(Photo via facebook.com/motivosmag)
Over a decade ago, Jenée Chzick-Agüero noticed a lack of bilingual media outlets for Latinx youth — a population she knew needed more visibility and support.
And so, she founded Motivos, a Philadelphia-based bilingual magazine for Latinx youth ages 14 to 24 that showcases student voices on different issues — culture, life challenges, college prep and career exploration — and provides a written platform for people who otherwise would not have one because of language barriers, cultural barriers and educational disparities.
Motivos is published on a quarterly basis and shipped to 1,300 readers in public libraries, school libraries and prison libraries in 42 states and four countries. We spoke to founder Chzick-Agüero to learn more about why she started the magazine, what it means for underrepresented youth to be “seen” and how to navigate the challenges of Spanish-to-English translation.
Chzick-Agüero’s responses have been edited for clarity and length.
When and why did you establish Motivos?
I incorporated in July 2006 and the first edition went out in November 2006, so we are coming up on 12 years.
I [wanted to create a] platform for youth — particularly Latino youth. I wanted to give them a chance to tell their own stories and also to use it as a platform for connection to resources and role models. [I noticed] self-esteem and self-confidence was a big limiting factor especially with teens, and especially with students coming to a new country or operating in a second language.
How has your engagement with youth shaped Motivos?
It stems back from a conversation with the then-executive director of [Latino arts and culture organization] Raices Culturales. She was telling me about a conversation that she had with her nephew in Texas. His paperwork wasn’t totally in order for him to take advantage of in-state tuition colleges and certain scholarships, et cetera. She informed him about the DREAM Act. That was back in 2005 and a lot of people didn’t know about it back then. Most people have heard about it now.
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Motivos magazine was founded in response to the educational disparity that many Latinx and undocumented youth face.
What does it mean for you to hold a space for underrepresented youth?
If you’re undocumented, … there is a certain sense of being invisible. … When you don’t know the language yet, sometimes you feel invisible because you can’t completely contribute. And if your paperwork isn’t in order and you’re not allowed to contribute, then you’re on the edge, you’re on the periphery. You’re not seen fully for who you are … because you can’t express yourself and they don’t know that you can understand much more than what they think you can understand.
Your fullness isn’t being seen, so that’s a big deal and so with the magazine we do provide a platform.
We want you to be seen at a higher level, we want your story to be told, we want to provide a means for you to shape your social narrative. [A Motivos contributor’s] story is not just heard by their family and their school and community, but in 42 states across the country and four countries.
What makes a good story?
Usually stories are best written when you’re in a point of vulnerability. … Sometimes when it’s raw, people are going to connect more because they know that you’re in the struggle and you’re figuring it out but you’re willing to share. That’s pretty powerful.
Is there any advice that y0u can give bilingual writers who use wording that does not translate well? For example, the word “gringo” can be seen as a derogatory term for non-Spanish speakers reading Spanish, but within the Spanish language, “gringo” is not derogatory.
We have to think about the real-life common ground to start the conversations, build a relationship, build trust, build respect first, so that the other side is willing and open to hearing.
One way to do that is through the arts, through entertainment — sometimes through music, sometimes through poetry, sometimes through artwork — to open the doors to communication, to common ground.
But everyone’s filters are based on their upbringing, so that would be expected that people would embrace things and understand things slightly differently.
The current submission period for the fall edition of Motivos is open through July 27. Submit stories or anything else you’re interested in publishing to:
- P.O. Box 34391, Philadelphia PA 19101
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