Latino USA

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#1433 – Nuestro Nueva York

This episode, we examine Latino USA’s hometown, New York City. Maria Hinojosa sits down with New York City council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, one of a few Latinas to rise in city politics. We hear about wage theft in the foodservice industry and a forgotten icon of the LGBTQ rights movement. A street is named after Puerto Rican activists The Young Lords. We look at the legacy and future of Fania Records, pioneers of salsa. And Latino USA goes looking for New York’s best taco.


Photo by Brandon Watts via Flickr. 

A Latina NYC City Council Speaker

A new era of leadership is emerging in New York City, and at the head of it is Melissa Mark-Viverito, who talks with Maria Hinojosa. They discuss the city’s municipal ID program, which has raised concerns from the New York Civil Liberties Union, among others. They also discuss why Mark-Viverito has been vocal about welcoming undocumented immigrants, including child refugees recently arrived from Central America.





Headshot of Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito 2Melissa Mark-Viverito currently serves as the Speaker of the New York City Council, the first Puerto Rican and Latina to hold a citywide elected position. She represents the 8th District, which includes El Barrio/East Harlem and the South Bronx.

Speaker Mark-Viverito was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She worked for over a decade in local activism, nonprofit organizations and labor before being elected to the City Council in 2005, as the first Puerto Rican woman and Latina to represent her district in the Council.

In 2009, she was elected to her second term in the City Council, during which she served as Chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, the founding Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus and as a member of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. In 2011, she was one of four Council Members to pioneer the first-ever Participatory Budgeting process in New York City.

She is a graduate of Columbia College at Columbia University and Baruch College, City University of New York, where she studied Public Administration through the National Urban Fellows Program

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Wage Theft in New York City’s restaurants: Two Latina Workers Fight For What They’re Owed

Wage theft can mean many different things. There are cases where employers garnish their workers’ wages…take a little off the top. Sometimes workers are told not to clock in until after their shift starts. The most egregious is when employers don’t pay their workers minimum wage or overtime.

Seventy-seven percent of restaurant workers in New York City don’t get paid overtime wages, according to a study by the National Employment Law Project  Undocumented women are hurt the most. Almost half don’t get paid the minimum wage, and 90% report not getting paid over time.

This is the story of two Latina New Yorkers fighting to get the money they are owed.

Camilo Vargas contributed reporting for this piece.


Note: Maria Hinojosa introduces this report by saying working more than 8 hours per day is illegal. This assumes a five day work week, adding up to 40 hours per week.


Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Sylvia Rivera: A Forgotten Hero of the Stonewall Rebellion

On June 1969, a police-raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the heart of Greenwich Village, turned violent when bar goers resisted arrest. The riots lasted three nights and went down in history as the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. Sylvia Rivera, a Puerto Rican street queen, is rumored to have thrown the second molotov cocktail that night. Seventeen years-old at the time of the riots, Sylvia continued to fight for gay and transgender rights until her death in 2002.


Photo by Steve Eason/Getty Images

Young Lords Way: A Legacy

On July 26 the human rights group the Young Lords got a street named after them in El Barrio, or East Harlem. The Puerto Rican group  fought for economic rights and social justice in the 1960′s and 70′s for Puerto Ricans and other people of color. Attendees of the street naming share the importance of the group in New York history. They also remember the actions the Young Lords took to create change, which includes taking over a church in the neighborhood to run a free breakfast program. In this audio postcard at the unveiling Young Lords Way, New Yorkers reflect on what the organization means to them.


Photo courtesy of Roxanne Scott.

Fania Records: Fifty Years Of Sabor

After years of gathering dust, the legendary salsa music label Fania Records is back and revamped under new owners—a private equity company looking to make a mint on classic Latin music. As Fania turns 50, we ask: what future lies ahead for the label once known as the “Motown of Latin music?”

“We gonna take you back to what we were doing in 1986,” says boogaloo star Joe Bataan from the stage.

In 1968, Joe Bataan was in East Harlem recording boogaloo tunes for an upstart Latin music label called Fania Records. Today, Joe is performing in a Staten Island park as part of Fania’s 50th anniversary celebrations happening all summer long around New York City.

A native-New Yorker crowd of all shades has turned out. They’re sitting back in fold-out chairs, dancing, and soaking up the nostalgia. Tony Lopez puffs on a cigar, looking like he’s having the time of his life.

“We’re big time Joe Bataan fans from way back in the day,” says Lopez. “I was a kid when he came out with his music. It was off the hook man.”

The people gathered here aren’t just fans of Bataan. They’re fans of Fania itself, because Fania isn’t an ordinary record label.


The Motown Of Latin Music

Fania records was founded in 1964 by two classic New Yorkers—Johnny Pacheco, a Dominican immigrant who led the hottest Latin band in the city, and Jerry Masucci who was a street-smart lawyer and ex-cop from Brooklyn. They decided to team up and start a record label that could beat-out Alegre Records, the top Latin label at the time.

“They were two dynamic guys, really ahead of their time, and they just captured the industry,”  says Joe Bataan.

Fania really exploded in the 70s, when it became home base for an exciting new musical movement known as salsa.

“A whole new world opened up with salsa, and all of these artists were brought to different levels that they never thought they would achieve,” says Bataan. “The bandleaders were taken out of their leadership roles in the individual bands and put into the Fania All Stars, which became a world wide name.”

Footage from the famous Fania All-Stars concert of 1973 at Yankee Stadium.

Fania recorded just about every great Latin artists of the era: Bobby Valentín, Hector Lavoe, Ray Barretto, Larry Harlow, Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, and so-on. The label was grossing $5 million a year and commanding 80 percent of the market. But it wouldn’t last.

By 1980, Fania was in serious financial trouble. The label crashed due to a perfect storm of changing music tastes, bad business decisions and interpersonal conflicts. For years, the catalog essentially gathered dust.

Fania Rises Again

In 2009, Fania’s assets were bought by an investment firm called Signal Equity Partners, operating under the name Codigo Group. According to their website, Signal Equity specializes in “leveraged buy-outs, roll-ups, and restructurings.” It was an unlikely match— before Fania, they were buying up rural telephone exchanges. But a guy named Michael Rucker convinced the investors that there was money to be made in classic Latin music.

Rucker is now the chief marketing officer for Codigo group. “There’s this huge opportunity to go out and look at Latin music and Latin catalogs and to roll them up, archive them, treat them with respect, and then to collect on that respect,” says Rucker.

The company bought not only Fania, but 14 other Latin catalogs from the same era, including West Side Latino and Kubaney Records. They now own almost 3,000 records by 200 artists. Taken together, it’s a major chunk of Latin music history.

They fished the master tapes out of old storage units and got the records up on digital services like Spotify and iTunes. They also pressed up new “Best Of” albums, and began selling t-shirts bearing art from classic Fania album covers.

“It’s been working really well for us,” says Rucker.


“This Is Gone Forever”

Meanwhile in the Bronx, things haven’t been working very well for Mike Amadeo, owner of the famed Casa Amadeo salsa record store. The store has been in continuous operation since 1941. But it might not last much longer.

“Business is lousy,” says Amadeo. “Nobody in the music business is going to tell me after 64 years in the music business that this is going to be like it was before. It will never happen again, this is gone forever.”

Amadeo says that in Fania’s heyday, records flew off the shelves—he made $7 thousand dollars a week, more than three times what he takes in today. He says there used to be over a hundred ballrooms with live bands in the Bronx alone. Today, not one is left. And if you ask him about the new Fania owners—let’s just say he’s not pleased.

“Let them buy an American record company, for the English speaking people that know what the hell they doing. They don’t know what the hell they doing,” says Amadeo.

Amadeo was once a shot-caller in the salsa industry, back when everybody involved were friends and extended family from the barrio. He and other old-timers say they feel neglected by the new Fania. Amadeo, for example, says the new owners never once called him up to try to learn from his decades of experience selling music to the community. He says the stuff they are putting out doesn’t make sense.

“What Fania is doing right now is killing the industry. The few people that are left that go to the stores to buy records, they want the original recordings as they came out,” says Amadeo.


Reinvent, or Die

The new Fania isn’t particularly interested in reaching the  people that go to the stores to buy records. For Michael Rucker at Fania, there’s a different audience in mind.

“Now we look forward and we say –how do we take this to a younger audience today,” says Rucker. “Because at the end of the day, if you aren’t reinventing, if you’re not going to find new listeners then ultimately you die. And that’s exactly what we don’t want to happen.”

In an attempt to reach younger audiences, Fania is has been working with DJs and putting out remix albums that sample their catalog. For some members of the salsa community like Mike Amadeo, this amounts to sacrilege—a watering down of a rich musical history. But Joe Bataan, for one, isn’t so sure.

“If you sit on history, it dies. So you got to lift yourself from your seat, let history breath, and pass it on, and then you’ll have a chance with the music,” says Bataan.

It’s unclear whether the new Fania will succeed in reaching the youth— the label won’t share sales numbers, so we don’t know how well they are actually doing. But, says Bataan, at least they are trying, and giving the next generation a chance to decide what Fania means to them.


For a complete list of Fania’s 50th anniversary events, visit
All photos courtesy of Codigo group.

Finding Good Mexican Food in NYC: A Tacumentary

Latino USA goes on a quest to find good Mexican Food in New York City. We decided to focus on three neighborhoods: Corona in Queens, Loisiada in Manhattan, and Sunset Park in Brooklyn. Each neighborhood had its unique vibe and all had delicious food.

We learn about the expansive Pueblan community in New York City and visit a very popular food truck. Tell us about your favorite Mexican food spots! Tweet at us at @LatinoUSA.


In Corona Queens we went to a restaurant called Tulcingo, where the tacos were overloaded with guacamole. 




There was a deer head on the wall!



Zaragoza is in the Lower East Side, commonly called Loisiada because it sounds like Lower East Side pronounced with a spanish accent. 



Tacos El Branco is a chain of taco trucks that can be found in Brooklyn. 

All photos courtesy of Antonia Cereijido.  

Sabiduría: Melissa Mark-Viverito

We turn this week to New York City council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for some words of wisdom, or sabiduría.


This Week’s Music: Nuestro Nueva York

This week’s music includes:


-Songoro Cosongo by Héctor Lavoe

-Cumbia Meguro by Mexican Institute of Sound

-Gimnasia de Cumbia (Waka Waka Titanium Remix) by Dënver

-Everlasting by Polock

-Got Your Money (feat. Kelis) by Ol’ Dirty Bastard

-Todo tiene su final (feat. Willie Colón) by Héctor Lavoe

-There You Go by Fania All-Stars

-Let’s Get it On (Pa’ encima) by Los Rakas

-Luminous Insects by Inventions

-Ponte Duro (Empresarios Dubplate Especial) by Fania All-Stars vs. Empresarios

-Somos Pocos by Laguna Pai

This week’s Captions: Nuestro Nueva York

This episode, we examine Latino USA’s hometown, New York City. Maria Hinojosa sits down with New York City council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, one of a few Latinas to rise in city politics. We hear about wage theft in the foodservice industry and a forgotten icon of the LGBTQ rights movement. A street is named after Puerto Rican activists The Young Lords. We look at the legacy and future of Fania Records, pioneers of salsa. And Latino USA goes looking for New York’s best taco.


Latino USA, the foremost Latino voice in public media and the longest running Latino-focused program on radio, is the first radio program to commence equal-access distribution via Captioning for Radio. “Research has shown that Latino children have a higher incidence of hearing loss and deafness than other populations,” according to Latino USA’s Anchor & Executive Producer Maria Hinojosa. “When the opportunity to break this sound barrier came to our attention, we were pleased to embrace this new technology developed by NPR Labs and Towson University for the thousands of Latinos with serious hearing loss.”
The International Center for Accessible Radio Technology (ICART), a strategic alliance between NPR and Towson University, is co-directed by Mike Starling of NPR and Ellyn Sheffield of Towson University.
For each week’s captioning, check back on



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