The Orange County Register, October 2000
“Jorge, Jorge!” as loud as they could. Finally, Jorge Ramos spotted the Savanna High School student standing atop her chair in a bright pink top and signaled her to ask her question.
Ecstatic, 15-year-old Jazmin Castellanos glanced down at her notes, and then carefully read her question: “Do you believe that relations between Mexico and the United States will ever be closer,” she asked and then slid back into her chair with giant smile on her face, confident that she had asked the right question.
Usually, it’s Ramos, an Emmy-award winning-television anchor, who asks all the questions, but this past Saturday during his visit to Santa Ana’s Librería Martinez Books & Art Gallery, it was he who was flooded with questions from the throng of fans who showed.
Hours before he arrived, the crowds lined up outside Librería Martinez. They cheered wildly when he showed up, reached out to touch him as he walked by, and left traces of rosy lipstick on his cheek.
“I’ve never been welcomed like this anywhere,” Ramos, there to promote his latest book, “The Other Face of America,” told the chanting crowd. It was the biggest book signing ever for Librería Martinez owner Ruebén Martinez, who sold 1,300 books that day and estimates that as many as 2,000 people showed up.
Why all the fervor for a journalist? Well, first I should explain that Ramos is like family. Every night at 6:30 p.m. his face appears in the living rooms of millions of Spanish-speaking viewers across the United States and 13 Latin American countries as he relays the news of the day for Univision Television Network, the most-watched Spanish-language television network in the United States.
I grew up hearing Ramos’ voice every night as my dad watched the news aired from Los Angeles, where Ramos worked his first job at Univision’s flagship station. When he was promoted to Univision’s network operations in Miami, his voice still came into our living room, but for the national and international newscast.
In the field, the 42-year-old Ramos has accomplished many things, yet when I spoke to him by phone last week, he mentioned none of this. Instead we spent most of our time talking about why he has focused on the plight of immigrants, undocumented workers and the Latino working class through hiswork.
In his new book, Ramos doesn’t include famous Latino leaders. His pages are set aside to tell the stories of Mexicans who put their lives on the line to cross the border, Colombians who flee the drug war in their homeland, Cuban exiles living in Miami, and Central American victims of Hurricane Mitch.
“What I found is that in each immigrant there is an incredible story,” said Ramos. “In many cases these immigrants, who are largely ignored, are true heroes. Each story?tells us about courage, determination and a desire to improve their lives and their families’ lives.”
He’s earned a reputation for being tenacious and confronting his interview subjects with tough questions. On Saturday, Martinez aptly described Ramos to the crowd as “the man who knows how to ask questions,” referring to an exclusive interview Ramos landed earlier this month with former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
Ramos at one point asked Salinas point blank whether he had anything to do with the assassination of presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colossio.
“What I’ve been trying to do is become the voice of the voiceless,” said Ramos, who’s interviewed Fidel Castro and the Pope. “I try to ask the questions that any person would want to ask a president and I give voice to concerns that no other network would air.”
Ramos told the crowd his own story. How he immigrated alone to Los Angeles from Mexico City at age 24 after he realized that censorship was so rampant in Mexico it would never allow him to accomplish his dreams as a journalist.
Now through his work, he is able to put words to the dreams of Latinos and give voice to their issues, whether it’s lambasting the Republican Party for giving lip service to Latinos and only having 73 Latino delegates out of 2,066 at the Republican convention. Or reminding Gore to pay attention to the contributions that Latinos make.
“He’s an asset to the Latino community for everything he’s accomplished? the message he brings, his goals, the things he wants for our community,” said Florentino Jimenez, 42, a print shop supervisor from Garden Grove.
“Even his sincerity is apparent.” Though he was treated like a star, Ramos didn’t act like one. Instead of parking in the prime spot set aside for him in front of Librería Martinez, he parked around the corner and walked on foot to shake the people’s hands.
He spent only a few minutes with the press, excusing himself quickly, saying he didn’t want to make the people wait, and then stayed at the bookstore till 9:30 Saturday night to autograph the book of the very last fan, who had waited four hours and 20 minutes for him.
“He’s just a down-to-earth dude who motivates people to be better than him,” said Martinez.
Ramos motivated people such as Herminia Kindelan of Tustin, who’s considering a career in journalism, to show up and shake his hand. But even those who won’t ever become journalists were motivated by Ramos and learn every night that they watch him on television.
I could see it clearly on Saturday in the right questions everyone asked. They were educated and informed, curious and impassioned about the world around them and the future before them.
Did he believe anything Salinas said, they asked Ramos. Did former Gov. Pete Wilson have a chance of winning the U.S. presidency? What difference would newly elected Mexican president Vicente Fox make?
There was only one question that wasn’t asked on Saturday, but as he stood in line outside the bookstore, Ramon Solis of Riverside asked me: “Why doesn’t (Ramos) run for president of Mexico? I think he’d make a good president.”