Spotlight on the Brown
An interview with LatinoLA's editor
It's the Holiday Season, Mi Gente. The end of another year, and a special time.
Published on LatinoLA: December 27, 2004
A time of the year where we reflect...upon ourselves, and our portion of the World that revolves around us, and the ones we love. Accomplishments, failures (known as temporary setbacks in the brown world), happy times and sad, new things & old, everything is in the mix when we get to reflecting, verdad?...You know what I'm talking about.
It's also a time for giving...of our time, our talents, our hearts, our souls, and most importantly, our love, to others. I'm not getting mushy here, but it needs to be said that when I'm talking about "giving" at holiday season, the first thing I think about is not the green folding paper...but giving a "damn" about others.
It is then appropriate, at this time, to give back something to somebody who has given so much to others...it truly is a Brown thing, Mi Gente!!
This month's Spotlight on the Brown, "Mr. December" if you will, is none other than our very own Abelardo de la Pe?a Jr., editor and founder of LatinoLA.com.
I, along with many others in the Latino Community who promote the Arts & Culture of Brown people, owe him a sincere debt of gratitude for providing a forum that has reached World Wide exposure, hence, connecting & educating people around the World.
Now THAT's giving!!
Abelardo de la Pena Jr. was born in the Southern California West Coast town of Long Beach. He grew up in Wilmington, also known as "Wilmas" to the Raza. A first generation Chicano who's parents came from Jalisco, Mexico, Abelardo grew up in a tumultous time, and knows very well the struggle of our people in land of the stars & stripes.
Right out of High School, Abelardo enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Viet Nam War era, serving 2 years before being honorably discharged. He told me, "After basic training, there were 2 buses going in 2 different directions...one to Viet Nam, and one to Germany. I don't know how or why, but I ended up on the one to Germany." Abelardo married his high school sweetheart, Linda, and their second son was born in Germany. He & Linda have been happily married for over 33 years, a fact he is ever so proud of. He is also proud that his oldest son Michael is serving honorably with the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, and his second son Cristofer, serving in the Army National Guard, was recently activated for duty. "I don't advocate war, by any means, and I worry & pray for all our young people in a war zone," Abelardo is quick to point out.
I first had contact from his webpage from an e-mail invitation in 1999, shortly after I started broadcasting my internet radio show. The e-mail simply asked for information about Latino happenings in the L.A. area, as an informative service to Latinos, that could be listed on a public message board. After checking out the page, I found that there was a "Forum" page, where gente could voice their opinions or tell a story about just about anything that concerned Brown people, on Brown people's terms, without censorship. The page welcomed new writers.
I ventured an opinion responding to a story that concerned music in L.A., and lo & behold, IT WAS PUBLISHED!! I started getting e-mails concerning my story and it became evident to me that LatinoLA.com had a finger on the pulse of Latino vommunity, and publicized Latino events all over the state of California like no other medium I was aware of. Not a bad thing...this Internet...I thought.
"I've always had an interest in Journalism," Abelardo says, "I spent a some years working in advertising and marketing, so I know people have a need and a want to be informed about things happening in their community. About 10 years ago, I was hit with an urge to get re-aquainted with cultural happenings in the Latino community, and found informative sources lacking centralization. I did what a lot of Gente did, read different newspapers and magazines, watched TV and listened to radio, then gleaned the information I wanted. About 6 years ago, I started playing with the Internet, and started e-mailing friends about the happenings I was finding out about in the scattered L.A. community regarding art, music and entertainment. Gradually, I began getting e-mail responses back, asking to 'be kept on the mailing list.'"
That request to "be kept on the list" was the impetus for what was then simply an e-mail account, that eventually grew into a centrally organized webpage that not only listed entertainment events, but provided a forum for Latino writers, poets, entertainers, and promoters. This webpage today is recognized across the country, and gradually around the world, as the premier Latino webpage for arts, culture, and entertainment from the Brown perspective.
"I am proud to say that because of all the wonderful contributers, we have become part of the national social dialogue, with numbers so large, we can't be ignored. I am also proud that so many talented groups and individuals turn to LatinoLA.com , which in turn places a responsibility on me to communicate the writer's point of view. Although I don't necessarily agree with every piece submitted, and I sometimes catch flak for some of the pieces I publish, I feel that all Latinos should have forum where none existed before."
Like myself, Abelardo believes in the mission of true journalism: "To inform, educate, and entertain in a way that creates controversy and stimulates dialogue between many opposing parties in an intelligent manner, the eventual outcome resulting in better understanding and communication, which leads to peace and prosperity." My man, Benjie Franklin couldn't have said it better!
"Latinos exist in such large numbers around the World that it makes no sense to NOT communicate," Abelardo continues. "I am proud to call myself Chicano, and deny that to no one. I've earned that. However, I've learned that we can't keep ourselves in a small box, either. We need to learn about and get to know each other, or we remain small pockets of separated people. I had an experience teaching at a middle school in Long Beach, California a few years back, where I noticed the young Latinos fighting amongst each other for no other reason than they were from different countries. The Mexicans vs the Salvadorans, the Hondurans vs the Nicaruagences. I saw no need for that, and sometimes went out of my way to school the young kids that we share the same language, cultural values, and we even look alike! Why then, should we turn on each other? We need to embrace each other's point of view, as we can only learn & benefit, which opens so many doors that have been closed to us".
When asked about the name "LatinoLA," Abelardo explains: "There are such large numbers of Latinos in Los Angeles from so many different countries that it makes L.A. the center of the Latino universe, simply by sheer numbers. Rather than exclude any group, LatinoLA says it all. We are all Latinos, we are all proud, beautiful people, and our points of view need no defining. We know where we're coming from...and now we're letting the world in on that!".
Well said, my friend! So, what started as one man's efforts to publish a local Latino entertainment news page, is now the best known, centrally organized national "everything" page where Latinos can turn to for news, opinions,arts, culture and entertainment information. Talk about giving!
Like I've always said, "It's a BROWN thing, baby!!"
On behalf of all the readers, artists and contributing writers who have benefitted and gained from LatinoLA.com, I say THANK YOU, Abelardo!
?Si se puede, Carnal! And please keep it coming!!
Frankie Firme rocks the world wide web every Thursday with the finest Oldies but Goodies & Latin Soul music, only on www.kclafm.com at 6:oopm, pst, and weekly on www.chicanoexpress.com; e~mail:firstname.lastname@example.org