As the population increases, however, there’s one statistic where Latinos are unfortunately also being represented in greater numbers. The Los Angeles Times reports that in 2016, Los Angeles’ homeless Latino population increased from 27 percent (around 12,500 people) to an even more alarming 35 percent (around 20,200). According to U.S. News & World Report, Los Angeles’ current total homeless population is nearly 58,000 people. Los Angeles consistently has one of the highest homeless populations in the U.S.
In Los Angeles, the city’s population is nearly 48 percent Latino.
County Supervisor Hilda Solis described the explosion of Latino homeless in Los Angeles as a “new phenomenon” even though the reasons for the spike are not entirely new. An estimated 20 percent of L.A. County’s Latinos live below the poverty level, making below $47,000 annually. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Latino homelessness is influenced by factors such as increases in rent (a result of gentrification), low paying jobs and a lack of public housing for those who need it.
Undocumented Latinos are especially at risk, the article states, as many have to work several jobs to break even and they are often afraid to reach out to public assistance programs. As Rose Rios of Cover the Homeless Ministry told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s like they live with one foot on a banana peel and the other one step from homelessness.” If conditions do not change, the surge in Los Angeles’ Latino homeless population can be expected to increase.
In 2008, Ruben Martinez Jr. was sentenced to 47 years and eight months in prison for crimes he never committed. Nearly 13 years after his arrest, Martinez walked out of the Los Angeles Superior Court a free man, exonerated from his wrongful conviction. “I did not do this time by myself,” Martinez said on the court steps. “My family did time. My wife did time with me, did the 11 years with me. I couldn’t do it on my own, by my own strength. It was God’s strength that got me through this.” His wife, Maria Martinez, a secretary for the sheriff’s department, appealed the conviction five times only to be rejected each time.
Ruben may have never experienced freedom if Maria didn’t pull some strings to convince prosecutors to look at his case, a sobering detail for innocent inmates without connections.
Ruben and Maria were all smiles as their unjust chapter came to a close.
“All my husband wanted was for the truth to be revealed. Well, the truth has been revealed, and he’s a free man,” Maria Martinez said. Ruben had never wavered in his innocence and even turned down a plea deal that would have given him a two and a half year prison sentence. “I am sorry for this injustice and I am so happy that you did not give up on us and allowed us to share this moment,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey, pictured in the blazer, told the Martinez family.
“Mr. Martinez and his wife proved to be unstoppable in their pursuit of his freedom,” DA Lacey told reporters. “Throughout this terrible experience, the two were never deterred by setbacks and instead demonstrated remarkable strength and dignity through what I imagine must have been a dark time in their lives.”
Ruben Martinez Jr. was convicted, even though he was working when the crimes were committed.
All it took was one witness to identify Ruben as the armed robber who held up the same auto body shop five times. During the 2005 to 2007 sprees, Ruben was employed at a temporary employment agency and has proof that he was working during two of the robberies. In fact, Ruben had to endure two trials that failed to prove his innocence. The first trial ended as a mistrial after the jury was deadlocked. During the second trial, two key witnesses to his innocence were not called by either the defense or the prosecution. He was convicted and sentenced to 47 years and eight months in prison on nine counts of armed robbery.
But Maria was relentless in proving his innocence.
After five rejected appeals, Maria leaned on close family friend and retired homicide detective, Catherine Wills. Wills and her husband were so close with the Martinez’s that Wills’s husband walked Maria down the aisle and gave her hand to Ruben. Wills and Maria compiled six months of research into a binder to give to DA Lacey. Wills’ credibility and persistence went a long way. “I told them, ‘Look, I’m 82 years old now, and I’m not going to die until Ruben Martinez is out of prison,'” Wills reportedly said.
In 2015, DA Lacey’s office created a unit dedicated to reviewing wrongful conviction claims, but Ruben’s case is only the third case supported in four years. Still, it was DA Lacey’s unit that “painstakingly tracked down witnesses and uncovered employment records and pay stubs that confirmed that Mr. Martinez could not have committed two of the crimes that were clearly the work of the same serial robber,” CNN reports Lacey to have said.
Ruben says that he has “no grudges.”
Ruben is the first person that DA Lacey exonerated without any legal representation. “Although the vast majority of convictions are correctly upheld, I knew that, at times, the pursuit of justice, which depends on human beings, is not perfect,” Lacey told reporters. “And Mr. Martinez’s case serves as a stark reminder to all of us: Despite our best efforts, we don’t always get it right.”
“The Lord Jesus Christ is a part of my life, and there’s no grudges.” Ruben told the crowd. “People are human people do make mistakes. But what touches me is when the DA got behind me and stamped me … and proved me innocent — so what grudge?” What’s next for Ruben? Right now, he’s just excited to get his driver’s license and get a job.
Ugly Primo has been capturing Latino pop culture moments in his vivid illustrations since early 2018, illustrating the “Suavamente” Elvis Crespo into fabric softener and Cardi B as a “Farti B cushion.” While we have no idea what Ugly Primo looks like, since he hides behind an actual cholo puppet, we know that, for the first time ever, Ugly Primo showcased his work.
Ugly Primo invited everyone to the Primos Playhouse to, well, party. Ugly Primo’s Instagram bio has long advertised himself as a “retired quinceañera DJ,” and people finally got to hear him spin. After DJ sets by J Valentino, 2DEEP, Mija Doris, and Brü, the puppet, or the man behind the puppet, took to the stage. Best of all: it was free.
Of course, Ugly Primo’s version of a gallery was called a Playhouse, so you know it was fun.
Held in downtown Los Angeles, a free DJ event with dope art is my kind of night. Our favorite primo tweeted that, “There will be exclusive merch, art installations, music by some friends, and drinks for my 21+ borrachos. Hope to see you there!”
Ugly Primo is kind of *excellent* at creating unique merch.
It seems like the world’s coolest puppet is pretty close with San Benito, and worked with the trapetero to create on-brand chanclas for Bad Bunny fans. They’re reportedly too holy to be weaponized for the chanclazo. You may have seen Ugly Primo’s art on up-and-coming artist Cuco Puffs’s most recent album cover, too. It’s weird how Ugly Primo is everywhere, but nobody has seen him.
Ugly Primo might just be our favorite primo after the artwork he’s gifted us this last year alone.
During the height of Nio Garcia, Ozuna, Darrel, Nicky Jam, Casper Magico and Bad Bunny’s “Te Bote” classic, Ugly Primo blessed America with an auspicious illustration. In an effort to motivate his fans to get out and vote, he released an image of a very orange Donald Trump at a podium stickered with “Yo voté,” followed by a “Te bote” stamp of disapproval. His blessing on the midterms did give us Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We need more illustrations, Primo.
If only a Mercado de mucho, mucho amor existed.
Internationally-acclaimed astrologer Walter Mercado may have passed earlier this week, but he’s been long honored by Ugly Primo. For Mercado’s haters, they love the idea that his predictions and, “sobre todo, mucho, mucho amor” was up for sale. For everyone else, we loved what Mercado was selling – his genderless fashion sense and exuberant love for his fans.
When Cumbia legend Celso Piña passed, he was immortalized in vibrant colors as well.
The cumbia artist, known as El Rebelde del acordeón, passed on August 21 at just 66 years old from a heart attack. The Mexican accordionist pioneered a fusion of tropical salsa sounds with cumbia and regional mexicano.
When Cardi B was freely expressing her flatulence on the ‘gram, Ugly Primo immortalized the pop culture moment.
“Farti B is steaming hot. Swipe for some 💨💨💨,” Ugly Primo captioned his June edition to his works, alongside a hilarious anthology of Cardi B’s most recent fart sprees. “Damn, I farted but that was a very low fart, so y’all can’t hear it. It’s one of those farts that like, they don’t really stink, it’s just air,” Cardi told her Instagram fans back in June 2019. “I gotta fart so bad. I’m about to air it out. I farted, I farted, I farted, I farted,” Cardi said. “Oh it STANK. You smell it, Ashley? It’s gonna hit you though. You smell it?” she asked, cackling.
Ugly Primo has helped us envision a world made for Latinos, here in America.
Ugly Primo’s artistry is embedded in Latinizing mainstream items, like slapping “Tigers of the North” on a box of frosted flakes, with a guitar playing tiger and more. We get to imagine what a Trader Jose’s might look like, and even though Los Angeles is plentiful with Hispanic grocer’s, Ugly Primo uses the brand recall of a national chain to make that experience feel like the true cornerstone of American identity that it is. We belong here. We’re not going anywhere.
LA, if you’re looking for a party, it’s at the Primo Playhouse.
Let’s show Ugly Primo all our support, hope we meet Ugly Primo in the felt (or flesh, let’s be real) and see what “exclusive merch” he’s drawn up for us.