Things That Matter

A Salvadorian Animator Is Making It Big In Hollywood, And We Can Only Say “Salu, Maje!”

The wave of Latino talent in Hollywood has been widely publicized. Of course we know of the Three Amigos, the trio of Mexican filmmakers who have taken the industry by storm and basically dominated the Academy Awards. Or Salma Hayek and Jaime Camil, who have become mainstream celebrities through their talent and hard work. But there are other stories of indomitable resilience and talent that involve Latin American creativity behind the cameras. Hollywood is a vicious industry where just a few succeed (Los Angeles is full of individuals whose dreams have been crushed by the industrial entertainment complex), but every once in a while there are success stories that make our hearts sing and our Latino pride soar. Enter Edwin Aguilar, who is currently an assistant director for one of the longest running and most iconic shows in television history: The Simpsons. 

Edwin Aguilar is a true example of Latino talent in Hollywood, and how migrants can contribute greatly to American culture and business.

Credit: Agencia EFE

Edwin’s story is truly amazing. He was a Salvadorian child suffering from the consequences of the endless civil war that has enveloped the Central American nation, on and off for decades. As a child, he used to collect soda bottle caps with cartoon drawings. He would crush the caps and keep them. He would also retrace the cartoon characters he saw on the newspapers, iconic images like those of Felix the Cat, Donald Duck and “Periquita” . Among his favorite characters were also Chuck Jones’ The Looney Tunes. Years later, Chuck Jones would become his boss, as reported a few years ago by the Spanish-speaking newspaper La Opinion.

He escaped war as a child and picked up on his passion when he emigrated to the United States.

Credit: download. Digital image. La Opinion

Like many Salvadorian boys, Edwin was at risk of being recruited by paramilitary forces and be made to fight in the conflict. This of course could only end in trauma or death. So in 1982, when he was just 9-years-old he crossed the border and then grew up in East Los Angeles, first as an undocumented migrant. He told La Opinion that as a boy he would hide in the corn fields with his friends, and they would find deceased human bodies and severed hands. So the life he built for himself in the United States allowed him to exploit his full potential. He continues visiting El Salvador to be in touch with his origins, and he is interested in the social and political history of his home country, particularly on the struggles of the dispossesed 

Just look at him working on cute little Maggie.

Edwin, or “Chicle” (“Bubblegum”), as his friends call him, worked for Chuck Jones’ Warner Bros team, and also for Hannah Barbera. Then in 1989 he started tracing for The Simpsons, and he worked his way up until he became one of the leading assistant directors for the show. 

Street art was the trigger he needed to unleash the creative beast!

He recently told CNN that the turning point for finding his true vocation revealed itself when he would look at graffiti and feel like the letters were moving. Edwin’s life has been full of firsts: he was the first Latino to be part of Chuck Jones’ team and also the first to have such a prominent place in the production team that has kept The Simpsons alive and well for 27 years. 

He even created a Latino cartoon that gives us all the feelings.

With Jose Zelaya, he created the show The Garcias, a sort of Latino family animated sitcom that provides us with everyday situations to which we can relate. There is the grandpa who is forever fixing an old car, or the quinceanera dramas that many Latino families go through. He explains that with Coco’s huge success, the powers that be at Hollywood are open to producing Latino stories. Yes, of course they are looking at the dollar signs, but any progress when it comes to self-representation is to be celebrated, a que no?

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Katherine Díaz, Salvadorian Surfing Star and Olympic Hopeful, Died After Being Struck By Lightening

Things That Matter

Katherine Díaz, Salvadorian Surfing Star and Olympic Hopeful, Died After Being Struck By Lightening

Photo via isasurfing/Instagram

A tragedy born from a freak accident is rocking El Salvador’s athletic community today. On Friday, El Salvador surfing star and Olympic hopeful, Katherine Diaz, died after being struck by lightening. She was training for an Olympic qualifier.

According to reports, lightning struck and killed 22-year-old Katherine Díaz right after she entered the water at El Tunco beach.

“Katherine came over to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard,” her uncle Beto Dia “She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly.”

According to NBC News, onlookers pulled Katherine Diaz to the shore and attempted to revive her, but by that time, it was too late.

Her family, of course, is mourning the loss of their loved one. “We were very close,” her sister, Erika Diaz said to a local publication. “Katherine was a girl full of energy, with a free spirit who made everyday feel worthwhile. Unfortunately, she left us.” But Erika said she is glad that her sister passed while doing what she loved the most–surfing.

Katherine Díaz had dedicated her life to the complicated and rewarding sport of surfing.

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A post shared by KATHERINE DIAZ (@katherinecook7)

Katherine Díaz Hernández had been surfing since she was 9-years-old. The 22-year-old was training to qualify for the 2021 Summer Olympics–the first time surfing would ever appear at the international games.

El Salvador’s surfing federation, FESASURF, released a statement lauding Díaz for her talent. “Katherine was a girl very passionate about sports, she was very motivated and happy for the event that was approaching.”

The International Surfing Association posted a tribute to Diaz on their Instagram page.

“Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport,” they wrote. “She excelled at the international competition level, representing her country with pride at both the ISA World Surfing Games and ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.”

“We send our heartfelt condolences to Katherine’s family, the surfers of El Salvador, and to all those in the international surfing community whose lives she touched. We will never forget you.”

El Salvador’s surfing community has planned a “paddle-out” ceremony that is traditional in the death of a surfer.

According to Surfer Today, a paddle-out ceremony is “an ocean-based ceremony consisting of a mix of spiritual, metaphysical, and ritual actions that acknowledge, remember, and celebrate a fallen peer.”

“It’s a symbolic rite of passage that showcases traces of connection and separation, departure, and continuity.”

Katherine Díaz’s funeral services were on Saturday morning. The paddle-out ceremony will be held on Tuesday.

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El Salvador’s ‘Total Abortion Ban’ Is Landing Women Who Have Accidentally Miscarried in Jail

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El Salvador’s ‘Total Abortion Ban’ Is Landing Women Who Have Accidentally Miscarried in Jail

Photo via Getty Images

The right for a woman to decide what to do with her body is a controversial subject in much of Latin America. Some countries, like Argentina, are slowly becoming less conservative in their approach to reproductive rights. Other countries–like El Salvador–have stayed the same.

El Salvador is a country that has some of the most prohibitive anti-abortion laws in the world.

Along with Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, El Salvador is one of the Latin American countries that does not permit abortion under any circumstances. El Salvador has a “total abortion ban” policy.

Next week, El Salvador’s total abortion ban will be analyzed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Since 1998, 140 women have gone to jail for illegally terminating their pregnancies in El Salvador. Many of these women say that they are innocent of the charges.

One of the most famous of such cases is the case of a woman that simply goes by “Manuela”.

In 2008, Manuela went to jail for illegally terminating her pregnancy. When Manuela was seven months pregnant, she went to the hospital because she was suffering from a miscarriage.

When the 33-year-old mother of two was receiving medical care, she was accused of having an abortion. She was convicted of aggravated homicide and sentenced to 30 years in prison. After 2 years, Manuela died behind bars. She had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma–a disease that had caused her to miscarry her pregnancy.

“Manuela was the victim of a State that does not protect the life and health of women, that discriminates and criminalizes them for having natural complications of pregnancy and does not provide guarantees to protect the confidentiality between medical staff and patients,” said Catalina Martínez Coral, the regional Latin American director at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.

Next week, a woman named Sara will appear in court for allegedly terminating her pregnancy in 2012.

But Sara’s lawyers said she did not intentionally end her pregnancy. They say she accidentally miscarried after she slipped and fell doing dishes. At the hospital, Police detained Sara. Sara is now in prison with a 30 year sentence.

“Sara’s hearing offers a new opportunity to do right by her and the hundreds of women who have been forced to mourn the loss of their pregnancy from a prison cell,” writes SKDK communications director Tania Mercado.

Like Mercado, Catalina Martínez Coral believes these upcoming trials are a chance for El Salvador to change its draconian abortion laws.

“We want El Salvador to assume the international responsibility it has evaded for years despite the repeated calls from multiple human rights organizations to review the legislation that causes this unjust criminalization of women,” she said.

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