Visionaries advance a ‘Latine’ narrative for democracy

By Michael R. Malone

Visionaries advance a ‘Latine’ narrative for democracy

By Michael R. Malone
Promoting values of inclusion, equity, and collaboration, a panel of thought leaders shared their personal stories to forge a blueprint for a new American democracy, as part of a forum hosted by the University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas.

A panel of changemakers, representing a cross section of specialists from law to public health to the private sector, shared the podium for “If We Want to Win: A Latine Vision for a New American Democracy” held Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Lakeside Village Expo at the University of Miami. The event was co-convened by the Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas and the Center for Global Black Studies.

The panelists were all collaborators for the book of the same title published in 2021 and were united through their commitment to philanthropic giving and in their call for a democracy narrative that is more inclusive and equity-based than the current one, especially for brown and Black people.

The book endorses the gender-neutral neologism “Latine” to refer to people of Latin American origin.    

Diana Campoamor, a University alumna, author, and advisor to philanthropists, edited the book and galvanized its publication as a project of the Nuestra América Fund. She sought Latine colleagues with deep experience in philanthropy and invited them to write essays that reflected their personal experience as immigrants and “the other”—similar to her own experience growing up in Miami—that collectively would set forth a vision for the future and strategies to get there.

“If we want a strong democracy, we have to have a collective voice and a variety of stories,” Campoamor said. “And if in some cases the stories contradict each other, so be it. But that’s who we are.”

In welcoming the panel, President Julio Frenk emphasized that the University closely aligned with the book’s intent to explore what it means to be Latine and American in the 21st century, and to offer a blueprint for moving the United States toward a more inclusive and just democracy.

“Events like this allow us to fulfill one of the crucial functions of universities, which is in a convening function, that is to say a place characterized by a free exchange of ideas, respectful debate, civic engagement, and to tackle some of the most consequential problems facing our society,” he noted.


Ana Gloria Rivas-Vázquez, an attorney, former journalist, and alumna of the School of Law, highlighted one of the common threads among the panelists: the fact that someone in their families took a huge risk to come to a new country and start a new life.   

“I’m made in Cuba, born in the USA—my parents took a risk,” Rivas-Vázquez said. “I grew up in a Cuban-American enclave with a strong sense of community, and that experience and my education made me aware of how connected we were.”

That experience and connection led her to a career as a philanthropic executive, to create her own local foundation, and to spend years researching why and how people give.

“There is no generosity gene,” Rivas-Vázquez highlighted. “Latinos are givers in so many ways, and we have to change the narrative that some perceive us as takers. That’s what led me to write this particular piece,” she explained.  

Lillian Manzor, associate professor with the Michele Bowman Underwood Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and the faculty lead for research at the institute, moderated the conversation.

Other participants on the panel, part of the larger group of 20 writers who collaborated on the book, included: Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment and a former public health commissioner; Nelson Colón, president and CEO of Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico; and Hector Mujica, head of Economic Opportunity, Americas at and a former aide to congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz.  

Felicia Knaul, a public health expert, professor at the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, and director of the Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas, provided closing remarks.

The event, Knaul said, emphasized the importance of bearing witness, a responsibility she learned in her family. She said the book, its narratives, and statistical findings would serve as an important resource for many of the efforts at the institute-—among them seeking to reduce domestic violence—and also in the public health classes she teaches.

“In these classes we’re asking students to understand and learn from their own experience and knowledge—as a sister, a brother, or a child—and to use those stories to help transform the world,” Knaul said.

In response to a question from the audience about the book’s title, Campoamor replied that the “If We Want to Win” phrase poses a new scenario for winning.

“As a society we all want to win, and these are some of the narratives that construct that idea. This is not about ‘I’m the winner’ and ‘you’re the loser,’ ” Campoamor explained. “These stories and our intent are toward a win-win concept—a new narrative for democracy.”