Latino USA

Archive for October, 2009

A Focus on the Family

Demographically speaking, Latinas are statistically interesting to social scientists. As girls, they are often the least educated and are more likely to drop out, contract AIDS, or commit suicide. As a group, this is a pan-Latina issue. It’s true for Mexican-Americans, Central Americas, Puerto Ricans, etc. For those who follow these trends, it was little surprise to learn that one-in-four stay at home moms in this country are Latina. And while some say this is due to cultural preference, others are questioning the limited choices many Latinas are often given.

Pilar Torres is the co-founder and executive director of Centro Familia, a Maryland-based advocacy group that helps families with early care and education.


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PBS’ Latin Music USA

Latin Music USA is an extensive look into the myriad styles, cultures and sounds that collectively comprise “Latin Music” in the U.S. Spanning five decades, this rich documentary covers Latin sounds from a fusion of Jazz, Rock, Country, Rhythm and Blues, and more. From Salsa to Reggaeton, Norteño to Tejano, Pop to Rock, Latin Music’s variety is captured in this epic four-part series.

The national PBS broadcast of Latin Music USA begins on October 12. (Check your local listings.) This series was produced by WGBS in Boston and co-produced by the BBC.

PBS PREVIEW

Remembering Artist and Activist Mercedes Sosa

Mercedes Sosa titled one of her early LPs “Yo No Canto Por Cantar” meaning she didn’t sing just to be a singer. With such a statement, Sosa, born in a remote Argentine province in 1935, told the world that her music had a message. It combined music and politics in a time and place where such a combination was dangerous. Later, when a military junta controlled the country, Sosa found herself spending several years in exile while many of her friends and comrades disappeared, were killed, or simply were harassed into hiding.

Argentines lined up to pay their respects to legendary folk singer Mercedes Sosa. (Flickr Photo by blmurch)

Known as both an activist and a singer, Mercedes Sosa was a powerful voice in the Latin America “Nuevo Canción” movement that fused native sounds, human rights, and modern music together. And her music and message took her around the world. She performed at such places as Carnegie Hall in New York, the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, the Roman Coliseum, and Paris’ famed Teatro Mogador. But she performed even more in rural towns and villages, where thousands would dub her the “voice of the voiceless.”

A prolific recorder, Mercedes Sosa, who died October 4th at the age of 74 in her native Argentina, left behind more than 40 LPs and many recordings of her live concerts. Currently, she has three open nominations for next months Latin Grammy Awards.

When Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa moved to New York as a student in the 1970s she found a thriving Chilean and Argentine immigrant community. It was here she discovered Mercedes Sosa, who was always more than simply an interpreter of songs.


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Mercedes Sosa – Solo Le Pido a Dios

Legalize LA

In many ways the Los Angeles-based clothier American Apparel has been ahead of the social-political curve. A model for “sweatshop free” American-based manufacturing, American Apparel has long called for immigration reform, fair wages, domestic partner equality, and other controversial issues. In fact, its Los Angeles factory proudly bears the banner “Legalize LA” across its building top.

The fact that undocumented immigrants were working for decent wages with paid healthcare benefits at the clothing factory was something of an open secret. Company officials say they followed the law to the letter in their hiring practices. Still, hundreds of its employees with fake documents were working for the company. But instead of a massive workplace raid where people were shackled away and charged with criminal acts of identity theft, American Apparel was hit by something different by federal immigration officials – employer sanctions and hefty fines.

Now, the company is being forced to fire more than one-fourth of its employees – 1800 people in all – because of pressure by federal immigration authorities.

New York Times reporter Julia Preston speaks with Maria Hinojosa about this major shift in immigration enforcement by the federal government.


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Brownout – Aguilas and Cobras

Grammy-nominated band Grupo Fantasma is not the only group of musicians to have alter-band egos. For years, it was an open secret that a couple of members of the East L.A. rockers Los Lobos would occasionally gig as the Latin Playboys. So it’s not difficult to imagine that some members of an 11-piece funk band from Austin, Texas would spin off to do their own musical thing under the name Brownout.

Like its Grupo Fantasma counter-part, Brownout is a 70s-style funk band. Relying more on hand made music over modern electronica, Brownout pushes a sound that is fast, dance-ready and often energetic.

The second CD is titled Aguilas and Cobras. Nicely titled even if their depiction is off. An “aguila” is an eagle and a cobra is a particular snake but the CD cover in fact depicts a falcon and a rattler. Perhaps it is a reflection of the illusions of grandeur the band has for itself under the Brownout incarnation.


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Brownout is currently on tour. To see their current tour dates and locations, click on their link to Six Degrees Records.

Brownout Music Video – “Slinky”

OBIT: Chicana Poet Angela de Hoyos

Actually, to call Angela de Hoyos a Chicana poet would be too limiting. To those who knew her, she bore many titles: co-foundress of a movement, woman of letters, publishing activist, voice of the voiceless, and many, many more.

Born in Mexico, de Hoyos called San Antonio, Texas her home for the great majority of her life. She died on September 24. But her birth date is a matter of intense dispute. Some encyclopedias describe her as being born in 1940. Her official obit in the San Antonio Express News placed her birth date in 1923. Those dates aren’t even close. But what is not in dispute is her legacy and role in the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 70s.

Largely unschooled, de Hoyos was mainly a self-educated woman. She often told the story of how she used to create childhood rhymes when she was four years old during a long convalescence from an illness. By the late 1960s, she began having some of her poetry published, winning international awards beginning with the Bronze Medal of Honor of the Centro Studii e Scambii Internazionale (CSSI) in Rome in 1966. She won awards for her writing from Argentina, India, Italy, and Germany. Her works would be translated into fifteen languages. As fate would have it, de Hoyos’ was better known in Europe than in her adopted U.S.-homeland.

When she read a letter to the editor in one of the San Antonio newspapers in 1970s, suggesting that all “Mes’kins” should go home, she fought back, writing: “Yes, amigo …! Why don’t I? Why don’t I resurrect the Pinta, the Niña and the Santa María — and you can scare up your little ‘Flor de Mayo’ —so we can all sail back to where we came from: the motherland womb.”

At the height of the Chicano Movement of the 1970s, de Hoyos and her husband Moises Sandoval created M&A Editions. They would publish and mentor writers like Evangelina Vigil-Piñón, Carmen Tafolla, and Inés Hernández. Her self-published poem “To Walt Whitman” remains one of her most quoted pieces.

Perhaps her most important poem as far as Chicanos are concerned was her seminal work, “Arise, Chicano.” Here now, Maria Hinojosa recites de Hoyos’ classic poem.


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A Grieving Community Revisited

At one point in its history, Binghamton, New York was a major destination hub for immigrants. At the height of the industrial revolution of the 19th Century, immigrants from Eastern Europe and other countries poured in to work in one of fifty cigar factories. Two generations later, as cigarettes replaces cigars, other industries absorbed this immigrant population. But for the most part, new immigrants found other places of the country as their new home destinations.

While their numbers were fewer, immigrants still made Binghamton their home at the turn of the 21st Century. But instead of coming from mainly Eastern Europe, these were a much more diverse lot. They came from China, Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, the areas of Persia, and Africa.

Despite their varied backgrounds, these new immigrants in Binghamton, New York had a common place to gather, to learn, to support each other, and to unite them. It was the American Civic Association. And it was here that on April 3 of this year that one of their own organized a killing rampage that left 14 dead, including the gunman.

Six months later, radio producer Brian Mann takes us back to Binghamton, New York to see how this wounded community is coping.


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Palabras del Silencio – Luís Fonsi

Luís Fonsi was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico but grew up in Orlando, Florida. He had always dreamed of being a musical performer and majored in music at Florida State University, where he signed his first recording contract.

Today, Fonsi is an international star, recording not only pop ballads and internation hits, but appearing in telenovelas throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

Fonsi’s latest record, Palabras del Silencio, has recently garnered Grammy nominations. And this week, he was selected to be part of an all-star lineup for the Nobel Peace Prize Concert to be held in Oslo this December.

Before the Nobel concert announcement, Fonsi sat down with Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa to talk about music and acting.


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