Those who don’t regularly watch Spanish-language broadcast and cable network news may not be familiar with Calderón. Allow me to make that introduction today.
So far, six candidates appear to have qualified for the next face-off: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Former President Donald Trump also appears to have qualified, but his participation remains unclear after he skipped the first debate.
Calderón will be the only Hispanic person on stage among both moderators and candidates. No Latinos were present during the first debate, for which Miami Mayor and 2024 presidential hopeful Francis Suarez failed to qualify. Suarez ended his long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday.
She will also be the only Black moderator.
The outrage-fueled MAGA crowd has latched onto an old quote-tweet from 2020. Commenting on a video clip of Donald Trump’s infamous “stand back and stand by” command to the Proud Boys, Calderón, writing in Spanish, described it as “the dangerous moment of the debate. Trump not only does not condemn but empowers white supremacists.”
Of course, that segment of the population has problems with the truth.
White supremacy is a societal ill that Calderón is very familiar with. Her first Emmy came for her 2017 face-to-face interview with a Ku Klux Klansman, described in her Carnegie Corporation “Great Immigrants” profile.
Calderón drew headlines in 2017 when she interviewed Christopher Barker, the self-styled imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan on the hate group’s own property. During the interview, Calderón steadfastly pressed Barker about his positions even in the face of racial slurs and threats to “burn” her. She won one of her two Emmys for that interview. As Calderón told Forbes, “As a journalist working for Univision, we have bigger responsibilities now in this country when racism and discrimination are coming to the surface. My role today as a black Hispanic immigrant will be to scrutinize who’s in power and to be more vigilant of civil and human rights for all our viewers.”
Here’s a tense clip from that interview, where, after taking credit for the Holocaust, the Klansman tells her point-blank: “To me, you’re a nigger.”
The complete program can be viewed on YouTube.
Adam Walker, staff reporter for Yale Daily News, wrote about Calderón’s visit to Yale in April.
Calderón is the co-anchor of Univision’s flagship evening newscast, “Noticiero Univision,” and co-host of Univision’s primetime news magazine, “Aquí y Ahora.” She previously co-anchored three other news desks for Univision and two others for Telemundo.
Calderón said that she was born in a predominantly Black region in Chocó, Colombia, that had been abandoned by the local government for centuries. When she was growing up, she did not have a refrigerator, color television, running water or power. She grew up seeing the differences between what she had and what others had — both those with more and those with less. This drove her passion for social work to address the gap she saw in her community.
Calderón shared her personal experience of growing up and hearing jokes about skin color, highlighting the deep history of racism in Latin America. She explained how in Latin America, a lot of times there is favoritism towards people with lighter skin complexions. She said that due to this racism, different Black communities in the region often remain unaware of their proximity to each other. Calderón added that she felt a sense of responsibility to raise awareness for various Afro-Latino communities and serve as a voice for those who may not have one.
I am currently reading Calderón’s 2020 autobiography, “My Time to Speak: Reclaiming Ancestry and Confronting Race,” and so far highly recommend it.
As a child, Ilia Calderón felt like a typical girl from Colombia. In Chocó, the Afro-Latino province where she grew up, your skin could be any shade and you’d still be considered blood. Race was a non-issue, and Ilia didn’t think much about it—until she left her community to attend high school and college in Medellín. For the first time, she became familiar with horrifying racial slurs thrown at her both inside and outside of the classroom.
From that point on, she resolved to become “deaf” to racism, determined to overcome it in every way she could, even when she was told time and time again that prominent castings weren’t “for people like you.” When a twist of fate presented her the opportunity of a lifetime at Telemundo in Miami, she was excited to start a new life, and identity, in the United States, where racial boundaries, she believed, had long since dissolved and equality was the rule.
In August 2020, Calderón had an absorbing 24-minute conversation about her life and her book with Black Puerto Rican journalist Natasha Alford of The Grio.