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Race: The R-word: Cultural sensitivity and dialogue; their absence in UC campuses

After suffering what she considered a great social injustice, Alexandra Wallace got on YouTube and ranted about how Asians were too loud in the library. Within hours, the video went viral and it was immortalized on the Internet.

Should I or anyone else, be surprised, seeing as the persistent trend of racialized incidents in UC schools?

Numerous racist attacks such as the “Compton Cookout”, thrown by a fraternity at UCSD, or the noose found hanging at a UCSD library, and the swastikas carved into dorm doors at UC Davis indicate that UC campuses have a long way to go in fostering environments of tolerance and cultural sensitivity.

Instances of racial and ethnic intolerance have initiated response from many student groups, but their impact on campuses still resonate deeply.

Here at UCLA, Wallace’s comments sparked numerous emotional responses.

At first glance, Julie Pham thought that the Wallace video might be a joke but realizing it was not, she became enraged.

“I think that Wallace’s comments [proved] her to be very ignorant,” Pham said, “Asians are not the only ones that are loud. These are stereotypes that perpetuate hateful thinking that do nothing for social change and understanding.”

Victor Chan, a fourth-year biology student, is of Asian descent and identifies as Latino. His grandfather emigrated from China to Columbia, Chan’s birthplace and home.

When Chan first saw the video, he was in disbelief.

“The first thing I did after watching the video was to make sure that Wallace in fact was a UCLA student. When I found out she was a student, it really upset me,” said Chan, “being an individual that has dealt with being part of more than one culture, I have always hoped that people would be more understanding [of] one another, and learn about one another’s cultures.”

Recently, Chan and members of his Latino fraternity, Nu Alpha Kappa, held a taco sale fundraiser on Cinco de Mayo. They overheard students nearby demean the holiday by calling it “Drink-o de Mayo” as well as saying, “Oh I love Cinco de Mayo, that’s when all the tacos come out.”

Disappointed by their attitude, Chan said, “They don’t respect the day, nor do they even try to learn about it.” All of the different people and organizations on our campus share a responsibility to begin addressing these issues, especially among our diverse student groups.

While this incident was only lived by a few members of the UCLA population, it is still a strong example of interpersonal aggressions that that promote ethnocentrism.

Changing what we know about diverse groups is essential to changing how we talk about them. UCLA students expressed their support for a more ethnically inclusive learning experience in the recent USAC election, as 62.9 percent voters approved the Communicating Unity through Education initiative, which seeks to reform general education curriculum to include a diversity requirement.  Although this change to the curriculum has yet to go into effect, UCLA is making institutional moves towards creating a critical ethnic discourse.

“If we were to start to have open dialogue about the many different cultures that exist at UCLA, then we would be able to avoid such intolerance on our campus,” said Pham.

Whether it be the swastikas carved into doors, indecent party themes, or a video that demeans an ethnic group, it is abundantly clear to me that there needs to be open dialogue to help heal the social rift of these transgressions.

latino media tv

Media Prostitution: How ratings-driven networks are ruining Spanish-language TV

When bold journalism is a radical break from the mainstream, we know we have got a problem with what we call noticias. So when we tune into someone like Ruben Luengas, host of Telemundo network’s news program, “En Contexto,” who is not only willing to discuss the current media’s shortcomings, but do something about it —we know we have someone worth watching.

At an event on April 6 in Bunche Hall, organized by Undergraduate Spanish and Portuguese Association (USPA), Luengas discussed the declining integrity of Spanish language news. “When noticieros get into ratings, the prostitution of the media begins,” Luengas said.

Luengas takes an alternate route by pushing the boundaries of investigative journalism with “En Contexto.” His Emmy-award-winning news piece, “Los Olvidados,”  gives an account of the harrowing journey undocumented immigrants endure and the often deadly end they encounter on their way to the other side. During a recent piece, “Espaldas Dobladas,” Luengas made a journey to the Salinas Valley, where a vast majority of the nation’s produce comes from, to expose hardships Latino immigrant farm workers face in the fields and in political discourse.

His departure from the mainstream news show format is a risk Luengas knowingly takes, even at the cost of being unpopular among audiences. Jose Ortiz, a second-year history student respects his bold work ethic. “I tend not to agree with Ruben Luengas’ viewpoint, but I respect the work he does because he is not afraid to push the boundaries,” Ortiz said.

Luengas’ coverage of Latino issues is a personal mission.“I do stories like these because I want to show what is inside me, my family and the Latino community,” he said during the lecture.

But powerful as these stories are, the show is not guaranteed staying power. During the event, Ruben mentioned that his show may be cancelled because of lack of viewership. However, a report by the Nielsen Company, a media research and information corporation, indicated that Telemundo’s viewership among adults ages 18-49 grew 37 percent in the second quarter of this year. This increase may be due to popular shows such as “La Reina del Sur,” a telenovela which outperformed shows on ABC and CBS.

Telenovela programming is responsible for drawing a vast proportion of viewership in Spanish language networks. According to the Nielsen Company, during the week of May 2, the top 10 most popular TV shows among Latinos in the United States were all broadcast by Univision and nine of those shows were telenovelas.

Between news and telenovelas, Univision and Telemundo’s programming schedules leave much to be desired. Both stations broadcast an average of about two to three hours of news each day. In comparison, telenovelas dominate the programming schedule with five to eight hours broadcast on Telemundo and Univision, respectively. In an effort to remain prominent, Spanish-language networks organize their programming around the shows that will garner the most viewership.

Catering primarily to telenovela sensibilities among viewers is good for business, but otherwise leaves very little options for meaningful and engaging news programming. This is where Luengas’ style of journalism comes in and fills this information and entertainment gap for audiences.

“I enjoy watching Ruben Luengas because he is Latino, he gives the truth and he speaks his ideas,” UCLA housing employee Cecilia Gonzalez said, “Ruben’s news is always current and I know he is showing us the truth.”

latino media tv

Media Prostitution: How ratings-driven networks are ruining Spanish-language TV

When bold journalism is a radical break from the mainstream, we know we have got a problem with what we call noticias. So when we tune into someone like Ruben Luengas, host of Telemundo network’s news program, “En Contexto,” who is not only willing to discuss the current media’s shortcomings, but do something about it —we know we have someone worth watching.

At an event on April 6 in Bunche Hall, organized by Undergraduate Spanish and Portuguese Association (USPA), Luengas discussed the declining integrity of Spanish language news. “When noticieros get into ratings, the prostitution of the media begins,” Luengas said.

Luengas takes an alternate route by pushing the boundaries of investigative journalism with “En Contexto.” His Emmy-award-winning news piece, “Los Olvidados,”  gives an account of the harrowing journey undocumented immigrants endure and the often deadly end they encounter on their way to the other side. During a recent piece, “Espaldas Dobladas,” Luengas made a journey to the Salinas Valley, where a vast majority of the nation’s produce comes from, to expose hardships Latino immigrant farm workers face in the fields and in political discourse.

His departure from the mainstream news show format is a risk Luengas knowingly takes, even at the cost of being unpopular among audiences. Jose Ortiz, a second-year history student respects his bold work ethic. “I tend not to agree with Ruben Luengas’ viewpoint, but I respect the work he does because he is not afraid to push the boundaries,” Ortiz said.

Luengas’ coverage of Latino issues is a personal mission.“I do stories like these because I want to show what is inside me, my family and the Latino community,” he said during the lecture.

But powerful as these stories are, the show is not guaranteed staying power. During the event, Ruben mentioned that his show may be cancelled because of lack of viewership. However, a report by the Nielsen Company, a media research and information corporation, indicated that Telemundo’s viewership among adults ages 18-49 grew 37 percent in the second quarter of this year. This increase may be due to popular shows such as “La Reina del Sur,” a telenovela which outperformed shows on ABC and CBS.

Telenovela programming is responsible for drawing a vast proportion of viewership in Spanish language networks. According to the Nielsen Company, during the week of May 2, the top 10 most popular TV shows among Latinos in the United States were all broadcast by Univision and nine of those shows were telenovelas.

Between news and telenovelas, Univision and Telemundo’s programming schedules leave much to be desired. Both stations broadcast an average of about two to three hours of news each day. In comparison, telenovelas dominate the programming schedule with five to eight hours broadcast on Telemundo and Univision, respectively. In an effort to remain prominent, Spanish-language networks organize their programming around the shows that will garner the most viewership.

Catering primarily to telenovela sensibilities among viewers is good for business, but otherwise leaves very little options for meaningful and engaging news programming. This is where Luengas’ style of journalism comes in and fills this information and entertainment gap for audiences.

“I enjoy watching Ruben Luengas because he is Latino, he gives the truth and he speaks his ideas,” UCLA housing employee Cecilia Gonzalez said, “Ruben’s news is always current and I know he is showing us the truth.”

PHOTO: Lucia Prieto

CicLAvia: Biking in Los Angeles

PHOTO: Lucia Prieto

At 5:05 PM on a Monday afternoon in late March this year, Christine Ramirez, 55, was hit by a car while riding her bike near her home in Pasadena, fracturing two ribs and bruising the right side of her abdomen. “I was wearing my helmet, I waited for the light to turn green, and I looked both ways before crossing into the intersection,” Ramirez said. Despite all her safety precautions, she didn’t have time to react to the car that was rolling through a right turn, which put her on bed rest for two weeks.

Fortunately, for at least one day, Ramirez and all other Angelenos didn’t have to worry about the dangers of cars. On Sunday, April 10, 2011, Los Angeles celebrated its second CicLAvía, a car-free streets event that gives people an opportunity to enjoy their city from the ground instead of from their cars. From 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, the streets of downtown Los Angeles were closed to all motorized vehicles and open for bicycles, tricycles, wheelchairs, or simply walking.

Cycling advocate Bobby Gadda first brought the concept of CicLAvía to Los Angeles in 2008 after a visit to Bogotá, Colombia, where over 70 miles of streets are car-free every Sunday. He had noticed how unpleasant LA streets are for people and was immediately inspired by Bogota’s 35-year-old ciclovía, the Spanish word for bike path. “It really changed the culture of the city and made it a more humane place to live,” said Gadda.

Gadda received immediate support and collaboration from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and, soon after, from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Last October, Los Angeles celebrated the first CicLAvía with 7.5 miles of car-free streets from Boyle Heights to East Hollywood.

Following the same route exactly six months later, CicLAvía’s second event was even bigger, with an estimated 130,000 participants, according to KCET. Still, each participant was able to personalize their experience.

Ross Bernet, a UCLA 4th-year environmental science student, and Michelle Oyewole, a UCLA 4th-year communications student, along with 15 other UCLA students, rode their bikes to CicLAvía from UCLA, a 10-mile ride. For Bernet, CicLAvía is invaluable because of the safe space it provides. “Most of the time you’re biking in LA, you’re by yourself. There’s so many cars, and it’s dangerous and it seems sketchy,” said Bernet. Oyewole appreciates the sense of community. “It’s a chance to see LA how you wouldn’t normally, the streets free of cars, everyone biking together,” Oyewole said.

For others, CicLAvía is a family event. Martin Puerta, a 42-year-old resident of Boyle Heights, is a father of four, ages 14, 10, 6 and 2. CicLAvía provides his children the chance to see and learn about Los Angeles. “Here they have the care of the police, they close the streets, and there won’t be a possibility of getting hurt,” said Puerta. There’s at least one thing Puerta is sure of. “We all have the right to use the street for any event. We shouldn’t continue to think that only the car has the right to the street,” he said.

The real purpose of CicLAvía, though, is just having fun. Participants could partake in numerous activities along the route in April, including visiting museums like the Japanese American National Museum and eating at food trucks like The Surfer Taco. Chivas USA had a goal-kicking booth where co-captain Major League Soccer All-Star and UCLA alumnus Jimmy Conrad was signing autographs and talking with fans. There were also dance performances, squirt gun fights, and historic bike tours.

A major highlight at both CicLAvías was the on-going pickup dodgeball game, hosted by the World Dodgeball Society, that provided entertainment as well as a way to socialize with fellow Angelenos. In addition, Lance Armstrong attended CicLAvía and spoke about cycling’s health and environmental benefits, noting how it promotes exercise and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

The overall opinion of CicLAvía is clear: Los Angeles loves it and wants more. There are already two more events scheduled in 2011 and more in 2012. And it may not stop there. Many, including Gadda, hope that CicLAvía becomes a lifestyle. One long-term goal of CicLAvía is to create a permanent network of car-free streets throughout Greater Los Angeles, physically connecting its many dense and diverse areas.

Los Angeles just might get its wish. Mayor Villaraigosa, who has promised to get Los Angeles 1680 miles of bike paths, is behind the effort 100 percent. “CicLAvía is an opportunity,” Villaraigosa said. “In a city addicted to the single-passenger automobile, we ought to get on a bike […] and reclaim our neighborhoods. That’s what CicLAvía is all about.”

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17

Bolivia set to pass the Law of Mother Earth

Bolivia intends to pass la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra (the Law of Mother Earth), which grants nature the same rights and protections as humans, under the country’s first indigenous president Evo Morales.

These rights includes: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered; and, the right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”

The Law of Mother Earth is rooted from tenets of indigenous beliefs. “Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family,” said Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca.

To implement this legislation, Bolivia will establish a Ministry of Mother Earth.

Canadian activist Maude Barlow believes that this will create a ripple effect,  “It’s going to start first with these southern countries trying to protect their land and their people from exploitation, but I think it will be grabbed onto by communities in our countries, for example, fighting the tarsands in Alberta.”

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17

Bolivia set to pass the Law of Mother Earth

Bolivia intends to pass la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra (the Law of Mother Earth), which grants nature the same rights and protections as humans, under the country’s first indigenous president Evo Morales.

These rights includes: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered; and, the right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”

The Law of Mother Earth is rooted from tenets of indigenous beliefs. “Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family,” said Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca.

To implement this legislation, Bolivia will establish a Ministry of Mother Earth.

Canadian activist Maude Barlow believes that this will create a ripple effect,  “It’s going to start first with these southern countries trying to protect their land and their people from exploitation, but I think it will be grabbed onto by communities in our countries, for example, fighting the tarsands in Alberta.”

whitehouse.gov

27 dead in Guatemala massacre

Photo: whitehouse.gov

According to Guatemalan officials, 27 workers were slain on a remote coconut farm by a small army in the northern province of Péten on May 15.

Witnesses stated that 200 gunmen arrived on buses and attacked workers decapitating 23 men and two women, according to Jaime Leonel Otzin, director of Guatemala’s National Police.

Though police had not determined a motive for the attack, the presence of Mexican drug trafficking groups has made the area increasingly dangerous.

Slums of Rio de Janeiro. Photo: theplanningboardroom.net

Eviction of Brazilian slum residents in name of World Cup

The slum neighborhood of Jose Santos de Oliveira faces demolition for the construction of new bus routes as a part of Brazil’s makeover for the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

According to Oliveira, residents were not invited to city planning meetings to speak out against the proposed changes, Yahoo! News reports

However, Rio’s housing secretary Jorge Bittar claims that the number of people facing upheaval is small in comparison to the number of low-income citizens who will benefit from this investment in public transportation.

Many Brazilians are excited about their country hosting the World Cup, but, like Sueli Alfonso da Costa, also see the drastic changes that are being made.

“We are all for progress and the culture of sports, but in this case they came and destroyed our lives.”

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Looking for scholarships? A Resource for Latino Students

Fastweb, a scholarship site, put together a list of organizations that offer scholarships for Latino students. It is divided by the student’s field of study, geographic region of the scholarship, amount of money offered, and there’s even a section for undocumented students.

There are more directories to look for scholarships. Make sure to look out for their upcoming deadlines! Even if the deadlines have passed, it’s a good place to start.

You can also sign up for a Fastweb account, which will help find scholarships according to your personal information.  Scholarships can be daunting, but the resources are there, so use them!

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Mexican Poet Javier Sicilia Marches to End Drug Violence

While UCLA seniors will be graduating on June 10, Mexican poet Javier Sicilia will be marching for peace in Ciudad Juarez. The march is intended to bring awareness to the drug related violence the current governmental approach has failed to contain. Sicilia, whose 24-year-old son was murdered by cartel members, opposes the strategy Mexican President Felipe Calderon has taken thus far. As the war on drugs has been a controversial issue on both sides of the border, Sicilia and his organization, Network for Peace and Justice, hope to promote a different solution to the drug war, an end to corruption in the country and a peaceful conclusion to several unsolved criminal cases. According to CNN World, Sicilia has been “one of the loudest critics” of the Mexican government’s approach in handling organized crime.