As many people throw back margaritas and fill up on taco’s today it’s surprising that many don’t really know the origins of “Cinco de Mayo” or in Mexico known as the Battle of Puebla Day. The origins of “Cinco de Mayo” come from a battle in 1862 when the French tried to invade Puebla, Mexico due to unpaid debts by the Mexican country. Some important names are associated with this time such as Benito Juarez, Napoleon III, and General Ignacio Zaragoza.
Who was Benito Juarez?
Benito Juarez was the 26th President of Mexico
between 1858 – 1872 and is a huge figure in Mexican culture. He is considered a
symbol of Mexican Nationalism and resistance to foreign intervention for his
roller coaster life in Mexican Politics. During his life he was exiled several
times from power and even Mexico. He successfully led Mexico through war with
France and allowed Mexico to continue its independence from foreign rule. He
devoted his whole life to Mexican independence and growth as a nation that he
is the only person honored to have his birthday as a public and patriotic
holiday every year on March 21st. He was president during the Battle
Benito Juarez was such a national treasure for Mexico it made me wonder who were some great Latino(a) military leaders in US History.
Five Latino(a) US Military Heroes we should all know:
Private France Silva who became the first of 13 Hispanic Marines to receive the Medal of Honor was of Mexican decent and born in California in 1876. The Medal of Honor is the US’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration. Private Silva received the medal for his combat and bravery in the Boxer Rebellion of China in 1901.
Pedro del Valle was a US Marine and the first Latino to reach the rank of Lieutenant General. He served during the years of 1915 – 1948 which included service in WWI, WWII, the Battle of Okinawa and many others. He was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico while it was still under colonial Spanish rule. After WWII, he was recommended for the position of Governor of Puerto Rico, which between 1898 – 1942 were appointed by the President of the United States. He eventually asked to be withdrawn from consideration leading to the appointment of Jesus Piñero who is the first civilian and native Puerto Rican appointed Governor of the island.
Angela Salinas is an American retired General in the Marines. She is the first Hispanic woman to become a general in the Marines and the first woman to command a Marine Corps Recruit Depot. She now serves as the CEO of a branch of the Girl Scouts of America.
The Borinqueneers aka 65th Infantry Regiment is a Puerto Rican regiment created shortly after Puerto Rico became a commonwealth of the United States. It was nicknamed Borinqueneers after the Taino name for the island Borinquen. It has been active in all the major US wars since its creation in 1920.
David Farragut – This was a big surprise for me and I wanted to include him as I have seen his name from time to time plastered on streets or schools. Farragut’s father was from Spain but died early in his life and he was adopted by a naval officer in Virginia. He fought for the US in many of their early wars and fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War.
Diverse group shows we have been here from the start!
I wanted to share a diverse group of Hispanic / Latino(a) Americans
that served our country throughout the history of the United States to show we
have always been present from the start. On this Cinco de Mayo symbolizing
where Mexicans united to fight for their nation even though they were
outnumbered proves we can fight the insurmountable. We need equal
representation as we have fought for this country alongside the very diverse
history of the people who call themselves Americans.
We are in a moment in American Cinema. A historic moment where we
are seeing improved representation for people of color in filmmaking as well as
recognition for those films. For example, Crazy Rich Asians has
been heralded by many as a signal of this moment. Its tremendous success in
the Box Office suggested to
many that an all-Asian and more importantly, an all non-white cast can succeed
in filling U.S. theaters. And then (and even more importantly for some) it’s
been praised as an important moment for many Asian Americans who have long felt
underrepresented in Hollywood.
And rightfully so. Tons of works have documented how people of
color have been grossly under-represented in film and television. Asian
Americans, like many other(ed) racial/ethnic minorities have been mistreated by
mainstream media (See F. Wu’s book for how this impacts
the prevalent stereotypes about Asian Americans).
Many have also linked Crazy Rich Asians to
the tremendous success experienced by Black Panther, which
shattered records in the Box Office. Also signaling
to many that a predominantly black cast with a black superhero protagonist can
achieve wide American viewership. This means a lot to those who have noticed
the recycled storylines that marginalize and stereotype Black Americans (for
more on this, check out Vera & Gordon’s workon how American Film
centers and protects Whiteness).
“Roma has symbolized the representation that Mexican
Americans have been calling for in popular culture.”
In talking with family and friends (basically all Latinas/os), you
would think that Roma is our Black
Panther, our Crazy Rich Asians. Roma has also been
lauded for its focus on social issues in Mexico. To many, this has marked a new
moment in U.S. cinematic history since its director, Alfonso Cuarón, a Latino,
took home an Oscar, and its lead was nominated for best actress. The film has
symbolized a moment of representation that Latinxs, Mexican Americans in
particular, have been calling for in popular culture and media. There’s no
doubt that we’ve needed representation.
And yes, the cinematography is a revelation in Roma.
The acting is remarkable. The production quality was impeccable. Look, I tell
my gente, the craft overall is impressive. So you can imagine how so many have
questioned my sanity when I said I didn’t love the film. Later, after the
Oscars, I didn’t care that it didn’t take home so many of its nominations. So
why am I crazy?
[SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t already watch it, go watch it, then
come back and read the rest of this.] The film takes place in 1960’s Mexico
City, in the wealthy neighborhood of Roma. The story follows Cleo, an
indigenous domestic worker as she works for a wealthy doctor’s family. The
drama unravels as Cleo experiences a number of hardships and to add to an
already difficult life. The film depicts the exploitative relationship she has
with her employer family. The work is hard. She undergoes one humiliation after
another. The family takes her for granted. They treat her like help while
telling her (and in a few instances showing her) that she is part of the
family. And ultimately in a gut-wrenching moment, toward the end of the story,
she experiences a painful stillbirth. The film highlights the conflict-ridden
domestic worker-family relationship. It also doesn’t turn away from the point
that Cleo, a worker of clearly indigenous origins serves a Euro-looking wealthy
family, showcasing a history of colonization, oppression, and exploitation that
continues today in Mexico. But it’s
more than just about Roma and Cleo’s story. At the end of the film, the camera
pulls away from a rooftop shot where Cleo washes the family’s clothes to show
that there are many more stories in Roma yet to be told, more stories like
Cleo’s. It is powerful imagery with the performance and storytelling to match.
Again, I think everyone should watch it. But before you break out into wild
applause, hear me out.
I also think we need to have high expectations of what we consider
to represent us. We (Latinxs and people of color, generally) have such few
points where we can claim a rounded depiction of ourselves in popular media.
Equally important, we, now referring all critical viewers, need to hold a high
standard to filmmakers so that they do more than just “show” us a social
inequality. Filmmakers should interrogate the source and beneficiaries of these
stark inequalities, not just “show and tell” us about them.
“We need to move beyond a simple ‘show and tell’ -style of
My main issue was with how Cleo’s story ended. I
was uneasy throughout watching the film as it showed some hard-hitting moments
about Cleo’s life, and waited for a moment where I could exclaim, “Yes! Thank
you for making that statement about her oppression/oppressors!” but we never
reached that point. Perhaps my main problem was really what lead up to the
ending. After Cleo experienced a stillbirth, she saved the lives of the
children she works for (probably an intentional irony). Then, she cries about
her miscarriage while being embraced by her employers. Was this heartfelt? Was
this problematic? It likely depends on which viewer you ask.
We have to remember, that in the colonizer-colonized relationship
isn’t solely a top-down oppression dynamic. In fact, as scholars have pointed out,
when a person becomes a colonizer, their whole worldview is, to use a technical
term, fucked. Their social position becomes justified and
rationalized by their perspective on life and the world. They are incapable of
viewing the colonized as a full human being, thus their own personal humanity
becomes fractured. So, I can easily imagine someone from a wealthy white family
watching the same film and thinking, “Yeah, that’s true, Cleo truly was a
part of the family. And, while they all faced adversity they
did it together… All’s well, ends well.” They may feel no
culpability in their personal role in maintaining an oppressive system. They
might even go home and hug their Latinx domestic worker or nanny and feel okay
after. In this case, the traditional cinema-as-a-mirrormodel is
We need to move beyond a simple “show and tell” -style of cinema.
A wide viewership, blinded by the fact that we desperately needed both quality
and quantity representation in the media, has praised Roma. For what it is,
it’s a great film. But we should not settle for finally being
on camera. We shouldn’t not settle for simply being acknowledged for doing good
work behind the camera. We deserve better than that.
I think I’ll wait for a film that truly represents my background,
including my perspective and my values. I will wait for a film that doesn’t
allow white elites to continue their colonial relationships and behaviors
without a second (or maybe third?) thought. A film that I can genuinely laud
without hesitation. In the meantime, I will rely on other well-crafted,
real-life narratives about experiences that speak truths. For example,
sociologist M. Romero’s works are based on a combination of auto-biographic
stories and in-depth data that tell rich detailed narratives about domestic workers in the U.S. You can’t walk away
from those books without being pissed off about the social inequalities that
prevail today. She’s doing more than showing society a mirror, she’s clearly
pointing out what we should focus on in the reflection.
I don’t know how long it will be before they make a movie that
represents my story better. When they do, what would it be titled? Maybe,
“CRAZY POOR LATINOS ?”
I am excited for the month of February because I have so many goals and plans on where to take Platform Latino and really level up. So to really kick off this month I have given myself a 30 day challenge! Well maybe not 30 days because February only has 28 days but it will give me a realizable goal to achieve for the month. The goal is to write a blog post every day of the month. (Don’t worry I will try my best to keep it interesting)
What are my goals for Platform Latino?
My goals for Platform Latino are to create a source for Latino
encouragement. I want this brand to be a platform for Latinos both young and
old to look and learn from for self-betterment. I will be writing articles on
topics I have learned about the Latino culture as well as things I have found
interesting in the past. Coming soon, I will start uploading an interview podcast,
which I bring on Latinos from all walks of life to tell their success story.
How did I come up with the idea for Platform Latino?
One day I was asked what my ultimate goal in life was and I answered that I
would want to leave a legacy of being an influential Latino that served as a
role model for future generations. The follow up question to that was “Who are
your role models?” – This really caught me off guard because I rambled off some
names but I quickly realized none of them were Latinos.
It hit me later when I went home and was embarrassed that I couldn’t really
name many mainstream Latino Leaders. I could easily name European, Caucasian
and even African American heroes but when it came to my own background, I was
at a loss for words.
I asked some friends of mixed cultures if they could name more than 5
mainstream Latino Leaders and many of them really couldn’t as easily as they
could say African American Leaders. On a side note, there is no problem with
having role models from different cultures I just felt that this was a gap in
the education system that could be filled with just some awareness. This is
where Platform Latino was cultivated. It’s my motivation to bring Latino
Leaders to the mainstream and have their names be recognized as much as the
Martin Luther King Jr.’s and the Malcolm X’s.
How can you join me on my journey?
There are a few ways you can follow and even help me on my journey:
Social Media – you can click on the links below and follow the PL pages
Happy February 1st, as we hit the coldest month of the year, we also head
into Black History Month. This month celebrates the accomplishments and history
of African Americans and their contributions to the history of the United
How do they decide?
As I was thinking of what to write today, it made me wonder how they decide
which month to celebrate what cause and I thought of Hispanic Heritage Month.
History of Hispanic Heritage Month
If you do not know, Hispanic Heritage Month is oddly not in just one month.
Its spread between September & October (Sept 15 – Oct 15th). Why you ask?
They chose these dates because of the national independence days that happen
throughout Latin America starting with five countries on the 15th, followed by
three more in the following 5 days.
In 1968, it started as Hispanic Heritage Week sponsored by Edward Roybal
(Los Angeles politician) and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Twenty years later, it was expanded to 30 days, implemented by President Regan.
This blog/podcast is not only to share Hispanic/Latino contributions to
American Society but it is also my journey to learn more about our history in
this great country. If you think of all that was going on in the 1960’s in
America to see the passing of a whole week dedicated to us is a major
Black History Month
Black History Month originated as “Negro History Week” in 1926 and wasn’t
addressed by the U.S. President until the 1970’s. That is 50 years that it took
to be recognized by our head of government. African Americans have come a long
way to working towards equal rights and Latinos have been right behind them
supporting them along the way but it also shows we have made great strides in a
We share many similarities with the African American population that we are
often marginalized and underrepresented in positions of power. Although Latinos
have had many strides too because we come in so many shades of skin-color. I
also feel that because of this natural distinction they have had to work harder
fighting for their rights and to be recognized. In 1968, President Johnson
signed the Civil Rights Act into law. This prohibited the refusal to sell or
rent a dwelling to any person because of their race, color, religion or
national origin. It was monumental because it showed the federal government
making strides to fair housing acts. Although it was a start, it still is in
the works to making it a perfect system.
Same struggle united as one.
I would like to think if it was not for the civil rights movement and the
actions taken by our African American cousins we, as Latinos, would not be in
the same position as we are today. We should take a stand, march in equality,
and take a moment to support and celebrate Black History Month, as it is part
of our identity and history in the United States.
Imagine sitting at a large dining table with a group of successful people. On one side of the table, you have an accomplished lawyer/judge who rose up the ranks to White House HUD General Counsel after growing up in the Harlem Projects by his single mother. Across from him is a White House Fellow who was able to serve under Vice President Walter Mondale for the Carter Administration. Next to him is a sitting board member of a Fortune 500 company.Lastly, you have an activist who while in law school joined forces with the other students of color to fight to have more minorities enrolled and supported in the law school. Now what would you say if this wasn’t a group of people but only one man named, Nelson Diaz.
Who is Nelson Diaz?
Nelson Diaz is real, he has countless accomplishments throughout his career, and he isn’t stopping anytime soon. Most recently, he has published an autobiography detailing his life and inner thought throughout these monumental events. I had the pleasure of meeting Nelson in October and then rejoining him at a “Meet the Author” event at Hunter College in New York.I cannot tell you how enamored I am with everything he has done. What is even more amazing is he has helped numerous people along the way and never forgetting where he came from. At this event, the room was filled with not only students but also seasoned professionals that Nelson helped along his journey who follow and support him at each and every venture along the way.
No soy de aqui, ni de Alla
Nelson’s autobiography is appropriately titled “No soy de Aqui, ni de Alla” which translates to “Not from here, not from there”. The title alone is pivotal and important among the Latino Community because many times we do not feel accepted among the masses. As Nelson points out too that even in his Mother’s birth country of Puerto Rico he is seen as an American but here in the states he is considered a Puerto Rican before being looked at as an American. Nelson throughout his life has always looked for places of belonging but found out along the way that there may not always be a spot for you so you need to speak up and ask. This was a common question Nelson trumpeted along his journey challenging authority asking why there wasn’t more Latino representation. He has worked on both sides bridging Democrats and Republicans together to make a change and open up doors for Latinos.
A platform for success
Latinos come from many different backgrounds, walks of life, and lastly different countries of origins but we need to band together to help our cause as a whole. We also need to do what is right and just in this world and serve as an example of hard work and values to show we deserve a seat at the table. Nelson has done this and he continues and is a great of example that we can look upon as a role model. He is definitely a platform for us Latinos to learn from and respect. We need to use him as an example that no matter what your upbringing or what resources were available to you, we all have the opportunity to succeed and prosper.
A definite addition to your reading list
I recommend to anyone looking for inspiration or motivation to push through his or her current boundaries to pick up this book and read it cover to cover. It is the pure definition of the “American Dream” and shows even through struggle and injustice, one can achieve greatness.
John Leguizamo’s Netflix Special: “Latin History for Morons”
Unless you have been living under a rock or your wifi is out you have probably seen it advertised in your Netflix queue. John Leguizamo’s new Netflix special “Latin History for Morons” came on Netflix not too long ago and is right in line with the purpose of Platform Latino’s mission of promoting the Latin history the United States. Leguizamo mixes in his comedy expertise to simmer the top of how much American History involves Latinos. We have been here before America was America. Hell our Spanish ancestors were the ones who sent Columbus over to find the new world. Although he brought sickness and disease, which whipped out the majority of the native people we as Latinos share that as part of our history.
“If you don’t see yourself represented outside of yourself, you just feel invisible.”
John shares his struggles in explaining to his son Latino Heroes he could use for his school project. They aren’t readily available in normal history texts. Also as Latinos it’s hard to identify with the historical role models when we don’t share the same background, language or history. This is why I was glad to see and hear his examples and his passion to use his stardom to bring light on this void in American History. Most times, we focus on the negatives but at times, we need to really dig and find the truths and successes we have had and celebrate these milestones. You can tell he put in actual research into this show that he has been performing on Broadway this past year. He quotes many books, sources, and historical figures, which brings light into how much we have been involved in the history of the United States. Here is a great link to a source that outlines many of the books referenced. It definitely expanded my reading list.
How do you expect to have a Latin Hero for your son if you don’t have one for yourself?
This quote hit close to the heart because as I build PlatformLatino I haven’t identified a Latino(a) hero I look up to myself. To be honest I am using this as a portal to learn more about Latino(a) history in the United States and to also cast more of a positive light on our successes but I should also dig deep in finding out who is my Latin Hero.
“My Hero is Me!”
We are all heroes in our own way and we need to promote that and let others see what we are doing to better the community as a whole. It could be anything from helping the homeless, to editing your friends resume we can all do small acts of kindness to better the world. Make sure you are your own Hero first because you need to believe in yourself first to grow to your full potential.
All in all, it was a great special that mixed amazing much needed topics with a light comedic touch. I’d like to hear in the comments what you thought of the special and the takeaways you took from the show.