“The future of the Hispanic community is on you,” journalist Jorge Ramos told University students at the beginning of his talk, “Nuestro Futuro: A Conversation with Jorge Ramos,” this Friday.
Ramos is the anchor of the Univision news program “Noticiero Univision,” the Univision political news program “Al Punto,” and the Fusion TV program “America with Jorge Ramos.” He has received eight Emmy awards and covered events ranging from the Salvadoran Civil War to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Addressing an audience that filled nearly every seat in McCosh 50 lecture hall, Ramos urged students to use their education to increase Latino visibility.
To make this point, he played a clip from the music video for the popular song “Despacito” by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi and Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee. Although the video has nearly 4 billion views on YouTube, making it the most-watched video in the site’s history, it was not nominated for an MTV Music Award.
“So the most watched video was invisible for those who say what’s important and what’s not important, what’s influential and what’s not influential,” Ramos said.
Invisibility was a major topic in Ramos’s talk. Latinos compose about 20 percent of the United States population, or one in five people, he stated: Yet there are currently only four Latino U.S. Senators, for example. “Where are the other sixteen Senators?” Ramos asked.
Ramos moved to the United States from Mexico in 1983 to study at UCLA.
“This country gave me the opportunities that my country of origin simply couldn’t,” said Ramos, who worked for a Mexican television news outlet until the Mexican government censored him.
“I got here and then suddenly, I was able to say whatever I wanted, complete freedom of expression,” he added. “Reporters were criticizing President Ronald Reagan, and nothing happened. They were not being censored.”
“And then came Donald Trump,” Ramos continued, citing Trump’s speech announcing his candidacy for president, in which he referred to Mexican immigrants as racists and criminals. “If you’re an immigrant like me, you come here because you want to work,” Ramos said. “At the end, the reality, the numbers are there: Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes.”
In 2015, Ramos wrote a letter to Trump requesting an interview. Trump posted the letter, which included Ramos’s personal phone number, on Instagram. Ramos soon received hundreds of texts and phone calls. “Many people [responded] with racist comments, but half of them were very supportive,” Ramos said. “And about 25 percent [were] asking for the opportunity to sing a song [on Ramos’s show] or for help to publish a book.”
Ramos’s news team then decided to cover a Trump press conference in Dubuque, Iowa. “I made two decisions. One, that I was going to ask my question standing up, in other words the body language was going to be important,” Ramos said. “The second was that I was going to make sure that my microphone was heard at the exact same volume as Trump’s.” “And the third decision was that I was not going to stop until I had finished my question,” Ramos added.
Ramos was ejected from the press conference. “Get out of my country,” an attendee told him as he was leaving. “In 2044, every group in this country, absolutely everyone — non-Hispanic whites, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans and Latinos — everyone is going to be a minority,” Ramos said. “Donald Trump is coming a little too late.”
Ramos said that this future will be a challenging realization of the American experiment. “It’s a beautiful experiment,” Ramo said. “We have to understand that this is a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic country, and if we don’t understand that, then it’s going to be very difficult.”
Finally, Ramos encouraged audience members to stand against actions which limit Latino visibility. “If you don’t take a stand, then you become silent, and you become complicit to what’s happening in this country,” he stated.
Ramos then participated in a question-and-answer panel with politics professor Ali Valenzuela. “I think many of our students, especially our Latino students, they come to Princeton with a lot of worries that other students don’t have,” Valenzuela began, asking Ramos to give advice to these students.
“For my father, there were only four possibilities for professions,” explained Ramos. “My father was an architect, and he could be an architect, an engineer, a doctor, or an attorney.” When Ramos told his father that he wanted to be a journalist, he asked him what he would do with ‘“eso,” which means “that” in Spanish. Later, Ramos was able to tell his father that he was doing “esto,” meaning “this,” Ramos told the audience to applause.
“My only recommendation would be to study and educate yourself on what you really want to, what you’re really passionate about,” Ramos said. “It’s an incredible privilege to be [at Princeton] and it’s a great responsibility. Be agents of change.”
The Q & A also centered on the difficulties that journalists face in covering the Trump administration. Valenzuela pointed out that journalists may be unwilling to cover certain stories that could limit their access to the White House. Ramos explained that many times in his career, he has been denied access to speaking with figures, including former President Obama, after asking them a critical question. Citing research that influential political figures have a large impact on the attitudes and opinions of their followers, Valenzuela asked Ramos’s opinion about the current lack of trust in media among citizens.
“Fake news is nothing new. I come from Mexico, where fake news is part of government,” Ramos said.
Valenzuela then asked if Ramos believes that Trump has contributed to this problem in the United States.
“It’s like he’s given permission for people to express their prejudices in ways we were not used to before,” Ramos said.
Valenzuela also asked how Ramos’s personal identity has impacted his journalism, and if recent developments with Trump have resulted in a shift in his approach. “As a journalist you’re always asking uncomfortable questions,” Ramos said. “And I think as a journalist you have to always be on the other side of power.”
The lecture was held on Friday, Oct. 6, at 6 p.m. in McCosh 50. It was organized in celebration of Latinx Heritage Month and sponsored by Princeton Latinos y Amigos in conjunction with the Program in American Studies, the Program in Latin American Studies, Program in Latino Studies, the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.