Urban Jibaro: The New Puerto Rican

Perhaps working a nine to five feels like enough for most people. Unfortunately for George Torres and his sleep schedule, the community building he does during his spare time is where his passion is rooted. While many people contribute to their communities by volunteering or participating in events, Torres does so predominantly by using social media. The 42-year-old or “29 years-old with 13 years experience” started by using his online presence for the Latinos in New York City and has since expanded to projects nationwide. Known in the Twitterverse as the Urban Jibaro, Torres uses his social media presence as a soundboard for Latinos. “I’m basically a mashed up version of the new Puerto Rican,” says Torres, who joins his traditional Puerto Rican roots while embracing the advantage of new technology.

Torres went back to school at the State University of New York at Old Westbury after deciding not to stay in a career as a chef. As a student in a web technology class in 1997, he was assigned to start a website on a geocities platform. He used the project to share his poetry, spreading the word to his peers to check out the site—handing out a URL that looked as long as today’s 140-character tweet. Soon enough visitors to the site were asking if he could post their poetry and the Greek organizations on campus wanted him to promote their open mic events on the site. Seeing the following he garnered, just by sharing poetry, inspired Torres to start a site that would be like a Yahoo for Latino news.

After college he remained living in Long Island with his wife, though his soul was still tied to his native Brooklyn. Working a full-time job in telecommunications, the social media savvy graduate continued his labor of love to a blog dedicated to sharing Latino news.

The root of creativity starts with sofrito, a puree of vegetables used to add flavor to Puerto Rican food. Torres says, “Mami’s cocina is the first place we get to see creativity at its finest.” So he chose to name his website Sofrito For Your Soul, an ode to the close-knit relationship between food and his culture. Sofrito For Your Soul promotes events and highlights strides that Latinos have made for the advancement of their cultural communities. The site also occasionally features personal anecdotes. A recent post written by Torres shared his daddy-daughter date with his college age daughter. He has also poured his Pan American soul into the content he’s shared on the site since its beginning. If you visit the site throughout recent weeks, you’d find the latest on Hispanicize, one of Torres’ national projects.

Hispanicize is an annual conference held in Miami for Latino creative professionals. Torres humbly remembers receiving the Positive Impact Award last year, the first ever awarded at the event. The award was in recognition of Latino leadership in the community, and was started by the wife of Luis Pagan, the man who introduced Torres to Hispanicize from its inception. “Every year that’s gone by I’ve actually grown with the conference,” said Torres of his newest role as a chairperson for the Positive Impact Awards, which will be handed to 20 recipients this year. The requirements for receiving the award are broad: pre-teens and up who have made some sort of impact in the Latino community. If recipients don’t recall their predecessor George Torres, it’s probably because they know him as the Urban Jibaro.

The nickname that has branded him is the very definition of what he does. Take for example the “por tu familia” campaign, his most recent passion project, which sheds light on common health issues prominent in Latinos, like diabetes. By using his online activism to open up the discussion, the campaign is cultivating relationships that will support resources for healthier living in communities that may lack them.

Torres continues to keep the cultural conversations alive through the Twitter chats he hosts and his site, Sofrito For Your Soul. On any given day of the week, his timeline is flooded with hash tags related to a social media conversation he’s moderating, making it easier for anyone to jump into the discussion.

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Latina Leads the Love Talk

February is a trial for single women who have to endure the endless sight of red hearts and swooning couples. It’s prime time for Brooklyn native Lisa Velazquez, who is at their aid year-round. After receiving her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University, Velazquez took up the challenge of coaching single women. Through workshops, individual coaching, and a guidebook in the works, she is filling a void in frank conversations about sex, dating, and relationships that she believes exists among Latinas, and along the way has branded herself as the Latina lovestyle coach.

Was there a moment or experience that led to you becoming a love coach?

Honestly, it was a series of experiences. And growing up Latina. When I was 15, I was in a peer education group with one of my cousins. We were discussing virginity and devout virginity among the Latina culture. And I really had an issue with why this was taught to the young women and not being taught to the young men. Why were we being taught to save ourselves for them when they don’t save themselves for us?

So you found the core of the problem?

As I spoke with my friends in college, I recognized the issues they were having were coming from adolescence, so I said you know what I want to work with girls. I recognized that there was no Latina that was talking about this, with the proper information, not just information from the comadre or from one tia to one girlfriend.

Once you made the decision to take the podium, and be the Latina to talk about these issues, how did you go about building your brand?

Wonder Womyn was my nickname in college. I was the president of the Association of Puerto Rican studies. I was also the student representative on the student government. So with all of that networking, recognizing that once I stepped up to be a Latina leader I became a leader in everything else.

How did Lisa Talks Love come about?

I wanted to create a brand that was more personable, so that’s when Lisa Talks Love was created. I’ve only had the name for about a year. It came to me at like two o’clock in the morning and sometimes that’s when the best idea comes. Inspiration comes at the strangest times.

Do you coach your friends?

It’s fun, you’re with you friends and they’re like, “Okay listen I actually want to pay you to do coaching because if I don’t pay you I’m not going to take your advice.” Which is hilarious. I am the pink elephant in the room, you cannot talk about an issue with a man and I’m standing right there and you’re acting like there’s no support. I’ve actually had a group of women like, “So don’t tell Lisa what I did.” And I’m like, “Oh you know you’re not telling me because you know what you’re doing isn’t good for you.”

What’s a tool you recommend for single ladies so maybe next Valentine’s Day they’ll have a Valentine?

You want to do the year in review, of love. What are the choices that you’ve made all year that have led to this moment? First, stop beating yourself up, have compassion. What needs to be different about your love life this year because whatever you’ve been doing all year has not been serving you?

How do you help women make better choices?

I teach women to create love standards. The issue is women don’t have a bar at all, they don’t even have a standard at all. Men have a standard for everything they do, especially when it comes to women, they know what they want and they pursue what they want.

Coming from a Latino family, what did they think when you chose this career?

It was, “Oh my God why do you want to do this?” My father has been in information technology for over 40 years. My mother worked for a law firm for almost about 20 years. I’m an entrepreneur, I’m building an empire, and they’re like, “What? What does that mean? You’re getting a job doing what?”

You mean being a love coach wasn’t what they had in mind?

In the beginning when I was in sex ed and sex therapy my dad was like, “Don’t you want to do family therapy?” And I was like, “Here we go.” Because there’s some things that are not “appropriate” for a Latina woman, right? That’s my father, and I understand, but I don’t agree. Now they’re supportive, took a very long time for them to be supportive because they don’t understand. I’m definitely the rebel. You get to love your family and embrace your culture, but they don’t get to define who you are as a person.

Scandal Recap & Gab [2.27.14]

Our favorite corrupt politicians are back! Last night’s opener to the rest of the season had betrayal written all over it. Washington knows no loyalty, and yet most of the episode revolved around Fitz’s choice for VP running mate, all based on this little-known trait amongst the White House circle.

But first let’s talk Liv. Her coat collection has grown along with her purse size and how could we not mention, the baby bump too. The effort to hide Kerry Washington’s growing bebe is appreciated for its inclusion of statement fashion pieces, but we all know she’s prego. I found myself playing where’s Waldo with Washington’s bump all episode long.

Betrayal #1: Daddy’s Little Girl

Byron means business, even if that involves his daughter a victim in the crossfire. Liv had her chance to enjoy Sunday dinners with Daddy Pope but let her “I’m always right” attitude sway her to side with her mother, who turned out to be the real bad one after all. Now Byron’s done. After listening to Fitz tell him how good his daughter tastes, yeah the writer’s revived that gem of a line, he’s out for blood. His run, Olivia, run speech me asusto.

Betrayal #2: James Is Not Cyrus’s Little Bitch

Indeed he is not, he’s his weakness, or so we found out at the end of the episode. We had to know by now that James is a journalist before husband. Nothing ties him down to Cyrus except for the eternal threats the monster holds over his head. James is done though, and with a little push and tug in the ethical department, he’s ready to free himself from the grip of the beast. Maybe the devil that took hold of Sally’s body when she killed her husband is sneaking into James? Uh oh.

Betrayal #3: The President Knows How To Pick One Just Like Em

We knew something was suspicious when so much of the episode was spent with Olivia trying to dig deep into the Vice President’s playboy habits. So he was in love once but let her get away. Except “her” is Mellie. Yeah, that’s right, Mellie has admirers! I had read last week in UsWeekly that Mellie would be getting a little love affair, and I’m so excited about it because guess what? If Fitz can have Liv, Mellie can have hers! And the nerve of Liv in the clip for next week’s episode telling Mellie she needs to cut whatever her and Mr. VP have going on!!!! REALLY! Mmmmfff.

Photo Credit: ABC.com