I’m featuring leaders in the Latinos In Social Media (LATISM.org) movement in my blog. It’s my honor to introduce you to Lance Rios, who organized and runs the Being Latino Facebook, which is “a communication platform designed to educate and connect all peoples across the global Latino spectrum.” It’s one of the best places to put your finger on the pulse of Latina(o)s emotions, feelings, thoughts in reaction to interesting questions that Lance poses and in reaction to events that affect Latina(o)s. This interview was conducted in late September, 2009.
Where did you grow up and how did your upbringing and environment contribute to the person you are today?
I was born and raised on the west side of Cleveland, OH. Growing up in Cleveland definitely made me realize that no matter how small our numbers were, it is most important to maintain our identity and to always hold culture close. Had I not grown up in a city, where Latinos were accepted, I may not have taken the same pride in what I truly was.
Who were your role models as you were growing up and how did they affect you?
I grew up a HUGE baseball fan. Roberto Clemente was one guy that I always looked up to. On and off of the field Clemente was a class act and NEVER let go of his roots. Even through adversity and the challenges of being one of the first Latino players of color in the MLB, Clemente was able to overcome barriers and make his mark on the game. He died, trying to serve a people of a country in which he had no ties to. To me, Clemente was a legend.
My parents were also role models to me growing up. They taught me the benefits of hard work and kept reiterating that nothing in life would come easy. Through their “don’t talk about it, be about it” mentality, I learned the ropes to success at very young age, which I still apply to my everyday life to date.
Have you ever faced racial discrimination? If so, what happened and how did you deal with it?
Yes, very much so. As stated, Latinos in Cleveland, OH are not in heavy numbers. Ontop of that, my parents made their only attempt to get out of an impoverished environment to give us the best chance of survival and success. With that said, I ended up attending predominantly Caucasian schools, where not only did I experience racism from my peers but also from teachers and parents. As a child, it was very hard to deal with, yet I learned that the best way to combat ignorance is through education and serving as an example that Latinos don’t have to cater to a stereotypical role.
At what point in life did you realize your inner strength and fortitude?
I realized that when I’m passionate about something, I can do anything. Passion is what drives me. Money is always a good thing to have, but passion is the only thing that has driven me to the amount of landmarks that I have achieved. After school and blindly moving to New York, not knowing anyone, without having a job, or friends, I was forced into a hustle mentality. NYC is a city that is notorious for chewing people up and spitting them back out. Fortunately I have been able to stay in the belly of the beast.
Given the recent study done on U.S. Latina high school students’ drop-out rate of 41% , what’s your advice for Latina(o)/Hispanic students who are in high school or college? New Report Addresses Reasons for 41 Percent Dropout Rate Among Latina High School Students
If I could give one piece of advice, I’d say don’t just stick to the classrooms to learn. YOU must take it upon yourself to find other routes to self educate. With social media taking that Latino community by storm, high school students have the opportunity to go to places where they already know well (facebook, youtube, twitter) and find groups and information that will not only entertain them, but stimulate their minds.
What’s your advice for those who may have already dropped out of high school or college?
There is always a chance to go back, but the longer you stay out, the less likely you are to go back. Don’t do yourself the disservice.. GO BACK!
What is your UVP (Uniqe Value Proposition)?
There has never been something to live in social networking that has been able to captivate the attn of the Latino community and educate at the same time. I feel that I have had a very delicate balance that just works.
Why did you form the organization or shall we call it: a cause?
Because it needed to be done. I cannot truly consider a Biz since I do not really profit from it. It’s a concept that flourished.
Describe your ideal client or project or give one or two case studies so that people can clearly understand how you’ve helped clients.
Anyone that is Being Latino (or interested in the culture) 😉
What other services does your company provide?
Education. Entertainment. Connection to the community.
How does your Latino/Hispanic heritage help you achieve your goals?
It’s part of everything that I do.
Lance, tell us your vision of BeingLatino as a movement and/or cause:
To me, Being Latino can serve as a Universal place (since it lives online) for Latinos to come to and connect with one another and share beliefs, culture a news affecting the community. Being Latino is a place that works towards breaking stereotypes and fosters community collectively.
What would you like to say to companies who are thinking of marketing to Latina(o)s/Hispanics but aren’t sure of what to do first?
Latinos are a very complex breed. Working in “Hispanic” advertisement currently, I have identified a common flaw attributed directly to the challenge of marketing to our people. NUMBERS DON’T MEAN EVERYTHING. Latinos are not all the same… when you realize that, you will be able to identify more successful routes of catering to the community.
What would you like people to remember about you after you’ve passed on (many, many years from now)?
I could care less about how rich and/or famous I was… to me that is not important. I would like to leave this earth having made a change that has impacted the entire community as a whole. I’d like to leave the earth knowing that I have done my part to create a better and more welcoming place for my people to strive and achieve their goals.