Latino USA

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An extra penny for tomatoes could end severe poverty in the fields

Executive produced by Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser, “Food Chains” tells the story of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers or CIW, an organization of farm workers that’s been fighting for fair wages and human rights for Florida workers since the 1990s. The film follows the CIW’s struggle to get powerful supermarkets, like Publix in Florida, to pay the workers an extra penny for every pound of tomatoes. It’s an extra penny that farm workers say that could lift them out of severe poverty. Maria Hinojosa talks to “Food Chains” director Sanjay Rawal about the film and how the CIW’s is revolutionizing activism in the fields.

Sanjay Rawal HeadshotSanjay Rawal spent over a decade working in the non-profit and government sectors while running a small agricultural genetics company with his father, Dr. Kanti Rawal. After working with Abby Disney and Gini Reticker as a consultant to their hit documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008), he was bit by the film bug. His first short, Ocean Monk (2010), took the Best Short Doc Prize (online) at the 2010 St. Louis Film Festival. His second film, Challenging Impossibility (2011), premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and played in 75 more, winning a number of awards. Food Chains is his first feature.

Plant-based remedies: An invisible healthcare system

Doctor Ina Vandebroek is happy because she and her team just received a grant worth $100,000, for her work in the field of urban botany. She catalogs the variety of names used by Latino and Caribbean communities to describe medicinal plants and pairs the colloquial names with their botanical identities (the Latin name used for taxonomy), so that their properties and components can be properly studied.

In the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx there is a plant the Dominican community that they call insulina, frequently used to treat diabetes. Insulina belongs to the Genus costus, it comes from the Costaceae family. Dominicans also use the guanábana fruit (also known as soursop in English), classified scientifically as Annona muricata. The leaves are often prepared as a tea for respiratory tract problems, it is also used for trouble sleeping, nerves and hypertension, not to mention as a tasty ingredient in smoothies.

The higüero (calabash tree), or Crescentia cujete, is used in the Dominican community to clean the female reproductive system after childbirth. Jamaicans, however, bake it and mix it with castor bean oil (Ricinus communis) to treat back pain. The roots of the agave plant (Agave americana), the same plant used to make tequila, are used by Caribbean communities to treat vaginal infections and sexually transmitted diseases.

For communities coming from parts of Latin American, the Amazon and the Caribbean, cultural beliefs and plant-based remedies are often the only healthcare resource. Dr. Vandebroek and her team are training medical students and physicians, developing a virtual herbarium and have created a Spanish-language manual to act as a resource that patients can take to the doctor during the clinical consultation, with plans to develop an English-language version for physicians.

Laura Calçada reports from the Bronx on the importance of bridging the gap between culturally-derived health remedies and the medical research world.



Vandebroek, Ina

Doctor Ina Vandebroek is an ethnomedical researcher at the New York Botanical Garden. She studies how immigrant communities in New York City use medicinal plants for health care. She got her undergraduate degree in Biology and her PhD in Neuropsycho-Pharmacology in Ghent University, Belgium (where she is from). She then wanted to combine both Biology and her broader interest in medicine and Ethnomedicine answered her call. She went to Bolívia, to work with traditional healers in a farmer’s community in the Andes, and she also has worked with Indigenous communities in the Amazon. Currently, she combines the job at the Botanical Gardens with trips to Jamaica, among other regions, to continue her research and catalogation of the use of plants for health care.




E. David Perez, MDDoctor David Perez is an internist by background, and also received training in geriatrics, he studied at the Medical College of Virginia, at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine and got his postgraduate degree at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Currently, he works for the global health service company CIGNA, as a Market Medical Executive for the Tri-state area.

This family takes an epic bike ride

This Argentine-American family just broke the Guinness World Record for the longest electric bike ride. Meet the Camper Clan! Camper Dad is Tomás Cortijo, from Argentina, and Camper Mom is Dylan Drake, from Montana. Eva and Constantino, their children, have spent most of their life out on the road traveling with their parents from Argentina all the way up to the United States. They’ve literally grown up in the outdoors. We followed the Camper Clan’s latest adventure: to travel across the United States, from Montana to the East Coast down to Florida, on electric bike. You can follow the camper clan on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wild in Wyoming

Have you ever been to a national park? If you’ve been to the Statue of Liberty or the National Mall in Washington, then the answer is yes. But have you been to Grand Teton or Yellowstone? If you are Latino, the answer is probably not. The National Park Service is hoping to encourage more Latinos to visit, but they aren’t allowed to use taxpayer funds for marketing. Instead, a group of Latino bloggers were invited to take a sponsored tour of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks as part of the American Latino Expedition, or ALEX14. Latino USA producer Daisy Rosario followed them on the trip as they experienced the great outdoors. For an extended version of this story, featuring all the bloggers and a day by day account of the trip, listen here:


To meet the bloggers and follow their food, photo, family, lifestyle blogs and more, click here:

Photo courtesy of Lizza Monet Morales.

You can follow her on:






And on her website:

Sabiduría: Asking for papers

People identifying themselves as government agents board a train and ask for each passenger’s citizenship. If this sounds like something out of a movie, it’s not. It happened to Maria Hinojosa’s son on his way back to New York City from college in Chicago. Maria gives us her thoughts on what this kind of incident means for the qualities and values we hold dear in the United States.


Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

This Week’s Music: Quality Control

-Firewalker by Jungle Fire

-Ahora La Alegría by Papanegro

-Lumen by Gruppo Musica Insieme Di Cremona

-Étude In A-Flat Major, Op. 25, No. 1 “Aeolian Harp” by Vladimir Horowitz

-Feeding the Chickens by Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra

-Nightshot by Faca

-Día A Día by Nubla

-La Vida Tómbola by Manu Chao

-Baby by Devendra Banhart

-De Hombre A Hombre by Gotan Project

-Tormenta by Alex Anwandter

-Dulce Fé by Monte Rosa

-Flavour by 29th Street

-Soul Sacrifice by Santana

This Week’s Captions: Quality Control

Latino USA takes on questions of quality and how it’s controlled—from the kinds of people who visit US national parks to the way farmworkers factor into our food supply.


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 Ancho & 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


#1449 – Taboo

From government collusion with cartels in Mexico to coming out as a drug addict, Latino USA blows taboo topics wide open this week.


Mexico is rising up in Protest

Mexicans were shocked when police in Guerrero state arrested 43 student teachers from the town of Ayotzinapa, and reportedly handed them over to a local cartel. The shock became rage when the police said they were acting on the orders of a local mayor. The student teachers have yet to be found, and their disappearance has triggered waves of protests, including demonstrations in the Mexican state of Baja California.

Baja California is geographically and historically set apart from the rest of Mexico. It doesn’t have much tradition of political activism. Yet according to the Mexican government’s own numbers, between 1100 and 1200 people are officially missing in Baja California. Reporter Brooke Binkowski reports on the recent outburst of protests.

UPDATE (12/6/2014 at 9:20pm): According to several reports, the body of at least one of the 43 missing students has been found.

UPDATE 2 (12/6/2014, 9:42pm): The facebook group for the school of the 43 students has issued the following statement identifying the victim:

El Pericón, Gro., México.
Compañeros a todos los que nos han apoyado soy
voz les hablo soy uno de los 43 caídos del día 26
de Septiembre en manos del narcogobierno. Hoy 6
de diciembre le confirmaron los peritos Argentinos
a mi padre que uno de los fragmentos de mis
huesos encontrados me corresponden. Me siento
orgulloso de ustedes que han levantado mi voz, el
coraje y mi espíritu libertario. No dejen a mi padre
sólo con mi pesar, para él significo prácticamente
todo, la esperanza, el orgullo, su esfuerzo, su
trabajo y su dignidad. Te invito que redobles tu
lucha. Que mi muerte no sea en vano. Toma la
mejor decisión pero no me olvides. Rectifica si es
posible pero no perdones. Este es mi mensaje.
Hermanos hasta la victoria.

Ecuadorian women take the lead as men migrate away

In the region of Cañar, deep in the Ecuadorean Andes, out migration has become an unending cycle for more than four decades. Many people in Ecuador view Cañar as a tragic place full of poverty and broken families. Local women are stigmatized for leaving their kids behind, or for raising them alone without their husbands. But the benefits of migration can outweigh the costs… especially for the women who stay home, becoming breadwinners and taking on roles that were previously closed to them. Ruxandra Guidi reports on how migration is changing the lives of women in Cañar, Ecuador.


The cover photo is of a Cañari woman. Like most Cañari women, Pichasaca is from a farming background, she continues to plant and harvest with other family members. But since leaving her husband and life in the United States, she has achieved a level of independence that she had only imagined as a younger woman. Photos by photographer Bear Guerra


Early on a recent August Sunday morning, the town of Cañar’s bustling street market is just getting underway. Every week, indigenous Cañaris from throughout the province come to the market to buy and sell goods, and to visit with friends and family from other villages.



The agricultural and largely indigenous province of Cañar has Ecuador’s highest rates of out-migration proportionately to the rest of the country, and accounts for some forty percent of the country’s remittance income.


Barbarita Pichasaca (left) helps her sister and brother-in-law harvest corn at the family’s property in Taday, Ecuador. After living for several years in the United States as an undocumented immigrant, Pichasaca left her husband there in 2006 so that she could be reunited with her children in Ecuador. She is now a successful independent businesswoman, whose financial institution seeks to help other migrants from similar backgrounds. 


A student listens during classes at the first school in Juncal – a small farming community in Ecuador’s Cañar Province. More than half of the indigenous Cañari students at the school have at least one parent living abroad.

This story was made possible by a grant from the International Reporting Project.



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