70 Years of Candido Camero

New York has always been home to the biggest movements in Latin music. For instance, between the 1930s and 1950s, Cuban musicians began escaping racial discrimination in Havana for New York because although the United States faced social issues, the news of the city’s budding Jazz community made the potential for blurring the lines of race when it came to performing music.

Amongst that wave of Cuban immigrants was the legendary conga player, Candido Camero. Born in 1921 in Havana, Candido moved to New York City in 1946. He was introduced to Dizzy Gillespie early on and never looked back. Candido’s biography reads like a who’s who of American and international artists, having played and recorded with over 700 musicians. Tony Bennett once said of Candido: “In 1946, Candido arrived in the United States with his three congas and Jazz music was changed forever.” Those three congas are one of Candido’s greatest contributions to the art form.

With a career spanning 70 years, Candido decided to retire in 2016. At 95 years of age, the iconic conguero took the stage in one of his final shows. He played his heart out to a packed audience and gave fans a taste of a man who lives for his music. As we say goodbye to this musical phenomenon, we take a look back at his historical career.

Featured image by Hubert Williams

Editor’s Note: The special tribute song, “Que Viva Candido,” is courtesy of Candido’s long time friend Bobby Sanabria. The record is found on on Sanabria’s double Grammy-nominated album, Multiverse with the Multiverse Big Band.

Growing Up Without Parents, Life After Deportation

When I was nine, I woke up one morning and my mom said, “Someone came looking for your dad.” She didn’t know it was immigration. She assumed they were police officers, so she gave them his work address.

Later that day, I was watching Pokemon and my baby sister was at daycare. Then I heard the phone ring and my mom started crying. I came in the kitchen, and my aunt said, “Just tell him. You have to tell him.”

My mom said, “Wayner, they arrested your dad. He’s going to be deported to Ecuador.”

I knew what arrested meant but I didn’t know what deported meant, until she explained.

I found out later my mom was also planning to go to Ecuador to be with my dad. She asked me, “Mi hijo, do you want to go to Ecuador with me or do you want to stay with your aunt?”

My mom wanted me to leave with them, but I didn’t know that then because she didn’t show it. I think she wanted me to make the decision on my own. She and my little sister left four months after my dad was arrested. I remember that day.

“Behave good,” my mom told me, “don’t forget I love you.”

After that, everything was weird. I moved into my aunt’s apartment and I didn’t have a bedroom anymore, so I just slept in the living room. It took a while to adapt. I’d come home and expect to see my mom or dad, but it was just my aunt and her daughter.

There were times when I felt really lonely and I would think, “What if I could just go be with them?”

But then something would happen in school, a teacher would say something that would inspire me, and I wouldn’t want to give up. And it helped, too, that every summer I got to see my parents and younger sister in Ecuador. I would be happy with them —we’d take road trips every weekend— but it was temporary.

Sometimes you need that mother love or that father love, so coming back to the U.S. was the hardest part. My mom said I would cry a lot when I left. She told me, “I am not forcing you to be there. If you want to be with us, stay with us.” But I told her, “No Mami, over there it’s better. I cry because I feel sad for both of you, but over there it’s better.”

My main goal has always been to bring my parents back. They told me if I wanted to do that I had to do well in school. So I was forced to be more responsible. I’d wake myself up and clean my room. My mom wasn’t there to tell me to do my homework anymore, so I did it myself.

Sometimes my parents don’t understand the decisions I have to make. Like when I told them I was going away to Skidmore for college. At first my mom didn’t really want me going away to school. But she realized that since I was young I’ve had to make my own decisions. So she decided to support me like she always does.

As I get older, I cry less during our phone calls. Maybe it’s a form of maturing, or maybe, I’m just used to it. When I turn 21, I can petition for my parents to return to the country legally. They’ve told me that I’m their only hope to come back, and that puts a lot of pressure on me. But the way I take it is motivation and a reason not to give up.

Featured image courtesy of Radio Rookies

The Ends of Healthcare: When Deportation Hits Hospitals

In the summer of 2016, Lucilo Molina began to have severe chest pains. Lucilo’s wife Blanca called 911. He was rushed to the hospital, and later that night he underwent major open heart surgery.

Lucilo narrowly survived, but remained in a coma, even after his condition stabilized. Due to his citizenship status, he was unable to acquire health insurance to cover the mounting costs of his care. Representatives from the hospital recommended that the family consider having Lucilo transferred to a facility for long-term care back in Mexico, the country where he was born. But Lucilo was in the process of applying for a green card, and repatriating could delay the process for the foreseeable future. While he remained in a coma, decisions about his health and citizenship were placed on his wife, and she says she was pressured into making a choice she did not want to make.

The practice of returning a patient to their country of origin is called medical repatriation. Because many of the known cases of the practice invoice patients who are undocumented, some advocates see it as a form of deportation. If a patient does not have insurance or access to charitable resources to cover the cost of long-term acute care, hospitals will coordinate repatriation with the consent of the patient, legal guardian, or power of attorney. Private repatriation companies are used to transport the patients, in cooperation with the patient’s consulate office. ICE does not play a role in the process of medical repatriation, and there is some documentation indicating that ICE agents are encouraged to exercise prosecutorial discretion in cases where the patient may be in need of long-term acute care. As a result, the decision to return an undocumented individual falls on hospital and the individual patient, without any federal involvement.

It is unclear how often or how many individuals agree to be returned to their country of origin in this way, as hospitals do not disclose when the process takes place. A study published in 2012 from Seton Hall University School of Law found 800 cases over six years, though it is likely that the number is higher.

Most Americans have some form of health insurance, but for those who don’t, a visit to the emergency room can be devastatingly expensive. For those that are undocumented the stakes are even higher—and for those that are both undocumented and uninsured, the situation gets even trickier. For hospitals as well, the costs of health care can really add up and impede them from treating more patients. The Molinas are one example of what can happen when one family refuses to go along with the hospital’s treatment plan.

Featured image by the Molina family

Obama Leaves Office As ‘Deporter-In-Chief’

For most of his second term, President Barack Obama was nicknamed the “Deporter-in-Chief” because of the high number of deportations under his watch.

Now, as he leaves the White House, he walks away with that label.

But what does it actually mean?

For critics on both sides, Obama has either deported way too many people, or hasn’t been strong enough on enforcing immigration laws—making Obama’s immigration legacy a conflicting issue for many.

Featured image by JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images

Maria Hinojosa Discusses Oscar López Rivera on NPR’s All Things Considered

On Tuesday, President Obama commuted the sentence of Puerto Rican independence activist Oscar López Rivera, who has been in federal prison since 1981.

López Rivera was tried for “a seditious conspiracy to overthrow the power of the United States in connection with 28 FALN bombings in Chicago,” Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa told NPR’s All Things Considered.

Hinojosa discussed the different reactions to one of Obama’s final presidential actions.

“So his supporters essentially say that seditious conspiracy is, quote, ‘a political crime for simply opposing the United States government.’ And they say that his 55-year sentence was essentially unfair,” Hinojosa said. “But his opponents say that he is essentially an unrepentant terrorist. He has never, you know, said anything, for example, about the Fraunces Tavern. He’s denied his involvement. So there’s a real divide here.”

Latino USA‘s hour-long radio documentary on Oscar López Rivera airs January 27th.

Cristela Alonzo on the Obama Legacy

My mom was a devout Catholic. She was the kind of woman that could look at a nun and say, “You need to try harder.”

I reference my mom’s Catholicism because my entire life has been surrounded around hope and faith. When you grow up in extreme poverty, you realize at an early age, that while you might not have food to eat or running water, what you DO always have is hope and faith. You hope that things have to get better because really, how can they get worse?

This week, I, along with other American citizens, say goodbye to President Barack Hussein Obama. I can’t begin to tell you the impact Obama has had in my life. His hope campaign in 2008 reminded me of the hope and faith my mom instilled in me with our Catholic roots. I never thought I’d cry at someone being elected to an office (though cut to now and I cried during this last election but for different reasons) but there I was, seeing him being announced the winner and thinking that someone that looked like me was getting elected.

Now some of you might be thinking, “Cristela, you’re Latina. What do you mean, he looked like you?” To me, Obama represented an evolution of the story of America that was changing. We were electing a person of color to the highest office in this country and it was beautiful to see because for that moment in 2008, I felt like kids were FINALLY told, “You can do this.”

I guess I should explain this a little bit. When I was a kid, MY dream was to be President of The United States. In the fourth grade, my class made a little paper yearbook. We had to answer questions about us, one being: What do you want to be when you grow up? I wrote “President of The United States.” That was it…but I noticed that as I started telling people about my dream, it was met with laughter and disillusionment from people in my neighborhood.

They’d laugh and tell me it was impossible. I wasn’t a man. I wasn’t white. Women couldn’t be presidents, especially Latina woman. You see, in my neighborhood Latina women weren’t considered equal to Latino men. In my house, men ate before women. My brothers would eat first, then the women. It was part of the culture my mother grew up with in Mexico.

Looking back, I’ve never understood why people would be so cynical towards a child and their dream. Why tell them no before they even start? Why tell them that as a poor kid, you’re not allowed to dream? I was constantly told that dreams were for the rich. The poor can’t dream because survival is what we needed to focus on. I eventually moved on from my presidential dream and got really into theater. I went to a predominately Mexican high school, which meant all of our plays had a Latino cast. I never thought it was weird until years later when I told people that my high school did The Diary of Anne Frank and people looked at me like, “Are you serious?”

I left high school and tried to go to college for theater. One of my teachers there told me that as a Latina, I could be in West Side Story and A Chorus Line, nothing else. Wow. That was heartbreaking. You mean that for a SECOND time in my life, my dream wasn’t the “right” dream? You mean that ONCE AGAIN, what I was (a brown woman) would dictate what I was capable of accomplishing? How heartbreaking is it to be told, not once, but twice that what you want to do is meant for OTHER people but not you?

When I saw Obama get sworn in, for the first time I couldn’t stop crying. I felt that the impossible no longer existed—that kids that looked like me could FINALLY see that they were capable of the attaining the amazing. I finally saw a door of opportunity open, that for me (as a kid) had been shut.

I have seen EVERY inauguration since I could remember. One of my favorite yet bittersweet moments in all of them has always been the moment when the sitting president leaves the White House. Regardless of party (I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican), every time I see that moment, I cry because there’s something incredible about seeing history happening in front of your eyes. This is the first time I won’t be seeing it. I can’t bring myself to see the moment where the Obama family gets into the helicopter and flies away to live their lives as private citizens because I feel as if the moment they leave, I walk into a world of uncertainty and confusion that I have never felt before.

I’d like to consider myself part of Obama’s legacy. I am one of the people whose lives have been changed forever because of his presidency. Seeing the way that people treated him (both fans and critics) made me realize how powerful one person can be. In the past number of years, I have become more active in causes that are important to me like immigration, health care, poverty…all issues that have had a profound impact on my life. I’ve realized that my voice added to the other voices fighting for the same causes can create change. The one thing we have to understand is that for true change to happen, it will take time. It might not happen in your lifetime but just because you might not be alive to see it, doesn’t mean you don’t put in the work.

I started my life as a squatter, practically homeless for about the first seven years of my life. I was told my dreams were stupid and that I was dumb for having them. I took care of my mom until she got sick and died in front of me as I stood in the doorway of the room because I couldn’t stand to be closer to her as she took her last breath.

My life hasn’t been easy but I’m not saying that I’ve had it the hardest. So many of us live these kinds of stories but I can say that in the darkest of times, hope was what got me through everything. My mom taught me about hope. Obama was just the person that made me realize that with hope, there is power.

Thank you for everything, Obama. I am so grateful that I was alive to see your work rather than read it about in the history books because I know that when we look back, the history books will never do your legacy justice.

Sí se pudo.

Sí se puede.

 

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Cristela Alonzo tweets from @cristela9.

Featured image via Cristela Alonzo’s official Facebook page.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The views expressed in this piece are solely those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Latino USA.

Teachers Share Tips for Empowering Students in Trump’s America

In the weeks following election day, many students and teachers have witnessed acts of hate and bigotry in schools across America.

HuffPost Live host Jay Shetty sat down with three educators to discuss how teachers can safeguard against hate in classrooms during Donald Trump’s presidency. In the conversation, the teachers opened up about the types of incidents they’ve already dealt with and how they plan to help students going forward.

“I think there’s a really big trend in like telling kids ‘this is going to be horrible, this is how bad it’s going to be’ and I think there’s a way to have those honest conversations without scaring kids,” New York City high school teacher Faiqa Amreen said. “Because the last thing they need to be right now is scared, they need to be empowered.”

Read more at HuffPost Latino Voices.

The Beauty (and Struggle) of Black and Brown Relationships in Los Angeles

Melanin(a) is an environmental portrait series dedicated to the beauty and struggle of black and brown relationships in Los Angeles. In one of the most divisive moments in the history of the United States, I ask: How are black and brown couples making sense of the current political and racial climate? How does the increased normalization of violence on the black and brown body throughout Los Angeles impact intimacy? And what does a black and brown future look like in the age of Trump? By exploring these narratives through visual ethnography, Melanin(a) aims to build on the existing work of artists and activists who have and continue to create platforms for the preservation of black and brown lives in Los Angeles and beyond.

Hilario, Aide, and Sebastian: “Hatred will be more prevalent in our society.”

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Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Lexx Valdez and Halline Overby: “We have our own issues as black and brown people but there’s also a togetherness that we both share. And we have to look for each other. We have to band together more than what we did before and really look out for each other’s families beyond our relationship right now.”

Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández
Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Aaron and Norma: “We are very pro-brown and pro-black.”

Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández
Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

David Trujeque and Norma Fuentes: “It’s important for us a mixed couple to stick together right now because as a group we can send messages and tell people that this is the way it could be. We have to have each other’s back. I feel like its important for us to stick together right now and that’s powerful.”

Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández
Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Soleil Boyd and Jose Hernandez: “I’m very aware of anti-black racism. I read about it, I study it, and I experience it but I couldn’t believe what Trump was saying. I didn’t believe it. Jose was offended and he was hurt, but I couldn’t even comprehend what was being said and I thought that there was so much about his life that I didn’t understand and it opened up lines of communication about race for us.”

Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández
Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Cecilia Whalen and Cleveland Whalen: “When Trump got elected, it was like stepping back in time. And I’m not naïve about the racial tension that is out there. I just think that people were keeping it under wraps for so long and now that the leader of the country is going to say it then somehow everyone who feels like that is going to be active. It is going to push us back very far.”

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Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Erin Whalen and Garrett Kynard: “Black and brown love is a perpetual affirmation of our lives as queer men of color in this era. It means having a home to process what we go through as black and brown men. It also means partnering with our families to help them go through what is happening in the Trump era because they are scared about the hate and oppression that we go through.”

Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández
Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Jamie Trujeque and Stacey Trujeque: “Black and brown love has risen out of the depths of struggle, pain and perseverance.”

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Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Claudia Lira and Shaye Ogbonna: “Black and brown love is knowing that we will be raising a thoughtful, kind daughter and will probably be Trump’s worse nightmare.”

Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández
Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Deb Vargas and Erica Edwards: “Trump means that we can’t be indifferent anymore. We have to dream and we have to be ready in ways that we haven’t before and we have to be willing to do the work. For black and brown love, it means doing the work in a very real way and not seeing our histories as distinct and not to collapse them but to be humble and vulnerable enough to cross histories and boundaries in a trump world that would want us to be separate.”

Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández
Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Kaelyn Rodriguez and Daniel Chavez: “Trump is a threat and he is a danger and it means that we have to get ready and be ready and we have to be more intentional about racial coalitions. Right now it’s just about being able to come together because he represents a real danger to our lives.”

Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández
Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Cristina Arredondo and Sherman Ratliff: “Trump is empowering racist people who were hiding in the shadows. And we’re not just looking out for each other anymore. It’s about both of our families. I worry about my parents because they don’t speak English. I worry about his mom when she goes to work. And I worry about eventually being a family and having kids within these next four years.”

Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández
Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Raheem Dawson and Christy Dawson: “It can be really disorienting and it can almost seem like an insurmountable task to survive as a black and brown couple through this, but if you step away from that for a moment and really focus on your person and your relationship there is still ways to see the light and I look at her and the world is an alright place.”

Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández
Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Koatzin Cruz and Chaz-Ashley Cruz: “Our bodies will be at stake now that Trump has become president. And being together right now is a political resistance because whether by law or by social status, black and brown love has always been undermined and historically not valued. Resistance is no longer just about words.”

Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández
Image by Walter Thompson-Hernández

EDITOR’S NOTE: The views expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and the people he photographed. They do not reflect the views of Latino USA.

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Walter Thompson-Hernández is a Los Angeles-based multimedia journalist and current doctoral student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His stories and research have been featured by NPR, CNN, BBC, Fusion, Los Angeles Times, Remezcla, and UNIVISION.

In Response to Russian Hacking, Texas Rep Claims Mexicans Influenced Vote in Nevada

In a story published last week by The Dallas Morning News, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) said that if the country is so concerned about news that Russia was influencing the 2016 presidential election, it should also be concerned that “Mexican soap opera stars, singers and entertainers” were also influencing the election in Nevada.

“Harry Reid and the Democrats brought in Mexican soap opera stars, singers and entertainers who had immense influence in those communities into Las Vegas, to entertain, get out the vote and so forth. Those are foreign actors, foreign people, influencing the vote in Nevada. You don’t hear the Democrats screaming and saying one word about that.”

The Texas Republican, who is a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, also said that the influence of Mexican celebrities is comparable to Russia’s hacking efforts: “Sure it is, it’s foreign influence. If we’re worried about foreign influence, let’s have the whole story.”

Conaway was referring to an October 2016 concert and rally for Hillary Clinton, which featured Vicente Fernández, Los Tigres del Norte and Mexican-American actor Angélica María. A few weeks before the concert, El Chente sang a corrido for Clinton.

Reaction from Latino Democrats to Conaway’s comments was swift, including this tweet from Nevada senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who won the November 2016 election to become the country’s first Latina senator:

“Congressman Conaway’s offensive and immature comments are an insult to so many people in Nevada and across the country who value their Mexican heritage and culture,” Cortez Masto also said in a statement. “This is a pathetic attempt to try to diminish the intelligence community’s consensus that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to boost Donald Trump”

In a fundraising email to supporters, Latino Victory Project, a progressive political advocacy group that produced the Fernández video, said that its “collaborations with Vicente Fernández and Maná served to build a more representative democracy, which is why our organization exists.”

“Like us, Los Tigres del Norte and Angélica María are Americans making their voices heard in their electoral process,” the email read. “Like us, they are empowering Latinos to become civically involved, to register, to vote and to mobilize. There is nothing criminal about that; in fact, it’s at the heart of who we are as a country.”

In a NBC Latino opinion piece published on Monday, Stephen A. Nuño wrote, “But the deeper issue is how reflexively Republicans turn to racism and appeals that are meant to exclude Latinos from our common American identity when left without any responsible excuse for justifying Russian intrusion in our electoral process. Conaway’s race baiting is, frankly, the only argument he has. To distract the attention his constituents may give to his turncoat acceptance of foreign influence by essentially saying his fellow Americans who are minorities are no different than foreign enemies.”

President Obama Commutes Sentence of Oscar López Rivera

As part of a Tuesday White House announcement of sentence commutations and pardons, President Barack Obama has commuted the federal sentence of Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist who has been in jail since 1981 for seditious conspiracy.

According to the White House, López Rivera’s sentence has been “commuted to expire on May 17, 2017.”

López Rivera was a member of Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), a militant group that fought for Puerto Rican independence. In a recent Latino USA article for Weekend Edition Sunday, “between 1974 and 1983, the FALN claimed responsibility for more than 70 bombings in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The bombings caused millions in property damage, dozens of injuries and five deaths.” López Rivera, however, was never convicted for any of these specific bombings, but “in 1976, the FBI found an apartment linked to López Rivera containing dynamite and FALN written materials. López Rivera went into hiding, and wasn’t apprehended until five years later.”

For the past few months, many of López Rivera’s supporters have been actively campaigning for a presidential pardon, including an online We The People petition that received more than 100,000 signatures in less than 30 days. At the time of the petition, the White House’s official response said it “does not comment on individual pardon applications.” Nonetheless, supporters —including Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Rep. Luis Gutiérrez— continued to campaign for López Rivera. Online supporters were encouraged to use the #FreeOscarLópez hashtag.

“Thank you, President Obama, thank you on behalf of millions of Puerto Ricans on the Island and around the world,” Gutiérrez said in a statement. “Thank you from Oscar’s family and friends in Chicago. The international campaign of religious leaders, elected officials, Nobel Prize winners, and ordinary people of faith and good conscience has led to this day. We have had our prayers answered.”

On January 27, Latino USA will premiere an entire hour on López Rivera’s story. The following video, published before the White House announcement, provides an overview about the upcoming radio documentary.

López Rivera’s commutation was part of 209 commutations and 64 pardons announced Tuesday afternoon by President Obama.