Latino News and Opinion

Father Félix VARELA, "The Perfect Stranger"
Por Hernán Guaracao   
00:00 | 02/23/12

Philadelphia could finally find a badly needed opportunity to be a little better known across the country, thanks to this Exemplary American of Latino descent.

(Lea versión en español / Read Spanish Version: Padre Félix VARELA, “el perfecto desconocido”)

No major media in the city of Philadelphia covered the story, despite a intensive PR campaign the AL DIA Foundation started over a month in advance.

Only Channel 6 showed with its truck, always visible in front of the building where the News Event is taking place, but not even one second of the 30 minutes or so footage they took was ever uploaded on their news website... (We checked)

We are NOT complaining, no.

What positive purpose does it serve to add our complain, --one more act of complaining-- to the already prevailing overall noise about the reason why our editors in the mainstream media of the city edit in, and edit out, day in and day out?

First of all, years will probably have to be spent first to overcome that “imagen pésima” Latinos (suffer? or enjoy?) here at the local level, which, in turn, gives paradoxically to the VARELA Awards’ an unintended Ultimate Purpose. 

Perhaps, making those awards even more meaningful. 

Or more paradoxical. Who knows...?

The VARELA’s, quite obviously, is inevitably a national program, although it wasn’t necessarily intended that way at the inception. 

Now, It can’t be any other way.

Among other reasons, because maybe what we are talking about here is not just a condition of our local media.

This is, however, the Good News:

Through this simple idea, which occurred to us 5 years ago, the City of Philadelphia (once it “wakes up” from the slumber...) could finally find a badly needed opportunity to be a little better known across the country, at least among Latinos, attracting as a consequence more Tourism, more Business, more College Students, more Trade, more Cultural exchanges, expanding the frontiers of our goblal City.

Not only nationally, but also, as some leaders of the city now envision it, worldwide, all around the world, now that the Internet “has flattened it all”.

Adding badly needed resources to our tax base, not only from the South, but also from the North; from Latin America, South of the Border, and East from Spain and the whole European Continent; or West from “Las Filipinas”, if you prefer it, and Asia in general, etc, etc, etc..

Philadelphia Next 100 Years

My hope for 21th Century Philadelphia?

To see my ‘adopted hometown’ becoming, once again, a Global City, as it was in 1776.

We’ve forgotten here we were the 2nd largest city in the British Empire...

Second, not to NYC, like today, but  to London, “hacia donde todos los caminos del Imperio conducían, como en Roma” (where all the ways of the Empire led to, as it was in Rome.)

Through a strictly intellectual cause, perhaps propitiated by Latino and Non-Latino Leaders, with multiple ramifications not only in commerce but also in culture, all rooted here in “Old City” Philadelphia --where all of us have dinner once in while, fully unaware of our rich, unique history.

Here, on around 3rd and Walnut is exactly where Father Félix VARELA y Morales Preached, Wrote and also Published, in 1824, in his case one of the first Spanish-language newspapers that saw the light in the U.S., almost 200 years ago (“EL HABANERO”.)

Our local, larger media colleagues don’t see the importance of his life and work yet, here in the US, where for the span of 30 long years this American Priest of Cuban origin spent his life quietly at the service of the destitute and unwanted, most of them immigrants coming from Ireland, and Europe in general, for no different reasons of those others who today come from across the border, not only, from México but also, more discreetly, from Canada.

People continue to pour, like this 300-year-old blessing to our nation, through the attractive skin of our vast geography, securing inevitably the growth of the nation, hopefully for over the next 100 years.

Although the campaign to make the local media aware of VARELA’s life, as well as this program named after him, was personally started only 4 years ago, when we officially launched the Award Program at Temple University’s Department of Journalism, and I visited, for the first time, the Editorial Board of the Inquirer on that single subject.

Few people in Philadelphia, and fewer across the country, know of him and/or his legacy.

But, no worries. This is ‘the scoop’ for you to do “#PonteALDIA” (catch up a bit, on Twitter Lingo):

$40,000 in Awards for Best American Journalism

The VARELA Awards gives $40,000 dollars in cash awards to the writers, journalists, photographers, and media people in general, who are producing the Best American Journalism on Latino Issues.

We are simply rewarding the very people who are helping our huge, overwhelming job of portraying accurately “Latinos in America” (be CNN, the Philadelphia Inquirer and/or the NYT, including, alongside all, the still growing Latino News Media in America, excluding for obvious reason our own, AL DIA News Media Inc, based in the Great State of Pennsylvania.)

Regarding Mainstream US Media, this may be at the root of its homogeneous indifference to Latino issues-- which I believe is NOT necessarily intentional, but rather unconscious, although no less unconscientious.

“Obliviousness”, is how I called it. (Read my recent column in AL DIA on the subject.)

Obliviousness and ultimate indifference to anything associated to a Hispanic culture and its people that is NOT  “Sombreros”, “Mariachis”, “Cinco de Mayo”, or “Puerto Rican Gandules”, “Cuban Ropa Vieja”, or “Colombian Narcos...”--  for that matter.

But who is Father VARELA, anyway?

That is the best part of the scoop.

You can read all about it by simply clicking on the “About” section of this AL DIA Foundation award site. (

(*) Journalist by profession, publisher by trade, Hernán Guaracao, who holds 2 college degrees in Journalism, is the Founder & CEO of AL DIA News Media Inc., and Chairman of the AL DIA Foundation, both based in Philadelphia, PA.

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