2017 Was A Dumpster Fire, And These Are The Flames That Fanned It
Hasta nunca 2017! Hasta nunca!
10. The Spread Of Hate
From the moment Donald Trump descended from his golden escalator to launch his presidential campaign — during which he called Mexicans criminals, drug dealers, and rapists — hate found a firmer foothold in America. Just one year into Trump’s presidency, his brazenly racist supporters have felt emboldened by his reluctance to disavow Nazis and hate groups around the country. Trump, who appears to have a tweet ready for anyone who dares to criticize him, has been relatively quiet when it comes to decrying hate groups. They have taken Trump’s silence as implicit support of their ideals. Racists strengthened by this sentiment now go out into public spaces, like the New York subway system, and openly spew hate. Fortunately there are many who fight back, protesting and using their platforms to speak out against racism, the border wall, the DACA repeal, and a plethora of policy changes that look to strengthen anti-immigrant and racist sentiment.
Weekly, we have seen racists in all areas of our society being awful to others. Somehow, many Latinos have mostly managed to keep their cool in the face of these attacks. It’s hard, however, when no place feels safe. It doesn’t feel safe anywhere – not the airport, a cell phone store, or even the supermarket. The border wall has been in the back of everyone’s mind as the physical embodiment of the separation growing between pro-Trump and anti-Trump. The voice of reason still shines through. With a wedding taking place this year at the border for the first time, border wall protests sprouting up around the country, and artists using their medium to chastise the carelessness of Trump’s actions, there’s still hope yet. Although we can’t send Trump back up his escalator and out of our lives for another three years, recent elections show that the tides are turning as women and POCs with more progressive politics are gaining traction and winning elections. The road forward may be tough, but there are many in the fight, and they’ve got hate on the ropes. – Andrew Santiago
9. ICE On A Mission To Deport By Any Means Necessary
Even though Latinos made impressive strides in politics this year, deportations and raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and changes to immigration policies left our community devastated. The year began with President Obama rescinding the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed for Cuban nationals to stay in the United States after fleeing from Cuba. Families were torn apart by immigration officers targeting undocumented parents, including some who were dropping off their children at school. Some officers claimed people were gang members just to detain them.
As the year progressed, the number of ICE raids increased as did the chance of agents going to sensitive sites like schools, courthouses, and hospitals. There was a sharp decrease in sexual assault cases reported by undocumented women out of fear of being arrested and deported if they came forward to authorities. In Texas, at least two families had to make the decision on whether or not to cross a border checkpoint to take their children to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi for emergency procedures. First, the Sanchez family chose to willingly to be detained so their son, an American citizen, could receive emergency surgery. Months later, undocumented immigrant Rosa Maria Hernandez, a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy, was rushed to the same hospital for emergency surgery. Border Patrol followed the family to the hospital and waited outside her room to detain her as soon as physically possible.
After the inauguration, things got worse for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients as well. One month after Trump’s inauguration, ICE arrested and deported a DACA recipient. The arrest signaled an immediate and terrifying change for all DACA recipients who had come out of the shadows to work, go to school, and contribute to American society without fear of deportation. Seven months later, the Trump administration decided to roll back DACA protections. As the year comes to an end, DACA recipients are left hoping that Congress will pass legislation to save them from deportation. – Jorge Rodriguez-Jimenez
8. Police Brutality and Incarceration Continues
The country’s 20-plus year fight to end mass incarceration continues, but has been met with little progress. This has been particularly true in 2017, a year where the Latino incarceration rate only continued to surge. The numbers speak for themselves: If the country’s current rate of incarceration persists, Latinos born in 2001 will be fighting a 1 in 6 chance of being incarcerated. Today, Latinas make up 14 percent of the youth put away in incarceration programs and are the juvenile justice system’s fastest-growing population. Latinos and African-Americans make up approximately 32 percent of the U.S. population, but together both groups now make up 56 percent the incarcerated population.
Alongside our community’s struggle against mass incarceration has been our ongoing battle against excessive use of force by police. Camera phones captured a police officer forcefully arresting flower vendor Juanita Mendez-Medrano and fatally shooting Magdiel Sanchez, a deaf man, after he did not initially adhere to their vocal demands. Still, tragedy after tragedy, our community has rallied behind the victims to rectify the situation via protests, proving that we’re a community that will not allow our members to be beaten into submission. – Alex Portée
7. The Floodgates Open On Sexual Harassment And Assault
For decades women have been nudged, prodded, and forced into silence when it comes to their stories of sexual harassment and assault. Those who did speak up often risked their careers, their reputations, or even their lives. In the past, many women have braved these dangers to tell their stories, but none have had as quite an impact as the millions of women who came forward in the wake of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
In 2017, the #Metoo movement became one of the biggest moments for 2017 and Latina voices made an impact that was indelible. Time Magazine’s decision to put strawberry field worker Isabel Pascual on the cover for its ‘Person of the Year’ issue is proof of that. Other brave voices, like that of America Ferrera and Javier Muñoz, became key aspects in an effort that lifted women up and helped them heal.
The impact of #Metoo has been weighed down by the realization that the millions of accounts of sexual assault flooding Twitter and the news media is only the tip of the iceberg. Not everyone is on Twitter after all, but also for many in our community, speaking up can have severe consequences. The extreme dip in the number of reports of sexual assault amongst women and men who are undocumented is proof of that. Within the first six months of the presidential inauguration, reports of domestic abuse in Latino communities took a steep decline. All of this despite statistics citing an increase in calls made to the National Domestic Violence by abuse victims who are undocumented. Looming threats of arrest and deportation have kept our community vulnerable to further abuse.
For a vast population of the country, the movement has become paramount to establishing the fact that sexual misconduct can cost men their jobs and livelihood as well as their reputations. But for the rest of us, it’s also rubbed in our faces that while some have faced the repercussions, the exception sits at a desk in the Oval Office. – Alex Portée
6. That’s Not Yours: Cultural Appropriation & Gentrification
Coming from a vibrant, rich culture, we understand that those on the outside will appreciate it and even want to absorb it. There’s a line, however, in which appreciation of our sounds, sights, flavors, and beauty turns into cultural appropriation. This year, we saw two young white women from Portland, Ore., be taken to task online and in the media after a trip to Puerto Nuevo, Mexico, led them to start their business, Kooks Burritos. The two joyously admitted to stealing the recipe for the delicious flour tortillas famous in that small lobster village, using broken Spanish to poke at a local woman into giving them the secret to their tastiness. When the local woman repeatedly said no, they admit to peeking through windows. It was an anecdote they giggled about gleefully, until they were called out for their cultural theft.
The same fervent backlash fell upon Jenny Niezgoda, a self-proclaimed “barefoot bohemian” that released a fundraiser video for a “modern fruteria” she planned on opening in a historically Chicano/Mexican-American community in San Diego. The video is so tone deaf, so offensive, most people thought it was an SNL sketch, until they realized it was not. Her complete lack of awareness, Columbusing of long-existing food traditions, and proclamation that she was “going to bring healthy food to the barrio” enraged many, but also led to a vital dialogue on how cultural appropriation fuels gentrification that displaces communities of color.
All three of these women were left with little choice but to close down their business, and not many feel bad about it. These people seek authenticity, and sell their version of it, ignoring the fact that their version is never going to be the real thing, even if it tastes good. They ignore the power structures that enable them to profit from a culture, when people within that culture will not be afforded the same opportunity. They label it “appreciation,” but neglect to accept when members of the culture they’re capitalizing off don’t appreciate their appreciation.
It’s not just food. We see it in the way Latino communities are threatened by outsider business that signify gentrification. Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights has long fought against the encroaching gentrification in the form of art galleries and coffee shops that cater to people outside the community (particularly white people), which they believe will force long time residents to leave their homes. This year is no different, and community members have protested outside these businesses to protect their neighborhood.
We see it in music, when Justin Bieber can add his vocals to a Spanish song and enable it to catapult into a global phenomenon. Even as he disrespects the culture and language by jokingly singing “burritos, Doritos” during a live performance of “Despacito,” instead of the actual lyrics. The song is a win for us, but the fact that it had to be partially on the back of someone who doesn’t care for or respect the culture is a kick in the shins.
We know the many cultures that exist in Latinidad are great. But white people stealing them for profit is not. Let’s hope 2018 brings greater awareness on this. – Alex Zaragoza
5. We’re All Over America, But Hard To Find In Hollywood, Politics, And Beyond
Latinos have become a force to be reckoned with in our American society. We make up nearly 18 percent of the American population and we’ve quickly become one of the largest and fastest growing minority groups in the country. We attend more movie theaters, listen to more radio, and have racked up a purchasing power greater than any other group in the country. And yet, you’d never know it based off of the way we’ve been represented in entertainment, politics, and business.
Despite the fact that Latinos have made significant contributions to the entertainment industry, their presence in front and behind the camera this year dipped to a point that was even lower than it was 70 years ago. When we were visible, we were largely typecast into the role of the hardened criminal, hyper-sexualized, cast as cheap laborers, and completely underrepresented in terms of our own ethnological diversity. This became glaringly apparent this year at award shows where few Latinos were nominated. In the business world their odds of representation were just as bleak. The number of Latinos at top Fortune 500 companies still remained at less than one percent and only one Latina accounted for that percentage. – Alex Portée
4. “I Believe That We Will… Have To Wait Another Four Years.”
Over the last two years, a prodigious young soccer player named Christian Pulisic has shown the potential to become the most talented player in United States soccer history. Some believe he’s already surpassed legends such as Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. Unfortunately the 19-year-old Pulisic won’t be able to showcase his eye-catching runs in Russia — the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
After an up-and-down World Cup qualifying campaign — coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena last year — the U.S. controlled its destiny. Needing a win or draw in its final match versus Trinidad and Tobago, a lethargic U.S. lost 2-1 and the final whistle alerted the USMNT to a grim reality: they would have to watch the World Cup from home. Players apologized to fans. Pundits criticized the arrogance of players and coaches and demanded that U.S. Soccer reevaulate its system for developing players.
In boxing, a highly-anticipated bout between Mexican rivals Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. — a fight that should have taken place years earlier — was nothing more than a sparring session for Alvarez. Canelo easily defeated an apathetic Chavez, who appeared to be more interested in cashing a paycheck than taking the fight. After Alvarez was announced as the winner, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya and Alvarez invited feared Kazakhstani champ Gennady “GGG” Golovkin to the ring. They announced that Canelo vs. GGG was booked for September. Boxing fans rejoiced, excited for a matchup between two fighters whose styles appeared to be tailor-made to result in a classic bout.
Canelo vs. GGG fulfilled its promise: the two fighters traded blows for 12 rounds in a close fight that most observers had GGG as the victor. Unfortunately, the fight was tarnished by a controversial decision – the judges scored it a draw. One judge, Adalaide Byrd, scored the fight 118 to 110 in favor of Canelo, a lopsided score that made fans question if they watched the same fight as Byrd. Although the fight was close, the furor over Byrd’s scorecard overshadowed conversations about how good the fight really was and tempered the excitement over a rematch between the two. – Omar Villegas
3. Natural Disasters Sweep Through Our Cities
Climate change is real. Oceans are warming, warm weather trends are on the rise and the wind and oceans are responding accordingly. This year alone, California was hit with the worst fires it has seen in its history. In October, wildfires destroyed Northern and Central California killing at least 43 people and wiping out close to 9,000 buildings. In December, fires returned this time in Southern California. Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego, saw the worst damage as wildfires were fueled uncontrollably by the Santa Ana winds. The Creek Fire, just north of Los Angeles, burned 12,000 acres and killed dozens of animals, including 30 horses at a local ranch. The Thomas Fire in the Santa Barbara area has been declared the largest fire in California’s modern history burning through more than 273,000 acres and is still only 65% contained.
Three of the largest and most violent hurricanes ever recorded made landfall in areas with some of the largest concentrations of Latinos in the world. Hurricane Harvey hit hard in Houston, Hurricane Irma scraped along the Caribbean islands before slamming into Florida, and Hurricane Maria laid waste to Puerto Rico, while also wreaking havoc on the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
Hurricane Maria caused immense damage. When it made landfall it was a category 5 hurricane and brought wind gusts upwards of 170 mph. Normal streets turned to raging rivers and flat lands turned into sitting pools of debris as Puerto Ricans simply tried to survive. In the immediate aftermath, there were only 16 official deaths, but that number steadily climbed as the count became more accurate. Counting fatalities was difficult, with power knocked out across the entire island. It took some parts of the island over 70 days to regain power, making it the longest lasting and largest blackout in U.S. history. At the peak of the blackout, over 3 million people sat in the dark. Though the official death count now stands around 66, CNN reports that after polling half of the funeral homes on the island, there were at least 500 deaths related to Hurricane Maria. The New York Times has placed the actual death toll at more than 1,000.
The Trump administration’s underwhelming response to the damage done in Puerto Rico added insult to injury. While visiting the island, Trump’s behavior was wildly inappropriate: he tossed paper towels into a crowd of survivors, free throw style; he bragged about how great the government response had been, when in reality it had taken two weeks for him to arrive; and he celebrated the 16 deaths as a victory, saying that at least it wasn’t as bad as Hurricane Katrina. While Texas and Florida received aid in the billions, the island will only receive a few hundred million. And while the Jones Act was temporarily lifted, allowing aid to enter the island without first having to land in mainland U.S., the Trump administration has let the temporary lift expire.
Another huge natural disaster that affected Latinos directly this year was a series of earthquakes in Mexico. On September 8, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck near Chiapas in Southern Mexico. Security footage showed the harrowing image of a bus being rattled like a toy as men fell to the floor running out of a falling building. A few weeks later on September 19, another massive earthquake hit Mexico City. Reaching a magnitude of 7.1, the quake hit hardest in the populous city. Over 300 deaths have been reported and billions of dollars of damage occurred as several buildings toppled over and crumbled. More than 4 million people were left without power. However, the way citizens in Mexico pulled together inspired the hashtag #FuerzaMexico, and countries from around the world sent humanitarian aid. Mexican artists and fútbol players took to social media to spread awareness of the great need after the earthquake. Funds were also raised to help victims of the earthquake through several fundraisers, including a benefit concert put on by Latino artists, spearheaded by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. The Somos benefit concert had some of the largest celebrities in the world attached and was a joint effort to raise funds for Puerto Rican and Caribbean hurricane relief as well. – Andrew Santiago
2. Trump: The Biggest Unnatural Disaster Of Them All
Though natural disasters left a trail of devastation in their wake, there was one unnatural disaster that has come roaring through America and beyond, leaving destruction and disarray in its path. And the most frightening part is that this relentless, aggressive force is still going, and unless it can be stopped, will continue for years. Its name is Donald Trump. He has been the biggest threat to the Latino community, to all marginalized communities, since he began his catastrophic descent on the campaign trail, and continues to threaten the very fabric of the nation. His words are swarms of ignorance, unabashed stupidity and dangerous reinforcements of the evil that exists in the belly of America.
Every low on this list could be directly tied to Trump in some way, whether it’s his rescission of DACA, his shameless and shameful upholding of white supremacy, his expensive and easily-defeatable border wall, his treatment of citizens of Puerto Rico during their time of crisis, and, let’s not forget, his complete and utter stupidity and ego that places us in danger of nuclear destruction. If there’s one thing he’s succeeding in doing, it’s invigorating our fight for good. Donald Trump is something we will have to survive, and we will survive him, because we are a community of great fortitude and resilience. – Alex Zaragoza
1. We All Need To Do Better
While 2017 has brought us a series of highs that we will continue to celebrate well into 2018, this year has also brought us some lows that we hope do not get replicated in the new year. At the end of every year, there’s moments that reinforce the fact that none of us are immune from learning how to become better friends, relatives, co-workers, and members of our community. That said, we’ve decided to compile a list of areas where we could all individually and collectively “do better.”
How we treat women:
The increase in sexual assault and harassment allegations this past year reminds us that we need to place a higher concern on the experiences and voices of women. Whether it was a powerful Hollywood producer like Harvey Weinstein, a television news anchor like Matt Lauer, or someone we know in one of our communities, we need to do a better job of advocating for women.
Racism in professional sports:
This year’s Major League World Series was arguably one of the most electrifying in the modern era. Both the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers gave fans their money’s worth and played a hard fought series that ended with an Astro’s victory.
During game three of the World Series, Astros first baseman, Yuli Gurriel, made a racist gesture aimed at Dodger pitcher, Yu Darvish, after hitting a home run that changed the course of the game. The racist gesture reminded us that while Latinos in the U.S. experience discrimination on a daily basis, we can also display racially insensitive behavior towards other racial and ethnic minorities.
Another instance that involved racism in professional sports took place during an international soccer game between Colombia and South Korea in November. Colombian soccer player, Edwin Cardona, was seen making a slant eye gesture during the brawl that involved both teams. The racist gesture caused an international uproar and went viral on most social media platforms.
Both gestures are examples of the discrimination and racist acts that Latinos are capable of doing. And are reminders that we can all do better.
According to some reports, Latinos make up one of the largest and emerging demographics in the United States. While most Latinos live in states like California, Texas, and New York, the migration of Latinos to states throughout the U.S. South and the midwest show that we will be a larger force to reckon with as the new year approaches. That said, while the Latino population continues to multiply, it is even more important that we exercise the right to vote and impact local, state, and national elections. – Walter Thompson-Hernandez