Regular readers of this newspaper’s Safety Valve section may have noticed that relatively few letters to the editor are signed with Spanish surnames. But take a look at The World’s Facebook page and you will see Latinos from across North Central Washington weighing in on almost everything we post.
Latinos are more active on social media than any other group in the U.S., with more than two-thirds of Latino Internet users maintaining pages on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites. A whopping 84 percent of young Latinos — ages 18 to 29 — are on social media.
These numbers, from a Pew Hispanic Center survey last year, reflect what we see every day on The World’s Facebook page, where a local and vocal Latino audience has been more engaged in recent years than ever before.
Sometimes, the conversations get heated.
We posted an article on Facebook last month about an immigration investigation at a local company and the post grew a trail of user comments so racially raw and downright mean that we made the decision to delete the whole thing. (The World will not provide a forum in which hateful and ignorant individuals are granted a megaphone and a whiff of legitimacy.)
But real and healthy dialogue about issues of importance within the Latino community does happen on our pages, like when we posted an article to Facebook on May 26 about Lewis and Clark Elementary School’s dual language program. From the article by reporter Rick Steigmeyer: “Lewis and Clark is the only school in the region that teaches all of its classes — from kindergarten through fifth grade — in Spanish and English.”
The post received more than 200 comments. The majority of commenters supported the program, including Jaime Ramirez, who wrote: “Lewis and Clark is the school where I learned in English. I am bilingual in both English and Spanish. I’m going to become a Health and Fitness educator this June. Knowing two languages has made me a well-rounded individual in society. In my Spanish minor courses at Eastern Washington University we learned that a second language delays the onset of Dementia Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease, increases salary, improves a child’s cognitive development, children know double the vocabulary, and children become culturally competent.”
Not everyone on Facebook loved the idea of the dual language school, and, predictably, words like “un-American” were thrown around a bit. But those opposed to the program were generally thoughtful and brought up some legitimate concerns.
With Latinos making up nearly one-third of NCW’s population, and with our future success as a region tied up — all of us — together, The World values any opportunity to connect with a larger Latino audience. And if Facebook is the platform on which Latinos are finding the work of World reporters and staying engaged with this home that we share, then to Facebook we will go: to post news, ask questions, and then, to listen.