06/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Trippin' the Light Hispanic: Introducing 'Chicago Latino List 2009'

On May 4 Crain"s Chicago Business -- a publication I pay for and happily read cover-to-cover every week -- published "2009 Women to Watch," their annual roundup of female Chicago movers and shakers. I leafed through it and proceeded to hit the roof.

Here's the full text of my Letter to the Editor, which Crain's was kind enough to print in the Opinion section of the May 11 edition:

"It strikes me as absolutely unbelievable that a world-class city like Chicago -- a town with no less than 1.7 million residents of Latino heritage -- could possibly have zero women of Hispanic background worth watching ("Women to Watch," Focus, May 4).

The dynamic, accomplished and beautiful women featured represent an impressive array of talent, but Crain's couldn't find a single Latina "bright star" this year?

I consider myself to be imminently watchable. Yet, I certainly pale in comparison to the fine selection of Hispanic VPs, college presidents, legislators and entrepreneurs around Chicago."

They cut it down and took some of the sting out of it -- and made it sound like it was about me rather than about the many, many incredible Hispanic women who toil away in the blind spots of those who decide "Who's who" in this town -- but you get the point.

That all came on the heels of me hitting the roof about BusinessWeek magazine's story from the May 11 issue called "CEO's of Tomorrow." Here's an excerpt of the stinging Letter to the Editor I sent them back on May 4 when my copy arrived in the mail:

"I wasn't disappointed by the high caliber of the 19 individuals BusinessWeek chose to focus on; they were dynamic, diverse and already shouldering tremendous responsibility in major corporations. But there wasn't a single Latino professional who might be a CEO of Tomorrow?

Not a single Hispanic CEO, President, VP, CFO or COO who might be an innovative leader "tomorrow" when Latinos will make up a third or more of the population in the United States? I don't think so."

I'm happy to report that Diane Brady, BusinessWeek's Senior Editor/Content Chief immediately called me and we had a smart, in-depth conversation about the difficulty of achieving a perfectly diverse mixture of gender, race, ethnicity, industry, etc. in a spread like "CEO's of Tomorrow" -- and the difficulty of finding qualified Latino candidates.

I won't quote her because I didn't know I was going to write about this until I heard from so many of my own readers, but she truly was responsive to my explanation that I'm not interested in a "Hispanic leaders" story in BusinessWeek but rather to have Latinos be included in their regular stories.

Let me repeat it loudly and clearly: whether you're talking about "Women to Watch" or "CEOs of Tomorrow," great Latino leaders are not "really great...for a Latino" but, instead, "great leaders who just happen to be Hispanic."

In order to help blunt this perceived shortage of Latino superstars, I'm taking action.

Despite there being, in my mind, a ton of awesome Hispanic people doing truly amazing things here in Chicago, there seems to be no "official" list that mainstream publications can refer to when trying to find great Hispanic candidates to be profiled as Who's Who/Mover-Shaker/Rising Star/One-to-Watch in "mainstream" publications.

So, I'm starting one.

On June 15, I will publish the first annual compilation of totally awesome Hispanic Chicagoans making this world a better place through personal or professional excellence, and I'm calling it "Chicago Latino List 2009" -- or something better, if any of you have a pithier title.

You will nominate 10 Chicago-area residents of any age, from any walk of life, who are doing something to make this world a better place, and I will pick and profile 10 of the best, with five honorable mentions.


Your nominations must be e-mailed to me by May 29 and include:
  • The name of this wonderful human being
  • A short blurb about how they're making the world a better place
  • Contact information so I can talk to them myself
  • Nominees can be Hispanic in any way, immigrant or U.S.-born, of any age, and working in any occupation

There WILL be prizes...not that my story-telling abilities aren't prize enough...which I'll announce along with the winners.

Please send your nominations to We'll show 'em all!

Esther J. Cepeda is looking for Chicago Latinos changing our world for the better. AND she's looking for swag for the winner's bags. If you're interested in being part of the inaugural "Chicago Latino List" please see more info here on