Latino USA

Author Archive

#1505 – Community

From police to musicians, we look into Latinos in all kinds of communities, including the lives of trans people in Cuba. Also: understanding the value of Latino writers.

How do Latino police feel about community relations?

It’s a strange time for police officers of color. One the one hand, black and Latino communities around the country have been vocal and organized in their opposition to the overuse of force by police and discriminatory practices and policies—to the point that some rhetoric has made police out to be the enemy. On the other hand, black and Latino officers are themselves part of the communities that are raising their voices in frustration and anger.


“The media has turned this into a black and white conversation which is not the parameters by which we speak,” says Anthony Miranda, the head of the National Latino Officers Association and a former NYPD sergeant, “Latinos are a big part of this conversation.”


Miranda says that Latinos communities suffer a particular kind of abuse because their citizenship and legal status are often brought into question by police in ways that other communities don’t experience.


He also says that police forces often try to indoctrinate all officers, including officers of color, by convincing them that they are “blue” first, and some other cultural identifying feature second. “The struggle with an organization like ours is trying to convince younger officers not to buy into that mentality,” Miranda says.


When it comes to that struggle between identifying with the police force and with a sense of community, Tony Chapa, executive director of the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association and a former assistant director of the Secret Service, says that he and his organization stand with the community. “There are more communities that have smaller representations of Latinos in the department than we have black communities with small representation of blacks.”
Chapa says that police play a significant role in society, not just because of the nature of their jobs, but because of their visibility. “In the Hispanic community, when young kids look at who represents the government to them, it’s not the President, it’s not the Vice President, it’s not the Senator or the Governor or the Mayor, it’s the police officer on the street.”


anthony_mirandaAnthony Miranda is the Executive Chairman of the National Latino Officers Association and a retired member of the NYPD where he served for 20 years.





tony_chapaTony Chapa is the Executive Director of the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association in 2011. His career with the Secret Service began in 1986 and progressed with investigative assignments, as a member of the Vice Presidential Protective Division and administrative posts including Deputy Assistant Director of the Office of Protective Research and Assistant Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility.

TransCuba: A revolution within the Revolution

After his victory in 1959, Fidel Castro promised the Cuban Revolution would be for the working class, the poor and the humblest Cubans… as long as they were straight. Cuban officials saw homosexuality as a sign of counterrevolutionary, bourgeois decadence. The new regime sent homosexuals, political dissenters and religious minorities to labor camps known as UMAPs, and kept in place public decency laws that prohibited any form of transgender or gender-nonconforming behavior. Homosexual Cubans like poet Reinaldo Arenas were among the thousands of Cubans who went into exile on the Mariel Boatlift in 1980.


Fast forward to 2015. From her post as director of the Cuban National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), sexologist Mariela Castro, Fidel’s niece and Raul Castro’s daughter, has spearheaded lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans rights. Cuba now stands out as a somewhat of a haven in the Caribbean, compared to neighboring countries like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, where homosexuality is still illegal.

LGBT political dissidents have called Mariela’s work “a benevolent face the world can see calling for tolerance while the regime’s usual brand of everyday totalitarianism continues.” That LGBT activism is not possible outside of the Cuban government’s oversight and despite the official protection, lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially trans Cubans still face the challenges and discrimination of a historically machista culture.

Maria Hinojosa talked to photographer and trans rights activist Mariette Pathy Allen about her work documenting the lives of transgender women for her book TransCuba  (Daylight Books, 2014).


Mariette Pathy Allen

Mariette Pathy Allen is a New York City based photographer, former painter, and occasional writer. Although she has photographed a range of subjects, her work on gender variation has been the most consistent. Mariette is the author/photographer of “Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them”, E.P. Dutton, 1990, and “The Gender Frontier”, Kehrer, 2004. “TransCuba”, Daylight, 2014, Mariette’s third book comes at a fortuitous time in Cuban history; strict communism is being replaced by a more open-minded socialism. This is reflected in the gradual reduction of discrimination against gay and transgender people.

Mariette has worked on five documentary films as a consultant and still photographer, has had solo and group exhibitions internationally, including her current solo exhibition in Cuba, and makes slide presentations worldwide.



Here are some photos featured in the book:

Nomi and Miguel, partners, watching television at Malu’s apartment, Havana

Amanda's Bedroom
In Amanda’s bedroom, Havana

Anais De Trevis aka Arnoldo, performer, outside the apartment he shares with his partner, Enrique, Havana

Miguel observing Amanda and Henry, at Malu’s apartment, Havana

Miguel at a barber shop, Havana

Laura at home, Havana

Malu with her parents and sister, in front of their home, Cienfuegos

Erika at home, Cienfuegos

Walking at night, Havana

Charito at home with one-week-old piglet, Camaguey

Alsola, Santiago de Cuba


In Puerto Rico, Undocumented Immigrants To Get The Right To Vote

A few weeks ago, Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla made a surprise announcement that soon he would submit legislation that would give undocumented immigrants and other non-citizens the right to vote in island-wide elections.

The move has been commended by immigrants’ rights groups, but is viewed by many on the island as a cheap move by an unpopular governor to try and fix the next election. It’s also left many people on the island asking: can the governor legally do it?

The answer, it turns out, seems to be “yes.” Federal law doesn’t stop states or cities from allowing non-citizens to vote.

Currently there are six towns in Maryland that allow all residents to vote in local elections regardless of immigration status, and a number of cities are currently considering extending the vote to all legal permanent residents.

Still, if Puerto Rico passes the law, it will be the first time in recent history that undocumented voting is adopted on such a large scale — and, some say it could set off a larger, national debate about immigrants and the right to vote. Our producer Marlon Bishop reports.


Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Hurray For The Riff Raff: From Bronx To Banjo

Alynda Segarra, born and raised in the Bronx, isn’t sure where she picked up her Southern twang.


“It’s kind of this chameleon thing, picking up voices from all over the country. I feel like I go into different characters when I write some of these songs,” she tells Maria Hinojosa.


Alynda Segarra is Hurray for the Riff Raff — one of the most influential acts in the alternative folk scene that’s been booming in recent years. The journey of how she went from growing up in a Puerto Rican family in the Bronx to become a banjo-picking country singer is a fascinating one. It includes a stop-over in the feminist punk scene of downtown New York, a stint riding trains around the U.S. with fellow teenage runaways and time spent as a street busker in New Orleans.


Today Alynda is one of the artists “queering” American roots music with an alternative approach to how race, gender and sexuality are portrayed in the genre. Her recent album is full of odes to underdogs and misfits — the people Alynda Segarra considers her community.


“There’s so much representation of American folk music as white and male – and to me that’s so interesting because Puerto Ricans are American, and Odetta is American, and blues music is American, and it comes from all these different people. I really wanted to bring that influence,” she says.


Maria Hinojosa sits down with Alynda Segarra of Hurray For the Riff Raff for an in-depth interview about her story and her message.


Photo by Joshua Shoemaker

Sabiduría: #LatinoLit

For this week’s sabiduría we talk to writer Charlie Vazquez. He talks about his experience reading Latino literature and how the hashtag #LatinoLit took off. He is the current director of the BCA Bronx Writing Center and knows a thing or two about how community and literature intersect.

His latest novel Contraband and the Bronx Memoir Project, Volume 1 can both be found on


Photo by LadyDucayne via Flickr.

#1504 – Afro-Latino

African cultures run deep through Latino identity—from music to food, and so much more. But are Afro-Latinos under-represented and under-served? We ask Afro-Latinos across several generations what they think, and learn about the Garifuna, a Honduran Afro-Latino community which has been migrating to the U.S.

SOMOS: Afro-Latino

As we focus on Afro-Latino identity and issues, we wanted to start by going to people who live it every day.

In this segment we hear four people talk about what being afro-latino means to them. We hear from an entrepreneur, an author, and two sisters trying to educate others through the internet.

They tell us about facing racism, their issues with the media, and the way people have reacted to them over the years. “Somos” means “we are.”



Anthony Otero, a Bronx native, Syracuse University alum, Afro-Latino blogger, and frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, has aspired to be a published author for most of his life. He wrote his first novel as a therapeutic outlet while recovering from his divorce and realized that his story can shed light on a man’s side of a love story—an underrepresented angle.
His first book, “Hanging Upside Down”, is a fiction novel that explores the pressures men face after divorce, the consequences of letting good intentions go astray, and how a single turn of events can change the world as they know it. With support from his family, friends, and fellow Latino alumni at Syracuse, Anthony delivered a whirlwind, twist-turning, and explicit story of a man rediscovering the world around him before finally facing his “global warming.”


VictoriaArzuVictoria Arzu is the co-founder of Proyecto Más Color. Victoria is a first generation Honduran-American of Garifuna descent. Victoria was born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma and later moved to Katy, TX where she spent her middle school and high school years. Victoria graduated cum laude from the University of Houston with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Victoria now attends Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and aspires to be either and immigration or an international lawyer. Victoria is very passionate about social justice and equality and would like to see that reflected in Latin American media. Since she was a little girl she had noticed the racial inequities and stereotypes portrayed on Spanish soap operas, and with Proyecto Más Color she aspires to put an end to this. Her dream is to see positive and honorable portrayals of Indigenous and Afro-Latinos integrated into the daily programming of Univision and Telemundo. Victoria is 26 years old.




Sophia Arzu is the co-founder of Proyecto Más Color. Sophia is a first generation Honduran-American of Garifuna descent. Sophia was born in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, but she spent most of her childhood in Katy, TX. Sophia and her parents later moved to Georgia where she spent her high school and college years. Sophia now attends Georgia State University and is studying Communications & Journalism. Sophia enjoys listening to music and producing YouTube videos. From a young age, Sophia has noticed the racial disparity in Latin American television shows and her dream is to put an end to the discriminatory nature of Latin American media so that one day, her children can see Afro-Latinos like her on television. Sophia is 21 years old.





 Janel Martinez is a multimedia journalist. Martinez currently serves as Content Producer at NewME, a customizable support platform that transforms cool ideas into great businesses. She previously served as Technology Editor at Black Enterprise, the premier business, investing, and wealth-building resource for African Americans, where she oversaw the editorial strategy for technology across the company’s platforms. Her work and insights have appeared on various media sites including TheGrio, Madame Noire and The Root, as well as Arise News and NPR’s Latino USA.

The Honduran-American added entrepreneur to her title, launching, an online destination celebrating diversity among Latinas. Founded to fill a void in the representation of Afro-Latinas in both mainstream as well as Spanish-language media, offers profiles of Afro-Latinas across the globe, celebrity news, career advice, lifestyle coverage and exclusive interviews with today’s hottest celebs.

The Bronx, NY native has contributed to Latina Magazine,,, Syracuse Record and The Post-Standard. You can follow her daily musings on Twitter at @janelmwrites.

The Garifuna Exodus

For centuries, the Garifuna people — descendents of both Africans and indigenous Arawak people from the Caribbean — have lived peacefully in seaside towns on the North Coast of Honduras. There’s always been a trickle of migration from the community to the United States – especially the Bronx, where the largest Garifuna community outside of Central America lives.

But starting last spring, the trickle of migrants became a flood. Hundreds of Garifuna from each town left, thousands all together, embarking on the dangerous journey through Central America and Mexico to the U.S. border. It was mostly mothers with small children. They showed up in places like the Bronx, seeking refuge with family members, wearing GPS ankle monitors placed on them by U.S. immigration officers who detained them. They await court dates in limbo, unsure if they will be forced to go back to the homes they fled.

Immigration surged in Central America in general last year, mostly in response to rising levels of urban violence. But the Garifuna were migrating for another set of reasons: racial discrimination that makes economic advancement really hard for Afro-Hondurans and the ongoing seizure of traditional lands by government, business interests and drug traffickers.

Latino USA producer Marlon Bishop spend a week reporting in Garifuna communities in Honduras, trying to find out why the exodus is happening, and what people are doing to stop it.


Photo by Marlon Bishop


Marta Moreno Vega: Decades of Wisdom

Dr. Marta Moreno Vega has, for decades, helped to define Afro-Latino identity within and outside of the United States. She joins Latino USA to talk about it, equity, and cultural capital.

Marta Moreno Vega was born in El Barrio “Spanish Harlem” of Puerto Rican parents born in Puerto Rico. Dr. Vega, an Afro Puerto Rican, has dedicated her professional life to developing culturally grounded institutions placing the history and culture of African descendants in the Diaspora in the time clock of world history. She is founder and president of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, an international not for profit organization located in New York City which she created in 1976.



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