Latino USA

Archive for the ‘Identity’ Category

The People in the Checkboxes

Right around three hundred nine million people. That’s the best guess at the moment of how many people live in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau is busy trying to convince as many Americans as possible to return the questionnaire that has been mailed to every household in the country. It asks ten questions about everyone who lives in the home.

But, as Latino USA’s Yasmeen Qureshi reports from New York, it’s not a simple matter to get those questions answered.


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Race & Ethnicity: No Easy Answers

Maria talks with Maria Teresa Kumar, the founding Executive Director of Voto Latino. The organization has been encouraging Latinos to participate in the Census in a number of ways, including a telenovela/PSA campaign called “Be Counted — Represent!”

The campaign targets young people in an effort to get them to talk with their parents about the Census. Voto Latino has been able to reach deep into some communities: using Latino/a celebrities and tools of social networking such as Twitter.

One of the persistent concerns has been the issue of immigration status: it’s taking some convincing to get undocumented immigrants to believe that the Census Bureau will not share information with ICE and other authorities concerned with immigration enforcement.


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Watch an episode of the PSA/telenovela from Voto Latino.

Thousands Rally in Washington

As the House of Representatives moved on the final passage of Health Care Reform last weekend, tens of thousands of people rallied in the bright sunlight a few hundred yards west of the Capitol. Thousands had arrived by trains and busses and cars from all across the nation—many are without documents to be in the U.S. legally—to urge President Obama to fulfill a campaign promise and to advocate that the Congress make Immigration Reform the next item on the national agenda.

Yasmeen Qureshi reports that the crowd was filled with hope.


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Watch the video from the White House that was shown at the rally on the Mall:


source: whitehouse.gov

Esteban “Steve” Jordan

San Antonio (14 August 2010) — Esteban “Steve” Jordan, the conjunto accordion legend has died of complications from liver cancer. He was 71 years old.

Last year, Alex Avila produced this appreciation of the musical pioneer.

Texas accordion artist Esteban ‘Steve’ Jordan has built a reputation as a reclusive, eclectic artist. Many of those who know his work say he is truly a musical genius. But unlike other Tejano accordion players like Flaco Jiménez, Jordan resisted musical collaborations and built a reputation for keeping to himself. In fact, he often refused to give media interviews.

In 2008, Jordan was diagnosed with liver cancer and cirrhosis. While he has battled those illnesses, he has largely maintained a regular schedule, playing at Saluté International Bar in San Antonio, Texas every Friday. This past February, Jordan released his first CD in nearly two decades.

Latino USA’s Alex Avila visited with Jordan and his sons.


Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

To hear an hour-long audio documentary on the life and music of Esteban ‘Steve’ Jordan, click on the slideshow below.

The Central Falls School District of Rhode Island

Central Falls, Rhode Island is not a region that immediately jumps out as being an immigrant Latino hotbed. But as the region has struggled with English as a Second Language and shifting demographics, the “No Child Left Behind” provisions of federal education standards has critized the school’s performance. In a drastic move to combat falling performance standards, the local school board recently fired the entire teaching staff of the local high school. The story has made national headlines.

But the immigrant and Latino aspects of what is happening in Central Falls, Rhode Island is largely being overlooked by national media. To examine this more closely, Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa speaks with WRNI Education Reporter Elisabeth Harrison and New York University Education Professor Mario Suarez-Orozco.


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Sam’s Audio Postcard

Sam recently traveled to New York to participate in a panel about the DREAM ACT. The event was hosted by The College Board. Because of his undocumented status, Sam could not get on an airplane and had to be driven. Here’s his audio postcard of that trip.

If you’d like information about helping Sam in his quest for an education, click HERE.

StoryCorps Historias

StoryCorps Historias is an initiative to record the diverse stories and life experiences of Latinos in the United States. Sharing these stories celebrates our history, honors our heritage, and captures the true spirit of our community. It will also ensure that the voices of Latinos will be preserved and remembered for generations to come. Copies of stories gathered through StoryCorps Historias are archived at the Library of Congress for future generations to hear.

Greer Family of Miami
Dr. Pedro “Joe” Greer has been practicing medicine for more than 25 years and is known for his work in creating medical clinics for the homeless. Serving homeless families has become something of a calling for Dr. Greer, and he tells his wife Janus the story of how he devoted himself to this calling.


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New York’s Pedro Pietri
Pedro Pietri was more than a New York poet. He gave a voice to a generation that initially espoused a Nuyorican identity. Here, Pietri’s friend Jesús “Papoleto” Melendez tells poet Frank Perez about Pietri’s last moments as he died on March 3rd, 2004.


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The next stop on the StoryCorps Historias national tour is Fresno, California.
StoryCorps stories were produced by Nadia Reiman and Vanara Taing. The Senior Producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

An Ecological Race

In 1955 the Guatemalan government designated Lake Atitlán as a National Park with the goal of encouraging tourism to the region. Until then, few people outside of Guatemala knew about this pristine enclave of nature, home to indigenous clans and villages since at least 600 B.C.

To encourage eco-tourism, government officials made many blunders. For example, they added non-native North American bass (both small mouth and large mouth) to attract sports fishermen. The invasive species thrived, killing off large amounts of native fish and crab that led to the extinction of several bird species that had been unique to the region.

Over the years, over-population, tourism, and government inaction have taken their toll on the lake, home still to many villages where Maya culture is prevalent and traditional dress is worn. But many villagers complain of conflicting warnings by the government not to eat the fish or drink the untreated water. Others complain that the government, despite appointing a national committee to save the lake, has done little of substance to address the contamination of Atitlán. Even basics like replacing a sewage treatment facility damaged by a 2005 hurricane have gone undone.

Producer Maria Emilia Martin recently visited the region to see how dire the situation really was. She found concerned communities and people doing their part to save the lake. Yet few people, from local activists to international donors, trust the Guatemalan government to do the right thing.


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Watch a slideshow of Flickr Photos published under a creative commons license while you listen.

‘Avatar’ and Native-American Themes

Earlier this month, Avatar, the big-budget science fiction space adventure film was nominated for nine Academy Awards. Just a few days later, it became the highest crossing movie of all time. Worldwide receipts for the film are now approaching $2 billion. And the film has been hailed as a critical as well as popular success.

But for many Avatar opens a discussion on Native-American themes as well as issues of historic colonialism. The film’s male lead, Jake Sculley played by Sam Worthington, is compared to a messianic figure. The movie’s female lead, a Na’vi named Neytiri played by Zoë Saldaña, is seen as a Pocahontas figure.

And the native connections of the Na’vi to their indigenous environment have focused on Native-American issues of colonialism, conquest, and cultural preservation.

To explore these issues more closely Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa speaks with Native-American and Latina writers.

Kara Briggs is a Yakama and Snohomish Journalist and editor of the book Shoot The Indian: Media Misperception And Native Truth.Angela Valenzuela is an education professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of several books and articles about Latinos, Latinas and education.


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StoryCorps: Historias

Each month Latino USA airs interviews from the StoryCorps Historias, a nation-wide radio project that’s recording Latino stories. The full-versions of these interviews are archived at the Library of Congress becoming part of the history of the United States.

This week three stories about school.

The Hoover/Garcia Family

Larry Hoover speaks with his granddaughter Anastacia Garcia in New Mexico. Larry remembered his teenage years and getting into trouble with neighborhood gangs. In fact, his constant fighting earned him a foreboding warning from his mother. She said if he didn’t stop all the fighting, he’d end up at the local school for delinquent boys. He did in fact end up there – 30 years later as a teacher.


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Sánchez Family

A couple of generations ago, it was common for students to have their names “Americanized” one they arrived in school. Ramón “Chunky” Sánchez gives us a student’s point of view. He grew up during the 1950s in a southern California farming town. And like many Mexican American children at that time, his name was changed. But he recalls one kid whose name was so unusual to the teachers that his was the only one not to be changed.


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Villanueva Family

Lourdes Villanueva’s parents were migrant workers, harvesting fruit throughout the south. In a conversation from Tampa, Florida, she recalls raising her son as the family worked the fields and moved constantly. Wanting a better life for her children, Lourdes encouraged the value of an education to her son, Roger. But she also practiced what she preached. Today, Roger is a financial aid advisor at the University of South Florida.


Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

StoryCorps stories were produced by Nadia Reiman and Vanara Taing. The Senior Producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Latin America

In 1804, Haiti declared its independence after a series of battles between French troops and slave armies. By 1809, some 10,000 former Saint-Domingue residents – many of them freed Blacks – had resettled en masse in New Orleans as a consequence. The success of the Haitian Revolution impressed Simon Bolivar, the great Latin American liberator, who received arms and finances from Haiti during some of his campaigns. Haiti’s only condition for that support was for Bolivar to free any slaves he encountered as he liberated former Spanish colonies.

In 1825, France sent a massive armada and threatened to retake its former colony. In exchange for recognizing Haiti’s independence, France imposed a massive foreign debt on the nation. The debt was so punitive that Haiti was still paying it well into the 1940s. At one point, in order to service that debt, Haiti occupied its Spanish-speaking neighbor on the island of Hispaniola. To this day, the Dominican Republic celebrates two days of independence: One for its independence from Spain, and the other for its independence from Haiti.

In 1999 writer Michele Wucker authored a book titled Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians and the Fight for Hispaniola. Wucker, executive director of the World Policy Institute, says the relationship between these two former European colonies is as complicated as Haiti’s relationship with the rest of Latin America.


Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

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