Archive for 2009

No Santa in Vieques

Joseph Pacheco was the first Latino superintendent of schools in New York. Now he is an elderly, retired gentleman who lives in Sanibel Island, Florida. But as a native Nuyorican, he grew up bilingual. And one of his earliest childhood memories was a holiday trip to his mother’s native town on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

It was on that trip that Pacheco experienced holiday parrandas first-hand. But, as a youth, he was surprised that Santa Claus didn’t make it to the island every Christmas Day. Instead, Tres Reyes Magos brought presents on January 6th.


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Holiday Memories

Over the years, Latino USA has aired many holiday stories. From tamale-making traditions within the Mexican-American communities, to parrandas in the Puerto Rican communities, to the making of the lechón in the Cuban and Cuban-American communities.

One of our most popular holiday shows, however, was originally produced in 1999 called “Las Christmas” and was based on a book of the same title by Vintage Books. It’s actually a collection of holiday memories by Latino writers.

We turned some of the stories from the book into an award-winning radio show. But by far, our favorite story is author Denise Chavez’s story titled, “Big Calzones.”


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Charro Claus

Santa Claus, of course, is known for his holiday gift-giving. But he is known by different names in different cultures around the world. Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Papa Noellë, are some examples of Santa’s names. Also, many regional “Santa’s helpers” can be found that are more culturally specific to the communities.

Lessor known than his famous cousin, Charro Claus speaks both English and Spanish, wears a big Mexican sombrero, and helps his cousin from the North Pole. San Antonio writer Xavier Garza captured his story in a children’s book titled Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid published by Cinco Puntos Press.


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StoryCorps: Historias

Latino USA now continues our special series in conjunction with StoryCorps Historias.

The Torres family actually came from San Francisco. Richard Torres was the eldest male in a family of 10 children. He has 3 daughters, 3 grandsons and 2 granddaughters. They live in San Francisco, New Mexico and Philadelphia. Not too long ago, at StoryCorp in Taos, New Mexico, Richard shared with his daughter Kathy Namba how the love and family commitment he has shown to his children and grandchildren actually came from his parents.


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The Mascareñas family had been farming near Urraca, New Mexico for generations before Lucille married into the family in the 1960s. She recalled a time when she met the family matriarch, Candelaria Mascareñas. Since Candelaria did not speak English and Lucille did not understand Spanish well, it took some time for “acceptance” to set in.


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These audio segments were produced by Nadia Reiman. The Senior Producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

José Feliciano

In 2005, legendary musician José Feliciano sat down with Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa. The final result was one of the most intimate radio conversations in the program’s history. If you didn’t know it before, you should know that Feliciano is a great musician. Inspired by Flamenco guitarist Andres Segovia, Feliciano emerged just as the classical guitar was finally being recognized as an instrument of great artistic dimension. But it took time for Feliciano to be recognized in his own country.

Born blind in Puerto Rico in 1945, Feliciano was one of eleven boys. Unable to compete in the physical sports of his brothers, he took up the guitar beginning at age three. By age five, the family moved to New York. He learned the concertina, but soon took up guitar again, listening to records and learning by ear. He would spend as much as 14 hours a day on his guitar. By the age of 17, he began playing clubs.

At a concert in Argentina, promoters convinced Feliciano to stay a little longer and to make a record. In 1966, his old-style Boleros became an international hit throughout the Spanish-speaking world. The success was credited to Feliciano’s style of taking known, old song and adding fresh arrangements, energy and musical twists. Two Spanish albums quickly followed.

By the time he was 23, Feliciano had earned five Grammy nominations. His 1968 hit “Light My Fire,” brought him an English-language audience. And more work went his way, including the theme song for the television show “Chico and the The Man.”

But by far, his most popular song is the 1970 classic, “Feliz Navidad.”


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Laughing All the Way to the Bank

Somewhere, in the dusty birth records filed in Murcia, Spain, either for the year 1951 or the year 1941 (depends on whose account you believe), you’ll find the documentation of the arrival of one María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Moquiere de les Esperades Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Najosa Rasten. We know her as Charo.

Introduced to American audiences by bandleader Xavier Cugat, Charo sort of took over from there. Playing the role of sex-kitten and guitar-playing bombshell, Charo endeared herself to television audiences in the 1970s with a vivacious spirit and her spirited use of language (one fan magazine claimed she learned English from Buddy Hackett), including her trademark “Cuchi-Cuchi.”

Lots of people have laughed about Charo and her persona, including Charo (all the way to the bank.) But the laughter can distract us from seeing a gifted guitarist (a student of Andres Segovia, no less) and a shrewd businesswoman, and that would—somehow—miss the point.

Maria Hinojosa sat down with the entertainer and had a long chat.


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Latino Perceptions of Muslims

In the wake of the shootings at Ft. Hood, Texas earlier this month, there has been considerable discussion about the alleged shooter’s Islamic faith in playing something of a role in the murders. There are many unanswered questions about the shootings. Latino USA’s student producer Xorge Oliveras went to the streets in Austin, Texas to ask Latinos if the events shaped their perceptions of Muslims.


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Israel’s Undocumented Latinos

When thousands of Latin American immigrants left their homelands throughout the 1990s in search of opportunity, the U.S. was not the only country recruiting this cheap labor. Many European countries sought Latin American workers. And thousands of immigrants also ended up in the state of Israel. As Israeli politicians seek to deal with their immigrant “problem” in light of the economic times, the children of these Latin American immigrants could be deported.

Independent Producer Reese Erlich found that many of these non-Jewish young people now share a strong Israeli identity, with little memory of a Latin American homeland.


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Una Cosa Personal

The Ft. Hood shootings left psychological scars that spilled over into the national psyche, as Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa observes.


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Community Gardens in Cincinnati

The traditional fall harvest is always a boon to local farmers markets. But at Cincinnati’s Findlay Market, the season has something of a twist. In an effort to meet the growing demand for locally grown produce, the Findlay Market received a USDA grant to help create the Cultivating Healthy Entrepreneurs and Farmers (CHEF) program. The program helps turn urban lots and empty city spaces into community gardens. And this season was the first fall where these farmers sold their goods at the farmers market.

Earlier this summer, local producer Daniel Denvir caught up with some of these urban farmers and sent this report.


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Watch a slideshow as you listen:

Cincinnati’s Community Gardens from NPR's Latino USA on Vimeo.


StoryCorps Historias

All across the country many Latino families will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. While many ethnic communities have various forms of the tradition, the American version of Thanksgiving is uniquely a nationalistic celebration.

FERNANDEZ FAMILY
This week, StoryCorps Historias brings the story of one family’s first Thanksgiving meal. 

Jose Fernandez came to the U.S. from Cuba in the 1960s. He was a teenager when his family arrived in Florida. And here, from our StoryCorps booth in New York, he tells his wife, Teresita, about that first November.


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DIAZ FAMILY
Now another story about sharing a meal. 

It comes from Julio Diaz, a social worker from the Bronx. 

Every night diaz ends his hour-long subway commute one stop early just so he can eat at his favorite diner.

 But one night as he stepped off the train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.


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CARRANZA FAMILY
When he was a poor kid, Adolph Carranza remembers how donations from the Salvation Army would come around the holidays. Among the exotic canned goods he recalls was this strange jelly-like substance called “cranberries” that no one wanted to try in his household.


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Last year StoryCorps launched a new holiday tradition — it’s called the National Day of Listening, which happens on the day after Thanksgiving. StoryCorps encourages you to take an hour on that day to sit down with a relative or loved one and ask them about their life. 
 
StoryCorps has do-it-yourself materials to help you get a great interview and preserve it for your family — and they’re available for free online.

New American Voices: Mental Health and Refugees

Latino USA has often documented how immigrants coming from a particular community tend to migrate to the same region in the U.S. as a means of creating a safe social net. But refugees represent a different kind of immigration experience. And for refugees who have experienced war and violence, the mental health issues of that community can pose particular challenges.

When the U.S. accepts refugees, it is often the practice to resettle them together within an American city or community. So when many Somali immigrants in Minneapolis began showing signs of mental health trauma due to war, it caught local health officials by surprise. As part of Latino USA’s ongoing New American Voices series, Andrew Stelzer reports on how Minneapolis mental health workers are using media to help deal with the challenges.


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New Routes – Abriendo las Cajas

New Routes to Community Health seeks to improve the health of immigrants through immigrant-created media. Eight immigrant-led collaborations across the United States have received three-year grants from New Routes to create locally-focused media and outreach campaigns that speak directly to immigrants’ health concerns. Grants have been given to collaborations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St Paul, Oakland, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

In these communities, immigrant groups, media makers and prominent community institutions work together to produce original content in English as well as in immigrants’ first languages, including Amharic, Chinese, Creole, French, Lao, Somali, Spanish, Swahili and Vietnamese. New Routes to Community Health is grounded in the belief that everyone in society benefits when immigrants get help to live healthy, productive lives. Integrating immigrants into work and social life is key to building healthy communities.

CLICK HERE to see all New Routes project productions.

Conductor Alondra de la Parra

Alondra de la Parra is the founder and artistic director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas (POA) based in New York. Originally from Mexico, De la Parra founded the POA as a means of promoting music and young talent. While largely focused on Latin American works and audiences, POA seeks to diversify classical music and bring it closer and “relevant” to the people.

Reporter Monica Ortiz Uribe recently caught up with Alondra de la Parra fresh from a Dia de los Muertos concert in San Francisco.


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Watch a slideshow as you listen.

Multi-Latin Grammy Winner Calle 13

Puerto Rican duo Calle 13 were the big winners at the 10th Annual Latin Grammy Awards, celebrated November 5 in Las Vegas and hosted by actress/singer Lucero and actor/comedian Eugenio Derbez. Calle 13’s René Pérez (aka Residente) and Eduardo Cabra (aka Visitante) swept their five nominations, taking home Record and Album Of The Year, Best Urban Music Album, Best Alternative Song, and Best Short Form Music Video.

Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa, known as the Voice of Latin America not only for her artistry but her championing of social causes, passed away Oct. 4. Her last album, Cantora 1 won two Latin Grammy awards including Best Folk Album.

Calle 13’s Pérez, known for his irreverent attitude, made perhaps the evening’s most touching gesture in calling onstage Sosa’s producer/musical director Popi Spatocco to hand him the Album Of The Year statuette. Pérez participated in Cantora 1, which had also been nominated in the Album Of The Year category, but lost to Calle 13’s Los De Atrás Vienen Conmigo.


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