Latinx Heritage Month feature: Q&A with VCU alumnus Rodrigo Arriaza
In the few years since he graduated, Rodrigo has written for a variety of well-respected publications, such as The Virginia Gazette and Capital News Service. During the pandemic, Rodrigo has actively been reporting hot button issues from the election and COVID-19 to police brutality and the removal of statues on Monument Avenue.
We caught up with Rodrigo to learn more about how recent events have impacted his career and the celebration of Latinx Heritage Month.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? What are you passionate about?
Hi, I’m Rodrigo! I’m 25 years old and I graduated from VCU’s mass communications program in 2017. Right now, I’m working as a news writer and assistant editor at Richmond Magazine, and have lived in Virginia since I moved to the U.S. with my family at five years old from my home country of Bolivia. When I’m not working, I love watching movies, listening to podcasts and getting really good take-out.
How did your experience as a VCU student inform your career path?
I’d say my time in Professor Jeff South’s Capitol News Service class influenced my career path pretty directly because articles that I wrote in that class were published in the Virginia Gazette, a weekly newspaper in Williamsburg where I would later get my first journalism job out of college. Apart from that, I spent time in my classes learning the nuts and bolts of how government functions at the state and local level, which has definitely been valuable as a local journalist covering city government.
How has COVID-19 and recent civil rights movements impacted your writing?
As we all know, COVID-19 has really rocked the foundation of normal life and I’m proud of the work I’ve been able to do to track and report on the pandemic’s after-effects on everything from affordable housing projects to education and local community service programs. As far as this summer’s protests, I had the chance to write a feature for our July issue about the shifting tides in local politics that have led to the removal of the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue and I was on the scene when the Stonewall Jackson statue was removed, which was an amazing sight to see.
What does Latinx Heritage Month mean to you?
It’s good as an opportunity to spotlight Latinx folks in noteworthy positions, but I would say it’s more important to use this month as a time to continue the focus on institutionalized racist practices that not only target Black people in America, but Black and indigenous folks throughout Latin America as well.
If you could give advice to a current VCU student, what would it be?
Take care of yourself, first and foremost! I’d also say to try to figure out what you’re interested in and to use your time in college to specialize toward that.