“You should never give your cell-phone number to Donald Trump. You know what he did with it? he put it on the internet.”
By Cal Fussman
For years, Jorge Ramos has been the face of Univision, America’s most influential Spanish-language news channel. Although seen by millions of people, for a time he was largely unknown to just as many. But then he stood up to Donald Trump, further solidifying himself as the voice of Latino voters. He also does a show for millennial viewers on Fusion, which broadens his base. It’s been a long journey for the fifty-eight-year-old, who came to America as an immigrant and, as he says here, is inspired by de Tocqueville.
I learned very early on that I had to question everything, because what I was seeing wasn’t necessarily the truth or the right thing. It wasn’t right that there was no democracy in Mexico. It wasn’t right that my mother couldn’t go to college. It wasn’t right that Catholic priests would hit me.
Elie Wiesel says that neutrality only helps the oppressor, never the victim. And I think you can apply that to journalism.
You have to show reality as it is, not as you wish it to be.
I sent Trump a handwritten note requesting an interview with my cell-phone number in it. That was a huge mistake. You should never, ever give your cell-phone number to Donald Trump. You know what he did with it? He put it on the Internet.
I was at my office midmorning, and I tried to make a phone call. I couldn’t. My phone kept getting thousands of messages and calls. I’ve never been attacked that way before. The vast majority of the messages were negative—the worst insults. But the funny thing about it is that I even got some messages from people trying to sell me things or send auditions for songs.
I knew I had to do something back. I had to react in a very public way. We realized he was going to do a news conference in Dubuque, Iowa. And we thought, correctly, that few journalists would follow him all the way to Dubuque.
I went to the front row. We made sure the cameras were positioned correctly.
Body language is important. I made sure to ask the questions standing up; he wasn’t going to have a position of authority over me.
I was wearing a mic—my voice was going to be on the same level as his. I knew going in not to stop asking questions, because he interrupts you constantly by saying, “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me!” So I was going to continue asking my questions right until the end. And that’s what happened.
For the first time in thirty years as a journalist, I was ejected from a press conference for trying to ask a question. The only other time a guard prevented me from asking a question was with Fidel Castro.
Happiness for me is the people whom you love, love you back.
I still remember when I could only eat shrimp once a year if I was lucky. My father used to take the family to this restaurant, and we were allowed to ask for anything. But after asking for shrimp, I could see my dad’s face already start calculating how much it was going to cost him. A family of four brothers and a sister—seven in total. A middle-class family could not give shrimp to seven. I remember feeling guilty when my father ordered, because I got the sense that he was not asking for the most expensive plate because he just couldn’t afford it. So for me, shrimp still means luxury.
When I landed at LAX on January 2, 1983, I carried everything that I owned: one bag, some papers, and my guitar. Just imagine that everything you own you can carry—that’s freedom.
I didn’t want to be an immigrant. I was forced to be an immigrant. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French writer, said that the powerful and the happy never go into exile. He was right.
When somebody dies in the United States, you have a meal, and a few days later you are supposed to be ready to move on. That’s impossible in Latin America. You don’t move on. You are stuck to the past. We even have the Day of the Dead, on which those who died come back, and in an incredible, surreal ceremony we bring to the cemetery the food and the music that they liked.
In Mexico, in the past two decades, more than eighty journalists have been killed for doing what I’ve been doing all my life.
Hate is contagious. A few seconds after Donald Trump has told me something hateful, somebody else repeats it. He has legitimized what people only dare say in their kitchens and bedrooms.
Yes, Latinos dream more. When you live in poverty, when your president is imposed upon you, when they kill someone and no one gets indicted, and when only a few get rich, of course you dream more. It’s no coincidence that magic realism happens in Latin America, because for us dreams and aspirations are part of life.
There’s just no stopping it—everyone’s going to be a minority. We’re seeing a demographic revolution. It’s changing the music, the accents, the food, the color of our faces. It’s changing how we vote.
George W. Bush was the first U. S. president who thought that he spoke Spanish. Most of the time, he was unintelligible, but voters appreciated that he tried. I asked him about the 537 votes that defined the 2000 election in Florida. He told me that most likely those votes were from Latinos. His strategy paid off.
Once, I was talking to someone working in an ice cream shop, and she said she loved to work there because everybody is happy when they walk in. It’s true. When you buy an ice cream, everybody is happy.
I’m always afraid that I’m going to lose everything again. That’s something that happens to almost all immigrants. I’m still working as if I didn’t have enough.
I’ve already done the most difficult thing for any human being, which is leave everything behind and start all over again.