We Were Always Here: A Mexican American’s Odyssey
Award-winning journalist’s memoir juxtaposes his international reporting experiences with his family’s struggles as ethnic Americans.
by Ricardo Chavira
Publication Date: April 30, 2021
Bind: Trade Paperback
Ricardo Chavira was in Nicaragua on assignment for Time magazine in 1984, embedded with a group of Contra rebels, when the situation turned dire. A larger Sandinista patrol was in pursuit and he was reaching the end of his endurance after a fifteen-hour forced march. He had been with the rebels for six days and his feet were covered in blisters. On top of that, they were subsisting on minimal rations: a few mouthfuls of red beans and a couple of tortillas each day. Naively believing he could let the rebels go on without him, Chavira was shaken when told the Sandinistas would probably kill him. “I was no longer a neutral participant, but the quarry in a brutal war.”
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Ricardo Chavira writes in his memoir about the challenges growing up in a marginalized community in Pacoima, California, where he attended a high school notorious for gang violence and inadequate teaching. Against all the odds, he managed to reject gang affiliation, avoid serious crimes, evade the Vietnam War draft and earn undergraduate and graduate degrees. He became passionate about journalism because it gave him the chance to report about the lives of Latinos that mainstream American media either ignored or misrepresented.
Chavira was one of the few Latinos working in the most elite newsrooms in the United States, covering natural disasters, including the 8.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Mexico City in 1985, and interviewing the likes of Mexican presidents Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Vicente Fox and Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega. Interspersing his journalistic adventures with his family’s history as Americans, Chavira examines his dual identities—Mexican and American—and their contribution to his success in navigating and reporting stories around the world.