As an undocumented immigrant, Cora Cervantes spent her late teens and early 20s advocating for the rights of other people living in the shadows. Because of her activism, she became the subject of media interviews, and she realized the power media had to shape American discourse about people like her.
So she became a journalist.
“People didn’t use the term ‘undocumented,’ said Cervantes, who is now an associate producer for MSNBC. “The word “Dreamer” wasn’t in our ecosystem of vocabulary and within my public spaces or newsrooms.”
In 2006, as she planned a march in Los Angeles to advocate for the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, she worked on press releases sent to reporters like Anderson Cooper and Jorge Ramos. Journalists reached out to ask about her immigrant story, and the experience made her realize she wanted to do it, too.
The best way to explain a concept as complicated as DACA, she believes, is to talk with someone who has lived through it. This year, Cora has been at the forefront of conversations about diversity in top newsrooms across California and she hopes to continue these conversations when she fills her new role as the vice president of the NAHJ Los Angeles chapter.
“I knew storytelling was important and media was important,” Cervantes said. “So once I adjusted my legal status, I just thought, why not dream big and do what you love.”
Now, as a producer for a national news company, Cora focuses much of her coverage on telling the stories of the Latino community because she understands their lived experiences.
“There’s a layer of lived experience that allows me to step in from a place of trust,” she said. “It’s about getting the story right.”
Laura Anaya-Morga is a recent graduate of the University of California, Riverside, where she studied media and culture. She is a metro intern at the Los Angeles Times and is pursuing a career in print journalism. Reach her at lauraanayamorga [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter @lauraanayam_.