Live blogging Latino in America, Part II. I think this one is going to be a great deal more negative than last nights. I’ll try to get some photos rolling, too. Maybe update last night’s post with a few, too. Maybe not.
“In this country, anything is possible.” “I don’t know. I don’t know if the American dream exists, to tell you the truth.”
Tonight’s theme is Chasing the dream.
We’ve got a young girl, whose fictitious name is Marta. We’re not using her real name. Marta is in a refugee center in Miami called Boys Town. Many Cuban kids, called Pedro Pans at the time, were taken here at the beginning of Communist rule in Cuba by the Catholic Church. The Cuban missile crisis halted all possibilities of these kids returning home.
The first Cuban-American in the US Senate, Mel Martinez, was one of those children. He toured the grounds of the old Boys Town and reminisced about oatmeal cookies. CNN was allowed access to the camp, but couldn’t show any faces. The kids there learn English and play with toys, still supported by Catholic missionaries.
Marta’s mother left for the United States when she was 12. She left Marta and her siblings with their grandparents. Marta was able to meet up with her Mom in the United States, but there wasn’t a strong familial connection. Marta’s mother had taken on a new boyfriend and had a new child. Marta stayed with her Mom for two years before a judge ordered her deported. That’s when Marta was sent to Boys Town.
Marta’s days at Boys Town seems a great deal like a rather harsh boarding school. She misses regular school, and is interested in learning. She also likes English. Michelle Abarca is fighting for Marta. Michelle plans on using the argument that her mother is not fit to support her and there’s nobody at home to support her, either. It’s a tough choice for Marta. Dedication to her mother or freedom.
Mel Martinez commented that the kids in Boys Town have it worse than he did. Martinez, a conservative, is conflicted about immigration. He says it needs to be more “rational,” taking into account the people who are already here.
Marta is going to accuse her mother of neglect in order to gain her freedom in the US. “Miami has become a thriving center of Cuban culture,” Soledad informs us. She spoke with Willy Chirino, a Cuban-American entertainer. He landed in America when he was 14. He was a Pedro Pan, as was his wife. She was sent to live in Dubuque, Iowa. This the daughter of Cuba’s Sonny and Cher.
Fast forward a few months. Lissette and Soledad meet up at the animal rescue center where Lissette volunteers. She wants to help Marta. It’s Marta’s court date. Michelle Abarca delivers the good news; they’re going to grant her a petition for asylum in the US. While she’s out of detention, though, she’s not allowed to see her mother. She has foster parents, though, who are familiar with children in her situation. The way Marta spoke about Boystown is really harsh. It’s as if she would have done absolutely anything to get out. That, combined with the caution that CNN was forced to exercise while in there, should raise questions about living conditions.
Marta, who crossed the Rio Grande in an inner tube, faces her DHS agent. She emerges from the building with a visa.
Pico Rivera, California
Hot dogs, balloon animals, baseball, cotton candy, the Star-Spangled Banner. Sounds pretty American, right? It absolutely is, but it’s also Latino. Gracie Gallegos, the mayor, was born and raised in Pico Rivera and she called it the Brown Mayberry. For decades, a move to Pico was a move “up.” The PR agent for the city, an Australian, said that it was very hard to get a bookstore in the community.
Lupe Anteveros lives here, in all of her Hollywood glory. She says that she lives in Pico Rivera because Pico is her gente. The immigrants have americanized aggresively, from their choice of holidays to their pronunciation of “foreign” words. Erica Sparks, a 13-year-old who lives in Pico, initially thought that Pico was very nice. She moved there from Torrance, CA. She’s had a rough time in middle school, hanging out with gang members and getting a 187 tattoo on her hip. Erica’s parents, by the way, have been transient prisoners for some time now. Erica is being raised by foster parents.
Pico has had a dark period. Think gangland. Maria Elena Hicks, was driving home from her sister’s house a two years back. She saw a man tagging and honked her horn at him. A shot rang out and she was killed instantly. Her son, Matthew Hicks, spoke lovingly about his mother. Four people were arrested in the crime, all gang members. The death of Maria Hicks, a grandmother, galvanized the town into self-preservation. Three million dollars were poured into the police department. There’s also a scared straight program called Pride. Erica Sparks is in that program. They take them to jail, show them life in the streets, and, if the pictures are telling the story, they shove them in a casket to see death from the other side. Pride shows kids that no matter how cool you think you are, acting out and gang affiliation only ends up in the hospital, the graveyard, or prison.
Soledad asked Erica why it’s so hard to choose the achiever side. She said that she’s used to being bad. Two days away from Pride graduation, Erica ran away.
The sheriff and the pastor in charge of the Pride program went out looking for Erica.
This shifting narrative is making me dizzy. Now Soledad is talking about the revitalization of Pico. One of the driving forces of Pico Rivera is a low-rider club. The members, according to Soledad, look like a gangster casting call. This club, however, focuses on cars, family, and community. No gang affiliation is allowed (though I’d like to examine that claim a bit, call me a cynic). The club, Together, is raising money for the Pride program. Here’s Soledad in a car:
The sheriff got a tip on Erica. She said she ran away because of her stepdad. She doesn’t want him at the graduation. The sheriff is amazingly forgiving and offers her the front seat of the squad car. He brokers an agreement between the two. Erica graduated the program, served one month for the graffiti, and is still active in the Pride program.
Shenandoah is a multi-cultural mining town filled with Europeans and Latinos. Luis Ramirez was killed here on July 12, 2008. His girlfriend, Crystal, spoke of Luis as a man who worked hard for his family. She thinks that her boyfriend was killed for his ethnicity. Crystal, who is white, was called some pretty awful names on the street as she walked with Luis.
On the night he was killed, he ran into a group of white high school football players who had been drinking. Tough words ensued and Luis was murdered. Carlos Reymos lives in a latino neighborhood. He’s outspoken about Shenandoah. He called it a closed-minded down and he listed off some of the things he’d been called.
The boys who killed Ramirez were all considered good kids. They now face decades in prison. One of the boys’ father spoke out. Stone-faced, he said that he had no problems with the latino community.
Shenandoah crashed in the 50’s when the coal ran out. Joe Miller, who moved to Shenandoah for work, blamed the crime in Shenandoah on illegal immigrants. He defends against accusations of racism by saying that, “Last night I was hanging out with lots of Spanish people.” Joe argued that illegal immigrants took eeer jeeebs, but mostly jobs of black people.
I’m sorry, folks, but this argument is tired. A legal resident who offers to work for less would not receive the same amount of scorn that an illegal resident receives. This is very thinly veiled racism.
“If he wasn’t here illegally, it wouldn’t have happened.” That’s what a Shenandoah resident said about Luis Ramirez. I’m sure the drunk teenagers asked for a passport before beating him to his death.
Joe Miller is going to the trial of the two boys. Of the four boys that Ramirez encountered that night, only 2 are being charged for murders. There are rumors of a cover-up. The doctor’s say that Ramirez was beaten so badly that his brains were oozing out. After 8 hours of deliberation, the boys are acquitted of murder and ethnic aggression, being charged with drinking and reckless behavior.
The boys get 6-23 months of jail time. Luis’s girlfriend, and the mother of his children, just wept quietly while taking the injustice in. Unless there are some facts that Latino in America is hiding, this seems to be a complete farce. I can either lose faith in the judicial system or I can lose faith in CNN.
They’re about to talk about what it’s like to live in America and not speak “English.” I put that in quotes because, in my opinion, nobody in this country speaks English, but that’s just me.
Carlos Robles struggles with English pronunciation. He’s hoping to reduce his Spanish accent, according to CNN. Carlos, by the way, is not from Spain, but from Puerto Rico. Thanks, CNN.
In PR, Carlos was a police officer. He failed the sheriff’s exam because of his limited English proficiency, or so he thinks. Carlos studies with a Columbian surgeon who installs cable TV and a Venezuelan naval officer who cleans pools.
As Carlos struggles to learn English, Trey owns a baseball training camp and is trying to recruit Puerto Rican students. He has hired an assistant from Puerto Rico who coaches the spanish-speaking students.
Carlos was working for a toy store when he first arrived, but lost his job when the store went under. He has been studying English and law enforcement in his free time. Oh, and he’s now expecting a baby.
Vanessa and Sole are from Puerto Rico and are living the American dream. Vanessa’s accent makes me want to take a cheese grater to my eardrums. Think latina plus Minnesota. She’s the spokesperson for Walt Disney World. As if it needed to get more annoying.
And………Carlos failed the sheriff’s exam. He plans on taking the test again.
I don’t want to make any blanket statements about Latino in America. I’m depressed in so many ways. I need to take a long vacation from CNN.