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A Latina journalist returns to teach at DePaul

MariHinojosattends “The Latino List: Volume Two” screening El Museo Del Barrio Sept. 21 New York City.  |  Mike

Maria Hinojosa attends “The Latino List: Volume Two” screening at El Museo Del Barrio on Sept. 21 in New York City. | Mike Coppola~Getty Images for HBO

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Updated: November 5, 2012 11:28AM

Renowned journalist Maria Hinojosa is coming home to Chicago.

You are probably familiar with her reporting if you have listened to public radio or watched CNN in the last 10 years. Hinojosa has won a couple of Emmys, and several times she made the list of the 100 most influential Latinos in the United States.

On Sunday afternoons, I often listen to her show, “Latino USA,” on National Public Radio before dinner. Hinojosa is the anchor and executive producer of the show, which focuses on stories and analysis of the growing Latino population for a mainstream audience.

Last year, Hinojosa became the first Latina to head a “Frontline” special on public television. The documentary “Lost in Detention” brought to light abuses during the detention and deportation process of undocumented immigrants.

At the end of September, Hinojosa hosted the show “America by the Numbers: Clarkston, Georgia,” which aired on PBS as an Election 2012 special. She is also the founder and president of the Futuro Media Group, which produced the show.

As if she were not busy enough, Hinojosa was named DePaul University’s Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Chair. Hinojosa will teach in the Latin American and Latino Studies Program starting this fall. She will be introduced Thursday at a public reception at 6 p.m. at the DePaul Art Museum, 935 W. Fullerton Ave.

The chair is named in honor of the 17th century Mexican nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, who is internationally revered as a poet and advocate for women’s rights. DePaul established the teaching post more than a decade ago for Latino writers. Hinojosa replaces Achy Obejas, a Chicago-based Cuban-American writer.

The teaching gig brings Hino­josa full circle, back to Chicago where she grew up in Hyde Park before heading to Barnard College in New York.

I am a fan of her work. I admire Hinojosa’s ability to interpret — for the mainstream public — the huge demographic and cultural changes taking place in the United States as a result of the growth of the Latino population.

And I like that Hinojosa and I have something else in common besides journalism. We both were born in Mexico City. She arrived in Chicago as a child, which helps to explain her ease speaking English and Spanish.

Hinojosa told me that the DePaul teaching job lured her because she saw a natural connection with Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, who is an inspiration to her as a Latina writer. At the same time, being back in Chicago made perfect sense for her.

Hinojosa remembers the Pilsen neighborhood being “essentially an invisible community” in the late 1970s, when she left for New York. Back then, she gathered signatures to have the first Latino on a ballot in Chicago.

“You didn’t go into Pilsen unless you needed to be there or you lived there,” Hinojosa said. “It fell victim to that kind of Chicago neighborhood isolationism.”

Not anymore.

Hinojosa now sees Latinos in positions of power throughout the city.

“We are no longer invisible. We are in the city, and we are the future of the city,” Hinojosa said.

It makes perfect sense for Hinojosa to return to Chicago.

Her students, as well as our city, will be better off for it.

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