Tag Archives: Latinos

LATINO AMERICANS — A new PBS documentary series in three parts

1949: Four years after the end of World War II. My parents had only recently met. Through dances and other socials like the Annual Armistice Ball, war veterans were finding their future wives and husbands and reintegrating into civilian life. People were celebrating all across the American Empire, from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Puerto Ricans among them. Having served in the American armed forces, they were returning to their families in Puerto Rico or New York, where they became part of the Great Migration.

My mother had established a foothold in New York after working to bring her own mother and most of her siblings stateside from Puerto Rico. In 1949 the first democratically elected Puerto Rican governor took office. Operation Bootstrap, aimed at industrializing the island, was only beginning. My mother Maria Antonia Torres was ready for a new life.

My father Mariano Virgilio Escalona had journeyed from the East after his father, an officer in the Philippine Army, was beheaded during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. He sought new opportunities to help support his mother and siblings from afar. Filipinos have a term for those compatriots who go abroad and provide for their families — balikbayan. My father was a balikbayan when he met my mother.

The history of these times is written on the faces of my Puerto Rican family. Eight of us look Eurasian. My mother’s sisters, Titi Celia and Titi Julia (“titi” means “auntie”), also married Filipinos. People imagine we are related through our Asian side because of the way we look.

My mother and her two sisters jointly purchased a three-story row house on Bryant Avenue in the Bronx, each occupying a floor with her husband and children. We spent the first ten years of our lives together in what might be considered an early co-op. Our households exemplified Puerto Rican matriarchal rule, with our Filipino fathers usually away at sea. Uncles Sammy and Andy were lifers in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard; my dad was in the U.S. Merchant Marines.

The Escalonas occupied the first floor with ready access to the porch and backyard. My brother and I spent a great deal of time playing outdoors. My mother was a strong believer in the health achieved by basking in the sun and breathing fresh air.

The Evangelistas lived on the second-floor. When not in church, my two cousins passed the time on their fire escape and on religious outings. Titi Celia had converted to the Pentecostal faith in the late fifties. My grandmother Uquita, our great matriarch, lived with them.

The Julatons moved into the third floor where the previous owner left an old upright piano. Titi Julia had been married before and brought her four Puerto Rican children to live with her and her four half-Filipino girls. Uncle Andy did not seem to mind. These older cousins sang Doowop and R&B. They played conga, guitar and piano. They taught their younger sisters to sing and dance to the latest Salsa, Soul, and Rock. I still remember the great fiestas Titi Julia threw during the holidays. The entire Torres clan would turn up.

Puerto Ricans thrived in New York. Many moved to the suburbs, others bought homes in Puerto Rico. Six of my aunts and uncles relocated to the island after retiring or saving enough to start a small business. My Uncles Gallardo and Eduardo owned barber shops in the Bronx and returned to Puerto Rico to open shops there.

The Julatons were the first to leave our co-op, returning to Puerto Rico in the late sixties as part of the reverse migration. I was too young to remember their sorrowful farewell, but old enough a decade later to suffer the departure of the Evangelistas. My mother bought her sisters’ shares and eventually lost the property to urban blight. We lived in what came to be known as Fort Apache. It almost cost my parents their lives.

Our neighborhood had been a mix of Jews, Italians, West Indians, African Americans, and ever-increasing Puerto Ricans. My best friend Fishy, Raymond Alvarez, was Puerto Rican and Cuban. He lived across the street from us. Fishy’s father emigrated from Cuba because of growing political unrest there. Most of the homes on our block were privately owned and our street was paved with red brick. Our family doctor made house calls and had his office in a beautifully appointed apartment building at the corner. This was our world before the city’s economic crisis devastated the Bronx.

How different we may have seemed to our neighbors is unclear because the neighborhood was diverse and our family formed its own little society or enclave. We seemed more Puerto Rican than Filipino though we looked Asian. We seemed more American than Puerto Rican because our education and most of our cultural references were American. We enjoyed hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries. We savored meals with platanos maduros, bistec encebollado and arroz con habichuelas. We relished pork adobo, pansit, and ginger chicken soup. When our fathers were home, we feasted on foods from both sides of the empire and some American dishes too. Like New York cut steak, medium rare, with a dash of ketchup, accompanied by slices of buttered French bread, and washed down with ice-cold Seven-Up. A favorite dish of my dad’s and mine too—though today I rarely eat steak or drink soda.

Some of us still live in the Bronx, but all the Puerto Rican-Filipinos are gone. My parents eventually moved to Long Island. I wound up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, going to college. My brother joined the service.

Many who first arrived from Puerto Rico have passed away but not before seeing an increasingly diverse generation of Puerto Rican-Filipinos. My niece and five nephews are Puerto Rican-Filipino and Polish. Most are married and have their own children, adding Mexican and Chinese to the Puerto Rican mix. The history of these times is written on their faces too.

CHECK OUT THE BLOG AND KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THE SERIES: http://www.pbs.org/latino-americans/en/blog/2013/08/29/History-Written-Faces/

Please don’t confuse me with a nigger!

A new poem to address the ignorance of our inner city youth in 2011!
Please publish and share with your contacts
Let us start this year by addressing the word and the pants of our youth:

Please don’t confuse me with a nigger!
By Alberto O. Cappas

Please don’t confuse me with a nigger!
I’m a Black Man; I’m a proud African American;
I’m a Latino; I’m a proud Puerto Rican!
I plan to pursue an appropriate education based on my goals;
As I read years ago, Education is the passport to the future, for
Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.

Please don’t confuse me with a nigger!
Beware of negative images and values,
For what so ever you sow, so shall you reap!
As I learned years ago from a man who reached the mountain top,
I know that today we are not judged by the color of the skin,
But by the content of the character that one displays.
I wear my clothes appropriately, especially my pants,
Let us not be compared!

Please don’t confuse me with a nigger!
Black Men love their women with their heart;
Niggers love women for their bodies;
Black Men use money as an instrument to advance the race;
Niggers use money as a weapon to destroy the youth of the race.

Please don’t confuse me with a nigger!
A nigger comes in all colors;
Take the time and discover the word in the books of history,
And not on the streets of ignorance!
Please, please!
My love ones are my friends, my brothers and my sisters;
They are not my niggers!

Latinos and President Obama’s State of the Union Address

By Angelo Falcón

It’s official. Latinos no longer exist.

Well, that’s the case if you go by President Obama’s very first State of the Union address last night.

The President made no reference to the Latino community, nor did he say anything about Latin America or the political status of Puerto Rico. Most Latinos live in cities, but the President made only one reference to the “inner-city” and said nothing about urban policy (whatever happened to Obama’s urban policy guru appointee Adolfo Carrion?). But to be fair, indirectly, when he chastised the Supreme Court majority about their Citizens United ruling and how it opens the doors for unfettered corporate (and foreign) intervention in American politics, he was probably thinking of Hugo Chavez (and it was nice to see Justice Sotomayor sitting next to a grimacing Justice Alito). Hell, the President didn’t even mention Guantanamo or the 2010 Census!

This, of course, is a totally unfair way to look at the State of the Union speech, because there is some evidence that Latinos do, in fact, exist. And, as the first Black President, he’s got to be careful not to bring too much attention to suspect populations like ours, especially with all the criticisms that have been heaped on him lately. As he triangulated and checked off boxes in his State of the Union, the President was, I am sure, factoring Latinos into everything he spoke about last night.

For those looking for a strong statement in support of comprehensive immigration reform, the speech was a big disappointment. The President explained that, “we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system, to secure our borders, and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nations. In the end, it’s our ideals, our values that built America, values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe, values that drive our citizens still.” That was it.

On civil rights, the President pointed out that, “We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution, the notion that we’re all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law, you should be protected by it, if you adhere to our common values, you should be treated no different than anyone else . . . We must continually renew this promise. My administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination . . . We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate.” That was it.

But on the big picture issues, the questions are how do they impact on the Latino community and how will the Obama Administration engage our community in addressing them. His big theme was job creation and getting across the message that he is listening to the American people on jobs as the priority issue. He outlined a number of tax breaks, investments in education and use of the stimulus monies to create new jobs, recognizing that “these steps won’t make up for the 7 million jobs that we’ve lost over the last two years.” Latinos, by the way, are disproportionately represented among those 7 million.

One of the President’s main messages was to demonstrate how he would be distancing himself from Wall Street and connecting more with Main Street. His call for fees for the biggest banks to recover the federal bailout funding received a standing ovation, as did his plan to use $30 million that the Wall Street banks have repaid to get community banks to make more loans to small businesses and his call for serious financial reform.

But there was a contradictory quality to the various initiatives the President outlined. He proposed new programs that would require new spending, while at the same time saying that he is “prepared to freeze government spending for three years.” The President also threw in a number of initiatives that looked like caving in to his opposition. Tax cuts, “pay as you go” legislation, building nuclear power plants, investing in clean coal, and so on. He announced the ending of the Iraq War by August, one the one hand, and the ramping up of the Afghan War, on the other.

The State of the Union also spoke to efforts to thwart terrorism, comprehensive climate and energy legislation, plans to double exports, the recommendations of his middle class task force, transparency of Congressional earmarks, and even mentioned his continued support for passage of the health insurance reform legislation.

In terms of the politics, the President used this speech to reposition himself differently with the Republicans. He, in the mold of Bill Clinton, sought to co-opt some Republican programs, as well as trying to push Republicans into a corner on issues such as taxing the banks, financial reform, and on the most popular aspects of health care reform. The political paralysis engendered by the filibuster was also highlighted by the President in an attempt to put additional pressure on the Republicans to cooperate.

On both the policy and political aspects of the State of the Union, the Latino community faces many challenges. By being treated publicly like a mistress by the President, Latinos remain almost invisible in these policy debates. This means relying on indirect routes to participation with the Obama Administration and the Congress, and being in the unenviable position of having to trust the President and Congressional leaders when there has been so little to show for doing so in the past. This also means continuing to rely on an “insider” approach to politics in the beltway, while all the Latino base in the barrios and communities throughout the country (and Puerto Rico) see are political stalemates, corruption and secrecy (can you see secrecy?).

This President has appointed the greatest number of Latinos to senior positions in the White House and the rest of the federal government of any President. On the policy issues raised by the President, how will these Latinos within the Administration be working and organizing themselves to assure that the needs of our community are being seriously addressed? At 8 percent, Latinos are probably the most underrepresented community in federal government employment, and so our presence in day to day policy making and implementation in Washington, DC is severely limited. Can the Latino political appointees find ways to compensate for this lack of presence?

On the politics, will the President give some priority to including the Latino leadership in the development of strategies at the highest level, or continue to dole out generalities through a series of teleconferences and “briefings”? What role will the Democratic Party be playing to assure the Latino community that it is no longer taking it for granted? But, most importantly, what will the Latino political and civic leadership be doing to make sure that our community’s voices are heard loud and clear by President Obama and Congressional leadership?

If the level of the discussion on these questions at the recent highly regarded 2010 Latino State of the Union forum by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is any indication, we may not be quite ready for primetime yet. If that’s the case, then we could be blowing a historic opportunity for change big time.

Angelo Falcón is president of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP). He can be contacted at afalcon@latinopolicy.org.


The Center for Puerto Rican Studies
invites you to
Diasporas in Progress: A Celebration of two books

latinos in new england puerto rican diaspora

Wednesday, November 29th
6:30 – 8:00 pm

Hunter College
68th Street and Lexington Avenue
Faculty Dining Room, West 8th Floor

Linda Delgado, Board Member, National Association of Ethnic Studies

Carmen Teresa Whalen, Williams College,
Co-editor of
The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Historical Perspectives

Andres Torres, Researcher
Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenos, Editor of
Latinos in New England

For updated information on Centro Events visit us @ www.centropr.org
or call: 212-772-5714

*Las Octavitas with Zon del Barrio*

*Zon del Barrio* @ G & G

*Fri. 1.12.08*

& A special in-store presentation with *Yomo Toro* in
El Barrio, USA on

*Fri. 1.18.08*

*David Fernandez, Aurora, Yomo Toro & Sammy Rosa: Zon del Barrio*

Twelve days of Christmas??? Not for Latinos, the party continues into *Las Octavitas with Zon del Barrio*.

Saturday, January 12 – Two shows: 11:30 p.m. & 1 a.m.

Gonzalez & Gonzalez
625 Broadway & Lafayette, New York, 10012*

Cost : No Cover

There’s never a cover and there’s even a free dance lesson if you get
there early. But bring your own on2 partner for insurance. There’s also
a mouth watering Mexican cuisine for those who want dinner and a full
bar for the drinkers. Performing dance-style classic Afro-Puerto Rican &
Cuban music from the barrios, *Aurora & Zon del Barrio* bring its foot
stomping, funk-based classic salsa, plena, bomba & boogalu to the
corners of the Barrios where Latinos live, work, & play the “son” found
throughout the Caribbean.

Welcome to the barrio zone; Where History Becomes Music. Come check
out our new members of Zon del Barrio. New Year, New Sound, New Soul….
www.ZondelBarrio.com. Click on our EVENTS page to watch a clip from our
sold out x-mas show with YOMO TORO @ SOBs.