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L.A. TACO Reporter Featured In Smithsonian Museum Exhibit Highlighting The Work of Latina Journalists Throughout History 

The exhibit chronicles the historic work of Latina journalists while highlighting their groundbreaking work in advocating for Spanish-speaking communities. L.A. TACO's own Janette Villafana joined two other journalists, Victoria Leandra and Bianca Graulau, who were chosen to represent Latina journalists in the exhibit's "future" section.

2:10 PM PDT on September 18, 2023

Photo: Janette Villafana

Multimedia reporter Janette Villafana stands with her parents in front of the National Museum of American History Exhibit highlighting Latina Journalists in history.

Last Friday, a day before Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations kicked off on both sides of the border, our fellow multimedia reporter Janette Villafana was in Washington, D.C., making L.A. TACO history.

Villafana was taking part in an exhibit titled: “¡De última hora! Latinas Report Breaking News” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. 

The exhibit chronicles the work of Latina journalists dating back to 1808, while also highlighting the groundbreaking work of icons like María Elena Salinas, Ilia Calderón, Lori Montenegro, and more. Through their work, these journalists have advocated for Spanish-speaking communities while navigating the fast-paced, ever-changing environment of breaking news. 

Janette was chosen along with two other journalists, Victoria Leandra and Bianca Graulau, to represent Latina journalists in the exhibit's "future" section. Villafana's dedication to highlighting the Latino community in Los Angeles and hyper-focus on uplifting the voices and stories of street vendor communities throughout L.A. made its way to Washington, representing our small but mighty independent newsroom. 

Not only has Janette highlighted many voices within her work but she has always been intentional about making her work accessible to her community, making sure important stories are written in both Spanish and English. Writing stories that have either been agents of change themselves or that have had an immediate impact on the communities affected by said issue. As well as covering in-depth reports on the mental health of street vendors and laws that have hindered the growth of small businesses like vendors, and more. 

We are so proud of Janette for reaching this national stage with her reporting, which we feel so lucky to publish and share with the city. We're looking forward to the bright future she has ahead of her and the many stories still to come.

Photo: Janette Villafana

“¡De última hora! Latinas Report Breaking News” allows audiences to explore broadcast journalism through the collective 2 experience of Ilia Calderón, Dunia Elvir, Marilys Llanos, Gilda Mirós, Lori Montenegro, María Elena Salinas and Blanca Rosa Vílchez.
Photo: Janette Villafana
Photo: Janette Villafana
Photo: Janette Villafana

The Smithsonian exhibit takes you on a tour that begins in 1808, where the work of Teresa Villareal and Jovita Idar are featured. The two women are known to be some of the first Latinas to report breaking news.

Also displayed in the exhibit is the work of Blanca Rosa Vílchez, senior New York correspondent for the Univision Network. Her blue suit, worn the day of the 9/11 attacks in New York, is displayed at the museum. She said she put the outfit away and never took out of storage until now. The suit marks a pivotal moment in her career and American history.

Dunia Elvir is also featured in the exhibit. She is the evening news anchor for Telemundo 52’s. Elvir went from undocumented student to prime-time anchor, her heels, which she used to march covering some of the largest immigration demonstrations in American history, are displayed at the museum. 

All the women highlighted in the exhibit have, in one way or another, shown the value of Latinos in news and the importance of Latinas in journalism. 

“We are the only ones that can tell our stories the way we tell them,” said Ilia Calderón news anchor at Univision and “Aquí y Ahora.”

Many of the reporters in the exhibit were able to share the special moment with their parents, thanking them and their families for their support throughout the years. Janette’s parents were also present, making the experience for them a full-circle moment. Her two parents worked 7 days a week for years, cleaning houses and repairing equipment to help their daughter become “something more." 

“I can’t help but get emotional because unlike others I never knew this is what I’d be doing with my life," Janette said. "I was a troubled teen and never imagined that any of this was possible. Any achievement of mine is my parents' too. Seeing their hard work, their support, and seeing them overcome obstacles makes me feel like a huevo yo tambien puedo (I can get through anything too). They are my example.”

The bilingual exhibition showcases the work of Latina broadcast journalists and how they've written the first draft of history for Spanish-speaking audiences through their news reports. The exhibit will be open to the public until 2025 for anyone wanting to visit. 

We want to thank all of our members and readers, none of the stories written by our staff would be possible without your continued support.

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