Editor’s note: On May 11, 2021, Conecta Arizona marked two years of serving Spanish-speakers in Arizona, USA and Sonora, Mexico with trusted information about Covid and a range of related topics. Feet in 2 Worlds helped launch Conecta Arizona. In this essay, Conecta Arizona’s founder, Fi2W Editing Fellow Maritza Felix, reflects on her journey in community journalism.
I was told many times that my grain of sand would be lost in the desert.
That I was an idealist for dreaming of changing the world one message at a time.
That my ideas for journalism were like taking stones to the river.
That I wasn’t a “talent.”
That I had too thick an accent and too little time.
I was warned that a single person could not make the whole boat turn, that betting on a community project would be just a hobby, and that a “little group” was not synonymous with journalism.
I smiled at them with curious eyes, curved lips, numb cheeks, and a fluttering heart.
Today, my experiment, Conecta Arizona, celebrates two years of flourishing, just as the desert does: in spite of everything.
It’s not just an experiment anymore.
And it is not just mine; it’s ours.
Conecta Arizona began as a cross-border lifeline in the pandemic. It was just a WhatsApp group that connected Arizona and Sonora with information, news, resources, memes, and experts in Spanish, primarily in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We grew very fast. We now have multiple broadcast lists, a Telegram channel, a weekly radio show, a Substack newsletter, and social media campaigns. In June, we’re preparing to launch a podcast featuring stories of the bridges humans build when others build walls.
The heart of Conecta Arizona beats with La Hora del Cafecito, a daily hour of intense conversations on WhatsApp about news, controversies, politics, health, immigration, and even entertainment and technology. We talk about everything. We are not afraid of tough issues, we don’t avoid controversy, and we’re not intimidated by disagreement. As of today, we have had 609 of these coffee hours with more than 160 messages each. That is dialogue.
We are not a traditional media outlet nor do we want to be. We bet on hyperlocal journalism, difficult conversations, feedback, transparency, investing time in listening, verifying data, working in Spanish, and empowering being binational and bicultural. We bet on and for the people. We bet on collaborations and supporting others, having worked with Prensa Arizona, Onda 1190, El Sol de Hermosillo, and more. That has taken us to schools like Stanford University and CUNY. It’s gotten us written about by Nieman Lab, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Poynter, Al Jazeera, and more.
It may have all started with me, but now it reaches where I never could have imagined, thanks to you.
So when they tell you that one person can’t change the world, take them by the hand and show them the magic of human connections. Teach them that one by one, we will weave stories, friendships, support networks, community, families, proud neighborhoods, informed conversations. We will create a new narrative that has our hands, our faces, our languages and accents.
Show them that journalism is not extraction, but inspiration. Those stories are not born from press releases and conferences, but afternoons full of dialogue. That we can all be mythbusters and human lifesavers. That we grow stronger when we go deeper. That even though we find ourselves separated by Zip codes, borders, celebrations, and even the pandemic, we chose to stay together.
Feet in 2 Worlds is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Ford Foundation, the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, an anonymous donor and readers like you.