Maria Hinojosa, ca. 2001.
Photograph by Kyle Christy, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.
Born in Mexico City, Maria de Lourdes Hinojosa was the youngest of four children. When she was one year old, her father moved the family to the United States, and Hinojosa spent her childhood in Chicago. At the time that she attended Barnard, Hinojosa was living in Washington Heights, the populous and culturally rich Manhattan neighborhood in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge. Ever since her childhood, she has visited Mexico at least every other year to spend time with numerous in-laws, cousins, aunts, uncles, and her great-aunt, who is more than 100 years old. "I can't let go of Mexico," she writes in Raising Raul, her memoir. "It's part of who I am."
During her freshman year, Hinojosa participated in the Barnard dance department's Program of Dance Works in Progress, in which she choreographed and danced a piece called "Intrusion" with one of her peers. In 1985, she earned a bachelor of arts degree in Latin American studies with minors in political science and women's studies, graduating magna cum laude.
Hinojosa's career in broadcast journalism began immediately after college, when she took a position as a production assistant for National Public Radio in Washington, D.C. In 1987, she joined the staff of WCBS Radio and produced shows such as "Where We Stand" with Walter Cronkite, "The Osgood File," and "Newsbreak." From 1988 to 1989, she was a producer and researcher for CBS's "This Morning." Then, from 1990 to 1997, she worked for NPR and WNYC Radio as a general assignment correspondent, covering issues in the New York area and throughout the country. During this period, she also hosted WNYC-TV's "New York Hotline," a live, prime-time call-in show that addressed current and public affairs, in 1991, as well as "Visiones," a Latino-oriented public-affairs talk show on WNBC-TV in New York. In May 1997, she joined the Cable News Network as a New York-based urban affairs correspondent. Throughout her career, she has maintained her affiliation with NPR, and she currently anchors "Latino USA," a weekly national program that reports on news and culture in the Latino community.
Among the major events that Hinojosa has covered on location are the Crown Heights conflicts of 1991 and the 1995 trial of 10 accused conspirators in the first attack on the World Trade Center. While covering that trial for NPR, Hinojosa received a request from an American literary group to cover the first American book fair ever held in Havana, Cuba. On her last day in Cuba, she traveled to the countryside to visit one of the rural sanatoriums where the Cuban government quarantines AIDS patients. There, she met a teenage husband and wife named Javier and Mireya, members of the anti-establishment rockero subculture who had deliberately injected themselves with AIDS-tainted blood, hoping to secure a life of comfortable confinement inside a sanatorium. In the fourth chapter of Raising Raul, Hinojosa describes her interview with the pair:
"We talked for two hours hidden under a tree in the middle of someone's farm. Javier was afraid that if the police saw him talking to a reporter he might be harassed. They had self-injected, he told me as I listened sadly, because they were tired of being hassled by the police for being antisocial 'rockeros.' They explained that they had decided to get AIDS so they could get into the sanatoriums, where they knew they would be allowed to dress how they wanted, listen to the music they wanted, and have air-conditioning and food seven days a week."
There is no doubt that Hinojosa's intrepid spirit will continue to guide her where few other American journalists are prepared to venture, a path that will only increase her professional reputation.
Hinojosa has received numerous awards and honors over the course of her career. In 1991, she won the Top Story of the Year Award as well as a Unity Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists for her NPR story about gang members, titled "Crews." That same year, she won an Associated Press award for her coverage of Nelson Mandela's release from prison for WNYC Radio. In 1993, she received both the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Radio Award and the New York Society of Professional Journalists Deadline Award for her NPR report "Kids and Guns." In 1999, she received the Ruben Salazar Award from the National Council of La Raza. Named in honor of a journalist killed by a policeman's tear gas projectile in 1970 while covering a Chicano march in East Los Angeles, the Salazar Award is given each year to an individual who has dedicated his or her life to promoting a positive portrayal of Latino historical, political, economic, and cultural contributors to American society. The same year, she was named one of the 25 most influential working mothers in America by Working Mother magazine. In 1995, Hispanic Business magazine named her one of the 100 most influential Latinos in the United States, and she received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for "Manhood Behind Bars," an NPR story that documented how jail time has become a rite of passage for men of all races.
1995 also saw the publication of Hinojosa's first book, Crews: Gang Members Talk with Maria Hinojosa, which was based on her award-winning NPR report. Her critically acclaimed memoir, Raising Raul: Adventures Raising Myself and My Son, which includes her reflections on life, career, and motherhood, was published in 1999.
Hinojosa, Maria. Raising Raul: Adventures Raising Myself and My Son. New York: Viking, 1999.
"Latino USA Host Maria Hinojosa Wins NCLR's Ruben Salazar Award." Latino USA: Press Release, July 7, 1999. Retrieved October 17, 2001 from the World Wide Web: <http://www.latinousa.org/pressrelease/mhinojosa.html>.
"Maria Hinojosa." CNN.com: Anchors & Correspondents. Retrieved October 17, 2001 from the World Wide Web: <http://www.cnn.com/CNN/anchors_reporters/hinojosa.maria.html>.
A Program of Dance Works in Progress (1980); The Mortarboard 1985; and Barnard Honors Supplement 1985 (Barnard College Archives).
— Contributed by Donald Glassman