During, 2013, CTLatinoNews.com published hundreds of stories about Latinos and issues that impact this increasingly growing and diverse segment of the state’s population. Today, we take a look back at ten of the stories that appeared on our pages this year. They were selected for our list because some reported on issues that raised important questions; others were history making or reflected on significant advances for Latinos in Connecticut. Others drew so much response and/or outrage, that it was clear we had touched upon important issues for our readers. (Links to all the stories on our list appear at the bottom of the article)
Here are the Top 10 CTLatinoNews.com stories for 2013
Historic Swearing In of First Hispanic Justice to CT Supreme Court
A Southington resident, Espinosa joined the FBI after law school and then became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Connecticut. Throughout her career, leading up to this Supreme Court appointment, Espinosa advanced through a number of firsts: In 1992 she was sworn in as the first Hispanic, and the first Hispanic female Superior Court judge in Connecticut, and in 2001, she was appointed as the first Hispanic judge to sit on the Connecticut Appellate Court.
A “Lesser” Latino? The Question of Who Counts
State Rep. Matt Lesser (D-Middletown) with his fair skin, brown hair and blue eyes, does not “look Latino” in the stereotypical
way and his last name is not Spanish. When Lesser asked to join the Black & Latino caucus, there was some quiet head scratching in some corners of the State Capitol. As it turns out, Lesser’s mother came from Argentina.
State Sen. Art Linares (R-Westbrook) has a Cuban father, and as the recipient of his father’s name and some telltale genetic features, his “Latino-ness” preceded him. As the freshman senator met some of his fellow Latino lawmakers for the first time in January, he asked, “How do I join the caucus?” and was told, “You’re already in it.”
The question of who is a Latino is one the U.S. Census is grappling with. Currently, part of how the census counts Latinos is by self-identification, a method that would include Lesser, but since census officials know they can’t count every head, they factor into overall census figures an estimate based on the percentage of Spanish last names in a population pool. Had Lesser never filled in his census form, the U.S. might be short one Latino.
A bill in the State House of Representatives meant to give immigrants a clear path to obtaining state driver’s licenses has revealed common ground between House Republicans and federally undocumented immigrants. Neither group is satisfied with the status quo (for different reasons) and both welcome legislative action to clarify the rules on who can obtain drivers’ licenses.
The bill is titled An Act Concerning the Issuance of a Motor Vehicle Operator’s License to Certain Immigrants, and state Rep. Juan Candelaria (D-New Haven), who introduced the bill, is clear that his goal is to expand driving privileges to more people regardless of federal immigration status.
“We have approximately 50,000 undocumented immigrants in the state of Connecticut,” Candelaria said. “More licensed drivers would be a revenue stream for the state. The insurance companies will benefit from this, and the residents and immigrants will benefit from this, because at least they’ll be able to drive without the fear of being stopped by a police officer. When you are in a traffic accident, the likelihood of you staying at the scene will be more, if you have a driver’s license, instead of fleeing the scene.”
CT Homeless Shelters Noticing Alarming Trend
While Latinos in Connecticut are overrepresented among clients using the state’s many homeless shelters, staff at the shelters in Hartford and Bridgeport have noticed a new trend. Some families from Puerto Rico head directly to the shelters upon arriving in Connecticut.
“It is not unusual for individuals to come directly from the airport to the shelter, or to do so after staying very temporarily (usually less than one month) with friends or extended family members that encouraged them to relocate,” telling them about the services they could receive in Connecticut, said Heather K. Pilarcik, South Park Inn’s service coordinator. It’s a potential problem because there’s not enough room for Connecticut’s homeless in its shelters.
Latino Businesses: It’s a “C” Grade for Malloy
The Expo was organized by the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council, so Latino business owners were on hand to give their opinions on whether the governor himself should receive a passing grade. CTLatinoNews received the full range of responses, from fans of the governor to others who refused to speak, perhaps making it clear that their silence was inspired by good manners, as in “if you don’t have anything nice to say … .”
“He gets a C grade,” said Ed Rodriguez, president of Penmar industries, a Stratford-based supplier of tape, packaging and labels.
Why a C? “He has only done as well as people have done in the past, which is, at best, average,” Rodriguez said. “I think he should do what he says he’s going to do. I mean, if you’re going to talk the talk, then walk it. And if you say you’re going to improve small business conditions, then, by gosh, do just that.”
Greenwich Among Towns With A School Where More Than 50% Are Latino
The Latino student population in the state has grown and continues to do so – in some surprising suburban towns, as well as in the expected city school districts, according to statistics provided to CTLatinoNews.com by the Connecticut Department of Education.
In the state’s 166 school districts, 154 schools have Hispanic student enrollment of greater than 50 percent. The data, although from 2010, the most recent year the Education Department says it has available, still sheds light on the changing population in Connecticut.
The affluent town of Greenwich is probably the most surprising entry on the list, it’s the NewLebanonSchool with a Hispanic student population of 62.07 percent that may catch the reader’s eye.
Norwalk, too, in the state’s ‘”Gold Coast” has four schools on the list, the Silvermine Elementary School 59.74 percent, Brookside Elementary School with 55.19 percent. Kendall Elementary School with 54.01 percent and the Jefferson Magnet School with 53.87 percent.
The large numbers of students outside the traditional urban areas does not surprise those who have been studying the growth of the Latino community over the years. Angel Fernandez, managing director of Aspire Praxis, a community development consulting firm says, “What these numbers mean is that the view we’ve always had of Connecticut, as a Yankee, Italian, Irish community has really changed substantially; we should have seen this coming.”
Denied Puerto Rican License As ID — A Question of Civic Responsibilty?
Daniel Quiñones had not been in the United States for more than a couple of weeks before he faced the fear held by every young adult peddling a fake ID – a bouncer checked his license and turned him away from the bar. The only problem is that Quiñones is 23, well past the legal drinking age, and presented a license from Puerto Rico, which is a valid form of identification, similar to an out-of state license.
The reported incident raises the question regarding a business’s responsibility to be able to serve patrons of all cultures and the importance of cultural sensitivity on the job.
Quiñones, formerly a student at Universidad de Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras in San Juan, had recently moved to the United States and was looking to have a fun night out with friends in Hartford. When he presented his license to enter a Hartford bar, the Pig’s Eye Pub, the bouncer allegedly told him that he needed another form of identification and asked to see his passport, which he did not have. Quiñones recounted the incident, saying that after presenting his license, the bouncer said he did not recognize it, so he was unable to prove that it was real.
Spanish Media Critical of State’s Emergency And Advertising Practices
A Memorable Veterans Day Tribute To The Borinqueneers
Rivera and four other Connecticut residents who fought in WWII and the Korean War, were among the more than 100 dignitaries, veterans and their families who attended the first Veterans Day ceremony at the future site of the Borinqueneers Memorial Park and Monument – which organizers say is the first of its kind.
Those who served in the 65th Infantry – which saw active duty in WWI, WWII and Korea before it was disbanded – faced discrimination on many levels. They could not use all military facilities, they were told not to speak Spanish and although fighting for the U.S., the soldiers, as residents of Puerto Rico could not vote in U.S. elections.
In spite of the discrimination they persevered, fighting in some of the fiercest battles in all three wars. To demonstrate their pride, they nicknamed themselves the “Borinqueneers”, based on the name – Borinquen – given to the island by its original inhabitants, the Taino Indians.
2014 Top Ten Latino Authors’ List
The new national 2014 list of “Top Ten Authors to Watch and (Read)” is just out and includes a sci-fi novel, a gritty East Harlem 1960s story and a first time author that writes about stories of Cubans during the revolution. The list is assembled by a Connecticut professor who says he began doing so 7 years ago because he wanted a way to promote Latino literature and bring the talent of Latino authors into the mainstream.
Jose B. Gonzalez, who teaches English at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in In New London, is the editor of LatinoStories.com which assembles the list. Their goal, he says, is to have more Latino authors’ work find their way into the classroom.
A native of El Salvador and a 2012 Fulbright Scholar, Gonzalez says, “Too many children are growing up with sense that Latinos don’t write, or that there aren’t any Latino authors. They have not been exposed to them in the classroom. They don’t read our stories.”
The books on the list are from Latino authors whose work is in English or some bilingual books and are selected based on feedback and suggestions from librarians, readers and others who visit the website. Gonzalez says, “Books for the list are selected he says, just like any reading, adding that the questions asked as they review books, “Is it a good story, does the author use language in a powerful way which applies to most anything genre such as poetry and children’s stories