Latino USA

Archive for May, 2011

Cri Cri

Francisco Gabilondo Soler is one of Mexico’s most famous composers and performers but most don’t know him by this name. To the Latino world he is best known as Cri Cri: El Grillito Cantor (The Little Singing Cricket) who wears a tuxedo and plays a violin made out of a leaf with a twig for a bow.

Cri Cri was first heard on the Mexican airwaves in 1934 and for decades appeared in animation and on radio, educating kids through music. Reporter Sandina Robbins has this tribute to El Cri Cri.


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Jimmy Smits

Jimmy Smits is a Broadway, TV and Movie actor, an Emmy-award winner, an Activist, a father and an “Aspirante.” This last title comes from “ASPIRA,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to Latino Youth founded by Dr. Antonia Pantoja and a group of Puerto Rican community leaders in 1961. The organization has helped over half a million young Latinos, also known as Aspirantes, with career and college counseling, financial aid and other assistance.  Currently 95% of them graduate high school and 92% continue on to college.

Last week ASPIRA celebrated its 50th Anniversary and honored some if its most successful Aspirantes, including Jimmy Smits who was recognized for his on and off screen accomplishments. Smits was born in Brooklyn, NY, moved to Puerto Rico when he was nine and lived there for a few years, became a father at the age of 18 but continued pursuing his dreams and got his Master’s degree from Cornell. Today he is one of the most recognized Latino actors and is a co-founder of another organization dedicated to help Latino youth follow their dreams — the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA). Maria Hinojosa sat down with Smits to talk about his career, his activism and how ASPIRA has touched his life.

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Dafnis Prieto

Cuban drummer, composer and educator Dafnis Prieto arrived in New York in 1999 and has since spent more than a decade influencing Latin and jazz music. Prieto has been described as the hottest new drummer in the New York Jazz scene in the last decade. He talks to Maria Hinojosa about the fusion of Cuban rhythms with Jazz.

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Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet at MOMA 2009

Video Posted by Dafnison.

Miguel Zenón

2010 Grammy Nominee for Best Latin Jazz Album and Best Improvised Solo, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon was born and raised in San Juan. He got his Masters from the Manhattan School of Music and is a dual MacArthur Genius and Guggenheim Grant recipient. His style is heavily influenced by the sounds of his native Puerto Rico and it’s captured in his latest release called Esta Plena, which celebrates el periodico cantado, the “sung newspaper” of Puerto Rico, accompanied by the hand-drum called panderos. Maria Hinojosa sat down with Zenon to talk about Plena, a typical music style in Puerto Rico and how he melds it with jazz in new ways.

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The Miguel Zenon Quartet plays “¿Que Sera de Puerto Rico?”

Posted by MiguelZenon


Edmar Castañeda

You may not think that playing the harp fits the machismo stereotype of Latin American men…but just take one listen to Edmar Castañeda’s brilliant work and all you’ll be thinking about is the music. Colombian-born Castañeda performs solo, leads a trio, and plays in a quartet lead by Andrea Tierra (who also happens to be his wife.) The legendary Paquito D’Rivera said that Castañeda “has taken his harp out of the shadow to become one of the most original musicians from the Big Apple.”

Maria Hinojosa talks to Edmar about his integration into the jazz scene of New York and how his background affects his music today.

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John Leguizamo, The Ghetto Klown

John Leguizamo is one of the most recognizable Latino Actors in American movies. But making it big in Hollywood didn’t come easily, especially for an immigrant kid from Queens. He says he always felt like an outsider but he was determined to make his mark and found humor was a strong unifying force that helped him bridge cultures.


To break out of the stereotypical roles he was often offered as a Latino, over the years he created a series of one-man shows on and off-Broadway — shows that have won him Emmy and Obie awards. In his latest one-man show Ghetto Klown, Leguizamo candidly reveals his rocky career path, and the personal toll it has taken.

Told with a lot of humor and great energy, Leguizamo bears his soul on stage and takes the audience on the very personal and revealing journey of his life and career. Maria Hinojosa sat down with Leguizamo to talk about his play, his life and the risks he’s taken revealing the contours of his life, live, on stage.

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John Leguizamo’s GHETTO KLOWN is directed by Academy Award Winner Fisher Stevens and is presented by WestBeth Entertainment, Daveed D. Frazier and Nelle Nugent. Effective May 16, Ghetto Klown will play Monday – Saturday at the Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre (149 West 45th Street) with extended performances through July 10. For detailed information and tickets, visit the official show website GhettoKlownonBroadway.com and watch selected clips below.


Pedro Luis Ferrer — The Cuban Legend Is Back

Singer, guitarist and composer Pedro Luis Ferrer is a household name in Cuba. His innovative music made him a star in the 70’s, but his social criticism made him an enemy to Fidel Castro’s Government. His music was banned from the airwaves in the late 90s, but today, he is back in the spotlight with a new musical style. Correspondent Reese Erlich visited Ferrer at his home in Havana to find out what exactly “Nueva Trova” is and how Ferrer’s new sound is capturing the hearts of world-wide audiences yet again.

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20 Years After the Mt. Pleasant Riots

Twenty years ago this week, the streets of Mount Pleasant, the most diverse neighborhood in Washington DC, were filled with rioters and tear gas. The city hadn’t seen a disturbance like this since the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and there hasn’t been anything like it since.

On May 5, 1991, young men, mainly Latino, took to the streets to protest what was rumored to have been a case of police brutality. A rookie African-American female police officer had shot a 30-year-old Latino man.

Reporter Emily Friedman, takes us back to the three-day turmoil, and explains how the riots took the Latino community in D.C. to the path of recognition.

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Algo Un Poco Mas Personal

Maria Hinojosa reflects on Osama Bin Laden’s death and her personal experiences from September 11, 2001.

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Some Devastating Marks Bin Laden Left Behind


The news of Osama bin Laden’s death swept the nation and caused a wide array of reaction from Americans – from celebrations in the streets, to a quiet reflection about the pain felt on 9/11. It also reminded us of the unity we once felt as Americans, having shared in a national tragedy. But not all who suffered and lost loved ones that day were “Americans.” Lourdes lost a husband, a father to her children, and the family a little bit of themselves. In the past decade, they often felt unwanted in this country.

Maria Hinojosa sits down to talk about life after Sept. 11, 2001 – how they’ve changed and what they feel today as the person responsible for that change has been killed.

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