Passing the Baton at Latino Rebels

Aug 26, 2022
4:59 PM

Julio Ricardo Varela, president of Futuro Media and founder of Latino Rebels

It has been more than 11 years since I founded Latino Rebels in 2011, and as I enter my new role at Futuro Media —the company that Maria Hinojosa created, which now owns and produces LR— the last few months have been one of bittersweet transition but also unbridled joy.

What started as an idea from my Generation X brain that several online friends helped me to push and maintain —you know who you are, all you original members of that private Latino Rebels Facebook group— is now part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning media organization that has transformed perceptions about our diverse communities in the United States.

Latino Rebels has played a historic role in that transformation, thanks to the hundreds of contributors who we have published for years, as well as a podcast that first started on Blog Talk Radio in 2014 but now is distributed by PRX.

In my last few years at Futuro, I had the distinct pleasure and honor to be the lead editor of a site and community I founded with support from family and friends. No matter what you think, you cannot deny that the Latino Rebels community broke new ground in the early days of Latino digital media and journalism. It gave others the cover to be outspoken and never settle. It paved new ground for new voices that highlighted our complexities, both the good and the bad. More often than not, we were praised for being so bold, although sometimes we were hated as well.

Loved or hated, though, Latino Rebels could never be ignored because it was a lightning bolt that shook up our digital world. Whatever it was, the voice was real and bullshit-free. That authenticity could never be replicated, and I am deeply proud of how Latino Rebels became a digital and audio destination that served our people.

As much as I couldn’t stand it some days, I always loved getting that new pitch from a new writer or journalist, or when I got to interview someone about their story. The editor in me would beam that we would be adding to the conversation with no apologies or regrets.

For me, all that is now over.

Over the last year —thanks to the belief from Futuro Media that Latino Rebels was, is, and will always be a necessary voice in digital journalism— we were able to expand the team for the first time ever.

Hector Luis Alamo, who I have known since 2013 and who first entered the Latino Rebels space as a very active commenter on our Facebook page, became LR’s first Senior Editor in the middle of 2021 while I was still Futuro’s Editorial Director responsible for Latino Rebels, Latino USA, In The Thick, and our Community Podcast Lab. I could not think of anyone better to carry the day-to-day baton to the next level.

Around the same time, Oscar Fernández joined us as a producer for Latino Rebels Radio. Oscar and I have known each other for years, after he started sharing episodes from the Latino Media Collective, a show Oscar calls “a grassroots Latino public affairs program that airs on Pacifica station WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington D.C.” I have had a blast with Oscar as my producer and am so grateful he is here with us at Futuro.

Also, during the past year, as is normal for Latino Rebels, we took a risk and leaned in on more dedicated coverage from Capitol Hill. The reporting from Pablo Manríquez as our Capitol Hill Correspondent has made us a major player on this beat in a span of just 15 months. I believe we are the ONLY English-language Latino digital news site that has a dedicated correspondent inside the halls of Congress and the White House. Pretty cool.

Finally, I am thrilled that the fabulous Fernanda Santos joined Futuro earlier this month as our Editorial Director, my previous position at the company. When Fernanda and I first talked earlier this year about the job, she shared some fantastic words about Latino Rebels and how it plays a central role in covering our community.

These four Rebeldes will be the next chapter of Latino Rebels. I will no longer be 100 percent involved in the day-to-day editorial planning of the site or the show. I told Hector and Fernanda that I will write the occasional opinion piece here and there for the site as a way to stay connected to it, but now there is a solid core team who will take over.

I will cheer from the sidelines, but the days of working the daily grind for Latino Rebels are over for me.

I want to thank each and every one of you who have supported Latino Rebels and continue to support it. Without you and without our hundreds of contributors, we are nothing.

It has been an honor to serve my community. It’s time to explore new projects and challenges. I truly appreciate you all.


PS I will still host Latino Rebels Radio.


Julio Ricardo Varela is the President of Futuro Media and founder of Latino Rebels. He is also an MSNBC columnist. Twitter: @julito77