“I am that woman that you raped 9 years ago on that night.”
When everyone goes home from work, school or church, the space becomes the janitors domain. Many of these working class janitors tend to be women, they tend to be immigrant mujeres, and for years they have been vulnerable to the worse kind of abuse.
Leticia Soto, a janitor in Los Angeles, was raped nine years ago while working a night shift. In a letter to her attacker, she recounts in graphic detail what happened to her, and the fears she had after (Para español, leer aquí):
I lived for nine years in silence. And I didn’t report you to the authorities. I never went to hospital for fear that they would call the police. I never went to the police for fear that they would call immigration. And we all know what happens when they call immigration on you: separation from your children and deportation. You never paid for your crime. And I never had a day in court to read you this letter. Unfortunately, I am not a student at a prestigious school. I don’t wear the uniform of a profession that is considered important. I am still a janitor on the night shift.
In California, female janitors are getting some help. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1978 on Thursday, September 15, making official a law that would protect women in janitorial services that would otherwise be vulnerable to sexual abuse and rape. The bill creates a requirement that janitorial businesses register with the state and the workers undergo training to address sexual harassment and abuse.
For five days, 18 women, most all of them survivors of rape or abuse, fasted in front of the state capitol of California in hopes of getting the attention of Gov. Brown to sign AB 1978.
PBS Frontline reported about this issue a year ago in their segment “Rape on the Night Shift.” In the story, rape victims recounted graphic stories of abuse, how their attackers would threaten to report them to ICE, and how their supervisors would turn a blind eye toward the abuse. In some cases, their supervisors were the abusers.
I got to see firsthand both the passion these women had and the toll the fast had on them. (I managed the SEIU USWW Twitter and Facebook accounts during the fast). The female janitors came from Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Ana and Los Angeles; were predominantly middle-aged Latinx mothers; and it was their first time fasting.
While the women stayed off of their feet throughout the fast, OG visitors like Dolores Huerta, Maria Elena Durazo, and others came out to support the women.
On the last day of the fast, the women broke the fast ceremonially with a piece of bread, and released doves into the air. Georgina Hernandez, another janitor and survivor, with dove in hand said: “I want to throw (this bird) up because it’s very special; it ends our pain.”
It has been 20 years since America Ferrera’s dream of becoming an actor back true. She took to Instagram to reflect on the moment that her dream started to come true and it is a sweet reminder that anyone can chase their dreams.
America Ferrera shared a sweet post reflecting on the 20th anniversary of working on “Gotta Kick It Up!”
“Gotta Kick It Up!” was one of the earliest examples of Latino representation so many of us remember. The movie follows a school dance team trying to be the very best they could possibly be. The team was down on their luck but a new teacher introduces them to a different kind of music to get them going again.
After being introduced to Latin beats, the dance team is renewed. It taps into a cultural moment for the Latinas on the team and the authenticity of the music makes their performances some of the best.
While the movie meant so much to Latino children seeing their culture represented for the first time, the work was a major moment for Ferrera. In the Instagram post, she gushes over the celebrities she saw on the lot she was working on. Of course, anyone would be excited to see Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt hanging out. Yet, what stands out the most is Ferrera’s own excitement to realize that she can make money doing what she loves most.
“I wish I could go back and tell this little baby America that the next 20 years of her life will be filled with unbelievable opportunity to express her talent and plenty of challenges that will allow her to grow into a person, actress, producer, director, activist that she is very proud and grateful to be. We did it baby girl. I’m proud of us,” Ferrera reflects.
On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.
Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.
When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.
While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.
As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”
“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.
The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.
“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”
For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.
After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.
Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.
At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.
“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”
Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”
Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.
Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.
“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”
“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.
In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.
In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?
The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”
That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”
“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”
The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.
In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.
Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”
As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.
Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.
Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.
“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.
“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”