By Sonia Lopez
At the start of this project I knew I wanted to do a story about Wells Avenue because I wanted to tell the story of my culture. Being Hispanic and being part of the largest growing minority in the United States I feel like there still is a disconnect between the Latino community and the media. As a journalist I hope to find stories that need to be told, stories that nobody is telling. For this project I wanted to explore a piece of the Latino community’s story in Reno.
I grew up in Fallon, an hour away from Reno. When I was a kid we would drive on the weekends to Wells Avenue. My whole family would go and we would buy things we could not get at Walmart, like the leaves to make tamales. We would also get Mexican candy like Lucas. It felt really welcoming and my dad would say “hi” to people, even people he didn’t know. Wells Avenue felt safe and welcoming, it was kind of like being in Mexico. Mexico is a piece of me, and I want to be connected to it. Like I miss my grandparents who live in Mexico. On Wells Avenue I see old ladies that remind me of her, or old men with their Mexican cowboy hats who make me think of my grandpa. And I know, for my parents, it’s so important to feel like they were back home. Wells feels like that.
I knew what I wanted to accomplish with my story and I knew where to find the largest Latino population in Reno, but I didn’t know what my story would be or who it would be about.
So what do you do when you don’t have a story, but you have a deadline?
Go find one.
My mentor Sandhya Dirks and I walked up and down Wells Avenue for two days and met people like me; people who would travel to Wells from different parts of Nevada to find Mexican goods that can’t be found anywhere else. We met local business owners who have been there for almost twenty years, a guy who goes twenty minutes out of his way just to buy tamales at the Latino supermarket, and a girl who drove almost an hour from Reno to get a dress for her Quinceñera.
Let me tell you walking up to people and asking them their story it isn’t as easy as it sounds.
At least not for me.
Coming into this experience I was doubtful about even applying. I sent my application thinking I probably wouldn’t get in to the program. When I received the email that said I had been picked I literally screamed, which was embarrassing considering I was sitting in my Econ 103 lecture and half the students were asleep.
This experience did teach me, and it gave me an opportunity to truly invest time and go talk to people. There were moments where I would forget to introduce myself and explain what I was doing and people would look at me like I was crazy, but that is okay. I can honestly say if I were to redo this project next week I could walk into everyone of the businesses and explain my self and ask my questions and find that story.
The scary part for me was approaching people and saying “hey can I talk to you.” But I learned after that it gets easy, because people want to talk and they want their story to be heard. I mean, yes, some people will say no and that is okay too. You say thank you and move on the next person. But for the most part about eight out of ten people are interested and they want to know why you are walking around holding a microphone, recording the cars driving by.
As a journalist I just want to tell people’s stories. Stories that aren’t usually told, but I feel need to be told, stories that I believe people need to know. Through this boot camp I learned that its okay to email the same person three days in a row and to be a professional stalker because maybe they are that last voice the story needed and using professional stalker as your job description will definetly intrigue people to want to know more.
But the most important thing I learned is that it is okay to tell people your insecurities and your weaknesses, especially when surrounded with mentors who want to see you succeed. They can help turn those weaknesses into strengths.