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¡Bienvenidos a la Familia! Introducing HuffPost Voces

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I'm delighted to announce the launch of HuffPost Voces, a Spanish-language vertical that will bring the power of HuffPost's blogging platform to the legacy of AOL Latino, which has been devoted to telling the most important and most entertaining stories about Latino life in America since 2003. As with everything on HuffPost, community and social engagement will be at the heart of HuffPost Voces.

With the robust debate surrounding Latino issues -- a debate that, regrettably, is far too often detached from the real experience of Latinos in America -- there's no better time for the launch of Voces. Last Friday night I was in Washington, D.C. at the inaugural Mosaic awards, hosted by Voto Latino, one of the leading organizations bringing attention to the Latino community's challenges and contributions, while encouraging young Latinos to register to vote. The evening's theme was "Our Voices," and I was honored to accept an award on behalf of HuffPost, alongside MSNBC's Phil Griffin and BET's Debra Lee.

The spirit of the awards and the theme of "Our Voices" are very much aligned with our mission at Voces. Hosted by co-founders Maria Teresa Kumar and Rosario Dawson, the event celebrated the foundational role immigration has played in American history -- not just in our economy, but in our very essence as a nation. Since we founded the Huffington Post in 2005, our primary mission has been to enlarge the national conversation and add multiple perspectives and thousands of voices.

At Voces, we will use all the tools at our disposal to capture the diverse voices that make America what it is. More than 50 million Latinos live in the United States, with the Latino population increasing by 43 percent between 2000 and 2010. By spotlighting the lives, struggles, and stories of Latinos in America, Voces will show that the Latino population amounts to more than just a "Hispanic vote" that materializes every four years to be exploited by politicians -- and then gets forgotten until the next election cycle.

We want Voces to reflect the vibrancy of Latino life. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of Latino-owned businesses in the U.S. increased 43.7 percent, more than twice the national rate. And in 2011, more than 5 million Latinos volunteered for causes and charitable endeavors.

The empathy these numbers demonstrate is too often in short supply in our political debate. And that shortage has big consequences, because our ability to see past our differences and focus on our shared human values is key to solving the many problems and challenges we're facing as a country. As Pablo Neruda wrote, in one of my favorite quotes: "To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and weaknesses -- that is something still greater, and more beautiful, because it widens out the boundaries of our being and unites all living things."

This inclusiveness is far too often eclipsed by fear, distrust, scapegoating and us vs. them rhetoric. Indeed, since we launched the English-language HuffPost LatinoVoices in August, the tension has been ratcheted up, to which the Supreme Court's hearings on Arizona's immigration law attest.

At HuffPost, we will be relentlessly covering these issues by putting flesh and blood on the data and focusing on the empathy-building power of real stories of real people. By joining AOL Latino and adding the far-reaching power of the HuffPost blogging platform, Voces will showcase the unique perspectives of the Spanish-speaking Hispanic community -- on everything from politics and immigration to celebrities and cooking.

HuffPost Voces is edited by Miguel Ferrer, who is also managing editor of HuffPost LatinoVoices. He will be working out of our newsroom in New York, where he lives with his wife and their newborn son.

HuffPost Voces' original coverage kicks off with several exclusive interviews across a range of subjects: Mandy Fridmann talks to Modern Family star and Latina icon Sofia Vergara, as well as Latin Grammy-winner Olga Tañon; Marinés Arroyo speaks to Lourdes Haminian, the popular swimsuit designer, and Univision TV personality Chef Lala, who talks about her new brand of salsas. There's also Victoria Infante on Los Angeles' melting pot of cultures and cuisines, and Hirania Luzardo's exclusive interview with Pitbull, who talks about his new single with Shakira.

Our lineup of launch day bloggers includes Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on how Arizona's SB 1070 law contradicts America's proud history of immigration; former Lieutenant Governor of California Abel Maldonado on the need for immigration reform; Ana Deutsch, of the Program for Torture Victims of L.A., on the wave of migrations to Los Angeles from Latin American countries torn by violence and poverty; Elena Shore, editor of New America Media, on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's alternative proposal to the DREAM Act; and HuffPost Voces senior editor Gabriel Lerner, on the history of Spanish-language journalism in the U.S.

So, welcome to HuffPost Voces. As always, please use the comments section to let us know what you think.

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