Respected documentary film maker Ken Burns did a seven-part series on World War II in 2007, partly funded with your tax dollars, in which he overlooked Latino veterans completely. You gotta ask, how do you ignore hundreds of thousands of Hispanic vets? After all, the federal government states there are 1 million living Latino veterans, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf and now Iraq wars.
University of Texas journalism professor--and good friend--Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, who also heads an oral history project on Hispanic World War II vets, confronted Burns in a much-publicized brouhaha.
What is the place of Latino veterans--and Latinos in general---in the narrative of U.S. history? Were we there or not? Did we participate or not? Did we contribute? Did we die or not?
Of course, we did. In the end--and after much pressure--Burns patched Latino veterans into his documentary. Journalists moved onto other topics, but I recently interviewed Rivas-Rodriguez by phone to get an update.
The World War II Latino and Latina Oral History Project will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. It was recently awarded a one-year federal grant to extend the project to Korean and Vietnam-era veterans, an important undertaking that will capture the voices of hundreds of younger Latinos and bring the oral history closer to modern times.
After logging more than 650 interviews with World War II vets, Rivas-Rodriguez said the project has made her a more optimistic person.
"Latino veterans are huge idealists and patriots," she said. "When they think of our country, they think beyond its shortcomings and flaws and how they have been treated. It's very touching, and it has made me very optimistic. This is what we could be."
She has pushed to make U.S. history more inclusive. "It's really about the history of our country, and we need to make sure Latinos are included," she said. Today, the project's archived interviews are used in museums and libraries nationwide.
Had Ken Burns availed himself of the project's resources, his epic documentary might have been richer.
Face to face with Burns, Rivas-Rodriguez said Burns couldn't address some of the criticism. Instead, he pointed to his jazz and baseball documentaries, which included Latinos. However, a content analysis showed the 18-1/2 hour baseball documentary contained 6 minutes on Latinos, while jazz had 3 minutes out of 20 hours, she said.
"He just didn't address it. He did an interesting sideways walk."
A New York Times article at the time noted that discrimination against Latinos was "still relatively cheap, not penalized harshly." But author Stephen J. Dubner argued that the Burns-Rivas Rodriguez brouhaha may indicate that is changing.
"The cost of anti-Latino discrimination may be rising," he stated.
Let's hope so.
Some academic journals are expected to revisit the Burns-Rivas Rodriguez issue in coming months, Rivas-Rodriguez said, which ought to make interesting reading.
"For one moment, this was about our feelings and our history," Rivas-Rodriguez said. "It cut across politics and generations."
To conduct interviews of Latino veterans of the Korea and Vietnam wars in your family, contact Rivas-Rodriguez at this email: firstname.lastname@example.org
World War II Latino and Latina Oral History Project www.lib.utexas.edu/ww2latinos
Hispanic Water Veterans of America www.hwva.org
Center for Minority Veterans www1.va.gov/centerforminorityveterans
Photo credits: World War II Latino and Latina Oral History Project; University of Texas.
Hold onto your billetes because new credit card legislation that President Obama is expected to sign is likely to have unintended consequences. I know because I just got my notice in the mail.
The proposed legislation, effective in nine months or about February 2010, would require credit card companies to give you 45 days' notice before changing interest rates. Banks would not be able to raise your interest rate "just because." An interest rate hike would be triggered only if you fell behind on minimum payments by 60 days. Plus, banks would have to disclose how long it would take to pay off your debt if you make only minimum payments and how much interest you would really pay.
So far, so good.
But banks are ladrones, of course. They are three steps ahead. Already the bankers industry group is saying banks will be forced to hike rates on people with good credit--like me--because they can no longer soak the folks with bad credit.
It seems counter intuitive, but banks make lots of money on folks with poor credit because they often miss payments and--for now--can be charged maximum interest rates precisely because they are high-risk customers. I read somewhere that banks make $20 billion a year from fees and other charges on these folks.
On the other hand, banks don't make as much money on folks with low balances who pay their bills either in full or on time--or both.
Meanwhile, this legislation has not even passed Congress, and I already received a nice note in the mail from my credit card company. Starting in July (that's my 45 day-notice, folks), my interest rate will jump to more than 13 percent!
But guess what? I pay only 5 percent now. Major change. Mira que tienen pantalones. They are light years ahead of Congress. If my credit card company is doing this now, yours must be, too.
My advice to Orlando Latinos: Read the fine print. If you get a notice from your credit card company, don't throw it out! Read it; it may make an 8-point interest rate difference to you, too.
Many Latinos live paycheck to paycheck and buy things fiao. Credit card use among Latinos has jumped more than 10 points to more than 53 percent since the 1990s. And 77 percent of Hispanics have a credit card balance they are paying off. Another 13 percent pay more than 20 percent interest on their cards. Wuju!
If this sounds like you, develop a plan for paying off your card(s) as quickly as possible. Talk with a credit counseling agency about how to do this. Remember, not all credit counselors are alike. Many are scam artists. Ask at your church or personal bank.
If you're really, really, really in an hoyo, stop digging by cutting up your credit cards. Pay everything cash.
Mejor ser pobre que estar endeudado.
I was going to blog about something else, but everybody's talking about all this lluvia. We needed some water around here, what with the fires and all the dryness. But I have to say--basta ya!
Certain Central Florida areas have been drenched with close to 8 inches of rain. Now folks are concerned about flooding. There's a long weekend coming, and the agreement is that the rain has to be gone. In Puerto Rico, for instance, the rain knows better. A downpour hits, followed by the sun. That's the way it's supposed to be.
One of the things I've learned about myself is that 1) I need warm weather 2)I need sun and 3) I need water, though not necessarily rain.
Cold temperatures are out of the picture for me, since I wouldn't be able to hack it. And the feeling runs in the family. My brother-in-law is in London at the moment and he is complaining about the cold. Wonderful city, but London has a bone-chilling kind of cold. Me no like.
As for the sun, what can I say. The Earth revolves around the Sun, which makes the Sun king. I'm down with that.
When it comes to rain, you can have Portland and Seattle. Please. But I do need to be near water. I have lived in the high desert in Nevada and in the flat lands of Texas. I was missing something.
There's no water! That's why I have made Florida my home for more than 12 years.I'm about 45 minutes from the Atlantic coast and 90 minutes from the Gulf. Plus, there are hundreds of lakes, so I see water everyday.
But not through all this rain. Go away.
If you want to shed a tear or two, follow the Miami Herald story about the Pedro Pan children who left Cuba decades ago and whose names and biographical info are now entered in a searchable database.
Talks about emotion! There were 14,048 children who took part in Operation Pedro Pan, although the Herald has the names of only 12,412. They left their parents in Cuba early in Fidel Castro's regime, between 1960 and 1962, not knowing what lie ahead and whether they would see each other again. It's considered the largest exodus of unaccompanied minors in Western history. It was all part of a plan orchestrated by the Catholic Church and others to "save" the children.
The adults now can search the database and leave messages for their fellow Pedro Pan friends, like this one from Diana to Lomberto:
"Lomberto, yo también sufrí mucho el día de mi salida con mi hermano menor de 12. Salimos todos de casa, mis padres, mi abuelo y hermana más
Or this from Mario to Jose Benito: "I found you!!!!"
Here's a message from Domingo J to Luis G: "Coño!Qué alegría en saber de ti. Eres unos de los pocos amigos de los que no he sabido. Tenemos mucho que hablar..."
And Zaida Maria to Silvia: "Hola Silvi: I still remember the day you and Isa left. I was devastated. I did miss you both a lot. I did not see you guys again until your ..."
This is but a small sample. However, if it doesn't get to you, nothing will. There's something about leaving your homeland not knowing if you'll return. It is even more poignant if you're a child. I still remember the stories my mother and others told of leaving Puerto Rico many years ago under far less ominous circumstances. My mother was 14 when she left the island. Still a kid.
If you are a Pedro Pan child or want to learn more, you can read the Miami Herald site, you can register, find your own record or someone else's at http://www.miamiherald.com/cgi-bin/pedropan/index. Read the Miami Herald special section at http://www.miamiherald.com/pedropan./
To see how this works, I searched for U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, who took part in Pedro Pan.
Four records came up, including Melquiades Martinez, who was 15 when he left Cuba on Monday, February 19, 1962. Sen. Martinez has not filled out his record, but there was this message for him from Mairim: "Conéctese a esta obra tan pura y que tanto nos une ... "
I then searched for César Calvet, an Orlando-area banker and also a Pedro Pan child. His record didn't come up, which means he may be one of the children whose record is missing.
Still, the Pedro Pan database is a wonderful effort, and an example of newspapers at their best.
The accompanying photo, from www.pedropan.org, is of George Guarch, a legendary figure who personally greeted many of the unaccompanied children as they arrived in Miami.