Hispanic Heritage Month: Maria Hinojosa

Posted by on Sep 23, 2022 in People and Culture

Maria Hinojosa is an award-winning journalist. In 2020, she wrote a memoir called Once I Was You, which told the story of her life. Recently, she created a new version of the memoir, which is aimed at kids ages eight to twelve. Here, btw takes a closer look at Maria Hinojosa, her book, and why it is so important. 

Once I Was You 

Hinojosa was born in Mexico, immigrated to Chicago in 1962, and then moved to New York City. As a child in the 1970s, she watched the news with her family and wondered why all of the news anchors were white men. She worked hard to become a reporter and has held positions at CNN, NPR, and PBS. She also founded Futuro Media, an independent nonprofit news organization focused on telling stories of people from diverse backgrounds. Hinojosa has won many awards, including several Emmy awards and a Peabody Award. Futuro Media was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in May 2022 for a news series it did on a young Latino man who had been sentenced to life in prison in Pennsylvania.  

Maria Hinojosa’s memoir tells the story of her life experiences and other events that have shaped the person she is today. Although she never shies away from talking about the challenges she faced, she also calls the book her “love letter” to the United States.  

Why Did She Write a New Version? 

Hinojosa didn’t set out to write a children’s book. But then she realized that she needed to do so if she wanted to make an impact on the U.S. Latino population. That’s because the average age of a Latino person in the United States is eleven. (In contrast, the average age of white Americans is 58.) She knew that if she only sold her book to adults, she would be missing a huge group of readers who might benefit from hearing her story. It is Hinojosa’s hope that other Latino and Latina children who are interested in a career in journalism or reporting will read her story and be inspired to achieve their goals. 

Why It Matters 

Hinojosa wants her journalism work to provide the perspectives and stories of Latino people that aren’t being shared as often as they should be. Books like hers may encourage young people of color to enter career fields they might ordinarily think of as not “for them.” They will  see that other people of color have succeeded in these professions. Over time, this could lead to more diverse newsrooms, which means that more diverse stories will be told.  

Dig Deeper Use your school’s library and look for other memoirs that are available for you to read. If you can’t find them quickly, ask your school librarian for help.