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Archive for 2013

#1352 – End Of The Year

We wrap up the year with bittersweet stories. Journalist Oscar Martinez tells us about riding the rails with Central American migrants heading to the United States and Mexico. A bilingual radio station celebrates forty years on the air. The STEM sisters check back in with Maria Hinojosa about starting their science careers. We hear about environmental concerns from Los Angeles to Puerto Rico. A “Banned Books Club” celebrates a year of spreading forbidden Latino-centric literature. And musician Eugene Hutz visits for a performance chat.

From The Belly Of The Beast

In 2009, journalist Oscar Martinez embarked on one of the most dangerous pilgrimages on Earth. He joined migrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala on their desperate journey through Mexico to the U.S.

It’s a journey that more than 25,000 migrants make every year. The statistics are harrowing — Amnesty International estimates that 70,000 undocumented went missing in Mexico in the last six years.

At every step of the trip, Martinez wrote dispatches for ELFaro.Net. Now those dispatches are collected in the book, The Beast: Riding and Dodging Narcos On The Migrant Rail.

The migrants Martinez profiles are escaping violence and poverty. They flee their homes on the presumption that “there is something better in life, than the life that those people have in Central America,” says Martinez, “I think this is one of the greatest motors in the history of humanity.”

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A team of Spanish photographers joined Martinez as he documented the violence.

To make their way north, the Central American migrants cling to the roof of a colossal cargo train called The Beast, hiding in spaces between and underneath the cars.

The migrants who fall off are crushed. The survivors are perpetually victimized: they are robbed, beaten, raped and kidnapped by narcos.

“It’s a chess game, the road is a chess game,” says Martinez, “If you make a bad move, you can end up in the hands of the Zetas.”

For the people on this journey, there is no justice. Corrupt public officials work with the narcos. Gangs control the coyotes who lead the migrants north. The walls and increased security on the U.S. side of the border only make things worse.

Interview Highlights



On the abuses faced by migrants on the trail 

Martinez: This road leaves you a big trauma, a big scar in your brain. In 2009 64% percent of Central American women who crossed Uihtxla suffered some abuse including sexual harasment. What happens with that population? Who is asking them? Who is giving support to that people? They just come to the United States or are deported to Central American and continue with their lives, but what kind of life can you have after having that experience?

On the inclusion of los Zetas on the migrant trail

Martinez: In 2007 the incursion of los Zetas changed the sign of that immigration because those wolves are very cruel wolves and are wolves that make massive kidnapping, that sell a lot of women in the north and in the south brothels. Of course, the incursion of the Zetas with the participation of some authorities, mainly the local authorities, the municipal police or the state police. That inclusion changed the name of the wolf, and the name of the wolf is los Zetas.

On the lack of repercussions for criminals

Martinez:  The work of the journalist, puts light in the dark corner of societies, makes it more difficult for the corrupt, for the hagaranes, for the estados perezosos y gobiernos perecosos, as the Salvadorian, Guatemalan and Honduran governments who never raise their voice to ask Mexico what happened with all their women who have been raped in Mexico, what happened with all their men, child and ancients who are kidnapped by los Zetas for days? Journalism is like the sea when it erodes a stone, it takes years and it is not the rhythm we’d prefer, but it is the rhythm we have.



On what he wants his readers to feel

Martinez: I hope to provoke anger. I think that anger is our most powerful motor, it is very difficult to go and sleep with anger. I don’t know what an engineer can do about the topic, I don’t know what an architect can do reading the book, but I pretend to generate the feeling that prevents that person from staying still.






40 Years Of Bilingual Radio

40 years ago, San Francisco based KBBF was the first station in the country to hit the airwaves in both English and Spanish. Today, 95% of Latinos across the nation tune into the radio at least once a week. We explore this tiny station’s history and how it continues to serve a growing and diverse audience.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Nite_Owl


Crosscurrents Live 2012 No Watermark-127Martina Castro is the Managing Editor of KALW News.  She started her career in journalism as an intern at National Public Radio in Washington D.C., and worked with NPR as a producer, trainer, and freelancer before coming to KALW.  Martina’s independent work has been featured nationally on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Day to Day, as well as the online radio magazine The [Un]Observed.


Catching Up With The Stem Sisters

In the last few years theres been a big push on the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and careers.

As part of our first hour long episode in September we introduced you to four Latinas we dubbed the STEM Sisters. Alma, Marcela, Sonia, and Xochyl met at DePaul University in Chicago while getting degrees in environmental studies. They noticed each other over their years at college because they were the only Latinas in their classes.

When we first spoke with them they had just graduated and were figuring out what to do next. Now a few months later, we talk to three of the STEM sisters about looking for work, trying to figure out how to start STEM careers, and looking forward to 2014.

Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images

Puerto Rico’s Eco-Farmers Go Back To The Land

In Puerto Rico, the word jíbaro brings to mind a classic image: a rural peasant working his land, wearing a straw hat and overalls. Machete in one hand, plantains in the other. But it also become a derogatory term, signifying backwardness. You hear it all the time – “Don’t be a jíbaro, don’t be stupid.”

However, a new generation of eco-farmers in Puerto Rico are working to bring pride back to the jíbaro lifestyle. Young people all over Puerto Rico are heading back to the land and starting organic farms up in the mountains, growing everything from coffee to kale. The island has fertile soils and a year-round growing season, yet Over 85% of Puerto Rico’s food is imported. This new generation of hipster jíbaros are working the change that, by promoting organic agriculture and starting alternative businesses serving healthy good. At the same time, they’re trying to figure out how sustainable farming can provide solutions to tough problems facing Puerto Rico today, from obesity to food security.

This story is part of the RadioNature series which explores the ways Latinos connect with nature. RadioNature is supported by the REI Foundation.




Marlon Bishop_new headshotMarlon Bishop is a radio producer, writer, and reporter based in New York. His work is focused on music, Latin America, New York City and the arts, and has appeared in several public radio outlets such as WNYC News,Studio 360, The World and NPR News. He is an Associate Producer at Afropop Worldwide and a staff writer forMTV Iggy.












Taking Out The Trash

Over the last four years, 568 tons of illegal trash was collected near the busy port of Los Angeles. A lot of it winds up in the community of Wilmington, just south of downtown. The number of industrial warehouses and shipping yards there…and the lack of streetlight make it easy for just about anyone to dump anything, illegally.

Salvador Lara is trying to change that.


This story is part of the RadioNature series which explores the ways Latinos connect with nature. RadioNature is supported by the REI Foundation.


Photo Credit: Molly Callister

Molly Callister is a freelance radio producer in Los Angeles, California. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in print and radio from the University of Southern California. In her off time she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and hiking in the hills near her home. But most of all, she loves hearing others people’s stories and telling them on the radio. You can find her on twitter, @mollyreports.






Banned Books Club

When the Arizona Department of Education banned 90 books from its public schools for being “subversive,” ban opponents struck back. They set up underground libraries across the Southwest. And in Albuquerque, they organized a banned book reading club.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jennifer-Lamusa

Carrie Jung headshot

Carrie Jung began reporting from New Mexico in 2011, following environmental news, education and Native American issues. She’s worked with NPR’s Morning Edition, PRI’s The World, National Native News, and The Takeaway.

Carrie graduated with a masters degree from Clemson University in 2009. She currently serves as Morning Edition Host and reporter for KUNM and The Fronteras Desk.

Eugene Hutz’ Pura Vida Conspiracy

Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz talks with Maria Hinojosa about how Latin music has influenced him, living life across borders, and his band’s new album, Pura Vida Conspiracy. (LGT Amazon discount site thru 12/31).

Eugene Hutz shared 3 acoustic versions of his songs exclusively with Latino USA.

 Klavs Bo Christensen/AFP/Getty Images

Must-Watch Movies For Journalists

The holiday season means snuggling on the couch for a well-deserved movie marathon.

Latino USA has curated a list of must-see movies for aspiring journalists.

Did we miss your favorite flick? Use the comment box or tweet @LatinoUSA #Movies4Journos



1) His Girl Friday

This classic movie is a comedy between editor & reporter on a crazy deadline. Protagonist Hildy is a total role model for her zingers, editorial judgment and THAT SUIT. – Carolina Gonzalez



2) Good Night And Good Luck

A great movie about ethics in journalism. David Strathairn is a perfectly cast Edward R. Murrow fighting his famous media battle against McCarthyism. Every aspiring journalist should know his story. – Maria Hinojosa


3) Full Metal Jacket

A look at war correspondence during Vietnam. It’s more about war than journalism, but the reporting elements are hilarious and revealing. – Michael Simon Johnson


4) The Mothman Prophecies

A fun campy thriller starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney, we recommend it solely for the chapstick scene, though Richard Gere is great in his portrayl of a newspaper columnist. -A.C. Valdez


5) Control Room

A movie about Al Jazzera covering the war in Iraq. Watching the transformation of the media guy for the armed forces from this close minded soldier to a compassionate questioner is really remarkable. And it gives us a glimpse into the US Military’s control of the media. – Jonathan Wolfe


6) Network

A network news anchor flips and says what he really thinks about the media. Old movie but still very relevant.- Jonathan Wolfe


7) Reportero

A documentary about covering the border and drug cartels in particular in Mexico. Puts our press freedom here in perspective as well as drawing attention to the plight of embattled and threatened reporters and local journalists in particular. – A.C. Valdez


8) The Killing Fields

A photographer is trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot’s bloody cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of 2million  civilians. – Marea Chaveco


9) All The President’s Men

Reporters Woodward and Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon’s resignation. – Marea Chaveco


10) The Year Of Living Dangerously

A young Australian reporter tries to navigate the political turmoil of Indonesia during the rule of President Sukarno with the help of a diminutive photographer. – Marea Chaveco


11) Morning Glory

Rachel McAdams shows what it’s like to be an early-morning producer on a daily show. – Brenda Salinas

#1351 – Do They Know It’s Mex-mas?

Latino USA’s Christmas edition runs the gamut of holiday emotions, from the difficulty of putting up with your family to stories of growing up with the name Jesús. Photojournalist Donna DeCesare helps us to remember the less fortunate—victims of war and gang violence. We visit with The King: El Vez, of course, and take a listen to a Latin Christmas mixtape. Producer Daisy Rosario tells us millenials are doing just fine in our regular News or Noise feature, and our Dearly Deported series continues, with a story from Mexico City.


Frank Perry/AFP Photo


Remembering Central America’s Wars

Photojournalist Donna DeCesare has covered those affected by war and gang violence in the United States and Central America for decades. Her new book, Unsettled/Desasosiego, documents her journeys to El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s and 2000s as well as her work on gang members in 1990s Los Angeles. She is now a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. She talks to host Maria Hinojosa about meeting and living with her subjects, which she reflects on in her new book, Unsettled/Desasosiego.

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Interview Highlights: 


On her work in Central America

Cesare: “There was just something that was both different enough to intrigue me, with the difference, but familiar enough for me to really feel a sense of connection almost like a family connection to the people, and I really just fell in love with the place.”

 On witnessing the Contra war

Cesare: “Nicaragua was at war, the contra war was on. But the atmosphere in the country was much more hopeful and idealistic. People loved the camera, and they would come to you, and I would say they would kiss the camera, they were excited about meeting someone.”

 On the United States of America’s military involvement in Central America 

“We supported a military regime that was repressing people. And we sent a lot of weapons to Central America. And there was extreme cruelty in the violence death squads that operated there. And we did nothing really much to stop that.”






Growing Up Jesús

In Latin America, it’s a name like any other. But here in the U.S., Jesús is a name that could still raise an eyebrow. So Latino USA producer Michael Simon Johnson spoke with a handful of Jesúses to find out what it’s like to grow up with the holiest name in the book.



michael-johnson-headshot-150x150Michael Johnson was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He spent most of his childhood making music and groaning when his parents put on NPR in the car. So naturally he graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Sound Design, moved to New York and made his way into public radio. As an engineer, he has worked for Afropop Worldwide, WNYC’s Radio Rookies, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. He commits much of his time to working on radio and multimedia projects but can often be found playing the bass, rock climbing, and traveling.

The Chicano Elvis

For almost 25 years, Robert Lopez has been putting on an Elvis suit and becoming El Vez, the Mexican Elvis. Performing as an Elvis “interpreter” started out as a dare when Lopez was an art gallery owner in Los Angeles, but the act has become a loopy tribute to The King and other rock icons, as well as tongue-in-cheek vehicle to reference Chicano culture and politics. It’s equal parts homage and satire.

Lopez describes his alter ego this way: “It’s like if Liberace taught Chicano Studies, if Viva Las Vegas became Viva la Raza.”

El Vez has done many themed shows, including “El Vez for Prez” in 2008. But his “Mex-Mas” show is one of the most popular, and he tours with it every year. “I put a mustache on white Christmas,” said Lopez, who tweaks the Irving Berlin classic song and sings, “I’m dreaming of a Brown Christmas.”

El Vez official site here. For 2013 Mex-Mas tour dates, go here.



Nadia Reiman has been a radio producer since 2005. Before joining the Latino USA team, Nadia produced for StoryCorps for almost five years. Her work there on 9/11 stories earned her a Peabody Award. She has also mixed audio for animations, one which won a DuPont award, hosted podcasts, and has guest hosted and produced for Afropop Worldwide on PRI. Nadia has also produced for None on Record editing and mixing stories of queer Africans, and worked on a Spanish language radio show called Epicentro based out of Washington DC. She graduated from Kenyon College with a double major in International Studies and Spanish Literature.




Photo courtesy of Randall-Michelson

Xmas Jollies Playlist

No holiday is complete with a good holiday playlist, so Maria Hinojosa talks with prominent music journalist Bill Adler about this year’s iteration of his annual Xmas Jollies Mix CD, a collection of rare, obscure, dug up Christmas tunes that he’s gathered over the years. Adler discusses his favorite Latin picks from the Jollies CD and shares his secret behind how he finds his music.



bill adlerBill Adler is a music journalist and a former Def Jam publicist. At Def Jam he worked with artists like Kurtis Blow, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, LL Cool J and De La Soul. As a journalist he has written for the Rolling Stone, People Magazine, High Times, The Boston Herald and The Village Voice.




The Return Of The Queen

One of the toughest things about Christmas? Putting up with your family.

Writer Michele Carlo, author of the memoir Fish Out of Agua: My Life on Neither Side of the Subway Tracks tells us about watching, or trying to watch, a movie with her mother in a story she calls “The Return of the Queen.”

Carlo is a writer and performer who you may remember from out first hour long episode where she shared a school story with us. Listen for her on future episodes of Latino USA.

DISCLAIMER: In her story, Michele Carlo refers to a conversation in the mid-1980s where she told her mom that Rock Hudson was not only gay, but that he had married Jim Nabors. This is an urban myth. Jim Nabors did marry his long time partner Stan Cadwallader in January 2013.

imgres Michele Carlo is a writer/performer and comedic storyteller who has lived in four of the five boroughs of New York City and remembers when a slice of pizza cost fifty cents. Her stories have been published in Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood’s Lost & Found: Stories From New YorkChicken Soup For The Latino Soul and SMITH Magazine.






Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jarrod Carruthers 


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