Manny Garcia was an infant in the early 1960s when his parents and grandparents suddenly fled dictator Fidel Castro’s rule in Cuba. They left behind everything — their cars, furnishings and even the food in the refrigerator — to make a new life in the United States.
Because of this moment, and the countless stories of what was lost, told by his parents and grandparents, Garcia says he knows how fragile democracy is. So he’s dedicated his career to protecting it through journalism, and now he’s the executive editor of the Austin American-Statesman in Texas.
Manny Garcia, executive editor at the Austin American-Statesman, will share a personal story for the Storytellers Project's "I am Hispanic" show on June 9. (Photo: Courtesy of Manny Garcia)
“I have a heartfelt appreciation for the freedoms that this country holds true — specifically the First Amendment,” he said. “I get to openly practice journalism in the United States, where in Cuba, my birthplace, there is no freedom of the press. In Cuba, reporters end up jailed and silenced.”
Garcia, 60, of Austin, will join four other Americans on Wednesday, June 9, in sharing personal stories as part of the USA TODAY Network’s Storytellers Project event, “I am Hispanic.”
Watch at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET. Register in advance to receive a reminder and watch on USA TODAY’s Facebook page, YouTube channel or website.
Garcia will share his story as part of the ongoing “I Am” series of storytelling nights focused on how race and ethnicity weave through American identities.
The series is part of parent company Gannett’s broader commitment to equity, diversity and inclusivity and will feature shows about Black, Asian and Indigenous experiences in America, among others.
Garcia will be joined by:
- Christy Haubegger, 52, of Los Angeles.
- Marilyn Torres, 62, of Laveen, Arizona.
- Lily Be, 42, of Chicago.
- Charlie Echeverry, 42, of Los Angeles.
Haubegger launched Latina magazine in 1996, because she said she never saw herself or other Latinas represented in American media.
Christy Haubegger, executive vice president of communications and chief inclusion officer at WarnerMedia, will share her personal story on June 9 as part of the Storytellers Project's "I am Hispanic" virtual event. (Photo: Jai Lennard)
“The magazine’s readership grew to the millions because people like me were starving to see themselves,” said Haubegger, now executive vice president of communications and chief inclusion officer at WarnerMedia.
Inspired by the success of her magazine, Haubegger moved into entertainment, where she seized an opportunity to have a greater impact, producing the films “Chasing Papi” and “Spanglish.”
“Through my story, I want to convey that representation matters. Specifically, representation in media and entertainment because there are billions of people who may never visit the U.S. but will likely watch our films and TV shows,” she said.
“We all look for reflections of ourselves in media, but we also look for ourselves at work and in our communities. That reflection is how we know we matter.”
Charlie Echeverry, founder of the Black/Brown Collective, is among five storytellers sharing their experiences as part of the Storytellers Project's "I am Hispanic" show. (Photo: Courtesy of Charlie Echeverry)
A Catholic deacon and Black//Brown Collective founder, Echeverry will share his journey working with the poor over the last 20 years. He says his wife’s experience in a hospital waiting room inspired his story, as well as his work in homeless outreach.
Torres, a professor at the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute in Phoenix, will talk about how she came to embrace her roots.
Marilyn Torres, a professor at the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute in Phoenix, will share her story during the "I am Hispanic" virtual storytelling show. (Photo: Courtesy of Marilyn Torres)
“I grew up as a child traveling between the Island of Borinquen (Puerto Rico) and Brooklyn, New York, in the 1960s,” she said. “My family was a rainbow of colors that were rooted in culture linked to African, Spanish and Taino people, rich in musical expression, artistry, education and ‘curanderismo.’”
Be, founder of Chicago-based storytelling platform The Stoop, will tell a funny story about Latino teens who fall in love with each other while thinking they are from different ethnic backgrounds.
Lily Be, founder of Chicago-based storytelling platform The Stoop, will share her story as part of the Storytellers Project's "I Am" series on June 9. (Photo: Courtesy of Lily Be)
Their prejudices are put on display, she said, when they discover the truth.
WATCH: Episodes from the Storytellers Project
Learn more about the Storytellers Project and apply to tell a story at https://www.storytellersproject.com/.
Need to know
- What: “I am Hispanic”
- Where: USA TODAY’s Facebook page, YouTube channel and The Storytellers Project’s Facebook Page, YouTube channel and website.
- When: June 9, 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET
- More: Watch past virtual shows on YouTube and recorded in-person shows on the Storytellers Project’s website.
- June 15: Fatherhood
- July 13: Stories about Stories
- Aug. 17: Travel and Overseas Adventures
- Sept. 14: Outdoor Adventures
- Oct. 19: Home
- Nov. 9: Veterans
- Nov. 16: Food and Family
- Dec.14: Holidays
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