In ‘Siempre, Luis’ a look at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s biggest inspiration — his father
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Luis and Lin-Manuel Miranda together at a premiere

When Luis Miranda arrived in New York City from Puerto Rico in the 1970s, he looked like many young students of his time, with his jeans and shaggy hair. In the Big Apple, though, he realized that not everyone wanted people like him. Instead of culture shock, he experienced discrimination. “It didn’t matter if you were a janitor or a PhD student,” Miranda recalled, “what they saw was Puerto Rican, some brown person, some brown kid. Not a real American.”

Miranda went on to become an activist, a government official, a political consultant, and a loving father to three children—including his son, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway smash, “Hamilton.” Now the older Miranda, who has long been a behind-the-scenes player in Democratic politics, is in the spotlight in a new documentary, “Siempre, Luis,” debuting October 6 on HBO and HBO Max.

A camera crew spent a year following Miranda around, capturing his family life, political work, heath issues and humanitarian efforts. Watching the film, Miranda told NBC News, was an emotional experience for him.

“What comes to mind is how many great people I have met and known throughout my life; people who either convinced me that I had to join their fight, or I convinced that they had to join me, and together we have moved forward,” he said. “It was a reminder of how many people have helped me, (and) that I didn’t have time to thank them all.”

Luis A. Miranda Jr., 66, was born in the town of Vega Alta in Puerto Rico. A sharp student, he headed for New York City in the 1970s to continue his graduate work, inspired by—of all things—the character played by Debbie Reynolds in the 1964 movie musical, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

In Nueva York, Miranda became an advocate for the city’s Latino residents, who were then predominantly Puerto Rican. By the 1980s, Miranda was a special advisor to Mayor Ed Koch, eventually becoming the Director of the Mayor’s Office for Hispanic Affairs.

In 1990, Miranda founded the non-profit Hispanic Federation, and has also been a key Democratic political consultant, working on U.S. Senate campaigns including Hillary Clinton’s as well as Rep. Adriano Espaillat’s, D-NY, who became the first Dominican American in the U.S. Congress.

Miranda has been a champion of his son’s ambitions as well. When a young, struggling Lin-Manuel received an offer for a full-time teaching job, his father advised him to follow his dreams instead. He helped promote his son’s off-Broadway musical “In The Heights” until it became successful and transferred to Broadway.

In fact, the younger Miranda credits his Dad as being part of his inspiration for “Hamilton”—Founding Father Alexander Hamilton also arrived in New York from the Caribbean—he was from the island of Nevis. “When I was playing him, I was just playing my father,” said Lin-Manuel.

“Siempre, Luis” highlights the devastating impact that Hurricane Maria had on Puerto Rico in 2017, and in the documentary, Miranda cries as he recalled the destruction. “For me, Puerto Rico is this untouchable, perfect place,” he says in the film, “that all of a sudden, doesn’t exist anymore.” A central focus of the film is the lengthy process, that was not without controversy, by which Miranda and Lin-Manuel bring a production of “Hamilton” to the island as a way of raising funds for Puerto Rico’s recovery.

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article. 

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Acura

These Latinos made a mark in our communities and nation. We lost them in 2020.
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Portraits of Rudolfo Anaya, Naya Rivera, Silvio Horta and Miriam Jimenez Roman.

By Raul A. Reyes for NBC News

2020 has been a year marked by grief and loss, but it is in the spirit of remembrance, not sadness, that we highlight the lives of several Latinos we said goodbye to this year. From Hollywood to Washington, from academia to the armed forces, these are just a few of our “familia” who enriched our communities, our lives and our nation before leaving us.

RUDOLFO ANAYA, 82, a “godfather” of Chicano literature. Anaya is best known for his novel “Bless Me, Ultima”

(Image Credit – NBC News)

(1972), a coming-of-age story set in 1940s New Mexico. “Ultima” follows the relationship between a young boy and a curandera (healer) who comes to live with his family. A bestseller at a time when U.S. Latinos were rarely depicted in mainstream fiction, it has become one of the most acclaimed works in the Chicano literary canon. “Ultima” inspired generations of Latino writers, and it was adapted into a play, an opera and a film.

Books like ‘Ultima’ are part of our personal reading history. Because they are taught in schools, we don’t forget seeing ourselves on the page for the first time,” writer and critic Rigoberto González said. “Seeing names like ours, and figures that are familiar to us, is powerful.” González said he believes “Ultima” will continue to have longevity in libraries and schools and on bookshelves.

Anaya, a prolific author who wrote mysteries, children’s books and travel chronicles, received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in 2016 for his “pioneering stories of the American Southwest.”

NAYA RIVERA, 33, actress and singer. Condolences poured in from around the world when news broke of the drowning death of Rivera in July. “As a Latina, it’s rare to have rich, complex characters reflect us in media,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted. “Naya worked hard to give that gift to so many.”

Rivera performed throughout her childhood, but it was her role on TV’s “Glee” (2009-15) that catapulted her to fame. Rivera, an advocate for the LGBTQ community, for immigrants and for women’s rights, earned three American Latino Media Arts Awards for her acting and singing. In 2016 she released her memoir, “Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up.”

“She was the rare Afro-Latina on network TV, and when her character came out as gay, it was a historic moment for LGBTQ representation in prime time,” entertainment journalist Jack Rico said. Pointing out that 22 percent of Latino millennials identify as LGBTQ, Rico called Rivera’s portrayal of cheerleader Santana Lopez “groundbreaking,” saying it paved the way for queer characters on shows like “One Day at a Time” and “Vida.”

Rico said he believes Rivera died on the cusp of another career resurgence. “I could see true stardom in her. When people die young it really hurts, because we lose them and also their potential,” he said. “She was a guiding light for all of us struggling for more diversity and representation.”

Read the full article at NBC News.

Lawmakers push to add ‘Selena’ to National Film Registry, boost Latino visibility in media
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Jennifer Lopez as Selena in musical drama film "Selena"
“Latinos have been left out of the representation of American culture,” says U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, who hopes the effort will correct their depiction.

Mexican American filmmaker Gregory Nava’s 1997 movie “Selena” has been nominated for inclusion in the National Film Registry by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as the group ramps up its efforts to eradicate “the film industry’s continued exclusion of Latinos,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, in a letter to Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden on Friday.

“Selena is an American icon and she’s so celebrated within the Latino community,” Castro, who is also the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told NBC News. “I think part of the affirmation of that was, not only the success of the film but also the recent success of the television series.”

The film starring Jennifer Lopez depicts the life, remarkable rise, and tragic death of Tejano music legend Selena Quintanilla. The film also touches on important themes of cultural identity and assimilation faced by Mexican American communities as they navigate their personal connections between two cultures and languages.

“Given its importance as a work of Latino cinema, we believe it is deserving of preservation at the Library of Congress,” Castro’s letter to Hayden reads. “We trust you will give Selena careful consideration, and hope to see it included in the titles added to the National Film Registry in 2021.”

Read the full article at NBC News.

New Content Further Enables Public Libraries to Collaborate with Parents and Local Schools
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Sesame Street character smiling with animated background

According to a soon-to-be released Kanopy survey of more than 730 librarians — primarily in the U.S. –50% of public libraries believe it is their responsibility to provide their local K-12 schools with streaming films that support their curriculum.

Despite that, just over 14% say they are currently collaborating with local schools to help meet their needs.

To help facilitate collaboration between public libraries and the communities they serve, Kanopy is adding a dozen Spanish-language videos from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street,and 30 films from Highlights to Kanopy Kids. This carefully curated collection now includes a growing selection of more than 1,500 educational, age appropriate videos with parental controls covering topics from STEM to history and story time.

“Parents, educators and librarians know that having access to quality content is important,” said Darryl Eschete, Director of the West Des Moines Public Library. “The educational and instructional films that Kanopy offers helps our library make sure that we meet the strategic goal of supporting education and making content appropriate to all grade levels accessible wherever our patrons are.”

Licensed by libraries and free to kids, families and anyone with a public library card, the new selection of Spanish-language videos from Sesame Workshop include Listos a Jugar, a series designed to help children cultivate healthy habits, starring Elmo and friends as they “eat healthy, move, and play!” Sample titles in the series include:

  • Listos a jugar: A que jugaban papa y mama
  • Listos a jugar: Bañarse
  • Listos a jugar: El plato de Elmo no tiene verde

Covering topics such as imagination, bonding with family, and adventure stories, the new collections of videos from Highlights include:

  • Did You Know? series
  • Animal Adventures
  • Ready, Set, Snow!
  • Imagine That!

“In light of the pandemic, it is now more important than ever to help budget-strapped schools provide the online educational resources that students need to learn remotely,” says Kanopy CEO Kevin Sayar. “We are proud to partner with public libraries and important creators  like Sesame Workshop and Highlights to bring educational, thought inspiring films to children, parents and teachers around the globe.”

About Highlights

For over 70 years, Highlights has been dedicated to bringing Fun with a Purpose! This video collection by Highlights is built to foster curiosity, creativity, confidence and caring. Highlights has helped children become their best selves for generations by creating experiences that engage, delight, and foster joyful learning.

About Kanopy
Kanopy is a premium, free-to-the-user streaming platform available through universities and libraries. Through partnerships with iconic film companies such as A24, Criterion Collection, Paramount, PBS and Kino Lorber, amongst others, Kanopy’s critically-acclaimed catalog provides thousands of the world’s finest documentaries, award-winning titles, must-see classics, world cinema, contemporary favorites and kids programming to public library members, and students and professors at participating institutions, funded through state-aided supplementary programs and tuition. The Kanopy app is available on all major streaming devices, including Apple TV, iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and Roku. For more information, please visit www.kanopy.com.

About Sesame Workshop

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, the pioneering television show that has been reaching and teaching children since 1969. Today, Sesame Workshop is an innovative force for change, with a mission to help kids everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. We’re present in more than 150 countries, serving vulnerable children through a wide range of media, formal education, and philanthropically funded social impact programs, each grounded in rigorous research and tailored to the needs and cultures of the communities we serve. For more information, please visit www.sesameworkshop.org

How Rita Moreno found dignity and strength in her ‘West Side Story’ role
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“Interestingly, the character of Anita became my role model after all those years,” said the Puerto-Rican actress and Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony recipient.

In the past decade or so, Rita Moreno has received multiple lifetime achievement awards and would probably receive even more — except that she’s too busy working.

The actress, who turns 89 on Dec. 11, is one of the few people to win an EGOT: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. She’s also received the 2004 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the 2009 National Medal of Arts, the 2013 SAG Life Achievement Award, Kennedy Center Honors in 2015, and a Peabody Career Achievement in 2019, to name a few.

                                                                                                                              (Image credit – Herbert Dorfma/NBC News)

But she has no intention of resting on her laurels. In “Rita Moreno: A Memoir,” she expresses frustration at not working more. “I still feel that way!” she told Variety shortly after the book came out in 2013. She is always busy; if it’s not film, “I do theater, I do television, concerts, I do talks, lectures I do a lot of fundraising as a performer.”

Her 70-year career covers the spectrum of entertainment, including radio, theater, basic-cable, movies (both under the studio system and in the indie world), and now streaming.

Read the full article at NBC News.

Why people are split on using ‘Latinx’
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Depending on which corners of the internet you inhabit, you might have come across the term “Latinx.”

“Latinx” has emerged as an inclusive term to refer to people of Latin American descent, encompassing those who don’t identify as male or female or who don’t want to be identified by their gender. It’s been used by journalists, politicians, corporations, colleges and universities. In 2018, it even made it to the dictionary. But among the people “Latinx” is intended to describe, few have heard of the term — let alone use it. In a new survey, researchers found that only about one in four adults in the US who identify as Hispanic or Latino have heard the term “Latinx,” while just. (Image Credit – Mary Mckean for The Red & Black)                 3% say they use it to describe themselves.

The findings, published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, the signal just how complex identity is for people categorized as Hispanic or Latino.
“This reflects the diversity of the nation’s Hispanic population, and the Hispanic population of the US thinks of itself in many different ways,” Mark Lopez, director of global migration and demography research at Pew Research Center, told CNN. “‘Latinx’ is just one of those many dimensions.”
‘Latinx’ is more common among younger Hispanics

In the US, the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are often used to refer to people of Spanish-speaking or Latin American origin. Though they’re often used interchangeably, “Hispanic” refers only to people from Spanish-speaking countries, which includes Latin America and Spain. “Latino” refers to people with roots in Latin America, which includes Portuguese-speaking Brazilians, but excludes Spain.

Those two terms describe a very broad group of people and don’t always align with the ways that those populations identify themselves.
Read the full article at CNN.

The findings, published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, signal just how complex identity is for people categorized as Hispanic or Latino. “This reflects the diversity of the nation’s Hispanic population, and the Hispanic population of the US thinks of itself in many different ways,” Mark Lopez, director of global migration and demography research at Pew Research Center, told CNN. “‘Latinx’ is just one of those many dimensions.”

In the US, the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are often used to refer to people of Spanish-speaking or Latin American origin. Though they’re often used interchangeably, “Hispanic” refers only to people from Spanish-speaking countries, which includes Latin America and Spain. “Latino” refers to people with roots in Latin America, which includes Portuguese-speaking Brazilians, but excludes Spain. Those two terms describe a very broad group of people and don’t always align with the ways that those populations identify themselves.

Continue to the full article at CNN News.

The ‘Mexican Beverly Hills’
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How a former white enclave became an aspirational suburb for Latinos in Los Angeles.

I was having dinner at some fancy beach-side eatery in early March when someone said they had just moved to Downey, a Southeast Los Angeles suburb 12 miles south of downtown. The other Latinos at the table oohed. “You finally made it,” someone said. “To the Mexican Beverly Hills.”

In many ways, that is what Downey represents. It’s hoity-toity, gilded and more conservative than surrounding neighborhoods — a status-marking place where the average household income, at $88,000, is significantly higher than in other areas in Los Angeles with a similar

(Photo credit – June Canedo for The New York Times) 

ethnic makeup. In East Los Angeles, which is also predominantly Latino, the average income is $56,000, according to census data. (If you’re wondering, the average income in Beverly Hills is $191,000.)

It’s the kind of place where many people feel entitled enough to not wear face masks despite coronavirus infection spikes, where many homes featured “Thank you, Downey PD” banners at the peak of the George Floyd protests — but where an overwhelming majority of its citizens voted for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. over President Donald J. Trump. (With a vote of roughly 2 to 1 for Mr. Biden, Downey voted more conservatively than Los Angeles County as a whole, which voted for him 3 to 1.)

Continue reading at The New York Times.

Bad Bunny made a major stride for Spanish-language music this week
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Bad Bunny made a major stride for Spanish-language music this week.

The Puerto Rican rapper’s newest album, El Ultimo Tour del Mundo, debuted atop the Billboard 200 albums chart. Not only does the feat mark Bad Bunny’s first number-one LP, but the album also breaks ground as the first all-Spanish-language album in the chart’s history to go No. 1.

According to Billboard, who broke the news Sunday (December 6), Bad Bunny’s newest offering pushed 116,000 equivalent album units in the United States in the week ending December 3. Not to mention, Bad Bunny’s other

Photo credit: The Guardian, Photograph: Stillz/Press

2020 effort, YHLQMDLG, which debuted and peaked at No. 2 on the charts earlier this year, set the bar as the highest-charting all-Spanish-language project with 179,000 units earned in its first week.

With his latest chart accomplish, Bad Bunny joins the shortlist of artists with an all-Spanish-language album to enter the top five, alongside Mana’s Amar es Combatir (No. 4 in September 2006) and Shakira’s Fijación Oral: Vol. 1 (No. 4 in June 2005). Overall, Bad Bunny has earned five top 10 albums on the Billboard 200 chart including Oasis (No. 9 in July 2019), YHLQMDLG (No. 2 in March 2020), Las Que No Iban a Salir (No. 7 in May 2020), and now, El Ultimo Tour del Mundo.

Bad Bunny’s number-one album achievement comes weeks after the superstar fell ill with coronavirus in late November. Weeks after, the 26-year-old shared an update on his health while appearing on The Late Late Show. “I feel great. Thank God,” the star said on the December 2 broadcast. “I tested negative and I’m so happy. I feel perfect.”

Read the full article at Real923.

Netflix’s ‘Selena: The Series’ celebrates her rise to stardom — and Mexican American life
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Selena: The Series

Selena’s musical journey brought her closer to her family’s Mexican roots, an “empowering” message for the younger generation, says actress Seidy Lopez, who plays Selena’s mother.

Even 25 years after her death, the life and musical legacy of the Grammy-winning Tejana singer Selena Quintanilla remains influential and relevant. A widely anticipated Netflix show “Selena: The Series,” which premieres Friday, seeks to amplify the life of the beloved Queen of Tejano, beyond just her musical journey.

Natalia Mantini for The New York Times

The new show is at its core a story about the Quintanillas, a tight-knit Mexican American family from South Texas striving for a better life while also overcoming the struggles Latinos face in the entertainment industry.

The first part of “Selena: The Series” is not only a celebration of the singer’s life, starting from her birth in Lake Jackson, Texas, in 1971 until the release of her second studio album, “Ven Conmigo” in 1990. It’s also a celebration of navigating life as a young American of Latino heritage.

“Selena didn’t know Spanish when she started singing. When she started performing in Mexico is when she realized that she had to go back to her roots and embrace the language, embrace the culture, understand more about who she was and where she came from,” said Seidy Lopez, a Mexico native who plays Marcella, Selena’s mother. “She explored that as she was growing as an artist, as she was growing as a woman. And I hope that this next generation gets to see that and that they bring it into their own experience because it’s very empowering.”

Read the full article at the NBC News

Families sue California, say state fails to educate low-income students of color amid pandemic
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Low-income students were not provided devices and internet connections to attend online classes, according to the lawsuit.

Families of 15 public school students sued California on Monday, claiming the state has failed to provide equal education to poor and minority children during the pandemic.

The impoverished students, who range from kindergarten to high school and were only identified by the first name in court documents, were not provided devices and internet connections to attend online classes, according to the lawsuit, the first of its kind in the United States.

 Image Credit – NBC News

The children attend schools in Oakland and Los Angeles, and many were described as Blacks and Latinos. The lawsuit also claims that schools did not meet academic and mental health support needs, English language barriers, and the unmet needs of homeless students.

The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, is asking the court to declare that California education officials have violated the state constitution’s guarantee of educational equality and order them to fix the alleged inequities.

Read the full article on NBC News

First Latino DACA Colombia Grad receives Rhodes Scholarship
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Santiago Potes Colombia Blue Shirt

By Anna Sokiran

Santiago Potes just became the first Latino DACA recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship, an international postgraduate award for students to study at the University of Oxford.

He is one of almost 790,000 undocumented immigrants (also known as “Dreamers”) protected under the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He was 4 years old when he came to the United States from Colombia. His parents had him when they were 16. And they left their home in Colombia, hoping for a better future for their son after the Revolutionary Armed Forces                                                                                                                  of Colombia killed Santiago’s grandparents.

Photo credit Esta Pratt-Kielley, NBC News

Today, Santiago Tobar Potes is a Colombia University Graduate, class of 2020, who is about to pursue a Master of Studies in global and imperial history to analyze the relationship between aesthetics and law in Deng Xiaoping’s China at Oxford. In addition to Santiago’s academic success and being a first-generation college student, he is an accomplished violinist and fluent in nine languages, including Chinese. Santiago thanked his elementary school teacher Esteva, who is herself an immigrant and a Cuban refugee. “My parents didn’t go to college. My parents had me when they were 16 years old. So, she really became kind of like my first mother figure actually. She went out of her way to teach me a rigorous education.”

The Rhodes Trust wrote, announcing Santiago the first recipient of the scholarship, “Santiago has been a teaching or research assistant for leading professors in physics, philosophy, social psychology, and neuroscience, and won numerous college prizes for leadership as well as academic performance. He is widely published on legal issues relating to DACA status, was one of the DACA recipients featured in a brief filed with the Supreme Court to preserve DACA.”

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