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Hinojosa’s Early Years: From Barnard to CNN

Born in Mexico City in 1961, Maria de Lourdes Hinojosa was the youngest of four children. When she was one year old, her father moved her family to the United States, and Hinojosa spent her childhood in the south side of Chicago. While attending Barnard as an undergraduate, Hinojosa lived in Washington Heights. 

During her freshman year, Hinojosa participated in the Barnard dance department’s Program of Dance Works in Progress, in which she choreographed and danced in a piece called “Intrusion” with one of her peers. Hinojosa first became seriously invested in journalism while part of Barnard’s community. During her sophomore year, she spent her slot at WKCR celebrating her roots through having conversations with Spanish-speaking activists and sharing Latin American protest music in her show Nueva canción y De Más, which gained popularity as one of two national radio broadcasts highlighting the music genre la nuevo canión. Hinojosa spent six months traveling through Latin America, collecting music and conversations. In her junior year Fall, Hinojosa traveled to Cuba to record the Nueva Trova music festival on a trip funded by Columbia. The next summer, Hinojosa spent two weeks in Nicaragua and reflected on the experience in her article “Nicaragua: Reflections of A War-Torn Country,” which was published in the Barnard Bulletin. Hinojosa earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American studies with minors in Political Science and Women’s Studies, graduating magna cum laude with the class of 1984.

Hinojosa’s career in broadcast journalism began immediately after college, when she took a position as a production assistant for National Public Radio in Washington, D.C. In 1987, she joined the staff of WCBS Radio and produced shows such as “Where We Stand” with Walter Cronkite, “The Osgood File,” and “Newsbreak.” From 1988 to 1989, she was a producer and researcher for CBS’s “This Morning.” Then, from 1990 to 1997, she worked for NPR and WNYC Radio as a general assignment correspondent, covering issues in the New York area and throughout the country. During this period, she also hosted WNYC-TV’s “New York Hotline,” a live, prime-time call-in show that addressed current and public affairs, as well as Visiones, a Latinx-oriented public-affairs talk show on WNBC-TV in New York. In May 1997, she joined the Cable News Network as a New York-based urban affairs correspondent. Throughout her career, she has maintained her affiliation with NPR as the founding anchor for Latino USALatino USA is a weekly national program that reports on news and culture in the Latinx community, for which she is now executive producer. Latino USA was one of the first public radio programs dedicated to covering content relevant to the American Latinx community and is now the longest-running radio show with such a focus. 

Among the major events that Hinojosa has covered on-location are the Crown Heights conflicts of 1991 and the 1995 trial of ten accused conspirators in the first attack on the World Trade Center. While covering the latter trial for NPR, Hinojosa received a request from an American literary group to cover the first American book fair ever held in Havana, Cuba. On her last day in Cuba, she traveled to the countryside to visit one of the rural sanatoriums where the Cuban government was quarantining AIDS patients. There, she met a teenage husband and wife named Javier and Mireya, members of the anti-establishment rockero subculture who had deliberately injected themselves with AIDS-tainted blood, hoping to secure a life of comfortable confinement inside a sanatorium. In the fourth chapter of her memoir Raising Raul: Adventures Raising Myself and My Son, Hinojosa describes her interview with the pair:

“We talked for two hours hidden under a tree in the middle of someone’s farm. Javier was afraid that if the police saw him talking to a reporter he might be harassed. They had self-injected, he told me as I listened sadly, because they were tired of being hassled by the police for being antisocial ‘rockeros.’ They explained that they had decided to get AIDS so they could get into the sanatoriums, where they knew they would be allowed to dress how they wanted, listen to the music they wanted, and have air-conditioning and food seven days a week.”

Hinojosa’s intrepid spirit continued to guide her where few other American journalists were prepared to venture, a path that only increased her professional reputation.

Hinojosa has received numerous awards and honors over the course of her career. In 1991, she won the Top Story of the Year Award as well as a Unity Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists for her NPR story about gang members, titled “Crews.” That same year, she won an Associated Press award for her coverage of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison for WNYC Radio. In 1993, she received both the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Radio Award and the New York Society of Professional Journalists Deadline Award for her NPR report “Kids and Guns.” In 1999, she received the Ruben Salazar Award from the National Council of La Raza. Named in honor of a journalist killed by a policeman’s tear gas projectile in 1970 while covering a Chicano march in East Los Angeles, the Salazar Award is given each year to an individual who has dedicated his or her life to promoting a positive portrayal of Latinx historical, political, economic, and cultural contributors to American society. The same year, she was named one of the 25 most influential working mothers in America by Working Mother magazine. In 1995, Hispanic Business magazine named her one of the 100 most influential Latinos in the United States, an award which she has since earned twice more, and she received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for “Manhood Behind Bars,” an NPR story that documented how jail time has become a rite of passage for men of all races.

1995 also saw the publication of Hinojosa’s first book, Crews: Gang Members Talk with Maria Hinojosa, which was based on her award-winning NPR report. Her critically acclaimed memoir, Raising Raul, which includes her reflections on life, career, and motherhood, was published in 1999.

In 2005, Hinojosa joined PBS’s NOW as a Senior Correspondent after spending eight years as the Urban Affairs Correspondent for CNN. She then went on to host her own show on PBS, Maria Hinojosa: One-on-One, which garnered two New England Emmy awards as well as an Imagen award for its empowering Latinx representation.

Hinojosa’s New Chapter: Harlem and Barnard Once Again

In 2010, Hinojosa founded the Futuro Media Group based in Harlem, Manhattan. Futuro Media Group’s focus is on sharing marginalized media stories. Their mission statement affirms this goal:

“Futuro Media is an independent nonprofit organization committed to producing ethical journalism from a POC perspective and representing the new American mainstream. Based in Harlem and founded in 2010 by award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa, our multimedia journalism explores and gives a critical voice to the diversity of the American experience. We are dedicated to telling stories from perspectives often overlooked.”

Futuro Media Group produces NPR’s Latino USA, as well as PBS’s docuseries America By The Numbers with Maria Hinojosa and Humanizing America, and the political podcast In The Thick. Futuro has received five grants from the prestigious MacArthur Foundation. In 2015, Futuro’s Latino USA won a Peabody Award for its episode “Gangs, Murder and Migration in Honduras” which aired in 2014. 

Maria Hinojosa currently resides in Harlem, New York, with her family. She is a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning and rotating anchor for NPR Need to Know, as well as a recurring guest on MSNBC.

Throughout her wildly impressive and nearly three-decade-long career, Hinojosa has remained close to the Barnard community that so profoundly shaped her. In 1994, she was published in a Barnard College Collection, The Source of the Spring: Mothers Through the Eyes of Women Writers, an anthology that included her work in the company of other notable alumni such as Anna Quindelen and Mary Gordon. Hinojosa has returned to campus to speak on panels numerous times, most recently this past January. In 2008, Hinojosa received a Distinguished Alumna Award from Barnard College to recognize her outstanding achievements as a journalist and public figure. A decade later, in 2018, Hinojosa was the keynote speaker at Barnard’s Convocation ceremony. In August 2019, Maria Hinojosa was named Barnard College’s Inaugural Journalist-in-Residence. She is currently one year into her three year residency as a visiting professor, teaching and empowering current Barnard students through creative and journalistic writing. 


— Donald Glassman, updated by Olivia Treynor ‘23



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