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Opinion: The mariachi singer is more American than his critics
Sebastien De La Cruz sings the national anthem prior to the start of game 4 in the NBA finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat on June 13 in San Antonio, Texas.
June 17th, 2013
10:06 AM ET

Opinion: The mariachi singer is more American than his critics

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

By Ruben Navarette, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - The scoreboard was clear.

Winner: 11-year-old Sebastien De La Cruz, "El Charro de Oro" (the golden horseman) who became a national story after he sang the national anthem at Game 3 of the NBA playoff series between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat and showed a lot of a talent, heart and class.

Losers: The haters and racists who - displaying a lot of ignorance - hid behind the anonymity of Twitter to spew venom and attack the little guy because they thought that no one dressed in a mariachi outfit was certified American enough to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

ere's a sample:

"This lil Mexican snuck in the country like 4 hours ago now he's singing the anthem" - Francois@A2daO

"Who dat lil #Wetback sangin the national anthem at the #Heat game????" - TJ THA DJ@Tj_Tha_Dj

"Can't believe they had the nerve to have a beaner sing the national anthem of AMERICA #smh" - THE_GREAT_WHITE@bdub597

"Is this the American National Anthem or the Mexican Hat Dance? Get this lil kid out of here" - StevenDavid@A1R_STEVEN

"So illegal aliens can sing The National Anthem @ games now?" - Mr.CheckYaDm@DJ_BMONEY

What does it mean to be an American anyway?

Read Ruben Navarette's full column
Celebrities who changed their names
June 6th, 2013
08:56 AM ET

Adios Charlie Sheen, hello Carlos Estevez

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN

(CNN) - Are the days of Latinos in entertainment changing their given names to appeal to a broader audience long gone?

That's what it looks like now that former "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen has dropped his stage name for birth name Carlos Estevez for Robert Rodriguez's Latino-centric new action film "Machete Kills."

The film is second in a series after the 2010 film "Machete" starring Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez. In "Machete Kills," Trejo returns as ex-Federal agent Machete, recruited by the president of the United States, played by Charlie Sheen, asked to go on a mission to take down a madman revolutionary and eccentric billionaire arms dealer, played by Mel Gibson, who has come up with a plan to spread war across the world.

This second installment will star Sofía Vergara, Demián Bichir, Antonio Banderas, Zoe Saldaña, Edward James Olmos, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alexa Vega, and Lady Gaga.

According to Sheen's representative, it was his idea to use his birth name for the film. However, there's no confirmation on what spurred the decision or whether Sheen will stick to Estevez from now on.
Some call the change ironic in light of comments last year by Sheen about his heritage. "I don't wake up feeling Latino. I'm a white guy in America, I was born in New York and grew up in Malibu," he said in a 2012 interview with Univision.

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Filed under: Ethnicity • History • Latino in America • Pop culture • Who we are
Dr. Q.'s journey to neurosurgery
May 26th, 2013
12:15 PM ET

From migrant worker to neurosurgeon

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

(CNN) - Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa insists, "I just think of myself as a regular guy."

It's an incredible statement from someone who grew up in an impoverished Mexican village, illegally hopped the fence into California, attended Harvard Medical School and now works at Johns Hopkins Medicine as a neurosurgeon.

"I've never been one who declines adventure," he says.

Early life

The oldest of five children, Quinones-Hinojosa as a child had nightmares that he had to save his mother and siblings from fires, floods, avalanches, says his memoir, "Becoming Dr. Q," which he co-authored.

His interest in medicine may have stemmed from this sense of responsibility, along with his baby sister's death from colitis (the memoir is dedicated to her). At 6, though, he wanted to be an astronaut.

His father owned a gas station, and Quinones-Hinojosa worked there at age 5; his family lived in an apartment in the back. But as Mexico's economy took a dive, the business collapsed, along with the family's livelihood. Quinones-Hinojosa's father had to sell it for almost no profit. They later learned that gasoline had been leaking out of holes in the underground tanks.

The family used to eat meat once a week, but that became a luxury of the past. After the station was sold, they had to make do with flour tortillas and homemade salsa, he wrote.

Short visits to California's San Joaquin Valley, where Quinones-Hinojosa's uncle Fausto was a foreman at a ranch, gave Quinones-Hinojosa a glimpse into the United States - and the American dream. At age 14, he spent two months there pulling weeds, making money to bring back to his family.

That hard-earned cash proved that people like me were not helpless or powerless," he wrote.

As a teenager, Quinones-Hinojosa thought he would become an elementary school teacher. Despite his excellent grades at a teacher-training college, however, he was assigned a position in a remote, rural area; only politically-connected, wealthy kids got jobs in cities, he wrote. Quinones-Hinojosa's salary would be paltry.

His uncle agreed to let him work a short stint again at the California ranch to supplement his income, as doubts began to accumulate about his future as a teacher. A plan began to form in his mind.

Life's work: Mom's death inspires doctor's life work

Passage into the United States

Quinones-Hinojosa had $65 in his pocket when, the day before his 19th birthday in 1987, he decided to cross into the United States for a longer stay. He wasn't thinking about laws, he just wanted to escape poverty so that he could go back and feed his family, he says.

Risking arrest, deportation and even death, Quinones-Hinojosa had a plan: He would cross the border in a "Spider-man climb" up an 18-foot-fence, hop over the barbed wire and make a leap into California, he wrote.

Just when he made it across, border agents picked him up and sent him back to Mexico.

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Immigration may be America's primary population growth driver by 2027
America is on its way to becoming a minority-majority nation.
May 17th, 2013
04:42 PM ET

Immigration may be America's primary population growth driver by 2027

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Here's something to consider as Congress debates overhauling America's immigration system: For the first time since at least 1850, immigrants will be the primary driver of U.S. population.

Births have been the leading cause of population growth since the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting data in 1850. That may change within the next 14 years.

The population growth shifts could happen as early as 2027 or as late as 2038, depending, of course, on the numbers of international arrivals over the next few years.

Not that immigration levels are at their highest, cautioned Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau's senior adviser. The rates were much higher during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But Americans are having fewer babies.

"This projected milestone reflects the mix of our nation's declining fertility rates, the aging of the baby boomer population and continued immigration," Mesenbourg said.

The Census Bureau issued three projections of population growth shifts based on different immigration levels. A high immigration projection showed that the nation's non-white population would jump from 37% in 2012 to 58.8% in 2060. Hispanics would make up 29.9% of the population, compared with 17% in 2012, and Asians would climb from 5.1% to 9%.

Non-Latino whites are projected to no longer be a majority by 2046, even if immigration levels stay the same.

Follow CNN's Moni Basu on Twitter

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Filed under: Diversity • Ethnicity • Immigration • Latino in America • Population • Who we are
Mexican priest fights for immigration reform in U.S.
The Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, seen here in an undated photo, will travel coast-to-coast in the U.S. to push for immigration reform
May 14th, 2013
05:52 PM ET

Mexican priest fights for immigration reform in U.S.

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

(CNN) - Known for his outspoken, unapologetic support of migrants in Mexico, the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde is bringing his message to the United States.

The priest is part of a caravan of migrants and their supporters traveling from Los Angeles to Washington to push for immigration reform.

In Mexico, Solalinde has criticized the government, and even the Catholic Church, saying that both can be more compassionate to migrants. His views are shaped by the years he has spent leading a migrant shelter in Oaxaca that offers support to Central Americans who embark on the dangerous route north by clinging to trains.

A number of threats last year led to his leaving his post, located in Ixtepec, in the southern state of Oaxaca, but he has since returned.

"I don't know how to live with fear," Solalinde told CNN.

Immigration issues must be tackled both at the source and the destination of the migrants, he said.

FULL STORY
Day of the Dead trademark request draws backlash for Disney
Traditional sugar calaveritas, or little skulls, are displayed in Mexico City on October 31 ahead of the Day of the Dead.
May 11th, 2013
09:10 AM ET

Day of the Dead trademark request draws backlash for Disney

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN

Read this article in Spanish on CNNMexico.com.

(CNN) - Is it possible to trademark the name of a holiday? The Walt Disney Company was interested in doing so.

On May 1, the entertainment giant filed an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to secure the phrase "Día de los Muertos," or "Day of the Dead," across multiple platforms. Disney subsidiary Pixar is releasing a film - for time being called "The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dia de los Muertos" - this fall.

Here's the problem - Día de los Muertos is a traditional holiday celebrated on November 1 and 2 in Mexico and across Latin America. People honor the lives of lost family members or friends by building altars, holding processions, decorating gravesites and placing offerings for loved ones. Over the years, the holiday has gained a foothold in the United States, too.

Disney hoped to secure the rights to the title "Day of the Dead" and such themed merchandise as fruit preserves, fruit-based snacks, toys, games, clothing, footwear, backpacks, clocks and jewelry.

But the Latino community raised a ruckus about the application on social media.

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'Ask A Mexican' columnist: Cinco de Mayo is "pointless"
May 5th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

'Ask A Mexican' columnist: Cinco de Mayo is "pointless"

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN

(CNN) - Gustavo Arellano is not politically correct in his "Ask a Mexican" column.  He calls Cinco de Mayo "Gringo de Mayo" and regularly plays on stereotypes Americans have of Mexicans.

But he answers readers' questions with enough gusto and satiric flare that many might forget they are being educated on Mexican customs, immigration and labor issues.  What began as a spoof in 2004, is now one of OC Weekly’s most popular columns, appearing in 39 cities across the U.S., with a weekly circulation of over 2 million.

In addition, Arellano is now regarded as “perhaps the greatest (and only) living scholar of Mexican-American fast-food." He shares that knowledge in his new book, "Taco USA:How Mexican Food Conquered America." It tells the story of how Mexican food transformed the way Americans eat as it has entered popular culture, unlike any other "ethnic" food.

Gustavo Arellano spoke to CNN about Mexican food in the United States, what Mexican dish he hopes Americans co-opt next, and why he thinks celebrating Cinco de Mayo is silly.  FULL POST

Leahy: Boston bombings exploited in immigration debate
Senator Charles Schumer (far R) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday in Washington, DC.
April 23rd, 2013
08:23 AM ET

Leahy: Boston bombings exploited in immigration debate

By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer

Washington (CNN) - Partisan tempers flared at a Senate immigration hearing on Monday as top Democrats accused opponents of comprehensive reform legislation of using last week's Boston Marathon bombings to slow or even derail the bill.

"Last week, opponents of comprehensive immigration reform began to exploit the Boston marathon bombing," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

"I urge restraint in that regard. ... Let no one be so cruel as to try to use the heinous attacks of these two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hard-working people," Leahy added.

He said the bill crafted by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" would "serve to strengthen our national security by allowing us to focus our border security and enforcement efforts against those who would do us harm."

"A nation as strong as ours can welcome the oppressed and persecuted without making compromises in our security," he said. "We are capable of vigilance in our pursuit of these values, and we have seen the tremendous work that the local law enforcement as well as the federal law enforcement have done in the Boston area, and I am so proud of them."

FULL STORY
April 18th, 2013
06:04 PM ET

Immigration reformers seek to avoid deja vu

By Halimah Abdullah, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Opponents of a bipartisan Senate effort to reform the nation's immigration policies calculate that dragging out debate by offering so-called "poison pill" amendments designed to tank support and stoking conservative ire on the airwaves will derail the proposal.

It is a strategy that stymied the immigration overhaul efforts of 2007.

Legislative aides and the bill's supporters worry that with days running out in the congressional calendar and a heavy plate of issues before lawmakers, efforts to overhaul the nation's immigration system could get sidelined.

The so-called "Gang of Eight" senators who have labored for months, largely in secret, are expected to discuss their proposal at a press conference on Thursday.

But the pushback has already begun.

"It seems pretty clear that they are pursuing a strategy of trying to draw this out as long as possible because this bill has to get done as quickly as possible," said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, which advocates for low-income communities.

"It's a ploy to try and throw sand in the gears and I suspect there will be a long list of poison pill amendments that will be offered through committee," Bhargava said.

FULL STORY
Read the immigration reform bill
April 17th, 2013
05:00 PM ET

Read the immigration reform bill

(CNN) - A bipartisan group of senators formally filed legislation early Wednesday calling for border security as the cornerstone of immigration reform. The bill also would prevent undocumented immigrants from reaching full legal resident status until after the government takes steps to keep unauthorized workers from getting jobs in the United States. Read the bill

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