LAS VEGAS — This week’s wrap-up comes to you from the cozy confines of quarantine, as I’ve managed to catch COVID for only the second time this year.
“Cuz you don’t wash your hands!” my wife says. “Or your ass!”
She’s especially mad since, while she’s been in and out of the office all week, my job is completely remote.
So she may have a point.
I am a bit of slob, but only because I keep myself busy with other things. Reading. Writing. Editing. Posting stuff to social media. Watching or listening to old interviews, usually with writers or musicians. Walking the dog. Hitting the gym twice a week. Going out to eat and drink myself stupid. TONS of staring into space, scripting imaginary conversations, tinkering with sentences in my head…
All of this leaves me very little time for washing hands, much less showering, though I quickly find the time once I finally can’t stand myself and the people around me start to look at me like the dude in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. And then I feel like a million bucks, standing in front of my wife still in my towel, all clean and Q-Tipping my ears, saying “I should do that more often!” as she rolls her eyes in disgust but with lots of love.
Cleanliness is as overrated as godliness, or at least it used to be before COVID came along. Socrates, Twain, Einstein, Bukowski, Steve Jobs… They were all hopeless slobs. And it didn’t make a difference either way. We don’t care how clean or piggy they were, at all.
You don’t think Jesus smelled like heaven, do you? He was literally born in a barn next to goats.
Not that I’m Jesus or even Jobs. But if sloppiness was good enough for them, then who am I to worry about being clean?
Still, with COVID hanging around, I’ve promised my wife I’ll start washing my hands more and showering every other day (there’s a drought here in Southern Nevada, and I don’t wanna be wasting water). I guess a little cleanliness couldn’t hurt.
Anyway, here’s what caught my eye this week….
~ Define American just released its third TV impact study, “Change the Narrative, Change the World: The Power of Immigrant Representation on Television.”
Teaming up with the USC Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project, the study looked at the portrayal of immigrants on 79 scripted TV shows between July 2020 and June 2022 and asked viewers how four immigration storylines shaped their attitudes toward immigrants in real life.
The study found that 40 percent of immigrant characters were associated with crime, there were twice as many Black immigrants as in 2020, and only 34 percent of immigrant characters were Latinos—down from 50 percent in 2020.
~ Speaking of (kinda), Lopez vs. Lopez, the new TV sitcom starring George and his daughter Mayan that premiered on November 4, has been given a full 22-episode season order at NBC.
~ Just a reminder that the next World Cup will be held across three countries —Mexico, the United States, and Canada— and it’ll feature 16 more teams than this one, with 48 instead of 32.
Let’s hope more teams mean more surprises like Saudi Arabia’s early upset against Argentina, and not more lopsided victories like Spain’s 7-0 rout of Costa Rica.
~ What makes Bad Bunny different than all the other reggaetoneros out there? Let his Dominican rival Arcángel explain…
~ I don’t know much about making a TV show —or about reggaetón, to be completely real with you— but if Netflix ever tapped me to make a show about reggaetón, I’d at least recruit a Puerto Rican or two to help with the writing.
~ Guillermo del Toro has really applied his genius-level moviemaking to his upcoming Pinocchio:
~ Every year, 25 songs and albums are picked for registry in the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Of all the songs that have been registered with the LOC, only about 24 are by Latino artists.
For years the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has been pushing to boost that number.
This year it sent a list of 33 titles for consideration, “Amor Eterno” by Juan Gabriel, “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira and, surprisingly —in that it’s not already in— “Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano.
The 2023 registry will be announced in late March or April.
~ While we’re on the topic of music, when the legendary Southern California radio DJ Art Laboe —who coined the phrase “oldies but goodies”— died in October at the age of 97, listeners wondered what would become of his beloved regionally-syndicated show.
It was quickly announced that the hosting baton would be passed to his co-host since the pandemic, DJ Old School Becky Lu. Real name Rebecca Luna, Becky Lu is from a Mexican American family in the Coachella Valley.
“Laboe, born to an Armenian-American family, was a favorite in her house because of his connection to the Mexican American community,” writes Russell Contreras for Axios Latino. “Laboe is credited with helping end segregation in Southern California in part by organizing live events with different racial and ethnic groups, and he promoted Latino artists.”
~ Mexican composer Jaime Lozano, born and raised in Monterrey, has a new musical in New York, this one honoring and celebrating the women of Mexico—namely, “the Disappeared.”
I had Jaime on my podcast Latinish back in October 2020:
~ This trumpet solo by Louis Armstrong has lived rent-free in my soul for a long time, ever since I caught a glimpse of it in Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary:
I once saw Satch named the greatest singer of all time, which surprised me. But whoever it was that came up with the list gave a good reason for the ranking, explaining how Louie sang so that his voice mimicked the sounds of his trumpet, which isn’t the way people sang before, all operatic and choir-like.
Rolling Stone says Aretha Franklin is greatest singer of all time, and they’re probably right—though they also ranked John Lennon at 5, right above Marvin Gaye, and Bob Dylan at 7, above Otis and Stevie!
If their judging is based on pure vocal skills, they’re out of their minds.
And in case you’re wondering, no Latino cracked the top 50… Uhhh, have they never heard Celia?
~ Nick Fuentes, the 24-year-old far-right organizer and provocateur who dined with Yeezy and Trump at Mar-a-Lago two days before Thanksgiving, is the son of a man who’s half Mexican. So, sure, I guess he qualifies as one of the rising number of Latino white nationalists making headlines lately.
~ Speaking of, I miss the OLD Ye… and the old Stacey Dash, too
~ Why does anyone follow a kid who still gets into food fights?
~ Latino Equal Pay Day, which was Thursday, “isn’t just about our paychecks, it’s about our economic security,” writes Lupe M. Rodríguez, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice. “And our ability to control our economic security is inextricably linked to our ability to decide whether and when to become a parent.”
Reminds me of something the Hitch used to say…
~ My boss Maria Hinojosa on covering migrant deaths in the Arizona desert: “This story is not old news. It’s news that is still happening. Right now. At this very moment.”
~ The past 12 months have been the deadliest on record for migrants crossing the border in search of asylum and a better life, with more than 800 lives lost mostly to drowning and heat exhaustion, says Border Patrol.
~ In the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas, the medical examiner is so swamped with work, the town’s stockpiling its “backlog” of migrant bodies in a refrigerated truck.
~ CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez and Natasha Bertrand begin their recent immigration piece like this: “The Biden administration is seriously considering an asylum proposal that would bar migrants from seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border if they could have received refuge in another country they passed through, mirroring Trump-era asylum limits, according to two sources familiar with discussions.”
~ More than three years after that terrible mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, all attention has shifted from the actual case and the defendant—who has already admitted that he drove 10 hours across Texas to shoot Mexicans. What’s dominating the headlines now is District Attorney Yvonne Rosales, who’s been throwing a tantrum after being criticized by the judge.
Rosales submitted her letter of resignation to Gov. Abbott last week.
It was just so bizarre to realize that this awful act of domestic terrorism just sort of faded into the background because of political shenanigans or whatever the motivation was for the district attorney,” Robert Moore, founder and CEO of El Paso Matters, told Axios Latino.
~ An attorney in New York was disbarred last month for filing 1,185 frivolous green card applications over the course of eight years—only one of which was approved.
~ In somewhat related news, a bank manager in Boston got caught filing fraudulent tax returns for immigrants. He and this other guy would file inflated tax returns for immigrants, targeting members of the Congolese community, and then deposit the excess into bank accounts in other people’s names.
~ Congress’s first Gen Z member just learned the hard way that you need money not only to run for Congress, but to live near Congress once you’re elected…
Just applied to an apartment in DC where I told the guy that my credit was really bad. He said I’d be fine. Got denied, lost the apartment, and the application fee.
This ain’t meant for people who don’t already have money.
— Maxwell Alejandro Frost (@MaxwellFrostFL) December 8, 2022
~ After a years-long campaign to close the “prison for children” in Berks County, Pennsylvania, the Biden administration announced on November 30 that it would be ending its contract with the facility used to house asylum seekers.
“In 2017, lawyers working with families at the [Berks County Residential Center] told NBC10 that some of the youngest detainees spent half their lives in detention.”
~ A former Republican congressman from Miami, David Rivera, was arrested on Monday on charges of money laundering and representing a foreign government without registering. Rivera signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist government.
~ CHC BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is supporting Nevada’s bid to host the First in the Nation presidential primary.
“Picking a President should start with a state that reflects our shared values of inclusion and embodies our rich diversity—particularly when it comes to some of the fastest growing voting blocs in the nation,” says CHC BOLD PAC Chairman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).
Nevada, where I’ve lived since 2016, is the third most diverse state in union, according to the U.S. Census.
~ In New York City, symptoms of Long COVID are most common among Latinos and residents of the Bronx, according to data from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene analyzed by The City.
“Of Latino adults in New York City, 30% who had COVID reported at least one long COVID symptom, compared to 23% of all white adults who had COVID.”
~ Tests for cystic fibrosis are more likely to miss it in Black, Latino, and Asian newborns, according to a new study.
As Marina Franco points out, a delayed diagnosis leads to delayed treatment, increasing the chances of death.
And the disease is already more deadly among Latinos than non-Latino white people.
~ What does a Supreme Court case involving a Christian graphic designer who says that being legally forced to create websites for same-sex couples violates her First Amendment right to religious freedom have to do anyone who isn’t LGBT?
Well, a “real estate agency whose owner opposed racial integration could refuse to represent Black couples seeking to purchase a home in a predominantly white neighborhood.” Or “a tattoo studio could ink American flag tattoos on customers born in the United States while refusing to sell identical tattoos to immigrants,” said the Biden administration and 20 mostly Democratic-leaning states said in a brief.
That said, if the court rules against the Christian objector, “a Jewish choreographer will have to stage a dramatic Easter performance… and a Muslim who operates an advertising agency will be unable to refuse to create a campaign for a liquor company,” said a lawyer for the CatholicVote.org education fund.
~ Good point:
~ Not sure if this is news to anybody non-white — so if you’re not white, feel free to skip ahead— but white people receive medical treatment for addiction waaay more than non-white people, and their treatments are longer too.
~ On Monday Cuba announced that it would allow women boxers to compete, though it didn’t say whether professionally (for pay) or not. The communist government banned professional boxing for men 60 years ago and only lifted the ban earlier this year.
As recently as 2009, the former head coach of Cuba’s men’s team said “Cuban women are there to show their beautiful faces, not to take punches.”
Now Cuba is holding a competition of 42 women boxers in mid-December to choose 12 athletes for a women’s team, which will compete in the 24th Central American and Caribbean Games in El Salvador next summer
The relatively quick turnaround is probably due to the fact that women boxers have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since the London Games in 2012.
Cuba is second only to the United States in the Americas in gold medals won at the Summer Games.
~ Sixteen municipalities in Puerto Rico have filed a lawsuit against a dozen oil companies for misleading the public about the effects of fossil fuels on climate change.
They point to the 2017 hurricane season, which featured six major hurricanes and more than a dozen named storms, caused at least $294 billion worth of damages, and contributed to an estimated 4,600 deaths and the failure of critical infrastructure in Puerto Rico —caused by two particular hurricanes, Irma and María— and the towns say the oil companies should be made financially responsible for the losses.
~ If you’re wondering how things are going in Puerto Rico these days…
Puerto Rico = carro
Bipartidismo = boquete
Asfalto = Miguel Romero pic.twitter.com/hC8rP17hL2
— Samuel Cepeda Arcelay (@SamuelCepedaPR) November 10, 2022
~ Susanne Ramirez de Arellano writing for LR this week: “Puerto Rico must change, or it will continue to atrophy into something unrecognizable. There must be a revolution of ideas and the courage to see them through.
“Courage is the tricky part.”
~ You can’t say the Puerto Ricans never tried:
“Always encountering details about [Pedro Albizu Campos’] trial under charges of seditious conspiracy,” writes Andre Lee Muniz, author of a new English-language biography of the famed Puerto Rican independence leader, “rarely do I see any attention given to his call for the political parties of Puerto Rico to elect delegates to meet in a constitutional convention, declare Puerto Rico an independent republic, and begin discussions over what they would later present to the United States as terms for a permanent treaty between the two nations.
“…Not only [was there] support from the political leaders of Puerto Rico for this convention —including the leader of the statehood party at the time— but… there was also considerable popular support among the masses —before even a month had passed, more than 10,000 people took part in a pro-constitutional convention meeting in Caguas, and more than 30 municipalities saw the Puerto Rican flag raised in their respective town halls in support of the movement.”
~ Those poor colonial subjects in Puerto Rico, always begging for handouts after some hurricane blows through…
~ The colonizers of Puerto Rico figure: why buy the cow when you can milk it for free?
The vultures, meanwhile, say: why stop milking the cow just because it’s bleeding to death?
~ Hurricane María, which swept through Puerto Rico in 2017 as a Category 4 storm, was so destructive, it left Puerto Rico with a “new coast,” according to a new report from a group of environmental scientists.
~ Last week Rommel H. Ojeda and Lucía Cholakian Herrera over at Documented wrote about how migrants are using TikTok to detail their journeys and warn others about the obstacles along the way.
~ On Al Jazeera’s “The Stream,” host Femi Oke looks at what happens to the refugees sent back to Haiti by the United States, some of whom face attacks from gangs and imprisonment without charge.
At least 25,000 Haitian migrants have been expelled by the United States since September 2021.
~ The day after the Guatemalan town of Asunción Mita voted against mining projects in their area back in September, the Vancouver-based mining company Bluestone Resources and the Ministry of Energy and Mines contested the legality of the “Consulta de Vecinos.”
The Cerro Blanco gold and silver open-pit mine in their territory is projected to extract around 38.4 million cubic meters of water over a 12-year period, which will affect the local aquifer for more than 32 years.
~ Biden is expanding and extending Temporary Protected Status for Haitian refugees, allowing those who were in the country on November 6 to apply and extending it for those currently under it for an additional 18 months, until August 2024.
He’s also expanded or introduced TPS for Afghanistan, Ukraine, Myanmar, Cameroon, and Venezuela.
~ Four guys carrying documents identifying them as active-duty soldiers kidnapped a family of four earlier this week in the central Mexican state of Tlaxcala, demanding a ransom of about $100,000.
~ AMLO plans to complete his elevated “Maya Train” line between Cancún and Tulum in a year.
At first it was supposed to ride above the coastal highway, but after the hotels complained, AMLO decided to cut a 68-mile swath through the jungle. To placate the environmentalist, AMLO says that two-thirds of the rail line will be elevated above the forest.
Still, the problem with THAT is geologists are saying that the cave-ridden soil —the Yucatán is known for its caves and sinkhole lakes, or cenotes— won’t be able to carry the heavy-ass train.
“They do not have the technical ability to sink the columns where there are no caves, because (the caves) are everywhere,” says Pepe Urbina, a diver who’s explored the caves for decades.
~ A three-judge panel has found former president and current Vice President Cristina Fernández guilty of leading a $1 billion fraud scheme that involved her giving public works contracts to a construction magnate closely tied to her and her late husband, former President Néstor Kirchner.
CFK, as she’s known, was sentenced to six years in prison and banned for life from holding public office, though the verdict and the sentence don’t mean much until the appeal process runs its course, which could take years.
As it stands, she remains the vice president and therefore has immunity from arrest.
Fernández took to her YouTube channel to tell her supporters that she would not be running for president again —she was president from 2007 to 2015— after her term as vice president expires next December.
“I’m not going to be a candidate for anything, not president, not for senator. My name is not going to be on any ballot. I finish on December 10 and go home,” she said.
But she might wanna rethink that, seeing as her holding public office is what’s keeping her out of handcuffs at the moment.
~ On Wednesday, in what’s becoming par for the course in Peru, the Congress removed President Pedro Castillo from office and had him arrested for “rebellion,” after he threatened to dissolve the legislature and assume supreme control of the country.
Vice President Dina Boluarte —who is fluent in Spanish and Quechua— was sworn in a few hours later, becoming the country’s first female president in history.
Just before lawmakers voted 101-6 to oust Castillo for reasons of “permanent moral incapacity,” the deposed president tried to install an emergency government and rule by decree, imposing a curfew that would’ve began on Wednesday.
Of the six presidents Peru has had since 2016, none has finished a full term.
Castillo, a rural school teacher from a poor area up in the Andes, campaigned on promises to nationalize Peru’s key mining industry and rewrite the constitution. But his inexperience in politics quickly showed, and he struggled with scandals involving his Cabinet members.
~ Activists and human rights groups say Cuba’s new criminal code, which gives longer prison sentences for “public disorder” and “insulting national symbols,” could limit free expression and protest—even more than they already are, that is.
I’d say so, too.
~ The number of Mexicans seeking asylum in Canada has increased five-fold from last year and doubled from pre-pandemic levels, up to 8,000.
~ Last week Mexico’s Ministry of Culture —why doesn’t the United States have one of those?— announced that the Dutch had returned 233 pre-Columbia artifacts dating back to 1200 B.C.E.
All told, “around 9,000 national pieces have been recovered since AMLO took office in December 2018.”
“As part of the recovery strategy, Mexico has filed lawsuits in different countries against the auction of Mexican pieces,” reports Mexico News Daily. “In 2021, the government also launched an international campaign called #MiPatrimonioNoSeToca (#Don’tTouchMyHeritage) promoted by Mexican ambassador in France, Blanca Jiménez Cisneros.
“Countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and Colombia have joined the campaign as they also try to recover heritage that is illegally sold in foreign countries.”
~ A series of fashion shows were held in Mexico recently —also partly organized by the same Ministry of Culture (this country could really use one)— which highlighted Indigenous designs in an attempt to combat ongoing plagiarism by big-name fashion houses.
Raph Lauren was forced to make an official mia culpa after selling what many called a rip-off of Mexican zarapes. “Any new product featuring traditional Indigenous design motifs following our Summer 2023 season will be created under a model of credit and collaboration,” the company said in a press release.
~ After early-morning gunshots forced schools to cancel classes in the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo, a shootout this week between the same Northeast cartel and the Mexican army left one soldier dead and seven suspected cartel members.
~ Prof. Guilherme Casarões at Fundação Getúlio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro: “The immediate recognition of Lula’s victory by a hundred foreign leaders reveals three things: Bolsonaro’s enormous global isolation; an affective memory of the Lula period, which maintained good relations with the world; [and] the ostensible rejection of pro-coup moves in the country.”
~ First El Salvador declared a “state of exception” in late March, eliminating certain civil liberties in order to crack down on gang violence. By late August more than 50 THOUSAND people had been arrested, and, as far as I know, what was supposed to be a special 30-day order remains in effect.
Then, at the end of November, President Xiomara Castro in neighboring Honduras —who’s supposed to be a liberal— declared a 30-day state of exception to cut down gang violence in that country, deploying 20,000 national police officers and establishing security checks on roads.
Now Jamaica —which I count as being part of Latin America, since Taínos inhabited the island later populated with enslaved Africans— has declared its own state of exception to quell the violence there. (Jamaica and Chicago have roughly the same population, but while Chicago has recorded 643 murders this far, Jamaica has seen 1,421.)
The order allows authorities to arrest people and search buildings without a warrant.
I know a lot of Latinos who support such measures in the name of enforcing peace and order, but I get nervous whenever a government strips rights and freedoms for the sake of security.
Remember, Hitler came to power under a state of exception declared after the Reichstag fire in February 1933, and the order never lifted the entire time he was in power, allowing him to rule unchecked.
~ Former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and his vice president, Roxana Baldetti, were convicted of fraud and conspiracy on Wednesday. The two were forced to resign in 2015 and have been in custody on charges related to a fraud scheme known as “La Línea,” in which they accepted bribes and allowed business to skip paying import taxes.
~ Following a campaign by Grupo Estratégico por la PAE to get Bad Bunny to speak out against the Honduran government’s ban on the emergency contraception pill —known as “la PAE” in Honduras— in which the group had billboards put up along the route from the airport to the venue where he performed in San Pedro Sula on November 29, on Tuesday the government approved use of the pill only for rape survivors.
“For over a decade, Honduran women have been fighting for their reproductive autonomy,” said Jinna Rosales, program coordinator for Grupo Estratégico por la PAE (GEPAE). “Emergency contraception is the bare minimum that this government is willing to guarantee and they know all too well that rape survivors rarely report their experience or seek medical attention for fear of reprisal. All this law does is further stigmatizes rape survivors, who will be forced to recount their trauma to receive emergency contraception at health facilities.”
“Honduras was the only Latin American country with an all-out ban on emergency contraception—the country continues to have a total abortion ban, including in cases of incest or rape,” says the Women’s Equality Center, which has been coordinating with GEPAE and groups like it across Latin America, said in a press release. “One in four women has been physically and/or sexually abused in Honduras, and only 10 percent of those cases are reported due to fear, embarrassment, and a lack of protocol when reporting a rape in the country.”
“According to the United Nations, Honduras has the second-highest rate of teenage pregnancies in Latin America. It is reported that at least 40% of pregnancies in Honduras are unplanned or unwanted,” the press release said.
Over a bottle of tequila, my boss Maria and Cuban-Mexican journalist Peniley Ramírez discuss Peniley’s decade-long investigation into Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s top security official from 2006 to 2012, who in 2018 was accused by cartel kingpin “El Chapo” Guzmán in federal court of receiving millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloas. They also discuss the drug war in general, raising questions as to how someone as corrupt as García Luna could rise to the top of Mexico’s security apparatus to begin with, and what it says about the way in which the U.S. government is working with Mexico in the war on drugs.
~ LR’s TV and movies contributor Cristina Escobar was on this week’s episode of Latino Rebels Radio for a look back on a strong year for Latino represenation in Hollywood. (Did you catch her Wednesday review?!)