I wonder what would happen if I stopped writing these columns. If one day my column was no longer here, and another person’s smiling face and writing appeared. Would students complain or even bother to ask why?
Agustin Gurza, for those who are unaware, was a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. I found out Tuesday, in what was his final column, that because new editors are hoping to make changes in the content of the newspaper, that the only way I will get to read his works will be by digging through the Calendar section and reading salsa music reviews.
So, I wrote a Letter to the Editor, voicing out my frustration, telling whoever reads their letters that I cannot understand how new editors are willing to chance losing Gurza, his talent and his wonderful ability to relate to the Latino community through his writing.
A woman named Davilynn Furlow, the Times’ deputy readers’ representative, quickly responded to me by email, reassuring me that Gurza is not the only columnist being forced back into a reporter. Then she reassured me that Frank del Olmo will be writing and a new columnist named Steve Lopez will start writing soon.
I have to ask — are these Hispanic names supposed to appease me? An entire lineup of brown columnists could be on the front page of the Metro section of that newspaper, and each one of them could be wonderful writers, however, that is not what this is about. If Gurza is already writing high-caliber columns, then why cancel his columns? Brown replacing brown does not make me shrug the issue off and feel better.
Gurza did what columnists are supposed to do. He reached out and defended a voiceless community, he grabbed the readers who could relate to it, and someone was educated in the process. Hate mail was sent, angry voice mails were left and he was even called a racist for asserting his strong ethnic viewpoint. People responded so passionately because they were reading his work, and had something to say about it. Now, 208 columns later, new editors are stopping the process. The sad thing is another writer will make Gurza forgotten. It will only be his loyal readers, such as myself, who will miss his graceful sentences and numerous attempts to shed light on the Latino community, both inside and outside of what he called the “barrio beat.”
As a Latin writer, it is difficult to find minority columnists in this industry that I can relate to and want to read devoutly. Many of them are so Americanized that the ethnic flavor in their writing and opinions is gone. Time and again, Gurza’s works left me impressed. In one particular instance, a woman had contacted him about a column he had written, and she had pointed toward Mexicans having “too many babies” as her defense. Gurza, a father of one son, researched the topic and found out statistics that not only knocked the woman’s agreement out of the water, but also made her appear ignorant for basing her arguments on a stereotype in the first place.
What is most disturbing about losing Gurza as a columnist, is because this is the perfect time in society for him to be writing. Latinos in society are growing — we are booming — in everything from politics to literature pieces. Gurza would have had many column opportunities to write about such progress. Instead, although he said he enjoys it, he will be covering Latino pop culture, something he did years ago when he first started writing.
“Greater minds than mine, however, have argued that a Latino column may be too limiting,” he wrote in his last column. “Even my friends and family would ask, ‘Is that all you write about?'” What people fail to understand, however, is that for years, Latinos have been underrepresented and abused by society. If one man can write about the joy of the Latino culture, their triumphs or their tribulations, and do it incredibly well, how can we send him to review salsa music? Latin people do not need someone to praise them over and again about their music or their food. Latin people need a face that represents them-genuinely. Latinos need Gurza the columnist, not for his name, but for his heart.
Alisha Rosas, a junior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.