Back in September, renowned author Junot Diaz was one of the recipients of the 29th Hispanic Heritage Awards (along with J. Balvin and ultimate shero Justice Sonia Sotomayor). Diaz, whose opus “The Brief and Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao” is a must read for every Latino kid who grew up feeling a tad weird/out of place, accepted the award by dedicating it to the very community that was honoring him.
“Our community is the paragon of strength, of resilience, of creativity,” Diaz said, being right as always. “We are the only super power this country will ever know. We survived everything this world threw at us.”
He then followed it up with a beautiful poem, which the good people at Voto Latino turned into the wonderful video above. The messaging is just top notch. For too long Latinos have been made to feel as less than, but the fact of the matter is that we’re the chosen ones. That’s especially true for our generation. We need to be loud and proud; we need to affirm our own greatness because we truly are that amazing. And what better way to show that off by showing up at the polls? For too long our community has been called “the sleeping giant.” Let’s show the doubters that this giant is woke AF.
When hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans came together to demand former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to resign following leaked chats that revealed political corruption and a series of sexist and homophobic messages, Frances Santiago wanted to stand in solidarity with her people. Living in Kissimmee, Florida, she wasn’t able to protest with her country folk on the archipelago but she demonstrated symbolically by placing her red, white and blue Puerto Rican flag outside of her home.
Now, the Central Florida Boricua is facing a battle against her own community leaders. Three weeks after putting up the flag, the homeowner received a letter from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association requesting her to take it down.
Santiago, an Army veteran who served 14 years as a medic, including two tours in Iraq, says she refuses to remove the flag.
“I fought for this, to be able to do this. So, I don’t see a problem with flying my flag here,” the woman told Orlando-area news station WFTV.
According to HOA bylaws, all flags are outlawed. However, the board made an exception for US flags, sports flags and flags used to honor first responders and fallen officers. Considering these edicts, Santiago is unsure why the group is asking her to remove the flag, as Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.
“Puerto Rico is part of America. What’s the big issue with us having our flag there,” she said.
HOA president Norma McNerney told WFTV that she’s not asking the Santiago family to remove the flag because it’s from Puerto Rico; however, she did not comment on the island being the colonial property of the US and, thus, meeting the association’s criterion.
“We treat all owners the same. If you travel through our community, you will see the only flags are those regulated by the state,” McNerney said.
Puerto Ricans have historically been banned from displaying their flag.
While many tease that Boricuas exhibit their bandera on anything and everything, from their cars and house goods to their clothes and accessories, owning a Puerto Rican flag wasn’t legal until 1957. Nine years prior, on June 10, 1948, la Ley de La Mordaza, better known as the gag law, made it a crime to own or display a Puerto Rican flag, sing a patriotic song or speak or write of independence. The legislation, signed into law by Jesús T. Piñero, the United States-appointed governor, aimed at suppressing the growing movement to liberate Puerto Rico from its colonial ties to the United States. Anyone accused and found guilty of disobeying the law could be sentenced to ten years in prison, be fined $10,000 or both.
Additionally, in Kissimmee, which locals nicknamed “Little Puerto Rico” because of its vast Puerto Rican population, there has been pushback from community members who are not pleased with the demographic changes. City-Data forums warn people interested in moving to Central Florida to beware of Puerto Ricans, who commenters refer to as “roaches,” “criminals,” and the N-word, while news of attacks against Boricuas has become more common. Florida is home to more Puerto Ricans in the contiguous US than any other state. Most of the population resides in the Orlando-Kissimmee area. The region has been the top destination for Puerto Ricans escaping the financial crisis since 2008 and displacement following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. But it is also the prime journey stop for diasporic Puerto Ricans from New York, Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Massachusetts. The area is among the largest and fastest-growing Puerto Rican communities in the country.
As such, Central Florida Boricuas have rallied around Santiago. An online petition created by the Florida Puerto Rican group Alianza for Progress is asking the HOA to cease their discriminatory practices against Santiago and is already close to meeting its goal of 1,600 signatures. At the time of writing, it is short just 51 names.
Santiago and her husband Efrain have insisted that they have no intention of bringing the flag down.
“[The flag] will stay there and we’ll deal with it; we’ll exhaust every avenue possible,” Efrain said. “We have our house, you see, up to standards. We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re not doing anything to our neighbors by flying our flag.”
While the Santiagos haven’t presently been issued any fines for the violation, they said they do have a lawyer and are prepared to take this fight to protect their freedom further. “I’m proud of my roots, who I am, [where] I come from. We’re not offending anyone. None of the neighbors were offended with us putting the flag there,” Efrain said.
We’ve all done it. You meet someone new, take one good look at them and ask (almost rhetorically): “So, where are you from?” Often we expect faces to match exotic countries around the world, but frequently the response, complemented with a puzzled expression, is something like: “Oh, umm Michigan…”
But Latinos come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, We can be white and blonde gueros, we can be black, and every color in between. We are gay, Muslim, Asian, Jewish, Indigenous, and so much more.
Here are 32 Latino celebrities that you probably didn’t know are, in fact, Latino.
1. Nicole Richie
You likely know Nicole Richie as Lionel Richie’s daughter and from “The Simple Life” with bestie Paris Hilton. Nicole was actually adopted by Lionel and her biological family has Mexican ancestry.
I mean people really didn’t know…
Like it was a serious shock apparently to many across social media.
2. Aubrey Plaza
The Parks and Recreation star is boricua pa’que lo sepas, but in several interviews, she said that people never think she’s Puerto Rican. “I’m very fair-skinned, but I feel really connected to that side of my family.”
3. Alexis Bedel
Yep, it’s true! The actress, best known for her role as Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, was born to Argentinian parents (her mom grew up in Mexico) and raised in a Spanish-speaking household. She’s told Latina that she’s often assumed to be Irish.
4. Bruno Mars
Born Peter Hernandez to Puerto Rican and Filipino parents, Mars changed his name to avoid being stereotyped in the music industry, he told GQ.com. “People would say, ‘Your last name’s Hernandez, maybe you should do Latin music … Enrique Iglesias is so hot right now!'”
5. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
Jersey Shore star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi made a name for herself as the (very tan) of New Jersey’s Italian-Americans. But she was actually born in Chile and adopted by an Italian-American family when she was just six months old.
6. Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz’s father is of Cuban descent, born and raised in Tampa, Florida’s Ybor City. The bubbly blonde actress told Vogue magazine she spent part of her summers as a child in Tampa with her over-protective grandmother, “playing cards, eating steak and rice and beans and drinking RC Cola and watching soap operas.”
7. Jessica Alba
Actress Jessica Alba’s father is Mexican-American, and she says she takes pride in being Latina, despite rumors to the contrary.
8. Sara Paxton
WIth roles on “Good Girls” and “Last House on the Left”, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Sara says people are often surprised to learn she’s half Mexican.
“People never believe me,”she told The Huffington Post. “I think it’s because they have this stereotype of what a Latina’s supposed to look like, and I don’t fit that typical look.”
9. Hulk Hogan
Considered by some as the greatest professional wrestler ever, Hulk Hogan, born in Georgia. But did you know that he has Panamanian roots?
10. Kid Cudi
Kid Cudi’s real name is Scott Ramon Seguro. His father is a proud Mexican-American.
11. Frankie Muniz
Everyone knew of Frankie Muniz while growing up thanks to “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Agent Cody Banks.”
While Frankie is his stage name, his real name is Francisco, probably thanks to his Puerto Rican father.
12. Raquel Welch
Raquel Welch’s apellido is Tejada. The soap opera star changed her name while trying to make it in Hollywood, but her father was born in La Paz, Bolivia.
13. Uma Thurman
You probably know Uma Thurman from her role in “Pulp Fiction” but did you know she has Mexican roots? Her mother, a fashion model named Nena von Schlebrügge, was born in Mexico City before moving to New York to be a model.
14. Vanna White
You know her as the legendary hostess of Wheel of Fortune, but White – whose very last name hints that she’s Caucasian— is actually part-Latina!
You see, “White” is not Vanna’s real apellido—it’s the name she took from her stepfather Herbert Stackley WhiteJr., a former real estate agent in North Myrtle Beach. Not much is known about Vanna’s real father whose name is Miguel Angel Rosich, except that he was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and abandoned the family when she was a child.
15. Mark Ballas
Professional ballroom dancer Mark Ballas (Dancing With the Stars) is half-Greek, and half-Mexican. Ballas’ paternal grandmother was named Maria Luisa Marulanda Ballas — and while she is not Latina herself — Ballas’ mother, Shirley Ballas is an award-winning dancer who won the 1995 International Latin American Dance Championship, earning the nickname “The Queen of Latin.”
16. James Roday
The last name trips people up, James says, but the Psych star, who’s half Mexican, changed it from Rodriguez to Roday when he launched his career for two reasons: There was already another James Rodriguez registered in the Screen Actors Guild, and an agent at the network where he landed his first job worried that they would look like they were skirting around issues of diversity by casting a white Latino.
Fergie was everywhere in the early 2000s as part of the musical group The Black Eyed Peas. But, now you know that she has Mexican ancestry in her family line.