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Cinco de Mayo truths…

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 statue in Bryant Park in NYC

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 of Puebla.

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:

  1. 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.
  2.  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 He eventually asked to be withdrawn from consideration leading to the appointment of Jesus Piñero who is the first civilian and native Puerto Rican appointed Governor of the island.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Beyond Representation: Why Latinxs Deserve Better than What “Roma” has to Offer

By: David Orta – Guest Writer

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 cinema.”

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 ineffective. 

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 ?”  

February: Month Long Challenge

28 Day Challenge

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:

  1. Social Media – you can click on the links below and follow the PL pages
    1. Instagram
    2. Facebook
    3. Twitter
  2. Write me an email so I can add you to the email list to let you know when our future podcasts will debut.
  3. Share with your friends – Word of mouth is the best way to get the word out. Plus I will be extremely grateful.

Muchisimas Gracias!

Thanks for reading and let me know if there are any topics, you want to learn more about or if you know of a Latino Leader that may be interested in being a guest on the podcast.

Black History Month

Happy Black History Month

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 States.

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 accomplishment.

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 shorter time.

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.

Our seat at the table – The story of Nelson Diaz

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 who has been an advocate for Latinos and people of color to be better represented in law, business, politics and numerous other areas.

 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.

Review on Netflix Special: “Latin History for Morons”

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.

The First Latino

The First US Latino: A mix of African, Spanish, and the epicenter of Latinos in America

On a lazy rainy day, I was scrolling through Amazon Prime looking for some inspiration via a documentary. As I scrolled through a bunch of documentaries, I saw one about the history of New York. I figured since it was my two-month anniversary of moving to the Big Apple; let me learn a bit more about the greatest city on earth.

History of New York

As they introduced all of New York’s greatness they started with the original story of Henry Hudson sailing into this new world and his vision of this land being a sprawling harbor and center of commerce. We all know New York as being a melting pot; home to the financial markets, sprawls of people and where world leaders meet to discuss worldly issues at the United Nations.

After the Dutch landed in New York, at the time known as New Amsterdam, there is one footnote that has been debated and is much overlooked. A man named Juan Rodriguez, translated to Dutch Jon Rodrigues.

Who was Juan Rodriguez?

Juan Rodriguez was born in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic by a Spanish Father and an African Mother. Little is known, other than he was able to learn and speak many languages, which allowed him to be hired as a translator for explorers coming to the “New World”. One was a Dutch merchant ship making a voyage from the DR to Manhattan. He arrived in what is now New York in 1613 and soon after met and learned the Algonquin language of the Native Americans that lived in the New York Region. He eventually married into the community and after the Dutch ship left he established a small trading post.

He is known as being the first Latino to settle in Manhattan. Not only was he the first Latino but he was also the first of African heritage, first of European heritage and the first merchant.

Personal Commentary

This is interesting in these times with major issues in the news about immigration that one of the first settlers in New York was a mixed Latino. Its also ironic that as a nation built on immigration that we still have issues with racism and prejudices. Our European ancestors came to explore and settle here they hired and worked with a man who had a Spanish/Portuguese Father and an African Mother and thru historical documents described as a visibly dark man and had no issue with it. Shows we have lost touch with a lot of our true deep down American Values that made this country what it was and what it could be. A nation for the free to grow, prosper and lay a foundation for their families.

One other thing that comes to mind is the repeated story of people coming to this country from other parts of the world to make a life of their own. His story isn’t too far off from the beginnings of Alexander Hamilton who as a parent-less teenager came to New York to make a name for himself. It just shows that if you have the determination and the drive you can make it and live to your fullest potential. No matter what the situation, your families’ history or your upbringing there is no excuse that you cannot improve your life by staying focused and motivated in achieving your goals.  I wish we knew more about Juan Rodriguez and the personal less publicized stories of the early Latino or Spanish settlers that laid the foundation or should I say platform for Latinos today.

Intro Video

https://vimeo.com/283354214