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Author, Youth Advocate and Public Speaker
Several weeks back I was invited to attend the advanced screening of CNN’s Latino in America hosted by Soledad O’Brien with my friend, writer/director Franc Reyes.
As I sat in the audience watching the documented stories come to life on the screen, my eyes filled with tears and my heart filled with a weird mixture of anxiety, joy, sadness and at times a little laughter.
My tears were driven by the fact that I related to all of the stories from the young Garcia teens living in North Carolina who had lost their connection to their Nuyorican roots, to Isabel Garcia’s fight for justice against a sheriff (Joe Arpaio), to the fully assimilated town of Pico Rivera, to the young teenage girl falling in with the wrong crowd, now living in a “nicer” part of town, finding it difficult to identify with an unfamiliar home.
And most importantly I cried for Luis Ramirez, who was beaten to death by a group of boys who thought that pounding an immigrant to death was the way to go in their Shenandoah, Pennsylvania town.
At the conclusion of the 45-minute advanced screening there was a panel discussion with Soledad O’Brien, Franc Reyes, Julián Zugazagoitia (Director & CEO, El Museo del Barrio), Maite Junco (Editor of Viva, NY Daily News) and Mark Nelson (VP of CNN Productions) as well as my personal favorite panelist, Lillian Rodriguez, President of the Hispanic Federation.
Ms. Rodriguez found it necessary to state that a G.E.D. (General Educational Development) meant you had dropped out of and didn’t equate to graduating high school. She made it clear that obtaining a G.E.D. in her eyes was no great accomplishment.
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Attorney, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center
Children's Legal Project
In a time of heated debates about health care, foreclosure, the recession and immigration, it is easy to ignore another sad story. But just one look at the stories we at Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC) hear every day puts it all back in perspective.
FIAC champions the rights of immigrants who have few resources and tremendous challenges – unaccompanied children in immigration detention like “Marta,” victims of domestic violence or human trafficking and asylum seekers. Many of our staff are themselves immigrants; 90 percent speak at least two languages.
FIAC is one of the few agencies in the country that provides free representation to immigrant children who enter this country alone each year.
“Marta” is one of these children and is featured in CNN’s Latino in America. Her father abandoned her and later died. When Marta was 7, her mother came to the United States, leaving her behind. Longing to see her mother, Marta left Central America at age 13 and set off for the United States. The journey was grueling.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/22/art.lia.rivera.joe.jpg caption="Fernando Rivera (L) has worked with the VA for more than 25 years."]
Fernando O. Rivera
Director, VA Medical Center
There is a real calling to being a public servant. I’ve been with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for 25 years and early on I understood that what we were doing was very special.
I’m in charge of a complex hospital system and responsible for the health care of Veterans in our nation’s capital. We all have a common job at this Medical Center – to serve our Veterans for their entire lives. We’re here to make sure they get the best possible health care, to help them get jobs and education, and to get reconnected, reengaged after serving in combat.
Serving Veterans is a privilege for the obvious reasons. Our men and women in uniform deserve the very best and everything we can do to make that happen needs to be done.
I was 8-years-old when I came to this country from Cuba. Both my father and grandfather were dedicated to public service as Naval officers and my mother had an influential position in government. My father sacrificed his life for freedom and my mother was imprisoned during the Communist revolution.
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Writer, Director and Filmmaker
With CNN spotlighting the plight of Latinos in America through its new series of documentaries with Soledad O’Brien, I find it of critical importance to have my voice heard about the state of Latinos in America’s Hollywood.
I’d like to make it utterly clear that I did not ask for, nor intend to become the voice of Latinos in entertainment.
However, it’s become overwhelmingly apparent to me over the last several months that many Latinos are looking directly at me, to assist in leading this charge towards a positive change in the entertainment industry.
That positive change must begin by speaking out against the Hollywood system that has stood firmly in place over the last 100 years. A system which shows absolutely no signs of relinquishing or sharing its control with people of color.
I often use the analogy that if I opened a Starbucks on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, I’d be arrested if I didn’t employ minorities in key positions of power.
However, Hollywood is continuously afforded the luxury of hiring very few minorities into key positions. And to date there are no people of color who can green light films.
Co-Founder, M-PACT SPORTS
M-PACT SPORTS is a youth instructional facility in Orlando, Fla. We operate a 12,000 square-foot facility and we specialize in baseball and softball instruction, as well as speed, strength and agility training of athletes of all ages. From T-ball players to professionals, we have athletes of all abilities. Coaches and families visit our facility each day.
I grew up most of my life in west Texas and went to high school in New Mexico. My wife and I witnessed the growth of the Latino community (especially the Mexican Americans) in our home state of Texas. Here in Florida, the Puerto Rican and South American cultures are growing.
Thirty percent of the athletes at M-PACT SPORTS are of some type of Latino descent and are very important to our business. I’ve noticed many times Latino kids are often translating our training programs, pricing and policies to their parents or grandparents.
One day my wife, Lorri, and I decided we might be missing the proverbial ‘boat’ and could be more effectively reaching and catering to this crucial segment of our business. She reached out to Emilio Perez, the President of the Greater Orlando Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce. At the time the chamber was sponsoring a seminar on how businesses could more effectively market their services to the Latino community here in Orlando. It was at this conference that we were approached by CNN for the ‘Latino in America’ documentary.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/10/21/childhood.obesity/art.sepulveda.courtesy.jpg caption="Blanca Sepulveda, right, was devastated when her daughter Frida began showing signs of type 2 diabetes."]
When she was about 8, Frida Sepulveda developed dark folds of skin around her neck. It's a well-known warning sign of type 2 diabetes.
Frida's mother, Blanca Sepulveda, who has watched other family members struggle with diabetes and obesity, was "devastated" to see her daughter experience similar health problems.
Now at age 11, Frida is about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs around 180 pounds, her mother said. Despite a high body weight for her age and height, Frida does not seem to have additional symptoms of diabetes - or any other major health concerns - but her parents are trying to reverse the weight problem Frida has had since infancy.
The San Diego, California, family is among a disproportionately high number of Latino-American families with overweight and obese children. According to the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, 16.6 percent of Latino high school students were obese and 18.1 percent were overweight. The corresponding national averages for high school students were 13.3 percent obese and 15.8 percent overweight.
Program Note: Tune in tonight for Anderson's interview with Eva Longoria. AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
The Latino population in the U.S. is set to triple by 2050. The U.S. Census estimated there were approximately 46.9 million Latinos in the U.S. in July 2008. That means that by 2050, there will be an estimated 132.8 million. Take a look at this map to see how the Latino population in the U.S. has changed over the past four decades.
Latinos are the fastest-growing minority group in the U.S. and the median age of the population in 2008 was 27.7 years. According to Census records from 2008, California was home to 13.5 million Latinos and 8.9 million lived in Texas. The Carolinas saw the highest growth rates for Latino communities between July 2007 and July 2008.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/19/art.eva.longoria.capitol.hill.jpg caption="Actress and activist Eva Longoria-Parker makes remarks at a National Museum of the American Latino Commission press conference at the House Triangle last week in Washington, DC."]
By 2050, the U.S. Latino population is expected to nearly triple. Next week, CNN's 'Latino in America' explores how Latinos are reshaping our communities and culture and forcing a nation of immigrants to rediscover what it means to be an American.
Don't miss this special on October 21 and October 22 at 9pm (ET) to watch interviews with Eva Longoria, George Lopez, and Latinos across America to examine issues from immigration to education and the American dream.
On Tuesday, Anderson will speak to Longoria about 'Latino in America,' Hispanic Heritage Month and the role of Latinos in Hollywood. Longoria is also the commissioner for the National Museum of the American Latino. Tune in to hear her thoughts on health care, immigration and worker's rights. Tomorrow, AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.