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Archive for the ‘Identity’ Category

Latinos on the Reservation: In Pictures

For this week’s Latino USA, we profile the Mexican and Native American communities who live together on the Yakama Nation, a Native American reservation in Eastern Washington.

The Yakama people are heavily outnumbered by Latinos on the reservation, who settled here over recent decades because the region’s robust agricultural industry. Maria Hinojosa and Latino USA producer Marlon Bishop spent about a week on the reservation, with local reporter Rowan Moore Gerety of Northwest Public Radio. During our time there, we witnessed two communities often in conflict with one another, despite shared indigenous roots. There were conflicts over tribal taxes and tribal laws, over the perception of “special concessions” for Spanish speakers and often, over nothing at all except old-fashioned racism. But we also witnessed communities that are learning to live with one another, who are borrowing from each other’s cultures, and who starting families together. Below, are some images we captured during our time there.

All photos by Marlon Bishop

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.

Traveling While Brown: A Conversation

Traveling can be a liberating experience. For people of color it can be surprising in different ways.

Raquel Cepeda spoke to novelist and journalist Farai Chideya about an article she wrote, “Traveling While Black,” that was featured in The New York Times.

Chideya wrote about traveling to Africa as a healing experience. She says she learned that most of the world is “brownish,” which gave her a new perspective on identity.

I’m X Percent Native, Right?

April Salazar was told by her family that she had descended from Spain, and that she should be proud of her Spanish heritage. That knowledge helped shape Salazar’s identity until her family got genetic testing and found some surprising results—Salazar was not as Spanish as she was led to believe. She was also part Native American: in fact, a lot Native American. Here is this week’s Sabiduría, or Words of Wisdom:

Photo via

#1536 – Identity

Latino USA talks about identity: from an immigrant rights activist who is uneasy about gaining legal status to a frank conversation about traveling while brown. How do people choose to identify and how does that affect their day-to-day lives?

#1530 – Beauty

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Latino USA explores what beauty is. We hear from makeup tutorial YouTube stars, Latina models in Kansas City and a trans man who shares his feelings on hair.

Graphic credit: KNOBBYKNEEz, Flickr

Beauty in Transition

Asher Diaz grew up in a large Puerto Rican family in Cleveland, Ohio. He spent a good twenty-some years trying to understand what it meant to be a beautiful woman, learning from his tías, tíos and the grandparents that raised him. Then, at age 24, Asher came out to his family as transgender, and began his gender transition from female to male. For our sabiduría, or words of wisdom, Asher tells us how his role models and beauty rituals changed, and the endearing moments he shared with his family along the way.

Photos via Asher Diaz

Flirty Racism: It’s a Thing

“You’re beautiful for a Spanish woman. I love it when Spanish girls speak Spanish.”

“Are you full Asian? You don’t look full Asian.”

“You’re the first black person I’ve ever dated.”

The intention is to flatter by highlighting difference. To compliment a person of color by making them feel “exotic”. These are just some of the examples we got by going out on the streets of New York City and asking people of color if they’d ever experienced what author Rula Al-Nasrawi calls #FlirtyRacism. 

In her article for VICE, “Calling Me A Terrorist Is Not Flirting,” Al-Nasrawi talks about the many times she’s been exoticized as a Middle-Eastern woman and the not so few times people have hit on her by jokingly calling her “a terrorist.”

At first, people on the streets were a little bit confused with the term. But when Al-Nasrawi told them one of the many outrageous pick-up lines she gets, people suddenly got it. Almost immediately,  the men and women of color we talked to remembered a pick-up line that turned out to be incredibly insulting or awkward, because it focused on their ethnicity. 

We found the many subtypes of flirty racism out there. From the very common “you’re cute for your ethnic group”, to the exotic generalization (“you look like that only other actress I’m aware of from your ethnic background”), to the incredibly insulting “you can’t be … you’re too tall.”

We also asked people on the streets of New York City what the new flirting etiquette should be and we even got some sailors to react to Al-Nasrawi being cat-called a terrorist.



Rula Al-Nasrawi is a freelance journalist living in New York City. A California native, her work has been featured on the San Francisco Bay Guardian, VICE, The Atlantic and Galore magazines. Rula is a hardcore pug lover, and always finds time to giggle at a good pun. Tweet her @rulaoftheworld.





Photo by Tiziana Fabi AFP/Getty Images

Afro-Latinas and “Good” Hair

In the 1960’s, natural black hair became a revolutionary political statement in the U.S. Wearing an afro was a physical expression of black pride and beauty. It was polarizing, but exciting. Who could forget Pam Grier’s sexy afro?



But relaxers, straighteners and weaves are still a 9 billion dollar industry in this country. In 2009, comedian Chris Rock directed a documentary called “Good Hair.”



In 2012, Olympic Gymnast Gabby Douglas was criticized for her kinky ponytail. Here she is talking to Oprah:



But in the Afro-Latino community, there really haven’t been that many cultural icons sporting natural hair. That’s were Carolina Contreras comes in. She created the blog Miss Rizos to connect with other Afro-Latinas who wanted to give their natural hair a try.




Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Contreras started getting her naturally curly hair relaxed every 2 months at the age of 7. She says her family saw the painful process as an important part of their personal hygiene. “I have 3 sisters and I learned how to relax hair,” says Contreras, “I inflicted so much pain on them and I feel like it’s something that I’m still healing from.”

Her kinky hair required a lot of attention, but Contreras says what really led her to relax it was a feeling that her curls weren’t presentable. “If you work for a bank in the Dominican Republic, you’re most likely going to get a weekly stipend to go to the salon,” says Contreras,” they just feel like it’s not professional.”

She says that message trickles all the way down to little girls. “It’s frustrating to have to deal with that today,” says Contreras, “our hair has nothing to do with our productivity, our intelligence or with our knowledge about a particular subject or anything.”


Raquel Cepeda is a journalist and author. She says in the Afro-Latina community, natural hair is still a political statement. “As soon as they see the curly hair the say oh she’s a leftist, she’s this, she’s that,” says Cepeda, “to me it’s a badge of honor, to me it’s how I honor my ancestors by letting them live freely in my scalp and in my hair.”

Cepeda says she feels free to wear her hair curly because she knows what it really means. “We really have to un-educate and re-educate ourselves and learn about our histories,” says Cepeda, “When you learn about your history you learn to start being proud of where you come from, and then the curly hair won’t be a thing.”


And once everybody understands their heritage, hair can just be hair.

Carolina Contreras says she’s inspired her mom and her sisters to stop relaxing their hair. Every time she goes back to the Dominican Republic she feels more hopeful. “I just get really excited because I see more women in the street wearing natural hair, I start seeing more ads on Tv and everywhere,” says Contreras, “I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction now.”


Beauty can hurt, sure. But grooming and priming is a form of personal expression. It can bee freeing, once you do it because you want to and not because you feel you have to.



BrendaSalinasBefore coming on board as an associate producer with Latino USA, Brenda Salinas was awarded the highly competitive Kroc Fellowship at NPR. She has reported pieces for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Weekends on All Things Considered and for KUHF Houston Public Radio. In college, she started her campus’ only student run foreign-language publication, Nuestras Voces. Brenda has a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University.



Photo courtesy of Flickr user Peter Klashorst.

My Multilingual Personalities

Some linguists hypothesize that multilingual people can have different personalities depending on the language that they are speaking. Latino USA producers Camilo Vargas and Brenda Salinas discuss how growing up bilingual alters their personalities. Camilo learned English at a bilingual school in his native Colombia. His consumption of American media affected the personality he takes on when speaking English. Brenda Salinas immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 6. Growing up in Texas, having light skin meant that she could pass as white, as long as she spoke English.



C4_CamiloVargasHeadShotCamilo Vargas went from his native Colombia to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He joined Latino USA after a fellowship with Univision Noticias and Univision’s Investigative Unit. Before coming to the US, Camilo was a researcher in conflict studies and US-Latin America relations for the Colombian government and the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota. He’s reported on the drug war, national politics, and same-sex salsa.




Before coming on board as an associate producer with Latino USA, Brenda Salinas was awarded the highly competitive Kroc Fellowship at NPR. She has reported pieces for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Weekends on All Things Considered and for KUHF Houston Public Radio. In college, she started her campus’ only student run foreign-language publication, Nuestras Voces. Brenda has a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University.



Photo courtesy of Flickr User Alexi Ue

The Rolezinhos Take Over Brazil’s Malls

If you are a teenager and you live in one of Brazil’s urban informal settlements,or favelas, there’s not a lot of places you can go to hang out with your friends. Recently, teens have taken to organizing rolezinhos – mass meet-ups in upscale shopping malls, organized via social media.

Over time, these innocent gatherings have become something more. As protest movements grow in Brazil in the lead up to the World Cup, the rolezinhos have taken on a political character – a forum for combating the racism and social exclusion that pervades Brazilian society.



Melaina SpitzerMelaina Spitzer is a freelance reporter living in Brazil.  Based in South America since 2008, Melaina has reported from Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil on the environment, human rights, and social conflicts. Her radio reports have aired on the BBC/PRI’s The World, NPR’s Morning Edition, and APM’s Marketplace.  In addition to her work as a journalist, Melaina is the Director of the Academy of the Sea, a non-profit dedicated to socio-environmental education and innovation in Brazil’s coastal communities.




Feature photo by Melania Spitzer

Las Luchadoras

Lucha Libre, Mexico’s national past-time of performance wrestling, is a macho sport where contestants wear super hero costumes and try to crush each other in the ring. They’re mostly thought of as men, but that’s starting to change. As Jasmine Garsd reports, women luchadoras are earning their place alongside men in this strange and complex Mexican tradition.



Jasmine Garsd was born in Argentina and hosts NPR’s Alt.Latino podcast. As a journalist she’s worked on the NPR programs Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation and Tell Me More. She has covered a wide variety of topics for radio including immigration issues.






Photo by Flickr user Lee South

Surviving The Mexican Revolution

Some lessons are learned in school. Other lessons are taught in the home. Or more specifically, in the kitchen. Two generations of women  – a mother and daughter – remember what they learned from Jesusita, who fled Mexico for Texas during the Mexican Revolution. She was the matriarch that made them the women they are today.



McClurgLesley McClurg is a reporter and producer for Colorado Public Radio’s daily interview program, “Colorado Matters.” She came to CPR after getting her start in public radio as a freelance reporter and producer for KUOW in Seattle, Washington.In addition to her work as a journalist, Lesley also has extensive experience in documentary filmmaking and writing. A seven-time Emmy Award nominee, she won an Emmy Award in 2009 for the documentary, “Green Prison Reform.” Lesley holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Louisiana State University




Photo of immigrants fleeing the Mexican Revolution, courtesy of U.S. History Scene





#1418 – A Latino History Of The U.S.

Before you head out for a Cinco de Mayo margarita, take a trip around the country with host Maria Hinojosa to learn about Latino history. Hear about the patriotic celebrations of Laredo, Texas andthe first colony in the US—it’s not where you think it is. Also: could Zorro be the first American superhero? A high school class in East LA learns about the Chicano movement. And just where did the term “Hispanic” come from?

Feature photo courtesy of Mimictrash

The First U.S. Colony: St. Augustine, Florida

The first European colony in what is today the continental U.S. isn’t where you probably think it is.

Every American kid in grade school learns that it was the British who first settled the U.S. at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. That just happens to be false. The Spanish arrived at St. Augustine, Florida decades earlier, in 1565. They came to protect their sea routes to the Caribbean, and built several forts and missions in the area over the years.

Today, a massive, star-shaped Spanish fort still stands over the city. St. Augustine has become a colonial-themed party destination where a man dressed as a pirate will take you on a pub crawl. But it’s also, as the city’s historian calls it, “the most important archeological site in the U.S.” Latino USA takes a trip to St. Augustine to shine some light on the United States’ Hispanic past. We visit historical sites such as the Castillo de San Marcos, join in on an archeological dig, and reflect what the city’s story tells us about our nation’s past.


Warren_cropped+12-24-10Warren Miller is a writer and producer based in St. Augustine, Florida. He has contributed to public radio and television stations in Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida for more than 20 years. He’s also written for and edited national and regional magazines. Currently, Warren is the producer and host of “Closing the Loop,” a weekly interview program on WJCT-FM, the NPR affiliate in Jacksonville.






Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service




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