Being Blaxican in L.A.

Walter Thompson-Hernández was born and raised in Los Angeles. He’s Blaxican, meaning one parent is Black and one parent is Mexican. He navigated his personal biracial, bicultural experience alone as an only child. When Thompson-Hernández was a graduate student at Stanford, he began to research what being Blaxican in Los Angeles meant and proceeded to do in-depth interviews with other Angelenos who also identified as both Black and Mexican.

“I felt like in this growing age of ‘diversity,’ we need to have broader conversations of what multiracial means and that doesn’t only mean Black and White. It can mean Black and Brown,” says Thompson-Hernández.

Soon, he created Blaxicans of LA on Instagram.

The pages features stories of discrimination, second-generation immigrant experiences and acceptance, all of which redefines what the future of being an American is. The stories are shared through original images taken by Thompson-Hernández, mainly portraits of those interviewed and pictures of the subjects’ hands holding pictures of their parents.

“Blacks and Latinos are two of the largest racial and ethnic groups,” says Thompson-Hernández. “Those are two experiences that have historically been tend to be thought of as two distinct ways, as two separate entities. I think we are better served if we think about in an inclusive way. Where Black and Brown can be thought of as one.”

LA Unified’s 1.3 Billion Dollar iPad Blunder

In 2014, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) implemented an ambitious program to get technology into the classroom: give every student from elementary to high school an iPad.

LA Unified is the second largest school district in the country. Close to three-fourths of the district’s 700,000 students are Latino. The idea behind the program was to even the playing field. The superintendent at the time, John Deasy, called equal access to technology in the classroom a “civil rights issue,” and said that he was going to “provide youth in poverty with tools that heretofore only rich kids have had.”

Yet from almost the moment the iPads were handed out, problems ensued. The iPads came with software installed by the Pearson Education Company. The software was glitchy and at the time of distribution was only on spec. As part of a statement from Pearson to Latino USA after the original airtime for this segment, Pearson spokeswoman Laura Howe wrote:

Though we consistently worked with our partners in LAUSD to resolve issues as they arose, due to multiple factors, it became clear that this was not the right solution for LAUSD’s technology program at this time.

The iPad scandal led to a resignation, high-profile lawsuit and FBI investigation into the district’s handling of the program. Latino USA producer Antonia Cereijido asks: What happened? How did a program that was meant to help hundreds of thousands of students go so wrong?

Featured image: DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

Editor’s note: The story mistakenly called Thomas Merton a Franciscan monk. Merton was a Trappist monk.

L.A. Band Features World’s First Trans Mariachi

When you think of mariachi musicians, you’re probably picturing the sombreros, the Mexican cowboy or charro outfit and the mustachioed Mexican men serenading in them. And even though women can perform in mariachi bands and there are all-female mariachi groups, mariachi music and culture is very male-dominated. We found a mariachi group in Los Angeles that’s trying to change that.

Introducing Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles, or Rainbow Mariachi of L.A. in English. They’re the first openly LGBTQ mariachi in Los Angeles, and probably, the world. Mariachi Arcoiris director Carlos Samaniego created the group in 2014 as a “safe space” for LGBTQ musicians and fans. Since then, they’ve played at Gay Pride celebrations in Los Angeles, gay weddings and even at one of L.A.’s most important mariachi festivals, the Mariachi Plaza Festival. And they’ve made the rounds on outlets like Univision and Telemundo featuring Natalia Melendez, the world’s first openly transgender woman in the history of mariachi.

Picture courtesy of Mariachi Arcoiris de los Angeles,  from left to right: Natalia Melendez, Carlos Samaniego, Maria Peñaloza, Zach Groll, Rodolfo Vasquez, Michael Tejada, Amadeo Arias and Jerry Ibarra.


For almost 25 years, Robert Lopez has been putting on an Elvis suit and becoming El Vez, the Mexican Elvis. Latino USA producer Nadia Reiman brings us a profile of the performer and takes us through his Merry Mex-Mas Christmas show.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Nadia Reiman has been a radio producer since 2005. Before joining the Latino USA team, Nadia produced for StoryCorps for almost five years. Her work there on 9/11 stories earned her a Peabody Award. She has also mixed audio for animations, one which won a DuPont award, hosted podcasts, and has guest hosted and produced for Afropop Worldwide on PRI. Nadia has also produced for None on Record editing and mixing stories of queer Africans, and worked on a Spanish language radio show called Epicentro based out of Washington DC. She graduated from Kenyon College with a double major in International Studies and Spanish Literature.

The Psychology of Breast Cancer

Half of Latina breast cancer survivors suffer from depression. These rates are much higher than the average among other survivors. Dr. Kimlin Tam Ashing-Giwa at City of Hope in Los Angeles shares her research on the psychological aspects of recovery for women of color with our host Maria Hinojosa. She discusses the role of spirituality, family and beliefs about women’s responsibilities in helping or hindering detection, treatment and recovery.

Click here to download this week’s show. Image courtesy of World News, Inc. (Flickr/Creative Commons).


Dr. Kimlin Tam Ashing-Giwa is professor and director of the Center of Community Alliance for Research and Education at City of Hope.  She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Colorado-Boulder.  She serves on the Executive council of Los Angeles American Cancer Society (ACS) and The Intercultural Council on Cancer (ICC).

Does Fixing Food Deserts Help Fix Obesity?

A number of cities have taken up programs to put more fresh foods into corner stores to improve so-called “food deserts.” Nevin Cohen, an assistant professor at the New School in New York, shares his thoughts on whether having more fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income neighborhoods really affects obesity rates–or if the problem goes beyond access to certain foods.

Click here to download this week’s show. Image courtesy of Inhabitat New York City.

Nevin Cohen is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at The New School,where he teaches courses in urban food systems and environmental studies, including cross-disciplinary courses that connect the fields of policy, urban planning, design, and urban studies. Dr. Cohen’s current research focuses on the development of urban food policy. He has a PhD in Urban Planning from Rutgers University, a Masters in City and Regional Planning from Berkeley, and a BA from Cornell.

Teach A Man To Fish

For Michael McDaniel, fishing runs in the family. He grew up fishing with his grandfather and now he takes his sons to the same spot where he would swing bait when he was little. Reporter Lauren Whaley takes us out on a fishing trip with Michael’s family.

Click here to download this week’s show.
Check out other Californian families that also bond through fishing below:

Lauren M. Whaley is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. She produces audio, photography, video and written stories on topics ranging from childbirth trends to healthcare for low-income seniors. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Outside Magazine as well as on KQED Public Radio and Southern California Public Radio. She serves on the board of the Journalism & Women Symposium (JAWS) and lives with her husband Jake de Grazia, also a radio journalist and photographer.

Blair Wells is a Los Angeles-based photographer whose journey with camera-in-hand began in 2002, using throw-away Kodaks to visually articulate his experience living in Central L.A. His love of documentary photography has led him to capture the face and heart of social issues, including projects featuring post-Katrina New Orleans day-workers, the everyday moments of a Santa Barbara homeless family and health issues of kids living near the Port of Los Angeles. Blair has also organized participatory photography projects involving the deaf community, as well as teenagers with autism. His projects have given participants an opportunity to express themselves in new and profound ways. Through it all, the human condition — the struggles and successes of everyday people — remains the single most compelling subject of his work.