How To Get More Latinos At South By Southwest

The South By Southwest festival in Austin Texas just wrapped up, and as one of the Latino-centric news outlets that covered the conference and its three different components — interactive (my reporting), film, and music — there are a few interesting takeaways. For me, the highlight of the festival had to be Austin-based Cultural Strategies’ brainchild, The Social Revolución, an event that highlighted Latinos in technology and social media. It was at this event, the first official Latino event of SXSW Interactive, that I saw the most Latinos in one place; and the most exciting thing was we were all gathered there to celebrate innovative work we’ve done with technology.

First, let me give you a brief overview of what it was like to cut for SXSW Interactive. Essentially, the festival is more like a tech conference, in the sense that there were keynote speakers, panels, sessions, and an assorted variety of parties and social gatherings. The people who attended the conference included journalists like myself, as well as marketers, social media folks, technology innovators, and assorted variety of professionals from all over the country interested in the future of technology in U.S.

Two of my biggest takeaways here were: there were not that many Latinos in attendance, and then there were very few panels or sessions that covered Latinos in technology (some of those available included innovations from Latin America, however).  This surprised me given that I had it on good authority that there were several other Latino panels submitted to the conference that never made it into the actual programming. What’s more, this pattern extended to African Americans; although the first day of the conference there were several panels dedicated to talk about this population in tech, I missed them because of the outrageously long line to pick up my conference badge.

To me, if I dare call myself an entrepreneur and a social media/technology professional, I left the conference wanting more — a whole lot more. I had so badly wanted to say that SXSW Interactive introduced me to new technologies by and for Latinos, or particularly interesting trends in the Latino community, or even a few more mixers where I could meet others with similar interests. Instead, I found myself sifting through copious panels and events to find something beyond what I had a ready found, specifically the aforementioned Social Revolución. When we asked one of the organizers, Armando Rayo VP of engagement for Cultural Strategies, about the event he told me the purpose was to address these types of concerns.

“Our goal was to bring Latinos together during SXSWi and shine the light on the those using social media to create change. We felt it was successful because it was a first of it’s kind event and filled a much needed void; a place where Latinos can come together at SXSWi,” Rayo told NewsTaco.

Back to my initial point, about the need for a greater presence of Latinos at this event, I applaud SXSW for collaborating with Cultural Strategies to produce The Social Revolución. It was a great event that allowed people to come together, make contact, find out about new things, and take away a new network and hopes that next year’s event will offer even more opportunities for Latinos in tech to network and innovate. Rayo actually told me that was the point of the event in the first place. But I want more, I know others wanted more, and I think that we can all work in our own ways to ensure a greater representation and participation of Latinos in this important annual conference.

Hopefully, this year the Latinos that met at The Social Revolución can rally their friends to submit more panels, perhaps SXSW will be able to collaborate with Cultural Strategies (which is planning to do the event bigger and better next year) and other groups to produce more Latino events, and organizations like NewsTaco can spread the word about this great event to folks who would benefit from attendance. Because, as Rayo told me,  this event was part–participation and part–education, “It’s all about relevance. Do Latinos see themselves in this space, tech/online and does SXSWi see how many Latinos are actually involved in the digital space?”

Ultimately, if we want more Latinos at and participating in SXSW Interactive, it will take more people like Rayo and more organizations like Cultural Strategies, but it will also take outlets like NewsTaco and the organizers of SXSW.  Or, as Rayo put it, “The numbers are definitely growing, but we should encourage SXSWi to add more panels and include more Latinos in their programming; this will definitely increase the attendance of Latinos at SXSWi. It’s a win-win.”

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