By Raymond R. Beltran
So, imagine that you’re a border town girl from Tijuana, Mexico. You bring with you the beauty of a young Latina, The light skin face hiding behind the shadows of dark wavy hair, and pieced together with a blossoming trade mark smile and dark brown eyes sparkling with ambition.
You’re sitting in one of your journalism classes contemplating the difficult road to success in a male Caucasian dominated profession. But in the same breath, you’re having the same daydream you’ve been having since you were nine years old, being a writer and being on television. You are Adriana Alcaraz, and she has been you.
“If you believe in yourself, you can do it, whatever it is,” says Adriana Alcaraz. Since last October, she has been the weekend news anchor and reporter for San Diego’s KSWB. She has recently filled in as a co-anchor for the station’s News at Ten and is being considered for the permanent position.
Born and raised in Tijuana, Alcaraz is the daughter of a doctor and a retired schoolteacher who dabbled in public relations for the PRI political party in Mexico. “My parents wanted something better for their kids,” she says as she remembers the days of waking up at five in the morning, crossing the border, and attending schools in San Diego. “We just new we were supposed to go to school.”
At age nine in a new world, the young and naïve Latina found her love for creative writing and her desire to be on television, not necessarily news television, but at least in front of a camera. “I wanted to be a writer,” says Alcaraz. “I used to be an English Major.” But it wasn’t until she attended SDSU at the age of seventeen that she was thrust into the world of journalism.
The 1994 death of presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colossio forced the Associated Press to seek out translators by searching for bilingual writers. Alcaraz and a friend made their way down to Tijuana and were hired on the spot.
“I got my first opportunity because of Spanish,” she remembers. Along with the physical traits of a Latina, the gift of speaking both Spanish and English is something she has embraced and encouraged, not only to Latino children in classrooms, but in the newsrooms she has worked in as well.
“I want to make people more aware of the population. There’s [750,965] Latinos living here [in San Diego],” Alcaraz says sternly. “The media should represent the people we are serving and we don’t.”
The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 statistics show that Latinos are the fastest growing population in the United States with a 42% increase in growth right here in California. On the other hand, Vernon Stone of the Missouri School of Journalism investigated diversity in the newsrooms between the years 1990 and 2000 and found that Latino representation is staggering with an average 5% of the television news workforce.
Although Alcaraz is pleased with the amount of Spanish speaking a KSWB, she says, “San Diego is the only city you don’t see Latinos in the newsrooms. Television stations here are conservative and one step behind the big cities like Chicago and New York,” she explains. “Maybe it’s the fear the [diversity] won’t be accepted.”
Alcaraz also attributes the small 5% to the number of Latino children that don’t graduate because of obstacles they are facing as sons and daughters of a foreign country, just like she was. “Kids are close to my heart, especially Latinos,” she explains. “I’m the only role model they’ll ever see. Not the only role model they have, but they are in difficult situations,”
Voted “Latina of the Year” in 2001 by the National Latino Peace Officers Association, Alcaraz volunteers in San Diego classrooms encouraging children who dreamt the way she has when she was a child and by being a member of the KSWB cares for Kids.
Having achieved that successful position in mass communication, Alcaraz now hopes to be the first permanent Latina anchorwoman as KSWB’s News at Ten. “Understanding the people means better stories,” she says. “I’m someone who can relate to the people because I lived in Mexico. I know about the families who have ten kids and aren’t going to college.”
What makes this Latina so exceptional in such a highly conservative profession that restrains the fastest growing population in the U.S.? “Hard work and goal setting,” she answers. “Faith. Support and love from my family, and friends, too.”
Adriana Alcaraz is a firm believer in self-determination and setting goals for one’s self. She stresses her motto to children and to all the young aspiring Latino journalists sitting in the classrooms just as she was dreaming of being in front of that camera one day. “Just do it, like Nike,” she smiles. “No’ is not an answer. ‘No’ doesn’t mean the door is closed, just another’s open, another door I’m not looking at, wide open that you haven’t seen.”