Posts by: Julito

If Only Puerto Rico Could Learn from Scotland

If Only Puerto Rico Could Learn from Scotland

Now that Scotland has decided to remain a part of the United Kingdom by saying “no” to a very simple question, “Should Scotland become an independent country?, the wall-to-wall global news coverage of the country’s historic referendum will surely subside. By last week before the vote, everyone I knew in my media circles was talking about the vote, analyzing its implications and sounding like political status experts (even my Boston Irish mother-in-law had opinions). It clearly showed that when it comes to matters of status and independence, the U.S. media has an extreme Anglo bias. People in the United States were into it. People in social media were into it. It was 24/7 all Scotland, all the time. What do to now that the vote is done?

Imagine if the global media could now “go Scotland” when it comes to Puerto Rico, where the issues of self-determination, political identity and status have been playing on a constant loop ever since U.S. forces landed on the island’s southern coast in 1898. Close to 8 million Puerto Ricans are spread across the island and the U.S. mainland, making the population the second largest group in Latino USA. No matter how you spin it, it is clear that Puerto Ricans live in a spiral of paradoxes: on the island, they lack basic rights for U.S. citizens, and on the mainland, as one Latino Rebels contributor so aptly put it once, they live a “special immigrant status.” The paradoxical limbo is a product of too many forces: a colonial mentality that has seeped into Puerto Ricans’ psyche (whether they believe it or not); a territorial colonial status stuck in a 20th century world that no longer applies to the new challenges of the 21st century; mediocre politicians from all sides of the status aisles (status quo, statehooders, independentistas) who continue to promote their own status interests to feed into the cottage industry that is the status question (five referendum votes since 1968!); a U.S. Congress that doesn’t care because it doesn’t want to care (colonial masters at their finest) and a President who has no problem weighing in on Scotland but when it comes to addressing the rights of fellow U.S. citizens, barely a talking point or two.


It’s as if every internal and external voice is daring Puerto Ricans to take the matter into their own hands. And by that, I don’t mean relying on the island’s status quo governor (a Democrat), its pro-statehood Resident Commissioner (another Democrat who has no vote in Congress—how’s that for powerless) or those in the island’s independence movement, who promote a 1960s narrative to a 2014 population that is weary of the message. Island leaders will never cut it any more, and if Puerto Rico wants to get the attention that Scotland got, Puerto Ricans must do something different. And quickly. (At this stage, here is the part all defenders of the current strategies will tell me that Puerto Rico is not Scotland, that it lacks a voice, economic power, etc. All those arguments just fall into the same colonial traps of thinking small or only focusing on your own interests.)

What needs to happen in Puerto Rico is so simple: put Puerto Rico first. Work together as Puerto Ricans (from the island to the diaspora) to create a binding Scotland-like binding referendum. The question would be simple: “What do you favor for Puerto Rico? X Statehood X Independence.” Done. Nothing more. Nothing less. No more talk of a “commonwealth” system, whether it is the current status quo (which was rejected in 2012) or some bizarre “enhanced” concoction that is as complex as the IRS code.

I have been saying this for the past few years and I strongly believe that it is the only solution that unifies Puerto Ricans to work together and get it done. It is bold. It will upset many. But it will get attention, since it would be coming from a united people who care first for the island. And by the way, I am not the only one saying this. That same Latino Rebels contributor I referenced before? He agrees that we should begin a real “Scotland-like” discussion about Puerto Rico.

If more Puerto Ricans can connect those dots, then we will have something. In fact, a new commentary published earlier today by the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) said it best: “The Scots taught us that a clear and viable message, intense organizing, and a keen understanding of community are grounds on which the future can be built.” Conversely, another opinion piece makes the same mistake so many in the Status Cottage Industry have made for years.

Because quite frankly, no one is paying attention to Puerto Rico when it comes to the island’s political future. The Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, has already presented statehood bills to Congress, and guess what… no one cares.

The current governor continues to deflect the issue because of the island’s economic problems, but he fails to acknowledge that such a colonial system is why were are in this mess in the first place. Instead, Governor Alejandro García Padilla is getting slammed by the American Future Fund for being a place that is “not a safe place to invest.”

You would think that García Padilla and Pierluisi, both Democrats, would look at each other and admit that these attacks on Puerto Rico just need to stop. You would think that they and others would fight back hard, with the notion that you need to put Puerto Rico first. But this is what happens when colonial minds rule. You can’t upset the big U.S. apple cart. The colonial master won’t allow it.

Besides, you have to keep the Status Cottage Industry churning along.

Memo to all: the United States does not care about Puerto Rico. Except those who run hedge funds. Now what are you going to do about it? (And yes, this one is specifically directed to those U.S. members of Congress who ARE Puerto Rican.)

What if we saw real actual debates, real conversations, instead of the typical shallow-minded game that has happened for years and continues to happen? Listen, as with any Puerto Rican family, I have people from all sides of the debate. I have fervent statehooders. I have fervent independentistas. Yes, I even have people who defend the current colonial system. Our debates are intense and they go way back (just Google my great-uncle). Yet, in the end, everyone in my family and everyone I know who is Puerto Rican care deeply for the future of the island. They are Puerto Ricans first, (insert status choice) supporters second.

It is time for all of us to be “Puerto Ricans first.” Status comes later. Enough with the ambiguity and the excuses. There is nothing stopping us from trying to establish a real, tangible and binding referendum similar to that of Scotland’s. There is nothing stopping us from capturing the imagination of the global consciousness.

The only thing that really stopping us?


One binding vote. Statehood or independence. It’s pretty simple. Now let’s make it happen.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.

Why Does the White House Continue to Play Political Games with U.S. Latino Voters?

Why Does the White House Continue to Play Political Games with U.S. Latino Voters?

I am fully aware that by the time I finish writing this piece and you will finish reading it, some will a. accuse me of working for neo-nativist Republican Rep. Steve King (not true) or b. tell me I have no brain and that I should step in line or else I am I just promoting Latino voter apathy (so not true). Such is the price one pays when you try to try to go beyond the pre-packaged talking points so neatly prepared by political parties and regurgitated by the masses because, hey, that’s what the modern American world is about: here is the message, embrace it, don’t question it and keep it down.


This is exactly what is happening just two weeks after President Obama spoke with NBC’s Chuck Todd on September 6. When Todd asked the President why he has now decided to back off a June 30 vow on immigration (“While I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the excuses and act — and I hope their constituents will, too — America cannot wait forever for them to act.” and “I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.”), this is the answer the President gave him: blame it on the rise of unaccompanied minors coming into the United States from Central America.

The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem. I want to spend some time, even as we’re getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we’re doing this, why it’s the right thing for the American people, why it’s the right thing for the American economy.

Such comments led to (and I am putting it mildly), serious outrage from the immigration world I cover as a journalist and opinion writer. And while others have already written about the President’s shameful politicking when it comes to a refugee crisis, the White House —maybe fully aware that the decision would infuriate politically engaged Latinos— has begun to paint a different picture that would contradict the President’s September 6 statements and suggest that the White House truly doesn’t care about rallying a devoted base (campaigning 101: when you want to get out the vote, you play to win, not play to avoid losing) in the midterms.

Exhibit A: Just five days after Obama’s comments to Todd, this news broke: “Obama administration sharply reduces number of deportations.” Anyone who follows the U.S. Latino community knows that the moniker “Deporter in Chief” has become an embarrassing stain on Obama’s “Sí se puede” mythology. Yet here was the data to tone down that notion. The Obama administration was finally stepping away from the removal “of more than 2.1 million immigrants.” (Sidenote: the figures from Syracuse’s nonpartisan TRAC system provide more data that should also be examined along with official DHS stats.) Such a “victory” would counter the midsummer politics shift the President was suggesting. Statistics the White House could parade out to the world, and have another high-profile interview with Todd on this news. (“Chuck, I am listening to what the Latino community is telling me. I know that my administration’s actions have separated countless of families. I agree, the American people agree, that this just needs to stop.”) That interview, of course, would never happen, because in the end, the President would be seen as “soft” on border security from Republicans, and such messaging will make fearful Democrats even more fearful. And why actually get a key part of your base hopeful about this news? Play to avoid losing, don’t play to win.

Exhibit B: This past Monday, the White House published a blog post from Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. According to Kerlikowske:

The President and his Administration responded with an aggressive, coordinated Federal response focused on stepped up deterrence, enhanced enforcement, stronger foreign cooperation, and greater capacity for affected Federal agencies to ensure that our border remained secure. As a result, and as Secretary Jeh Johnson reported last week, the number of Central American migrants trying to illegally cross the Southwest border continues to decline including unaccompanied children and families.

This is good news. We are not declaring victory, and we aren’t going to take our foot off the gas; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) remains prepared. We will remain vigilant and continue to aggressively work to deter future increases and address the influx on both sides of the border with our Central American partners.

In case you want to see that progress, Kerlikowske added these charts:



He also wanted to remind us about this:


And this:


Finally, Kerlikowske tell us:

But unfortunately, we’ve had to do all of this without any help from Congress. After failing to pass an immigration reform bill, in late July Congress refused to authorize additional resources requested by the President to manage this most recent influx while keeping our border secure. And as a result, DHS has had to shift resources away from enforcement activities in lower priority areas to surge resources to the border. Support for this strategy and the DHS Secretary’s supplemental request —including efforts to support deterrence efforts— remains critical to managing this humanitarian situation now and achieving longer-term progress in stemming the flow of Central American migrants in the future.

Now without getting into the historical and political issues behind the “surge” of unaccompanied minors, wouldn’t you think that all this data from Kerlikowske, published nine days after President Obama told Todd that “the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem,” would be exactly the information the White House would like the publicize even more? If the White House wants to show that it is succeeding with the unaccompanied minor crisis, why limit such news to a blog post? Wouldn’t this type of information be helpful to fight how Republicans have falsely portrayed the crisis? Couldn’t they use this information to fight back ridiculous Republican rhetoric? More data to get your base excited for the midterms?

Play to avoid losing, instead of playing to win.

Meanwhile, the spinning from the White House and the core of Obamaístas is being manufactured 24/7, especially since it’s Hispandering Heritage Month.

The new allegation from the Obamaístas is that undocumented activists all over the country are telling Latinos to not vote this November. When pressed for actual specifics about who is telling people to not vote, little gets shared or revealed. Having read countless of articles and tweets about this matter (it’s getting ugly out there, by the way), this is the only statement I could find about specifically urging Latinos to not vote:

Obama’s latest political game demonstrates clearly that the Democratic Party is choosing to fight for another potentially fruitless term in office at the expense of our lives and families. In Arizona, we have learned that our community’s bravery far surpasses that of any elected official. With the announcement of the President’s cowardly delay on immigration relief, our support for the Democratic Party cannot be taken for granted. Without affirmative relief for our families, we are calling for a boycott of the vote. We cannot support a party that is destroying our families.”
Carlos Garcia, Puente Arizona

One organization. One opinion. (UPDATE, September 20, 2014: Prominent DREAMer activist told NBC News the following: “We’re not doing anything like that this year [meaning voter registration]. I think it’s very troubling for us to go out and ask people to vote.”)

Instead, I read more that Latino voters are frustrated, not enthused and are done with the politics of both Democrats and Republicans. Young Latino voters are walking away from Democrats because of the Obama administration’s deportation record. Which would make sense if you begin to realize that 51% of U.S. Latino voters considered themselves independent in a 2012 poll.

But, the Obamaístas tell you, Latinos don’t vote. They’re apathetic. They don’t understand the political process. They are being manipulated. They are not smart, perceptive or intelligent. This is the United States, not Latin America. They are allowing Obama to be controlled by Republican messaging. We must help save our President, they tell us.

Even Dolores Huerta is telling Latino voters to wait.

We have to look at the big picture and don’t get caught up in saying we want it now. We’ve been waiting—we are a community that can wait. And we have to have faith in our president, because the Republicans have shown their hand. We know what they want to do.”

All that type of critique is insulting. Latinos are more informed than you think. Politicians know that any election is about mobilizing your base, getting the electorate excited. Democratic leaders have made their decision and that’s fine. However, a September 8 Latino Decisions poll asks this very simple question: “Did Dems miss an opportunity for Latino mobilization?” The short answer: yes. The long answer: Latino voters have been getting played for years. Basta ya.


Then there is this:

Such insight is very likely the reason why someone like Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) said this in a September 16 story:

It makes the job harder for me to generate enthusiasm among Americans to vote at all, let alone enthusiasm for voting for Democrats when there are members of my own party asking the president to hold his pen and his phone in abeyance until after voters vote.

But hey, we Latinos have to be patient. We have to wait. Let’s register voters (a good thing) and get out the vote (much harder to do when people aren’t excited). Sure, that is noble and necessary and sends a message to both parties that U.S. Latinos numbers are growing, but I still believe that the President’s political games with immigration are currently out-trumping the prospect of a all-GOP Senate. People will still vote, but to assume that they should vote for the party that they have been dating for years but continues to break your heart because you know… evil Republicans… just doesn’t cut it any more. Democrats have lost that message a long time ago when it comes to immigration. Imagine if they actually fought back when they had the chance.

Politically engaged Latinos have every right to express their own opinion, to think they way they want to think, to question and challenge why the White House and certain factors of the Democratic party would rather detain and separate Latino immigrants than work tirelessly and with conviction to do the right thing.

Add to the fact that the White House continues to send mixed messages about immigration narratives (see Exhibits A and B), and you wonder why more and more Latinos aren’t so into Obama these days.

With all due respect to Huerta and others who are lecturing those to wait and not rock the boat because it could provide catastrophic results for U.S. Latinos, all we have done is “wait.” 2007. 2008. 2009. 2010. 2012. 2013. And now 2014. How much more waiting is needed?

In the end, the White House has decided (once again) to not “grow a backbone” when it comes to immigration and anyone who raises this issue (hello, Congressional Hispanic Caucus) gets sent to the corner. Being told to go and vote for the Democrats after another broken promesa when the White House is trying (once again) to sweep immigration under the rug is not getting people excited. In addition, blaming the angry Republicans constantly is like saying your dog ate your homework again and again and again.

Latinos will likely vote during the coming midterms and they might even make a difference in certain Senate races (Colorado, North Carolina and Kansas come to mind), but the majority of Latinos I know will vote with their conscience and not because one party is not as awful as the other one. Last time I checked, votes are earned not expected.

If that is idealistic and out of touch with the brutal politics of elections, good. Let the strategists slam me because that’s their job (hence the term “paid operatives”). Tell me I am just killing any chance of Obama passing immigration reform. It’s only been six years and counting, and everyone knows that after a certain point, only fools will deny that we are on never-ending journey that so far shows no clear direction or resolution.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.

Villanova Sociologists Publish Working Paper Refuting Nate Cohn’s ‘White Latino’ NYTimes Conclusions

Villanova Sociologists Publish Working Paper Refuting Nate Cohn’s ‘White Latino’ NYTimes Conclusions

Earlier this week, I received an email from Lance Hannon, a Professor of Sociology at Villanova University. Professor Hannon wanted to let me know that he and Robert DeFina, Professor and Chairperson of Villanova’s Department of Sociology and Criminology, had just published a working paper entitled, “Controversy in the Sociological Meaning of Changes in Latino Racial Self-Identification,” in response to the controversy generated by New York Times Upshot writer Nate Cohn that more and more U.S. Latinos were becoming white in this country.

Controversy in the Sociological Meaning of Changes in Latino Racial Self-Identification

The paper cited a few posts from (our group’s work was mentioned in the first paragraph), saying the responses by our contributors “sounded rather technical, like something that one might read in a social science methods textbook.” (I took that as a compliment.) Nonetheless, the Villanova paper utilized some of our key critiques (and those of others) to conclude that writers like Cohn completely missed the mark on this topic.

Via NY Times

Via NY Times

To cite the paper’s main conclusion (pp. 1–2):

We believe that this critique offers important lessons for a burgeoning body of sociological research on racial fluidity. As did Cohn, sociologists have tended to over-theorize shifts in racial identity and have not given appropriate attention to the more mundane but very real possibility of measurement error. At a more conceptual level, we think that sociologists interested in fluidity need to grapple with the notion that racial identity choices can vary both in the content of one’s stated belief and the degree to which one meaningfully believes it.

In addition to our conceptual critique, we conducted an empirical analysis using data from the highly regarded General Social Survey (GSS). Importantly, the dataset contains information on racial self-identification for Latinos where the questions about race were asked in the same way across time periods to the same individuals. That consistency in question wording over time allows us to make the apples-to-apples comparison that is needed to draw sensible conclusions.

Consistent with the notion that racial identity is less defined for Latinos than other groups, analysis of the GSS data revealed that 39.2% of the Latino sample changed their chosen race at least once within just a 4-year period (compared to only 2.6% of the non-Latino sample). We argue that the fact that so many Latinos changed their answer within such a short timespan implies that it is highly unlikely that the dynamic is driven by personal identity transformations associated with changes in social status. Moreover, at the end of that short timespan about the same proportion of Latinos identified as white as in the beginning, since many individuals were simply vacillating back and forth between “other” and “white.” Additionally, looking directly at an attitudinal question in the GSS, it appears that, if anything, Latinos feel significantly less close to whites than they did a decade ago. All of these results suggest that claims of a new trend of Latino assimilation into whiteness are premature.

“All of these results suggest that claims of a new trend of Latino assimilation into whiteness are premature.”

The paper also summarized a series of tweets I received earlier this year that fully capture the main issue:


Later, the professors write the following: “In our opinion, it is crucially important to distinguish between cases where people switch from one strongly embraced identity to another from instances where the term ‘fluidity’ could easily be replaced with ‘ambivalence.’ (p. 5)” They also include this on pages 7 and 8:

Has there been a significant increase in Latino identification as white?
In 2000, 55.9% of Latinos in the GSS (n=229) listed “white” as their race. In 2010, 53.0% of Latinos in the GSS (n=256) selected “white” as their race. In contrast to results using Census data (where the race question is different in 2000 than in 2010), the GSS (where the race 8question is the same in 2000 and 2010) does not suggest a trend toward whitening among Latinos.

Are Latinos feeling closer to whites?
The GSS includes a question that asks respondents to rate their closeness to whites on a nine- point scale with 1 indicating “Not close at all” and 9 indicating “Very close.” This item has been used in dozens of social science studies on trends in racial integration (e.g., Bobo et al. 2009). In 2000, the average score for the closeness-to-white variable among Latinos was 6.64 (n=152). In 2010, the average score was 6.03 (n=151). Alternatively described, 61.2% of Latinos indicated a value on the “close” side of the scale (above 5) in 2000 while only 48.7% of Latinos did so in 2010. Therefore, these results actually imply less assimilation into whiteness among Latinos for the 2000 to 2010 period (see Figure 1).


Just as other academics wrote, the Villanova professors emphasize that Cohn’s initial piece (and his eventual doubling down of his own faulty conclusions) lacked the complex nuances regarding the messiness of U.S. Latino identity. This Villanova working paper is just the latest example of what has become a series of must-read papers to refute Cohn’s reporting and question why Cohn made his conclusions in the first place.

I said it before and I will say it again: when the New York Times lacks the editorial diversity to understand these very real nuances, there is a danger to misreport and misrepresent.

It is encouraging to see more and more academics understand why Cohn’s piece was highly problematic in the first place and why reporters need to be more responsible.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.

18-Year-Old DREAMer Removed from Paul Ryan Event at Ronald Reagan Library (VIDEO)

18-Year-Old DREAMer Removed from Paul Ryan Event at Ronald Reagan Library (VIDEO)

Last night, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was the featured speaker at a dinner, lecture and book signing hosted by The Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA.


A group of veterans from the American GI Forum of California and immigrant rights activists (sponsored by SEIU, CHIRLA and Mi familia vota) attended the event together. Members of the group also bought Ryan’s book to have him sign it. While the veterans gave Ryan a letter about why Ryan voted to defund Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) earlier this month, one DREAMer who was part of the same group, Yamilex Rustrian, got this reception from Ryan as she was about to pose for a picture with the Wisconsin Republican:

Rustrian (approaching Ryan): Umm… I a DACA student…

Ryan (backing way from Rustrian): Oh, wait, I’m not doing DACA student protesting today, I apologize, here you go. They’re going to have to take you.

Female voice: So we’re going to go right up this way…

Male voice: This way, m’am…

Rustrian (walking away): Thank you so much.

Other voice: We’re going to ask you to exit right this…

Rustrian is 18 years old and the founder of Kids Over Politics, an organization calling attention to the rise of unaccompanied minors from Central American to the United States. She attends California State University Northridge, and left Guatemala 11 years ago when her father was murdered. This is her story.

According to those who were with Rustrian last night in Simi Valley, Rustrian wanted to ask Ryan a few questions: 1) to explain his stance to fast-track the the deportation of Central American migrants and 2) to explain why he voted to defund DACA, given that Ryan is a potential presidential candidate in 2016. Just days before his exchange with Rustrian, Ryan was confronted by another DREAmer at a book signing in Florida. Last week in Chicago, immigrant activists protested a Ryan book talk.

Once Rustrian was escorted out (along with others in her group, except for the veterans), the person who filmed the exchange between her and Ryan, Unai Montes-Ireste of SEIU, was physically removed, according to an account he shared via phone. Montes-Ireste published the following video on his Facebook page last night, which happened just minutes after Rustrian was removed from the book signing line.

On his Facebook page, Montes-Ireste said the following: “Agent Zimmer said he was the head of Security for the Library and Officer Muller said he was head of the police detail. I was physically restricted and removed by armed officers who threatened me with arrest for trespassing event though I was wearing an event badge entitling me to access to the dinner, lecture and book signing.” Montes-Ireste also said via phone that security actively sought others in Rustrian’s group and removed them from the event as well, even though the members of the group were not standing together.

Messages to several numbers at the Reagan Library were left this afternoon.

In an email received this afternoon, Rustrian shared the following about her exchange with Ryan:

How did you get into the event?
Rustrian: Yesterday my friend Unai from SEIU and I drove for about an hour or so to Simi Valley to attend the event Mr. Paul Ryan was having in the Ronald Reagan library. We arrived at 5:00 PM and we had to wait in two lines after his speech to get our books signed. I waited patiently while Mr.Paul Ryan did his speech. I didn’t shout or insult him while he spoke.

What did you do to get on the book line?
Rustrian: I went through an hour wait to get my book signed. There were multiple lines but I though the wait would be worth it because I needed an answer to my question.

What happened exactly in the video and what happened after?
Rustrian: I introduced myself to Mr. Paul Ryan, I said my name and said I was a DACA student and need to ask him a question. In the video you can hear him say “I’m not doing DACA protesting today.” I never disrespected him or shouted and he decided to throw me out and not even give me the chance to ask him my question. My friend Unai who drove me to the event was physically removed with armed officers wearing bulletproof vests, though Unai was waiting in line.

What did you think of Rep. Ryan’s reaction?
Rustrian: How can someone who wants to be president not take the time to answer a question from an 18-year-old college student studying political science? He obviously doesn’t believe in a path to citizenship even for college graduate DREAMers. He obviously doesn’t want our votes or our families’ votes when he runs for President. He needs to rethink his position because America was built by immigrants, like his ancestors. He needs to see that we all just want better futures like the ones his ancestors worked for. We want to be here freely and no longer live in the shadows. The time is now for an immigration reform.

Calls and messages to Ryan’s Washington and Janesville, WI, offices made today requesting comment about last night’s exchange between Ryan and Rustrian have yet to be returned.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.

Politico Becomes Latest Example of Digital Outlet with Serious Diversity Problems

Politico Becomes Latest Example of Digital Outlet with Serious Diversity Problems

A recent Twitter exchange between Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery (in between his Ferguson coverage) and Politico’s Dylan Byers and Kenneth P. Vogel about the political site’s lack of black reporters led to a rather detailed report by All Digitocracy’s Tracie Powell, confirming (not surprisingly) that Politico’s newsroom is not that diverse at all.

“Politico veterans should focus on building on its journalism institute by figuring out ways to hire more experienced black journalists, particularly those who can be added to the newsroom’s executive ranks,” Powell wrote.


Powell, who published her piece earlier today, also wrote the following:

Politico has long struggled with newsroom diversity, particularly where black journalists are concerned. So much so that I interviewed the publication’s editor-in-chief, John Harris, in 2012 and asked him whether Politico was a good place for black journalists to work. Here’s what he said then:

“Politico is not a great newsroom for any and all journalists. There’s a particular type of journalist who seems to thrive at our publication, someone with a high metabolism and very high in these core topics,” Harris said in 2012. “We’re a great publication for any journalist, particularly and especially journalists of color, to come work. Politico journalists have more fun and more impact than they did in their previous jobs. It’s a damn good place for journalists who are interested in politics and share our kind of competitive feel for being the best in politics.”

When Harris and I talked in 2012, six black journalists worked in his newsroom. Now, that number is down to three in a staff of nearly 200. They include: copy editor Robin Turner as well as Darius Dixon and LaRonda Peterson, who both work for Politico Pro, the organization’s premium policy news service. This means there are no black reporters working for the country’s paywall-free premier news service covering Beltway policy and politics.

Some former insiders say Politico’s newsroom operates a star system that many journalists find difficult to penetrate, black or otherwise. Most of those within the star system, however, are white and male.

The lack of diversity not only applies to black staff members, but also to Latinos. The number of Latino staffers is about the same as the number of black staff members, although two emails sent to Politico’s Olivia Peterson earlier today about why Latinos are so underrepresented and whether the site’s public staff information is accurate have yet to be answered. Considering that Politico has produced over 2,700 stories about Latinos and that the U.S. Latino vote continues to be a newsworthy topic during election cycles (see Politico’s featured profile on Jorge Ramos), the site’s Latino staffing record is dismal. No executives. No Latino political journalists who fall under the “star system” category Powell describes.

Such sobering data led editors at Latino Rebels to tweet both Byers and Vogel earlier today. Their profiles have yet to respond:

When reached for comment about Politico’s diversity issues, Mekahlo Medina, the new president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), sent the following remarks via email:

The problem with Politico’s lack of diversity is a widespread problem in Beltway news operations. News managers hire what they know, and who fits that bill? Often journalists that look and sound like them.

NAHJ is launching a “leadership council” initiative that aims to connect news operation leaders with Latino journalists to fill management roles. It’s those roles that are pivotal in diversifying a newsroom.

It’s good journalism and good business to have the faces and voices of America represented in any media’s content and decision-making.

When editor-in-chief John Harris said in an earlier interview, “Politico is not a great newsroom for any and all journalists. There’s a particular type of journalist who seems to thrive at our publication…” Journalists of color knows that is code for “you are not one of us.” It has happened to a close friend of mine working at a tech blog.

It’s incumbent upon news executives and managers to look outside their box and look toward the demographic that will be, if not already, is their customer.

NAHJ will reach out to Politico to ask if they will take part in our leadership council and together we can work at bringing more accurate and true diversity to Politico consumers.

Politico is just the latest example of how U.S. digital news media is failing when it comes to diversifying newsrooms. Quite frankly, that needs to change.

UPDATE, August 23, 2014: A Media Moves article announced that on August 18 editorial writer Eva Rodríguez was named a Senior Editor at Politico.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.

Texas Sheriff: Border Convoy’s Hotel Evacuation Story ‘All False’

Texas Sheriff: Border Convoy’s Hotel Evacuation Story ‘All False’

Calling a Border Convoy hotel evacuation media alert “false” and “fake,” Culberson County (Texas) Sheriff Oscar Carrillo condemned the group for spreading “sensationalized” information about events that did not occur within his jurisdiction.

The media alert, published early today said Border Convoy had to be evacuated Monday morning at 4:30 AM from “a Van Horn, TX Comfort Inn” because “heavily armed ‘Operation Secure Our Border’ Citizen Militia groups” had “made it clear they spotted multiple cartel members watching the hotel from surrounding areas.”

This is a screen grab of the top of the media alert, along with a donation link to a fundraising site.


“Nothing of that nature happened here,” Sheriff Carrillo said via a phone interview this afternoon. He also explained that his office checked with all the local hotels for details and added, “such an incident did not happen in our jurisdiction.”

Sheriff Carrillo, a member of the Texas Sheriff’s Border Coalition, also noted that there is no Comfort Inn in Van Horn, which was independently confirmed by Latino Rebels and shared in tweets earlier today with Border Convoy.

The former Comfort Inn is now an Econo Lodge and the night manager at that property said in a separate phone interview that there was no Monday evacuation, as described in the Border Convoy’s media alert. The Econo Lodge might manager said the hotel used to be a Comfort Inn, but it has been an Econo Lodge since 2006. The front desk manager at a nearby Quality Inn also said via telephone that no evacuation took place on her hotel.

When asked about the specifics of the media alert and presence of cartel members in his jurisdiction, Sheriff Carrillo said that both Border Convoy and Operation Secure Our Borders were “oversensationalizing events here on the border.”

“An event such as they one they describe would have drawn a lot of attention from us, especially since it occurred in a hotel area,” Sheriff Carrillo said. “It’s all false and fake.”

One part of the Border Convoy media alert said: “While convoy members were initially rattled and concerned by the sudden move, the gravity of the threat was later realized and Militia involvement was met with widespread appreciation. Once the convoy reached its undisclosed location, county law enforcement officials arrived, confirming the cartel threat and escorting drivers safely out of the county.”

In response to that information, Sheriff Carrillo expressed his anger towards information he felt was wrong, not factual and misleading.

“These groups are inventing these scenarios,” he said. “If they are lying about this, what else are they lying about?”

Sheriff Carrillo confirmed that a call was made to his office around 5:30 am on Monday from the Border Convoy group claiming that it was being threatened by cartel members. Sheriff Carrillo said that due to that specific call, his office did pursue the tip by checking in with local hotels and conducting standard police work. They found nothing.

Van Horn is about 120 miles east of El Paso, where the Border Convoy had been pulled over Sunday by police after allegations that someone in their group threatened an individual with a rifle. A Convoy spokesperson blamed Univision’s El Paso news station for trapping them in a chaotic incident on Interstate 10. They also said that the group was being threatened in El Paso by “two ‘human rights activists’ who were also wearing clothing suggesting relation to cartels and/or La Raza” According to local El Paso news, no arrests were made. Border Convoy said via Facebook that it pressed charges against a reckless driver, but have yet to respond to queries from Latino Rebels. An email sent by Latino Rebels to El Paso’s police spokesperson has yet to be answered.

El Paso Univision tweeted this today:

On its official page, Border Convoy states the following:

We are a coalition of citizens who share a deep concern for the invasion currently happening unchecked at our nation’s borders. Our core group of organizers are a part of the Murrieta Border Patrol blockade who now seek to positively impact the immigration dialogue by supporting local communities taking a stand against the federal government. Unlike our federal government, we support the work our Border Patrol Agents have been doing and continue to do. Our coalition calls on Americans to join those already defending the border and help stop government-funded human trafficking. Bringing the spirit of Murrieta with us, we’ll encourage communities to rise up and take a stand against unconstitutional federal incursions. Our initial border convoy will begin in Murrieta, CA on August 1 and head towards McAllen, TX, stopping to support citizen border patrols along the way.

Latino Rebels sent an email to Border Convoy asking about the details of the current media alert and its accuracy. Organizers have yet to respond. Yesterday, Border Convoy wrote this on Facebook:


Sheriff Carrillo noted that both Border Convoy and Operation Secure Our Borders are traveling through parts of Texas on their way to McAllen. He called both groups “anti-immigrant” and said that they lack any real understanding of what happens on Texas-Mexico border when it comes to immigration and law enforcement.

“It is an insult to law enforcement officers when [these groups] share fake information,” Sheriff Carrillo said.

UPDATE, 8pmET: Border Convoy posted the following on Facebook. The group has also removed Latino Rebels questions about Sheriff Carrillo’s comments.


After today’s interview with Latino Rebels, Sheriff Carrillo also spoke with local Texas press.

On Wednesday August 6, Border Convoy sent the following Facebook post:



EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.

About Flipping Time: Car Company and Ad Agency Get It Right When It Comes to Latino Millenials (VIDEO)

About Flipping Time: Car Company and Ad Agency Get It Right When It Comes to Latino Millenials (VIDEO)

Yesterday, my Twitter feed led me to the following link from AdWeek: “Honda Targets Hispanic Millennials by Mocking the Way Brands Target Hispanic Millennials Bilingual.”

If you are one of those people who feel that agencies and brands have been pandering to Latinos for decades, the following videos from Honda kind of explain themselves. Watch as comedian Felipe Esparza guides us through his dilemma.

In English.

And in Spanish.

In just 30 seconds, we learn that the basic truth: you can’t box in young Latino millenials, so just stop it. And yeah, I know this is an ad, and a few of you will think that we are all blind sheep being sold goods every second, but for all the adults in the room with actual brains, I raise this point: this ad was definitely created by individuals who know the issue. It’s about trying to be original and intelligent when it comes to marketing to a group that quite frankly, hates marketing and being sold to just because they are Latino. And you know how “hot” it is to be Latino now! This ad doesn’t bang your head with forced culture, bad stereotypes or heavy-handed pride. It just is. Yes, young Latinos go to movies, go grocery shopping and go to work, just like millions of other young Americans. What a concept.

So, as someone who writes about a lot of brands that do it wrong, here’s to one campaign that does it right. Congrats to the guys at Orcí. As the agency’s founder told Ad Week:

Agency president Andrew Orcí says the spots, shot in Spanish and English, began with the idea that brands often try to fit Hispanic consumers into specific patterns and niches, when in fact it’s a group that’s pretty much impossible to lump into a few convenient categories.

“Latino millennials are much more than what we make of them. They are a versatile bunch. They ping-pong between cultures, languages, interests and behaviors. That’s why it’s funny when you hear others trying to fit them into their box of clichés,” Orcí says.

Felipe Esparza, as our ‘Latino expert,’ is the perfect voice to make fun of this situation. Why? Because not even a Latino can define a Latino. They simply defy all expectations.

That’s it. “Because not even a Latino can define a Latino.” It’s the reason why we challenge each other every day, why some of us celebrate this identity and some of us don’t. And guess what, that’s perfectly fine.

By the way, one of the coolest things to come out of this spot was the following tweet from the guy who wrote the ad:


We’ll take that.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.

What Breitbart Texas Overlooked in Peddling ‘Leaked’ Border Intelligence Report

What Breitbart Texas Overlooked in Peddling ‘Leaked’ Border Intelligence Report

Before I start, a word: there are outlets that present a fuller picture when it comes to the root causes of current immigration issues, and those outlets that hide behind “journalism” to feed into your fears. It is a digital media game all too common now, because in the end, like Natalie Merchant once sang, “Give them what they want.”

Such is the case with Breitbart Texas (BT), an outlet proudly getting juicy insider information about unaccompanied minors from Central America and repacking it as “breaking news.” The outlet’s managing director tells us,”God bless the men and women of Border Patrol,” so it should be no surprise that BT has become the amplifier of frustrated Border Patrol agents—the same agents whose union runs a Twitter account like a 17-year-old racist.


This week, BT’s latest “shocker” was a detailed report developed by the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) which, according to BT’s lede paragraph, “reveals that homicide rates in Central America suggest violence is likely not the primary cause of the surge of thousands of unaccompanied minors and incomplete family units illegally entering the United States.”

Now, before digging deeper into this, let’s step back for a minute and point out the language BT is using: “is likely not the primary cause.” That’s like saying that cheese “is likely not the primary cause” for New York pizza.

A history of violence does indeed play a role in all this, and the very same report BT is pushing says so.

A minor detail.

But, you know, a “leaked” EPIC document mentioned “230 total migrants” and that “219 cited the primary reason for migrating to the United States was the perception of U.S. immigration laws granting free passes or permisos” to “OTMs” (Other Than Mexicans), and that “migrants indicated that knowledge of permisos was widespread across Central America due to word of mouth, local and international media messaging—prompting many to depart for the United States within 30 days of becoming aware of these perceived benefits.”

Then there is this right after that text. (Note how we go from  “219″ to “a large number” and then to just “migrants”):

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also notes that a large number of migrants interviewed claimed family members in the United States encouraged their travel because the U.S. government would cease issuing permisos after June 2014. Migrants cited Univision, Primer Impacto, Al Rojo Vivo and several Honduran television news outlets for helping shape their perception of U.S. immigration policy.

Yes! Blame Spanish-language TV because you know this is all about “open borders” from the “amnesty lovers” and the end of the United States, right?

In the game to pound us all with one simplistic post-modern Know-Nothing narrative, a lot of key details in the original BT story were overlooked. Details the EPIC report includes, but the original BT story ignores. In the very same report:

EPIC lacks robust law enforcement reporting on alien smuggling networks, drug trafficking  organizations, and transnational criminal organizations involvement in UAC and accompanied minor smuggling operations.

EPIC lacks detailed insights into factors contributing to the sudden and significant decline in adult OTM apprehensions for Guatemalan and El Salvadoran migrants in mid-2013 and the continued increase in Honduran OTM and UAC numbers.

EPIC lacks detailed reporting on the extent Central American media outlets have reportedly misrepresented U.S. immigration policies, contributing to the UAC surge.

So on the first page of the report, EPIC states one thing with vague assurances (which BT reports as FACT) and then fully admits later that it lacks intelligence gaps at the end of the report? Which one is it?

“Give them what they want.”

While BT gives your charts about a drop in homicide rates in Central America, bring up the issue that there is no real correlation any more between murders and migrants leaving, the EPIC reports states the following: “UNODC has consistently ranked Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador among the world’s most violent countries for the last several decades.”

“Give them what they want.”

Wait, there’s more:

EPIC assesses that family reunification, rampant gang violence, and poor economic conditions remain traditional migration drivers for Central Americans en route to the United States, based on academic studies and migrant interviews.

Studies and multiple interviews of migrants conducted by the UNHCR in 2013 and US Border Patrol in 2014, noted hopes of reunification with family present in the United States as a principal reason for UAC migration.

In May 2013, UNHCR conducted interviews on 302 unaccompanied minors from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Of the aggregate, 43% indicated violence from gangs or organized crime as a factor for leaving their home country; 22% indicated abuse at home as a factor; while 44% did not cite fear of serious harm as a deciding factor for leaving. Individual country results, however, do indicate societal violence is a predominate factor affecting UAC from El Salvador.

U.S. Border Patrol Officials in Rio Grande Valley Sector interviewed 195 Central American migrants in February 2014; responses indicated that economic conditions, such as inability to secure employment and insufficient wages, were significant migration drivers to the United States.

Typical: say one thing (it’s only about rumors of permisos) but then follow up with other conclusions.

And what about the fact that Spanish-language TV in the US is a main driver for publicizing the permiso rumors? How does the EPIC report cover that after stating on the first page that a non-specific number of migrants got their information from Univision and Telemundo?

There is no other visible mention of these networks or their shows in the report after being mentioned JUST ONCE.

The report, however, states this:

EPIC judges that alien smuggling organizations and individual smugglers are likely responsible for perpetuating rumors encouraging the Central American migration surge to increase their financial gain.  Honduran and Guatemalan immigration officials attribute the UAC surge to alien smugglers, or coyotes, preying on mothers and children by motivating them with false U.S. amnesty or asylum rumors, according to Costa Rican press reporting.

Do you see any mention of Univision and Telemundo there? So why mention it at the beginning of the report, and why did BT choose to emphasize that one detail that never gets visibly mentioned in the rest of the report?

“Give them what they want.”

Also, does EPIC not Google “Central + American + newspapers?” Guess not, because the following July 14 article from an actual Central American newspaper provides a more accurate picture than what the EPIC report says, that “Honduran and El Salvadoran press have reportedly advertised the DACA policy, accommodations for detained UAC and the promise of reunification with family members in the United States.”

El éxito de estos esfuerzos de­pende de si la gente en las calles más miserables de ciudades como San Pedro juzga que el viaje ha­cia el norte es inútil o no. Los pri­meros indicios de los migrantes y activistas comunitarios de esta ciudad —una de las más plagadas de crimen en el mundo— sugie­ren que los esfuerzos se queda­rán cortos.

“Lo pensaremos durante dos o tres meses y después probable­mente lo intentaremos de nuevo”, afirmó recientemente Edras Pine­da, un joven de 17 años, mientras otros adolescentes deportados asentían en un centro de recep­ción del gobierno en esta ciudad. “Uno estudia y estudia y no hay trabajo”.

El trato poco severo a menores no acompañados, estipulado por una ley estadounidense de 2008, alimentó rumores este año —pro­pagados tanto por vecinos chis­mosos como traficantes en busca de clientes— de que los menores de edad que viajan solos o con un adulto pueden de alguna manera obtener un permiso para perma­necer en EE.UU.

En realidad, esos permisos no existen. Pero como la gran cantidad de menores de edad ha abrumado los tribunales de in­migración, algunos menores son entregados a familiares que ya vi­ven en EE.UU. para esperar juicios que tardan meses e incluso años.

Salvador Gutiérrez, de la Ofici­na Regional de Enlace y Políticas de la Organización Internacional para las Migraciones en San José, Costa Rica, señaló que su organi­zación cree que la avalancha hacia la frontera fue provocada por un rumor que comenzó en Guatema­la y se extendió rápidamente por toda Centroamérica.

Tales rumo­res han surgido en el pasado y ha tomado meses e incluso años para desacreditarlos, anotó. Además de los rumores, la violencia de pan­dillas, una pobreza profunda y la falta de trabajo bien remunerado están impulsando a los migrantes a buscar otros destinos.

“La violencia es un factor que provoca miedo. Pero no hace que un niño se vaya a EE.UU.”, dijo Ró­mulo Emiliani, el obispo de San Pe­dro, que trabaja para promover la paz en los vecindarios infestados de pandillas. “El problema núme­ro uno es la pobreza extrema, la desesperación de la gente”.

Los miles de menores que México devuelve a San Pedro en buses reciben exámenes psicoló­gicos y físicos, son entrevistados sobre sus experiencias y después liberados.

Para muchos, en especial los que tienen hijos muy pequeños, el sueño ha terminado. Otros, como Pineda y sus amigos, volverán a in­tentar llegar a EE.UU., dicen los trabajadores de albergues.

“No me van a volver a atrapar”, dijo Mayno Escobar, de 17 años. “Ahora ya sé cómo hacerlo”.

Now an English translation (emphasis in boldface is mine):

The success of these efforts depends on whether people in the most miserable streets of cities like San Pedro believe that the journey north is useless or not. Early indications of migrants and community activists in this city —one of the most crime-ridden in the world— suggest that the efforts will fall short.

“We’ll think about it for two or three months and then probably try again,” 17-year-old Edras Pineda said recently, while others nodded at city government’s reception shelter. “You study and study and there’s no work.”

The lenient treatment of unaccompanied minors, mandated by a 2008 U.S. law, fueled rumors this year —spread by nosy neighbors as well as traffickers looking for customers— that minors traveling alone or with an adult may in some way to obtain a permit to stay in the U.S.

Actually, these permits do not exist. But since the large number of minors has overwhelmed immigration courts, some children are joined with family members already living in the U.S. to await trials that take months or even years.

Salvador Gutierrez of the International Organization for Migration in San José, Costa Rica, said his organization believes that the avalanche towards the border was caused by a rumor that started in Guatemala and quickly spread across Central America.

Such rumors have surfaced in the past and has taken months and even years to discredit, he noted. In addition to the rumors, gang violence, deep poverty and lack of well-paid work are urging migrants to seek other destinations.

“Violence is a factor that causes fear. But it doesn’t cause a child to go the U.S., “said Romulo Emiliani, Bishop of San Pedro, who works to promote peace in gang-infested neighborhoods. “The number one problem is the extreme poverty, the desperation of the people.”

The thousands of children who returned to Mexico in San Pedro buses receive physical and psychological tests, are interviewed about their experiences and then released.

For many, especially those with very young children, the dream is over. Others, like Pineda and his friends return to try to reach the U.S., shelter workers say.

“They won’t catch me next time,” said Mayno Escobar, 17. “Now I know how.”

That July 14 report makes no mention of DACA, but it does speak to the many complexities of the root causes. It speaks to the greater realities. In fact, many of the cause mentioned in the EPIC report. And it’s not the only news article that says the same thing. Read this. (Oh wait, that article is in Spanish. It can’t be right.)

Now if BT would stop for a second and realize that presenting just one side of the issue (I doubt it), maybe US media could get more rational about this. Sorry, I forgot, this is the US media we’re talking about. It’s always “either/or.” Nuance and context are non-existent. “Give them what they want.” So that’s the game one has to play. Because why have actual journalism in all this?

Listen, I get it. There is a lot of blame to go around. The US government. US policies in Latin America. The failed drug war. Border Patrol abuses. Central American elites. People exploiting the hopes of children. Rumors of permisos. Obama. Bush. Clinton. NAFTA. The situation is tragic, but I still have hope that Americans can see through the complexities of a very charged and emotional issue. Did I mention that we’re also talking about children here?

But let’s stop with the claim that this is some plot by Spanish speakers because a few migrants said they heard this on Univision and Telemundo. Because if that is the game BT wants to play (like when it connects the tragic act of one man here and concludes that the migrant kids also come from this man’s same country), it will eventually lose. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but it will lose.

BT, likes its parent page, relishes in paranoia with reports that perpetuate outright fear and hate, reports that cause actual politicians who do this. Wait… maybe that’s a good thing, since this country’s xenophobia is now front and center, and the rest of the country can see that the desperate will stoop really low to fool you all.

Like this guy.

Or her.


Hit it, Natalie.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.

Another NYTimes Fail: Enrique Krauze Tells the World Latin America Is ‘Less Racist’ Than Europe

Another NYTimes Fail: Enrique Krauze Tells the World Latin America Is ‘Less Racist’ Than Europe

As with any embarrassingly disappointing opinion piece that gets my attention, I usually find out about it via Twitter. This weekend was no different, when @RachelDecoste tweeted this:

After tapping my laptop to make sure it was working, I read Enrique Krauze’s opinion piece. Before I begin to explain why this post published by The New York Times (here we go again) contains critical factual errors as well as “Bizarro World” conclusions, you need to know that Krauze is a big deal. When he writes opinion pieces (even really poor ones like his latest one for the Times), people will notice. This time, however, a lot of people noticed the piece for all the wrong reasons.

For example, when first published online on July 10, Krauze’s Twitter profile wanted to let his 300K+ followers why Latin America is less racist than Europe:

Two days later, Krauze’s Twitter offered a slightly different message: “In Latin America [AL], there is racial discrimination, but no policies of extermination like Europe in the 20th century.”

Those are some rather bold statements, and quite honestly—they’re both dead wrong.

Here’s why:

No Racism in Latin American Soccer?
At the beginning of the piece, Krauze starts with FIFA’s “Say No To Racism” campaign,”a message” that “was particularly directed toward the soccer stadiums of Europe, where there have been many instances of racial taunting and physical aggression by hostile fans against African and other black players.” Just a few sentences later, Krauze is quick to let us know that such racism doesn’t occur in the Americas: “the stadiums of Latin America have for the most part been free of this phenomenon, despite the fervent nationalism and fanaticism of the fans.” I am guessing that neither Krauze nor his Times editor did some actual fact-checking because in just five minutes, I was able to locate several examples of racism in “Latin American stadiums:”

  • Last year, Uruguay’s Danubio team was fined when supporters of the team hurled racist monkey chants at River Plate’s Flavio Cordoba.
  • Just a few months before the Danubio fine, Argentine Maximiliano Urruti was accused of using a racist term (“a black piece of sh*t) against a Paraguayan player during the Copa Librertadores.
  • Earlier this year, racist chants were heard at a Mexican League game as well. Monkey chants were directed at León players Eisner Loboa and Franco Arizala by supporters of Pumas.

In addition, it looks like Krauze or his Times editor never bothered to read an excellent piece by Mauricio Savarese published this February about the growing racism happening in “Latin American stadiums.” Titled “Racism in football racks up new victim: Latin America,” Savarese points out the following:

Football racism is a shocker today in Latin America, a region which exports players that are verbally abused all over Europe. However, it is a big part of the jogo bonito practiced there. In the early 1900s, blacks weren’t allowed to play the British game. As time went by, they were accepted under one condition: no touching the whites.

That’s one of the reasons the local dribbling culture got its impulse, experts say. Over time football helped make blacks a part of Latin American societies. Racists want to turn back the clocks by about 100 years. Will they be shown a red card? A good question!

Whitewashing of Latin American History?
After starting his piece with the soccer introduction, Krauze veers into a slippery slope: the history of race in Latin America. He writes:

Of course, Latin America has had its share of violent racism through the years: The Argentines virtually exterminated their Indians, and even in Brazil, our most racially integrated country (which didn’t abolish slavery until 1888), the black population still faces prejudice and hurdles to power. But European-style racism — which not only mistreats and discriminates but also persecutes and, in the very worst cases, tries to exterminate others because of their ethnicity — has been the exception and not the rule in modern Latin America.

Let’s all pause for a second and kindly remind Krauze that “European-style racism” is what formed Latin America in the first place. A minor detail Krauze tends to overlook in his new retelling of a different Latin America only Krauze seems to think exists? Such an attitude (hey, Latin America is doing ok when it comes to race) reminds me of the classic excerpt in Howard Zinn’s first chapter of A People’s History of the United States:

Past the elementary and high schools, there are only occasional hints of something else. Samuel Eliot Morison, the Harvard historian, was the most distinguished writer on Columbus, the author of a multivolume biography, and was himself a sailor who retraced Columbus’s route across the Atlantic. In his popular book Christopher Columbus, Mariner, written in 1954, he tells about the enslavement and the killing: “The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide.” That is on one page, buried halfway into the telling of a grand romance. In the book’s last paragraph, Morison sums up his view of Columbus:

He had his faults and his defects, but they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great-his indomitable will, his superb faith in God and in his own mission as the Christ-bearer to lands beyond the seas, his stubborn persistence despite neglect, poverty and discouragement. But there was no flaw, no dark side to the most outstanding and essential of all his qualities-his seamanship.

One can lie outright about the past. Or one can omit facts which might lead to unacceptable conclusions. Morison does neither. He refuses to lie about Columbus. He does not omit the story of mass murder; indeed he describes it with the harshest word one can use: genocide.

But besides stating the obvious or the fact that Latin American history and society are all about systematic and engrained racism, here are some examples of “European-style racism” that occurred in modern Latin America which Krauze conveniently forgets to mention:

  • Guatemala in the 1980s, when “Operation Sophia” led to the genocide among the Mayan population. There was even a trial about it last year.
  • The infamous Figueiredo report, which chronicled a systematic attempt by the Brazilian government to wipe out indigenous peoples during the 20th century.
  • More atrocities against indigenous and Afro-descendant populations occurred during the decades-long wars going on in Colombia. Read this. Or this.

Three modern examples that all occurred in the 20th century. When does the exception become the rule? There was never an exception—”European-style racism” in Latin America has been a rule since the very beginning, and it still continues to this day.

Are racist attitudes in Latin America “less pronounced?”
After Krauze reassures us that Latin American countries are not that bad when it comes to extreme forms of racial persecution, he then moves on to the case of racial discrimination, saying the following about how some countries have “racist attitudes and practices” that are “far less pronounced:”

The issue of racism varies from country to country. In places where the mixing of ethnicities (mestizaje) and cultures prevailed under the Spanish and Portuguese empires — countries like Mexico, Colombia and Brazil — racist attitudes and practices have been far less pronounced. Where Indian populations remained physically and culturally separate from the Spaniards — in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala and northern Chile — racial discrimination against Indians has been stronger and in some cases persists today.

Ironically, Krauze is a media guy. In fact, he is a board member for Televisa, arguably one of Latin America’s top media companies. Televisa, to put it mildly, has a horrible record when it comes to media representation of Blacks and other other racial identities that are not White. And who could forget this viral video from 2011 (yes, an actual skit from Televisa):

That doesn’t look like “far less pronounced” to me. And if you want more, just read what VICE had to say about the racism in the current Brazilian TV coverage of the 2014 World Cup.

As I write this column, nonetheless, Krauze has now taken to Twitter three days after his opinion piece was published to declare that he is against all forms of racism. But it is all relative. Yes, Mexico is a bit racist, but it isn’t a racist country. (By the way, having grown up in the Caribbean, studied Latin American history and worked in Latin America, this is not just about Mexico and racism, but for the purposes of Krauze’s tweets, I will focus on just Mexico here.)

“I hate racism more than anything else in this world. However I will not accept that Mexico is a racist country like Germany and the United States were.”

Guess he didn’t get the memo. Or the recent story of a new neo-Nazi group in Mexico. Racism is still racism, no matter how it is presented or practiced. To suggest in a global news outlet that things are better in Latin America in general and Mexico in particular is just not true.

As this piece, “Mexico’s Hidden Blacks,” states:

The notion of race in Mexico is frustratingly complex. This is a country where many are proud to claim African blood, yet discriminate against their darker countrymen. Black Mexicans complain that such bigotry makes it especially hard for them to find work. Still, I was surprised to feel like such an alien intruder in a town where I had hoped to feel something like familiarity. Afro-Mexicans are among the poorest in the nation. Many are shunted to remote shantytowns, well out of reach of basic public services, such as schools and hospitals. Activists for Afro-Mexicans face an uphill battle for government recognition and economic development. They have long petitioned to be counted in Mexico’s national census, alongside the country’s 56 other official ethnic groups, but to little avail. Unofficial records put their number at 1m. In response to activist pressure, Mexico’s government released a study at the end of 2008 that confirmed that Afro-Mexicans suffer from institutional racism. Employers are less likely to employ blacks, and some schools prohibit access based on skin colour. But little has been done to change this. Afro-Mexicans lack a powerful spokesperson, so they continue to go unnoticed by the country’s leadership. “What we want is recognition of our basic rights and respect of our dignity,” Rodolfo Prudente Dominguez, a top Afro-Mexican activist, said to me. “There should be sanctions against security and immigration agents who detain us, because they deny our existence on our own land.”

If you have not heard of Mexico’s native blacks, you are not alone. The story that has been passed down through generations is that their ancestors arrived on a slave boat filled with Cubans and Haitians, which sank off Mexico’s Pacific coast. The survivors hid away in fishing villages on the shore. The story is a myth: Spanish colonialists trafficked African slaves into ports on the opposite Gulf coast, and slaves were distributed further inland. The persistence of this story explains the reluctance of many black Mexicans to embrace the label “Afro”, and why many Mexicans assume black nationals hail from the Caribbean. Colonial records show that around 200,000 African slaves were imported into Mexico in the 16th and 17th centuries to work in silver mines, sugar plantations and cattle ranches. But after Mexico won its independence from Spain, the needs of these black Mexicans were ignored. Some Afro-Mexican activists identify themselves as part of the African diaspora. Given their rejection from Mexican culture, this offers a more empowering cultural reference. But with no collective memory of slavery (it was officially abolished in Mexico in 1822), or of any time in Africa before then, Afro-Mexicans are considerably removed from their African roots.

Also, Krauze and his NYTimes editor could have done a bit more homework since here is a 1995 story (1995!) from the Times that would contradict Krauze pretty solidly:

Although all Mexicans are considered equal under the country’s Constitution, Mexican society remains deeply divided on racial lines. And as the richest and poorest of the 91 million Mexicans are driven farther apart by such sweeping changes as the North American Free Trade Agreement, many Mexicans are starting to discover the dangers of their own deeply ingrained — yet rarely acknowledged — brand of bigotry.

So is Latin America more welcoming?
After sending us through an alternate universe, Krauze ends his opinion piece with this concluding statement:

But, generally speaking, Latin America has received and sheltered many nationalities fleeing hunger or persecution — and Mexico has been at the forefront of this receptiveness and openness. It is a national trait that Americans should recognize and value when passing judgment on the current surge of immigrants arriving from Mexico and Central America.

Groups like Amnesty International and others would beg to differ. A 2010 report reveals more details and one release states the following: “The Mexican authorities must act to halt the continuing abuse of migrants who are preyed on by criminal gangs while public officials turn a blind eye or even play an active part in kidnappings, rapes and murders….”

But this is not “European-style racism?” Or is it?

When we as Latin Americans admit the truth and confront it head on, only then can real change occur. In the meantime, the literal whitewashing of Latin American history needs to be monitored and when it appears in mass media, we must all do our best to quickly call out this ignorant attitude. The only way to transform society is to ensure that we don’t allow certain opinions to become the standard. We can do better, and we will. One tweet at a time.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.

Media Exploits Myth of Disease-Ridden Children in Current Immigration Narrative

Media Exploits Myth of Disease-Ridden Children in Current Immigration Narrative

I am starting to wonder if we are living in 2014 or whether it’s 1902 or 1857 because all of sudden the paranoia of unaccompanied minors invading the United States with plague, pestilence and illness is beginning to dominate the comments of people like this woman (yes, an actual photo from Monday’s shameful Murrieta protests):


That is what some parts of the media want you to believe. Case in point, there has been “breaking news” in the last few days that one or two minors in Texas were diagnosed with “swine flu,” also known as H1N1. The Blaze. Breitbart. Local FOX News. The Daily Beast’s Ruben Navarrette. By the way, Navarrette even apologized from dropping the ball since he now admits that some of these “border kids” (what are they, a pop group?) are bringing communicable diseases into this country:


Navarrette then wrote this:

Now, sure enough, that once inconceivable nightmare scenario that we were all afraid to ponder could be one step closer to coming true. The culprit: H1N1, more commonly known as “swine flu.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently [sic] that an unaccompanied minor from Central America has the H1N1 flu. The minor, who entered the country in the last few months, had recently been—along with 1,000 other border kids—relocated to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio.

Meanwhile, a source close to the situation on the border told me on June 21 that there was a confirmed case of a child having the H1N1 virus. He spoke on condition of anonymity so he could relay the information candidly, given the sensitivity of the subject matter and the possibility of sparking a public panic.

Then there is this:

Now H1N1 may be back. It has been delivered into our air supply by unsuspecting pint-sized carriers who have endured a lot of pain, sacrifice and suffering to get here and whose fate is still unclear.

Sounds scary, right?

Problem is: it’s not real journalism.

What surprises me from all these stories is that not one writer or editor even bothered to check the fact that early this year the H1N1 virus was already here (The Blaze makes a small reference to an “uptick”.) In a January 2014 story from USA Today, we see this:

This year the predominant flu strain in the United States is H1N1, the same one that caused the international pandemic in 2009-2010. The CDC estimates that 284,000 people died worldwide during that flu season.

“Based on what we’re seeing so far, this year will be a very different picture than last year,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

In 2012-2013, H3N2 was the dominant flu strain. It tended to cause serious illness and deaths in older people. With H1N1 the main strain this year, “we fully expect to see many more cases in younger children and middle-aged adults,” Osterholm said.

“Mark my word, by the end of next week we’ll probably see some fear and panic as it starts to hit kids,” he said.

This year’s flu vaccine contains the H1N1 strain and should offer good protection. There’s still time to get vaccinated and protect yourself and your family, Bresee said.

“It’s too early to tell how severe it’s going to be but we’re still on the up slope of the flu season, so what we can expect is more flu, more intense disease and more deaths over the next few weeks,” Bresee said.

The H1N1 strain has not had time to develop much resistance to antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu. People who are sick, especially if they’re in a high risk group, should see their doctor if they suspect they have the flu so they can be treated, he said.

That includes the very young and the very old as well as people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and congestive heart failure. Studies show the drugs work best when begun within two days of getting sick but they can still be helpful if started later for those in high risk groups.

Some “uptick.”

So let me get this straight: two minors from Central American are bringing a deadly flu virus into a country that already has the virus? A little context would have gone a long way in reporting a bit more truth to all this, but hey, immigrants are now bringing diseases to the county. Here’s a crazy thought: what if the H1N1 strain got on a plane from, I don’t know, Dallas to Honduras or El Salvador? Do we know for a fact that H1N1 originated from Central America? The USA Today story would suggest otherwise. But in case you need more, some actual 2009 data (2009, people) from the Center for Disease Control: “CDC estimates that from April to January 16, 2010, approximately 57 million cases of 2009 H1N1 occurred in the United States, including 257,000 H1N1-related hospitalizations and about 11,690 deaths.”

And then there is this from the CDC:

Where did the 2009 H1N1 flu virus come from?
The 2009 H1N1 influenza virus (referred to as “swine flu” early on) was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. This virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that its gene segments were similar to influenza viruses that were most recently identified in and known to circulate among pigs. CDC believes that this virus resulted from reassortment, a process through which two or more influenza viruses can swap genetic information by infecting a single human or animal host. When reassortment does occur, the virus that emerges will have some gene segments from each of the infecting parent viruses and may have different characteristics than either of the parental viruses, just as children may exhibit unique characteristics that are like both of their parents. In this case, the reassortment appears most likely to have occurred between influenza viruses circulating in North American pig herds and among Eurasian pig herds. Reassortment of influenza viruses can result in abrupt, major changes in influenza viruses, also known as “antigenic shift.” When shift happens, most people have little or no protection against the new influenza virus that results.

Yeah, two kids from Central America in 2014 are the cause for a virus that has been affecting millions of Americans for the last five or six years.

Why does anyone not fact-check anymore?

Because if reporters and editors actually did, they wouldn’t have a narrative to scare you. This week’s message: Disease-Ridden Children! Threat to National Security! Let’s run with that!

Here’s another example: a report last night from local San Diego media (note the fact that no one else in this “report” was interviewed):

SAN DIEGO – A Border Patrol agents union representative told 10News the influx of undocumented immigrants now in Border Patrol custody is threatening the health of agents as well as national security.

“We have compassion for them …,” said union representative Ron Zermeno.

At about 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, one of the buses pulled out of the checkpoint and onto a freeway. Two people sitting behind the driver appeared to be Border Patrol agents wearing masks. 10News could not confirm if any children were on the bus. As 10News was trying to follow the bus onto a freeway, Border Patrol SUVs blocked the entrance to the freeway.

Zermeno told 10News Wednesday morning that 99 migrants were transported to various San Diego Sector Border Patrol stations for processing. According to Zermeno, 40 had been taken to Brown Field Station in Otay Mesa. Forty-two were taken to the Imperial Beach Station, and 17 to the Boulevard Station in southeast San Diego County.

Zermeno said Border Patrol agents were being pulled off the line to help with processing the immigrants. Zermeno told 10News this could pose a safety issue due to less agents on the street.

Meanwhile, 40 were being quarantined at the Border Patrol Chula Vista Station with active scabies and head lice. The facility will provide them with showers, laundry service and bedding. Another 10 people, mostly children, were taken to local hospitals with unknown illnesses.

“That’s my biggest fear: their health and also safety in the field,” said Zermeno.

Cases of scabies and head lice now pose a national security risk to our country? If so, then we should shut down every public school in America. Listen, I know that these two diseases are contagious, but come on, the San Diego report could have linked to the CDC here and here. Both national-security-threatening diseases are treatable.

During a time where the immigration issue is getting more and more complex, those media outlets that at least TRY to present a fuller story should be applauded. Those who write about the flu, skin rashes and head lice and then conclude that the end of America is here, need to stop. Right now.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.

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