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Hispanicize is getting political in 2016

Actor Luis Guzman and Miss USA winner Nia Sanchez hosted the Positive Impact Awards at the 2015 Hispanicize event.
Actor Luis Guzman and Miss USA winner Nia Sanchez hosted the Positive Impact Awards at the 2015 Hispanicize event.

Manny Ruiz, the CEO of Hispanicize Media Group and founder of the largest U.S. Hispanic social media and entertainment gathering in the country, swears the decision to give this year’s Latinovator Award to actress Rosario Dawson wasn’t “premeditated.”

But Ruiz says he’s happy that Dawson, who will attend Hispanicize on Wednesday, made news over the weekend by blasting Hillary Clinton and appearing at a rally for Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Madison, WI.

“This had been building for several years – in my heart anyway,” Ruiz said. “I had noticed Latinos getting lost in the debate between Democrats and Republicans. What’s come to a head is that we’re in such bizarre circumstances. People are getting bolder and bolder about how they talk about Mexicans, but we all know Mexicans is a euphemism for Latino.

“There is a saying that one day they go after your neighbor, the next day they go after you. We’re being pushed around because we don’t know what to do. We need to find our voice and get our act together.”

Hispanicize 2016, which is expected to attract 5,000 journalists, content creators, musicians, filmmakers and media experts to the InterContinental Miami before it ends on April 8, remains primarily a hub for ideas, creative strategies, networking, entertainment, market trends and branding.

Highlights include the unveiling of Raydr, a new social intelligence platform; a presentation by the Walt Disney Company on reframing Hispanics from a targeted segment to a core audience; a panel discussion on the Hispanic-American financial experience; a seminar for journalists on the logistical challenges of covering Cuba; and musical performances by Sofia Reyes, Vanessa Zamora, David Alfaro and Wisin. Prudential Financial, Coca-Cola and Wells Fargo are among this year’s sponsors.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is holding its first-ever Spanish-language conference during Hispanicize, taking advantage of the large number of the event’s media attendees.

“There are a lot of things journalists can learn from these panels that can advance their own work,” said Mekahlo Medina, president of NAHJ. “We can provide the kind of hardcore journalism panel we’re known for in Spanish and give our members the opportunity to see how social media brands are getting their content out.”

But the importance of this year’s presidential election – combined with the attention the candidates have brought to immigration and the 55 million Hispanics living in the U.S. – led Hispanicize organizers to create a hashtag for social media, #PowerInUnity, that sums up the main theme of this year’s event.

“We’re not just talking about unity in all our different fields,” said Katherine Johnson, vice-president and executive producer of Hispanicize. “It’s also about unity in different organizations coming together. We’re stronger that way, and that’s very important. Sometimes in Latino groups there’s a lack of leadership or a sense of inclusiveness. We want to show that we can work together and unite all the different Hispanic identities.”

Alongside screenings of the USA network’s new series Queen of the South and the documentary Being Ñ, Hispanicize will offer town-hall discussions on winning the Latino vote, a playbook on how to use social media to reach Latino millennials and other presentations designed to have an immediate impact on how attendees can use their work to strengthen the U.S. Hispanic identity.

“Hispanicize is not a politically-oriented organization, and we don’t aspire to be,” Ruiz said. “We will continue to do a lot of fun, exciting stuff, and that’s important. But I think this year we will find our soul. We want to be a force of good, not a force of disturbances and protests. We have a moral responsibility to not ignore what is happening. We are a force for unity, and we do that by standing up for our dignity. Hispanicize is just going to help uncork the possibilities.”

Hispanicize 2016 runs through April 8. For a complete schedule of events, visit http://hispanicizeevent.com/.

Rene Rodriguez: 305-376-3611, @ReneMiamiHerald

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