,” quite frankly, almost never came from us. They came from being close to the community, from making the conscious decision to LISTEN to people who follow the Rebeldes daily. Whether it was a parent concerned about Border Patrol Boy Scout badges, the unjust death of a dad or an immigration policy that separates families every day, real people came to us to help them amplify their stories. Those stories mattered as well as so many others. That is why we do this.
Interestingly enough, a tiny few still wonder if our intentions are pure, as if this were all part of some master plan orchestrated by some unnamed corporate minds bent on exploitation. Such misrepresentations are patently false (our response), and if part of this journey involves other crabs wasting their energy to try and bring us down, good luck. It ain’t happening. Trying to please people was never the choice here. We won’t change our ways, and we aren’t going away. In fact, we are only getting stronger.
In the next few months, Latino Rebels will be making major announcements as to where the group will go next. We already are producing radio shows, but that is only the beginning. The possibilities are endless. We will continue to be an authentic curator of content and conversations related to our core mission and values. The toddler is three years old today, and it’s time to grow up. We pause to THANK EVERYONE who has supported or has written for this page, the true fans and yes, even the fakers. Love us, hate us, you can’t ignore us. We deeply believe in changing the narrative about US Latinos in this country.
Let’s do it.
Just like John Starks did it in the 90s.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the Nation, NPR, Univision, and The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.