Para ellos: Why Erica Alfaro owes her master’s degree to mami and papi

From the beginning, the odds were stacked against 29-year-old Erica Alfaro, who graduated from Cal State San Marcos with a master’s degree. She became a mom at 16, dropped out of high school and was trapped in an abusive relationship. But with the support of her parents, she reached her dreams.

Erica and her parents in California strawberry fields / E.W. Scripps Broadcasting Company

Born in Tijuana, Mexico, her parents moved the family to Oceanside, Calif., when Erica was 13 years old. Although her parents believed education was important, they weren’t able to go to school themselves and got jobs as farmworkers. Alfaro seemed destined to repeat the cycle. Yet Erica was determined to break it.

Erica Alfaro and son before start of commencement. / Cal State San Marcos on Twitter.

Her son Luis inspired her to finish school, first through homeschooling. Then she enrolled at junior college before transferring to Cal State San Marcos. There, the obstacles continued. Her son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy causing Erica unexpected but understandable depression.

Erica Alfaro gives a commencement speech. / Cal State San Marcos on Twitter.

Still, Erica would keep fighting. Among the difficulties she remembered the day her parents took her to the tomato fields to remind her that the only way to break the cycle was through a good education. No matter how hard it was, Alfaro knew she wanted to be part of the 2% of teen moms who graduate college by age 30.

Eric Brier, Cal State San Marcos on Twitter

On graduation day, she thanked her parents for their sacrifices in a viral photo showing the trio in a field of strawberries. It resonated with us, and made us collectively thankful for our papis and mamis giving us a better life.

Quince celebrations with a civic twist

Princess-like ball gowns ? A much-anticipated waltz ?? An ensemble of attendants. These are the hallmarks of a traditional Quinceañera, the coming-of-age celebration marking a Latina’s 15th birthday. Starting this year, these big fiestas will have a special twist in Texas.

Poder Quince Jolt Initiative

What is that special twist? Eligible U.S. citizens will have a chance to register to vote at select quince parties where the birthday girl has agreed to work with a unique voting campaign to encourage more Latinxs to get out and vote!

Poder Quince / Jolt Initiative

The campaign is called Poder Quince/Power Quince and aims to change the political mindset of young Latinas so they prioritize voting and civic involvement, thereby starting a social movement where Latinxs are more involved in local, state and national elections. The idea is the latest innovative solution by the Jolt Initiative, a Texas -based Latinx civic organization advocacy group working to increasing low Latinx voter turnout.

Poder Quince Jolt Initiative

The campaign wants to transform quince parties in Texas  into Poder celebrations, where the Jolt team will be onsite to register voters. Meanwhile, the birthday girls will receive a free photo booth at their event, a free Snapchat filter geotagged to their venue and — for one lucky winner— a celebrity guest appearance!

Their goal is to register 5,000 voters within the first 8 months of the campaign and expand to 1,000 quince parties by the 2020 election. We’re certain our mujercitas can make this happen!

They’re taxing poor students as much as the super-rich!

Qué carajo is our government doing charging the poor and the rich the same amount of taxes? Don’t they realize if we ever want to reach true economic equity, students of color need to graduate without a mountain of debt?

College debt situation is worsening. The Finance Genie

These days our students just can’t catch a break. They already have to overcome a multitude of obstacles to be successful in U.S universities. And now they’re being being taxed as if they’re trust fund babies regardless of whether they’re low-income.

A growing number of college students have debt. / Pbs.org

President Donald Trump’s new tax law has a provision that drastically raises the tax rate on unearned income for young adults in school. Higher education leaders are demanding Congress fix the provision because right now students with large financial aid packages  get things like room and board taxed by as much as 37%, even if their families’ tax rates are significantly lower.

College debt is an economic crisis / Mediamatters.org

About 1.3 million undergraduate students and 15,000 graduate students currently have scholarships and grants that cover non-tuition expenses. Meanwhile, Congresspeople who are part of the tax-writing House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees are urging their fellow leaders to take swift action on the increasing burden of college debt.

We hope this gets fixed quickly lest all of our college graduates are stuck eating Ramen Noodles and Hot Cheetos well into adulthood ?

 

Cecilia Martínez won’t be forced out of this country because Trump wants to end TPS

Cecilia Martínez arrived in the United States from El Salvador 19 years ago at the age of 16. She had two children and made a life working hard. Suddenly, everything was turned upside down by President Donald Trump’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status, a legal protection given to people fleeing violence or devastation in their home country.

Family impacted by TPS / LatinUS.TV

Instead of allowing the news to get her down, Martínez decided to take matters into her own hands. Since 2017, she has led one of the most active committees of beneficiaries of TPS seeking a definitive legal status in the U.S. from her New York home.

Cecilia Martínez / ElSalvador.com

Cecilia is so committed to this cause, that she even took a six-month leave of absence from her cleaning job to make more time for her activism. One of the things she did was join the TPS Pro-Residency Committee in Long Island as a volunteer when no one else seemed interested. She estimates some 16,000 Salvadorans who rely on TPS live in the area. 

TPS activists / ElSalvador.com

Cecilia hopes to gain permanent legal status for Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, Hondurans and others affected by TPS’s looming end. Meanwhile, hundred of the families she aims to help await a decision on whether the government will extend TPS and give them their lives back. There’s hope down south, too, as lawmakers in Florida  push to extend TPS to Venezuelans grappling with instability in their home country.

 

Richest man in the world honors his Cuban immigrant father

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos describes his father’s journey to the U.S. as one filled with determination and courage. The world’s richest man credits a great deal of his success to his Cuban dad ?? who raised him starting at age 4, and instilled in him the value of hard work and perseverance. He honored his father Miguel with a Liberty Star worth $2 million that forms part of the ‘Stars and Stripes’ mural at the Statue of Liberty’s museum entrance.

 

Miguel, who goes by Mike, emigrated from Cuba at the tender age of 16 without knowing a word of English. He was one of thousands of teenage refugees fleeing Fidel Castro’s dictatorship, in search of a better life in the U.S.

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From left, a young Mike Bezos and Jeff Bezos. Business Insider as sourced by YouTube/Amazon News.

Mike’s parents were not allowed to board a plane, so they dropped him off at an airport with nothing but three shirts, three pants, one pair of shoes and a jacket handmade by his mother. In a heartfelt video Mike said fellow boarders clapped when they all got on the plane and 45 minutes later landed in Miami with a new lease on life.

The Bezos family Cubanosporelmundo.com

Mike lived in a refugee camp for three weeks before heading to high school where he learned English and earned a college scholarship. He met Jeff’s mother, Jackie, at the University of Albuquerque in New Mexico and they started a life together.  

Cuban immigrant Mike Bezos clearly influenced the world’s richest man. The Bezos truly are first-rate examples of the American dream.

 

Thanks to these graduates, college ceremony is now bilingual in Texas

What can trump the pride a Latinx feels as they graduate ?? from college? This sacred moment makes the family’s sacrifices well worth it.

Latinx bilingual ceremony graduates at Texas A&M University / The Battalion

But that sense of joy and fulfillment can be dampened, when your tío or abuelita doesn’t understand 99% of what’s being said during commencement because it’s all in English and they only speak Spanish. Not wanting their family to feel excluded, graduates at Texas A&M University in College Station planned and hosted their school’s inaugural Latinx graduation ceremony ?? held in Spanish and English.

Fifteen students, who represented various Latinx organizations throughout campus, came up with the idea ?? They wanted a Latinx graduation where all guests understood and felt included in the celebration.

Texas A&M University college graduation / The Eagle

The bilingual ceremony was a success, but planning for it didn’t come without backlash from fellow students and others who worried it would put a stain on the college’s traditional graduation ceremony. The Latinx graduates argued that this new event would add to tradition and not take away from it.

They hope this ceremony will become an annual tradition and that in the future the university’s administrative staff will be more involved. Felicitaciones, graduates, for diversifying your alma mater!

Can’t connect with familia living in Venezuela? This app offers peace of mind

Many Latinxs are glued to their social media and the latest news in a desperate attempt to get updates from Venezuela ?? Gente from this South American country are fighting for survival in a place where food and water are scarce, most independent media has folded and chaos abounds.

Unrest in Venezuela / AP News

When communication was all but gone, some Venezuelans ?? began using Zello, a push-to-talk voice messaging app that works like a walkie-talkie. Through the Venezuelan channel, Venezuela Hasta Los Tuétanos, people stay updated on the latest political, social, economic and humanitarian situation.

Unrest in Venezuela / AP News

The channel has become a lifeline in a country where the government has blocked aid and is making arbitrary arrests ? The 24/7 channel is said to have 70,000 subscribers and on average there are up to 2,000 listeners at any given time.

Zello used during Venezuelan protests / IB News

Users can communicate in real time over any wireless or data network to share updates. It has helped people keep children home from school on days the government is making arrests. It has likely saved lives by warning protesters when armed forces are headed their way. Information can be exchanged anonymously and free from possible retaliation.

With technology increasingly becoming a necessary means of communication across the world, we’re glad to know it’s helping those in Venezuela as much as possible.

It hasn’t stopped, more immigrant kids are dying at the border

 

Customs and Border Protection officials detain a migrant group near the Paso del Norte International Bridge. / Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune.

Six migrant children have died since December 2018 after being detained at the southern border.  This is infuriating ? and unjust ? Why does the government continue tearing our families apart and then not properly caring for the children?

Central American women and children flee violence in home countries. / Qcostarica.com

We’ve also noticed public outrage has quieted down ? We need to keep speaking out against these tragedies, lest politicians continue making the same mistakes! The unidentified two-and-a-half year old boy traveled to the U.S. with his mother to escape poverty and a severe drought in their home country. The 16-year-old was found unresponsive during a welfare check in Weslaco, Texas.

Migrant child separated from his parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. / Theweek.co.uk

Nearly 100,000 asylum seekers crossed into the U.S. border in April. It’s the highest number in nearly a decade. The White House asked Congress for $4.5 billion in aid and increased enforcement, but in the meantime these families are being left in limbo at the border.

Rally against separating families at the border. / Lasentinel.net

Federal holding facilities are overcrowded forcing families into unsafe conditions. Let’s keep this matter at the top of our government’s agenda! We can’t keep ripping kids from their parents’ arms only to have them die.

Why the Latinx punk scene needs to promote safer spaces

Latinx punk has been disrupting the status quo in the U.S. since the 1970s. Mainstays like the Brooklyn-based Latinx Punk Festival give brown punk fans something to look forward to every year and are proof that there is a large fanbase for this music genre.

Analia Remezcla

Recently, though, a number of fans have raised concerns that punk is whitewashed, and that events like Latinx Punk Festival are necessary to give our gente the space to listen to punk music in a welcoming and inclusive environment. They praise the festival’s name change from ‘Latino’ to ‘Latinx’ because it promotes inclusivity and actively welcomes queer audiences.

File photo from 2018 Latinx Punk Festival Facebook

But there is still work to be done. In a recent interview Analia, a New York-based punk fan, pointed out that Latino machismo is a huge problem that’s been normalized not just by our cultura, but by our punk music.

File from 2014 Latinx Punk Festival Facebook

How to put an end to this? Fans say it’s as simple as realizing that punk music isn’t an excuse for artists or their fans to act aggressively toward one another. Normalizing better behavior can go a long way in evolving the way people think and act at punk music-related events.

Let’s all do our part to make sure we’re promoting fun and safe music spaces.

Check out these lyrical social disruptors, aka Latin Punk artists

Latinx Punk artists have risen to fame not only for creating music that speaks to our souls, but for being social disruptors and fighting for our gente’s rights through their lyrics. Here are some rising Latinx punk artists you’ve got to add to your playlist ahora mismo because their verses are magic to our ears and hearts.  

Generación Suicida YouTube

Generación Suicida is a Los Angeles punk band that has stayed true to its sounds since its origins during the 1992 L.A. riots. The group’s music is unorthodox but innovative, mixing melodies with fast-paced drum beats. Lyrics like those from 2013’s ‘Metralleta’ simulate the sound of machine guns, and fight systemic oppression.

Choked Up Fierce by Mitu

We are big fans of queer Latina Cristina Carrera, who is singer/guitarist of the Brooklyn-based band Choked Up. This punk artist has taken her música on tour before and is an inspiration to LGBTQ Latinxs in New York and beyond.

Finally, there’s Victoria Ruiz, a bilingual singer and lyricist for ‘Downtown Boys’, keeping punk alive in Providence, Rhode Island. The band was key in convincing major music festival South by Southwest in Austin to remove a clause in contracts that threatened deportation of undocumented musicians. Arriba, Downtown Boys, for standing up for our gente’s rights!

Tell us, what Latinx punk bands should we check out next?