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Author Archive

Are My Kids ‘Latino Enough?’

Latino parents can experience a certain kind of insecurity: Are you doing everything you can to ensure your culture is carried on? Are your kids speaking enough Spanish? Have they spent enough time in Latin America? Even Maria Hinojosa, who spends her days reporting on the Latino community has these thoughts. She opens up to our digital director, Julio Ricardo Varela, who also relates to these issues. And then Maria actually sits down with her daughter Yurema so see whether Yurema does identify as Latina.

Featured image: Yurema and Maria.

Empress Of: When Your Mom Crashes Your Rave

Lorely Rodriguez is a rising star in the indie music world. She performs under the name Empress Of. Her mom, Reina, is a working-class immigrant from Honduras. Growing up, the two didn’t always see eye to eye—when Lorely told her mom that she was going to study music in college, her mom cried in dismay. Then, when Lorely started putting out music as Empress Of and getting buzz on the Internet, she didn’t tell her mom about it until she had to go on tour and couldn’t keep the secret any longer. Lorely tells Latino USA about her mom’s eventual acceptance of her music career, their deep bond, and their deep differences. And about that time her mom crashed her rave.

Empress Of’s debut full-length album, titled Me, is out on Terrible Records now. Check out some of her videos below.

“Water, Water”

“Kitty Kat”


Featured image: Reina and Lorely (Empress Of)

Fabio Comes Home

Fabio and his little brother Delvis can travel freely between their families in Honduras and the U.S., but their parents and grandparents can’t. Reporter Nina Feldman accompanies Fabio on a journey back home to pick up his little brother from his grandparents’ home in San Pedro Sula and bring him back to his parents’ waiting arms in New Orleans.

Photo of Fabio (l) and Delvis (r) via Nina Feldman

Theater for Babies

Teatro al Vacío knows live theatre isn’t lost on young children. In the Mexican tradition of street theatre for kids, Teatro al Vacío performs with bright colors and lights exclusively for little kids. They worked with a child psychologist to develop performances tailored for children.

Sabiduría: Sonia Manzano’s Parenting Advice

Sonia Manzano might be one of the most recognizable mothers on TV. For years, while her character Maria on Sesame Street was starting a family, she was raising her own daughter. For this week’s sabiduría, or words of wisdom, Sonia shared her advice on parenting, kids, and growing up, as both a TV mom and real-life mom.

Featured image via Sesame Workshop

#1539 – Parenthood

This week Latino USA looks at stories of parenting.

We hear from award-winning actor Sonia Manzano, Sesame Street‘s Maria, who reveals how her own life mirrored her TV character’s life. Maria Hinojosa opens up about being worried whether her daughter is “Latina enough.” Indie musician Empress Of talks about how her mom crashes her concerts, and we hear about the struggles of families that live across borders.

Featured image: BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

Confessions of a Latino Dad

Hi, my name is Julio, and I am a failed Latino dad.

I have been trying to write that sentence for over 10 years now, ever since I consciously stopped forcing my kids to watch “Plaza Sésamo” or listen to José-Luis Orozco songs or read early Spanish-language board books. I don’t really know when I stopped talking to my two children (now both teenagers) exclusively in Spanish, but I think it was when I was traveling way too much from Boston to California during the days when I used to direct the development of PreK-6 Spanish reading textbooks and other materials for English Language Learners. In those days, I would spend most of my professional work days speaking, writing, editing and dissecting a language that I learned when I was growing up in Puerto Rico. I was out of the house a lot, and when it was time to come home, all I wanted to do was hang with my two young kids and not turn every moment I had with them into Spanish 101.

The guilt has been with me ever since. There are times when I feel that I have let all my ancestors down because I stopped speaking Spanish to my kids. It got so bad for me that when my daughter was ready to start first grade in my oh-so-not-Latino Boston suburb, I literally couldn’t believe that my local district’s amazing language immersion program focused only on French, and not Spanish. I recall the days when I would tell my wife, “French? Seriously? French? Why just French immersion? Is Spanish too second-class for them?” Still, I reluctantly agreed for my daughter to jump into French immersion. A few years later, my son did the same.

I had committed a mortal sin. I knew that my children had to learn Spanish, but I did very little as a dad to make that happen in their formative years. Didn’t I know about the research?

You idiota.

Then something remarkable happened. Around the time I was in a career transition, I was able to be closer to home. I started noticing that my kids were being exposed to what it is to be a bilingual learner. They both got really good at French, and we just started having natural conversations about language and communication.

I also never stopped exposing my children to my bilingual, bicultural world, but this time around, it didn’t feel like a parental assignment. It was just a papi hanging out with his children. And they were into it, not “YAY, PAPI!” into it, but, “That’s kind of cool” into it.

Music played a huge part in all this. Some of my greatest memories as a father during my kids’ elementary school years was driving to the all their activities and playing the music I loved in the car. It was then when I saw some interest in my children understanding that part of their world is a Puerto Rican and Latino one. For that, I thank people like Roy Brown:

And Los Tigres Del Norte (one of the characters’ last name in the song is Varela):

And Juan Luis Guerra:

And Shakira:

Then when my kids started using social media (a WHOLE other topic) and they realized that I knew about it more than them, they started getting into what I did. My daughter, now 15, has been following Latino Rebels for a while now and listens to Latino USA. My son, who is now 13, tends to identify his Latinoness through sports, especially soccer and baseball. It also doesn’t hurt that I (and his abuelo) can tell him stories about Clemente:

What I find now is that my kids are trying to figure out their identity, and I don’t (or never wanted to be) that dad who tried to box them in before they even had a chance to find that identity on their own. Now, when my son chooses the Puerto Rican flag for his FIFA video games, I smile, or when my daughter tells me that she wants to see her cousins in Puerto Rico and wants to learn more about her heritage, I smile even more. I always wanted to mold my children in the way I would want them to be, but that was so unhealthy, especially for them. Better to let it be natural and have their curiosity lead the way. Once it does, I jump in like the crazy papi that I am.

I have come to terms with this confession, and I am ok with it. I have also talked with many friends of mine who find themselves in the same dilemma. Are we being bad Latino parents? Once, I thought I was, but now, I know I am not. The best thing you can do for your children is to love them unconditionally and let them explore their identity on their own terms, just like I did when I was growing up.

When I was a new parent, I was scared.

I felt the pressure.

I thought there could only be one way.

But having done this for 15 years now, I can only conclude that parenting is so messy, so complicated, yet so amazingly rewarding, that I would never want it any other way.

I share all this with you because tomorrow the Latino USA team will spend a whole hour on parenthood, and at one point in the show, Maria Hinojosa and I talk about this very same issue. In my conversation with Maria, I find out that wow, she too had similar feelings as a parent. Yeah, Maria Hinojosa felt the same way. It is a show you don’t want to miss.

Now back to the music.

The next song I am playing for my kids?

Oh yeah, I did forget to tell you: both my kids plan to take Spanish soon. But it is their choice, not mine.

So are you a Latino parent? I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Tweet me @julito77.

Latino USA’s Music Playlist: ’21st Century Pope’

Now that you have caught our latest podcast, “21st Century Pope,” catch some of the music we featured in the show. Here is our latest Spotify playlist. You can find all our playlists on our Spotify profile any time.

What the Pope Told Congress Today

Here is a video and the full text (as prepared for delivery) of the speech Pope Francis gave to Congress this morning in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Vice-President,

Mr. Speaker,

Honorable Members of Congress, Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self- sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!

A Little Girl’s #PopeInDC Moment

Earlier today, five-year-old Sofía (Sophie) Cruz crossed the barricade during Pope Francis’ parade through Washington, D.C., and had the chance to deliver the pope a t-shirt and a letter asking that comprehensive immigration reform get passed in the United States. Given that a large number of media outlets are covering the pope’s first US visit, the Internet was soon filled with videos of Pope Francis hugging Cruz, who had traveled from Los Angeles with her family. Here are some examples of what you can see online right now.

The Raw Video

Reading Her Letter to the Pope

On ABC News

Being Interviewed in Spanish by Univision

Calling All Geeks: We Need Your Stories

Next week, we are doing a show about diversity in geekdom, and Latino USA Senior Producer Daisy Rosario is asking for your help. Are you a geek? Send us your voice memos to Let Daisy explain in the following video.

The ‘We’re All Mexicans’ Song: What Do You Think?

There’s a new Donald Trump-inspired protest song and video produced by Emilio Estefan and a cast of Latino music stars, from Pitbull to Thalia to Carlos Vives.

Read Maria Hinojosa’s Response to Hillary Clinton

Yesterday, Latino USA anchor and Futuro Media Group founder Maria Hinojosa penned a HuffPost Latino Voices response to a recent op-ed by Hillary Clinton, who wrote that “she will always stand with the Latino community.” In that op-ed, Clinton also wrote that she stands “with Maria Hinojosa, who founded the Futuro Media Group to tell stories of the overlooked and underrepresented.” Maria was one of several prominent Latinos mentioned in Clinton’s op-ed.

You can read Maria’s entire response to Clinton hereHere is an excerpt of what Maria published:

“…the real proof of Clinton’s stand with Latinos —or the commitment of any of the candidates for that matter— will be if they create access points for us to discuss the issues Latinos care about. Will they recognize that just like the rest of America, Latinos also worry about our children, our aging parents and grandparents, want access to educational opportunities, job training and healthcare, to support innovation, and we yearn for access to new technologies and new opportunities? We also care about families being torn apart, about US citizen children growing up in fear because their parents were, like me, born in another country. And we care about due process and the conditions inside immigrant detention centers.”

Read more at HuffPost Latino Voices.

Featured image of Clinton via Hillary for Iowa.




On a Quest to Meet the Pope

Pope Francis is coming to New York City and one devout Catholic New Yorker is determined to meet him.

Photo: Pope Francis in 2013. (CREDIT: Fczarnowski)

How Radical Is Pope Francis?

Host Maria Hinojosa talks with Boston College’s Dr. Hosffman Ospino about whether Pope Francis’ radical left politics is heartfelt or just clever marketing from the Vatican.

Photo: 2013 photo at St. Peter’s Square, just after the Pope’s election (CREDIT: Tenan)


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