Confessions of a Latino Rebel

Dec 30, 2014
3:01 pm

There’s a famous point around the 20-mile mark of the Boston Marathon called “Heartbreak Hill.” While it is not the highest elevation point of the race, it is perhaps one of the toughest because it is “the spot where many runners report running into the mental and physical ‘wall.'”

For the last year, has become my constant Heartbreak Hill. Physically and mentally exhausting. In doing the regular year-end work for the site, I noticed that we had published 3,778 pieces since 2011 (this one will be 3,779). That’s about 900 posts a year at this rate, all of which I have either edited personally or clicked “Publish.” That’s a lot of posts for a site that isn’t a real paying job for me or anyone else. I can’t even begin to think of the total hours put in, but if you would guess 10,000, I would say you were lowballing it.


Ever since the site was formed in 2011, there was never any real plan. There were never any clear goals, although we have shared thoughts several times about the mission. All the group wanted to do is present stories that we all felt were being overlooked and ignored. We wanted to do is provide an outlet for new voices, particularly new voices who wanted to write, report and build up some clips.

In the meantime, the core group always felt that when it came to what we wrote about or what we posted on our social networks, it was always pretty decentralized and organic. Unlike other sites, we also said that we would never pay for posts or run ads. It kind of goes against the advice any editorial outlet would give you, but as a result, the reaction we have received has been intense. In a good way. Sure, while the vast majority of our over 3,957,000 million visits to this site since 2011 has been highly supportive, we continue to get a minority of intense reactions from people who want to “expose” us as if we are some fully-funded operation making serious “diaper money” (credit @rscspokenword) for everyone in the group. We are not. No one makes a living off of What we do produce is hard work every day. And when one day is done, we do it again, because we believe that what we have done and what will continue to do matters. This is bigger than any of us.

That is why I have this very real love-hate relationship with the site right now. Gotta find another story, gotta stay active, gotta keep trying a way to grow it without sacrificing it, while at the same time getting extremely tired of how everyone thinks they you have “figured out.” Maintaining this level of consistency for close to four years while you are in the middle of working on your day jobs, looking for your next day job and trying to raise a family has been the most draining thing I have ever done. The easiest decision this year was to just end it and move on. Pack up the tent, pat each other on the back and congratulate the group on a job well done.

Yeah, right.

This is just Mile 20.

We got this.

So every time I get tired and exhausted, all I need is to step back and see what we have accomplished. An original web series with one very talented host. An Internet radio show that makes my Sunday nights truly enjoyable again. Some amazing writing from regular contributors like Hector Luis Alamo, Susanne Ramirez de Arrellano and Roberto Lovato, plus other top-notch essays about politics, race, identity and history. The future of is brighter than ever, and it has always come down to hard work, having the freedom to publish anything you want and staying true to the mission. Yes, people, you can achieve great things if you actually work.

And one other thing, if you think that we are worried or concerned about how a small lot of you perceive us, we are not. We have heard them all: “cafeteria communists;” “right wing corporate hacks;” “rebels? more like sheep;” “mouthpieces for the Democrats;” and “La Raza criminals.” I have to admit that the names and labels are getting a bit stale these days, although we also get an occasional meme that makes us all laugh.

Then there are comments like the one below (original text unedited), which we received via a Facebook message earlier this week. This comment only confirms to me that there is still a lot of work do be done.

This isnt our fight, most latinos dont care about the mike brown case, we go to work and come home, were passive people, were not resisting arrest, and most Latinos dont support gay marriege. Were still very much religous. Find someone else to uplaod your news.

Not the Latinos we know. We want to have the real discussions about the topics that make the “passive” ones uncomfortable. We are doing just fine.

And to all of you who support LR, write for LR, find stories for LR, tweet for LR, G+ for LR, Facebook for LR, Tumblr for LR, YouTube for LR, pin for LR and IG for LR, YOU are the reason that keeps me going past Heartbreak Hill.

I was this close from walking away from it all, but if I did, I would be walking away from the best creative experience I have ever had in my life.

“Love us, hate us, you can’t ignore us.”

We got this.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog,, 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 several outlets, including MSNBCCBSNPR,  Univision and The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.