VIDA is unapologetically Latinx, queer and female

The stars of VIDA served as panelists for a Create and Cultivate panel./Courtesy photo.

Since “Vida” arrived on small screens nationwide via the Starz channel in 2018, it has tackled important issues ranging from gender identity to social justice activism. it is groundbreaking in telling stories that resonate with Latinx audiences, and has been critically-acclaimed 😎

Tanya Saracho, the Mexican-American playwright and actress who created the show, said she wanted to bring authentic representation to television that she never had growing up.

The stars of Starz’ channel’s hit show VIDA attend SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas./Getty Images

The show centers on two vastly different Mexican-American sisters who return to their old East Los Angeles neighborhood to deal with their mother Vidalia’s death. Upon returning, they have to come to terms with their mother’s true identity, including her marriage to Eddy, another woman. Their chaotic lives deal with grief, sexual identity and gentrification.

Tanya Saracho with members of the cast and crew of the Starz show, “Vida.”

Tanya wanted to inject a level of authenticity into “Vida”, and she’s been able to achieve that by hiring mostly LGBTQ women of color to work on the project. “My writer’s room is all Latinx,” she said. And she’s very proud that all of the directors, editors and department heads are “all women, all brown, all Latinas.”

At right, Ser Anzoategui portrays ‘Eddy’ on Starz groundbreaking show VIDA. /qvoicenews.com

Eddy, played by Ser Anzoategui, fights to keep Vida’s bar a safe space for queer women to congregate, and steers away from queer Latinx stereotypes. This show is revolutionary. It provides healing and validation to its audience, a powerful and welcome impact. 

9 colleges that want Latinxs to succeed

Proud Latinxs at Arizona State University’s Latinxs Convocation./asunews.asu.edu

When Jodi González and her son Michael of Central Texas started considering colleges, they were overwhelmed with the options. Factors like tuition, diversity and geography varied. That’s why they were relieved when Austin Community College reached out to them personally. 

Latinxs study in front of a sign at Austin Community College./austincollege.edu

Michael graduated from a majority Latinx high school and it was important to him, as for many Latinxs, to choose a school with classmates and professors who looked like him. ACC’s recruitment officers understand that a sense of confidence and identity is important to success, and they made it a point to make Michael comfortable. 

Jodi says her son will get more out of his time at ACC than he would in a larger and more traditional campus. Experts agree, since ACC is one of nine higher education institutions awarded the new ‘Seal of Excelencia’ for success with Latinx students. The award recognizes an institution’s commitment and ability to successfully serve Latinx students and close the education gap.

Latinxs at University of Arizona head to D.C. for internship season./uanews.arizona.edu

In addition to Austin Community College, the other eight institutions 🎓 include:

  • Arizona State University
  • California State University Channel Islands
  • El Paso Community College
  • Florida International University
  • Grand Valley State University, 
  • South Texas College
  • University of Arizona 
  • University of Texas at El Paso

 

A Latina feel triumphant after graduating from the University of Texas at El Paso./utep.edu

Deborah Santiago, the CEO and co-founder of the Washington nonprofit Excelencia in Education,  charged with selecting these colleges, says they are meant to serve as models for other institutions of higher learning to follow. 

When higher education systems embrace our gente’s needs, it’s a win-win for our country’s future! 

Guess who’s making a documentary about our queen, Rita Moreno?

Rita Moreno on One Day at a Time./vulture.com

When it comes to Latinx role models in Hollywood, no star shines brighter than Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno. The legendary EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner continues to transport us to worlds where anything is possible Rita is set to portray an original character in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming West Side Story remake, the film that earned her the coveted Oscar statuette. 🎬

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Rita Moreno perform on stage./J. Countless/getty images

Rita oozes with talent, joy, energy and is a fierce symbol of the Latinx spirit. Now, fellow Puerto Rican legend Lin-Manuel Miranda, best known for creating and starring in Broadway musicals In the Heights and Hamilton, is executive producing a PBS documentary that will tell Rita’s story from her humble beginnings 🇵🇷 to the height of her 70-year career. 

Rita Moreno in West Side Story

The film will explore how Rita overcame obstacles as she climbed the career ladder and faced prejudice, sexual harassment, abuse, a toxic relationship with Marlon Brando, and a suicide attempt a year before she earned her Oscar. Despite the odds, Rita has not allowed anything to get in her way, and she continues to display a larger-than-life personality that has enchanted and inspired new generations of Latinx artists like Gina Rodriguez, Justina Machado, Eva Longoria and Gloria Estefan 🙌🏽

Gina Rodriguez thanks Rita Moreno for her career

We can’t think of a better way to honor Rita than through a documentary. All hail the mighty Latina queen 👑 as Lin-Manuel fondly calls her!

Rita Moreno: A Memoir will premiere in 2020.

“ICE Bae” prefers fame as she turns a blind eye to suffering

26-year-old Latina Kiara Cervantes is getting more attention than she bargained for, and for all the wrong reasons. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, nicknamed “ICE Bae” on social media, appeared in a viral photo that showed her providing security for Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to a Texas detention facility at the border. 

 

There are many Border Patrol agents who are Latinx, she’s far from being the only one. But Kiara’s eager acceptance of social media fame for her role shows her siding with the current administration’s hateful and cruel anti-immigrant rhetoric, even when it targets her own gente. She dismissed critics and defended her actions by saying it was an “honor” and that she takes “a lot of pride” in her job. Her critics reminded her Nazis used the same excuses during World War II. 

 

Many of her social media fans mocked the inhumane conditions migrants are subjected to in border facilities, while they complimented and even sexualized Kiara, saying they’d like to be “detained” by her. As if being ripped away from one’s family, going hungry and forced to inhumane conditions is something to joke about.

Kiara created a Twitter profile, where she embraced her “Ice Bae” label. Kiara is a privileged Latina who is immune to the injustices taking place right in front of her, who’s seeking instant fame for the wrong reasons.

Pollyanna is proud of her Afro-Latina identity

Pollyanna Rodrigues De La Rosa didn’t realize she was Afro-Latina when she was growing up. That’s because growing up, her family considered themselves simply ‘Latinos’.

Pollyanna Rodrigues De La Rosa, with Panamenian and Cuban roots, became a self-identifying Afro-Latina in 2018. Flare

Her family didn’t talk about their Black heritage because doing so brought painful memories of discrimination and hate. That trauma manifested to the point that Pollyanna’s mother questioned why her daughter preferred to date Black men over white men. When she visited Cuba, some of her cuban family members advised Pollyanna to straighten her long curly hair for a “better” look. 

Pew Research Center in 2016./Pew Research

Her family’s Latinx identity, combined with the anti-Black rhetoric she internalized, made her feel incomplete and out of place. That is, until she came across the term “Afro-Latina” on social media and found a way to describe her full identity. Nearly 1 in 4 Latinxs in the U.S. self-identify as Afro-Latinxs. 

Afro Latina actress Zoe Saldana has starred in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters./Wikipedia

There is a history of discrimination against Blacks within the Latinx community, but it’s important to remember that self-acceptance and self-love begin at home. That’s why global campaigns such as #unfairandlovely are critical to young, impressionable children who adopt the feelings and beliefs of their elders. The 2016 social media campaign took off after starting as a Black college student’s project to combat colorism and underrepresentation of people of color in the media. 

Having more positive role models in mainstream media is also important. Positive self-acceptance campaigns and open conversations on social media for young girls wrestling with self-identity, can make a huge impact, like it did for Pollyanna.

Discrimination against Romero family reflects surge in bigotry

The Romero family took another selfie to avoid allowing the man to destroy their memory./Jessica Romero on Facebook

The Romeros are avid fans of the Texas Rangers baseball team. Watching games live at Globe Life Park in Arlington is a fun family affair for them, but mere hours after the news that a domestic terrorist claimed 22 lives in El Paso, this Latinx family became victims of a bigoted man who didn’t want them there. 

Jessica Romero posted a selfie which shows the bigoted man in the background making an obscene gesture./Jessica Romero on Facebook.

Jessica Romero, the wife and mom in the family, says the man sitting in the row above them loudly complained about having “illegals” sitting near him. The man was pictured in the family’s selfie making an obscene gesture. One Latinx boy sitting behind the man apparently pushed the man’s seat, so he threatened to “kick Speedy Gonzalez all the way back to Mexico.”

He then loudly said that Trump “needs to hurry up and build the wall and send all those illegals back.” 

A screenshot of the Instagram post containing another racially obscene photo ./Shot Shot/WMarshallKy/Twitter

In another recent incident, a group of young men wearing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell t-shirts posed for a photo smiling as one of them pretended to strangle a cardboard cut-out of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Discrimination and bigotry is being normalized and justified by many politicians right now. We’ll continue to call it out, because this divisiveness is not welcome in our country. 

These El Pasoans bring hope, despite sadness

Christina Pipkin embraces Alex Briseno at a makeshift memorial at the site of an El Paso mass shooting./John Locher/AP

El Paso native Carlos Sanchez sees his city as a powerful symbol and place for immigrants to take refuge from the violence and devastation in their home countries. 

The Texas Monthly writer is no stranger to the resilience and strength that unites El Pasoans,  and was not surprised that his townsfolk answered the call for help after the mass shooting that claimed the lives of 22 people. Countless donated blood or money toward fundraisers for survivors, funeral homes provided free services to victims’ families and leaders such as Rep. Veronica Escobar publicly reprimanded President Trump’s anti-immigrant remarks for fueling the assassin to act on his hate against Latinxs.

El Paso 11-year-old boys encourages others to take part in El Paso Challenge./Rose Gandarilla for KFOX 14.

But out of the ashes of hatred and loss, comes hope and proof that Latinxs are resilient and supportive. One example is 19-year-old Tabitha Estrada, who was at the GNC vitamin outlet at the front of Walmart, when she heard about the massacre. Tabitha took everyone she could into a locked room where they waited until police arrived. 

Ruben Martinez, an 11-year-old sixth grader wanted to help his community heal and created the #ElPasoChallenge, which asks people to do 20 acts of kindness to spread love instead of hate, and to honor the lives lost. 

Baseball coaches-turned-heroes Jimmy Villatoro and Ray Garcia appeared on “Good Morning America,” to talk about saving two mothers and a group of kids in the aftermath of the Walmart shooting in El Paso./Good Morning America.

Two El Paso dads saved a youth soccer team, helped raise funds for victims and proudly wear “El Paso Strong” T-shirts. This is the El Paso that Carlos hopes outsiders will get to know, and these are the positive responses that will help our wounded community heal and reemerge stronger. 

This Latina is the creator of some of today’s most iconic emojis!

Angela Guzman co-created the first set of U.S. emojis./Latin American Post

Colombian immigrant Angela Guzman’s eyes lit up at a job fair as she approached tech giant Apple’s booth to learn about internship opportunities at the company. She hit the ground running as an intern in 2008, and was soon hired to help draft nearly 500 of these 🎉🎄💍🎃🌟🍆🍊🍎 emojis we use today to express our thoughts and emotions. 

Giant emojis./Viva.nl

Her task at Apple was to take the original Japanese emojis and transform them into something new. At the time, Angela didn’t even know what emojis were 😂 

Angela Guzman on Twitter.

Born in Colombia and raised in Miami, Angela found it challenging to communicate as she learned English. In grade school, she’d rely on using pictures to interact with her classmates and teachers. This early skill and sense of ingenuity helped her land that job at Apple.

Angela Guzman co-created the first set of U.S. emojis./BBC News

Co-designing the first set of emojis allowed her to use her real-life inspiration to create some of today’s most popular ones. A dress her sister was working on for an event inspired Angela to create the turquoise dress 👗 emoji. She single-handedly created at least 180 of these playful icons.

Angela Guzman holds a wooden smiling emoji./CNBC

Angela’s discomfort as an English-learner came full-circle, since she gave us a universal tool for communication other than the written word. Now, thanks to Angela, our texts are more colorful 🎉 and 💯fun! 

Father of four ‘bled to death’ under ICE custody

A girl holds a sign to support Rolando Meza Espinoza, a name that had been used by Carlos Bonilla. He died while in custody of ICE./ (Photo: Keldy Ortiz/NorthJersey.com file photo)

Joanna Bonilla lost her father in 2017 to internal bleeding from liver disease that went untreated. She didn’t get to say goodbye to her immigrant father who passed away in a hospital alone while in U.S. custody.

Migrant children at the border./ colorlines.com

Joanna can’t get her dad back, but she can seek justice. That’s why she’s now suing CGB Health Systems LLC, the medical provider at Hudson County jail at the time of her father’s death. She’s heartbroken that things have worsened in immigrant detention facilities since her father Carlos Bonilla’s death.

Carlos Bonilla and his daughter. (Photo: Courtesy of Hudson Civic Action)

Carlos’ case echoes the lives of migrants in search of a better life who have died while in U.S. custody. The Salvadoran father of four lived in the U.S. for 25 years, and owned a construction company with his brother. He was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in April 2017 while working at a construction site. 

A combination of a broken immigration systems, inept staff and an increasingly anti-immigrant rhetoric have added to the recent spike in deaths of migrants in detention. They include five children and two adult trans immigrants, many who had medical issues that went undiagnosed or untreated.

Justice served for Texas rape victims thanks to this Latina

Rep. Victoria Neave with newly signed law./Victoria Neave on Facebook.

Southern state governments may have unleashed a war on women’s rights through a series of anti-abortion bills this session, at least this Latina lawmaker in Dallas, Texas, isn’t keeping her arms crossed. 

Democratic House Representative Victoria Neave wrote the Lavinia Masters Act to tackle the rape kit backlog in Texas so that women don’t have to wait for justice to be served. 

Rep. Victoria Neave and Lavinia Masters embrace after bill passes./Victoria Neave on Facebook.

Victoria, who just completed her second session at the Texas House, has already gained a reputation as a women’s rights warrior. The Latina politician wrote this bill, which Governor Greg Abbott signed into law, to honor sexual assault survivor Lavinia Masters. 

Lavinia’s rape kit sat on a shelf for over 20 years and by the time the DNA was matched to her attacker, the statute of limitations had passed. This meant Lavinia couldn’t press charges even though the criminal had raped other women. Through her law, Victoria is ensuring this never happens to other women in Texas. 

Lavinia Masters provides testimony to support bill./Lavinia Masters for Latino USA.

Victoria says rape is one of the worst things that can happen to a woman, and fiercely pushed this bill forward in Congress in a state where Democrats and Republicans rarely want to work together. Luckily, both sides understood the importance of this law and now officials can find rapists easier and faster. 

Lavinia Masters and Rep. Victoria Neave./ Lavinia Masters for Latino USA.

This is what a determined Latina can do when she sets her mind to it.