Latino USA

Archive for June, 2009

Profile: Playwright Octavio Solis

Playwright Octavio Solis once said that he never wanted to do a Latino family drama. The stereotypes were too easily recognizable and the subjects would be too close to home. But the El Paso-born dramatist, long considered among the most prolific Chicano playwrights, has chosen the Latino home – or “ground zero” as he calls it – as the setting for his latest theatrical success titled “Lydia.”

Gloria Garayua and Elias Escobedo in Octavio Solis’ 'Lydia' at Marin Theater Company.

The play happens in the home of 15 year-old Cecilia Flores, whose is near comatose as a result of a car accident, and the undocumented caretaker who can mysteriously connect with her. Described as a combination of realism and lyricism, “Lydia” is Solis’ most intimate work to date. Already, it is being compared to the work of Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill and has propelled 50 year-old Solis onto the national spotlight.

“Lydia” has been presented in such venues as the Denver Center Theatre Company, Yale Repertory Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, and the Mark Taper Forum.

Reporter Emily Wilson has this profile.


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Children Sue the Government for Deporting Parents

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that some 4 million American citizen children live with at least one parent who is undocumented in this country. And since the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, having an American citizen child no longer held sway with immigration judges.U.S. Immigration authorities estimate that some 100,000 undocumented parents with citizen children have been deported over the last decade.

Maricela's children went on a three-day hunger strike to try and prevent their mother's deportation.

But critics of this policy say it is an unfair burden on American-born children, pulling apart families. Supporters of the policy counter that American policy isn’t unfair, but rather put the blame on the immigrants who broke the law by migrating illegally.

Reporter Marine Olivesi brings the story of some American citizen children whose parents were deported, and are fighting back with a class action lawsuit.


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San Antonio Play Tackles Family, Dreams and Acceptance

The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center presented the world premiere of “Miss America, a Mexicanito Fairy’s Tale,” on June 19.  Written by San Antonio playwright Jesús Alonzo and directed by Maria A. Ibarra, the production doesn’t go “over the top” with depictions of boys in drag. Rather, it deals with deeper issues of acceptance, family, religion, and coming to terms with one’s dreams.

Actress Erica Andrews is a former Miss International Queen.

The story begins and ends with 9 year-old Chuy, played by actor Jaime Gonzalez, who gets caught by his macho older brother playing in their sisters room. Chuy has on his sisters Quinceañera dress and a towel wrapped around his head, pretending to be a contestant in the Miss America beauty pageant.
Rather than harp on the usual themes of rejection, Alonzo highlights family and relationships. In the end, the brother, played by Manuel Barraza, isn’t angry at Chuy because of his desire to be feminine and beautiful, but is concerned that he is opening himself to ridicule and cruel rejection by others. He truly seems to want to protect his brother.

Much of the production is carried by talented actress Erica Andrews who plays all the female roles in the play. Andrews was born in Mexico and is a former Miss International Queen 2006, considered one of the most prestigious beauty pageants among the transgendered.

The play continues at the Esperanza Center June 26, 27 and July 3. For information: http://www.esperanzacenter.org/ or 210-228-0201.

Listen to a scene in the play where Chuy refuses to confess to a priest and instead prays to La Virgen de Guadalupe and describes the fight he had with his best friend while they were playing “Miss America.”

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Listen to a scene where Chuy daydreams that he is a finalist in the Miss America pageant and is asked why he would make a good Miss America.

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Listen to a scene where Bobby catches Chuy playing “Miss America” in a dress. [Bleeped for language.]

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Listen to the interview with playwright Jesús Alonzo

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Listen to the interview with director Maria Ibarra.

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Si Se Puede: Chicago Workers’ Sit-In

A labor dispute in Chicago at the end of 2008 caught the nation’s attention. What made it so newsworthy was a confluence of unique factors stemming from the economic issues facing the country.

Leah Fried, UE organizer

The controversial bank bailout of 2008 was supposed to ease the nation’s credit crisis. But one bank that received billions in bailout funds had cut off credit to a Chicago-based manufacturer, forcing the plants closing.

When the company said the bank refused to extend credit to pay for benefits and salary for 60 days as required under federal law, the local union, led mainly by immigrants and supported by a multicultural coalition of workers, decided to occupy the plant until “justice” was given them.

Armando Robles, president of UE local 1110 in Chicago.

Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister of Long Haul Productions spoke at length to the worker leaders and brings us their story titled, “Si Se Puede: Chicago Workers’ Sit-in.”

Littleton Integration Initiative

The town of Littleton, Colorado is predominantly known as a small community in the Denver suburbs. According to 2000 Census data, the number of immigrant residents in this small town doubled at the end of last Century. For many, this growth opened the eyes of local residents about the complexities of integrating into local communities, especially for foreigners.

Believing that immigrants brought in diversity to the area, Littleton fretted about the culture clashes immigrants experienced in other parts of the country. Seeking to avoid that, the town created the Littleton Integration Initiative, to help immigrants make the transition to full members of the community.

Reporter Sarah Hughes reports.


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Commentary: Nuyorican Pride

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was raised in New York and is of Puerto Rican descent. And her appointment as the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Court is a source of pride for all Latinos. If confirmed, Sotomayor would also be the third woman on the court. But as Commentator Joseph Pacheco notes, no one has a greater right to be more proud than Nuyoricans.

Nuyoricans are a cultural identity adopted by millions of Puerto Ricans who were raised in New York. Pacheco, who was the first Puerto Rican New Yorker to serve as a superintendent of New York public schools, knows something about being a “first.” And he dedicates a poem from his 2002 book, “First of the Nuyoricans,” to Judge Sotomayor.

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WEB EXTRA – Cardozo: First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice?

In July of 2005, Latino USA reported on President George W. Bush’s selection of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. At the time, there was disappointment within the Latino community that President Bush had passed on the opportunity to appoint the first Hispanic on the court. Our reporting prompted an email from one of our listeners. In it, Steven Kelman of San Antonio wrote that such a discussion ignores the tenure of Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo, who served from 1932 until his death in 1938.

Our producers decided to do a little investigating and what we found was an intense discussion about who is a Hispanic or a Latino and what falls in between. (Original airdate September 15, 2005.)


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Interchange: The LA Guitar Quartet and the Delaware Symphony Orchestra

Mention Sérgio Assad to a guitarist and watch the reaction: that’s what awe-inspired humility looks like. His quite exceptional artistry and uncanny ensemble playing come from both a family rich in Brazilian musical tradition and from studies with the very best guitarists in the Americas.

Now, Assad is turning to orchestral composition. And symphonic audiences across the globe are all the richer for it.

Late this Spring, the members of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet—virtuosos in their own right— were in Delaware, guests of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra and its music director David Amado, to perform and record Assad’s composition “Interchange,” which he had composed especially for the Quartet.

The News Journal sent a photographer to the rehearsals (see those photos in a new window) and Latino USA sent Diantha Parker to talk with members of the Quartet, with Amado, and —later— with the composer about a work that she discovered is all about the drive found in music, especially Latin music.

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The Sotomayor Mambo

From the cover of Time Magazine to attacks by conservative pundits, Judge Sonia Sotomayor has garnered the attention of political elites and Latinos. She even has a song, “The Sotomayor Mambo,” newly dedicated to her.

Maria Teresa Peterson

Since the 1980s, nothing has become more political in Washington than Supreme Court appointments. So it comes as little surprise that Sotomayor would be targeted, attacked, defended, spun, counter-spun, and generally have her life put under an intense microscope. This has happened with past court appointees. And the fact that she is a Latina clearly does not make her immune to the same political battering. But the “racist” talk was getting to a point that a Texas Republican senator had to come out in her defense.

Maria Hinojosa speaks with Maria Teresa Peterson of Voto Latino about the political environment surrounding Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination.

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Immigrant Lending Circles

The concept of a lending circle is not unusual among immigrant communities in this country. In the past, groups of immigrants have pooled resources for many projects, often with the goal of providing important, costly improvements in their home communities. Other times, immigrants have pooled resources to start their own businesses, or create jobs in their home countries through micro-lending.

In San Francisco, contributor Emily Wilson brings this story of a local bank that’s helping immigrants with credit using the lending circle concept.


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