Dynamic Latinas Aspire to Change Sports Landscape
Through Latinx in Sports, co-founders hope to connect others with similar backgrounds
The text Juliana Lara received from “Latinx in Sports” founder Alana Meraz in October was merely four words. It started the young Latinas on a journey they both weren’t expecting.
“I did a thing,” Meraz wrote Lara, a friend she had known for only a month at the time.
The “thing,” Meraz did was an official handle on Twitter @LatinxinSports. This didn’t come out of the blue, well at least not fully. From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the United States recognizes the contributions and influence of Latinos to United States culture. Sports organizations often engage in some form of sponsorship activation during the month to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
However, one thing that Alana noticed was the lack of promotion of Latinx and Hispanic front office staff. She wondered why the teams acknowledged the month but didn’t promote any of the staff that the month is meant to celebrate?
“I’m just going to do it,” Meraz said to herself. “For every day of Hispanic Heritage Month I’m going to highlight one Hispanic sports professional.”
Shining a Light through Latinx in Sports
A roadblock came up right away though. She couldn’t find a recent article highlighting professionals. The most recent one was from Sports Illustrated covering the Jessica Mendozas of the world. While recognizing the significance of those who have broken the glass ceiling, she wanted something different.
The issue is that many of these trailblazers “aren’t accessible,” Meraz said. “It’s really hard sometimes to get in contact with them.”
She wanted to highlight the next Jessica Mendoza.
“But right now,” Meraz says, “I want to tell their stories and how their journey in the sports industry.”
Once she was able to talk to one person, it turned into five. It has been a trickle down effect that gets easier because people want to talk about their story and their job.
Once she finished the thread, she sent the fateful text to Lara. She wanted to take the thread one step further.
“We’re not done being Hispanic when the month is over,” she wrote. “We are Hispanic every single day of the year… And when I was looking for people to highlight there wasn’t an organization, there wasn’t an account, there literally wasn’t anything. I was like, ‘OK, what are we doing?’”
Lara calls herself Meraz’s right hand. Meraz refers to her as “Chief Community Officer.”
When Meraz told her what she had done and what she wanted to do, Lara knew what they really did need to do. Could they execute? Could they make this something sustainable? So far they have. Since Latinx in Sports was founded (October) they’ve had three panels and five networking calls.
Connecting Through Latinx in Sports Panels
When the pandemic hit a little over a year ago, Meraz was living in Spain as a graduate student studying sports management and law skills. After finishing her undergraduate career at Arizona State University, where she interned with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phoenix Rising and Arizona Athletics, she wanted to go abroad to experience something that due to her involvement in sports, she couldn’t do.
She spent six months in Barcelona, Spain, before the coronavirus brought her back to Arizona.
She wasn’t too worried, she had a postgraduate internship lined up with ISL, an agency based out of Miami and Barcelona. She then started reaching out to different people in an effort to help out with social media. She interned for Sports for a Job and helped a brand called Sports Authority where she met Lara.
Lara, a native of the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, has been involved in sports since high school. Starting off as the football manager her sophomore year, she stayed involved. Once she got to college she couldn’t let go.
She worked in the communications department, as the main contact for the Men’s Golf Program and eventually to the University of Arizona baseball program. She was the first to do in-game social for the program, and had an opportunity to work the Arizona Bowl. She currently works at STN Digital, where she deals with clients such as the Chicago Bears.
Because Lara’s work is intensive – from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. – she is happy to let Meraz run point on the group. She appreciates and admires her friend’s ability to get someone involved and fill them with her positive energy.
To Meraz, it’s still incredible to think that someone she met six months ago is now one of her closest friends, and that together they’ve started a new organization. They embody the spirit of National Women’s History Month in March and Hispanic Heritage Month while showing why we should celebrate Latinos and Latinas daily.
Finding Mentors and Supporters
When you ask both women who they admire the most, they both point to Yvonne Carrasco Chalmé, the Senior Director of Baseball at Wasserman.
“Her career trajectory is what I’ve always dreamed of,” Lara says of Carrasco Chalmé. “And because of Latinx, I was finally able to reach out to her, and she’s like the coolest human ever.”
Meraz summarizes her thoughts on Carrasco Chalmé more succinctly.
“She’s amazing,” Meraz says of Carrasco Chalmé.
But it’s not just Carrasco Chalmé, who is one of five members on the Latinx board that has helped guide the two 24-year-olds Latinas through the process.
Adolfo Romero, Sara Toussaint, Walter Franco and Vanessa Gonzalez all have years of experience in the industry that have not only inspired Alana and Juliana but also helped keep them energized and sane throughout the past six months.
As for the future? Meraz Is focused on filing the paperwork to make the group an official Limited Liability Corporation and finding a full time job although she’s aware of the possibility that managing the group becomes a full time job.
Lara hopes to keep growing the group and remove the all too common “I don’t need help” vibe that exists among some Latinos.
Latinx in Sports has an upcoming panel on March 26th covering college sports and a surprise guest speaker already lined up for the month of April. Lara and Meraz hope to see you there.
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