by Christina E. Rodriguez
Lance Rios didn’t feel out of place growing up in a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio. But moving with his family to Lakewood, when he was in high school, was another matter. Not knowing any other Latinos in this city located 10 minutes from downtown Cleveland, along the shores of Lake Erie, Rios felt different.
“Many of the people that went there were upper-class white kids, many of whom never even knew a Puerto Rican in their entire life,” explained Rios in an online interview. “[They] were very ignorant as to what I was all about.”
beinglatino-ownerAfter attending Bowling Green State University in Ohio, he decided to move to New York City for its fast paced lifestyle. He felt that living in New York would be more prosperous on a personal level. “You are forced to hustle to survive,” he said, “and I feel like it will make me work harder in every aspect of my life.”
Educating people about the struggles within the Latino community grew from his experiences in Ohio. “I was forced into it in order to maintain my identity,” said Rios. “I had come to a point where I [had] to deny my ethnic background or fully embrace it when dealing with ignorant non-Latinos. I chose to embrace it.”
He decided that he was going to live his life in both cultural worlds without simply assimilating although he is third generation Puerto Rican. He saw the importance of educating himself in order to defeat stereotypes and focus on the positive aspects of being Latino. Then, one morning in May, Rios decided to launch an experiment across the Facebook hemisphere: a fan page dedicated to Being Latino.
“I saw that Facebook had a huge void of any organized place where Latinos of all backgrounds could meet,” Rios explained. “I decided to experiment to see how many Latinos out there were interested. Luckily it took off from that point.”
The 25-year-old advertising sales planner for V-me TV has cultivated over 12,000 fans in approximately two months and the page is still growing . “I posted content from the web ranging from news articles to videos relevant to the Latino community. I began posting questions that I have always been concerned with and unclear about our community, and people began to talk,” he said. “From that point I found my angle. I was going to engage the fans through thought provoking yet entertaining content.”
There are individual pages with the same name spread across the country, from Being Latino Ohio to Being Latino California. He wants to expand until every state is covered. For Rios, education is a way of bringing more acceptance, opportunity and unity, starting with the Facebook generation.
“I feel that second and third generations may be easier [to educate] simply because they are born into the US,” he said, “therefore [understanding] many things that their parents may not have due to cultural differences.”
Now Rios is getting bloggers, both written and video, to start uploading content on each page, including one video blogger from Australia born to Chilean parents. Rios is attempting to bridge gaps between Latinos around the world with similar experiences.
“I feel that many Latinos are under-represented and may not have access to the relevant information that affects us as a whole. Latinos are the largest minority in this country and will have a major influence on the U.S. as a whole,” he explained. “I'd like to create a space that allows for us to network and build off of each other. The internet is the easiest way to unite multiple people of different sections of the world in one place.”
Source: Café Magazine