The Man Behind Your Favorite Guilty Pleasure TV Shows

When you think of some of the biggest reality shows like The Surreal Life or Flavor of Love, you may not immediately think of them as “comedies.” But the hilarious love triangles, silly challenges, and juicy drama do make us laugh. Cris Abrego, the creator of some of the most popular and funniest reality shows, takes us behind the scenes of what goes into making binge-worthy television. He also tells us how he went from looking at the Hollywood sign from his backyard as a kid to becoming the co-CEO of one of the largest reality TV empires in the United States.

Featured image: Cris Abrego

Painting Out Blackface

In countries all over Latin America, using blackface is still considered acceptable in variety shows and cartoons. William García grew up watching one show with blackface called Raymond y sus amigos (Raymond and Friends) in Puerto Rico. García understands how problematic it is to portray stereotypes and racial caricatures on TV, and soon he got interested in the work of activists in Colombia who were trying to change another notable blackface character, Soldado Micolta.

The activists held rallies outside Caracol, the network that hosts Micolta’s show. Chao Racismo (Goodbye, Racism), a Colombian civil rights group, prepared to take legal action against the show. Caracol took note, and now Micolta doesn’t paint his face black on TV—although he does paint his face with other designs.

Featured image: Soldado Micolta (via Latino Rebels)

From High School Hallway to Prince’s Mansion

Ruperto Vanderpool is a comedian and actor who was born and raised in the Bronx by Dominican parents. He talks to Latino USA senior producer Daisy Rosario about living the standup life and how standup is a “better high” (he says) than skydiving. Vanderpool also discusses the jokes he tells about his Afro-Latino identity, performing for all-white audiences, and doing a comedy show in Prince’s mansion.

Featured images: Ruperto Vanderpool

Who Ya Gonna Call? ¡Los Supercívicos!

Alex Marin y Kall and Arturo Hernández are redefining crime-fighting in Mexico City with their comedy group, Los Supercívicos. Armed with comedy and a camera, the duo hits the streets to shame wrongdoers into good behavior They draw crowds by dressing up as anything from cowboys to nuns, and they improvise “happenings” to call attention to the offender. People even turn to Los Supercívicos for rescue when the authorities won’t help. While it seems all fun and games, Marin y Kall and Hernández are pursuing the serious goal of promoting civic awareness—in Mexico City and beyond.

Featured image: Alex Marin y Kall and Arturo Hernández

Talking with Luis ‘White Shoes’ Martinez, the Man Behind the Camera in East Harlem, NYC

Hello, God bless you, Dios me lo bendiga!” photographer Luis Martinez, better known as “White Shoes” in honor of his signature footwear, answers his cellphone. “I get 30 calls a day, this phone rings all day.

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Martinez (better known as “White Shoes”) has spent most of his life in the service of others. He arrived in New York in 1954 and served 24 years in the United States Air Force. He was one of the founders of the Puerto Rican Day Parades of Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens. Luis still runs a column for La Voz Hispana entitled “Asuntos De La Comundiad,” where he shares photos of Latino community events throughout New York City.

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with “White Shoes” about his life and his craft.

Andrew J. Padilla: How’d you start taking photographs?

Luis Martinez: When you… when anybody enters the Air Force, the first thing they do is take photos. To have photos of all the places you’ve been. Iran, Pakistan, China, everyone that was with me, every time we left the plane, I’d take their photo. Back in the day, all of this, camera and films, it was cheap in the military stores, now with digital, it’s even cheaper. Everyone’s got a good camera.

Martinez in the Air Force (Photo by Andrew J. Padilla)
White Shoes in the Air Force (Photo by Andrew J. Padilla)

AJP: How did you come to El Barrio?

LM: When they killed my brother, my mom was alone in Puerto Rico, I eventually joined the service and had to go to, so I brought her to live in NYCHA Lehman Houses. Our neighbors took care of her so well, they always watched out for her. So when she died in the 80s, I stayed in the same apartment.

AJP: What happened to your brother?

LM: My brother was a fighter en Hato Rey y Río Piedras. One day, he was leaving the University of Puerto Rico with his girlfriend and a friend of theirs, she walking a bit behind them when a group of men came up and tried to attack her. He ran back and fought them. They cut his jugular. Somehow he survived, passed out in front of a clinic, only to be killed in Korea. An ambush. They were sleeping when it happened.

Rafael Martinez (Photo by Andrew J. Padilla)
Rafael Martinez (Photo by Andrew J. Padilla)

AJP: How old were you?

LM: I was just 9 when he died. I wish I’d gotten to know my brother as an adult. He was one of the smartest students at the University of Puerto Rico before he joined the 65th infantry. You know they were all Puerto Rican? The Borinqueneers. They got sent to all of the most dangerous missions. Suicide missions. Most of them died. I actually found out about the ambush from a friend who lives on 117th street in El Barrio now.

AJP: Why photography?

LM: The people you meet, that’s one of the best things about being a photographer. I have met so many people over the years. Musicians, baseball players, politicians.

Fidel Castro at Jimmy's Bronx Cafe, by White Shoes (Photo by Andrew J. Padilla)
Fidel Castro at Jimmy’s Bronx Cafe, by White Shoes (Photo by Andrew J. Padilla)

I’ve photographed all of the leaders in this city! I knew Koch, Dinkins, Cuomo, the dad that passed away, Pataki, he was very nice with me. Even Mayor Bloomberg would yell out “Hey ‘White Shoes!’ at the 111th Street Stickball Festival.

White Shoes and Bloomberg
Mayor Bloomberg and White Shoes (Photo by Andrew J. Padilla)

I know them all and I know the things they don’t want anybody to know.

AJP: What secrets did they not want people to know?

LM: Well, Hillary didn’t really win at dominoes, it was just a photo, they needed to make the photo happen and that’s the only way they could do it.

AJP: What are your dreams?

LM: I want to put together a book with photos from all of the parades in New York, all of our festivals. A book that talks about the great leaders we’ve had, that almost no one remembers. People like Ramon Velez. He was one of the smartest people to ever help the Puerto Ricans. People may say their things about him. Some of it was true, but he wasn’t like Boricua leaders today, that take care of others before Puerto Ricans, before Latinos, before their community. So many people in this world today are looking out for only themselves. They’ll fight their brother just to do better, in the end we all lose.

White Shoes Con La India
White Shoes with La India (Photo by Andrew J. Padilla)

AJP: What keeps you going?

LM: So many photographers in the barrio have gone away, those people, those papers died. I’m one of the few local reporters left. People tell me, ‘Luis, you need to calm down, take care of yourself.’ But this is my life. I’ve been taking photos professionally for almost 40 years now. People come up to me on the street all the time and tell me about the birthday I photographed 28 years ago. That’s why I still do it.

Before I can ask another question, Luis gets a call from his editor, “I need to get together the best photos for four events, write up what happened and who was there. I’ll be up late tonight.” White Shoes ends our interview and hurries off to make his deadline.

White Shoes - People Know BEtter
(Photo by Andrew J. Padilla)

LM: People walk around thinking some of the old timers here are bums, but we know better, everybody knows…

Five Latino Comedy Moments That Still Make Me ‘Jejeje’

This week Latino USA dedicated an entire hour to comedy. The show was hosted by Daisy Rosario, our senior producer. Besides being an amazing senior producer, Daisy has had a very cool career on the comedy and improv circuit. In fact, when I joined Futuro Media last year, one of the first things I told Daisy was that I too have been doing improv in Boston ever since my early 20s, which is like 100 years ago, for all of you keeping score at home. Comedy has always been a part of my life, whether it was listening to Richard Pryor for the first time when I was 8 (don’t tell my mom) to going back on stage once in a while with ImprovBoston (shameless online plug).

Anyway, in the spirit of celebrating Latino USA show about comedy, I thought I would try and list my top five favorite Latino comedy moments ever. When I really started to think of trying to limit this to just five moments, I instantly realized that I could have added another 10 more or even 20 more (and this is excluding places like Vine, Instagram or Snapchat). But instead of just rattling off 20 moments, I stuck to five, knowing full well that I will get praised for my choices (I hope) while getting mercilessly slammed for the very same choices I included and the ones I completely overlooked. (Disclaimer: just tweet me @julito77 to give me your suggestions or publicly shame me).

So here is my list.

When Ricky Ricardo Spoke in Spanish on TV

Gets me all the time. Yes, I know, in this day and age, I might be calling out an actor for playing a character like this. But in the context of what Ricky Ricardo’s character did at the time, it will always make me laugh. The dude spoke Spanish on American TV in the 1950s. Enough said.


Cheech and Chong’s “Mexican Americans”

This classic from the time the 1970s were becoming the 1980s was not only funny, it was uncomfortably insightful. It was one of the first times I realized that this Puerto Rican kid (me) might have more in common with Mexican Americans than previously thought.


Freddie Prinze in 1974

I think I have seen and studied this clip from 1974 about 100 times. Freddie left us way too soon.


¿Qué Pasa, USA?

Talk about a show that was way ahead of its time. Can someone just redo this show for a new audience? Please.


Culture Clash

This Chicano comedy troupe from San Francisco had 30 episodes on actual TV in the mid-90s. Talk about ANOTHER group way ahead of its time.

Latino USA also asked its Twitter community the very same question. Here is what they told us: (FYI: did you notice that some of our followers also mentioned a few of my examples?)

Latest FIU/Adsmovil National Online Poll of Latino Voters: Clinton 68%, Other 17%, Trump 15%

A new online poll conducted by Florida International University’s Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs and mobile Hispanic advertising company Adsmovil shows that Hillary Clinton has a 53-point lead over Donald Trump with Latino voters, despite indications that Trump’s support has increased slightly.

The poll, which ran from May 10-16, asked online Latinos the following question: If the elections were held today, for whom would you vote? 68.2% of the respondents selected Clinton, with 15.1% choosing Trump and 16.7% picking Other.


AdsMov3However, the Trump support increased when the data is compared by age. For example, for this current poll, Trump’s support in the 18-24 group was at 6.6%, but with Latinos 65 and over, Trump was at 32.3%.


According to Pew Research, it is estimated that 27.3 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in 2016 (11.9% of the nation’s eligible voters). Pew also reported that 44% of those voters are millennials.

Tracking Since April

FIU/Adsmovil has been tracking the presidential preference question since the week of April 11-15, when it shared the following results: Clinton 62.3%, Trump 11.8%, Other 25.9. Since that first April poll, Clinton has seen a 5.9 point increase in support, Trump’s support has jumped 3.3 points, while Other has dropped 9.2 points.


The latest poll sample was 582 respondents who answered questions in Spanish or English. A previous poll (conducted in Spanish only) had a sample of 8,255 respondents, and according to FIU Professor Eduardo A. Gamarra, one of the poll’s co-authors, his team has now surveyed over 200,000 Latinos in this poll.

“We are increasingly confident of the data, given its consistency week after week,” Gamarra told Latino USA. “We now have polled over 200,00 Latinos in a seven-week period and the results are consistent daily and weekly.”

(For an explanation of how Gamarra and his team organized the poll and determined the data, click here.)

“Clear Advantage” for Clinton

Gamarra also said that the weekly poll results show that Clinton still has a “clear advantage” over Trump with Latinos.

“Mrs. Clinton has a clear advantage over Mr. Trump and over the last couple of weeks, it has been interesting to observe the movement in the other category as undecided Latinos move toward Trump or Clinton,” Gamarra added.

This new FIU/Adsmovil poll was released just days after an NBC News/Survey Monkey poll showed Trump with 28% of Latino support in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup with Clinton. Gamarra was asked why the FIU/Adsmovil poll differed from the NBC News/Survey Monkey one.

“We do not comment on other people’s surveys,” Gamarra said. “I am not familiar with their sample or how exactly the data was gathered.  If this poll is correct, then Trump would be polling higher than Mitt Romney’s final count in 2012.  It certainly contradicts the results of our weekly polls that have shown enormous consistency week in and week out.”

The latest FIU/Adsmovil also asked respondents what issue is most important to them. Immigration came in at 26%, with the economy getting 20.3%.


Gamarra added that his team will continue to track this election season through the lens of Latino voters across the country.

“FIU’s agreement with Adsmovil contemplates conducting this weekly tracking for the duration of the campaign,” Gamarra said. “At the same time, we are also conducting a variety of qualitative methods with Latino communities in Florida and in the rest of the country to deepen our understanding of how these communities view the electoral process and to gauge how they sense which candidates might best respond to their needs.”

The complete results of the latest FIU/Adsmovil poll are below.

Detained, Deceived, and Deported: Experiences of Recently Deported Central American Families

A new report released Wednesday by the American Immigration Council presents testimonies of eight Central American women and their families who have been deported to their respective countries of origin after being detained in the United States. Entitled “Detained, Deceived, and Deported: Experiences of Recently Deported Central American Families,” co-authors Guillermo Cantor, Ph.D. and Tory Johnson describe “how women are living in hiding, fear for their own and their children’s lives, have minimal protection options, and suffer the consequences of state weakness and inability to ensure their safety in the Northern Triangle.”

Each of the eight women interviewed share their stories: from the time they decided to come to the United States with their children to how they were detained and subsequently deported. They also explain a part of this narrative very few people are focusing on: life after deportation. Here are just some of the quotes from the testimonials (click on this link to read all the testimonials):

People [in the United States] hear things about Central Americans and they think that we come here to start trouble or to bring that delinquency here and it’s not true. We come [to the United States] to protect our families and to overcome the obstacles to have a better life. I truly hope that some kind of legal option can become available to help people who are trying to get away from threats and violence, like my family. Because we need it now more than ever. Rosa, a 36-year-old woman from Honduras

I don’t have the protection of anyone and it’s very scary. It’s extremely hard for me to be here, without the protection of my husband, without protection of my family or anyone. There are a lot of gang members here everywhere on the corners of my neighborhood…I’m always afraid that I might run into one of them and they’re going to hurt me. For now I just ask God to help me. At night I make sure that I lock the door before it gets dark and I stay inside with the kids. Gabriela, a 27-year-old woman from El Salvador

I have been hiding ever since I got back. The fact is I can’t go back anymore to live in my mom’s house because she said they have been threatening my family. I can’t go back there because if I go back there my whole family is in danger, especially my kids. My husband actually left Guatemala because he was being threatened so much, and he is now in the United States. Before I was in the detention center, they threatened my family and they were threatening us. So we couldn’t go back [to that neighborhood] now that we were deported; I have to struggle to keep my kids safe. Andrea, a 26-year-old woman from Guatemala

The report concludes by saying that “the rushed removal of asylum-seeking families raises concerns about the potential harms that these mothers and children are likely to be exposed to after their deportation. With no support available upon return, these individuals have limited chances of living a normal, safe, and healthy life.”

You can read the entire report below:

This Nuyorican Superhero Represents Hope and Solidarity for Puerto Ricans

Puerto Rico just got a kickass Afro-boricua superhero! Her name is name is La Borinqueña, and she’s on a mission to help the Puerto Rican community unite and fight for social justice. Wepa!

Named after Puerto Rico’s national anthem, La Borinqueña was created by Brooklyn-based artist and writer Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez in response to the island’s current financial crisis and is intended to be a symbol of hope and solidarity.

“Given everything that’s going on in Puerto Rico right now with the financial crisis… I thought to myself, now more than ever, Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in the diaspora need a symbol to rally around,” Miranda-Rodriguez told The Huffington Post.

Read more at HuffPost Latino Voices

Conservative Ideologue Peddles Textbook that Butchers Mexican-American Heritage to Texas Schools

When the Texas State Board of Education voted two years ago to create instructional materials for Mexican-American studies, educators and activists walked away cheering. They had asked the SBOE to create a full Mexican-American studies class, citing research showing that it would help boost performance in the state’s majority-Hispanic public schools.

The Republican-dominated board declined, but at least a board-sanctioned textbook would help schools individually join a national wave of schools teaching the classes independently — a movement spurred by Arizona Republicans’ banning of a controversial but effective Mexican-American studies curriculum in 2010.

But when the Texas Education Agency released its samples of proposed materials last week, they included a Mexican-American studies textbook littered with factual inaccuracies and gross errors of interpretation, many scholars in the field say. The book was authored by writers unknown in the field of Mexican-American studies and produced by a company apparently owned by Cynthia Dunbar, a right-wing former member of the SBOE.

Read more at HuffPost Latino Voices