Seven Latinos Who Have Made Outstanding Cultural Contributions

This week, in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting some of our best and brightest Latinos from the world of literature, entertainment and food.

Luckily for us and the rest of the world, there is no shortage of Latino talent from which to choose and this list is by no means exhaustive. It does, however, offer a snapshot of some of the Latino community’s greatest cultural contributions. Here is our list, in no particular order, of seven Latinos whose contributions to culture have made the world a better place

Artist: Carlos Alvarez

Carlos Alvarez was born in Medellín, Colombia in 1969 and later immigrated to the United States in 1999. He focuses on still-life oil paintings or prints with ordinary, everyday objects. Some of his work is currently on display at the Smithsonian galleries during the month of celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month.HHM_pic1

Actors: Edward James Olmos

It is hard to imagine either the US or Latino film cultures without Edward James Olmos. Although he was born in a Los Angeles, he grew up in a Latino community and is the son of a Mexican immigrant and Mexican-American mother. He has played famous roles in both Spanish and many American films and TV shows. One of his best role’s was as a teacher in the film Stand and Deliver (1988), in which he played a passionate high school determined to inspire his students to be passionate and finish school. Watch a clip below:


Musician: Los Tigres del Norte









This popular musical group is a band of Mexican-American brothers who have brought their traditional Mexican music into the mainstream American musical culture. Although they became popular in the 1970s and 1980s, they are still performing and touring throughout the country today. They are most renowned for their Chicano style, mixing a traditional, acoustic folk sound with a more upbeat vibe using electric guitar and bass. Take a listen to one of their hits:

Chef: Chef Marcela Valladolid

Although she was born in San Diego, Marcela Valladolid spent her childhood growing up in Mexico. She has traveled all around the world to follow her passion for cooking, including Paris, France and returning to Tijuana to found her own catering company. She has been a guest chef on many food programs on American television and today is a host of her own show titled Mexican Made Easy on the Food Network. Marcela Valladolid’s recipe for Tilapia Ceviche is a must-try!


Author: Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is often referred to as not just one of the best Hispanic authors, but one of the best authors in the world. Marquez was born in Colombia and spent most of his life living in Latin America. He often wrote short stories and journals, but was also a screenwriter at times. His way of storytelling has caught the attention of many audiences, not solely the Spanish-speaking world. With his storytelling, he developed the genre of “magical realism”, and through his words, he made magical events seem as though they were possible everyday occurrences. His story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is a prime example of this magical realism.


Poet: Jorges Luis Borges

Jorges Luis Borges was born and raised in Argentina, where he spent most of his life in the 20th century. Although he wrote short stories, essays, and served as a translator, he was most known for his poetry. Borges’ poetry was often deep and philosophical, forcing his readers to reflect and ponder on his words. Because of this effect and the beauty of his words, is always studied in Spanish literature and often studied in English poetry courses as well. It is hard not to discuss Spanish poets without Borges being at the top of the list. “La Lluvia” (“The Rain”) is a simple yet beautiful poem written by Borges in 1960.


Film Director: Gregory Nava

HHM_pic6Gregory Nava was born in San Diego, California, yet all of his filmography is inspired by Mexican and Hispanic cultures. Many of his films reflect the heritage and development of the culture in a modern world. The two films he is most famous for is El Norte (1983) and Selena (1997), which starred a young Mexican-American actress, Jennifer Lopez and the previously mentioned actor Edward James Olmo. He even won the NCLR ALMA Outstanding Latino Director award in 1997 for his film Selena! Watch the movie’s original trailer below:

In Bank of America Settlement, Consumers Deserve Real Relief

(Cross-posted from Blog)

HFG_Logo_newRecently, yet another record-breaking settlement was reached between a large bank and the U.S. Department of Justice to address the massive harm done to families during the financial crisis.

In the largest settlement between a single company and the Justice Department in history, Bank of America agreed to pay a $17 billion penalty for harmful behavior that contributed to the financial collapse of the late 2000s. As part of the deal, Bank of America will offer $7 billion worth of consumer relief to affected homeowners.

Since the $7 billion will likely come in multiple forms, NCLR applauds the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the settlement’s implementation. A strong monitor can help ensure that relief is distributed to struggling homeowners who need it most.

Among other methods, this agreement allows Bank of America to give struggling homeowners real relief in the form of principal reduction, a proven strategy that NCLR has long supported. Principal reduction allows borrowers to become current on their mortgages and escape high payments that were inflated by the housing bubble.

Principal reduction benefits borrowers and lenders alike. It decreases a family’s chance of future delinquency, enables them to stay in their homes, and helps them avoid unnecessary foreclosure. And when families stay in their homes, lenders win too. The alternatives, such as foreclosure or maintenance of an abandoned home, frequently cost lenders more and compromise the value of surrounding homes.

Photo: Jeffrey Turner

Photo: Jeffrey Turner

During the financial crisis, large banks targeted communities of color, including the Latino community, with predatory loans that the banks knew borrowers could not repay. As millions lost their homes and livelihoods to foreclosure, Latino wealth was decimated, and it has yet to recover from crippling losses.

Despite the considerable harm that dishonest mortgage practices have caused, though, Latinos are still strong believers in homeownership, with a majority of Latino voters saying that they consider homeownership a part of the American Dream. By 2020, half of all new home buyers will be Latino.

NCLR urges the independent monitor and Bank of America to fully comply with all aspects of the mortgage settlement, whether by offering consumer relief through principal reduction, canceling payments, or providing cash payouts to struggling homeowners or victims of wrongful foreclosure.

There are also concerns that homeowners applying for relief could be penalized through a larger tax bill, an issue the Justice Department is working to resolve, though it will likely require a permanent legislative solution. Congress must act quickly to ensure that this settlement does not harm the very homeowners it is designed to assist.

While nothing can undo the damage caused by wrongful foreclosure and the large-scale loss of wealth during the financial crisis, the Latino community deserves real relief from these issues. The Bank of America settlement is a step in the right direction, and we hope it will mark a turning point for Latinos who have confronted the loss of their most valuable assets.

Weekly Washington Outlook — September 22, 2014


What to Watch This Week:



The House is in recess, returning the week of November 10.


The Senate is in recess, returning the week of November 10.

White House:

On Monday, the president will sign America’s Promise Summit Declaration at an event at the White House.

On Tuesday, President Obama and the first lady will travel to New York City for the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). In the afternoon, the president will deliver remarks at the Climate Summit 2014. Afterward, he will deliver remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative 2014 Annual Meeting. In the evening, President Obama will attend a DSCC event. Afterward, the president and first lady will attend a reception for visiting Heads of State and Government.

On Wednesday, President Obama will address the United Nations General Assembly. The first lady will also attend. In the afternoon, the president will meet with Sam Kutesa, President of the United Nations General Assembly. Afterward, he will attend a luncheon hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Later in the afternoon, the president will chair a United Nations Security Council summit on foreign terrorist fighters. Afterward, President Obama will attend a meeting of the Open Government Partnership.

On Thursday, the president will deliver remarks at a United Nations meeting on the Ebola epidemic. In the afternoon, President Obama and the first lady will return to the White House.

On Friday, the president will deliver remarks at the Global Health Security Agenda Summit at the White House.

On Saturday, the president will deliver remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 44th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington, DC.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending September 19


Week Ending September 19

This week in immigration reform: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) write an op-ed in The Hill highlighting Citizenship Day and the value of effective immigrant integration; NCLR posts another installment of the “Hanging in the Balance” blog series; and urges our community to register and turn out to vote in November.

–REPRESENTATIVES ROS-LEHTINEN (R-Fla.) AND CARDENAS (D-Calif.) HIGHLIGHT CITIZENSHIP DAY AND IMMIGRANT INTEGRATION:  In celebration of Citizenship Day, September 17, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Tony Cardenas come together as first-generation Americans to recognize the importance of citizenship and the need to encourage legal permanent residents to successfully integrate and become Americans. In their op-ed, they mention the New American Success Act, their bill to improve immigrant integration, specifically with English and civics education. Enabling immigrants to access all the rights of American citizenship strengthens our communities and our country.

–NCLR CONTINUES ‘HANGING IN THE BALANCE’ SERIES WITH STORY OF FAMILY THREATENED BY DELAY IN EXECUTIVE ACTION:  The delay of executive action by the Obama Administration has put thousands of potential families at risk of separation by deportation. One such family from Ohio is highlighted in NCLR’s latest blog post. Seleste Wisniewski is an American citizen married to Pedro Hernandez Ramirez, an undocumented immigrant. Pedro has been in the United States for more than a decade and is the primary caretaker of their son, Juan, 24, who has severe cerebral palsy. Pedro is ineligible for sponsorship by his wife because he has been in the U.S. without status for too long. Seleste and her four U.S. citizen children urge President Obama to act on immigration reform so that they continue to be together as a family.

–NCLR SENDS MESSAGE TO ACTION NETWORK “This is Unacceptable.” You should have received a message in your inbox from NCLR Deputy Vice President, Clarissa Martinez- De-Castro, this week. We sent the email to our action network to share that in response to the profound disappointment to the President’s delay on executive action, we are encouraging our community to send a message to lawmakers by registering to vote and casting our ballots this November. Check out the NCLR Voter Registration Tool and share a link to it on Facebook!


Five Tips for a Healthy Brain

By Elizabeth Carrillo, Project Coordinator, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

latinosandalzheimers_blog_ENGThis Sunday, September 21, is World Alzheimer’s Day. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive brain disorder that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. It affects over 5 million Americans today, mostly those aged 65 and older. Latinos are 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s but are less likely to recognize the 10 signs and symptoms, often resulting in a diagnosis at a later stage of the disease. Some risk factors, such as age and family history, cannot be controlled, but luckily there are certain steps you can take to maintain a healthy brain and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This month is also Healthy Aging Month, so start applying these tips today!

5 Tips for a Healthy Brain

  1. Stay physically healthy. Physical exercise is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain and reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and obesity, all risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, avoid tobacco and excess alcohol.
  1. Adopt brain-healthy eating. Consume foods low in salt, fat, and cholesterol. Use olive, grape seed, or canola oil instead of margarine or corn oil. Try baking or grilling instead of frying. Dark-skinned vegetables and fruits, such as spinach, broccoli, red bell pepper, purple onion, plums, berries, oranges, and cherries are good for the brain. Make nuts like almonds and walnuts, and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, trout, and tuna, part of your nutrition.
  1. Remain mentally active. Keeping the brain active may build up brain cells and connections that help maintain it strong and healthy. Commit to life-long learning. Read, write, and work on puzzles. Learn a new skill or volunteer at a local community center, school, or church. Build and maintain a personal or community garden. Play new games that involve strategizing, like chess or dominoes.
  1. Remain active. Engaging in sports, cultural activities, dancing, emotional support, and close personal relationships are protective against Alzheimer’s. Maintain close relationships with family and friends, join a local community club or center, and participate in social gatherings!
  1. Ensure adequate vitamin intake. Studies have shown that some vitamins, like E, D, C, B12, and folate, may be important in lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Consult your doctor before taking vitamins.

Our short videos below offer some insight into one Latino family’s experience with Alzheimer’s.

(video in Spanish)

(video with English subtitles)

Working for Tech Giants: Latinos Can’t Get a Break!

By Irasema Garza, J.D., Policy Advisor, NCLR Policy Analysis Center


Photo: elPadawan

Earlier this year, major tech companies based in Silicon Valley began rolling out diversity numbers, amid increased public pressure to reveal workforce demographic data. The companies’ records confirmed what Latinos already know: tech giants generally don’t hire Latinos, at least not as white-collar professional staff. Latinos make up 40 percent of California’s residents, and comprise almost 30 percent of the country’s population when combined with Blacks. Yet only 3–4 percent of the technology industry’s core workforce is made up of Latinos and Blacks; Apple is the most diverse of these companies with a paltry 7 percent Latinos and 6 percent Blacks.

The release of the tech industry’s diversity data lit up the blogosphere with commentary about how the companies can disentangle complicated technology quagmires, but diversity completely confounds them. Some industry CEOs offered mea culpa statements and expressed a desire to adopt programs that would help them develop a pipeline of diverse employees.

Latinos who work in the tech industry are overrepresented in service-related jobs, but are not considered employees of the tech companies. According to a recent report issued by Working Partnerships USA, a labor and community organization in San Jose, CA, Latinos comprise 74 percent of the tech industry’s grounds maintenance workforce, 28 percent of its security guards, and 69 percent of the janitorial staff. Service workers are not on any tech company’s payroll because they are contingent workers. That is, they are contracted by employee resource companies and in turn sourced out to the tech industry. Their wages and benefits reflect as much.

In sharp contrast to the high wages earned by the industry’s core employees, the median hourly wages for the three largest categories of con­tracted workers—landscaping workers, janitors, and security guards—are $13.82, $11.39, and $14.17, respectively. To make matters worse, the majority of these workers are not eligible for sick leave; they are not able to take a single paid sick day, unlike the core employees of the tech companies.


Photo: Texture X

While a janitor working for a tech company is unable to meet the monthly rent for an average apartment in Santa Clara County without working overtime, the technology industry is booming. In 2013, the top 150 companies in Silicon Valley earned $103 billion dollars in profits.

The tech industry has a very long way to go before it is no longer considered an industry with a homogenous workforce. Promises to improve diversity are laudable sentiments, but insufficient to gain credibility among the Latino community. Latinos have heard about building corporate pipelines to improve diversity for decades, but they have yet to see meaningful results. To be sure, many companies nationwide have increased workforce diversity over the decades because they made diversity hiring an organizational priority, and they adopted policies to ensure that a culture of diversity permeated their organizations. Silicon Valley CEOs should do the same, not simply because their dismal diversity rates are now public, but because it is well-established that a diverse workforce can increase productivity and benefit a company’s bottom line.

Good corporate policy is one that insists its workforce mirrors the demographics of its customer base. So with the exponential growth of young technology adopters in Latino and Black communities, there is no excuse for industry CEOs to delay polices that will accelerate diversity hiring to increase the number of Latinos in high-paying tech jobs, including leadership positions. In the meantime, industry CEOs would do well to fold Latino and other service workers into their companies’ payrolls, or at least increase their pay to meet livable wage standards.

Delayed Executive Action Threatens to Shatter an Ohio Family

Hanging in the balance-01

The recent announcement by the Obama administration to delay the promised executive action on immigration will affect millions of hardworking individuals and their families. Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants will be deported while we wait for the president to bring some sanity to a broken immigration system.

HouseImmigrationBill_pic_newOne family in Ohio deeply understands the dire consequences of delay. Seleste Wisniewski, an American citizen, is desperately worried that her husband, Pedro Hernandez Ramirez, may be deported in the coming days. Pedro, who has lived and worked in the U.S. for more than a decade, was just notified that his yearlong stay of deportation had been canceled and he would be sent back to Mexico soon. Pedro is ineligible to be sponsored by his U.S. citizen wife because he has been in this country out of status for too long.

The biggest impact of Pedro’s deportation would be felt by their four U.S. citizen children—particularly Juan, 24, who has severe cerebral palsy. Pedro is the only one in their home who can lift Juan in and out of his wheelchair, bed, and bath. The family also depends on Pedro’s income from working in a landscape nursery.

In a recent story in The New York Times, Seleste asked an urgent question of Obama and the politicians who convinced him to delay action: “Why are we going to wait until later to fix a problem we have today?”

Seleste has been advocating on behalf of her husband publicly for the last year, when Pedro was detained in a county jail and days away from deportation before he received a stay. He returned to his family, and ever since they have been hoping that Washington would act in time to spare him. When Congress failed to move forward this spring, Seleste and Pedro were relieved to hear President Obama promise to provide some relief “by summer’s end.” Now that broken promise could have a shattering impact on their family.

The recent delay has been devastating for the entire family. Their 17-year-old daughter, Stephanie, said that Pedro is the “glue” keeping the family together and the one who teaches her “right from wrong.” Their five-year-old son loves to play basketball with his dad but lives in fear that he will be taken away again—this time forever.

Seleste knows they are “in a race against time.” She doesn’t understand why she has to “choose between her husband and her country.” She is pleading with President Obama to act as quickly as possible to ensure that her family stays together.

Latino Poverty Rates in Decline, Household Financial Anxiety Remains High

highway-guardrail_560x292New Census data is out which shows that Latinos’ hard work is translating into higher income and lower poverty. According to the data, there were 900,000 fewer Latinos, including 500,000 fewer Latino kids, who were living in poverty in 2013 compared to the year prior. The poverty rate is still alarmingly high at 23.5 percent for 2013, but the new data shows some improvement.

“We are pleased to see an improvement in these indicators of economic well-being. Half a million fewer Latino children in poverty is a testament to our community’s commitment to hard work and sacrifice,” said Vice President of Policy, Eric Rodriguez in a statement. “However, all American workers, including Latinos, would have experienced greater gains had it not been for the congressional choices that have stunted economic growth and slashed investments in education, housing and nutrition services. This austerity agenda, together with stagnant wages, has left too many working families without sufficient income or supports to meet their basic needs.”

You can read more in our analysis of the data, available below.

2013 Data Latino Poverty Analysis

Taking a Closer Look at Racial Injustice in America

Recently, NCLR held a Capitol Hill briefing on racial injustice in America. Speakers at the event included: Dr. Francisco Villarreal of Michigan State University, The Honorable Steven Teske, Juvenile Court of Clayton County, GA /National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Kevin Bethel of the Philadelphia Police Department, Luis Cardona of the Montgomery County Gang Prevention Initative, and Jessica Sandoval of the Campaign for Youth Justice. Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) was also in attendance at the event.

Watch the whole briefing below: