LAS VEGAS — Latino Rebels’ Caribbean correspondent Carlos Edill Berríos Polanco reported on the activists who tore down barriers a couple weekends ago to open public access to Playa Sardinera in Hatillo, Puerto Rico, where the beach is being threatened by —you guessed it— private developers:
“The beaches don’t belong to anybody. They belong to everybody,” said local Wendy Fernández. “And the whole world… the entire Puerto Rican people, and everybody who comes to visit us, comes for the beauty of our beaches. So it seems incredibly unjust that a select few want to take over Puerto Rico’s beaches, which belong to all of us.”
What could be more valuable on an island, more of a birthright to its people, than access to the sea?
That someone would have lo’ cojones to come along and restrict that access —an outsider too, no less— and start destroying the beach by building una porquería, thus threatening the plants and animals that rely on the beach as part of their natural habitat, should be considered crime tantamount to murder. Because if killing one person is a grave capital offense, then what does that make the destruction of the planet and everything that lives on it?
Anyway, on to this week’s wrap-up…
~ LR’s entertainment correspondent Cristina Escobar was in Park City, Utah last weekend for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where she caught up with Eugenio Derbez, the producer and star of Radical, which follows a middle-school teacher in Matamoros who experiments with a different tactic to reach his students.
~ Cristina also interviewed the directors of Going Varsity in Mariachi, a documentary that follows a high school’s mariachi band in South Texas as it tries to win the state championship.
“Mariachi music is more than a Mexican restaurant novelty,” says director Sam Osborn. “It’s more than just Epcot Center. It has real cultural roots. It’s an art form.”
~ I did an IG Live with Cristina on Tuesday as she was preparing to fly back to Santa Fe, and got her take on her first trip to Sundance and the Oscar nominations announced on Tuesday.
~ I saw something that said Beyoncé’s collaboration with Shakira on “Beautiful Liar” in 2006 “shifted the culture,” and looking back now, it’s funny how I didn’t notice it at the time.
Remember when Shakira and Beyoncé stoped the world pic.twitter.com/LC9RDrYZ0Y
— . (@yonceir) January 19, 2023
~ You know Bad Bunny is the greatest crossover music star in the history of Latin America when he’s got wypipo singing in Spanish:
~ I don’t need any more reasons for my crush on Karol G than the way her eyes bugged out when she spotted a fan’s hot dog and just dove in mouth-first (me being from Chicago and all)…
~ Meanwhile, no manches Señora!
~ Look who made the Washington Post crossword puzzle—everyone’s favorite unperfect Mexican daughter:
~ The peeps at Culture Strike were at Sundance and went around asking the question: Why is it important for artists of color to show up at such events?
~ A tamal lady handing out tamalitos as samples is pure genius…
~ Nielsen has teamed up with The Latinx House at Sundance to share some of the key insights from the media research company’s 2022 “Being Seen on Screen” report, such as the fact that:
1) while the Latino community accounts for 19 percent of the U.S. population, Latino representation in English-language broadcast TV is only 5.8 percent, 3.6 percent in cable programming, and 8.6 percent in streaming video
2) 42 percent of the most-bingeable content in 2022 featured Latino talent either behind or in front of the camera
~ Huu Can Tran was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday after he shot up a dance hall in Monterey Park, on the eastern edge of L.A., killing 11 people and wounding others. All but one of the victims were over the age of 60, and most if not all were members of the local Asian community.
Tran drove to a second dance hall, the Lai Lai Ballroom in the nearby city of Alhambra, where he was stopped by Brandon Tsay, who wrestled the gun and told the old man: “Get the hell out of here, I’ll shoot, get away, go!”
The mass shooting is the fifth in the United States this year and is an especially hard blow for the Asian community as it celebrates the Lunar New Year.
At 72 years old, the gunman is the second oldest mass shooter in the United States since 2006, according to a database of every mass killing —defined as four dead not including the offender— committed in the U.S. since 2006.
~ Even though Latinos may be more accepting of LGBT communities, the use of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric is still effective in recruiting more conservative Latinos to far-right causes, writes Arturo Domínguez in an op-ed for LR.
~ On Wednesday, Meta announced its decision to allow Trump back on Facebook, after he was indefinitely banned from the platform in 2021 for inciting the attack on the Capitol Building.
“It is clear that Meta has zero regard for the lives and safety of its users, and will bend its content moderation rules to match whichever political ideology is most beneficial for their bottom line at any given time,” said Brenda Victoria Castillo, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
~ The high price of eggs in recent days has fueled egg smuggling from Mexico, and the internet seems to have no complaints about it.
But you know how the Feds be, always raining on the people’s parade:
The San Diego Field Office has recently noticed an increase in the number of eggs intercepted at our ports of entry. As a reminder, uncooked eggs are prohibited entry from Mexico into the U.S. Failure to declare agriculture items can result in penalties of up to $10,000. pic.twitter.com/ukMUvyKDmL
— Director of Field Operations Jennifer De La O (@DFOSanDiegoCA) January 18, 2023
~ USA Today‘s Elizabeth Weise explains why The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists decided to move its infamous Doomsday Clock forward to 90 seconds to midnight—the closest it has ever been since the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan at the end of World War II: “The world is facing a gathering storm of extinction-level consequences, exacerbated by the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia.”
I wonder what qualifies as a LEGAL invasion. Iraq? Vietnam? Haiti? Puerto Rico?
~ We need to defend the rare and endangered plants of animals of Puerto Rico being threatened by private developers—but especially the butterflies!
~ On Wednesday, Gov. Pierluisi announced the private company that will take control of energy generation in Puerto Rico.
“As part of a $22.5 million annual contract, Genera PR will be in charge of PREPA’s generation assets for a 10-year term. It is also eligible for up to $100 million a year in incentives,” Los reports. “Genera PR —a subsidiary of New Fortress Energy, which has operated a natural gas facility in Puerto Rico since 2020— will also receive $15 million during its 100-day transition period, likely to come in the middle of 2023.”
~ My comrade Susanne Ramirez de Arellano just published the first in a two-part series on the battle over reproductive rights in Puerto Rico following last year’s Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade:
“It’s early morning, and Dr. Yari Vale is running late. Her son forgot his lunch, so she rushed to drop it off at school before making it back in time for our meeting.
“Ringing the doorbell of the Darlington Medical Associates clinic —where there is a security system in place and a security guard protecting the facility— Dr. Vale pushes the door open. She says good morning to the waiting patients and the receptionist sitting behind a glass booth festooned with Christmas decorations.
“I watch as Dr. Vale walks in and notice something peculiar in her gait, a heaviness weighing down her small frame. Then it hits me—she is wearing a bulletproof vest underneath her blue scrubs.
“We are not in a conflict zone, but Dr. Vale is in the middle of a different kind of war. She is an obstetrician-gynecologist and abortion clinic administrator in Puerto Rico, working after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June of last year.”
~ A two-year study conducted by the U.S. Energy Department finds that, if Puerto Rico has any hope of switching to renewable energy anytime this century, its best bet is to install solar panels wherever it can, since there isn’t much room on the island for large-scale solar farms or wind generators.
~ Last Friday the Feds seized $24 million worth of cocaine —more than 2,200 pounds, or 1,000 kilos— from a speedboat trying to reach the southeast coast of Puerto Rico. Two of the suspects arrested were from the D.R., the other from Colombia.
Agents had seized $18.4 million worth of coke earlier in the week from smugglers off the northeastern coast, killing two of them and arresting four others.
~ I’ve been following the trouble in Peru since at least former President Pedro Castillo was ousted in December 7, jailed, and replaced by his former vice president, Dina Boluarte, who became the country’s first female president—a fact that was celebrated maybe for half a minute.
But I haven’t heard any layperson mention it outside a few media friends until Peru decided to close Machu Picchu on Saturday.
~ A critic of the AP’s coverage, which Latino Rebels shared on Monday, makes a solid point: “Indigenous people (most of the 55 killed by police) are more important than the closing of a tourist destination.”
No disagreement there.
~ Prof. Eduardo Gamarra at Florida International University gives a good breakdown of the Indigenous-led movement behind the protests in Peru:
“What you are really seeing is a “Bolivia-ization” of the protest movement in Peru. The tactics of the protest movement in Peru are similar to those of the forces behind the pro-Morales unrest in Bolivia of both 2003 and 2019: the road blockades, the violence against police that has seen at least one officer killed and others injured. That in no way excuses the brutal response by police, which has seen more than 50 demonstrators killed.
“But even in the treatment of these deaths you see echoes of Bolivia. Just as in Bolivia, protesters are framing the anti-demonstration violence by authorities as a ‘genocide,’ claiming that police are targeting Indigenous groups because of who they are.
“In my view, that is incorrect. The police are obviously using excessive force, but the officers involved are themselves, in many cases, Indigenous.”
~ Hours after President Boularte called for a true on Tuesday, police deployed tear gas on the streets of Lima as thousands of protesters participated in the largest demonstrations since last week.
“We can’t have a truce when she doesn’t’ tell the truth,” a 48-year-old protester said of Boularte.
“Even though her eyes were watering from the tear gas, España Mesa said she was ‘happy because a lot of people came today. It’s as if people have woken up,'” reports Daniel Politi for the AP.
~ On Friday, Boularte called on the Peruvian Congress to schedule elections for later this year, which is a lot sooner than the April 2024 that she had originally called for when the powder keg exploded back in December.
~ “The events of the last two months in Peru are yet another example of what happens to democratic societies when autocrats are allowed to run amok and silence the voices of the people they claim to govern,” writes Julio in his latest column for MSNBC.
~ U.N. Secretary General António Guterres is calling for the deployment of an international specialized armed force to Haiti and asking that countries not deport Haitian migrants back to their homeland for the time being.
“The people of Haiti are suffering the worst human rights and humanitarian emergency in decades,” he said.
~ On Saturday Brazilian President Lula da Silva fired the head of the army, following some indications that members of the country’s armed forces did nothing to prevent or stop the insurrection in the capital on January 8.
“During a breakfast with the press, Lula said earlier this week that ‘a lot of people from the military police and the armed forces were complicit’ and had allowed protesters to enter the buildings with open doors. In another interview, the president said that ‘all the military involved in the coup attempt will be punished, no matter the rank,” as Carla Bridi reports for the AP.
~ Also on Saturday, Lula visited the northern state of Roraima, where illegal mining has caused malnutrition and diseases such as malaria among the local Yanomami people of the Amazon. Lula declared a public health emergency, describing the treatment of the Yanomami as inhumane, and vowing to take immediate action to improve transportation in the area and hire more doctors and nurses there.
From Bridi at the AP:
“The Yanomami live in the largest indigenous area in Brazil, with more than 9 million hectares (22 million acres) and a population of around 30,000, in the northern area of the Amazon rainforest, close to the border with Venezuela.
“In recent years, specialists had sounded the alarm about humanitarian and sanitary crisis taking shape. The report ‘Yanomami Under Attack,’ written by the nonprofit Socio-Environmental Institute, points out that in 2021 the region was responsible for 50% of the malaria cases in the country. The same report said that more than 3,000 children were malnourished.
“Illegal mining is the main root of the problems faced by the Yanomami people. Activists accuse miners of death threats, sexual violence and alcohol and drug abuse, especially against Indigenous children. The same report shows that the region had more than 40 illegal airstrips made by miners and that they had taken over some of the government health centers installed in the region.”
~ Colombia’s human rights watchdog says 215 human rights advocates were killed last year, the highest death toll since that peace accord was signed with FARC rebels in 2016.
~ An ongoing and violent feud between taxi drivers and Uber drivers in Cancún has led the U.S. State Department to issue a travel warning for the area, saying that “past disputes between these services and local taxi unions have occasionally turned violent, resulting in injuries to U.S. citizens in some instances.”
The taxi drivers have even blocked major thoroughfares like Boulevard Kulkulcan, forcing the city’s transit police to start shuttling tourists between the airport and their hotels.
“I am not going to allow a small group to damage the reputation of the resort and human safety,” Mayor Ana Patricia Peralta said. I wonder if she plans to do anything about the cartels battling over control of the resort town.
“Social media sites have been full over the last two days of videos showing tourists being berated —and in one case, apparently manhandled— by groups of several uniformed taxi drivers,” reports the AP.
“‘It is illegal, illegal,’ a taxi driver can be heard shouting at one family of tourists.’
“In fact, ride-hailing apps had been blocked in Cancun until earlier this month, when a court granted an injunction allowing Uber to operate.”
~ President Bukele’s crackdown on gangs in El Salvador has led to an increased presence of said gangs in southern Mexico, where drivers of taxis and buses are being threatened with violence if they don’t pay “war taxes.”
“If we don’t do anything we’re going to be a little (El) Salvador,” said a driver in the town of Huixtla, in Chiapas.
~ AMLO is looking to recover $700 million —DOLLARS, not pesos— from former Public Security Secretary Genaro García Luna, who is currently on trial in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn and is the subject of the Futuro podcast USA v. García Luna.
~ Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the military, which is supposed to be conducting civilian operations in support of law enforcement agencies, doesn’t have to tell police when they arrest someone, so long as they later register the arrest in some database that police have access to.
~ Since Mexico has strict laws against early campaigning, the videos made by former Club América forward Giovani dos Santos and others in support of Interior Secretary Adán Agusto López’s candidacy appear to be a clear case of flouting the law.
López —“Mexico’s No. 2 domestic political official,” as the AP describes him— thanked soccer stars but pointed to the fact that the upcoming election season doesn’t officially open till the fall.
Not to be left holding the bag, dos Santos said he only recorded the message after being asked to by a third party: “It has been part of my career to share in a friendly way this type of greeting with my fans and friends, when they ask for it.”
~ Earlier this month a 17-year-old boy from Cuba was shot and killed in Mexico, where he’d been forced to wait for an asylum hearing by Biden’s latest expansion of Title 42.
~ Mexico’s health department is calling on the nation’s kids to stop taking part in a social media challenge called “the last one to fall asleep wins,” where kids take a bunch of tranquilizer pills, typically clonazepam, and compete to see who can go the longest without passing out. (I remember when we used to play with ants as kids, finding a black one and dropping it onto a colony of red ones, or vice versa.)
Eight kids were treated for taking prescription meds last week at a middle school in Mexico City. Some of them ended up in the hospital.
A few days before the Mexico City incident, three kids in Monterrey were treated for taking clonazepam.
~ A Mexican man from Cincinnati —we don’t know if he was a U.S. citizen or not— was killed in Zacatecas around Christmas, along with his fiance, whom he was visiting, her sister, and a cousin.
“Their skeletal remains were found in January in a clandestine burial pit,” the AP reports.
~ More and more people keep telling me how much they loved listening to La Brega, the dual-language podcast from WNYC Studios and Futuro Studios about Puerto Rico and its people.
Now La Brega returns for a second season, beginning with an episode that looks at “La Preciosa,” a song written by the island’s most celebrated composer, Rafael Hernández, which has become something of an unofficial anthem. The episode ties that earlier anthem with Puerto Rico’s newest one, “El Apagón,” by Puerto Rico’s music superstar, Bad Bunny.
~ On Tuesday’s episode of Latino USA, trans activist and actress Cecilia Gentili, who stars in FX’s Pose and published her memoir Faltas last year, talks about telling her story as a cry to support trans youth.
~ In this week’s episode of Latino Rebels Radio, Julio talks to Cristina about Latino representation at Sundance and the film industry in general, and asked for her take on the Oscar nominations announced on Tuesday.
~ For Friday, Latino USA ran back a 2019 conversation with the producers of Dora and the Lost City of Gold to talk about the legacy of the groundbreaking fictional character.
Hector Luis Alamo is the Senior Editor at Latino Rebels and hosts the Latin[ish] podcast. Twitter: @HectorLuisAlamo
Concerning your excellent piece on Puerto Rico’s beaches, as a Puerto Rican attorney who has practiced law for 36 years in the Caribbean U.S. territory I should clarify for the benefit of your non Puerto Rican readers that ALL BEACHES ARE PUBLIC PROPERTY BY LAW IN PUERTO RICO, so that ANYBODY AND EVERYBODY HAS THE LEGAL RIGHT TO HAVE ACCESS TO, AND ENJOY, ANY AND EVERY STRETCH OF BEACH ANYWHERE IN PUERTO RICO. That, in fact, is the general rule and the default position concerning Puerto Rican beaches and that public nature applies, in fact, even to beaches that can only be accessed through private property (easements for general access are supposed to be provided in such cases but absent such easements the beaches may be legally accessed and enjoyed by boaters, kayakers, oaddlers, surfers, swimmers and anybody who may gain access from the water’s side). In order for a particular beach to become private property, hence off limits to any and all beachgoers, either a SPECIAL LAW, SPECIAL EXECUTIVE ORDER OR SPECIAL EXECUTIVE DECREE must be issued; that is the ONLY way in which a relatively few beaches adjoining some hotels, private developments and offshore islands in Puerto Rico have become factually and legally private and you can count legally privatized beaches in Puerto Rico on the fingers of two hands, which represents a minuscule proportion of the reportedly 1,000+ beaches throughout the “Boricua” archipelago. Confrontations between local activists and developers stem from the fact that some of the latter, who hail from the U.S, mainland, are seemingly unaware of the general rule that all beaches in the U.S. territory are public by law unless a special and specific legal provision has been enacted. I saw fit to make the previous clarification because I’m aware that the general rule that all beaches are public unless otherwise earmarked by a special legal provision is counter-intuitive for most of our fellow citizens who hail from the U.S. mainland, Alaska or Hawaii, where statutes differ greatly from our own in that regard.