Latino USA

Archive for the ‘Identity’ Category

Holiday Memories

Over the years, Latino USA has aired many holiday stories. From tamale-making traditions within the Mexican-American communities, to parrandas in the Puerto Rican communities, to the making of the lechón in the Cuban and Cuban-American communities.

One of our most popular holiday shows, however, was originally produced in 1999 called “Las Christmas” and was based on a book of the same title by Vintage Books. It’s actually a collection of holiday memories by Latino writers.

We turned some of the stories from the book into an award-winning radio show. But by far, our favorite story is author Denise Chavez’s story titled, “Big Calzones.”


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Laughing All the Way to the Bank

Somewhere, in the dusty birth records filed in Murcia, Spain, either for the year 1951 or the year 1941 (depends on whose account you believe), you’ll find the documentation of the arrival of one María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Moquiere de les Esperades Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Najosa Rasten. We know her as Charo.

Introduced to American audiences by bandleader Xavier Cugat, Charo sort of took over from there. Playing the role of sex-kitten and guitar-playing bombshell, Charo endeared herself to television audiences in the 1970s with a vivacious spirit and her spirited use of language (one fan magazine claimed she learned English from Buddy Hackett), including her trademark “Cuchi-Cuchi.”

Lots of people have laughed about Charo and her persona, including Charo (all the way to the bank.) But the laughter can distract us from seeing a gifted guitarist (a student of Andres Segovia, no less) and a shrewd businesswoman, and that would—somehow—miss the point.

Maria Hinojosa sat down with the entertainer and had a long chat.


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Latino Perceptions of Muslims

In the wake of the shootings at Ft. Hood, Texas earlier this month, there has been considerable discussion about the alleged shooter’s Islamic faith in playing something of a role in the murders. There are many unanswered questions about the shootings. Latino USA’s student producer Xorge Oliveras went to the streets in Austin, Texas to ask Latinos if the events shaped their perceptions of Muslims.


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Israel’s Undocumented Latinos

When thousands of Latin American immigrants left their homelands throughout the 1990s in search of opportunity, the U.S. was not the only country recruiting this cheap labor. Many European countries sought Latin American workers. And thousands of immigrants also ended up in the state of Israel. As Israeli politicians seek to deal with their immigrant “problem” in light of the economic times, the children of these Latin American immigrants could be deported.

Independent Producer Reese Erlich found that many of these non-Jewish young people now share a strong Israeli identity, with little memory of a Latin American homeland.


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New American Voices: Mental Health and Refugees

Latino USA has often documented how immigrants coming from a particular community tend to migrate to the same region in the U.S. as a means of creating a safe social net. But refugees represent a different kind of immigration experience. And for refugees who have experienced war and violence, the mental health issues of that community can pose particular challenges.

When the U.S. accepts refugees, it is often the practice to resettle them together within an American city or community. So when many Somali immigrants in Minneapolis began showing signs of mental health trauma due to war, it caught local health officials by surprise. As part of Latino USA’s ongoing New American Voices series, Andrew Stelzer reports on how Minneapolis mental health workers are using media to help deal with the challenges.


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Conductor Alondra de la Parra

Alondra de la Parra is the founder and artistic director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas (POA) based in New York. Originally from Mexico, De la Parra founded the POA as a means of promoting music and young talent. While largely focused on Latin American works and audiences, POA seeks to diversify classical music and bring it closer and “relevant” to the people.

Reporter Monica Ortiz Uribe recently caught up with Alondra de la Parra fresh from a Dia de los Muertos concert in San Francisco.


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Watch a slideshow as you listen.

Jesse Katz: The Opposite Field

Baseball has long been recognized as America’s pastime. And in recent years, the diversity of baseball has greatly reflected that of this country. Little League is no exception. Organized baseball can be found in all kinds of neighborhoods in all kinds of communities across the country.

Los Angeles-based writer Jesse Katz grew up playing ball. When it came time for his son to play, he volunteered to coach, but ended up as the Little League commissioner of a park located within one of the most Asian neighborhoods in the country, itself next to one of the most Latino neighborhoods in the country.

The cultural mix served as the backdrop for Katz’s new memoir titled The Opposite Field. Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa speaks with two-time Pulitzer winner Jesse Katz about the book.


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Watch a short film featuring Jesse Katz at La Loma in VIMEO:

The Opposite Field Trailer from Jesse Katz on Vimeo.

B as in Beauty

Alberto Ferreras is probably not content with sitting still or doing any one thing for too long. Born in Madrid, Spain and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Ferreras has been New York based since the 1990s. He has adapted plays based on classic Latin American novels in Spanish. He designs and promotes film and documentary projects for cable outlets like MTV and HBO. He even has written music that has been performed by such artists as Madonna.

All of those elements, music, books, movies, and pop culture are incorporated into his first novel titled B as in Beauty. Well received by critics and audiences alike, Ferrera’s “B” is a large girl who is miserable as she struggles with her looks in a thin-crazed society. It’s not until she embraces her large size that she finally begins to live life more fully. Okay, so she becomes a “comfort provider” for men who love large women. But it’s a fun story told with lots of comedy.


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‘Grand Café’ – Empowerment Through Popular Media

Throughout Latin America the telenovela is an extremely popular form of entertainment. While they are often described as a Spanish-language TV “soap opera,” the biggest difference between telenovelas and American soap operas is the Spanish-language version actually has a planned episodic ending. It’s rare for a Spanish-language telenovela to last more than two-years. But the audience is well aware of this. And some telenovelas have had famed remakes or re-airings.

Spanish-language television networks in this country have kept the telenovela popular in the U.S. The most popular ones come from Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. And the tradition of watching telenovelas has spanned generations as well as diverse nationalities and ethnicities.

Now, CEO Women, an Oakland based advocacy group, is taking advantage of the telenovela format to train Latinas in the intricacies of starting a small business. Producer Lonny Shavelson tells us about this unique project.


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Remembering Artist and Activist Mercedes Sosa

Mercedes Sosa titled one of her early LPs “Yo No Canto Por Cantar” meaning she didn’t sing just to be a singer. With such a statement, Sosa, born in a remote Argentine province in 1935, told the world that her music had a message. It combined music and politics in a time and place where such a combination was dangerous. Later, when a military junta controlled the country, Sosa found herself spending several years in exile while many of her friends and comrades disappeared, were killed, or simply were harassed into hiding.

Argentines lined up to pay their respects to legendary folk singer Mercedes Sosa. (Flickr Photo by blmurch)

Known as both an activist and a singer, Mercedes Sosa was a powerful voice in the Latin America “Nuevo Canción” movement that fused native sounds, human rights, and modern music together. And her music and message took her around the world. She performed at such places as Carnegie Hall in New York, the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, the Roman Coliseum, and Paris’ famed Teatro Mogador. But she performed even more in rural towns and villages, where thousands would dub her the “voice of the voiceless.”

A prolific recorder, Mercedes Sosa, who died October 4th at the age of 74 in her native Argentina, left behind more than 40 LPs and many recordings of her live concerts. Currently, she has three open nominations for next months Latin Grammy Awards.

When Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa moved to New York as a student in the 1970s she found a thriving Chilean and Argentine immigrant community. It was here she discovered Mercedes Sosa, who was always more than simply an interpreter of songs.


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Mercedes Sosa – Solo Le Pido a Dios

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