Excerpt: On 9/11 and the End of the Latin Music Boom

At the dawn of the Latin alt burst in 1998, a Newsweek cover story announced “Se Habla Rock and Roll? You Will Soon,” and a year later the New York Times predicted Latin alternative was “Approaching Its Final Border.” But by 2005, the Los Angeles Times’ Agustin Gurza compared the Latin boom to an exploding rocket that breaks apart halfway into orbit.

But no matter how many times Mexico’s Café Tacuba held court in front of the gentle mosh pits of Irving Plaza, or local bands such as Los Amigos Invisibles proved that funk, pop, disco, salsa, merengue and occasional bouts of thrash metal could hold everyone together on the dance floor, there was something missing. The energy that came from Latin America, which had produced most of the significant bands, was not duplicated in American cities.

Latin alternative settled back into a niche accessed by the mainstream only in a rare NPR moment, while driving to New England to see the fall foliage. [Ricky] Martin has settled into life as a father; Shakira reinvents herself as part-stripper, part-philanthropist; [Marc] Anthony got a gig playing a cop on TV; and J-Lo, well, you know where she is.

How did this happen? Certainly the immediate atmosphere after the 9/11 attacks was characterized by the mainstream’s distancing from cultures from outside its borders. Although the decade began with Barnes and Noble and other booksellers offering extensive selections of books in Spanish, by its end more and more politicians called for English to be the country’s official language. And earlier this year, the Grammy awards dropped 31 categories, including Latin jazz and traditional world music.

– From “After the Latin Bubble Burst,” by Ed Morales, New Jersey Star-Ledger

links for 2011-07-04

  • God bless America, indeed.–AJP

    "Republican City Councilmen Dan Halloran and Peter Koo are drafting legislation that would require store signs in the city to be mostly in English. They say police officers and firefighters need to be able to quickly identify stores.
    "The change also would protect consumers and allow local shops to expand outside their traditional customer base, the council members argue. But merchants say it would be an unnecessary and costly burden on small businesses and would homogenize diverse pockets of the city that cater mostly to immigrant residents."

links for 2011-07-03

  • Of course, this begs the question of *why* don't people have practice in seeing "other-race" faces.–AJP

    "As for why unique features are harder to recognize in other-race faces, the researchers theorize that many people simply have less practice seeing and remembering other-race faces. Their brains may be less practiced at seeking out the facial information that distinguishes other-race faces from one another.

    "Another possibility is 'social categorization,' or the tendency to group others into social categories by race, according to the researchers."

  • "Most Indian people who are under fifty years of age cannot recall a time when our indigenous sacred ceremonies were illegal, but I can. Let me repeat, our ceremonies were illegal—people went to jail for dancing the Sun Dance, for constructing and using the purification lodge, for practicing the Peyote Way, and for many other of our traditional ways."
  • "With its unassuming facade, dollar deals, and classy entertainment offerings, Michael's International in Houston is the perfect hang-out spot not only for discriminating gentlemen, but also for gentlemen who discriminate—as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

    "The EEOC filed its suit on behalf of a group of African-American waitresses who were told back in 2007 that they couldn't work at Michael's anymore because Bert Stair, vice president and secretary of Michael's parent company Burch Management, reportedly 'did not like African-American waitresses and dancers in his club.' The allegations against him are pretty appalling…"

  • So, the "what about the children" reasoning is the new anti-immigration rhetoric? Really?–AJP

    "He says only immigrants with 'something to offer' should be allowed into the country and that too often foreign workers purporting to be skilled take low-skilled jobs that could be occupied by British school leavers. He warns David Cameron that a 'slack' attitude to immigration will result in the Coalition repeating the mistakes made under Labour, when the vast majority of new jobs generated before the recession were taken by immigrants."

  • "The Alte Breslauer Burschenschaft der Raczeks zu Bonn had applied for the Burschenschaft Hansea zu Mannheim to be kicked out of the DB because Kai Ming Au, spokesman for the Mannheim fraternity, was ethnically Chinese even though he was born in Mannheim and considers himself fully German.

    "The row brought to the surface all the stereotypes surrounding the conservative, nationalist pro-German groups and revealed what many see as a power struggle within the association between its ultra-traditionalist rump with racist tendencies and its more liberal majority." 

links for 2011-07-02

  • But you knew this, Racializens.–AJP

    "The report found that there was a strong correlation between social inclusion, competitiveness and economic development, and argued that 'prejudice, in whatever form – including racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance – irrationally destroys the value of human capital.'

    "'Hypothetically, what would happen if the secret of energy efficiency, or to greater food productivity is locked up in the mind of somebody who is denied the ability to develop because of their race or their religious beliefs or their sexual orientation? That's the sort challenge that we now face,' Donovan said."

  • "Republican Gov. Nathan Deal started the experiment after farmers publicly complained they couldn’t find enough workers to harvest labor-intensive crops such as cucumbers and berries because Latino workers — including many [undocumented] immigrants — refused to show up, even when offered one-time or weekly bonuses. One crew who previously worked for Mendez told him they wouldn’t come to Georgia for fear of risking deportation.

    "For more than a week, the state’s probation officers have encouraged their unemployed offenders to consider taking field jobs. While most offenders are required to work while on probation, statistics show they have a hard time finding jobs. Georgia’s unemployment rate is nearly 10 percent, but correction officials say among the state’s 103,000 probationers, it’s about 15 percent. Still, offenders can turn down jobs they consider unsuitable, and harvesting is physically demanding."

  • "[I]n 2008, 67% of the Latino vote went to Barack Obama. However, Democratic consultant and CNN contributor Maria Cardona warns the president can't take that vote for granted next year.

    "'For example, a lot of Latinos express frustration that this president has not been able to deliver on his promise of comprehensive immigration reform,' Cardona says. "'But I think what you'll see is that instead of Latinos actually going to vote for Republicans, the danger for Democrats is they'll stay home.'"

  • "Was Ramirez a victim of this nativist rage? The teens accused of committing a hate crime claimed they weren't motivated by hatred or bigotry toward Latinos, a pivotal question in the case against them. But the vitriol and outright bigotry surrounding the immigration debate, coupled with the racial slurs used that night, make it hard to escape the conclusion that the tragedy was the fruit of hatred and resentment toward Latino immigrants. Shenandoah, a once-thriving coal town in decline for almost a century, is just 20 miles down the road from Hazleton, which in 2006 became the first community in America to pass its own anti-immigration ordinance."
  • "This is a largely racially segregated school system in all five boroughs. In certain neighborhoods where Ray Kelly’s stop-and-frisk police are all too familiar, parents would not have been surprised to hear from the Education Mayor himself what he thinks of them on his weekly WOR interview: 'Unfortunately, there are some parents who…never had a formal education, and they don’t understand the value of an education. Many of our kids come from [such] families—the old Norman Rockwell family is gone.'"
  • From Racialicious Hall of Famer Nadra Kareem Nittle–AJP

    "But it is unclear whether the migration of African-American voters will change the number of congressional districts where black candidates can win. Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, based in Takoma Park, Md., notes that Republicans often join civil rights leaders in supporting African-American legislative districts rather than creating politically diverse districts where the black vote could decide close elections.

    “'Republicans have a political interest in concentrating the African-American vote,' Richie says. 'When blacks are concentrated, they can’t have their votes in as many districts. It’s a trade-off.'” 

links for 2011-07-01

  • "Cornrows, 'non-traditional'? A hairstyle depicted in Stone Age pictures in the Sahara? This begs the question: non-traditional to whose eyes? I can't think of a single black friend, male or female, who hasn't worn them at some point. They are both a rite of passage and a source of pride. Only a fool who knows nothing about black cultural heritage would describe cornrows in such a way. In terms of hairstyles, they are about as traditional as you can get, and excluding a child for having them is insulting and offensive."
  • "Called "The Impact of Light Skin on Prison Time for Black Female Offenders," the study found a group of Villanova professors assessing the sentences of more than 12,000 black female defendants in North Carolina. Their findings were horrifying: Even after controlling for things like prior convictions, crime severity, and thinness, women with light skin received sentences that were 12 percent shorter on average than dark-skinned women. Lighter women also had their actual time served reduced by about 11 percent."

Quoted: Don Lemon on Fear, Coming Out and Acceptance

Don Lemon

Once I was finished writing [Transparent, my new] book, my first thought was Are Black women going to support me? Will they stop watching me on TV? Will they call me a fag?

Truthfully, that would hurt me more than anything else. […]

I’m not going to lie- sharing my story hasn’t been an easy decision. Americans in general have a very limited definition of masculinity, but there’s a definite stigma in the Black community that being gay is the worst thing possible. In telling you that I’m gay, I pray that you will not judge or condemn me. If you ever thought I was a role model before, I hope you will continue to believe that because I strive to be one. If you thought I was a great journalist before, I hope you will still think the same of me. And for the record, let me say that not all gay men are feminine. There’s nothing about me that wants to be a woman. It’s stereotypes, assumptions, and religious ostracism that keeps Black gay men like me from telling the truth about who we really are.

— Don Lemon, “To My Beautiful Black Sisters…” (link goes to video), Essence Magazine, July 2011

Celebrating Queer Indigenous Voices Week: Interview with Daniel Heath Justice

By Guest Contributor Jorge Antonio Vallejos, cross-posted from Black Coffee Poet

Near the end of my video interview with Daniel Heath Justice (above) for this special week Celebrating Queer Indigenous Voices I asked, “… anything we’ve left out?”

“There’s a lot we’ve left out,” said Justice.


Although we had a table full of books we failed to mention Queer Indigenous writers from around the world. And I’m embarrassed to say that I did not mention an Indigenous, brown, queer woman who helped pave the way for a brown boy like me: Gloria Anzaldua. She was a Mestiza, Xicana who made an impact on the literature world and changed the way Indigeneity is seen, thought, read, written, and lived.

R.I.P Gloria.

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