Author Archive

#1521 – A Latino History of the U.S.

Take a trip around the country with host Maria Hinojosa to learn about Latino history. Hear about the patriotic celebrations of Laredo, Texas andthe first colony in the US—it’s not where you think it is. Also: could Zorro be the first American superhero? A high school class in East LAlearns about the Chicano movement. And just where did the term “Hispanic” come from?

Feature photo courtesy of Mimictrash

Celebrating George Washington, Border-Style

We start our Latino history special with a trip to Laredo, Texas – a 96 percent Latino city rich with Spanish and Mexican history, located on the US-Mexico border. It also happens to host the largest celebration of George Washington’s birthday in the country.


Every year around President’s Day, there are galas, parades, ceremonies and parties in honor of the first American president. But the marquee event is a colonial-themed debutante event called the Society of Martha Washington Pageant and Ball, in which wealthy Mexican-American girls, many from oil families,  are presented to society dressed up as the wives of America’s founding fathers.


The pageant is a big deal in Laredo. Generally, only girls from the oldest high-society families are invited to present. But it’s the dresses themselves that get the most attention. The gowns are massive, featuring endless ruffles of fabric and exquisite beadwork. They can weigh over 100 pounds and are rumored to cost tens of thousands of dollars.


The Washington’s Birthday Celebration is also a major event for South Texas politicians – this year, U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar was selected to play George Washington at the pageant.


Listen to our story to get the full scoop on this fascinating event, and check out our slideshow below for pictures of the pageant.

reynolds_fernandez_armestoBorn in 1950, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto was raised in London by his Spanish born father and British born mother, both active journalists. As a historian, he has written numerous books on a variety of subject from American History to the Spanish Armada. He currently teaches at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of “Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States.”

The First U.S. Colony: St. Augustine, Florida

The first European colony in what is today the continental U.S. isn’t where you probably think it is.

Every American kid in grade school learns that it was the British who first settled the U.S. at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. That just happens to be false. The Spanish arrived at St. Augustine, Florida decades earlier, in 1565. They came to protect their sea routes to the Caribbean, and built several forts and missions in the area over the years.

Today, a massive, star-shaped Spanish fort still stands over the city. St. Augustine has become a colonial-themed party destination where a man dressed as a pirate will take you on a pub crawl. But it’s also, as the city’s historian calls it, “the most important archeological site in the U.S.” Latino USA takes a trip to St. Augustine to shine some light on the United States’ Hispanic past. We visit historical sites such as the Castillo de San Marcos, join in on an archeological dig, and reflect what the city’s story tells us about our nation’s past.


Warren_cropped+12-24-10Warren Miller is a writer and producer based in St. Augustine, Florida. He has contributed to public radio and television stations in Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida for more than 20 years. He’s also written for and edited national and regional magazines. Currently, Warren is the producer and host of “Closing the Loop,” a weekly interview program on WJCT-FM, the NPR affiliate in Jacksonville.






Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service



Don’t Mess With Tejanos

“If it weren’t for the Tejano, Texas would be Ohio,” says Andrés Tijerina, a scholar of Texas history at Austin Community College. Tijerina argues that Texas culture – the boots and the hats, the mavericks and mustangs – all traces back to the state’s Mexican and Spanish roots.

 The Spanish first entered the Southwest searching for the seven cities Cíbola, a mythical and wealthy nation believed to exist in the American interior. They found no golden cities, but they did decide to stay and claim the vast territory for Spain.

The Spanish brought cattle ranching and cowboy culture to Texas – many had learned it in the shrublands of Western Spain. The Anglo-Americans who began settling in Texas in the 19th century were adopted Tejano ways. After the Texas War of Independence, those Anglos began to take over Tejano ranches, often murdering whole families and moving on their lands.

Some would call it ethnic cleansing. In this segment, we begin with the story of the search for Cíbola. Then, we speak with scholar Andrés Tijerina about how the narrative around Texas history has long ignored their contributions to the state.



Andres Tijerina

Andrés Tijerina, a native of Ozona, serves with distinction as Professor of History at the Pinnacle Campus of Austin Community College. He is author of Tejanos and Texas Under the Mexican Flag and Tejano Empire: Life on the South Texas Ranchos, and has edited several other works. Dr. Tijerina is a Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association and an active presenter to gatherings of historians throughout the state. His writings have appeared as chapters, articles, and book reviews in journals ranging from the Southwestern Historical Quarterly to the American Historical Review.




 Photo of Austin’s Tejano Monument, courtesy of Marlon Bishop

Zorro: America’s First Superhero

The Zorro story, invented in 1919 by pulp fiction author Johnston McCulley, tells the tale of an aristocrat in Spanish California who dons a mask to fight against corrupt colonial officials on behalf of the oppressed.

Zorro became the subject of a hit silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks in 1920, and went on to become one of the biggest pop culture franchises of all time. It inspired dozens of remakes, TV series, books and comics across the globe. Perhaps more importantly, Zorro went on to influence the American super hero tradition as a model for characters like Batman, Superman and the Lone Ranger.

But McCulley didn’t pluck Zorro out of thin air. The character was based on several real-life Spanish and Mexican outlaws who operated in the West, including Joaquin Murietta and Juan Cortina. These figures weren’t always fighting on the side of the United States.


Photo: Movie poster for 1920 film The Mark of Zorro, courtesy of Wikipedia


Teaching Chicano History Through Theater

During the 1960s, East Los Angeles became the center of the Chicano Movement, or Movimiento, the Mexican-American civil rights struggle. Thousands of Chicanos marched in protests, won reforms and changed America forever. But two generations later, that history is being forgotten. California schools don’t teach it and many immigrant parents don’t know it. A group of Chicano artists is trying to bring that history back to life by bringing a special theater program to an East L.A. school for youth at risk.


The Invention of Hispanics

Before 1970, the US Census Bureau classified Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants as whites. Each community of Latin American origin would go by their nationality and by the region where they lived in the United States. But all that changed in the seventies, as activists began lobbying the US Census Bureau to create a broad, national category that included all these communities. The result was the creation of the term “Hispanic”, first introduced in the US Census in 1970.

Then it was up to Spanish-language media to get the word out. The network that would later become Univision released this series of ads calling on “Hispanics” to fill out the 1980 Census. The ads feature “Hispanic” sports stars and… Big Bird:

By the 1990s, Univision was creating the images and sounds associated to Hispanics in the US. The 1990 Census ads feature the likes of Tito Puente and Celia Cruz telling Hispanics to fill out el censo:

Maria Hinojosa interviews author and scholar G. Cristina Mora about origins of the term, the people that crafted it, and what it actually means to be Hispanic in the United States today.





Cristina Mora

 G. Cristina Mora is a sociology professor at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses mainly on questions of racial and ethnic categorization, organizations, and immigration. Her book, Making Hispanics provides a socio-historical account of the institutionalization of the “Hispanic/Latino” panethnic category in the United States.






Videos courtesy of Univision Communications and the Univision News library in Miami, Florida. 

Photo courtesy of El Telecote archive on Found SF 

Why Latino History Matters

To wrap up our history special, we explore why Latino history matters. We speak with historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto (author of “Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States). Fernandez-Armesto makes the argument that if the United States wants to be a great nation in the future, it needs to embrace its history as a Latin American nation. Then we return to Laredo, a 96 percent Latino city on the US-Mexico border that’s also hosts the nation’s biggest celebration of George Washington’s birthday, to get a sneak peek at what our country’s Latino future might look like.


reynolds_fernandez_armestoBorn in 1950, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto was raised in London by his Spanish born father and British born mother, both active journalists. As a historian, he has written numerous books on a variety of subject from American History to the Spanish Armada. He currently teaches at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of  Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States.

This Week’s Captions: Take Care

A dangerous fungus lurks in the dirt of California’s Central Valley. But there’s little funding for research to combat it. We’ll learn what some people are doing to educate local people, and about the ways Latinos get medical care.

This Week's Captions: Take Care

This Week’s Music: Take Care

Do you want to know more about the music behind our Take Care episode? Here’s our latest Spotify playlist, along with one YouTube link to a song you can’t get on Spotify: “Sentimiento Electrónico” by Sonido San Francisco.

“Sentimiento Electrónico”

Are you on Spotify? If so, give us a follow here.

#1520 – Take Care

A dangerous fungus lurks in the dirt of California’s Central Valley. But there’s little funding for research to combat it. We’ll learn what some people are doing to educate local people, and about the ways Latinos get medical care.


Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Valley Fever: California’s Dirty Danger

The fungus that causes Valley Fever is common in the dusty fields of California’s Central Valley. Here, a woman walks through a dry riverbed in Tulare County.

Photo by Sean Havey


In parts of the American Southwest and northern Mexico, a mysterious disease lurks in the dirt. There’s no cure for Valley Fever and little funding for research, but those who get sick can face a host of lifelong problems that can lead to death.

As Dr. Jared Rutledge explains, “People can get infected when they inhale the fungal spores, the microscopic part of the fungus that allows it to reproduce, like a seed to a plant.”

Once the spores are airborne, the wind can carry them for miles. In California, this means that the residents of the south Central Valley who are most at risk. Latino USA’s California Endowment reporting fellow Vanessa Rancaño brings us this story.

Latino patients struggle with communication in California

Gloria R. Lopez, left, talks to Licensed Clinical Social Worker Uzma Nazir, far right, through Medical Interpreter Fabiola Cardenas, second from left.  Lopez is being briefed on recovery and lifestyle implications after a kidney transplant she is yet to receive while her daughter Gloria A. Lopez, second from right, listens in to learn her role as caretake for her mother.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio


Conversations at the doctor’s office are not always easy. Fear of bad news and complicated medical terms can make for a tense environment. But for those who speak limited English, language problems can present barriers to good care. Federal and state laws require translation or some other plan for non-English speakers. But in California, these patients have mixed success communicating with health care providers.

Pauline Bartolone of Capital Public Radio reports from Sacramento.

Forgotten Citizens: The children of the deported

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

It’s been well publicized that deportations have skyrocketed over the last decade. Over 3 million undocumented immigrants were deported between 2005 and 2013 alone. But less discussed are the estimated 1.5 million American citizen children who have been affected by a parent’s removal. That number comes from Dr. Luis H. Zayas, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who chronicles the mental health consequences of deportations on children in his new book Forgotten Citizens: Deportation, Children, and the Making Of American Exiles and Orphans.


In researching his book, he studied two groups of children. One group he calls the “orphans” — those who are left in the U.S. to fend for themselves when one or more parent is deported. The other are the “exiles,” U.S. citizen children who return to Mexico with their parents. Both groups, he says, tend to suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression that go on to affect their development. Ultimately, he argues that the U.S. government should make the psychological needs of these citizen children more of a priority when developing and executing immigration policy.

Luis H. Zayas joins Maria Hinojosa for a conversation about mental health, children, and one case for reducing deportations.

zayas headshot

Luis H. Zayas is Dean and Robert Lee Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy at the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work. Specializing in minority and immigrant families and children, his research has appeared in numerous scientific journals and has been reported widely in newspapers, television, radio and other news outlets. He is the author of Latinas Attempting Suicide: When Cultures, Families, and Daughters Collide. Zayas is a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare


Dreams become reality for undocumented Med Students

We all know getting into medical school is tough. But if you’re undocumented, it’s even harder. President Obama’s executive action on immigration has helped unlock some doors, giving lawful presence to young immigrants who came to the US as children. Now some of these students are knocking on the doors of med schools. From California, Ali Budner has the story.



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