Time's 100 Most Influential list came out this week. The good news: Nine Latinos made the list. The bad news: Only four of them live in the United States. That's five percent of the list total, even though Hispanics make up 16 percent of America's population.
But let's try to stay positive here.
The Latinos on the list include the man who could be VP, a comedian, a chef, an undocumented DREAM Act activist, and the man who could be the greatest soccer player to have ever lived.
It also includes two sitting presidents ¿ one, a woman ¿ and the first woman in the world to head a major oil company.
Those are some pretty powerful contenders for something as lofty as "Most Influential" on the face of the Earth. And, even though the list of Latinos is rather thin, it's an improvement over last year. In 2011, Time named only three Hispanics among the 100, including two of them who made repeat appearances this year.
Still, only four "influential" Latinos out of 50 million seems like a pretty poor showing. Especially for a magazine that just last month asserted that our sheer number would give us outsized influence in picking the country's president. Time's cover promised to explain, in no uncertain terms, "Why Latinos Will Swing the 2012 Election."
But that's the influence of the masses.
The Time 100 purports to identify individual influence, and even the magazine's editor admits how squishy a thing that is to do. "Which is why we try to choose those people whose influence is both lasting and, with a few notable exceptions, laudable," he writes in his editor¿s letter in this week¿s edition.
So which four U.S. Hispanics made it?
Marco Rubio. No surprise there. What conversation about influential U.S. Hispanics today doesn't start with him? He's on everybody's short list of Mitt Romney's possibles for vice president. In his first run for national office, he slapped former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist so hard he almost knocked the perpetual tan off of him ¿ and did smack him so hard it whacked Crist right out of the GOP. And he's the leading liaison between Latinos and the Republican Party, whether they like it or not.
Dulce Matuz. A poster child for the DREAM Act. An undocumented immigrant, Matuz put herself through college, got an electrical engineering degree and, as the magazine put it, "chose to fight for the right to contribute to the country she has called home since she was young." She's now fighting for others, as well, as president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition.
Louis CK. Not exactly the first person folks think of when they think of Latino. But, yep, the acerbically hysterical comic is half-Mexican. He's also the executive producer and star of his own sitcom, and if influence can be measured in upending an industry, then he's definitely got it. Louis CK was the first to cut out the middle-money makers and put his comedy special "Live at the Beacon Theater," online and on sale directly to everyone with an Internet connection for $5.
Jose Andres. This transplanted top chef from Spain may be best known for his culinary skills (he's won just about every cooking award the U.S. has to give), but Time didn't pick him for what he dishes out. It chose him for what he gives back. He may head world-class kitchens across the country, but he also is involved with DC Central Kitchen, which offers culinary job training for the unemployed and prepares and distributes meals made from surplus food to more than 100 homeless shelters, transitional homes and nonprofits. That led him to establish the World Central Kitchen, to seek innovative solutions to fight hunger around the world.
Time rounded out the Latinos on the list with Latin Americans: Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi (making a return appearance -- he was on the list last year as well), Brazilian economic wizard Eike Batista and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff (another returnee), Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Maria das Graças Silva Foster, the new CEO of Brazil's Petrobras.
You gotta admit, those are some pretty influential people. Maybe next year, Latino influence -- at least in Time's judgement --will come closer to matching Latino numbers.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison