Latino USA

Archive for the ‘Identity’ Category

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

OBIT: Chicana Poet Angela de Hoyos

Actually, to call Angela de Hoyos a Chicana poet would be too limiting. To those who knew her, she bore many titles: co-foundress of a movement, woman of letters, publishing activist, voice of the voiceless, and many, many more.

Born in Mexico, de Hoyos called San Antonio, Texas her home for the great majority of her life. She died on September 24. But her birth date is a matter of intense dispute. Some encyclopedias describe her as being born in 1940. Her official obit in the San Antonio Express News placed her birth date in 1923. Those dates aren’t even close. But what is not in dispute is her legacy and role in the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 70s.

Largely unschooled, de Hoyos was mainly a self-educated woman. She often told the story of how she used to create childhood rhymes when she was four years old during a long convalescence from an illness. By the late 1960s, she began having some of her poetry published, winning international awards beginning with the Bronze Medal of Honor of the Centro Studii e Scambii Internazionale (CSSI) in Rome in 1966. She won awards for her writing from Argentina, India, Italy, and Germany. Her works would be translated into fifteen languages. As fate would have it, de Hoyos’ was better known in Europe than in her adopted U.S.-homeland.

When she read a letter to the editor in one of the San Antonio newspapers in 1970s, suggesting that all “Mes’kins” should go home, she fought back, writing: “Yes, amigo …! Why don’t I? Why don’t I resurrect the Pinta, the Niña and the Santa María — and you can scare up your little ‘Flor de Mayo’ —so we can all sail back to where we came from: the motherland womb.”

At the height of the Chicano Movement of the 1970s, de Hoyos and her husband Moises Sandoval created M&A Editions. They would publish and mentor writers like Evangelina Vigil-Piñón, Carmen Tafolla, and Inés Hernández. Her self-published poem “To Walt Whitman” remains one of her most quoted pieces.

Perhaps her most important poem as far as Chicanos are concerned was her seminal work, “Arise, Chicano.” Here now, Maria Hinojosa recites de Hoyos’ classic poem.


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StoryCorps Historias Launches in Washington, DC

Thursday was the official launch of a new initiative through StoryCorps dedicated to collecting the stories of Latinos. It’s called StoryCorps Historias, and its aim is to record interviews throughout the country between friends and family members from the Latino community. The interviews collected will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress as well as in prominent Latino archives, thus forming part of an effort to record the American experience as told by the people who live it.

The StoryCorps Historias launch featured appearances by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Many of the Caucus members were very excited about gathering Latino stories and shared some personal moments. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard of California’s 34th Congressional District (aka Los Angeles) spoke at the event and shared a story about her mother’s childhood neighborhood where the streets were unpaved and her desires to see her community’s area improve .

Congressman Jose Serrano of New York’s 16th district (aka the Bronx and parts of Harlem in New York City) emphasized the importance of the Puerto Rican community. Other Caucus members that were present include Xavier Becerra from California, Congressman Charlie Gonzalez from Texas and Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico. Other noted speakers include United Farm Workers president Arturo Rodriguez.

To participate in StoryCorps Historias and to see when StoryCorps Historias is coming to you, visit their website here. And you can see more photos of the event below.

Here you can see StoryCorps founder Dave Isay with CPB’s President and Chief Executive Officer Pat Harrison:

Booths like this one will be traveling the country recording the stories of Latinos. People can come in and record conversations in these airstream trailers:

StoryCorps Oral History Project

StoryCorps Historias is an initiative to record the diverse stories and life experiences of Latinos in the United States. According to StoryCorps founder David Isay, this bilingual project will also ensure that the voices of Latinos will be preserved and remembered for generations to come.

FAMILIA ALVAREZ

More than 30 years ago, Blanca Alvarez, originally from Nogales, Mexico, crossed the border and settled in Los Angeles, California with her family.

Blanca Alvarez and her daughter Connie came to a StoryCorps recording booth in LA. They remembered their early years in the United States, years that were very challenging for their family–they were a time of eating only bean tacos and working late at night. Back then Blanca worked cleaning offices and Connie used to come and stay with her mom wearing her pajamas. Now Connie went on to graduate from UCLA in 2000. She still sees her mother’s life of working late while raising children as an inspiration.

“There is nothing that can stand in my way that didn’t stand in yours,” she said to her mom.

Blanca has overcome many obstacles herself: she became a US citizen in 1985.

Listen to StoryCorps founder Dave Isay’s conversation with Maria Hinojosa about this year-long initiative and hear them present this story from the series about the Alvarez family.


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To find out more about recording your own Historia, go to the StoryCorps Historias website.

Para hacer una reservación para grabar su historia, llame 1-800-850-4406.

Amor Prohibido

Noami Mena, a San Francisco State student, was attracted to her British boyfriend's strong Catholic upbringing.

Assimilation into the American mainstream, say many social scientists, often takes two-to-three generations for most immigrant groups. A major part of that assimilation can usually be seen in the intermarriage of couples from differing ethnic backgrounds. It’s not unusual these days to find Americans with mixed Irish-German or Polish backgrounds, for example. But there was a time in American history that these groups would rarely intermingle.

So when children of immigrants begin dating outside of their ethnic group, the familial effects can be unexpected.

As part of our ongoing series on Immigration in the U.S., NPR’s Richard Gonzales reports on a growing trend among second-generation Americans who are choosing to date and marry with partners with whom they are “culturally comfortable.”


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Josefina López

“This is either the longest suicide note in history or the juiciest, dirtiest, most delicious confession you’ll ever hear.” So begins the first novel from Josefina López.

A young American journalist—jaded by war and censorship—breaks off an engagement and heads to Paris to find herself again. She enrolls in a cooking school in order to get a visa, and it turns out cooking school provides just the sort of spiritual awakening she needed.

López is probably best known for her play (and later, the screenplay) “Real Woman Have Curves.” Listen as Maria Hinojosa talks with López about her debut novel Hungry Woman in Paris.


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Sandra Cisneros: Beyond Mango Street

25 years ago, the world was just beginning to learn about all that goes on at The House on Mango Street. Sandra Cisneros introduced us to Esperanza Cordero and we began to experience, through her eyes, being young, poor, female, and Chicana in America.

Maria Hinojosa talks with Cisneros about life beyond Mango Street.


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Bárbara Renaud González

Bárbara Renaud González, a native-born Tejana and acclaimed journalist, has written a lyrical story of land, love, and loss, bringing us a first novel of a working-class Tejano family set in the cruelest beauty of the Texas panhandle. Her story exposes the brutality, tragedy, and hope of her homeland and helps to fill a dearth of scholarly and literary works on Mexican and Mexican American women in post–World War II Texas.

Maria Hinojosa talks with Bárbara Renaud González about Golondrina, Why Did You Leave Me?.


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A Historic Crossroad?

The events of the past two weeks in Honduras come packed with history: from the Cold War, from the age of Empires, and from the very real and very present memory of the turbulent period of the early 80s. Maria Hinojosa sat down with two scholars to discuss the current events with an eye on history.

Manuel Orozco is Senior Associate at Inter-American Dialogue and Bruce Bagley is with the International Studies Department at the University of Miami.


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BMX Competition

Professional motocross – or BMX – is actually based on extreme dirt-bike competition. It’s a sport that pays its top athletes at best in the six-figure range. So the great majority of its participants have to pay their own way in competitions and training. And it’s clearly not a sport for everyone.

Jorge Jovel is an immigrant from Honduras who admittedly spends too much time on his bike. He’s passed up decent jobs, relationships and family to endure pain becoming a top BMX competitor.

Special contributor Tesfaye Negussie brings us his story.

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

Watch a video clip of Jorge Jovel’s story. This excerpt is from a half-hour video produced by Tesfaye Negussie, Tristan Ahtone, and Jed Kim.

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