What’s The Matter With Texas?

Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

The Rio-Grande valley is one of the poorest areas of our country. Prior to 2011, the women of the region depended on state-funded clinics for healthcare and family planning services. That was the year that the republican-held state legislature passed one of the leanest budgets in state history.

According to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the number of women receiving services in the region was reduced by 75% after the cuts.

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Those were part of an effort by the republican-held state legislatures around the country to defund Planned Parenthood clinics, whether or not they performed abortions.

Jessica González Rojas is the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. She says The so-called “affiliate rule” was designed to punish clinics affiliated with abortion providers.

“It was an effort to curb women’s reproductive health access and access to family planning services such as contraception, pap smears and breast exams,” Rojas says.

The report also found that since many Latino families in the Rio Grande Valley lack health insurance, those family planning clinics were often the only place in the community women could get any health care at all.

“There’s longer and longer delays to accessing that care and less and less subsidies, so for the low income women women that we work with, they can’t afford the payments, they can’t afford access to the tests,” says Rojas.

 Losing Your Job

After the cuts, Paula Saldaña lost her job as a community educator for a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brownsville, Texas.

Now she continues to give workshops on reproductive health as a volunteer. She says the women she counsels have become desperate for screenings and medications.

“Between themselves they would say, ‘I have a friend that can get some from Mexico’ or ‘They sell some at the flea market,’ and of course I would try to tell them ‘You know, you really do need for it to be prescribed and it needs to be under the care of a doctor,” but they would turn around and they were right, ‘where do we go now? Where do we go now that is not going to charge me $500 or $600 dollars for a cheap biopsy?’”

Saldaña says she has no answers for the women under her care. There is nowhere she can send them. She even struggles to access her own care.

“I have not gotten a pap smear since my last baby was born and he’s going to be 3 in December,” she says “Cost is the main reason, I do have transportation but I have nowhere to go, the clinics I can access, but the appointments they can give me are for a whole year or six months away.”

Lawmakers Weigh In

Last spring, the republican-majority Texas legislature reinstated some of the family planning budget, but it’s uncertain whether the money restored will be enough to repair the damage done to the state’s reproductive health system.

“It’s heartbreaking,” says Leticia Van De Putte. She’s the Texas state senator that stood with Senator Wendy Davis during that 11 hour filibuster to block HB-2, legislation that would eventually pass to create new abortion regulations in Texas.

She says the cuts to the budget mean a complete lack of access for Latinas in rural communities.  “We know that when women are able to access those family planning services, that they’re able to plan their pregnancies and plan their families,” says Van De Putte, “It seems to me that it would be very cost effective to our state if we would just make sure that women have the access to the reproductive health services that they desperately need.”

Last week, Van De Putte declared she will be seeking the democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor in 2014.

While Van de Putte was standing with Wendy Davis against HB-2, another Latino member of the Texas House of Representatives made a passionate speech in favor of the abortion law.

Jason Villaba says as an official, he is responsible for protecting people both outside and inside the womb.

“Take a look at the Republican perspective. We don’t do this as an attack on women’s reproductive rights, we do this because we believe we are in a battle to protect the most vulnerable in our society, the unborn,” he says.

He takes offense at the idea that the 2011 cuts were a sign that the Republican legislature was waging a war on women.

“So the option that we gave the clinics was either you can abandon your relationship with Planned Parenthood and establish your own clinics or we’re going to be forced to de-fund you because we already made this decision in a previous legislature under previous law that we are prohibited from funding those clinics that have Planned Parenthood resources.”

Villaba says his party has taken some first steps to give disadvantaged citizens adequate health care without relying on outside providers like Planned Parenthood.

“One of the ways we’re doing that is by looking at Texas-based clinics that were funded in the 2013 legislative session, we did put some money back into some clinics that were able to provide healthcare services for women.”

Latinas Are The Key

Senator Van de Putte believes that if reproductive rights are going to change in Texas, it will be because of Latinas.  “If Latinas engaged around reproductive health … it would be over, it would be not just a different conversation, it would be a different outcome,” she says.

The obstacle, she says, is to convince Latinas that their votes matter.

“If they only would realize that their discussions could lead their other family members to be empowered enough to make the decisions different, so that the next generations of Latinas won’t have to face the same sorts of disrespect.”





Data Mining in the Coachella Valley

The Coachella Valley, in Southern California, is one of the country’s richest agricultural regions, providing the country with tons of grapes, dates and other produce. But it’s also what environmentalists call a “data desert.” Nobody knows the full extent of environmental problems that make life hazardous for the farmworkers there simply because the numbers are lacking. Without that data, the region can’t get money for improvements. Lisa Morehouse reports on an effort by environmentalists to crowdsource the needed data with the help of local teenagers.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Lisa-Morehouse-150x150Lisa Morehouse is an award-winning independent public radio and print journalist, who’s filed for KQED’s The California Report, NPR’s Latino USA and All Things Considered, Edutopia magazine and McSweeney’s. Her reporting has taken her from Samoan traveling circuses to Mississippi Delta classrooms to the homes of Lao refugees in rural Iowa.  She’s currently working on After The Gold Rush: The Future of Rural California, an audio documentary website and series. A former public school teacher, Morehouse also works with at-risk youth to produce radio diaries.

News or Noise? Decisions Edition

In newsrooms around the world, decisions are often made during editorial meetings. People pitch ideas, discuss developing stories, and plan their coverage. How do these meetings work and why are they helpful?

For our regular segment on news literacy, Latino USA producer Daisy Rosario takes you inside the weekly editorial meeting of The Mash, a teen publication put out by the Chicago Tribune.

C2_Joe HendrixJoe Hendrix is a junior at Daniel Hale Williams Prep School of Medicine, located on the South Side of Chicago. He joined The Mash earlier this year and has shown a strong interest in writing movie reviews—especially when he gets to share his thoughts on Marvel films. Joe’s most recent Mash article explained why teens feel the need to compare themselves to others and how social media affects self-esteem.


C2_Elani-Kaufman-TonedElani Kaufman is a junior at Lincoln Park High School. Although this is her first year with The Mash, Elani has already worked on a wide range of articles, including a story about Thanksgivukkah, commentary for our regular fashion police column and a fun piece about cleansing your musical palate.



C2_Phil ThompsonPhillip Thompson is the editorial director of The Mash. For five years, Phil has enjoyed working with teens (even though he’s slightly of afraid of them). A 16-year vet of the Chicago Tribune, he’s also a contributor to RedEye’s Five on Five sports comedy panel (a sense of humor comes in handy, especially if you’ve had a fantasy football year like he’s had.)



Morgan Olsen is The Mash’s managing editor. She moved to Chicago earlier this year from Los Angeles, where she worked for two teen entertainment magazines. When she’s not editing stories or roaming the Tribune Tower, Morgan is exploring Chicago and drinking way too much coffee.

Dearly Deported: Turkey

In the first of our Dearly Deported profiles, Efe Atli of Turkey tells us the story of why being deported provided the motivation he needed to get his life together.



AC-photo11Andrés Caballero has been an active contributor to Latino USA for more than a year. He holds a M.S. in Journalism from the Columbia University School of Journalism, and a B.S. in Political Science from Notre Dame De Namur University. He covers issues that affect Latinos across the U.S., and he has also contributed to New America Media, the Hispanic Link News Service in Washington D.C., and El Tecolote in San Francisco.

#1348 – Adventure Time!

From the depths of Puerto Rico to the mountains of Colorado, we’re taking you along with us for a few adventures this week. Join a reporter for an adventure in the kitchen. Hear the profile of a man who just put out his first album—at 80 years old. Come along with host Maria Hinojosa as she trains for her first race with help from an all-star runner. Learn about “Narco Cultura,” and the social impact of drug cartels in Mexico and the Southwest. And laugh along with Al Madrigal and Lalo Alcaraz.

Narco Cultura

Photojournalist and film director Shaul Schwarz’s new documentary Narco Cultura contrasts Mexico’s drug violence with the music and fandom of narcocorridos–a style of music that celebrates the anti-heros of the Mexican cartels. Host Maria Hinojosa speaks with director Shaul Schwarz and former narcocorrido marketing director Joel Vazquez about the film, the musical movement of narcocorridos, and the state of Mexican-American self-identity. She also speaks with economist Rodrigo Canales about cartels as a business.

A1 Shaul SchwarzShaul Schwarz is an Israeli photojournalist and film director. His work has appeared in National Geographic, Newsweek, Time, The New York Times Magazine, El Pais Magazine, GQ and Marie Claire. His coverage of the conflict in Haiti in 2004 received two World Press Awards. Most recently he was honored with the 2008 Robert Capa Award given out by the Overseas Press Club.




A1 Joel Vazquez 2Joel Vazquez: Joel Vazquez works in advertising and marketing for narcocorrido bands. He is the former marketing director for Twiins Enterprises, one of the largest narcocorrido labels in the U.S.





A2 Rodrigo CanalesRodrigo Canales is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Yale School of Management. He researches the role of institutions in entrepreneurship and economic development. Specifically, Rodrigo studies how individuals purposefully change complex organizations or systems.


Pavochón: Puerto Rican-style Turkey

When reporter Von Diaz was a girl celebrating Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico, her abuela ruled the kitchen. Each year she created a magical dish called a pavochón, a turkey cooked like a traditional Puerto Rican pork roast. This year, she tries to recreate the dish with her grandmother’s help.



Von Diaz is a multimedia journalist based in New York City. Her reporting focuses on immigration, Cuba, and LGBT issues. She was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Atlanta, GA.She has published her work on PRI’s The World, WNYC, and New American Media.

Running Tips From A Latina All-Star

How do you embark on an adventure? Take it one step at a time!

Next month, Maria Hinojosa is doing something she’s never done before — training for a race! Ahead of her first 5k, we called all-star runner Brenda Martinez for some training tips.

 Photo courtesy of New Balance. 

B2 Running Tips_Headshot_BrendaMartinez_Getty

At the recent IAAF Track & Field World Championships in Moscow, Brenda Martinez became the first American woman to win a medal in the 800m. She ran her personal best and won the bronze medal. Martinez, 25, is from Rancho Cucamongo, CA and the only Latina on the national track and field team. Martinez started running at five years old and became the first person in her family to go to college when she attended UC-Riverside. She won the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championship in the 1,500m and was a three-time NCAA All-American. Photo courtesy of Getty Images. 

Conquering Colorado’s Mountains

Fresh out of a divorce and going through depression, Stella Juarez decided to take up hiking. Now, it’s an addiction that has helped her heal. Juarez is on a mission to climb all 53 of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks, called “fourteeners,” and she’s inspiring others to follow in her tracks. Reporter Lesley McClurg joined Juarez and two young Latinas for a climb in Central Colorado.

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

Photo courtesy of Lesley McClurg, Diana Oregon climbing Mount Sherman, Colorado.  


McClurgLesley McClurg is a reporter and producer for Colorado Public Radio’s daily interview program, “Colorado Matters.” She came to CPR after getting her start in public radio as a freelance reporter and producer for KUOW in Seattle, Washington. Prior to that, Lesley spent more than three years working in public television in Seattle, reporting on a variety of stories and producing long-form segments for KCTS 9 Public Television.
In addition to her work as a journalist, Lesley also has extensive experience in documentary filmmaking and writing. A seven-time Emmy Award nominee, she won an Emmy Award in 2009 for the documentary, “Green Prison Reform.” Lesley holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Louisiana State University.











Al & Lalo’s Big Adventure

Our favorite funny men, Al Madrigal and Lalo Alcaraz return to Latino USA for their regular segment. This month they tell us the things they’re thankful for that they couldn’t discuss with their families. It’s not the stuff you’d expect. And we get to hear all about Lalo’s new adventure in television.

 Photo courtesy of Lalo Alcaraz.



MADRIGAL-300x168A correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” since 2011, Al Madrigal has been named Best Stand-Up Comedian by the HBO/U.S. Comedy Arts Festival and his material dubbed “dynamic” by The New York Times. His unique, spontaneous and fast-paced lyrical storytelling style has made him a regular on television with numerous appearances on Comedy Central including his own half-hour Comedy Central Presents Special.




Lalo_hs-150x150Lalo Alcaraz is the creator of the first nationally-syndicated, politically-themed Latino daily comic strip,“La Cucaracha,” seen in scores of newspapers including the Los Angeles Times. He is also co-host of KPFK Radio’s popular satirical talk show, “The Pocho Hour of Power,” and co-founded the political satire comedy group Chicano Secret Service. His work has appeared in major publications around the world and he has won numerous awards and honors. Alcaraz received his Bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University, and earned his master’s degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently a faculty member at Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles. Alcaraz was born in San Diego and grew up on the border.