Continuing my showcase of leaders in the Latinos In Social Media movement in my blog, I’d like to introduce you to George Torres, aka The Urban Jibaro, who is a bi-lingual social media consultant, cultural activist, radio personality and founder of cultural online magazine SofritoForYourSoul.com. Follow him on Twitter as the UrbanJibaro and friend him on Facebook and keep up with his Google Profile. Having been born & raised between Brooklyn & Bayamon, he was reared with traditional Puerto Rican values and incorporated that with what he learned in the streets of East New York. This mixture of elements in his life earned him the nickname “Urban Jibaro” that former Young Lord and Community Leader, the late Richie Perez bestowed on him.
Where did you grow up and how did your upbringing and environment contribute to the person you are today?
I grew up primarily between East New York, Brooklyn and Bayamon, Puerto Rico. If you actually know me you would clearly see how much influence these places had on my life. As the “Urban Jibaro” my life experience has incorporated what I believe to be a healthy balance of traditional values, cultural pride and a strong spirit of creative entrepreneurship. These traits are culturally part of my DNA.
Who were your role models as you were growing up and how did they affect you?
My first role model is my grandmother Gloria Delrio. She came to the US from Puerto Rico with very little education, no English language skills and no money. She is a true example of grassroots leader having persevered, educating herself, raising a family while having spent 30 years serving the community in Brownsville Brooklyn via Meals On Wheels.
The second is the late Richie Perez, a community activist and former Young Lord that fought against police brutality for people of color…and personally served as a spiritual and political mentor to me since the age of 15 after I was a victim of a hate crime.
At what point in life did you realize your inner strength and fortitude?
I have always been a survivor. My life was really tough growing up and I had every opportunity to make a left and accept a life in which I could only just “exist”. It was through Richie Perez that I was inspired to take control of my life and stop being a victim of circumstance. He taught that what happened to me was a lesson and that I did have a greater purpose. This motivated me to learn about my history and understand the root causes of some of the negativity I see in the Latino community. That was further reinforced when I became a brother of Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity Inc. Membership in Phi Iota Alpha Latino Fraternity is a life-long commitment to the Latin American culture. It provided me with in depth intellectual development, cultural consciousness, personal growth, personal achievement and social awareness in a circle of like minded individuals.
Regarding the 41% dropout rate among high school Latinas, what do you think it will take for our country and /or our education system to solve this crisis?
I think that the people we elect into office have to engage the community leaders on the front lines to find the root cause of this epidemic. Instead of funding organizations that address the problem, we should be creating organizations that promote the solution. We need to know the reasons why Latinas drop out and and create realistic solutions that are culturally relevant. I say culturally relevant because culture is most likely to be the single most important factor aside from social class when looking at this rate on a national level especially when that number is consistent in Latinas from all different countries and backgrounds.
What’s your advice for those who may have already dropped out of high school or college?
To quote my friend poet / writer Alberto Cappas, “ It Is Never Too Late To Make A U-Turn”. I am living proof of that. I was a young parent that dropped out of High School at the age of 16. I went back to school and got my GED years later. At the age of 25, I left a great job in the culinary field to start all over and attend SUNY College at Old Westbury. Although I am still not done being a student, the college experience opened many doors for me in regards to friendships, educational experiences and networking contacts I use to this day.
Why did you launch your business?
I launched Sofrito For Your Soul in 1997 so that someone who was living what I was living 10 years prior would be inspired to connect with their culture. I started the website to teach people how beautiful our Latino culture is and how important it is to keep our traditions alive.
The website has grown over the years and has inspired many other projects on other mediums with similar goals such as the Capicu Cultural Showcase, Radio Capicu (the first live Latino talk show on the web), my new upcoming social media blog and now my role in Latinos In Social Media. I want to talk to the people…and create space where they can have a voice.
What is your UVP (Uniqe Value Proposition)?
I have over 12 years experience creating and promoting branded events in a Latino cultural niche. I have utilized strong relationships to combine traditional and new media, translating that into an experience that not only fulfills the Latino that yearns to reconnect with his culture, but teaches non Latinos to embrace it as well.
Describe your ideal client or project or give one or two case studies so that people can clearly understand how you’ve helped clients.
I recently was tapped by a friend Helene Velazquez to assist the American Diabetes Association implement Social Media for their Por Tu Familia – Latino Intiatives campaign. Our goal was to engage Latinos on a grassroots level for their annual Feria De Salud in NYC.
Feria de Salud is an outdoor community event that is intended to reach thousands of local Latinos/Hispanics with the important message that they may be at risk for diabetes. Feria captures the festive elements of a street fair, but maintains the important aspects of choosing and managing a healthier lifestyle for the entire Latino family. The atmosphere of Feria includes music, dancing, nutritional information, cooking demonstrations, speakers on topics related to diabetes, and a variety of product and service booths.
We created a Facebook group for the NYC chapter with the goal of recruiting volunteers, disseminating information and creating a springboard to engage people living with diabetes either directly or through a loved one. We were able to grow the group to 530 people in less than two months. The biggest win for this client was the fact that we incorporated new media to engage a core group of college educated people under 25. This resulted in a more diverse volunteer group than seen in previous years. We learned a lot from this years project and will make adjustments to create a year round platform that will keep the group engaged and grow the base.
What other services does your company provide?
Sofrito Media Group produces an online cultural blog (SofritoForYourSoul), an online BlogTalkRadio show (Radio Capicu) and creates branded cultural niche events via Capicu Cultural Showcase. We have created cultural showcases to raise money for the Orphans International – Casa Ana project in Dominican Republic and the Pa’l Pueblo Christmas Charity Event that benefits the children of Bushwick United Headstart in Brooklyn NYC.
In addition, we are currently developing a new series of consulting / coaching services for social media that will target small to mid sized companies and non-profits.
How does your Latino heritage help you achieve your goals?
I would not say that it helps me achieve my goals but it broadens my perspective allowing me to provide a wider selection of creative services to my clients. My goal is to be able to provide the right solution for my client and have it be culturally relevant to the end user.
How did you hear about Latinos In Social Media (latism.org)?
I was actually approached by an online colleague and Latism founder, Louis Pagan about working on the Latism project. They were looking to find regional partners that had an audience to introduce the concept of a collective creative forum.
I saw the goal of the conference was to give Latinos/Hispanic professionals and businesses, who want to reach and engage the Latino/Hispanic market, the opportunity to converge and discuss high level strategies and the future of social media and marketing. Having been part of social media in the latino community before it was even called social media, I saw an incredible opportunity to grow with this community…so here I am.
What role are you fulfilling within the LATISM group?
As a regional partner, my role is to develop membership and engage the social media leaders within the NYC / Tri-State community about what their needs are. My objective is to create a dynamic learning / coaching environment that addresses those needs.
What would you like to say to companies who are thinking of marketing to Latina(o)s/Hispanics but aren’t sure of what to do first?
Do your research…and look at the voices that are authorities within the Latino / Hispanic community you are targeting. Remember that cute catchy Spanish words do not translate to culturally relevant advertising. Latinos will authenticate you if they see you are “listening”.
What would you like people to remember about you after you’ve passed on (many, many years from now)?
I hope that my passion for preserving our cultural legacy will be something that will inspire a movement. I do not want my name to be remembered as much as I want the ideals of what I represent to echo through the passages of time…y que se siga eschuchando ese grito…siempre.