Brownlisted: What I’ve Read, Seen and Heard This Week (OPINION)

Nov 18, 2022
1:47 PM

Puerto Rican music superstar Bad Bunny, whose summer-defining ‘Un Verano Sin Ti’ has received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, the first Spanish-language album in history to do so (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

LAS VEGAS — Today I’m publishing the first of a weekly column in which I give an overview of the most interesting and important things I’ve read, seen, or heard during the past week, adding my thoughts on them here and there. The format is completely lifted from Jeffrey St. Clair, editor of CounterPunch, whose “Roaming Charges” column —love the name— I’ve been reading for years.

The idea came to me that there should be a Latino version of what he does, and so, voilà.

Like St. Clair’s column, “Brownlisted” will run a bit long—no more than 5,000 words is my limit. To cut down on length and keep LR from being redundant, I’ll rarely add anything we’ve published—so for that, you’ll have to follow Latino Rebels regularly.

While I don’t expect you to read all of it every week —I only try to read all of St. Clair’s every week— since I come across these things in my everyday work, I might as well put them all in one spot, to give you a sense of what I’m seeing and hearing and thinking each week.



~ First off, look who’s throwing his toupée into the presidential ring again:

~ The Latin Grammys were last night here in Vegas, and my wife is LIVID that Bad Bunny didn’t win Album of the Year—not to mention that he lost to the conquistadora

~ Benito’s summer-defining Un Verano Sin Ti did snag a Grammy nom for Album of the Year—the first Spanish-language album in history to do so.

~ José Irizarry, the 48-year-old former DEA agent from Puerto Rico sentenced to 12 years in prison for stealing millions from the agency’s money laundering investigations to bankroll his lifestyle of parties, travel, sports cars, and women, says he isn’t the only one: “We had free access to do whatever we wanted… We would generate money pick-ups in places we wanted to go. And once we got there it was about drinking and girls.”

I always knew the DEA was working for the cartels: “Every year, the DEA launders tens of millions of dollars on behalf of the world’s most violent drug cartels through shell companies, a tactic touted in long-running overseas investigations such as Operation White Wash that resulted in more than 100 arrests and the seizure of more than $100 million and a ton of cocaine.”

~ I’ve been editing Gia Santos’ work for a minute, but her reporting from the war in Ukraine is something else:

“I recall that morning when we were first awakened by a distant siren. One of our team members awakened us saying an airstrike had hit the city. Soon afterward, we heard an airstrike hit nearby, followed by a loud explosion that shook the house.

“I recall a part of my brain saying, ‘This must be an earthquake,’ and yet I knew it was a Russian missile attack.”

~ It was a close one in Nevada, but Cathy Cortez-Masto, the country’s first Latina senator, pulled through to secure a second term. She has the powerful Culinary Workers Union Local 226 to thank for her win—a group that is mostly women, mostly Latinos, and 45 percent immigrants.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so close had she not stood against the repeal of Title 42, the Trump-era immigration policy that denies entry to asylum-seekers because they might carry germs.

~ Sen. Cortez Masto: “The energy that I saw in the Latino community in both parts of the state—they were active, they were engaged, they were paying attention.”

~ Nevada also dodged a bullet by electing Democrat Cisco Aguilar—not because he’s a Democrat, but because his Republican opponent, Jim Marchant, is president of a pro-Trump group of election deniers looking to have the final say in future elections.

~ Illinois voters elected Delia Ramirez, a 39-year-old state representative and community organizer, who will become the Midwest’s first Latina member of Congress in January—and its first Guatemalan.

I spoke with Delia back in the spring.

~ Ramirez will be one of the nine new Latino members of Congress receiving a personal welcome from Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC, at an event in D.C. on Friday. The others are:

Andrea Salinas (OR-6)
Maxwell Alejandro Frost (FL-10)
Yadira Caraveo (CO-08)
Gabe Vasquez (NM-02)
Greg Casar (TX-35)
Robert Garcia (CA-42)
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03)
Rob Menendez (NJ-08)

~ Frost, by the way, whose district covers most of west Orlando, will have the distinction of being the first Gen Z member of Congress when he’s sworn in next year. He ran on gun control, social justice, and addressing the climate crisis.

~ On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, feeling himself after beating Beto on Election Day and still looking to test the welcoming attitude of northern liberals, sent the first busload of migrants to Philadelphia. When it arrived on Wednesday, a 10-year-old girl onboard had to be rushed to a hospital because she was suffering from dehydration and a fever.

~ Also on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the Biden administration to immediately end its use of Title 42, calling the restrictions “arbitrary and capricious.”

Hours later he granted the White House’s request that the order be delayed five weeks so it could get its ducks in a row.

~ Prop 308 passed in Arizona, granting in-state tuition to anyone who graduated from an Arizona high school—including undocumented immigrants.

~ What happens to a DREAM Act deferred?

~ Shoutout to Rommel Ojeda at Documented, whom I met at this year’s NAHJ conference, for providing this handy guide to New York’s public transit system for immigrants. He and Roberto Bolaños —not to be confused with Roberto BOLAÑO— also have this handy guide on how to open a bank account if you’re undocumented.

~ The Venezuelan asylum-seekers arriving in New York are finding it hard to secure their status in the country without the documents taken from them by Border Patrol.

~ Which side are you on: the British-based Hochschild Mining company headquartered in Lima, Peru, or the members of the Huancute community in Ayacucho who broke into the company’s huge gold and silver mine on Saturday?

~ If you’re in San Josè, Costa Rica and feeling unsafe, just follow the painted red line

~ After two months, gas stations in Haiti are open again, thanks to G9 gang leader Jimmy Chérizier. (And I thought the Mafia controlling the construction industry and the garbage trucks in New York was impressive.)

~ Meanwhile, in the neighboring Dominican Republic, a new ant-Haitian decree that went into effect last week has unleashed a wave of panic, not only among those of Haitian descent but among anyone who might even be mistaken for Haitian.

“Just being Black in this country means you’re Haitian,” a Dominican of Haitian descent —who was stripped of his citizenship by that ugly law in 2013— told Latino Rebels.

As Latino Rebels’ Caribbean correspondent, Carlos Edill Berríos Polanco —or Los, as he’s known around here— writes: “More than 43,000 migrants, mostly Haitian, were deported between July and October, according to the Dominican government, saying that the number of deportations increased by 50 percent between September and October.”

~ The Haitian Times reports that “at least 108,000” Haitians have been deported from the D.R. in this year alone.

~ Now that people are returning to the streets, Haiti’s being hit with a massive cholera outbreak. At least 156 people have died and more than 6,900 are hospitalized, though officials think the numbers are actually a lot higher.

~ When people let their politics cloud their humanity, you get scenes like what happened last week, where a Haitian woman gave birth outside a hospital in the Dominican Republic after they kicked her out for being Haitian.

Those who dehumanize others are actually dehumanizing themselves.

~ Toussaint Louverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution: “I am too much a believer in the Rights of Man to think that there is one color in nature superior to another. I know a man only as a man.”

~ By the way, last week we featured an op-ed from the Haitian Times by its founder and editor, Garry Pierre-Pierre. He’s given us permission to start republishing some pieces from the Times, so stay tuned…

~ Haiti has asked the U.N. for “a specialized armed force” to help quell the gang violence and restore order, but Biden is reluctant to lead on the request, “partly because of Haitian resentment over past U.S. interventions.”

The Haitians have a legitimate beef with Uncle Sam.

~ Twelve Haitian migrants were rescued from Monito Island by the U.S. Coast Guard, left stranded on the tiny, uninhabited island in the stretch of water between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola (Haiti/D.R.) by human smugglers. No one would’ve known they were there had Border Patrol not noticed the little campfire they had made.

~ The French president had a friendly little chat with Nicolás Maduro at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Egypt a couple weeks ago. Macron even referred to Maduro as “président” and said he’d call him soon to work something out between their two countries. Who’s gonna tell Guaidó?

~ “De fact dollarization” has boosted Venezuela’s economy, and poverty in the country is down almost 15 percent from last year.

The poverty rate now stands at 50.5 percent.

~ Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine —and the energy shortage it’s causing— may mean boom times for Venezuela, which has one of the largest oil reserves in the world.

~ Seems like a lot of people in Mexico aren’t down with AMLO’s plan to rehaul the country’s electoral system. Up to 12,000 people —and maybe as much as 200,000— gathered in Mexico City to protest—the largest protest of his presidency so far.

How do you not know if 12,000 people showed up somewhere or 200,000?

~ Leaders from the Achuar and Wampis tribes in the Peruvian Amazon are asking banks to cut ties with Peru’s state oil company, Petroperú, saying that the company’s oil spills violate their human rights by polluting their waters and destroying their hunting grounds.

~ Over 30 people will face trial in Panama for money laundering, including former Presidents Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela—and Varela still plans to run for president in 2024!

~ A former Brazilian congresswoman and celebrity gospel singer known as Flordelis has been sentenced to 50 years and 28 days in prison for having her preacher husband shot to death in 2019. She tried poisoning him with cyanide at least six times before deciding to have someone else kill him.

Weirder still, she and her late husband had 55 kids, and six of them have been sentenced to prison in connection with the preacher’s murder—including Flordelis’ son Flávio, who pulled the trigger.

~ I don’t know how Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov pulled off this two-minute one-shot scene in his 1964 film Soy Cuba, but I have to watch this movie ASAP.

~ I haven’t seen the new Black Panther movie yet, and I’m not exactly rushing to see it either—I hear it’s “mid,” as the kids say. But as a Puerto Rican who for years has been trying to bring Haitians into the Latin American fold, I love that the Hait scenes were shot in Puerto Rico.

Of course, it would’ve been better for Haiti if they were actually shot in Haiti…

~ I’m also not in a hurry to see Black people and Brown people battling to the death while white colonizers watch from the sidelines…

~ Tenoch Huerta, the Indigenous Mexican actor who plays the Maya-inspired Namor in Wakanda Forever, on what his role means for the people of Mexico and Latin America:

~ He’s also a bonafide stoic—I’m gonna start calling him Marco Aurelio:

My Spanish is a bit “ratata,” but here’s a rough translation:⁣⁣

“I don’t believe in pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. No. There is a system that impedes people like me. I’m an abnormality of the system. I shouldn’t be here because I don’t come from any place of power. I’m not light-skinned… I don’t have connections. I simply arrived based on talent, necessity… and resilience—a ton of resilience.⁣⁣

“And what I would tell little kids is what I’ve always said, the best advice that my teacher, my mentor, gave me… He would tell me: ‘They’re never going to put you in the game —NEVER, never in your life. They’re never going to put you in the lineup. You’ll never headline. They’ll always put you in at the end. Maybe some smart director will put you in during the final minutes of the game. But when they put you in, score a fucking goal that brings down the stadium. And to make that goal you have to be faster, taller, stronger. Read more. Study more. Train more… Understand more. Question more. Be more stubborn and foolhardy. Knock on more doors. And when the tiniest chance opens, give it one helluva kick.'”

~ Carlos Mario Marín, mayor of Manizales in Colombia, is getting dragged across social media for signing an agreement with a representative from Liberland, a country on the Serbia-Croatia border that “does not exist, has no inhabitants nor buildings nor physical businesses.”

As you would expect, the memes are delicious:

~ After the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts House and Senate overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in June to pass a law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants living in the state, Republicans pushed a ballot measure hoping voters would repeal the new law. But the voters decided to keep the law—and approved a four percent tax on anyone making over a million dollars… God bless America.

~ The L.A. Times interviewed poet León Salvatierra, who escaped becoming a child soldier in the Sandinista army and went on to get his doctorate in Hispanic languages and literature from UC Berkeley. The University of Nevada Press just published a bilingual version of his first book of poetry, To the North/Al norte.

~ Biden has ordered that pregnant migrant youth be sheltered in states that allow abortions.

~ U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it stopped almost 221,000 Cubans in the fiscal year that ended on September 30, a 471 percent increase from the year before. In October, Cubans passed Venezuelans as the second-largest group of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, stopped 28,848 times by Border Patrol, up 10 percent from September.

Now U.S. officials are meeting with their counterparts in Havana to hammer out what to do with all the Cubans fleeing the terrible situation in Cuba—largely the result of over 60 years of U.S. policy.

Remember, this was all part of America’s plan.

America squeezes Cuba and then complains when it’s sprayed with juice.

~ Two Cuban researchers write about the unprecedented nationwide debate leading up to the passage of Cuba’s new Family Code in September. “The new legislation,” they write, “moved the country into the 21st century with regard to family law, reproductive rights, domestic violence, children’s rights, maternity and paternity, old age, people with disabilities, and more.”

The Family Code was meant to be part of Cuba’s new Constitution enacted in 2019, but there was such a public dispute over its definition of marriage as the union between two people, that the constitutional commission decided to put the Family Code up for a referendum.

Debate around the provision saw a lot of firsts, including an evangelical pastor appearing on state TV—in Communist (atheist) Cuba!

In the end, the Code was approved by over 66 percent with a 74 percent turnout. (By comparison, the recent midterm elections here in the States saw a turnout just shy of 50 percent of eligible voters.)

While a lot of people like to harp on the fact that the Cuban system of government is so undemocratic, at least some Cubans believe that the Family Code, which establishes the rights of adults to marry other consenting adults, among other human rights, should’ve been made into law and never put to a referendum at all.

~ Come to think of it, is Cuba’s system of government actually more democratic than ours?

~ Speaking of leftists, looks like Latin America is finally on the right track (again)…

Note: In Latin America, the color red is a good thing—unless you hate poor people, black people, the Indigenous, women, gays, the planet, education, health…⁣ You know, human beings and the stuff they need to lead happy, healthy lives.

~ On a personal note, a few weeks ago I became a dues-paying member of the Las Vegas chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

I’m generally suspicious of groups, but I agree with 90 percent of the DSA’s positions and figured I should put my money where my mouth is.

~ “DSA won 75% of our endorsed candidates and initiatives, in states blue, purple and red, including measures for workers’ rights, tenant protections, abortion rights, and higher wages for tipped workers.” — Maria Svart, national director

~ We’re seeing a huge decline in productivity and “labor-force dropouts —neither working nor looking for work”— among “men of the 25-54 prime working age.

Except among immigrants, whose “workforce participation appears to be back up to pre-pandemic levels.”

Turns out immigrants are “lazy” like MAGA Republicans are “patriots.”

~ A recent poll places abortion as a top issue for Latino voters —behind inflation, the rising cost of living, and drug prices— with eight in 10 saying abortion should remain legal regardless of their own personal views.

Seventy-five percent of Latino voters support banning AR-15-style weapons, and 68 percent say something should be done immediately to address the climate crisis.

Meanwhile, 84 percent want tax loopholes closed to force corporations making more than $1 billion to pay a 15 percent tax.

~ A Russian man drowned on the 9th while trying to swim around the border wall at Playas de Tijuana in Mexico.

~ Playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes writes about her grandmother’s forced sterilization in Puerto Rico for The Nation, providing history and stats on sterilization programs in places across the United States, beginning with:

“1907—Indiana becomes the first of 32 states to sponsor and encourage or force sterilizations through eugenics boards and other ‘race betterment’ initiatives.

“1927—In Buck v. Bell, SCOTUS permits states to sterilize institutionalized people to promote the ‘health of the patient and the welfare of society.’ ‘Three generations of imbeciles are enough,’ writes Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the decision. It turns out that Carrie Buck was a good student and did not even meet the state’s definition of ‘imbecile’ at the time. The ruling is credited with paving the way for over 60,000 nationwide coerced state-paid sterilizations.

“1954—A massive population control campaign gains steam in Puerto Rico in the 1950s and ’60s, run by the US and Puerto Rican government, resulting in sterilization of a third of the island’s women—the highest in the world—by 1974. This is the year my abuela got la operación… 

“1973–76—In this three-year window alone, the Indian Health Service performs 3,406 sterilizations, many of which are documented to be coerced or forced, including Jean Whitehorse who, during an appendectomy, is sterilized unnecessarily and without consent. Her Navajo name, Amá, means ‘many children.’…

“1997–2003—One thousand and four hundred women in California state prisons are forcibly sterilized. Even after the state bans sterilizations of inmates, they continue. (The PBS Independent Lens documentary ‘Belly of the Beast’ streams through June on this topic.)…

“2020—Forced hysterectomies in an ICE detention center in Georgia are revealed after whistleblower and registered nurse Dawn Wooten goes public with what she witnessed working in the facility.”

~ “Puerto Rican Syndrome” was once a medical term for hysteria. One day soon it’ll become a political term for revolution.

~ On the topic of bodily autonomy, the former New York City Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, tells me that the Puerto Rico House of Representatives has rejected a measure passed by the Senate in June restricting abortion to 22 weeks.

~ P.R. House Speaker Tatito Hernández: “We listened to all sectors, and the end result of this effort is one that honors the constitutional right to human dignity and privacy, as provided in our Magna Carta.”

~ Does the U.S. government want a cookie for saying it will supply one of its colonies, Puerto Rico, with emergency power as it’s still recovering from a recent hurricane? Sort of: It wants its colony to pay for some of it.

~ I love science:

~ Film and TV critic Cristina Escobar spoke with Rick Castañeda, writer and director of All Sorts, and I’m gonna need some milk after this bit: “There’s kind of like this chasm between working really hard for money, which is difficult, and then also being an artist is working really hard for no money. And sometimes people, I think they get caught in the middle without a lot of motivation to do either one.”

~ I don’t know what the National Parks Service plans to do with Old San Juan’s iconic street cats —which some gringos apparently see as a nuisance— but I know they better leave those cats alone RIGHT MEOW…

A U.S. agency calling cats in Puerto Rico an “invasive species” —even though they’ve stalked the streets of Viejo San Juan since the days of Ponce de León— is peak colonialism.

Plus, the U.S. government doesn’t think the native Puerto Ricans belong there either.

~ The principal at a school in the Bronx allegedly threatened to pull visas from visiting teachers from the Dominican Republic unless they gave him money.

~ Thomas Hodgson has been the sheriff of Bristol County in Massachusetts for 25 years. In the past few years he’s threatened to send prisoners to the southern border to build Trump’s wall, has spoken out against Massachusetts being a sanctuary state, and even flew down to Texas to personally pay his respects to Border Patrol.

On Election Day he was voted out of office.

~ Last Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Christopher Magnus told the L.A. Times that he was “excited about the progress I made and look forward continuing that work.”

On Saturday, he submitted his resignation to Biden, effectively immediately.

Turns out he wasn’t getting along with his fellow henchmen.

~ Late last month, Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) introduced the Case Backlog and Transparency Act, which seeks to address the huge backlog at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

It took forever for us to fix my suegro’s papers during the Trump years, and now that he’s a permanent resident, it’s taking even longer for USCIS to get back to us about his wife, who’s been anxiously waiting in Juárez—and we all know how scary that place is.

~ At Chipotle, you can build your own burrito bowl, but you can’t form a union—especially if you’re an immigrant.

~ McKinsey: “US Latinos account for the fastest-growing portion of US GDP. So much so, that if we considered US Latinos as their own country, it would be third only to the GDP growth rate of China and India in the past decade.”

~ Sometimes I feel like the mono bailando por la plata

~ Ajay Kumar came to America in 2018 seeking asylum, but after being in immigrant detention for a year, he and three fellow Indian detainees decided to go on a hunger strike. Maybe they were channeling Gandhi—but the British Raj couldn’t hold a candle to ICE, which began force-feeding them.

The Intercept has the video.

~ Speaking of, someone claiming to be an ICE agent tried to visit Paul Pelosi’s attacker in jail, but he was denied for not having proper credentials. The attacker is a Canadian immigrant who entered the country in 2008 on a temporary visitor’s visa, so DHS is thinking of deporting him—as they should.

~ A Jamaican female immigrant and others at Florida’s Baker County Detention Center say that they have awakened to ICE officers taking pictures of them in their underwear, and that officers watch them in the bathroom and when they’re changing clothes.

ICE and the Baker County Sheriff’s Office haven’t said a peep about it.

~ Speaking of Florida, Cubans REALLY hate the Democrats:


No lo puedo creer….

♬ original sound – Carlos_Eduardo_Espina

~ Fidel on the people who flee from Cuba: “Those who don’t have revolutionary genes, who don’t have revolutionary blood, who don’t have a mind that adapts to the idea of a revolution, who don’t have a heart that adapts to the effort and heroism of a revolution—we don’t want them, we don’t need them!”

~ Earlier this month, security forces in Honduras violently evicted the Garifuna community in Punta Gorda on the island of Roatán, “defying ancestral land rights promised by Honduran law since 1995.”

Roatán has been their homeland since 1797, when the Brits kicked their Carib ancestors out of St. Vincent in the Lesser Antilles.

“I truly believed that under the government of Xiomara Castro this wouldn’t happen,” said Miriam Miranda, who leads the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, the country’s main Garifuna group.

~ If you don’t know about the Garifuna, you better ask somebody…


~ On this week’s Latino Rebels Radio, Julio welcomes Latino vote expert Chuck Rocha for a region-by-region breakdown of the 2022 midterms

~ If you haven’t caught The Last Cup, which tells the story of Argentine soccer stud Lionel Messi, his World Cup woes, and the ravages of neoliberalism in his native country, you can binge the first three episodes this weekend!

It’s hosted by Argentine journalist Jasmine Garsd and comes in English and Spanish versions, though they’re not exact translations of each other. Futuro producer Marlon Bishop describes them as “cousins.”


Hector Luis Alamo is the Senior Editor at Latino Rebels and hosts the Latin[ish] podcast. Twitter: @HectorLuisAlamo