Interview with Jorge Ramos
By Jade Arroyo
Jorge Ramos gave a lecture in San Miguel de Allende a few weeks ago, within the framework of PEN, the literary association. Before an intercultural audience of over 100 people at Bellas Artes, he gave a bilingual talk about the importance of being informed, asking the right questions, how the reality of the United States is changing (according to studies, 30 percent of the population will be of Hispanic origin before long), public policies of the US government and its relationship with Mexico, the causes of racism. He shared data and concrete numbers.
His lecture came after an emotional presentation by Sandra Cisneros, begun with “It’s time to be together, not divided.”
Ramos, a renowned Mexican journalist, is based in the United States. Immigrant, journalist, and host of Noticiero Univision and Al Punto, he is considered one of “the 25 most influential Hispanics in the United States,” according to Time magazine.
He is recognized for his journalistic work always committed to social justice and is very literate in the demographic data of the Latino population in the United States and what is the reality of this group in the US. For his sympathizers, he is the voice of Hispanics in the United States; he emigrated to achieve success, pursuing the American dream.
Ramos has covered five wars: El Salvador, the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and has interviewed some of the most important political and cultural figures of our times, such as Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, John McCain, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, John Kerry, John Edwards, Al Gore, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, Felipe Calderón, Vicente Fox, Ernesto Zedillo, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Subcomandante Marcos, Octavio Paz, Isabel Allende, Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, among others.
He has published 11 books: Behind the Mask, What I Saw, The Other Side of America, The Lion Hunt, Crossing Borders, The Latin Wave, Dying in the Intent, The Gift of Time, I Look Like My Daddy/I Look So Much Like My Mom, The Land of All, and The Presidents.
In addition to his work on the Univision newscast, which is broadcast in the US and 13 Latin American countries, Ramos writes a weekly column in more than 40 hemispheric newspapers (distributed by The New York Times Syndicate) and participates in the largest Spanish-language Internet in the United States, www.univision.com.
He recently gained more visibility when he was expelled by Donald Trump from a press conference. The incident catapulted the profile of Ramos in the most prestigious media.
Jorge Gilberto Ramos Avalos was born in Mexico City on March 16, 1958. Since 1991 he has lived in Miami.
Jade Arroyo: What is the reality of Latinos in the United States?
Jorge Ramos: There are more and more Latinos in the US; currently we’re more than 60 million. In 30 years, we will be 100 million, and we will be one out of three in the US, so the white people will become a minority.
What we have seen in Trump’s presidency is that he gave permission to insult and assault people. What people said in their kitchens and with their friends, they now say in public. Hatred is contagious when it insults women and immigrants. About Mexicans, that is the problem. That is the risk
JA: What political power should Latinos have according to their demographic in the US?
JR: We are almost 20 percent of the population, and we have four senators, when we should have 20 senators according to our demographic. We are a population with very little political representation. That’s why writers, journalists, and artists have to speak up, because we do not have enough politicians to come out and speak for all of us.
JA: The Latino vote.
JR: When it is a very close election, they can choose. But Trump showed that we have a long way to go. Only 13 million out of 27 million able Latinos came to vote. Many say that the Latin vote is a “sleeping giant,” I think a giant has already woken up, but not totally.
JA: Where did the Trump phenomenon come from?
JR: It comes from a great resentment of millions of Americans who have not seen their income grow and are blaming immigrants and also a great ignorance in blaming the immigrants. It is a story that has been told many times.
JA: What are your predictions about your government?
JR: Reporters, when we make predictions, are always wrong: we were wrong with Trump, with Brexit; we were wrong with the plebiscite in Colombia. It is that we are not hearing correctly, we do not do our homework. We are staying in the newsrooms rather than going out into the street. We are accustomed to listen to our own voice and think that with repeating it a thousand times, [it] is reality, and the reality in Mexico and in the US is another one. [It] is one that’s far from the cities, the television stations, the radio stations. There are many people who do not believe us, who do not believe in journalists or in statistics. And that is transformed into votes. That’s the problem.
JA: What message would you give to young Hispanics?
JR: I think we have an obligation in Mexico and the United States to be leaders. Elie Weisel, a survivor of the Holocaust, said that when there are situations of injustice, “you must take sides.” You have to take sides, and neutrality only helps the oppressor, not the victim. We must take postures, get involved, and not wait for others to speak for us.
JA: Are there any journalists in Mexico that are worth listening to?
JR: I think there are great women journalists. Carmen Aristegui is the leader of this generation, Lidia Cacho, Guadalupe Loaeza, Sanjuana Martinez, Denisse Dresser, and of course, the great Elena Poniatowska. There are great examples to follow.
JA: What do you think about borders?
JR: In my experience, what I’ve learned is that the borders are to be crossed, jumped at. Currently, we have the great tendency of globalization, the skipping of borders. Right now there are 200 million people in the world who are immigrants, who chose to cross the borders, to live elsewhere. The example of the European Union is the best we have to understand where the world is going.
JA: What does American Dream mean?
JR: It means being able to live better, that your children are better [off] than you, that you have a house to sleep in, and that you can dedicate [yourself] to doing what you like. I believe that, despite everything, the American dream still exists. I am an example of that. I see it with optimism. I do not see the Trump phenomenon with negativity, I see great examples out there. I see millions of women marching, people manifesting, criticism every day, us gathered here today, a wonderful resistance. Resistance is late; it was due three months ago, but it is still is welcome
JA: How do you see Mexico right now?
JR: The government of Peña Nieto has reacted very badly to the government of Trump, with much mediocrity and much fear, with very little character. I believe the next president will be chosen for his ability to react to Trump. We are already affected by their public policies, if there are fewer immigrants, there will be fewer remittances here. If the free trade agreement is broken, the economy will be seriously affected. Everything affects us; nobody is alone.