Monday, June 20, 2016

Silly Little Mosquito

"Of all the silly and nonsensical rigamarole about yellow fever that has yet found its way into print...the silliest beyond compare is to be found in the arguments and theories engendered by the mosquito hypothesis." Washington Post 11/2/1900

Thursday, April 2, 2015

La Vuelta Podcast: Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez discuss Latinos and the legacy of World War Two.

Click here to listen.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the event which signaled not only the emergence of the United States as a global superpower but also a host of domestic transformations in the nation, particularly around the issues of civil rights.  All soldiers, but especially African-American and Latino soldiers, returned from the war as changed men and women.  Some had encountered staggering brutality on the battlefields of Europe, Asia and North Africa; others were exposed to societies where ethnicity and skin color mattered much less to social hierarchies than they did in the United States.  Military service emboldened many veterans of color to push for equal treatment in the United States—whether at the lunch counter or in the school-house.  They had served their nation with distinction and would not accept the discrimination that characterized their pre-war lives.

How the war changed the lives of Latinos, in particular, has been a subject of robust debate in recent years and is at the center of a new collection of essays edited by Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez and B.V. Olguín entitled, Latina/os and World War II: Mobility,Agency , and Ideology. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014).  The essays trace the complex ways in which Latinos navigated issues of race, ethnicity, education and gender all the while contributing in critical ways to the war effort.  As we mark the 70th anniversary of this watershed conflict in American history, Profs. Rivas-Rodríguez and Olguín have offered us an important resource for understanding the war from various Latino perspectives.       

Thursday, March 19, 2015

La Vuelta Podcast: Vanessa Pérez Rosario on her new cultural biography of Julia de Burgos

Click here to listen.

When the Puerto Rican poet and essayist Julia de Burgos died in 1953 the tragic circumstances surrounding her death, in many ways, came to define her legacy.  But as Brooklyn College Professor Vanessa Pérez Rosario writes in her recent cultural biography of the iconic writer, Becoming Julia deBurgos: The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon. (University of Illinois Press, 2014) there was much more to Burgos’ legacy than her demise.  For Pérez Rosario, the goal of her book was to read Burgos in a “new way…focusing on the escape routes she created to transcend the rigid confines of gender and cultural nationalism.”  As she explained in her interview with La Vuelta, Burgos was not only a gifted writer but also one who challenged the powerful male writers of her generation on the island, including those with whom she shared commitment to Puerto Rican independence.

Professor Pérez Rosario will be speaking at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Tuesday, March 24th from 1:40-2:50 in the President’s Conference Room, 524 West 59th Street, 6th Floor, New York.  The event is free and open to the public.    

Thursday, March 5, 2015

La Vuelta Podcast: Latinos, Water Quality and Obesity

Click here to listen.

Approximately 17 percent of all U.S. children are obese.  While the problem cuts across lines of race, ethnicity and gender, the obesity rate among Hispanic children in the United States is the highest of any group.  In recent years, public health experts and policy-makers have dedicated a great deal of energy to examining the problem of obesity among the nation’s Latino children and to developing strategies to address the crisis.  Yet, a recent report by the Center for Poverty Research at the University of California at Davis suggests that water quality in Latino communities may be a significant factor in contributing to Latino obesity rates.  Looking at water supplies in two low-income immigrant communities in California’s central valley, researchers found that many residents in these areas avoided drinking water, in favor of sugary beverages, because of long-held fears about contaminants in the water supply.  Laura Bliss, a fellow for the Atlantic Magazine's Citylab blog, wrote recently about the UC Davis report. She spoke to La Vuelta about the report’s findings and what they suggest about the connection between environment and obesity in California’s Latino communities.   

Friday, November 21, 2014

La Vuelta Podcast: Carmen Jones: El Amor Cubano

Click here to listen.

Carmen Jones. (20th Century Fox, 1954).

A while ago, I had a chance to interview Grammy and Tony Award-winning arranger and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire about his work on a remake of Oscar Hammerstein’s Carmen Jones entitled, Carmen Jones: El Amor Cubano.  Lacamoire, who is best known for his arrangements for In The Heights, collaborated with British director Christopher Renshaw and the Cubans Roclan Chávez and Norge Espinosa in a retelling Carmen Jones that changes the backdrop of the story of love, jealousy and violence from the deep American South of the 1940s, to the period immediately preceding the Cuban Revolution of 1959.  With Cuba as a backdrop, Lacamoire added a number of new musical elements that highlighted the island's rich musical diversity.  For Lacamoire, a Cuban-American, the experience was both frustrating and fulfilling.  As he explained, despite the distance between Cuba and the United States, audiences in the Cuban capital were “totally feeling what we were doing.”

Carmen Jones: El Amor Cubano. (La Habana, 2014) Photo courtesy of NBC News.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

La Vuelta Podcast: Race and Immigration in the Americas

Click here to listen.

David Scott Fitzgerald and David Cook-Martín begin their sweeping history of the connections between racism and immigration in the Americas by quoting the Argentine writer Juan Batista Alberdi.  Alberdi, an advocate of white European migration to Argentina, famously observed in the mid-nineteenth century that “to govern is to populate.”  Nearly everywhere in the Americas in the nineteenth century (and continuing well into the early twentieth century), immigration and demography were hotly debated in legislatures, scientific societies and newspapers pages.  Fitzgerald and Cook-Martín’s new book, Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas (Harvard University Press, 2014) takes a close and comparative look at the ways in which racism influenced the immigration policies of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba and Brazil.  The story they recount, and that Fitzgerald expanded on in an interview with La Vuelta, is one that takes aim at standard interpretations of U.S. immigration history and the seeming incompatibility between U.S. democracy and racist immigration programs.  Indeed, compared with many of the other nations in the Americas, Fitzgerald and Cook-Martín found that the U.S. was a laggard in abandoning racist ideologies in the formulation of its immigration policies.  As we debate immigration policies in the U.S. at the start of the twenty-first century, Culling the Masses sharpens our understanding of how issues of race have always informed which immigrants we welcome into the U.S. and which one we don’t.