The Story Behind It: How Journalists Valeria Fernández and Maritza L. Félix Center the Latinx Community

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Women journalists have always been at the forefront of change. As the United States faces escalating crises, it’s no surprise that women journalists are stepping up to bring the truth to the public.

During Women’s History Month 2021, the International Women’s Media Foundation and Mrs. began to shine a light on women journalists who make news media stronger, more diverse and more equitable. But their job didn’t end on March 31, and neither did ours. Change begins with recognizing the people behind the signature. All year round, join us on the last Thursday of the month to learn The story behind it.


This month: Valeria fernandez and Maritza L. Felix

Maritza L. Félix (left) and Valeria Fernández. (Courtesy)

This month meet Valeria fernandez and Maritza L. Felix, co-hosts of the “Comadres Al Aire”Phoenix, Arizona-based podcast. In addition to co-producing and co-hosting the podcast, Fernandez (@valfernandez) is the editorial director of Palabra and Félix (@MaritzaLFelix) is a freelance journalist.


I am a journalist, but I am also …

Valerie Fernandez: A first time mom in her 40s to a toddler with another on the way. I am a Uruguayan immigrant. I’m a dream maker, a storyteller, a songwriter that is both super funny and really heartbreaking. I am a mentor for young and old journalists. I make birthday cakes for those I love.

Maritza L. Felix: A Latina, an immigrant, a street photographer, a human being, a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, (sometimes a really good bad influence, ha!), Active member of my community, a mentor, a very resilient and happy person, and a #conacentoycontalento woman!

The story behind it: Journalists Valeria Fernández and Maritza L. Félix make room for the Latinx community
“For me, doing journalism is a way of telling our community that they matter,” said Valeria Fernández. (Courtesy)

How do your identities shape your work? When have your intersections helped you do your job better or approach work differently?

Fernandez: I started my career with a small Spanish newspaper in Phoenix in 2003. I was a new immigrant to the United States and most of our readers were immigrants from Mexico. Although my migration experience was very privileged, I still experienced the sadness of family separation and had to grieve from a distance. I also worked for many years in the underground economy. My accent often made me a target of discrimination. These experiences humbled me and helped me have a greater empathy for those I wrote about. For me, doing journalism is a way of telling our community that they matter.

When I became a mom, I felt the urgency to create something that would allow other women, including non-binary and trans people, to stand up for our health. Then the pandemic happened, and it got even bigger.

Felix: From childhood I knew I was born to tell stories. Stories came to life in my imagination, but real people came to life in my notebooks. This is how I fell in love with journalism. During my career, I discovered the wonders of print and radio, the challenges of television and documentaries, and during the pandemic, I discovered the magic of community journalism across the digital world and social media. In the midst of a social and public health crisis, I created and built a hyperlocal medium of national reach, Conecta Arizona, and co-created, co-presented and co-produced an amazing podcast with one of my best. friends, “Comadres al Aire.”

I am a Latin. I am an immigrant journalist. Yo hablo español. It gives me a deep understanding of the needs of the Hispanic community in Arizona. I was not born into a privileged family, and like many of our Conecta Arizona attendees and “Comadres al Aire” listeners, I had to work harder than my non-immigrant white colleagues to gain confidence in the industry. some information. This empathy has been my strength and my hard work supports my credibility. I am part of my community.


“I am a Latina. I am an immigrant journalist. Yo hablo español. It gives me a deep understanding of the needs of the Hispanic community in Arizona.


The story behind it: Journalists Valeria Fernández and Maritza L. Félix make room for the Latinx community
Maritza L. Félix reporting along the South Texas border. (Courtesy)

Your podcast, “Comadres al Aire”, tackles conversations about health from a human perspective. How important do you think it is to have these inclusive and holistic wellness discussions?

Fernandez: Too often our communities are blamed for the health problems they face. Our approach is different because we focus on the community as part of the solution and in this way we redefine the narrative to empower women, non-binary and trans people. It is important to create safe spaces like ‘Comadres’ to break down taboos and prejudices so that we can begin to have more honest conversations about what healing looks like in all its magnitude: healing from racism, historical trauma, the discrimination and sexism that permeate health systems.

Felix: We needed a space to express ourselves and to express ourselves, to be us, a space where we could talk to you about who we are out loud, how we feel from the womb to the subconscious… and in our language, in our own words—como digo yo, con acento y con talento, en confianza.

Valeria and I are journalists, but also women, mothers and friends, and for the first time we have allowed ourselves to do something more personal, to show our vulnerabilities, to show many more that they are not alone with this that they feel and live. We do it our way, but always with the journalistic rigor that characterizes us. It is very important to create these spaces in Spanish.

Also, we believe in brotherhood, sorodity. We’ve been through a lot together, from morning coffee to happy hours with wine. Together we discovered motherhood, overcame immigration issues, traveled for fun and work, we spent many nights daydreaming together and fuming or crying. This is what the comadres do, and then, holding hands and with the strength of the other, we lean forward, our pa’lante vamos. And we want others to feel the same, that we are here to break free and sink together as a family – as comrades.

The story behind it: Journalists Valeria Fernández and Maritza L. Félix make room for the Latinx community
Valeria Fernández (left) and Maritza L. Félix. (Courtesy)

How to take time for your health and well-being? What are the things that feed you?

Fernandez: I am very curious about my own body, which has led me to explore approaches beyond Western medicine, such as acupuncture. I love acupuncture because it looks at the roots of your problems and doesn’t just treat the symptoms. What we eat also matters a lot, so I try to keep a balanced diet (which includes frequent pizzas). I rarely weigh myself. I also practice yoga and enjoy sound healing very much.

Music and art nourish my soul; the books, the poetry and my son’s puzzled look when he discovers something new. I am more than grateful to have a partner who is compassionate and who works every day to make this world a better place with big and small gestures. It inspires me.

Felix: Read, write, travel, take long walks with my family, play with my twins, watch insane series, seek beauty in everyday life, connect with my community across Conecta Arizona. Getting a massage once a month also helps a lot. Talking to my friends or chatting with my mom and spending days at the border and taking pictures with my Leica. I’m learning to say no and it’s so good for my mental health.


“We do it our way, but always with the journalistic rigor that characterizes us. It is very important to create these spaces in Spanish.


How does your community uplift you and how do you uplift others in your community?

Fernandez: My community is resilient, generous and powerful. They uplift me every time they share a little bit of themselves with me so I can tell their story, but they uplift me even more in those conversations and moments that we share that never do. topicality, in the relationships of trust that we are building. As an immigrant to Arizona, our immigrant community has become my extended family.

I uplift others by being present, showing up even when it’s difficult, never giving up when someone asks for help, and just listening to the number of hours it takes.

Felix: The moment we stop talking about our community as them everything changes. It is we, it has always been we and i still hope to be we. I believe that together we are stronger. I believe in the power to listen, to engage and to do. I believe that a good education and meeting people who seek the same answers empowers us and our communities. We are here to bring dialogue to journalism, to have difficult conversations, to be interviewed, so that our own community has the confidence to ask and know that there will be answers. We want to tell their stories with their voices, their accents and their nuances. It lifts me up: the idea of ​​building something together.

The story behind it: Journalists Valeria Fernández and Maritza L. Félix make room for the Latinx community
“Too often our communities are blamed for the health problems they face. Our approach is different because we focus on the community as part of the solution and in this way we redefine the narrative to empower women, non-binary and trans people, ”said Valeria Fernández. (Courtesy)

Who is in your ideal group chat?

Fernandez: Las fantásticas, we are four friends in the media including my partner in Comadres, Maritza L. Félix. We can talk about everything: journalism, love, motherhood, sex and health. They are wise and funny.

Felix: I already have it with Conecta Arizona. We change the stories together. And we are welcoming more and more Comadres.

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