Tucson-born book editor René Alegría sees his adopted hometown of Manhattan as a hotbed of ideas and trends. But he believes the biggest influence on U.S. culture will be Latinas along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In the 2010 Census, Latina mothers accounted for 56 percent of the country’s growth.
Inspired by women like his grandmother — who guided her children to be professionals although she was born in Mexico and never mastered English — he launched Mamiverse, a bilingual website and content provider geared toward women and mothers.
The site features advice columns, stories, entertainment, self-help articles, food and sports, written by best-selling authors such as Alisa Valdes.
“We are at a point in which Latino families, Latino kids, are the future of this country,” Alegría said. “If you educate and empower a Latina mother, you educate and empower an entire family.”
Can a website bridge the Latino world and English-speaking cultures?
Yes, said Latino media personality Jorge Ramos, anchor for Spanish-language network Univision and its English-language sister, Fusion TV.
“René is a visionary,” Ramos said in an interview from Miami. “He understood the importance of Latino growth before millions did, long before we were the awoken giant.”
Alegría said his vision began as a youth growing up in Tucson. When he wasn’t working on the newspaper at Tucson High School, he was at a public library. After graduation, he left for New York City at age 17 to study and work.
He landed an editor’s job at HarperCollins in Manhattan, working 14-hour days.
“It was the place where you could still live your dreams,” he said. “To have come of age at the turn of the century in New York, the capital of the world, being a 20-something, I was living my dream.”
Alegría had big dreams. One of them was to publish both famous and little-known Latino authors in English and Spanish. He managed to sell his bosses on the idea, and HarperCollins launched Rayo Books. From 2000 to 2010, Rayo Books published more than 500 titles, including authors Victor Villaseñor of California and Paco Ignacio Taibo II of Mexico.
“He fought hard for this,” said Ramos, who has published at least five books thanks to Alegría. “René opened up the English market for me before anyone else.”
Alegría left HarperCollins in 2009. Disturbed by the immigration debate and what he perceived as a growing backlash against Latinos, especially against immigrants, he wanted to come up with a way to show what he believes is the best Latino culture had to offer: its mothers.
And so Mamiverse was born. The site is bilingual and is a good way for English speakers to not only learn about culture, but to learn Spanish as well, Alegría said.
He figures that once the world gets to know Latina moms, it will be hard to demonize Latinos. So far, he says, heated debates and violence have failed to bring about harmony. It’s time to give a mother’s love a try.
He’s confident moms will succeed where others have failed: “I think they will save America.”