Author Archive

L.A. Band Features World’s First Trans Mariachi

When you think of mariachi musicians, you’re probably picturing the sombreros, the Mexican cowboy or charro outfit and the mustachioed Mexican men serenading in them. And even though women can perform in mariachi bands and there are all-female mariachi groups, mariachi music and culture is very male-dominated. We found a mariachi group in Los Angeles that’s trying to change that.

Introducing Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles, or Rainbow Mariachi of L.A. in English. They’re the first openly LGBTQ mariachi in Los Angeles, and probably, the world. Mariachi Arcoiris director Carlos Samaniego created the group in 2014 as a “safe space” for LGBTQ musicians and fans. Since then, they’ve played at Gay Pride celebrations in Los Angeles, gay weddings and even at one of L.A.’s most important mariachi festivals, the Mariachi Plaza Festival. And they’ve made the rounds on outlets like Univision and Telemundo featuring Natalia Melendez, the world’s first openly transgender woman in the history of mariachi.

Picture courtesy of Mariachi Arcoiris de los Angeles,  from left to right: Natalia Melendez, Carlos Samaniego, Maria Peñaloza, Zach Groll, Rodolfo Vasquez, Michael Tejada, Amadeo Arias and Jerry Ibarra.

Sabiduría: Cherríe Moraga on How to Live Free

Chicana writer and scholar Cherríe Moraga, famous for her championing of Chicana feminism and her role in promoting women of color in the feminist movement, speaks about how love allows you to be secure in who you are and free to make personal choices.

Photo by Natalia Otto via Flickr

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Cherríe Moraga is a Chicana writer, playwright, poet, feminist activist and an artist-in-residence at Stanford University. She is the co-editor of the feminist anthology This Bridge Called My Back.

We’ll Be on TV! Peabody Awards to Air July 21 on Pivot

Earlier this year, our team won a 2014 Peabody Award for a one-hour report on Honduras. This Sunday night (July 21) at 9pmET/6pmPT, Pivot will air the awards ceremony with host Fred Armisen. Here’s a trailer (BONUS: see if you can find our producer Marlon Bishop in the spot):

Oh yeah, one more thing. Armisen and some of the Peabody winners, including our very own Maria Hinojosa, decided to do a special opening number for the broadcast. (Armisen and Maria take an español break. We won’t say what they did, just watch it. It’s pretty hilarious.)

Visit this link to see if you can access Pivot. You can also follow the show @Pivot or via #PeabodyWinner.
And if you haven’t caught the reason why our team won a Peabody, here is the award-winning show:

We are pretty excited for Sunday!

George Lopez Wants Chicano Batman as Opening Act

This week’s community response to our latest podcast, Who Tells the Story?, included one very cool Twitter moment between our show profile, the band Chicano Batman and comedian/actor George Lopez. It all happened after we featured the Southern California group during our “Sabiduría” segment to close the show.

Soon, Lopez’s account made a request.

Of course, we replied.

And so did Chicano Batman.

That exchange led to this offer from Lopez’s account:

Here’s hoping that a Chicano Batman/George Lopez show does indeed happen. If so, we want in! By the way, this isn’t the first time Lopez’s account has tweeted out to us. Earlier this year, Lopez liked what we did with Maria Hinojosa’s Immigration Mambo piece: 

Also, did you know that Lopez made his first Latino USA appearance in 2003? Listen to his interview with Maria from 12 years ago.


On a more serious note, our listeners made sure to Facebook share our story about the hate crime death of Onesimo Marcelino López-Ramos in Jupiter, Florida. If you haven’t caught it yet, you can listen to it here:

Yesterday, Univision’s Primer Impacto interviewed López-Ramos’ family. In that Spanish-language report, the family spoke about the young man’s hard-working attitude and love for his siblings. Similar to our Latino USA report, the Univision report indicated that some undocumented immigrants in Jupiter had spoken about similar incidents, but were afraid to report them to police.


Finally, many of you have shown a deep interest in this week’s news out of the Dominican Republic:

After we tweeted that story out, our team posted a video of New York City Dominicans protesting in front of the Dominican consulate. That video has already gotten more than 100,000 views.

Last year, Latino USA was one of the first national outlets to cover the latest immigration crisis and tension between Dominicans, Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitians. Here is that segment:

See you next week! Meanwhile if you have any show ideas, comments or feedback, feel free to tweet me @julito77 or the team @LatinoUSA.

This Week’s Music: Who Tells the Story?

Here is a list of all the music we featured during our Who Tells the Story? podcast. For more playlists, follow us on Spotify.

#1524 – Who Tells the Story?

Stories often change, depending on who is doing the telling. Latino USA examines the issue of perspective: from one woman’s tale of being brought from Cuba to the U.S. as a child during “Operation Pedro Pan” to the issue of diversity in television.

The Lost Children of Cuba: Operation Pedro Pan

María de Los Angeles or “Nena” Torres is a professor of Latino Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the executive director of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research, also known as IUPLR. As a child, she was put on a plane and sent to the U.S. to wait for parents as a part of Operation Pedro Pan, a U.S. government program that aimed to protect Cuban children from Castro dissidents. Life in the U.S. wasn’t necessarily easy for Nena—her parents did join her shortly after she arrived but they faced racism and discrimination in Midland, Texas. As an adult, she sought to fill in the gaps of her childhood memories and uncover the often left-out history of Operation Pedro Pan. What she finds reveals the importance of who tells the story.


To learn more about Nena Torres’s work and Operation Pedro Pan click here for a link to her book on the subject, The Lost Apple: Operation Pedro Pan, Cuban Children in the U.S., and the Promise of a Better Future.


Statement from Operation Pedro Pan, Inc. 

There’s no denying that a very small number of Pedro Pan children in foster care was abused despite the strict supervision and watchful eye of state and diocesan Catholic Charities’ social workers. How could it be otherwise when despite the best of intentions a disproportionate number of American-born children in institutional and foster care were and still are abused?

Nevertheless, our review of thousands of Pedro Pan children’s testimonials over the last 5 years has revealed that only a very small fraction was abused, less than 1% of the 14,148 total. Bear in mind that no empirical study has ever been undertaken to ascertain with scientific precision and accuracy the incidence and types of abuse to which Pedro Pan children might have been subjected. In fact, most reports, including Prof. Torres’, are based on anecdotal evidence. Actually, the figure frequently cited by the program’s detractors is 80.

Our observations are drawn from reviewing the testimonies, both oral and written, of nearly 2,000, a majority belonging to the 7,000 Pedro Pan children who were cared for by the Diocese of Miami’s Catholic Welfare Bureau’s Cuban Children’s Program and most of whom were placed in institutions and foster homes over 35 states. We should point out that Operation Pedro Pan was a visa waiver program that lasted from 26 December 1960 to 21 October 1962, during which time over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children were airlifted to the United States. Upon arrival, half of the total had someone in the form of family friends and/or relatives willing to provide them with a temporary home until reunited with parents. The remainder was cared for by the Diocese of Miami’s Cuban Children’s Program.

By the end of 1966 —just as the Cuban government was making plans to set up the infamous concentration camps called Military Units to Aid Production (UMAPs) in order to intern practicing Catholic and Protestant youth, Jehovah Witnesses, the children and young relatives of political prisoners, dissidents and refugees on U.S. soil, hippies, homosexuals, etc.— 96% of all Pedro Pans had been reunited with their parents via President Johnson’s Freedom Flights (1965-1973).

An estimated 400 Pedro Pans were never reunited with their parents. With regards to the Pedro Pan children who have reported being abused while in the care of the Cuban Children’s Program, a very tiny minority claims being physically abused by the demands placed on them by foster parents to perform household chores, something unheard of in Cuban homes at the time. Most complaints from Pedro Pan children were of perceived psychological abuse arising from language barriers, adaptation to social customs and cultural integration difficulties. There have been fewer than half a dozen complaints of documented sexual abuse.

In the spirit of objectivity and fairness, we suggest than rather than taking our word for it or anyone else’s for that matter, you spend time reading the nearly 2,000 testimonials appearing in the Miami Herald’s Operation Pedro Pan database ( and our own official website ( and Facebook page (  Only then will you be able to grasp and appreciate the full Pedro Pan story in all its complexity. All in all, it is our contention, based on the evidence available, that Pedro Pan children in the Cuban Children’s Program fared significantly much better than American-born children in both institutional and foster home care during the 1960s.

Hate Crimes That Don’t Make Headlines

In April, a young Guatemalan man was brutally beaten to death by three white men in Jupiter, Florida. When the perpetrators were caught, one of them told the police he and the other men were out “Guat hunting”—meaning they were out looking for immigrants to beat up. The murder flew under the national radar, garnering almost no national headlines and few responses from Latino advocacy groups.


Photo above of Joel Pérez, friend of the hate crime victim, Onesimo Marcelino López-Ramos. Photo by Maria Murriel.


Killed by Police, Haunting the Streets

Bay Area street artist Oree Originol honors the lives of unarmed people of color who’ve been killed by pasting their portraits onto building walls, store windows and telephone poles. Using the most iconic images of people like Mike Brown, Renisha McBridge and Eric Garner, Originol has been pasting the streets of Oakland in their memory since the Trayvon Martin case in 2012.

Not-So-Modern Family: Ayesha Siddiqi’s Rules for TV Diversity

Ayesha Siddiqi, editor of the highbrow punk online magazine The New Inquiry, is proud of the fact that the magazine, having relinquished itself from the clutches of Amazon’s payment system in place of a self-made subscription service, is now completely independent. That key, she says, in the key to producing meaningful content as the online world increasingly becomes policed by the companies that own the very content we willfully post on “free” services like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

But at her core she is a lover and critic of popular culture. In her conversation with Maria about diverse representations on television, she breaks down what makes Modern Family quite the opposite of what its name suggests, why Jane the Virgin’s success is so significant, and why a world with only one Shonda Rhimes is simply not enough.

Chicano Batman: Telling Stories From The Stage

Chicano Batman is a band made up of four Latinos from Southern California whose singular sound mixes psychedelic rock sensibilities with a host of vintage references: Brazilian tropicalia, Latin American soul ballads from the 70s, Mexican cumbia and so on.

Since forming in 2008, the band had been playing small clubs in California and steadily growing a cult following, when suddenly, a few big breaks happened for them all at once. They landed a spot playing at the massive Coachella music festival. A few days after hearing the news, they were invited on tour opening for Jack White.

The band was excited—it meant that what they were doing was working. But suddenly playing in huge, sold-out arenas was difficult for them as well, exposing them to audiences (and concert reviewers) who didn’t always get their bicultural music and throwback style.

For this week’s Sabiduría, members of the band tell the story of how they braved the negative feedback, grew stronger and ultimately, rocked out.

Photo by Josue Rivas

Why Are You a #LatinoUSAListener?

As Latino USA keeps expanding its digital and community presence, we want to make sure and ask our listeners one very simple question: Why do you listen to our show?


Several of you have already tweeted to #LatinoUSAListener or shared your thoughts on Facebook, but if you haven’t yet, feel free to tweet us right now or just add your comments at the end of this post. Our team reads all the tweets we receive. We do. We really do.

What Our Listeners Are Saying: A Latino History of Hip-Hop, Part II

Last Friday, the Latino USA team premiered one of our more anticipated podcasts of the year: A Latino History of Hip-Hop, Part II. The show was featured in several outlets, including The Fader, Remezcla, Vibe, The Hype, SOHH, Good Fella Media and Latino Rebels (the outlet I founded). Besides our regular placement on iTunes and Soundcloud, we also decided to post this week’s podcast (co-produced by Daisy Rosario and Marlon Bishop) on YouTube:

As you can imagine, listeners were really excited about this week’s show. Here is just a sampling of tweet reviews:

Over at our Facebook page, the reviews were also very positive:

Just heard the show. Beautiful!! Thank you for this!!

Ooooo must listen to this!

This story was amazing. Born and raised on the west coast hip hop being from LA, but it was so fascinating to hear about the growth of hip hop in the late 80s and explode in the 90s through the streets of the Bronx.

Speaking of the West Coast, a few of our listeners asked us why we didn’t focus as much on the early roots of Latino hip-hop in that part of the country, especially in Los Angeles. Our latest hip-hop installment decided to explore the mass commercial success boom that began in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so Los Angeles acts like Mellow Man Ace (tweet him @MelloManAce1) and Cypress Hill (@cypresshill) were featured. Nonetheless, a few listeners, like this Facebook follower, said it to us straight up: “LA Hiphop history and no mention of Kid Frost, Poppin’ Taco, Julio G and Tony G, Son Doobie, or Ralph M the Mexican.”

Granted, those acts (all pioneers, by the way) didn’t achieve the mega-commercial success of the West Coast acts we featured in Part II, but like we mentioned in the show, we could have covered a lot of angles, and you never know what we will do in the future.

So to all of you who asked us for more West Coast representation or about how Latin America views hip-hop or will we ever do a “Latino History of Rock and Roll,” we did read all your tweets and comments. You gave our team fanstastic ideas for possible new episodes and segments. Meanwhile, keep pitching us by following Latino USA on Twitter, giving us a like on Facebook, subscribing to iTunes, finding us on Instagram or heading over to Tumblr. Don’t forget our Spotify playlists, too, and even though Kid Frost wasn’t featured this time around, it doesn’t mean we can’t close this post with this classic anthem:

This Week’s Music: A Latino History of Hip-Hop, Part II

After catching our latest our podcast, give our latest Spotify playlist a listen. The following playlist and YouTube videos feature the full songs you heard as clips in “A Latino History of Hip-Hop, Part II.” And since this is hip-hop, we must warn you: some of the songs contain explicit language.

#1523 – A Latino History of Hip-Hop, Part II

For the second part of a two-part series on how Latinos have influenced hip-hop, Latino USA producers Daisy Rosario and Marlon Bishop explore what happens when rap music becomes big business. We hear from Spanglish rap pioneer Mellow Man Ace, chat with radio personalities Bobbito Garcia and Cipha Sounds, find out about how DJ Laz put his spin on Miami bass, and we pay tribute to the legendary Big Pun.


Photo collage by Antonia Cereijido, Latino USA 


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