Opinion Editorial: Who Speaks for Latinx, Chicanx on Social Media?

Recently, on a Facebook group called ChucoPedia, member of the group, asked a pertinent question. She asked whether there were any Latinx Moderators on the site?  She was informed by one of the moderators that if she was under the impression the page was run by Latinx, that she was given wrong information.  A lively discussion ensued in the group for several days.

The ChucoPedia Facebook group was created by journalists Debbie Nathan, Michael Scanlon and others.  They chose to name the group using the Caló term for El Paso which is “Chuco” and they then joined it with Pedia (as in Wikipedia). I helped Nathan populate it and invited approximately 1,000 of my Facebook friends to become members.  Many of them joined.  I have posted in ChucoPedia since its inception and at one time I served as a moderator. 

Nathan left El Paso and when she was away, the site was run by others including journalist Maricela Ortega Lozano, who was a reporter in Cd. Juarez.  Unfortunately, Lozano passed away in 2017.  Scanlon, Debbie and Monica Krause, who formerly worked at the El Paso Times, currently act as moderators.  Nathan returned several years ago and retook the helm of the group.  To their defense the current ChucoPedia moderators are fair in posting material but it’s a fact that few Latinx persons post on the page. Several months ago I went back to in time to see who posts, and I found that few Latinos post on a regular basis.

Moderators in high traffic groups play a pivotal role. They act as traffic cops who approve or don’t approve the traffic (postings) on the site.  Moderators help shape a page’s content and image.  They also make decisions as to what posts they will allow, as well as to who they will ban from engaging with the group.  If often takes a lot of time to moderate groups and this is why some people hesitate to do it. In addition, conflict management is sometimes a constant in moderating and many people shy away from it. There are, best practices for moderating groups.

I can safely state that over the years, a number of important Latinx voices have been blocked by ChucoPedia for various reasons.  Finding the right mix of moderators is vital. Earlier this year, I was a member of a group of moderators on the Latino Scholars page, which had over 11,000 members, but the group proved too unwieldy and we had to archive it. Moderators voted to archive it, and closed it for comments. Members can still view posts but they can no longer comment on the site.

At the onset, the question posed by the ChucoPedia member was harmless, and it leads us to question who is creating the narrative in our minority-majority city?  If social media pages and their moderators are creating the narrative by approving some voices and not others and/or certain Latinx voices are missing, then others are creating the narrative for us. 

I think that in a Latinx majority city like El Paso, we need to write our own stories and narratives, and not have those stories be written for us.  This is one reason why I took on the challenge to seek out and publish the missing voices and publish our stories in El Paso News, but also to provide a space where artists and creatives can publish their work, something which has been missing in other online publications.  Earlier in the year before I became the editor on El Paso News, I approached an editor of another online publication and I asked him if he would consider writing about art issues, but he told me that their mission was very focused and that art was not what they would cover.

The person who raised the important question the lack of Latinx moderators on Chucopedia raises the issue that the lack of Latinx voices in social media is bigger than one site that doesn’t have Latinx moderators. I conservative cities like El Paso, Latinx may shy away from political issues, but that is starting to change and will change in the coming decade.

Other social media sites also lack Latinx moderators in a community like El Paso with a majority Latinx community, as my analysis below reveals.  In my analysis, I have not included newspaper sites which lack Latinx editors and that’s a whole other discussion.  I have limited sites to those run by independent groups or community organizations, but the list is not extensive.

GROUPS:

“Chucopedia,” – 3,524 members; the site lacks Latinx administrators or moderators.

“Save the Union Plaza Neighborhood,” has 2,724 members; the site has a Latinx administrator and one non-Latinx moderator.

“El Paso Arts,” has 2,601 members, the site lists three administrators from one person who has three separate accounts with a similar name; all names seem to a be the same Latinx administrator.

“Porkfest,” has 2,106 members; the site did not have any Latinx administrators or moderators when it was open.  The site has since been shut down.

“Let’s Build an Ethnic Studies Studies Digital Archive,” has 1,906 members; the site has a Latinx administrator and Latinx moderators.

“Art Coffee,” has 868 members; the site has a Latinx administrator and Latinx moderators.

“El Paso – Juarez: This day in history,” has 858 members; there don’t seem to be any Latinx administrators or moderators for the group.

“ObrerxPower – PoderObrerx,” has 742 members; the site has one Latinx administrator.

“Chican@ History Project,” has 226 members; the site has two Latinx administrators.

“El Paso, Texas History,” has 176 members; the site seems to lack Latinx administrators or moderators.

PAGES:

“El Paso History Alliance” has 56K members; the site lacks Latinx administrators or moderators.

“El Paso Sun City Pride,” has 10K members; the site has Latinx Administrators.

“915 Live Events & Entertainment (For Promoters, Organizers, Venues and DJ’s),” has 8,358 members.  Jesus (no last name) is the Administrator.

“Paso del Sur, “ has 5,219 followers; administrators are not listed on the page.

“El Paso History Radio Show,” has 3,333 followers; the site seems to lack Latinx administrators or moderators

Postscript: Last week the discussion on ChucoPedia took an ugly turn. The same person who asked if there were any Latinx modertors began accusing ChucoPedia of “cultural appropriation.” When others tried to tell her that anyone could use the name, she began attacking people on the list.  When moderators finally closed commenting to stop the attacks, this person jumped to another group where she continued in the same vein. I disagree that the creators of the ChucoPedia site sought to appropriate the name which essentially belongs to everyone, but I would agree that they need to recruit Latinx moderators if they purport to represent the community.

Finally, I recommend readers join sites which include Latinx administrators and moderators and most importantly, that Latinxs create groups and sites that they administrate and where they can select Latinx moderators to work with them on building their sites. I also recommend that sites that don’t have Latinx administrators recruit them so they can better represent the community who reads them.