BY LOLA CAMPOS
In today’s ever-changing media landscape, many Latinx millennials consider sites like mitú, Remezcla and Fusion a breath of fresh air.
Highlighting increasingly popular, yet important, topics like gender, sexuality and Blackness, new Latinx media groups seem to be a young person’s haven. But, when we scratch beyond the surface, an uglier picture emerges: one in which these sites fall completely in line with dominant, imperialist perspectives on the Global South, especially those against leftist governments in our homeland. Most “new” Latinx media sites pump out dangerous, 21st Century propaganda that tightly mimics the ideological line of U.S. foreign policy.
Fidel Castro’s Death: Nov. 26, 2016
Nothing exposed the true nature of mitú more than the death of the comandante, Fidel, in 2016. Immediately, and as identity politics would dictate, the site’s resident gusana stood before the world tearfully offering a declaration of why people were justified in the celebration of Fidel’s passing.
“During his regime of five decades, he caused death and destruction to the country,” Jennifer Lozano said in her tearful monologue, sounding no different from mainstream media. In addition, mitú published a 45 second piece where “Abuela,” Lozano’s white Cuban grandmother character, rushes out to the street to rejoice in Fidel’s death.
The site also took the time to outline the “messages” that detail how symbolic the death of the comandante was, quoting right-wing Cuban Gloria Estefan, who claimed Fidel was responsible for the “economic destruction of a once thriving and successful country,”
Her characterization of pre-revolution Cuba only serves to bolster the U.S.-backed dictatorship of former President Fulgencio Batista, whose sole purpose was the continued exploitation of Cuba by U.S. corporations. The words “dictator,” “regime,” and “death” resurfaced across the site’s covering, unquestioningly parroting the U.S. line on Cuba that has been repeatedly proven false.
Fusion takes a similar approach. Although to be fair, the site is the digital millennial arm of the larger, conservative Univision channel.
Nothing about Mexican journalist Jorge Ramos covering Fidel and labeling his story “Death of a Dictator” is surprising when it’s parent company, Univision, has always been filled with reactionary views on progressive Latin American leaders.
In an interview for his online show, Ramos recalls when he was given the opportunity to interview Fidel and says, “Just imagine coming back to Miami with a picture of Fidel Castro just putting his arm around me. So, while I was asking the question I was just pulling away because I just didn’t want that kind of image in front of him.”
He’s right. The association would not go over so well with the Cuban migrants who fled Cuba to ensure that the wealth they gained exploiting the island under the Batista dictatorship would remain in their U.S. bank accounts. Fusion also took the opportunity to develop a series of reactions to the leader’s death and produced a short web video titled, “Cuba’s Generational Divide.”
Where with zero data and one anecdote from a young, Black Cuban woman, Fusion makes the sweeping generalization that all Cuban youth want to leave the island because of the revolution. While in fact, youth on the island participate in the island’s democracy in mass, joining the Communist Party in droves.
Nowhere do either mention the widely-acknowledged successes of the Cuban Revolution. Not to mention the tremendous international outpouring of condolences from leaders across the Third World in Africa, Asia and Latin America, who know truly know Fidel’s story.
They know him as a man who transformed his country from being a U.S. neo-colony to a truly independent socialist nation with some of the best socio-economic conditions in the world. A leader who was the first to fight for liberation in South Africa under the Apartheid era, who sent thousands of doctors across the world (including the U.S.) and offered support for numerous liberation armies across the world. A revolutionary who led a tiny island with less than 12 million people to full literacy, free healthcare, free education, free housing and more.
These “new” Latinx sites offer a completely decontextualized, ahistorical assessment of the incredible life of Fidel, proving they are only “new” in their branding but are old ideologically, as they fall from the same capitalist-imperialist tree of thought.
Venezuela’s Economic Crisis and 2017 ‘Protests’
The second and perhaps most glaring example comes from the three’s coverage of Venezuela. Just a simple search on any of these sites will draw up countless articles, videos and images detailing the “dictatorship” of President Nicolás Maduro. Let’s start with Remezcla.
Of the three Latinx platforms, Remezcla seems to do the best job of toeing the line, sticking mostly to fluff culture and music pieces within the United States. There was no overtly negative coverage after Fidel’s death, although they did act as a mouth piece for Estefan, a longtime gusana and right-wing millionaire, and other pro-imperialist Cuban-American figures.
But, when it came to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, all of that flew out the window.
The latest articles feature headlines of “media censorship,” “fear” and “repression” by the Venezuelan state. The article about the video featuring the 13 anti-government baseball stars describes its purpose as “asking for an end to government repression and injustices towards protestors perpetrated by Nicolás Maduro’s regime.”
That’s it. An entire article, as much of their coverage demonstrates, is dedicated to simply characterizing Maduro’s democratically-elected government as a “dictatorship” because some wealthy mouthpieces of the right-wing opposition say so.
The same opposition every outlet in the U.S. touts as “freedom fighters,” while they unleash violence and death across Venezuela. The same opposition that has attacked maternity hospitals, stolen helicopters to attempt a bombing of the Supreme Court and burnt tons of food meant for the hungry, working-class citizens of Venezuela.
Most appallingly, the same opposition responsible for burning alive Orlando Figueroa, a young Black student who was killed for “being Chavista.”
The same holds true for mitú and Fusion. mitú follows a similar strategy, which it employs in its “analysis” of Venezuela — take a white Venezuelan and have her perspective represent the “truth” about the country. This is identity politics at its core.
In the U.S., many would be conflicted about opposing her statement, asking, “well, she’s from there, right?” But having origins from a specific country, however, doesn’t make anyone an expert on the historical and material conditions there.
In a video from May 2017, Laura, the site’s Venezuelan “expert,” pieced together a 90-second video that attempted to describe the “repression” in Venezuela. The video claims the state is “forcing them into a dictatorship they don’t want.” Then she goes on to describe how food and medicine are scarce in the country.
While no one is denying that an economic crisis is happening in the South American nation, these sites provide no coverage of why this is the case. The fact that oil prices have dropped, the U.S. has imposed mass economic sanctions on the country and opposition forces continue to hoard and destroy food so that people go hungry is never mentioned.
Let’s get this straight, mitú: the reason people are struggling in Venezuela is because of an organized economic war against the socialist state of Venezuela. Not because of Maduro.
In our final example, we have yet another video from the prominent Latinx journalist Ramos. Produced for Fusion, Ramos appeared on a video titled “Venezuela in Crisis.” Here, Ramos claimed what is at stake in Venezuela is “democracy” and that there is no question in his mind that Maduro is a “dictator.”
He fails to add how Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world or how the U.S. has continued to oppose the nationalization of oil in the nation since former President Hugo Chávez first came to power in 1999. He also conveniently forgets to mention how the U.S. has funneled millions to violent opposition protesters through organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy. Most of these funds have been invested in weapons and drugs to bribe poor youth to fight the opposition’s battles.
But, what’s at stake here is “democracy,” according to Fusion. Just like the fake stories we were told about Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya. The U.S. gave a shit about “democracy” then, too, apparently.
Building Left Media and Latinx Revolutionary Consciousness
For many Latinx millennials, the desperation for representation means we sometimes compromise ethics just to see ourselves up on a screen. But, representation is not revolutionary. Sites like mitú, Remezcla and Fusion all claim to encompass the multifaceted experiences of young Latinx.
They are the hip platforms that understand gender, sexuality, race and all of their complications within the Latinx community. Perhaps, they do.
But, what is painfully obvious is that these sites are also contributing to the mass miseducation of our communities. They take radical leaders in our homelands and portray them as nonsensical, ruthless dictators.
They are potent and dangerous because they hold in their hands the captive audience of the millions of Latinx people in the United States. They are imperialist, right-wing propaganda machines that must be combatted.
True “new” media must present an alternative to hegemonic and capitalistic media outlets instead of sounding exactly like the BBC, Univision, CNN, Forbes or The Guardian.
So, the next time you see another Venezuela or Fidel video on those sites, after watching a delightful video about pupusas, remember that it’s not all harmless culture. In reality, it’s material created with the intention of placating our community’s revolutionary solidarity with our Patria Grande.