Tag: New York City

#MoreThanALabel

Recently, the good people at Simmons College asked me to take part in their blog carnival.

carnival-1

Well, how could I say no to anything with the word “carnival” in it? Will there be rides? Will there be virtual cotton candy? Can I get my picture taken next to the bearded lady? (Note: it is no longer socially acceptable to make fun of women with facial hair, so please mentally delete that last sentence).

In any case, it turns out that the blog carnival is part of the #MoreThanALabel campaign to shine a positive light on immigrant communities, defy labels, and combat the stigmas of being an immigrant.

Now, I am not an immigrant. I was born in New York City, which many conservatives will tell you is not part of the “real America,” but alas for them, it technically counts as the USA.

As I’ve stated many times, being born here is not an accomplishment. It is pure luck.

However, my mother is an immigrant. She came here from El Salvador in the late 1960s, and she has now been an American citizen for longer than she was a resident of her native land.

Many of my cousins are immigrants. They came here as kids and have become citizens, started careers, and raised their own children.

One of my cousins has done multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, really, how patriotic can you get?

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter how successful the immigrants in my family have been. Nor does it matter that immigrants have lower crime rates than native-born Americans. And it doesn’t even count that immigrants pay plenty of taxes and have a net positive impact on the economy.

That’s because a huge percentage of Americans are convinced that their lives suck because of all those people who were born south of Texas. And those Americans cannot be reasoned with.

So while it’s great that the #MoreThanALabel campaign is working to improve the image of immigrant communities, I’m just too cynical to contribute much of an uplifting narrative.

You see, I’m through with trying to convince xenophobes that immigrants belong in America. That is backward logic. It is the racists who represent the worst of the USA, and they always have.

And before everybody gets crazy, let me issue an obvious disclaimer: I’m not saying that everyone who has issues with immigration reform or is a conservative is a racist. Again, I’m not saying that. It would be absurd.

But the racial element is there, winding around the debate. It makes movements like #MoreThanALabel a necessity. No other group has to take such great efforts to convince a segment of the American population that they are human beings.

Still, the good news is that immigrants will persevere. Each new generation of arrivals struggles to its feet and establishes itself as part of American culture. It is an inevitable process, and it will go on and on.

So, if you need me, I’ll be hitting this blog carnival’s Tilt-a-Whirl. See you there.

 


Like a Burst Piñata

Say you open a small business. You run it for a few years, do pretty well, and always pay your debts (especially the rent) on time.

Then you arrive at work one morning to find a bulldozer parked in the pile of rubble that used to be your store.

pinata wreckage

You might get the impression that something was slightly amiss.

Well, recently, a piñata store in Austin was demolished, without the storeowners’ knowledge and with their possessions still inside. The storeowners, who are Latino, say that the greedy landlords bulldozed the store because they could get more money from the tech companies that are moving into the area.

The storeowners had a lease through 2017 and had just paid the rent for the upcoming month. When confronted about their reckless destruction of the store, one of the landlords (yes, a rich white guy) used the term “roaches” to describe the storeowners. Remember that the storeowners are Hispanic. Clearly, the term “roaches” was not an accident.

The incident shows how Latino neighborhoods are literally and figuratively being displaced for upscale residents. There have been numerous flare-ups in Austin over gentrification, with many Latino leaders claiming that rich newcomers are driving out long-time residents. And there have been similar disputes in New York, Los Angeles and other cities, often in Hispanic neighborhoods that are changing rapidly.

And here’s where it gets conspiratorial.

A recent study implied that Latino neighborhoods are more likely to be gentrified than African American neighborhoods.

Harvard researchers analyzed patterns across Chicago and found that gentrifying neighborhoods tended to be predominantly Latino or white working class, with fewer African Americans.

The study implied that Latino neighborhoods are more likely to be gentrified in the traditional sense (i.e., young white newcomers moving into the area). And they are also more likely to receive the theoretical benefits of gentrification (e.g., urban renewal and municipal investment). No word, however, on what happens to Hispanic residents when the bulldozers get revved up.

Keep in mind that the same study also implied that there is a tipping point, where the percentage of African Americans in a neighborhood either makes gentrification likely or unlikely.

Basically, too many black people keep the white people away.

Why are Latino neighborhoods more attractive to white gentrifiers? Well, there is no hard data on that, and it’s unlikely that a future study will include the question, “Why are you ok moving in next to brown people, but not black people?” Although the answers would be illuminating, to say the least.

The researchers said that in addition to their statistical proof, there is anecdotal evidence that Latino neighborhoods are viewed as more desirable to gentrifiers than African American areas.

For example, the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn — often pointed to as the prime example of gentrification — previously had a large Latino population. That’s not the case anymore, as the cliché of the young hipster inevitably features a white guy (usually with some bizarre nineteenth-century facial hair, but that’s another story).

In response to this dark side of gentrification, some Latino community leaders in Los Angeles launched the “gente-fication” movement (“gente” is Spanish for “people,” but you already knew that).

The idea is that upscale Latinos will stay — or in some cases, move into — Latino neighborhoods and revitalize the area themselves rather than rely on newcomers. The trend has slowly caught on in other cities, such as New York, Houston and Phoenix.

Although results are difficult to quantify, the LA neighborhood of Boyle Heights may be in the midst of a Latino renaissance, due in part to the gente-fication movement. And community activists are attempting to duplicate the neighborhood’s success in other Los Angeles areas.

But the movement has drawn fire for what some claim is an exclusionary, or even racist attitude. After all, if you’re saying that you want a specific racial or ethnic group to move in — whether it’s white, black, Latino, or other — things quickly get uncomfortable.

Where all this will lead is a mystery. Perhaps gentrification will wipe us all out. Or maybe we’ll achieve some kind of balance where newcomers enrich neighborhoods while long-time residents maintain the area’s culture.

In any case, hopefully no more piñata stores will get bulldozed.


Keep the Scary Stuff Coming

Whenever I run a contest for free movie tickets, I ask myself three questions:

  1. Does the movie feature Latino themes or tell a Latino-centric story?
  2. Are there any Hispanic actors or actresses in prominent roles?
  3. Is it a horror movie?

For the most part, the answer to #1 is “No, because they don’t make those,” and the answer to #2 is “Maybe, but probably not.”

So I run a lot of contests for horror movies, and as we all know, we Hispanics love those.

As such, I’m offering you the chance to win passes to a screening of The Lazarus Effect, which is about a group of scientists “who achieve the unimaginable — bringing the dead back to life.”

July 2 Lazarus photos by Suzie Hanover400.NEF

 

You can catch it in one of the following cities:

Chicago

El Paso

Los Angeles

Miami

New York City

All you have to do is comment on one of my posts (including this one) about anything you please. Just make sure to tell me what city you plan to see the movie in, and tell me what names (up to two people) I should put on the guest list.

I’ll announce the contest winners in the next week or so.

Until then, please avoid resurrecting corpses. That kind of thing seldom turns out well for anyone involved.

 


Parallel Lines

I have not written about the Ferguson situation to this point. It’s not because I am indifferent. It’s because I didn’t think I had much to add on the topic.

ferguson_day_6_picture_44

I mean, so many people have addressed the black-white racial divide, our flawed justice system, the increasing militarization of the police, the obliviousness of white conservatives regarding racial injustice, and the fact that an unarmed minority teenager is more likely to be demonized than a white teen who actually murders people.

That covers a lot of ground.

So let me just point out what few people have mentioned, which is that Latino teens have more in common with Michael Brown than a lot of Hispanic parents would like to admit.

You see, “the deaths of Hispanics at the hands of law enforcement officers literally stretch across the country — from California to Oklahoma to New York City.”

Yes, a majority of Latinos agree “that Brown’s killing raised important racial issues, [but] only 18% of Latinos said that they were following the Ferguson news closely.”

Perhaps Hispanics just find the parallels too disturbing to think about. Or maybe Latinos are exhausted from fighting for basic rights all the time, and want to let our African American brethren handle this issue, under the assumption that it’s more of their problem anyway.

But of course, it’s everyone’s problem.

As we all know, “being Latino in some places is enough to be pulled over under the guise of a minor traffic stop and be asked to prove American citizenship.”

And that should be enough — along with the appeal of basic human decency — to pay more attention to the turmoil in Missouri.


We’re Number One! Oh… Wait

For as long as I’ve been writing about Latino culture, I’ve referred to us as the nation’s fastest growing minority. It’s a handy little phrase when one doesn’t want to use the more cumbersome descriptor for Hispanics, which is “sexiest people on the face of the planet.”

Well, you can imagine my surprise — nay, my disappointment — when I ran into this item online:

“Contrary to perception in some parts, Hispanics were not the fastest-growing race or ethnic group in the US last year.”

What? This is madness! We’ve been number one for so long that it is our collective birthright. So who are these usurpers to the throne?

It turns out that Asians are now the nation’s fastest-growing race or ethnic group. Their population rose by almost 2.9 percent to 19.4 million, an increase of about 554,000.

Of course, Hispanics still are the second-largest ethnic group in the United States, making up 17.1 percent of the total population. And we grew at a very respectable rate of 2.1 percent, to more than 54 million.

But somehow, this comes as small consolation.

second-place-ribbon

What’s most intriguing about these numbers is that “more than 60 percent of this growth in the Asian population came from international migration.”

In contrast, Latino population growth “was fueled primarily by natural increase (births minus deaths), which accounted for 76 percent of Hispanic population change.”

In essence, Latino immigration is way down, no matter what you’ve heard. So the immigrants who do get in are more likely than before to be Asian.

So congratulations to our Asian brothers and sisters. If you keep growing at this pace, it won’t be long before you have your own equivalent of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC, when you turn the nation’s largest city into a swirling party that engulfs everyone nearby whether they want to be part of it or not.

It’s something to shoot for.

 


Lasagna and Tortillas

I’ve mentioned before that I am part Italian. My paternal grandmother came off the boat from Naples as a teenage girl in the 1920s. She settled in New York City, like many Italian immigrants did, and lived in a tiny apartment in Greenwich Village for fifty years.

greenwich

In her old age, she developed a reputation as a cantankerous character who snapped at people for littering the sidewalk, often unleashing a string of Italian vulgarities and insults at them.

But that is another story.

The point is that many of my Italian grandmother’s descendents, including me, have achieved a much higher standard of living then she did. This is despite the fact that my grandmother was basically a high school dropout who spoke no English. As an Italian immigrant, she represented the fears of the established Americans, who were not terrible pleased at the new swarthy arrivals.

Yes, that sentiment sounds terribly familiar.

So it is most interesting that “a wealth of data suggests that Latinos, who make up fully half of the immigration wave of the past century, are already following the classic pattern for American immigrants.”

And that pattern is that immigrants arrive “in this country in great numbers, most of them poor, ill educated and, in important respects, different from native-born Americans. The children of immigrants, however, become richer and better educated than their parents and overwhelmingly speak English.”

From both Italian and Hispanic perspectives, this is true of me. And it is also true of my son, because “the grandchildren look ever more American.”

Of course, there is no magical guarantee that the descendants of Latino immigrants will completely close the gaps in education and income that separate Hispanics from other ethnic groups.

But it is certainly moving in that direction. For example, in the last decade the number of Latinos graduating from college has doubled. And second-generation Latino households are much closer in median income to other groups than their immigrant parents were.

The researchers conclude that the so-called Hispanic challenge is a real phenomenon. But rather than being an unprecedented cultural crisis, it is analogous to the Italian challenge, Chinese challenge, or Jewish challenge of the past.

Indeed, “over time, the specific challenges — legal, cultural and educational — have changed. Yet the core parts of the story have not, including its trajectory.”

 


Who You Calling a Savage?

So here’s a shot of a few exceptionally talented and rather good-looking Latinos.

The occasion is the release of the new Oliver Stone movie Savages, which features the quartet of Benecio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Demian Bichir, and Sandra Echeverria, seen above. There’s some guy named Travolta in it too.

To celebrate the fact that so many Hispanics are appearing together in one film, I’m offering you fine readers the chance to win free tickets to see the movie in one of the following cities:

Chicago

Dallas

Houston

El Paso

Los Angeles

Miami

New York City

Phoenix

Sacramento

San Diego

 

The film is about a pair of California dudes who create some kick-ass marijuana, but then get in over their heads when the drug cartels want in on the action. Apparently, the film escalates into “a series of increasingly vicious ploys and maneuvers in a high-stakes, savage battle of wills.” And I’m betting that there is at least one joke about having the munchies.

All you have to do is comment on one of my posts (including this one) and you’ll be entered for the chance to win free passes to the film. Once again, your comment can be about anything. The only thing you have to include in your comment is the city in which you intend to see the movie, so I can plan accordingly.

If you win, I’ll email the passes to you. By the way, I’m the sole person who will see your email addresses (unless you specifically want to share it in the body of your comment), so don’t worry about that.

I’ll announce the contest winners in the next week or so.

So get to commenting, and good luck.

 


Getting Down to Business

So the Baby Boomers, as they are wont to do, are ready to take the money and run. Apparently, many older entrepreneurs will soon sell off their business and retire.

Well, we shouldn’t worry. After all, entrepreneurialism is a cornerstone of the fabled American Dream, and small businesses drive the economy. So I’m sure some young, smart, hardworking go-getters will keep the new ideas coming…unless of course, we’ve decimated educationpromoted ignorance, and ravaged the social safety net to the point that we are unleashing a generation ill-equipped to tap into their own creativity.

OK, now I’m worried.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


Suddenly…a Starbucks

My old neighborhood in New York City has become a bit of a yuppie den. My current neighborhood in Los Angeles is apparently being overrun by hipsters.

Can any of us escape gentrification?

As I wrote recently, Latino neighborhoods have increasingly become gentrified as white people move into what used to be called the barrio. This process is either a solution to urban blight or a desecration of Hispanic culture, depending on whether you’re the gentrifier or the gentrifee (yes, I made those words up, don’t bother to comment on them).

To continue reading this post, please click here.


Suburban Sprawl

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the Brown Invasion. No, I’m not talking about all those Latinos stealing our jobs, selling our kids drugs, and hooting at our wives.

Hey, that’s old news. Even right-wingers are tired of peddling such fictions.

I’m referring to the recent study that showed ethnic minorities are no longer content to live in barrios and inner cities. For example, “metropolitan New York is being rapidly reshaped as blacks, Latinos, Asians and immigrants surge into the suburbs.”

Yes, my friends, it’s a damn surge out there. Watch out, suburbia.

I used to live in NYC, and my neighborhood, although primarily white, was decently mixed. The same is true of the LA area in which I live now. It’s one reason that I’ve loved both neighborhoods.

However, I have never lived in a suburb, nor do I have any desire to do so. Every time I visit a friend who has bought a house on a cul-de-sac, I get a little jittery, like the 1950s are going to suddenly explode all over me. I expect to look over a manicured lawn and there, in the distance, see a nuclear family in black and white, playing croquet and drinking lemonade.

But that’s just my hang-up. As much as I love living in cities, it would be a sad commentary if every Hispanic thought exactly as I do. By all means, if the Rodriguez family wants to take the commuter rail, I say enjoy the ride.

Still, it’s not like Latinos are blending in effortlessly with their suburban compatriots. That old barrier — segregation — exists even when Hispanics leave the big bad city behind. Latinos tend to be “typically clustered in ethnically or racially monolithic communities,” even in suburbia. So Wally and the Beaver won’t necessarily be hanging with Juan and Maria.

But perhaps that’s in the future, and maybe there are other positive developments yet to come. For example, suburbanites may have more diversity at their key parties someday.

And perhaps the whole concept of suburban angst will have to be redefined. Maybe a couple named Hernandez will feel ennui for once.

This opens up exciting possibilities. Perhaps a Hispanic director will remake “American Beauty” or “The Ice Storm,” but with Latinos in the lead. And of course, maybe someone can take another shot at “Revolutionary Road.”

If so, can we talk Kate Winslet into playing a Latina?

Yes, I still have a monster crush on the woman; sue me.


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