From being an ‘add on’ to ‘the story,’ one Latina journalist is elevating the voices in her community
Growing up along the South Texas border, Nancy Flores, the daughter of two Mexican immigrants, made it her mission to uplift the voices of Latinos "a long time ago."
As a journalist for 17 years, most recently writing for The Austin American-Statesman, she says she'd try to always represent Latinos in her coverage. This year, her mission takes a new step with the relaunch of Austin Vida.
Austin Vida, a former music site that catered to Latinos in Austin, is coming back with a brand new team behind it and Flores at the helm as editor and publisher. The organization had previously been running since 2009 before ending online publishing five years ago. In the organization's resurgence, the digital newsletter relaunched last month, while the website relaunch will take place later this year on an unannounced date.
Between movements against racial injustice and Latinos disproportionately affected by COVID-19, Flores said this is exactly the right time to bring the publication back.
"Publications like Austin Vida need to exist, especially during this time," Flores said. "It was the perfect time to reimagine what (Austin Vida) could be for the future; and what it could be moving forward for another generation of Latinos in Austin, making sure they are seen and they feel heard."
In a growing city where Hispanics make up 34% of the population, there is a lack of English publications currently operating that directly speaks to the Latino experience. Flores says she hopes to fill the gap for Latinos who aren't seeing themselves in the mainstream media, who may not speak Spanish, who are second and third generation and various other circumstances because each Latino experience is different.
After almost three years living in Austin, Eli Rodriguez says he sometimes feels alienated in the city. Rodriguez lived in Puerto Rico for 26 years before moving to Detroit and then Austin.
"It feels like some Latino subcultures here in Austin are underrepresented," Rodriguez said. "Whenever I read or hear the news, a lot of us can't relate to it. I think I'd like to see or read a publication that sounds like us."
In its heyday, Austin Vida was that publication for Flores. She remembers reading Austin Vida as a young Latina and feeling like she was seen, so it was important for her to do this relaunch.
Flores said, "I don't ever want Latinos in Austin to feel like they don't belong because not only do they absolutely belong, but our stories are a big part of what makes Austin special."
Until the relaunch of first the site, the new organization is focusing on feedback from the community. Since November, it has been publishing event guides, promoting cultural awareness in the community as a start.
The organization has already received community support from the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It started spreading the word about the organization on social media and its newsletter when it learned about the project late last year.
Stephanie Bazan, communications director for GAHCC, has known Flores since college and is excited for her to elevate Latino voices further. She says she thinks Austin Vida is going to add a missing layer to the Austin digital media landscape by celebrating the everyday contributions and wins of Latinos.
"I think it's important for us to hear stories from our point of view," Bazan said. "Oftentimes our stories are told from other voices or they're just a small piece of a story, so I think it's critical for this to be the story and not just be an add on."
Officials are asking certain residents in Bastrop State Park to evacuate as crews work to put out a “very active fire” that is currently 0% contained.
The Texas A&M Forest Service has responded to help local fire departments with the Rolling Pines Fire at 100 Park Road 1A, which is consuming 300 acres. Residents of Pine Hill Drive, Pine Tree Loop, Linda Lane and Lisa Lane are being asked to evacuate.
Today’s Bastrop Rolling Pines Fire is burning along Power Plant Road towards Lake Bastrop South Shore. pic.twitter.com/YCvJkIAg1u
— BastropCntyTexas OEM (@BastropCntyOEM) January 18, 2022
Aviation resources have been called to assist.
According to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management, the wildfire sparked during a prescribed burn that took place today, despite wildfire warnings. Park Road 1C from Harmon Road to Park Road 1A had been closed for the prescribed burn.
The blaze is in the same location as the Bastrop Complex Fire of 2011, which burned for 55 days, killing two people, destroying 34,000 acres and around 1,700 homes and buildings. The fire, which started in 2011, became the most destructive wildfire in Texas at the time.
A hotbed for fires, the Hidden Pines Fire started at the same location in 2015, destroying 4,600 acres and 64 structures.
Some road closures have been put in place at State Highway 21 South Shore Lake Bastrop and East State Highway 21.
This is a developing story and will be updated as information becomes available.
After months of record-setting periods for Austin real estate, the Austin Board of Realtors announced Tuesday that the metro's housing market accounted for over $23 billion of economic activity in 2021, making it the biggest year yet for both home sales and median home prices in the metro.
The Austin-Round Rock MSA saw 41,316 homes sold in 2021, 2.5% more than a record-setting 2020. Median home prices skyrocketed as well, rising 30.8% from 2020 to $450,000. The housing market also saw unprecedented impact on Austin's economy, with sales dollar volume jumping to over $23.38 billion, and more homes hit the market in 2021 than any previous year, increasing by 5.9% to 46,449 total homes listed.
(Austin Board of Realtors)
As many recent Austin homebuyers have experienced firsthand, Austin Board of Realtors 2022 President Cord Shiflet said 2021 was the most "exciting, complicated, fast-paced and record-setting housing market" in Austin's history.
Shiflet dubbed the market as "complicated" for a reason—Austin became a case study on supply and demand in 2021, with demand far outpacing the number of active listings, which dropped by 48.2% to 2,348 homes in 2021.
The metro ended the year with 0.6 months of inventory, a far cry from a "healthy" six-month supply, and houses were snatched at breakneck speeds, spending 25 fewer days on the market when compared to 2020. The average home was on the market for 20 days.
But low inventory is more due to high demand than a stagnant homebuilding market, Mark Sprague, Independence Title's state director of information capital, said in the report.
“In 2021, the record number of homes sold were demand-driven transactions and that demand was influenced greatly by companies continuing to target the region for job creation and expansion," Sprague said. "Even though more homes are being built, listed and sold than ever before, our region is still nowhere close to having a comfortable amount of supply to meet the demand, which is why home prices continue to rise steadily.”
Over 23,000 jobs have been promised by companies across the metro as of December 2021, breaking the 2020 record, according to Opportunity Austin, the economic development arm of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. With an influx of major factories and offices, including Tesla's Giga Texas, Samsung's Taylor plant and a planned 33-floor Facebook office, Sprague said the region's booming market paired with a struggling inventory and supply chain issues could be a double-edged sword in 2022.
"In short, 2022 will see a robust market for home sales and property values, but the region must do more to address inventory, ” Sprague said.
Shiflet recommended that potential homebuyers make a decision ahead of predicted increases in interest rates and home prices and said that he hopes local politicians will continue to prioritize affordable housing in the election year.
Still, Shiflet said a record-breaking housing market reflects Austin's growing reputation as a hub for talent, tech jobs and a good quality of life.
"With all the new jobs across the region from exciting companies like Tesla and Samsung, Austin was put on the world’s stage and captured the hearts and attention of so many," Shiflet said. "We are lucky to call Austin our home when it has so much to offer from a great quality of life to a wonderful destination for innovation and opportunity.”
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