Finding Latinx: Paola Ramos and the 'X' that unites us
From coast to coast and drawing a cross on the places where She found her stories, this is the map of Latinx identities in the U.S. that is finally coming out today to bookstores.
Daughter of journalists, Latina, queer and first generation American, Paola Ramos never felt she fit into the Latino community until she managed to define herself in one word, "Latinx".
It's not a term she created, but she has helped popularize it with her first book, Finding Latinx: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity, which was published bilingually on Oct. 20 by Penguin Random House and explores the meaning of being Latino in the United States today.
It does so, as only someone with Ramos' credentials could — to travel throughout the United States using the 'X' to mark various places and stories on the map.
In Brooklyn and from coast to coast, she meets historically ignored groups within the community, such as Afro-Latinos, indigenous people, Muslims, the undocumented, and LGBTQ people.
It's a book of chronicles where each chapter corresponds to a face and story. Some are as harsh as that of Carolina, a transgender woman who came to the United States fleeing discrimination in her country of origin to be arrested and raped by ICE agents and the men in her cell.
From her, says Ramos, she learned about resilience, and today Carolina is excited to be able to participate in a presidential election for the first time.
Paola Ramos' journalism, as well as her view of the Latino community, is very political. What isn't?
The idea of writing this book came to her in 2016, when Trump won the election.
Paola, who was part of Hillary Clinton's campaign team, realized that the Latinx voters, who would have been a decisive vote for Clinton's victory, had barely gone to the polls — less than 50% of them — and decided to seek out those people to understand the how and why.
Random House's support the project was more than a stroke of fate, it was a stroke of intelligence.
"Politics may not have been personal at one time, but in this election it has become personal (...) it is a question of which candidate my family is most likely to survive with," the journalist told Efe, and added that this upcoming election is completely different from previous ones, since COVID-19 is playing a major role.
Now, Paola assures, young people have mobilized because they have seen their families "economically destroyed" and the Black Live Matters movement has also given impetus to their demands.
However, Trump's victory in 2016 was a revelation, because it brought to the fore the "white supremacist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Latino" tendencies in the country and has made a dent in the Latinx population, who have ended up assuming their identity with pride.
For Ramos, who worked in the White House during the presidency of Barack Obama, the Latino community has also had to examine itself and realize that they are not free of blame either.
"We've realized how racist we've been," she said of discrimination against Afro-Latinos and LGBTQ people.
"Our system, in its current state, is not built for us. And the only way to change it, so that it represents the Black and Latino communities, is to recognize who we really are," wrote the author in the revealing book, which hits bookstores at a key moment in the history of American Latinos.