Author Archive

#1516 – Reprise

Latino USA focuses this week on the idea of the reprise; a repeated but changed, passage of music. Maria Hinojosa talks to Lin-Manuel Miranda about his upcoming Broadway musical Hamilton, composer Tania León, and an up and coming band called Ibeyi.


Photo by Joan Marcus

Lin-Manuel Miranda takes on the Founding Fathers

In 2008, a musical about a bodega in Washington Heights, In the Heights, won four Tony’s including “Best Musical.” That musical was the brain child of composer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda. Almost a decade later, Miranda has taken on a completely subject: former Treasury Secretary and Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton.

Miranda takes Maria Hinojosa on a tour of northern Manhattan and reveals the unexpected connection between the Founding Fathers and today’s hip-hop culture.

Hamilton is currently playing at the Public Theater and is scheduled to open at the Richard Rodgers Theater on Broadway in August.


Photo by Joan Marcus

The Complexities of Tania León

Composers like Tania León infuse their work with caribbean instruments, Yoruba rhythms, and a-tonal piano work—elements that make their music a much more global experience.


Tania’s compositions and operas have been performed internationally and they’ve have received countless awards from places like the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and ASCAP. The Grammy and Latin Grammy nominated León was the first musical director and a founding member of Arthur Mitchell’s famous Dance Theatre of Harlem and has been a visiting professor at Yale, the University of Michigan and others.


And at 71 years-old there is no sign of her slowing down. She recently assembled a month-long music festival called Composers Now featuring New York-based composers of all kinds. Plus she is in the process of writing an opera with Harvard African-American Studies professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. about the Little Rock Nine–the group of black students who bravely enrolled at a white high school in Arkansas in the 1950’s.


Born in Havana in the 1943, Tania León was classically trained, but Afro-Cuban music and other Cuban traditions, as well as a variety of postmodern musical forms have always found a way into her unique style. She sat down with Maria Hinojosa to talk about her life and her work.


Photo courtesy of Ernesto Mora

Ibeyi: Afro-Cuban Religion Meets Experimental Pop

When it comes to mixing the old with the new, nobody does it quite like Ibeyi. The group, made up of twin sisters from a French-Cuban family, draws on Afro-Cuban religious chants to make experimental pop music, with tinges of hip-hop and electronic music. It’s proven to be a winning combo— Ibeyi has been getting a lot of love from audiences and music critics alike in the months since the band’s self-titled debut album dropped.


Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz are just 20 years old, and come from what you call Cuban music royalty. Their father, Angá Díaz, played conga in the Buena Vista Social Club and is considered to be one of the all-time greatest percussionists in Latin music. He passed away when the twins were just 11 year old, leaving an ocean of grief in their tight-knit family. A few years later, their older sister died suddenly as well.


These tragedies brought compelled the girls to begin making music together as an outlet for their grief. The music that naturally came out included the Yoruba-language songs and rhythms from the Cuban folk religion they grew up practicing, known as santería or la regla de ochá – musical traditions closely related to the cycle of life and death.

Maria got a chance to sit down and chat with Lisa and Naomi backstage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, before their recent sold-out show in Brooklyn, NY.



Eduardo Galeano through the years

This week, we travel around  time and space in search of Sabiduría, or words of wisdom, from a man who inspired many in the Americas. Uruguayan author and cultural activist Eduardo Galeano died on Monday, April 13th from a lung cancer he’d been battling since 2007. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1940, Galeano worked as a bank teller and newspaper man before publishing his most acclaimed work, Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina, or The Open Veins of Latin America, in 1971. In it, Galeano tells the story of the continent as a land where the blood and the riches have been drained for the wealth of outsiders. The book has been an inspiration to generations of Latin American and Latino politicians, activists, artists and journalists.

In 2009, the book came back into the spotlight as former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez famously handed President Barack Obama a copy during a summit.

Even though the book became a classic of political literature, in 2014, Eduardo Galeano commented on the book in a literary event in Brazil: “Open Veins tried to be a book of political economy, but I didn’t yet have the necessary training or preparation.” His statement prompted a controversy over the literary and cultural validity of the book, and whether it meant a shift in Eduardo Galeano’s political views. Galeano reiterated, as he said on our air, in 2001, that he did not regret writing it, but that his writing style and views had since evolved.

But beyond the controversy over ‘Open Veins’, Galeano went on to write more than thirty books, including Soccer In The Sun And Shadow, Children of the Days and Memory of Fire, A Trilogy of Latin American History where he perfected his style and prose, and where he revealed his increasingly complex view of the human condition.

Galeano came back frequently on Latino USA since his first appearance in 2001, commenting on current political issues, his latest work, and to give his human perspective on the world. Here’s a collection of Galeano’s interviews on Latino USA from the past 15 years.

Photo credit: Jefferson Bernardes/AFP/Getty Images

#1515 – Survival

This week we hear stories of surviving tough times, whether it’s street vendors in Chicago trying stay afloat, college students working through financial hardship and sexual assault, or the Fast & the Furious franchise somehow surviving fourteen years later.


Photo by World T.E.A.M. Sports via Flickr. 

Surviving College: What one Latina learned after being sexually assaulted

The news coming out of college campuses in the last year seems to paint a bleak picture. Between the troublesome and confusing reports on how college administrations are dealing with sexual assault on campus and the news of increasing student debt – it seems that some students face insurmountable challenges.

But writer and illustrator Suzy Exposito, who graduated in 2011, found a way to deal with financial hardship and abuse. She tells us her story.

Comic above by Suzy Exposito. You can find more of her work at her website:

Chicago’s Fight Over Street Vending

Chicago is one of the few major U.S cities that bans street vendors from selling prepared foods, except in parks. New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Denver and Austin, for example, all allow some form of street vending on their sidewalks. The Chicago city council is considering a measure to do away with the ban. If it passes, it would mean safer conditions and more economic opportunity for vendors who now risk fines and even arrests. But as Colleen Pellissier reports, there are strong feelings on both sides.

 Photo courtesy of Colleen Pellissier

Undocumented Home Owners Face Risky Options

A 2009 Pew Hispanic Center study shows that a third of undocumented immigrants own their own houses. Some bought their homes with cash, so-called mattress money saved up over the years. But for others, without that kind of savings, options for home mortgage financing are scarce. President Obama’s immigration overhaul is unlikely to change that. That means many immigrants resort to informal arrangements with risky consequences. Northwest Public Radio’s Rowan Moore Gerety reports from Yakima, Washington.

Photo courtesy of Rowan Moore Gerety 


In the last few years Nielsen reports have shown that Latinos make up around 25% of moviegoers and are more likely than others to be frequent moviegoers.

As Hollywood worries about reaching audiences, Maria Hinojosa talks to Latino USA producer Daisy Rosario about the Fast & Furious franchise.

These action movies might be smarter than they are given credit for.

 ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images


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