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Selenis Leyva Wants Latinos to Unite and Vote

Before her almost overnight success playing Gloria Mendoza on the hit Netflix series Orange Is The New Black, Selenis Leyva struggled for years as an actress of Cuban and Dominican descent. Even when she worked with mostly Latino theater groups she was often cast in stereotypical roles as an Afro Latina. After experiencing the deep divisions within the Latino community, Selenis now speaks out against those divisions. For our sabiduría, or words of wisdom, Selenis tells us she’s using her success to speak out against divisions, and to get Latinos to speak out at the voting booth this coming election.

Selenis Leyva wants Latinos to unite and vote

Before her almost overnight success playing Gloria Mendoza on the hit Netflix series Orange Is The New Black, Selenis Leyva struggled for years as an actress of Cuban and Dominican descent. Even when she worked with mostly Latino theater groups she was often cast in stereotypical roles as an Afro Latina. After experiencing the deep divisions within the Latino community, Selenis now speaks out against those divisions. For our sabiduría, or words of wisdom, Selenis tells us she’s using her success to speak out against divisions, and to get Latinos to speak out at the voting booth this coming election.

How Our Latino USA LGBT Mariachi Story Went Viral

As Digital Media Director for The Futuro Media Group, producers of Latino USA, one of my more enjoyable tasks is to monitor and analyze the real-time social and online reactions to our latest podcasts. This week, the team produced Lady Liberty (headline h/t @antoniacere), a show that introduced us to some very liberated women. While many of you showered kudos for our segments on Cherríe Moraga, Nicaragua’s Hall of Femme, Princess Nokia and producer Daisy Rosario‘s latest installment of Diversity in Geekdom, it was a story about an LGBT mariachi group from Los Angeles that became our most popular story of the week, accounting for 50% of all the web traffic to this site in the last 72 hours.

Which led me to ask: how did this happen?

Let me get the non-scientific answer out of the way first. Producer Marlon Bishop had a theory about why the Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles story was so popular. “Mariachi always does well for us,” Marlon said. And as much as I wanted to let the analytics do the talking, Marlon’s right: Mariachi Opera and Mariachis in Alaska are both two very popular stories, but (now having looked at the analytics) the web traffic for this weekend’s LGBT mariachi story in the last four days was ten times greater than any other mariachi story from previous shows.

It’s LGBT Pride Month. I can speak for the team and specifically for producer Camilo Vargas (who produced the Mariachi Arcoiris segment): we didn’t intentionally plan to publish this segment during LGBT Pride Month, but it’s safe to conclude that some of the interest in the story came from greater awareness of the month. Yet, even with that, it’s still not the real reason.

Facebook. We promote all our latest stories on social channels, including Twitter and Tumblr. Yet, no matter how many places we share our segments, Facebook continues to be the place receive the most impact. Such was this case with this mariachi story. Here is where it stands as of this posting in terms of shares and likes.

 

 

Strong image.

Clear description.

Appealing headline.

Not bad.

The comments from users were mostly positive too, which didn’t hurt either. Once you start getting the comments (and yes, not all of them were positive), a conversation starts. People come back to your site. More conversation. Rinse and repeat.

One or two of the comments we received on our site wanted to clarify one part of this entire story. Let me share what two readers had to say about Natalia Melendez and how we described her as “the world’s first openly transgender woman in the history of mariachi:”

“I have to say Teresita la Campesina sang as an openly trans woman in mariachis from the 1970s to the 2000s in San Francisco’s Mission District, so Natalia is not the first openly trans mariachi in history, but I wish her and Mariachi Arcoiris the best!”

“Yes.!!!! Teresita sang mexican music for many years in the Mission district, and she was GREAT.!!!!!”

The history of Teresita la Campensina is not that well-known, and we thank those who mentioned her name to us. You can read more about Teresita in this chapter of an oral history anthology as well as in these excerpts. In fact, the story of Teresita la Campensina interested our team so much, that we plan to see if our team can produce a segment about her as another example of an untold history. Nonetheless, from what we could read and discover, Teresita was a trans woman in ranchera and mariachi, while both Mariachi Arcoiris and Natalia identify her as a trans mariachi singer, a charra. That, however, does not mean that we are downplaying the accomplishment of Teresita and what her story meant in the context of the Mission’s community. For us, those reader comments have led to another future topic to consider.

***

One more thing about this week’s show. When some Facebook fans saw that we were promoting a segment about Cherríe Moraga and the impact of This Bridge Called My Back, you were all wondering why we didn’t include Gloria Anzaldúa, the book’s other co-editor. Anzaldúa passed away in 2004, but our story did mention both Anzaldúa and Moraga.

The role of grandparents through time

Why do we have grandparents and what role have they played in human history? According to evolutionary anthropologists, these three generation relationships are unique to humans. In fact, according to evolutionary anthropologist Kristen Hawkes and other proponents of ‘the grandmother hypothesis’, it’s precisely thanks to helpful grandmothering that we went from our ape-like ancestors to becoming humans. And according to some archaeological evidence, as we started to live longer, our older folks may have provided our ancestors with important knowledge that helped our survival.

Today, grandparents continue to play a huge role. Since the 1970s, the number of children in the US being raised by their grandparents has doubled. And in the aftermath of the Great Recession at the end of the 2000’s, that number rose even more. Grandparents are a form of safety net in times of crisis, and in Latino families, grandparents are more likely to expect to provide some form of care for their grandchildren. We explore the huge role grandparents have played and continue to play in our lives.

Photo by Diego López Román via Flickr.

The Magical, Realist Grandparents of Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is often called the world’s most widely-read Spanish language author. She’s written more than 20 novels, many of them bestsellers.

Allende was born in Chile, where she was raised in her grandparents’ house. Her father abandoned the family when she was just a toddler, so Allende’s mother had no choice but to move back in with her parents with her three kids.

Isabel Allende speaks about how her grandparents influenced her life and her writing.

Correction: The broadcast and audio version of this story state Isabel Allende was born in Chile. Isabel Allende was born in Lima, Peru. 

Photo collage of Isabel Allende’s grandparents, courtesy of Isabel Allende. 

Latino USA Listeners share their Abuelitos’ stories

We reached out to listeners and asked them to send us stories about their grandparents for our Abuelos episode. Here are the stories we received from our queridos listeners. Thanks to all the people who contributed!

 

Angela García

familia

 

Chris Lopez

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Chris’s song to his grandfather, “I’ll Never Say” was featured in our episode.

Eilidh Anita Bridget Hall

Brendan's Holy Communion - Grandad, Granny, Me, Lindsay, and Brendan

 

Jennifer Ocampo

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Jennifer Ramon

Boya&us

 

Pedro Lopez

William García

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Cover photo of Chris Lopez and his grandfather.

Interpreting For Change

Antena Los Ángeles, an interpretation, translation and language justice group, is committed to socially-conscious language interpretation. Their focus is on ensuring that the public event spaces they interpret for are fully bilingual or multilingual, so that no one language dominates over another.

For this week’s Sabiduría, we hear from Antena members Jen Hofer, Ana Paula Noguez Mercado and Miguel Morales Cruz on how they approach language interpretation and what we can learn from thinking about language justice.

 

Antena works with individuals and organizations doing interpretation, translation, and workshops on language justice and interpreting for the social justice context. The group was founded in 2010by Jen Hofer (Los Angeles) and John Pluecker (Houston). In 2014, Jen Hofer, Miguel Morales Cruz and Ana Paula Noguez Mercado co-founded Antena Los Ángelesdedicated to language justice advocacy and organizing locally in Los Angeles. Language justice is the idea that everyone has the basic human right to speak in the language in which we feel most comfortable; Antena’s work is geared toward creating spaces where everyone present can participate fully with no one language dominating the others. Antena works to foster open communication and attentive listening across languages and cultures, in the belief that language justice is part of social justice.

 

Eduardo Galeano through the years

This week, we travel around  time and space in search of Sabiduría, or words of wisdom, from a man who inspired many in the Americas. Uruguayan author and cultural activist Eduardo Galeano died on Monday, April 13th from a lung cancer he’d been battling since 2007. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1940, Galeano worked as a bank teller and newspaper man before publishing his most acclaimed work, Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina, or The Open Veins of Latin America, in 1971. In it, Galeano tells the story of the continent as a land where the blood and the riches have been drained for the wealth of outsiders. The book has been an inspiration to generations of Latin American and Latino politicians, activists, artists and journalists.

In 2009, the book came back into the spotlight as former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez famously handed President Barack Obama a copy during a summit.

Even though the book became a classic of political literature, in 2014, Eduardo Galeano commented on the book in a literary event in Brazil: “Open Veins tried to be a book of political economy, but I didn’t yet have the necessary training or preparation.” His statement prompted a controversy over the literary and cultural validity of the book, and whether it meant a shift in Eduardo Galeano’s political views. Galeano reiterated, as he said on our air, in 2001, that he did not regret writing it, but that his writing style and views had since evolved.

But beyond the controversy over ‘Open Veins’, Galeano went on to write more than thirty books, including Soccer In The Sun And Shadow, Children of the Days and Memory of Fire, A Trilogy of Latin American History where he perfected his style and prose, and where he revealed his increasingly complex view of the human condition.

Galeano came back frequently on Latino USA since his first appearance in 2001, commenting on current political issues, his latest work, and to give his human perspective on the world. Here’s a collection of Galeano’s interviews on Latino USA from the past 15 years.

Photo credit: Jefferson Bernardes/AFP/Getty Images

Why was this Ecuadorian cartoonist fined $500,000?

Photo above of protesters gather outside of SUPERCOM offices in Quito to show their support for cartoonist Bonil during his hearing. Courtesy of Ruxandra Guidi.

In 2013, Ecuador passed a media law aimed at democratizing the media and encouraging media outlets to hold themselves to higher standards of truthful reporting. But the law also required that a government agency called SUPERCOM (Superintentendency review outlets and fine or censor them for posting racist, classist and sexist content, setting a dangerous precedent that any anti-government publishings will be called into question by SUPERCOM.

This past February, notable cartoonist Xavier Bonilla, known as Bonil, was fined $500,000 by his government after a cartoon he published lampooning a newly-elected black assemblyman’s poor communication skills was deemed racist. The fine sparked protests in Quito in support of Bonil and against the government’s perceived censorship.


Reporter Ruxandra Guidi, who has been working in Ecuador for the past few months, breaks down the law and shows how those opposed to it fear too much government control over the press, and how those in favor fear a freewheeling media run amok.

This reporting was funded by The International Reporting Project (internationalreportingproject.org).

 

Photo by Bear Guerra

Zoë Damacela Means Business

Zoë Damacela started sewing clothes for herself when she was 13. Word got out and her family and friends started buying from her. Soon after, she was hiring a team to help her keep up with demand. She founded Zoë Damacela Apparel a year later, at age 14. And her business made her famous.

 

She appeared on the Tyra Banks show, was featured in the Chicago Tribune and on the cover of the October 2011 issue of Seventeen Magazine. She was also invited to meet President Obama at the White House on two occasions, and was a speaker for the “Startup America,” a White House initiative for new, small businesses.


At 22, she graduated from Northwestern University and moved to New York to work as a designer for Macy’s and for her own brand. From her apartment in Brooklyn, where she lives with fellow designer and boyfriend, Brian Longwill. As a young businesswoman of color making her way in the fashion world, she tells us where she gets her confidence.

 

Photo by Ernesto Cuevas. 

Can love overcome segregation and death?

Racial segregation officially ended decades ago in the small town of Marfa, in west Texas. But you can still see its legacy in the local cemeteries. The tombstones tell the story of Marfa’s difficult history. But they also tell the story of friendships and citizens who transcended boundaries, and still do, in death.

 

 

Photo Credit: Ryan Kailath

This Week’s Music: The U.S. & Cuba: After the Thaw

-El Platanal De Bartolo by ¡Cubanismo!

-Aprieta (Oye Como Va) by Cheo Feliciano

-Weekend in Havana by Carmen Miranda

-Como Fue (How It Was) by Beny Moré

-Ay, Mamá Inés by Bola de Nieve

-Solito Me Quere by Yerba Buena

-Ojala by Silvio Rodriguez

-Ochun (Seco) by Los Muñequitos de Matanzas

-Bricamo by Mongo Santamaria

-La Bayamesa by Buena Vista Social Club

-Guantanamera by Celia Cruz

-I Love Lucy theme song by Eliot Daniel

-Candela by Buena Vista Social Club

-Tropicoso by Jungle Fire

-Fragments by Ritmos Unidos

How do Latino police feel about community relations?

It’s a strange time for police officers of color. One the one hand, black and Latino communities around the country have been vocal and organized in their opposition to the overuse of force by police and discriminatory practices and policies—to the point that some rhetoric has made police out to be the enemy. On the other hand, black and Latino officers are themselves part of the communities that are raising their voices in frustration and anger.

 

“The media has turned this into a black and white conversation which is not the parameters by which we speak,” says Anthony Miranda, the head of the National Latino Officers Association and a former NYPD sergeant, “Latinos are a big part of this conversation.”

 

Miranda says that Latinos communities suffer a particular kind of abuse because their citizenship and legal status are often brought into question by police in ways that other communities don’t experience.

 

He also says that police forces often try to indoctrinate all officers, including officers of color, by convincing them that they are “blue” first, and some other cultural identifying feature second. “The struggle with an organization like ours is trying to convince younger officers not to buy into that mentality,” Miranda says.

 

When it comes to that struggle between identifying with the police force and with a sense of community, Tony Chapa, executive director of the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association and a former assistant director of the Secret Service, says that he and his organization stand with the community. “There are more communities that have smaller representations of Latinos in the department than we have black communities with small representation of blacks.”
Chapa says that police play a significant role in society, not just because of the nature of their jobs, but because of their visibility. “In the Hispanic community, when young kids look at who represents the government to them, it’s not the President, it’s not the Vice President, it’s not the Senator or the Governor or the Mayor, it’s the police officer on the street.”

 

anthony_mirandaAnthony Miranda is the Executive Chairman of the National Latino Officers Association and a retired member of the NYPD where he served for 20 years.

 

 

 

 

tony_chapaTony Chapa is the Executive Director of the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association in 2011. His career with the Secret Service began in 1986 and progressed with investigative assignments, as a member of the Vice Presidential Protective Division and administrative posts including Deputy Assistant Director of the Office of Protective Research and Assistant Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility.

In Puerto Rico, Undocumented Immigrants To Get The Right To Vote

A few weeks ago, Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla made a surprise announcement that soon he would submit legislation that would give undocumented immigrants and other non-citizens the right to vote in island-wide elections.

The move has been commended by immigrants’ rights groups, but is viewed by many on the island as a cheap move by an unpopular governor to try and fix the next election. It’s also left many people on the island asking: can the governor legally do it?

The answer, it turns out, seems to be “yes.” Federal law doesn’t stop states or cities from allowing non-citizens to vote.

Currently there are six towns in Maryland that allow all residents to vote in local elections regardless of immigration status, and a number of cities are currently considering extending the vote to all legal permanent residents.

Still, if Puerto Rico passes the law, it will be the first time in recent history that undocumented voting is adopted on such a large scale — and, some say it could set off a larger, national debate about immigrants and the right to vote. Our producer Marlon Bishop reports.

 

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

La Malinche: The Story of Mexico’s Eve

La Malinche, often referred to as “the mother of all mestizos” is one of the most controversial figures in Mexican history. She’s been called a traitor and a victim. She was a Nahua woman who acted as translator for the conquistadors in the early sixteenth century. She became Hernan Cortes’s lover and their child, Martín, is often called the “first mestizo.” Mestizos are the mixed race people of Mexico that make up 60% of the country. Her legend led to the creation of the term “Malinchista.” A Malinchista is a traitor, or someone who denies their Mexican culture in favor of another.

But since the 1950s, female writers have been trying to reclaim and vindicate the story of La Malinche – not just in Mexico but also here in the U.S. Chicana writers relate to La Malinche. They too are stuck between two cultures: their Mexican heritage and the U.S. culture they live their daily lives in.

We look at who La Malinche was and what she has come to represent over time.

Here is an extended and uncensored version of the piece:

Photo via Wikipedia

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