Carmen Tafolla on Empowering Mexican-American Youth Through Writing

Carmen Tafolla is the Poet Laureate of Texas and the author of numerous works of poetry, short stories, and children’s books. She has devoted her year as Poet Laureate to teaching children in the poorest districts in Texas and empowering them to become writers.

She speaks passionately about the importance of creating a literary and educational culture that allows Mexican-American children to fully embrace their identity, and she underscores the importance of positive representations of Mexican-Americans in literature and film. Her poetry is both visceral and thoughtful, and Tafolla often performs these poems in character, allowing an audience to fully experience the poem. As part of this interview, Tafolla performs as Tere, a first-grader who is forced to change the pronunciation of her name.

Featured image of Carmen Tafolla (Photo by Magdalena Yznaga)

Juan Cortina: The Texas Renegade You’ve Never Heard of

One day in Texas in 1859, a man named Juan Cortina happened to be passing by a coffee shop on his horse when he saw the Brownsville sheriff hitting a Mexican man over the head with his pistol. Cortina got off his horse and got into a standoff with the sheriff to defend the farmhand. Cortina ended up shooting the sheriff in the arm and rode away with the farmhand, who happened to be Cortina’s former worker.

This started what became known as the “Cortina Wars” between Mexican landowners and Anglo settlers in Texas. The Mexican landowners were outraged that the white people in the area were attempting to claim their land and Mexican laborers were tired of being discriminated against. So Cortina made his home into the headquarters for the resistance movement for a couple of years.

He was eventually defeated and forced to flee to Mexico City.

Most people have never heard of this “Rio Grande Robin Hood,” but for those who have, many remember him as a hero while others begrudge his violent tactics.

Featured image: Juan Cortina (DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University)

The Risk Of Reaching Dropouts

National estimates say that fewer than 70 percent of Latinos and African Americans graduate high school. In Austin, Texas, there’s a charter school dedicated solely to teaching dropouts and helping them graduate. But the state says the school doesn’t meet academic and financial standards. The school, American Youthworks, is at risk of getting shut down.

 

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urlJoy Diaz has been a reporter with KUT on and off since 2005. Since joining KUT, Joy has covered education, healthcare and immigration. She is now the station’s city reporter. Originally from Mexico, Joy moved to the U.S. in 1998 when her husband Luis was transferred from his job in Mexico City to train workers in a telecommunications plant in Virginia. While there, Joy worked for Roanoke’s NPR station WVTF.

 

 

 

Photo by Joy Diaz

Don’t Mess With Tejanos

“If it weren’t for the Tejano, Texas would be Ohio,” says Andrés Tijerina, a scholar of Texas history at Austin Community College. Tijerina argues that Texas culture – the boots and the hats, the mavericks and mustangs – all traces back to the state’s Mexican and Spanish roots.

 The Spanish first entered the Southwest searching for the seven cities Cíbola, a mythical and wealthy nation believed to exist in the American interior. They found no golden cities, but they did decide to stay and claim the vast territory for Spain.

The Spanish brought cattle ranching and cowboy culture to Texas – many had learned it in the shrublands of Western Spain. The Anglo-Americans who began settling in Texas in the 19th century were adopted Tejano ways. After the Texas War of Independence, those Anglos began to take over Tejano ranches, often murdering whole families and moving on their lands.

Some would call it ethnic cleansing. In this segment, we begin with the story of the search for Cíbola. Then, we speak with scholar Andrés Tijerina about how the narrative around Texas history has long ignored their contributions to the state.

 

 

Andres Tijerina

Andrés Tijerina, a native of Ozona, serves with distinction as Professor of History at the Pinnacle Campus of Austin Community College. He is author of Tejanos and Texas Under the Mexican Flag and Tejano Empire: Life on the South Texas Ranchos, and has edited several other works. Dr. Tijerina is a Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association and an active presenter to gatherings of historians throughout the state. His writings have appeared as chapters, articles, and book reviews in journals ranging from the Southwestern Historical Quarterly to the American Historical Review.

 

 

 

 Photo of Austin’s Tejano Monument, courtesy of Marlon Bishop

Diversity on Trial

Race-conscious admissions policies have opened the college doors for many Latino students. Now, Fisher v University of Texas at Austin, a case soon to be decided by the Supreme Court, may change how schools are allowed to factor in race. Latino USA host María Hinojosa speaks with Angelo Ancheta, a law professor at Santa Clara University and the Counsel of Record for a Friend of the Court brief filed in the Fisher case.

Image courtesy of Flickr.com/SalFalko.

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Angelo N. Ancheta is the director of the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center at Santa Clara University School of Law. He is the former Director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, and the former Executive Director at the Asian Law Caucus. Mr. Ancheta served as the Counsel of Record for the Friend of the Court Brief filed by the American Educational Research Association in the Fisher v University of Texas at Austin case.

NOTICIANDO: DEADLY SOUTH TEXAS

With border enforcement front and center in both immigration reform proposals, security and migration issues are stepping into the limelight. The Washington Office on Latin America found that South Texas was different from other border regions. Senior Associate for Regional Security at WOLA Adam Isacson explains the findings—and reveals the sometimes deadly truths.

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Click here to download this week’s show.

Adam Isacson is a key member of WOLA’s Regional Security Policy team. He is a leading expert on defense, civil-military relations, and U.S. security assistance to the Americas. He collaborates on Just the Facts—a constantly updated source of information and analysis of the United States’ often troubled relationship with Latin America’s militaries. He helped found Just the Facts in the early 1990s.

Mr. Isacson has co-authored dozens of publications, including “Ready, Aim, Foreign Policy” and “Waiting for Change,” which examine the increasing role of the military in U.S. foreign policy. He has testified before Congress on international drug policy, Colombia’s conflict, U.S. military aid programs and human rights, and has organized several congressional delegations to the region.

UPDATE ON “INSIDE WILLACY”

Catherine Rentz, who produced Latino USA’s October 2012 report on sexual assault and other abuses within immigrant detention centers, gives us an update on changes to legislation to report, investigate and prosecute these crimes.

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Click here to download this week’s show.

Catherine Rentz is a reporter and documentary filmmaker in residence at the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University in Washington D.C. She’s produced several documentaries for PBS FRONTLINE about the airline industry, environmental resources, retirement finances, U.S. intelligence apparatus and immigration.

FELIZ HANUKKAH

When Austin resident Trina Hernandez found out her family had Jewish roots, it allowed her to ditch the commercial aspects of Christmas she had long disliked and connect to a tradition she found more meaningful for her and her son.

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Click here to download this week’s show.

Trina Hernandez is a busy madre y esposa and legal assistant by day and a blogger, contributor for Latinometro, and co-director for Austin’s LATISM chapter by night. She is also a proud resident of Austin, TX, sharing everything she experiences within the city. You can always find her on twitter (@atxtrina) or on her couch watching too much TV. And you can definitely always find her at home on Sabbath.

INSIDE WILLACY

Mental health coordinator Twana Cooks-Allen showed up to work at an immigration detention facility intending to treat troubled detainees. But she soon discovered the real threats were not the people locked up there. What happened inside the Willacy detention center in South Texas was so disturbing it sparked 13 special criminal investigations by the Department of Homeland Security. Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa went inside the center, and deep into this case, in a segment produced by Catherine Rentz, in partnership with the PBS show FRONTLINE and the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

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Click here to download this week’s show.

Catherine Rentz is a reporter and documentary filmmaker in residence at the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University in Washington D.C. She’s produced several documentaries for PBS FRONTLINE about the airline industry, environmental resources, retirement finances, U.S. intelligence apparatus and immigration.

SNOWBIRDS

Two sisters from Minnesota who’ve migrated part-time to Texas share their views on immigration from Mexico. This is the second of two reports from the Rio Grande Valley about perspectives on immigration policy, produced by Maria Martin.

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Click here to download this week’s show.

María Emilia Martin is a pioneering public radio journalist with over two dozen awards for her work covering Latino issues and Latin America. She started her career at the first community public radio station owned and operated by Latinos in the U.S. She has developed ground-breaking programs and series for public radio, including NPR’s Latino USA, and Despues de las Guerras: Central America After the Wars. A recipient of Fulbright and Knight Fellowships, she has extensive experience in journalism and radio training, in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia and other countries.