Latino USA

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The Day of the Dead gets its Hollywood moment

Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua know a thing or two about the Day of the Dead. The director of the new animated film The Book of Life and his wife who was a character designer for the film got engaged and married on el dia de los muertos.

So it only fits that their first big studio theatrical film be inspired by it. They tell us what day of the dead means to them and how they hope to pass on its meaning to others.

The Book of Life comes out October 17th.

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Jorge R. Gutiérrez is an animator, painter, writer and director who created the multiple Annie and Emmy award winning animated television series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera for Nickelodeon.

Sandra Equihua is an illustrator, painter, and animated character designer.

This Week’s Captions: The Fear Of…

This week Latino USA examines fear, from facing it, to what we learn from it. We hear about people stopped by border patrol who cite the fifth amendment, a man deported to a home he never knew, and a fight for justice after a loved one is gunned down by cops. We learn about the Mexican folk saint some whites are worshipping, and counties where others are fleeing multiculturalism. Plus the story of a young man who sat in solitary confinement without a trial, a new movie inspired by the Day of the Dead, and why even a cloud as gloomy as cancer can have a silver lining.

ABOUT CAPTIONING:
Latino USA, the foremost Latino voice in public media and the longest running Latino-focused program on radio, is the first radio program to commence equal-access distribution via Captioning for Radio. “Research has shown that Latino children have a higher incidence of hearing loss and deafness than other populations,” according to Latino USA’s Anchor & Executive Producer Maria Hinojosa. “When the opportunity to break this sound barrier came to our attention, we were pleased to embrace this new technology developed by NPR Labs and Towson University for the thousands of Latinos with serious hearing loss.”
The International Center for Accessible Radio Technology (ICART), a strategic alliance between NPR and Towson University, is co-directed by Mike Starling of NPR and Ellyn Sheffield of Towson University.
For each week’s captioning, check back on http://latinousa.org/captions.

 

Sabiduría: A DACA recipient on finally serving

Last week the Department of Defense announced that they will now allow and even recruit deferred action for childhood arrival, also known as DACA, recipients to the military.

For some, like high school senior Yael Julian Calderon Esquivel, joining the army will mean fulfilling a childhood dream.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

After The Floods

In September 2013, rain pounded Colorado. Catastrophic flooding killed ten people and destroyed more than 1,800 structures, including six mobile home parks with large Latino populations.

Back then, we interviewed Colorado-based reporter Lesly McClurg about stories she collected from Latinos who were affected by the floods.

Now, one year later, Lesley McClurg brings us a report about how families have struggled to recover in the face of language barriers, split communities, and the fear of revealing their immigration status. She visited two families in northern Colorado who lost everything.

 

Photo via Lesly McClurg

#1436 – ¡Showtime!

This week we find out what it means to be in the onstage and on the spot. We meet an opera singer who loves telenovelas, a comedian who inspires young Latinos. We hear the drum beats of Puerto Rican Bomba music, learn about a new reality show starring undocumented kids. We put pressure on the new president and CEO of NPR. We shine a spotlight on Tejanos, and a tech journalist tells us what it means to “fail fast.” And Maria Hinojosa interviews the legendary Sheila E and we find out what makes her so cool.

Photo by Chris Smith via Flickr. 

Zorro: America’s First Superhero

The Zorro story, invented in 1919 by pulp fiction author Johnston McCulley, tells the tale of an aristocrat in Spanish California who dons a mask to fight against corrupt colonial officials on behalf of the oppressed.

Zorro became the subject of a hit silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks in 1920, and went on to become one of the biggest pop culture franchises of all time. It inspired dozens of remakes, TV series, books and comics across the globe. Perhaps more importantly, Zorro went on to influence the American super hero tradition as a model for characters like Batman, Superman and the Lone Ranger.

But McCulley didn’t pluck Zorro out of thin air. The character was based on several real-life Spanish and Mexican outlaws who operated in the West, including Joaquin Murietta and Juan Cortina. These figures weren’t always fighting on the side of the United States.

 

Photo: Movie poster for 1920 film The Mark of Zorro, courtesy of Wikipedia

 

This week’s Captions: Caged

Latino USA looks back at some of our best bits from the past year. First, we ask our staff: are you The Worst Latino? We hear from the Latina “Voice of God,” learn about the invention of Hispanics as a census category, talk about flirty racism (yes, it’s a thing), and discuss how stock photos might be getting women’s images wrong. We learn about Zorro and his impact as the first American superhero. And writer Michele Carlo tells one of the funniest stories we’ve ever aired.

 

ABOUT CAPTIONING:
Latino USA, the foremost Latino voice in public media and the longest running Latino-focused program on radio, is the first radio program to commence equal-access distribution via Captioning for Radio. “Research has shown that Latino children have a higher incidence of hearing loss and deafness than other populations,” according to Latino USA’s Anchor & Executive Producer Maria Hinojosa. “When the opportunity to break this sound barrier came to our attention, we were pleased to embrace this new technology developed by NPR Labs and Towson University for the thousands of Latinos with serious hearing loss.”
The International Center for Accessible Radio Technology (ICART), a strategic alliance between NPR and Towson University, is co-directed by Mike Starling of NPR and Ellyn Sheffield of Towson University.
For each week’s captioning, check back on http://latinousa.org/captions.

 

Fania Records: Fifty Years Of Sabor

After years of gathering dust, the legendary salsa music label Fania Records is back and revamped under new owners—a private equity company looking to make a mint on classic Latin music. As Fania turns 50, we ask: what future lies ahead for the label once known as the “Motown of Latin music?”

“We gonna take you back to what we were doing in 1986,” says boogaloo star Joe Bataan from the stage.

In 1968, Joe Bataan was in East Harlem recording boogaloo tunes for an upstart Latin music label called Fania Records. Today, Joe is performing in a Staten Island park as part of Fania’s 50th anniversary celebrations happening all summer long around New York City.

A native-New Yorker crowd of all shades has turned out. They’re sitting back in fold-out chairs, dancing, and soaking up the nostalgia. Tony Lopez puffs on a cigar, looking like he’s having the time of his life.

“We’re big time Joe Bataan fans from way back in the day,” says Lopez. “I was a kid when he came out with his music. It was off the hook man.”

The people gathered here aren’t just fans of Bataan. They’re fans of Fania itself, because Fania isn’t an ordinary record label.

 

The Motown Of Latin Music

Fania records was founded in 1964 by two classic New Yorkers—Johnny Pacheco, a Dominican immigrant who led the hottest Latin band in the city, and Jerry Masucci who was a street-smart lawyer and ex-cop from Brooklyn. They decided to team up and start a record label that could beat-out Alegre Records, the top Latin label at the time.

“They were two dynamic guys, really ahead of their time, and they just captured the industry,”  says Joe Bataan.

Fania really exploded in the 70s, when it became home base for an exciting new musical movement known as salsa.

“A whole new world opened up with salsa, and all of these artists were brought to different levels that they never thought they would achieve,” says Bataan. “The bandleaders were taken out of their leadership roles in the individual bands and put into the Fania All Stars, which became a world wide name.”

Footage from the famous Fania All-Stars concert of 1973 at Yankee Stadium.

Fania recorded just about every great Latin artists of the era: Bobby Valentín, Hector Lavoe, Ray Barretto, Larry Harlow, Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, and so-on. The label was grossing $5 million a year and commanding 80 percent of the market. But it wouldn’t last.

By 1980, Fania was in serious financial trouble. The label crashed due to a perfect storm of changing music tastes, bad business decisions and interpersonal conflicts. For years, the catalog essentially gathered dust.

Fania Rises Again

In 2009, Fania’s assets were bought by an investment firm called Signal Equity Partners, operating under the name Codigo Group. According to their website, Signal Equity specializes in “leveraged buy-outs, roll-ups, and restructurings.” It was an unlikely match— before Fania, they were buying up rural telephone exchanges. But a guy named Michael Rucker convinced the investors that there was money to be made in classic Latin music.

Rucker is now the chief marketing officer for Codigo group. “There’s this huge opportunity to go out and look at Latin music and Latin catalogs and to roll them up, archive them, treat them with respect, and then to collect on that respect,” says Rucker.

The company bought not only Fania, but 14 other Latin catalogs from the same era, including West Side Latino and Kubaney Records. They now own almost 3,000 records by 200 artists. Taken together, it’s a major chunk of Latin music history.

They fished the master tapes out of old storage units and got the records up on digital services like Spotify and iTunes. They also pressed up new “Best Of” albums, and began selling t-shirts bearing art from classic Fania album covers.

“It’s been working really well for us,” says Rucker.

 

“This Is Gone Forever”

Meanwhile in the Bronx, things haven’t been working very well for Mike Amadeo, owner of the famed Casa Amadeo salsa record store. The store has been in continuous operation since 1941. But it might not last much longer.

“Business is lousy,” says Amadeo. “Nobody in the music business is going to tell me after 64 years in the music business that this is going to be like it was before. It will never happen again, this is gone forever.”

Amadeo says that in Fania’s heyday, records flew off the shelves—he made $7 thousand dollars a week, more than three times what he takes in today. He says there used to be over a hundred ballrooms with live bands in the Bronx alone. Today, not one is left. And if you ask him about the new Fania owners—let’s just say he’s not pleased.

“Let them buy an American record company, for the English speaking people that know what the hell they doing. They don’t know what the hell they doing,” says Amadeo.

Amadeo was once a shot-caller in the salsa industry, back when everybody involved were friends and extended family from the barrio. He and other old-timers say they feel neglected by the new Fania. Amadeo, for example, says the new owners never once called him up to try to learn from his decades of experience selling music to the community. He says the stuff they are putting out doesn’t make sense.

“What Fania is doing right now is killing the industry. The few people that are left that go to the stores to buy records, they want the original recordings as they came out,” says Amadeo.

 

Reinvent, or Die

The new Fania isn’t particularly interested in reaching the  people that go to the stores to buy records. For Michael Rucker at Fania, there’s a different audience in mind.

“Now we look forward and we say –how do we take this to a younger audience today,” says Rucker. “Because at the end of the day, if you aren’t reinventing, if you’re not going to find new listeners then ultimately you die. And that’s exactly what we don’t want to happen.”

In an attempt to reach younger audiences, Fania is has been working with DJs and putting out remix albums that sample their catalog. For some members of the salsa community like Mike Amadeo, this amounts to sacrilege—a watering down of a rich musical history. But Joe Bataan, for one, isn’t so sure.

“If you sit on history, it dies. So you got to lift yourself from your seat, let history breath, and pass it on, and then you’ll have a chance with the music,” says Bataan.

It’s unclear whether the new Fania will succeed in reaching the youth— the label won’t share sales numbers, so we don’t know how well they are actually doing. But, says Bataan, at least they are trying, and giving the next generation a chance to decide what Fania means to them.

 

For a complete list of Fania’s 50th anniversary events, visit www.fania.com
All photos courtesy of Codigo group.

Sabiduría: Melissa Mark-Viverito

We turn this week to New York City council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for some words of wisdom, or sabiduría.

 

This Week’s Music: Nuestro Nueva York

This week’s music includes:

 

-Songoro Cosongo by Héctor Lavoe

-Cumbia Meguro by Mexican Institute of Sound

-Gimnasia de Cumbia (Waka Waka Titanium Remix) by Dënver

-Everlasting by Polock

-Got Your Money (feat. Kelis) by Ol’ Dirty Bastard

-Todo tiene su final (feat. Willie Colón) by Héctor Lavoe

-There You Go by Fania All-Stars

-Let’s Get it On (Pa’ encima) by Los Rakas

-Luminous Insects by Inventions

-Ponte Duro (Empresarios Dubplate Especial) by Fania All-Stars vs. Empresarios

-Somos Pocos by Laguna Pai

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