Some believe it is also a state of the heart.
I’m was at a business event in San Antonio when one of the speakers, the head of a local Hispanic chamber of commerce, referred to being Latino as “a state of mind”.
All around me, dozens of people who identify as Latinos nodded in agreement. Many of them have been in Texas for six and even seven generations. They are Americans, they are Texans, and they are on-your-face proud Latinos.
It made me think. How does this happen? Their experience is quite different from mine. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, I visit the island often, my parents live over there. It is easy for me to feel in touch with my Latino roots because I’ve never been too far from them, physically or otherwise. Yet there is no doubt I’m in front of a group of Latinos that are as in touch with their cultural heritage as me even if they’ve never lived in the country of their ancestors. Or so I thought.
I asked my cab driver about this phenomenon on my way back to the airport. I wanted to know how he had been able to keep his cultural identity from getting diluted in the process of assimilation. Adolfo, the driver, gave me a confused look.
“As opposed to becoming what?” he said. “Most of us were here before anyone else arrived.” His own family, he said, has been in the San Antonio area for as long as he can trace his family tree. “We are Texans. We are Latinos. We are Americans. ”
In a few words, Adolfo had defined a true melting pot experience as one in which all of the elements of who we are come together in perfect harmony. None supersedes the other. There is no need to give anything up. Assimilation doesn’t mean loss of identity, as millions of Latinos in this country have shown the world.
As Adolfo’s cab pulled away from the airport’s curbside, it occurred to me that his taxi is a metaphor of who he is. On his dashboard, a plastic statue of the Virgen de la Guadalupe watched over him. On his bumper, a “Don’t Mess with Texas” sticker declared him a proud son of the Lone Star state. Is being Latino a state of mind? Perhaps so. But for Adolfo and many others it is also a state of the heart.
Her decision is brave and correct. Unfortunately, many American women don't have access to the potentially life-saving test that guided Jolie's decision.
Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy in light of her abnormally high chances to develop breast cancer is courageous, and so are the thousands of women in this country that are battling breast cancer without the resources that Jolie has.
Many of them are Latinas because breast cancer doesn’t discriminate. Every year, more Latinas die of breast cancer than of any other form of cancer.
Jolie explained Tuesday in a New York Times column she penned that she made the difficult decision –she called it her “medical choice”- after a genetic test confirmed that she carried a mutation that causes cancer. In her case, she said, the chances of developing the disease were 87 percent.
One of the finest points Jolie makes in her editorial deals with the issue of access. Fortunately for her, receiving and paying for the best medical care isn’t a problem. That’s not the case for many women in this country and around the world.
“Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries,” writes Jolie. “It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 [the genetic testing she underwent], at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women.”
Cancer is one of those ugly diseases that expose the disparities that still exist in our country. Consider this. The National Cancer Institute says that even though white American women are more likely to develop the disease, Hispanics and blacks are more likely to die from it. Economics and access to care easily explain the disparity. Minority women often discover they have the disease when it is at a more advanced stage. Regular mammograms, not to even mention genetic testing, is out of their reach.
With her revelation Jolie, who has long being a champion for many humanitarian causes, opens a national discussion on the politics of health in this country beyond Obamacare and Washington. It’s not about the politicians. This is about women putting their bodies through hell as they battle cancer so they can see their kids graduate from high-school, make it to their wedding, see their grandchildren. These women are warriors. All of them deserve the same fair chance to beat the illness that Jolie has.
As the story of the three Ohio women kept in captivity for a decade unfolded, I watched in horror the Puerto Rican flag sway in the porch of suspected kidnapper Ariel Castro. I was angry, ashamed even.
I was not alone. My social media Latino friends, especially those of Puerto Rican descent, were not just upset and disgusted about the crime but also saddened the suspect was one of us. Their blunt comments for the alleged aggressor aren’t suited for publication. But many of them were ready to dispense justice for Amanda Berry, Gina De Jesús and Michelle Knight.
The fact is that same connecting thread that transmits joy and pride when one of our own achieves, also carries anger and shame when stories like the one from Cleveland develop. It isn’t rational – I understand that psychopaths come in all ethnicities. But that doesn’t spare me that punch-to-the-gut feeling.
It has to do in part with that sense of community that binds us even stronger when we are away from the homeland. The cadences of the native tongue, the smells of the food we grew up with, and the sounds of the music to which we learned to dance, becomes the glue that holds us together in our new country. We share all of those things with each other, and we view those that understand that code as equals in many respects. We expect from those almost relatives (given our broad definition of family), the same things we expect from those closest to our hearts. We expect them to do no harm, work hard, be kind, make a difference in the world, and make us proud.
And then there’s the albatross of racism. The minute I saw that flag I knew that plenty of ignorant comments would ensue. There are already pundits using the Castro brothers as reasons why Congress should be careful when considering immigration reform, notwithstanding that Puerto Ricans are American citizens.
Thus, when something like this happens we feel shame, anger and sadness. It is as if we would’ve been betrayed. We know we can’t control the actions of strangers any more we can control what the people close to us do, but that doesn’t make it better.
I wish with all of my heart that these young women –Amanda Berry, Gina De Jesús and Michelle can heal, move forward and thrive. I sure hope as well that Castro –if guilty of this heinous crime- pays for it dearly.
The story of Maxima Zorreguieta, the Argentinean woman who on Tuesday became queen of The Netherlands is the latest distraction disguised as news that occupies many Latino news outlets and minds, including mine. I just can’t resist it. Sometimes a completely devoid of real importance event is too delicious to let it slip by in a world full of horrible deadlines.
This one has the drama and details of a good ole’ telenovela. Máxima is the daughter of a man who was a high-level official during Argentina’s last military dictatorship, in which thousands were killed, tortured or both. Argentina is still reeling in from the atrocities of the regime. As such, and the Dutch being so politically correct, he wasn’t allowed to set foot in the country to watch his daughter be crowned alongside her husband, now King Willem Alexander. The father had to watch the historic moment from the comfort of his luxurious apartment in one of Buenos Aires most exclusive zones. What a shame. I wonder if he was drinking a deliciously ripe Malbec.
And then there’s the impossible love story, in which everything falls quickly in place as if arranged by the Grimm brothers. Prince Charming meets would-be-princess at a party in Spain in 2001. She is a drop-dead gorgeous blonde, highly educated and wealthy. She comes from an exotic land of deserts, mountains and glaciers. He gets her phone number and three weeks later he is flying across the Atlantic to meet with her in New York, where she lived at the time. The romance moves fast. Willem advocates in Máxima’s favor so that she may remain a Catholic in a Calvinist country, and a year later they get married. (The father of the bride isn’t allowed to attend the wedding either.)
A year-and-a-half later they had the first of three daughters. The other two came in rapid succession. With the future royal family completed, Máxima and Willem moved full force into preparing themselves to be king and queen. She learned the language, history and culture; he rose through ranks in the military and took an active role in the royal house, becoming his mother’s right hand. She is now Princess Beatrix after abdicating the throne at age 75 for her son to be the new monarch.
But no fairy tale is complete without a dose of tragedy. Absent from Tuesday’s crowning ceremony was Willem’s brother, Friso, who is in a coma since February of last year when he was trapped under a snow avalanche while skiing in Austria.
Argentina and Holland will celebrate their new king and queen for days. You know, that old symbol of power and political prominence that no longer means any of that although you would think those celebrating missed that memo.
With that, I hope to be able to move on tomorrow to more relevant news.
Target’s recent marketing faux pas may be funny, but it has caused national ridicule to the retailer. The incident highlights all the reasons why corporate America should do a better job diversifying its top players.
In case you missed it, Target named a style of sandal in its Mossimo line “Orina.” Yep, you’re reading that right. That sandal’s name in Spanish would be ‘urine.’ Many in its army of hourly workers noticed right away what a terrible choice of a name that was (diversity is hardly an issue on corporate America’s frontlines). But by then it was too late. It was at the top, as the marketing strategy was drafted and executed, that diversity appears to have been amiss.
It is hard to accept this snafu as one of those we-all-make-mistakes incidents because in a nation with 55 million Latinos it doesn’t make any sense for Target not to have a few qualified ones in its marketing department. One would think, that as eager as every industry is to sell us goods, big chains like Target would invest better –not necessarily more- in understanding us.
By now, one would think marketers have learned their lesson. So, what the heck happened with Target?
News reports say that the retail giant was going for fancy. ”Orina,” as it turns out, is also a Greek name equivalent to Irene. And, again, here is where a diverse executive crew that included Latinos would’ve come in handy. It would’ve been able to bring context and perspective into the mix and say, “Yeah, it also means pipi.” The room would’ve exploded in laughter, the joke would’ve been told at the next office party, but they would’ve saved themselves from national embarrassment.
For now, the store has been covering the “Orina” label on shoeboxes and has pulled down all signage that contains the word. They should also be hiring Latino marketing professionals.
The economy isn’t back in full swing but Latino entrepreneurs are on the rise, a recently released study reveals.
Hispanics entrepreneurs have nearly doubled since the 1990s, states a Kauffman Foundation study, going from 11 percent of all new business owners in 1996 to 20 percent in 2012. This increase makes Latinos the group with the largest number of entrepreneur per capita, or 400 out of every 100,000 adults.
The study attributes these numbers to the obvious: the shifting demographics of the country. The diversification of the U.S. population is being reflected on its industries and businesses. Not surprisingly, sates with a large influx of Latinos like Florida, Texas, California and Colorado saw some of the biggest Hispanic entrepreneurship jumps.
Historically, immigrants have embraced the risk of entrepreneurship with resignation because they have nothing to lose. Places like New York, Texas, California and Florida are full of stories of success of people who arrived with nothing but the shirt they were wearing. Hard work, hope and a can-do attitude propelled them. That same spirit is alive today's new immigration waves.
When immigrants serve their communities, they also empower them. It is a win-win. Immigrants, overall, now represent 27 percent of all new businesses, more than one in four. That is up from 13 percent in 1996.
White entrepreneurs represent 62 percent of business ventures, or 290 people per every 100,000 people, and black are at a nine percent, or 310 individuals per every 100,000.
How doe one act Hispanic? Apparently, you eat more Doritos or something like that.
Texas GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert, the congressman who brought us “terrorist babies,” now brings us adult terrorists being trained to “act Hispanic.”
Is your head spinning yet? Take a deep breath, I’m going to try to simplify both concepts for you right here.
As to the terrorist babies, a controversial concept Gohmert introduced in 2010, it refers to a plan he supposedly uncovered in which terrorist organizations would infiltrate pregnant women in the U.S. so they could give birth here. They would take those American babies back to Terroristland and train them to destroy us. Once of age, they would come back with their American passports and cause havoc. See? It is simple and brilliant (and also a total fallacy).
This past week, Gohmert seized on the Boston bombing to warn us yet again about the danger of immigrants. We ought to be careful and protect our border better, he said, because Al Qaeda has camps on the other side of the Mexican border and is training people “to come in and act like Hispanic (sic).” He didn’t cite his source. Apparently, the fact that he says so should suffice even though his accuracy record so far is lacking.
Nevertheless, this is a fascinating proposition. I couldn’t resist the urge to take a temperature reading from my Facebook friends and see what they thought of Gohmert’s comments. I also asked, how does one “act” Hispanic? My friends had no problem answering that.
“Easy, you eat lots of rice and beans and talk really loud,” said one of them. “Talk with your hands and point with your lips,” said Rebeca, another friend.
“You incorporate pork into as many dishes as possible,” said Aixa. (In fact, this last one may be the ultimate proof that a radical Islamic jihadist has been acculturated.) She also suggested eating more Doritos.
If my friends’ answers seem outlandish it is because I posed an impossible question that calls for hyperbole to illustrate its stupidity. Gohmert isn’t concerned about acculturation camps that seek to capitalize in the physical resemblances between Arabs and Latinos. He is worried that potential immigration reform would legally let in more brown-skinned people and he’s desperately trying to find an angle that justifies his bias.
The heroes among us look nothing like Superman and more like you and I.
Carlos Arredondo shook like a leaf as he told a camera what he had just been a part of. He was near the finish line at the Boston marathon on Monday when the bombs went off. He saw “blood and limbs everywhere” and amid the chaos, a young man bleeding profusely, most of his legs gone from the knees down.
“I stopped to help,” Arredondo said in an interview apparently shot by a bystander now on the liveleak.comsite. “I was telling him ‘you will be all right’… stay with me.”
Arredondo, a Costa Rican immigrant, tried his best to stop the bleeding. A picture now famous (shown here cropped because of its graphic content) shows him pinching the wounded man’s artery with his hand as the patient is wheeled to an ambulance. He was later identified as 27-year-old Jeff Bauman.
Arredondo’s heroic actions were not unique. Many in Boston launched themselves into the mayhem to help, comfort, and rescue others. But Arredondo’s own personal history is a testimony to what the human spirit can achieve when it rises above its own pain and imperfections.
This is not Arredondo’s first encounter with sudden fame and media attention. He made headlines 2004 when military personnel came to his house near Fort Lauderdale to tell him that his eldest son, Alexander, had been killed in Iraq. He screamed in disbelief and became distraught over the course of 30 minutes, then locked himself in a van with five gallons of gasoline and set it on fire.
He sustained burns on 26 percent of his body, survived and became a full-time antiwar activist quitting his job to appear in protests all over the country.
More tragedies were to follow. In 2011, his youngest son Brian, who had struggled with depression since his brother died, committed suicide.
Arredondo, who became an American citizen in 2006, was at the finish line on Monday with his wife supporting five runners doing the marathon in his son’s honor and other fallen soldiers. The bombs, his wife said, brought back the memories of their sons’ death. But as agitated as Arredondo was, he worked through his pain and scars to save a life.
The most difficult thing for him was not been able to help more people. Many of the wounded around him were begging for help.
“But I had to focus on this young man,” he said. In the midst of a horrendous act we were once again reminded that the heroes among us look nothing like Superman but a heck of a lot more like you and I.