Things That Matter

Here’s Why You Need to Know Rep. Adriano Espaillat, The First Undocumented Immigrant in Congress

The hot button politician blowing up everyone’s Twitter feeds is the one and only AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). While she may be the youngest, most progressive Congresswoman on record, there is another Latino breaking records that you should have on your radar.

Adriano Espaillat is a Dominican-born American politician representing New York’s 13th congressional district. And, he’s the first formerly undocumented immigrant to ever serve in Congress as well as the first Dominican to ever serve in Congress. He’s not just trying to fit in and make any power grabs either. He’s putting everything on the line to fearlessly serve the immigrant community.

1. Espaillat isn’t abandoning his community and has made them his entire platform.

@VMforCA10 / Twitter

In fact, in response to Trump’s most recent State of the Union Address, Espaillat has led the Democrat party to introduce an Immigration Package to the floor. He wants to protect hospitals, churches and schools from ICE’s grip, so that every individual in this country can access health, education and personal welfare without fear of deportation. Bravo.

2. Espaillat came to the U.S. as a child with his family.

@repadrianoespaillat / Twitter

He was born on September 27, 1954 in Santiago, Dominican Republic. His family moved to the U.S. (Washington Heights, NYC) when he was 10 years old.

3. Their family lived without status for a year.

@Almomentonet / Twitter

Their tourist visas expired and the Espaillats had to live as undocumented until their green card applications were approved a full year later. Espaillat was only 11 years old when this happened.

4. He’s known for spearheading the 2007 effort to allow undocumented immigrants get driver’s licenses.

@repadrianoespaillat / Instagram

Caption: “The love felt by parents trying to cross the border with their children is the same love my parents felt for me when my family immigrated from the Dominican Republic. Their families should have the same opportunities that I was given here in America. #ToImmigrantsWithLove”

5. He knows that he “did things right” in his journey to citizenship and is proud.

@johnbcanela / Twitter

Caption: “I came to the U.S. as a child with my family, and today, it is the honor of my life to serve my community here in Congress. And I want to tell every immigrant in this country today: you are welcome here & you are a valued part of our country.”

6. He dedicates all his Valentines Days’ to immigrants.

@repadrianoespaillat / Twitter

7. He’s the great-grandson of Dominican President Ulises Espaillat.

@bernat1923bld / Twitter

Soo yeah. Politics runs in his blood.

8. He’s been arrested for speaking out for Dreamers.

@NCRMuseum / Twitter

Caption: “#OnThisDay last year, 3 lawmakers, Luis Gutierrez (IL), Raúl Grijalva (AZ) & Adriano Espaillat (NY), were arrested outside of Trump Tower for demanding more protection for young undocumented immigrants. DACA’s fate is in our leaders’ hands.”

9. Espaillat led the initial effort to Impeach Trump.

@RedTRaccoon / Twitter

While America elected both the first formerly undocumented immigrant to Congress as the most nativist, racist President in history, Espaillat cosigned the bill to begin the impeachment process against Trump.

10. “Not all Trump supporters are racists, but all racists voted for Donald Trump.”

@zabalaaldia / Twitter

In an interview with Vice News, he said, “The Klan used to wear a hood. Now they don’t; they openly come out and spill their venom out there for everybody to see their identity.”

He hosted the first ever  “Dominicans On the Hill” community event in Washington D.C.

@repadrianoespaillat / Instagram

He plans to make it an annual event to celebrate Dominican community leaders and invite them to Congress and “to highlight Dominican heritage, our culture and diversity.”

11. And he marches with Boricuas at the Puerto Rican Pride Parade también.

@MannyDeLosSanto / Twitter

He flew to Puerto Rico to survey the damages and relief efforts on behalf of his Puerto Rican constituents. He himself used to be the chair of the New York State Senate’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative caucus.

12. He celebrates Three Kings Day with his constituents like a good Latino.

@repadrianoespaillat / Instagram

13. His group of interns are actually diverse.

@repadrianoespaillat / Instagram

No more Paul Ryan selfies with a hundred white people behind him. This is why we need to diversify Congress—to give opportunities to brown kids.

14. He loves One Day at a Time!

Netflix

He’s out here retweeting NPR Latino interviews with Justina Machado and Isabella Gomez, shipping the Latinidad of the show.

15. When Verizon and DirectTV dropped Televisión Dominicana, Espaillat called on the companies to change course.

@ChefMimiIsles / Twitter

His exact statement according to Latin Times was this: “The recent decision by AT&T to remove Televisión Dominicana from its lineup shows cultural disregard, indifference, and lack in the network’s efforts to promote diversity among its programming. Promoting diverse voices and minority representation are critical to our success in telecommunications and the marketplace. I strongly encourage both parties to return to the negotiation table to find the best solution in the interests for my constituents and for their customers.”

He also called on Dominicans living in the US to petition the companies and tweeted out their phone numbers to call to complain. The networks ignored the call for diversity. ????

16.

@hunterw / Twitter

17. His full name is Adriano de Jesús Espaillat Cabral.

@WNYC / Twitter

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@repadrianoespaillat / Instagram

Caption: “@RepEspaillat visited with Colombian President Iván Duque during today’s House Foreign Affairs @HouseForeign Committee meeting.”

20. He’s not letting up anytime soon. #LaResistencia

@repadrianoespaillat / Instagram

Caption: “Delighted to be back in my district! I’m working on behalf of #NY13 and to combat the #FakeTrumpEmergency that this administration is promoting to build Trump’s reckless #BorderWall. My fight continues.”

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America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

Entertainment

America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

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.

Watch the trailer for “Gotta Kick It Up!” here.

READ: America Ferrera’s “Superstore” Is Going To Get A Spanish-Language Adaptation In A Win For Inclusion

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This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

Entertainment

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

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.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

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.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

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.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

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.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

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.”

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