American Dreamer: Sam’s Story

The American ethic that hard work and gumption are keys to success is one not lost on public education students. Stay in school, go to college, find a good job – all themes that educators press in school. But imagine that you do all that only to find that the rules actually don’t apply to you. That’s the plight of thousands of high school graduates every year.

By law, the public education system cannot turn away students based on immigration status. A free public education is available to all in this country. And children who were brought here by their immigrant parents often thrive in this system. But what happens after they leave high school? The best and brightest have no problem getting accepted into top universities. But that’s where their immigration status gets tricky.

Only a handful of states have passed legislation allowing undocumented children who graduate from public high schools to attend public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates, some with student financial aid. For those lucky few, the opportunities end there. They cannot enter the U.S. job market legally, despite diplomas and degrees. The vast majority of undocumented students, however, have no access to student aid and must pay international student tuition rates. This has led to calls for supporting federal legislation commonly known as the DREAM Act. But despite public support for it, the legislation has become mired in national immigration politics.

Produced by The Futuro Media Group and Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister of Long Haul Productions, the feature titled American Dreamer tells the story of an undocumented student trying to get a college education. A few weeks before graduation, Dan and Elizabeth met Sam, a highly Americanized high school kid who plays saxophone. Same never really worried about politics and immigration status, until now. This is his story.


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Sam recently traveled to New York to participate in a panel about the DREAM ACT. The event was hosted by The College Board. Because of his undocumented status, Sam could not get on an airplane and had to be driven. Here’s his audio postcard of that trip.

American Dreamer: Sam’s Story is the winner of the 2010 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Audio Documentary, and the Radio Impact Award in the 2010 Third Coast International Audio Festival.




StoryCorps Historias

StoryCorps Historias is an initiative to record the diverse stories and life experiences of Latinos in the United States. Sharing these stories celebrates our history, honors our heritage, and captures the true spirit of our community. It will also ensure that the voices of Latinos will be preserved and remembered for generations to come. Copies of stories gathered through StoryCorps Historias are archived at the Library of Congress for future generations to hear.

Greer Family of Miami
Dr. Pedro “Joe” Greer has been practicing medicine for more than 25 years and is known for his work in creating medical clinics for the homeless. Serving homeless families has become something of a calling for Dr. Greer, and he tells his wife Janus the story of how he devoted himself to this calling.

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New York’s Pedro Pietri
Pedro Pietri was more than a New York poet. He gave a voice to a generation that initially espoused a Nuyorican identity. Here, Pietri’s friend Jesús “Papoleto” Melendez tells poet Frank Perez about Pietri’s last moments as he died on March 3rd, 2004.

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The next stop on the StoryCorps Historias national tour is Fresno, California.
StoryCorps stories were produced by Nadia Reiman and Vanara Taing. The Senior Producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

The Economy, Small Businesses and Small Communities

Nationally, the nation’s unemployment hovers around 10 percent. This does not include what some say would be about another 5 to 7 percent who simply have given up trying to find jobs. And the unemployment rate for Blacks and Latinos is higher than the national average.

To examine this complex jobs situation, Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa speaks with two people who bring very different perspectives on the economy.

Paul Cuadros is a journalism professor who has been documenting the economic impact of immigration in rural North Carolina. He also teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Lydia Gutierrez is an entrepreneur from Detroit, Michigan and owner of a tortillería called Hacienda Mexican Foods.

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2010 Grammy Award Winners ‘Los Texmaniacs’

Max Baca formed his San Antonio-based conjunto band Los Texmaniacs in 1997. In Tejano music circles, conjunto is the pairing of a twelve-string guitar called a bajo sexto and a button-accordion. Over the years, the members of Los Texmaniacs have changed. Their most recent incarnation features bassist Oscar García, drummer Lorenzo Martinez, and La Tropa F front man David Farias on accordion.

Los Texmaniacs were asked to record an album for Smithsonian Folkways featuring traditional South Texas conjunto music. The result, a CD titled “Borders y Bailes” earned the group the 2010 Grammy Award on January 31 for Best Tejano Album.

Shortly after their Grammy win, Baca and Farias visited the Latino USA studios in Austin, bringing their bajo-sexto and accordion with them.

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An Ecological Race

In 1955 the Guatemalan government designated Lake Atitlán as a National Park with the goal of encouraging tourism to the region. Until then, few people outside of Guatemala knew about this pristine enclave of nature, home to indigenous clans and villages since at least 600 B.C.

To encourage eco-tourism, government officials made many blunders. For example, they added non-native North American bass (both small mouth and large mouth) to attract sports fishermen. The invasive species thrived, killing off large amounts of native fish and crab that led to the extinction of several bird species that had been unique to the region.

Over the years, over-population, tourism, and government inaction have taken their toll on the lake, home still to many villages where Maya culture is prevalent and traditional dress is worn. But many villagers complain of conflicting warnings by the government not to eat the fish or drink the untreated water. Others complain that the government, despite appointing a national committee to save the lake, has done little of substance to address the contamination of Atitlán. Even basics like replacing a sewage treatment facility damaged by a 2005 hurricane have gone undone.

Producer Maria Emilia Martin recently visited the region to see how dire the situation really was. She found concerned communities and people doing their part to save the lake. Yet few people, from local activists to international donors, trust the Guatemalan government to do the right thing.

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Watch a slideshow of Flickr Photos published under a creative commons license while you listen.

‘Avatar’ and Native-American Themes

Earlier this month, Avatar, the big-budget science fiction space adventure film was nominated for nine Academy Awards. Just a few days later, it became the highest crossing movie of all time. Worldwide receipts for the film are now approaching $2 billion. And the film has been hailed as a critical as well as popular success.

But for many Avatar opens a discussion on Native-American themes as well as issues of historic colonialism. The film’s male lead, Jake Sculley played by Sam Worthington, is compared to a messianic figure. The movie’s female lead, a Na’vi named Neytiri played by Zoë Saldaña, is seen as a Pocahontas figure.

And the native connections of the Na’vi to their indigenous environment have focused on Native-American issues of colonialism, conquest, and cultural preservation.

To explore these issues more closely Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa speaks with Native-American and Latina writers.

Kara Briggs is a Yakama and Snohomish Journalist and editor of the book Shoot The Indian: Media Misperception And Native Truth.Angela Valenzuela is an education professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of several books and articles about Latinos, Latinas and education.

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