UCF History Professor Luis Martínez-Fernández marks his debut as a nationally syndicated columnist this week, only one of a handful of self-identified Latinos who have their syndicated work published in mainstream media outlets. There are about a dozen or so, if you include alternative press.
Creators Syndicate released his first few columns late Tuesday, which coincided with the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month on Sept. 15. The month runs through Oct. 15.
For the 60-year-old professor who specializes in Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies, the timing was just right. For years he has been contributing columns that have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Orlando Sentinel and Globe Post, but with the pandemic hitting last winter and the birth of his second grandchild, he said he felt moved to see if he could do more to contribute to the national dialogue.
“I hope to surprise people by not only sharing my distinct voice, but also infusing my historian’s perspective and my Cuban humor.”
Martínez-Fernández started to write and contribute columns more often, and late this summer Creators Syndicate, one of the largest such companies in the United States, offered him syndication, which means they are distributing his columns worldwide. The columns can also be found on the Creators Syndicate website. The company launched in 1987 and represents more than 250 writers and artists around the globe, including Pulitzer Prize, Reuben Award and Peabody Award recipients. The company boasts 44 million readers through 2,200 publications.
“I’m so happy about this opportunity,” Martínez-Fernández says from his home, where he is teaching remotely this semester. “There was just so much going on in the world when the pandemic started — still is, and I realized there weren’t many voices like mine represented in the media.”
Let’s clarify terminology here. Latino and Hispanic are interchangeable terms, Martinez Fernandez says. Latinx is a more recent term, but less than 5 percent of the Hispanics use it, he explains in an upcoming column.
More than 60 million Latinos who live in the United States impact everything from the fresh food supply for America’s supermarkets to presidential elections, he said. That’s why Martínez-Fernández was especially interested in helping give Latinos another voice in the national conversation. Despite Latinos making up 18 percent of the national population, only a few write nationally syndicated columns, Martínez-Fernández said. For example, Ruben Navarrette of The Washington Post Writers Group writes about politics. Esther J. Cepeda, perhaps one of the most well-known columnists among Latinos, stopped writing columns for the group in May.
“I feel that where I am in my career, it is my responsibility to help give a voice and that’s what I hope to do through my column,” he says.
Martínez-Fernández grew up in Lima, Peru, and Puerto Rico after his family fled Cuba in the 1960s. He has multiple degrees including a doctorate from Duke University. He has published several books, including Revolutionary Cuba and edited an award-winning encyclopedia of Cuba. He is recognized as one of the most prolific and influential scholars in the field of Caribbean studies, according to UCF’s College of Arts and Humanities. He joined UCF in 2004 and teaches a variety of courses. Aside from serving on a several educational boards, he was a trustee of the College Board for several years and in 2019 he joined the board of directors of the National Council for History Education.
Martínez-Fernández says he will cover many topics in his columns, including politics, culture and education.
“I hope to surprise people by not only sharing my distinct voice, but also infusing my historian’s perspective and my Cuban humor,” he says. “I’m having a lot of fun writing them and I hope readers will enjoy them.”