Category Archives: latin@

Welcome to East Willy B! [Culturelicious]

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Sometimes there’s love in laughter. And the cast and crew bringing the new web series East Willy B have a lot of love for the real-life neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn, and (most) of the fictional characters.

The series’ heart is Willie Reyes, Jr. (Flaco Navaja) the 30-something Puerto Rican-proud bar owner who inherited the business from his dad, including the barfly crushing on him, Giselle (Caridad “La Bruja” de la Cruz). Wille is trying to keep his bar, which has served as the nabe’s hangout and nerve center, from closing down due gentrification in the form of his ex-girlfriend Maggie (April Hernandez) and her new white beau (and Willie’s longtime rival), Albert (Danny Hoch), and the incoming white hipsters looking for cheap(er) rent.

Transcript of the premiere episode after the jump.

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For Your Women’s History Month: Loretta Ross on the Origin of “Women of Color”

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Full disclosure: I met Loretta Ross at a Women’s Media Center’s media workshop for progressive women last summer, and we’re connected through the New York City chapter of SisterSong, which reshaped the reproductive-rights fight to reproductive justice. And I just think she is an incredible activist and living historian.

I saw this clip of her explaining to another generation of feminists where the term “women of color” came from and wanted to share.

Transcript after the jump.

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Bad Feet, Will Travel: Oedipus El Rey Provides a Chicano Take on Faith, Love, and Tragedy

Oedipus El Rey and Jocasta

by Latoya Peterson

I thought I knew Oedipus Rex.

The first time I read Sophocles’ masterful Greek tragedy was in the 11th grade.  There, scribbling out an analysis as part of a 40 minute timed writing, I focused on what epitomized Oedipus for me – the struggle between fate and free will. After hearing from the Oracle that he was fated to murder his father and to sleep with his mother, Oedipus does what any rational person would do – he tries to put as much distance as he can between himself and the only family he knows. Unfortunately, prophecies are not so easily averted – Oedipus never knew he was adopted, and thus did not know the man he slew on the road to Thebes was his father; nor did he know the beautiful widow he would eventually marry was his birth mother.

Back then, I wrote about the icy hand of irony in Oedipus’ journey –  how he closed himself to what would have revealed the truth because of his hubris, but once he finds out he literally blinds himself.  But what really stuck with me was the idea of fate.  If your life is predestined – and all roads will lead to your eventual path – what is the point of having free will? Life never promised to be fair, but the fates are needlessly cruel, especially in Greek mythology.  And so, when I heard about a retelling of Oedipus Rex, set in the barrios of LA with a Chicano protagonist, I could immediately see the connection.

Indeed, the idea of being trapped by larger, unseen forces makes a lot of sense when thrust into a modern context. Oedipus El Rey bases its narrative in California’s penal system, with the title character Oedipus (also nicknamed patas malas due to the torture inflicted by his father at his birth) growing up in juvenile detention.  At one point, Oedipus confesses that after he was released at the age of seventeen, he robbed a Costco without a gun, just so he could be returned to jail.  It was a powerful admission – that so many boys who go into the criminal justice system at an early age come out without any sense of what it means to function in society, that there are people who come to prefer the steady monotony of incarceration than be forced to cope with the unstructured chaos of real life. The idea that regardless of your own intentions, one might still end up ensnared in forces beyond your control resonated with me. I could understand that.

So, playwright Luis Alfaro threw me for a loop when he replied to one of my questions, saying the play, at its core, was “about love.” Continue reading

Quoted: The Gaps Between Young People of Color and AIDS Activism

But in the terms of the power discussion, what if, in fact, you are power? What if in fact you are powerful, in that you feel like you make the decisions about the man that you’re going to sleep with, and whether you’re going to use a condom with him or not? What if you’ve got the power in deciding? But we know this is not the case for so many of our young women, and yet we’ve grown up with prevention that presumes and assumes, and that incorporates the idea of giving women power. We’re asking — we’re needing — power over primarily an organ that we don’t even have attached to our body.

“The other piece of the discussion, of course, that’s always been missing, long been missing, is: AIDS, Inc., does not know what to do with heterosexually identified men….AIDS, Inc., does not know what to do with sexually active men who are not exclusively gay — let me put it like that. Unless you are exclusively gay, out, or even a little bit kind of halfway what society labels as “down low,” AIDS, Inc. doesn’t know what to do with black men’s sexuality. It just doesn’t. We don’t have the right studies for it. We don’t have the right access for it. We don’t have any idea, except prison — which is my whole other issue — of where you can have an opportunity to engage men around health literacy, right? Sexuality addiction that plays into factors; sex that happens with men that does not mean, or does not reflect, an orientation. We don’t have the places to have those discussions. The good thing about what we’re doing with the girls is that we’re able to have those venues to have that discussion.

“But as long as we’re able to access health care, mostly around our reproductive organs, and men don’t have a similar place where they even ever have to come into care, unless they’re coming into care for prostate cancer — and that’s a sure sign that they’ve come too late — we’ve been doing one-hand clapping for a long time. So it’s not even about what works, or what doesn’t work; we’re still trying to figure it out.”

~~Tracie Gardner, Founder and Coordinator of the Women’s Initiative to Stop HIV/AIDS NY at the Legal Action Center

Read the rest of the interview here.

Image Credit: News One


Will From Prada to Nada Unlock Latino Box Office Dollars?

by Latoya Peterson

A “Latina spin on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility,” Pantelion Films (a collaboration between U.S. distributor Lionsgate and Mexico’s Televisa) is hoping that From Prada to Nada will inspire a Latino demonstration of box office force. According to an article in Fast Company:

Released at the end of January, Pantelion’s first film, From Prada to Nada, focuses on two formerly rich sisters — one of whom proudly quips “no hablo español” with an Anglo accent — who are forced to move in with relatives in a scrappy, Latino part of East Los Angeles. While the movie is in English, many of the punch lines are in Spanish.

Hollywood’s previous attempts to market Spanish-language and Latino-centric films have largely failed. Even though movies in Spanish like IFC’s Y Tu Mamá También and Focus Features’ The Motorcycle Diaries found success in the art-house market, they did not broadly appeal to the Latino population. Those teenagers McNamara chats up in movie-theater lobbies generally opt to see commercial blockbusters in English. Language is not the company’s key strategy — only about half of Pantelion’s releases will be in Spanish.

“When a movie is in Spanish, if a Puerto Rican is speaking Spanish, or a Mexican is speaking Spanish, it identifies them,” Pantelion’s chief executive, Paul Presburger, says of the language’s countless dialects and geographically diverse slang. “Whereas when we do a film with Latino stars in English, it unifies.”

From the looks of the trailer could either upend stereotypes or confirm them. The story backdrop is one of class, family, and culture – but there are also more than a few border and immigration jokes that could either play into stereotypes or work as intimate commentary on current events. Still, there is cause for alarm – Lionsgate wants to apply the Tyler Perry model to Latino films, which could stoke more controversy:

Pantelion will let the target audience decide if something is offensive, executives say. “African-Americans are going to see Perry’s films; they’re the ones enjoying them,” Presburger says. Nonetheless, the Pantelion staff reads scripts with a careful eye for hackneyed images of Latino life and culture. “We get out of the stereotypes of narco kings and drug dealers and gang members,” Presburger adds.

From Prada to Nada opens January 28th.

Towson University Ends Graduation Gap Between Blacks, Whites, and Latinos

by Latoya Peterson

From the “some good news for once” files, here’s a piece from the Washington Post on how Towson University is one of eleven schools nationwide where graduation rates for minority students “meet or exceed those of whites.”

In 10 years, according to school data, Towson has raised black graduation rates by 30 points and closed a 14-point gap between blacks and whites. University leaders credit a few simple strategies: admitting students with good grades from strong public high schools, then tracking each student’s progress with a network of mentors, counselors and welcome-to-college classes.

“Regardless of your background, there’s people here for you who understand what you’re going through,” said Kenan Herbert, 23, an African American Towson senior from Brooklyn, N.Y.

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What I’ve Learned from Living with HIV

By Christopher MacDonald-Dennis , reprinted with permission from his Twitter timeline

AIDS RibbonMy name is Chris, and I live with HIV.

I know some were here last year [on my Twitter timeline], so I’ll try not to bore you. I just want to remind us that we are here among you, living, thriving, sometimes barely surviving w HIV/AIDS. I’d like to tell my story: why I made choices I did and what I’ve learned–because I have learned a great deal about myself from this disease.

To start: I have been positive for 15 years. March 10, 2010 was  my anniversary. I am 41 yrs old. In fact, I was born exactly 1 week before Stonewall rebellion in NYC. I was born and raised in Boston in a working-class neighborhood. I grew up in uber-dysfunctional family: brother diagnosed as sociopath in teens, dad an alcoholic, mom mentally ill. It was hell in that family, I was a little “sissy” who knew at early age he was gay. I was OK with it but knew others wouldn’t be. I was terrorized as kid–ass kicked a lot. My city didn’t like femme boys. Also, I am mixed: dad was white, mom Latina….looong before mixed folks were cool.  :) We just were odd. So I grew up alone…and lonely. Went to college and  didn’t just come out of closet..

I blew the doors off hinges! I became popular…and, most importantly, saw that men were attracted to me. So I became BHOC–Big Homo On Campus–who also partied hard at clubs. I felt what I thought was acceptance for the first time. I was an activist, a feminist, just thinking I had to it together…but I was promiscuous. It filled a need. Men wanted me; I was desirable. Because of my background I mistook it for love. At 22 I was in my first relationship with an AIDS activist [and] always used condoms. Broke up after 3 years and saw a man I had dated briefly in college.

I still remember the night we met. His smile shut off every thinking part of my brain. I know you know those fine types–your brain disappears. He asked me home. I accepted after he asked my friends (we had a rule–we come together, we leave together.) They agreed–he was that fine. We went to my place & began to have sex. I noticed he wasn’t going to use condom. I thought about it but was afraid he would leave me. Yes, I was more afraid a man would leave than protecting myself.  We never talked about status until 3 months in…he said he was too scared. That made me pause…

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New Study begs the question: Brown Like Who?

by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

A recently-released study by the American Sociological Association reveals something a bit disturbing: 79 percent of Latinos who took part in a specially-designed survey identified themselves as “white,” no matter their skin color.

Of course, the key words there are “specially-designed.” The New Immigrant Survey, as the study was called, specifically denied participants the chance to identify themselves as “Some Other Race,” as they can on the U.S. Census. According to the study’s co-author, Reanne Frank, this demonstrates a willingness by Latinos to recognize white privilege.

“Most are attempting to push the boundaries of whiteness to include them, even if their skin color is darker,” said Frank, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

Frank also said the ASA has received feedback saying the race question “doesn’t fit” many Latino respondents: 50 percent of Latinos who took the 2000 Census identified themselves as “Some Other Race.”

Full disclosure: I have done this in both the 2000 and 2010 Census. But it wasn’t because I wanted to attempt to assert “an alternative Latino racial identity,” as Frank suggests; “Race,” as defined in both the Census and the NIS, is more closely related to phenotype, whereas I always interpret it as something more closely related to nationality.

Of course, that aspect is also covered specifically in Question 8 of the Census: Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin? Among the answers:

  • Yes, Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano
  • Yes, Puerto Rican
  • Yes, Cuban
  • Yes, another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish Origin

However, it’s interesting to note that Question 9, while covering phenotype (White, Black/African American/Negro), also addresses nationality for other ethnic groups: American Indian and Alaskan Native, while grouped together, are listed apart from other groups, and various Asian nationalities (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, etc.) are listed as racial options. The ASA study doesn’t ask why Latinos don’t get that same treatment.