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March 15th, 2013
04:50 PM ET

Is the new pope Latino?

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez and Alicia W. Stewart, CNN

(CNN) – The Catholic Church has elected its first pope from South America, a historic milestone that has some wondering whether he should be considered the first “Latino” pope.

"I'm not quite sure how he is being considered the first Latino pope?" wrote Jeremy Marsh in CNN comments. "I guess the real question is, what is the definition of 'Latino'?"

For Julieta Vitullo, 37, a teacher and filmmaker from Argentina, the thought of calling Pope Francis “Latino” never crossed her mind.  To her, he is undoubtedly Argentine.

“In South America, we either use our country of origin or use 'Latin Americans.' We don’t define ourselves as Latino. That’s more of an American term, ” she said.

But, that hasn't stopped many Hispanics from using the word.

“As a Latina and Catholic, I can't explain how excited and happy I am for Pope Francis I – the first Latino Pope! #latism” tweeted Sasha Monik Moreno.

CNN contributor Ruben Navarrette wrote a CNN piece about the long wait for the "first Latino pope":

"...[T]he news of a Latino papa has sent a jolt of euphoria through Argentina and throughout Latin America. Imagine winning the World Cup Championship times 10. There also will be a lot of excitement among Latinos in the United States, perhaps enough to reignite their passion for the church and bring them back to Mass.”

But to understand the range of who is Latino, and if the new pontiff qualifies, one has to first the understand the  history of Argentina. FULL POST

March 14th, 2013
04:21 PM ET

Opinion: Pope pick a signal to Latino Catholics

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

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
(CNN) - "It's about time!"

That was how a friend and fellow Mexican-American Catholic responded to the news that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina had been elected the first Latino pope in the nearly 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church. It was one of those spontaneous utterances that, while not politically correct, was at least honest and heartfelt.

It's about time.

FULL STORY
March 12th, 2013
12:20 PM ET

Undocumenteds' hope for next pope

(CNN) - CNN's Miguel Marquez says immigrants hope the next pope will focus on issues like human rights and economic justice.

March 6th, 2013
08:00 AM ET

Opinion: Chavez empowered the poor, divided a nation

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her on Twitter: @FridaGColumns

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN

(CNN) - A few hours before he announced the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Vice President Nicolas Maduro repeated the claim that Chavez's fatal illness was caused by outsiders, and he labeled the opposition the "enemy of the nation." With that, he gave voice to one of the principal legacies of the Chavez era, one of divisiveness and scapegoating.

The Chavez legacy, however, includes much more than animosity between rich and poor, between left and right.

Chavez played a pivotal role in bringing the plight of Latin America's impoverished people to the top of the political agenda.

It was as if the former paratrooper grabbed a continent by the lapels and shouted "You must fight against poverty!" And the continent listened.

Even the people who vehemently disagreed with Chavez's neosocialist, populist ideology realized that economic inequality required urgent attention.

In the years after he came to power, aggressive anti-poverty programs have been launched in a number of Latin American countries, with impressive success.

Chavez improved the lot of the poor in Venezuela, and he had an impact on the reduction of inequality elsewhere in the region. But in the process, he deeply undermined Venezuelan democracy, and he created a model of authoritarianism that other autocrats copied, harming democracy in many countries.

FULL STORY
March 5th, 2013
06:10 PM ET

Chavez leaves a revolutionary legacy

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

(CNN) - Charismatic and combative, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cultivated a larger-than-life appearance. But even after 13 years in office, his legacy may be more fleeting than his outsize personality suggested.

Chavez, 58, died Tuesday afternoon, according to the country's vice president. Chavez had battled cancer.

Supporters and opponents alike can name ways Venezuela has been transformed while Chavez was in office - poverty is down, crime is up, polarization has become the status quo - but the changes may not be as ingrained as they seem.

The cornerstone of Chavez's presidency was the Bolivarian Revolution, his ambitious plan to turn Venezuela into a socialist state. The most visible symbols of the revolution were the numerous social "missions" aimed at eradicating illiteracy, distributing staple foods and providing health care in all corners of the country.

Social programs were not new to Venezuela, but Chavez elevated them in scope and prominence.

"The most positive legacy that Chavez has is that he put his finger on a legitimate grievance that many Venezuelans have: social injustice," said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a research and policy center in Washington. "Whoever succeeds him is going to have to deal with that question."

iReport: Send your thoughts on the death of the Venezuelan president.

Chavez was elected and re-elected in large part thanks to support from the country's poor, who felt marginalized by previous governments.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: History • Latino in America • Where we live
Opinion: When U.S.A! U.S.A! chant is not patriotic
February 26th, 2013
05:50 PM ET

Opinion: When U.S.A! U.S.A! chant is not patriotic

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 Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor

San Diego (CNN) - It never occurred to me that the chant "U.S.A, U.S.A!" - something you might hear from enthusiastic sports fans at the World Cup or the Olympics - could be used as an insult. That is, until I saw (and heard) it for myself.

Before I tell that story, let's be clear. Chanting "U.S.A, U.S.A!" is fine; what matters is the context, the intent behind the chant. And that isn't always easy to discern.

It's great if the people chanting are just trying to celebrate a magnificent country. Part of what makes the United States so special in the first place is that we're also an extremely diverse country. The national motto may be "e pluribus unum" (of many, one), but Americans should always strive to cherish and celebrate those cultural differences that make us unique. This means respecting one another as equals.

So it's not so great if the idea of raising one's voice in a group display is to try to put another group of Americans in its place by implying - solely because of race, ethnicity, heritage or skin color - that they're not real Americans or "not American enough." Whatever that means.

That is when the chanting can become really offensive. Patriotism is one thing, racial or ethnic putdowns are another. In recent years, we've seen far too many examples of the latter.

In fact, recently, a group of students at Camarillo High School, northwest of Los Angeles, were ejected after leading a rally at a basketball game against a rival school. The students first showed up at the game wearing American flag bandanas, but school officials asked that they remove them. When they refused, they were told to leave the auditorium. They did, but defiantly returned soon after still wearing the bandanas. Then they whipped the crowd into a frenzy by chanting "U.S.A, U.S.A!" That's when they were asked to leave the premises, and report to the principal the next day.

Read Ruben Navarrette's full column
Opinion: 'In Memoriam' Oscar snub of Lupe Ontiveros reflects limited roles for Latinos
February 25th, 2013
06:10 PM ET

Opinion: 'In Memoriam' Oscar snub of Lupe Ontiveros reflects limited roles for Latinos

Editor's Note: Alberto Ferreras is a New York City based writer and filmmaker, who created the "Habla" documentary series for HBO Latino, and co-creator of "El Perro y El Gato" for HBO Family. He is also the author of  “B as in Beauty” .

By Alberto Ferreras, Special to CNN

(CNN) –When I interviewed Lupe Ontiveros in 2009 for the HBO Latino special "Celebrity Habla", she told me: "You gotta have a lot of chutzpah, cojones, huevos, capisce? Specially a woman middle age like myself,  4-foot-11, and a Latina ... And all I can sell you is ... raw ... survivor ... talent."

Lupe represented a whole generation of talented Hispanic actors who had been denied the chance to play anything but maids, thugs and drug dealers.

According to Lupe, she had played a maid more than 150 times.

But at the time of our interview she was tired of complaining: She had a juicy part in "Desperate Housewives" and  preferred to talk about the roles that she was planning to do "now that things are starting to change".

Stars left out of 'In Memoriam' Oscar tribute

I am tired of complaining, too. Tired of explaining why it's so important for Latinos to see ourselves on the screen, that movies give us the chance to see ourselves as lawyers, doctors, and heroes.

That every time Latinos are acknowledged for their contribution in the media, it makes a huge impact on the dreams and aspirations of the largest minority in the country.

So while I was deeply moved to see Lupe featured in the in memoriam montage of the Screen Actors Guild Awards,  I don't understand why she wasn't included in the Oscars tribute on television. FULL POST

White House says its immigration plan is a sidebar to congressional action
February 17th, 2013
12:00 PM ET

White House says its immigration plan is a sidebar to congressional action

By Jessica Yellin and Gregory Wallace, CNN

(CNN) – Word that the Obama administration has circulated to federal agencies drafts of an immigration plan led the White House on Saturday to reaffirm its commitment to successful bipartisan negotiations to reach a plan on Capitol Hill.

"The president has made clear the principles upon which he believes any common-sense immigration reform effort should be based," White House spokesman Clark Stevens told CNN. "We continue to work in support of a bipartisan effort, and while the president has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit."

CNN has reported that the White House was drafting an immigration bill in case an effort among a group of senators – the Gang of Eight – does not produce legislation in the near future. A similar effort is under way in the House.

USA Today obtained a draft proposal which an administration official told the newspaper was being sent to various federal agencies. An administration official told CNN the specifics of the plan are accurate as of the last draft this official saw.

Read the full post on CNN's Political Ticker
Bengali Harlem: Author documents a lost history of immigration in America
Bengalis and their Puerto Rican and African-American wives at a 1952 banquet at New York's Pakistan League of America.
February 15th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Bengali Harlem: Author documents a lost history of immigration in America

Editor's note: CNN's Moni Basu, a Bengali immigrant, was born in Kolkata, India.

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - In the next few weeks, Fatima Shaik, an African-American, Christian woman, will travel “home” from New York to Kolkata, India.

It will be a journey steeped in a history that has remained unknown until the publication last month of a revelatory book by Vivek Bald. And it will be a journey of contemplation as Shaik, 60, meets for the first time ancestors with whom she has little in common.

“I want to go back because I want to find some sort of closure for my family, said Shaik, an author and scholar of the Afro-Creole experience.

Fatima Shaik's grandfather settled in New Orleans. She is going to India to see his home.

That Americans like Shaik, who identify as black, are linked by blood to a people on the Indian subcontinent seems, at first, improbable.

South Asian immigration boomed in this country after the passage of landmark immigration legislation in 1965. But long before that, there were smaller waves of new Americans who hailed from India under the British Empire.

The first group, to which Shaik’s grandfather, Shaik Mohamed Musa, belonged, consisted of peddlers who came to these shores in the 1890s, according to Bald. They sold embroidered silks and cottons and other “exotic” wares from the East on the boardwalks of Asbury Park and Atlantic City, New Jersey. They eventually made their way south to cities like New Orleans and Atlanta and even farther to Central America.

The second wave came in the 1920s and ‘30s. They were seamen, some merchant marines.

Most were Muslim men from what was then the Indian province of Bengal and in many ways, they were the opposite of the stereotype of today’s well-heeled, highly educated South Asians.

South Asian immigration was illegal then – the 1917 Immigration Act barred all idiots, imbeciles, criminals and people from the “Asiatic Barred Zone.”

The Bengalis got off ships with little to their name.

They were mostly illiterate and worked as cooks, dishwashers, merchants, subway laborers. In New York, they gradually formed a small community of sorts in Spanish Harlem. They occupied apartments and tenement housing on streets in the 100s. They worked hard.

And they did all they could do to become American in a nation of segregation and prejudice. FULL POST

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Filed under: Asian in America • Black in America • Culture • Ethnicity • History • Immigration • Latino in America • Race • Who we are
February 13th, 2013
01:43 PM ET

Opinion: A kinder, gentler, wiser Marco Rubio

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) - Sen. Marco Rubio was ready for his close-up, and he got it. Now you know what all the fuss is about.

Rubio, a rising star and possible 2016 GOP presidential hopeful, was picked to deliver the official Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union Address.

The selection tells you a lot about what the Republican Party has in store for Rubio, and what this 41-year-old son of Cuban immigrants can do for a party that needs to become more user-friendly for Latinos. His remarks were also delivered in Spanish.

Rubio's delivery was solid, his voice strong, and his passion unmistakable. The senator from Florida is an excellent communicator whose life experience - as the son of a bartender and hotel maid who worked hard so their children could get ahead - is easy for many Americans to connect with. In the Republican Party, there are the multimillionaires - and then there is Marco.

And the message that Rubio sought to communicate Tuesday night - about how making America prosperous comes from growing the middle class, expanding opportunity and protecting economic freedom, and not from increasing the footprint of government - came through loud and clear.

Read Ruben Navarette's full column
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