Teen Beat on the Eastside

'Latinitas' magazine online is giving latina girls a louder voice

Volunteer Angela Ayala helps guide the Latinitas staff  through another issue.
Volunteer Angela Ayala helps guide the Latinitas staff through another issue. (Photo By Alicia Artega-Wilson)

Well, golly gee whillikers. Kids today aren't just a bunch of visually oriented, digital-savvy, short-attention-span hellions bent on destroying English grammar through IM shorthand. A bunch of Latina girls in area middle and high schools are exercising their old-school literary gifts through an online magazine aimed at their peers called Latinitas, and they want the world to know about it. They're throwing a fundraiser on July 17 to raise both cash and attention as they go into their second year of existence as a magazine and a media-education organization.

Latinitas (www.latinitasmagazine.org) began as a project by two UT grad students in the communications school. Laura Donnelly, who edits the teens' and preteens' articles, says she wanted to bring her work on girls and the media out of the ivory tower and into East Austin. She started Latinitas as a club in Martin Middle School, where volunteers teach girls to sharpen their prose and design Web pages. But Donnelly says that these kinds of skills aren't all they learn.

"When we teach girls to make a Web page or encourage them to express their views," she says, "they learn that they can do things that previously seemed hard."

The magazine, which added a section for teens this year, covers the usual teen-mag topics, like music and style, as well as more culturally specific issues, like a Q&A with a Texas-born Argentinean Jew discussing how her Latina and Jewish heritages affect her identity. While not all the articles are written by Latina girls – some adults pitch in to round out the offerings – Donnelly says that giving teens and middle schoolers a voice is its primary mission.

"It's a validation of their culture, their neighborhood, their identity, and their femininity," she says.

Cecily Oropeza, who writes about music for Latinitas, says it's important that the magazine highlight successful Latina women, such as through an upcoming Q&A with recently elected Judge Gisela Triana.

"There aren't that many [Latina] role models in the media," says the 16-year-old senior at Bowie High. "We try to show Latina girls positive role models and to empower them."

The magazine runs on a shoestring, all-volunteer-labor budget and partners with the Girl Scouts, the Junior League of Austin's Hispanic Mother/Daughter Program, and other nonprofits to find computers and space for its Web design and writing classes. The fundraiser will take place at the Caucus Club and will feature Mary Welch y Los Curanderos, who play Tejano folk, and the band Drink & the Stingers, who are more in the Rock en Español neck of the woods. The fundraiser will benefit the media-education activities of Latinitas Outreach, the nonprofit group that runs the magazine.

Oropeza, who is herself a musician, has high hopes that the magazine will continue to grow.

"Girl Latinas, that's a really underrepresented group, so the magazine is really important," she says. "And I really like writing for it!"

Latin Vibe Night will take place at the Caucus Club (912 Red River), Saturday, July 17, at 8:30pm. For more information, contact Laura Donnelly at 331-1270 or latinitasld@yahoo.com.

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Latinitas Magazine, Laura Donnelly, Martin Middle School, Latin Vibe Night, Cecily Oropeza

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