Reviving the World of Ballet

Lorna Feijoo

by Raquel Nieves

Classical ballet originated in European courts and for many years was dominated by European countries. Europeans introduced ballet to the states at the turn of the century, and up until the 1980s most ballet stars in America were either from the Soviet Union or England. Today, Latin American dancers are reviving the art of ballet all over the country as it takes on a new demographic and brings in new audiences.

Major ballet companies in the US such as American Ballet Theater, Boston Ballet and San Francisco Ballet found success with the help of Latino dancers. At American Ballet Theater, the United States’ most prestigious ballet company, seven of its 17 principal dancers are Latin American.

Strong ballet training is a key aspect of the growing participation of Latinos in classical ballet. For example, Escuela Superior de Ballet, of Guadalajara Mexico, is responsible for more than a third of the winners in American ballet competitions such as the International Ballet Competition and Youth American Grand Prix.

Cuban ballet schools also find success because of the country’s rich history in ballet. Cuban ballet legend, Alicia Alonso created the Cuban National Ballet in 1948 and also was a co-founder of The American Ballet Theater in 1940. In addition, ballet has been government sponsored in Cuba after Fidel Castro underwrote a network of state-sponsored ballet academies that are still going strong.

Sisters Lorena and Lorna Feijoo trained with Alonso’s Cuban National Ballet. After immigrating to the US, Lorena is now principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet and Lorna, a principal with Boston Ballet. Both Feijoos have danced every lead female role in ballet’s repertoire and have also performed contemporary works by choreographers such as George Balanchine, William Forsythe, and Cristopher Wheeldon.

Latin American dancers are extremely talented and bring an amazing caliber and style to the art of ballet. Jose Manuel Carreno, a Cuban principal dancer with American Ballet Theater, seems to jump seven feet in the air with absolutely no effort. His upper body remains fluid and elegant, as he performs impossibly fast footwork and busts out nine flawless pirouettes.

And all aspiring ballerinas can look up to another Cuban dancer, Xiomara Reyes. Reyes, a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater, has a dance quality unlike any other ballerina on stage. Every step, from a simple plié to the most intricate turn combination, is delivered with complete intent and passion. Reyes trained with The Cuban National Ballet School and has danced with top ballet companies across the world such as Royal Ballet London.

Company after company hires dancers from Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean who quickly scale the ranks from corps de ballet to principal dancers. This influx attracts the press back to ballet, bringing Latino interest and encouraging young Latinos to pick up ballet.  Ballet rehearsals all over the country are becoming bilingual, as Latinos continue to be the up and coming force in American ballet.

Previously printed Fall 09’s Winter 2010 Poetry Contest

Thanks for your submissions!!

Check out the winners in our upcoming Winter 2010 issue of La Gente; they’ll be posted online once the newsmag hits the stands.

Winter 2010 Poetry Contest

La Gente is proud to announce our Winter 2010 Poetry Contest. The theme is California: Dreams, Experiences, and Fears. La Gente is proud to have its roots at the University of California, Los Angeles. California has always been a leading state in new technology, trends, and political reform. What better way to express our feelings about California than in poetry? For the first time the contest will be held online at

Poetry Rules:

Who can enter?

Everyone is welcome.

When can I enter?

The deadline for the contest is February 13, 2010.

Why should I enter?

If you are selected as one of the 3 runners up or the grand prize winner, your poem will be published in and the grand prize winner will have their poem published in the print issue of UCLA’s La Gente Newsmagazine.

What do I enter?

1. Poems must be revelate to the theme: California- Dreams, Experiences, and Fears. The writer does not have to be a native of California.

2. Poems can be either in English, Spanish, or Portuguese. If the poem is written in Spanish or Portuguese, we will translate it in English, if writer does not provide a translation.

3. Poems have to be accompanied with the following information: Author’s first and last name, Age, Occuption and Address (the address will not be publish either online or print, the information will be use to send you copies of the print issue if you are selected as the prize winner).

4. You are limited to one entry.

5. We do not support plagiarism.

How do I enter?

Submit your poem to [email protected] by February 13, 2009 by 5pm Pacific Time.

Good luck and we wish you the best.

The End of Public Education

In the midst of a crumbling state budget, Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines and the Board of Education accepted that they could not realistically save failing schools. Early last summer, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) proposed the Public School Choice plan which will relinquish LAUSD administrative and financial control of over 200 schools. In addition, new multimillion-dollar school sites will also be available for bidding.

Schools which have consistently underperformed in state tests and demonstrated drastically low Academic Progress Index scores have been identified by the LAUSD as focus schools and will be privatized by an outside group.

The task of saving our schools will fall upon small charter school programs and other non-profit groups such as GreenDot, Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, and Synergy Academies among others. Over 617,000 students are relying on the LAUSD for an education this 2009-2010 academic year.

Charter schools and non-profits will need to bridge a large demographic and educational divide in the affected areas of South and East Los Angeles as well as the San Fernando Valley. Overcrowding, coupled with a high numbers of English as a second language learners makes overhauling schools in these areas an incredibly urgent and complex task. The new administration for these schools will need to find a way to address the educational needs and deficiencies of the existing student population while integrating their own students, faculty and new curriculum.

Despite the possibilities that this offers, there are lingering uncertainties. Can outside groups save our schools? More importantly, how long will it take?

The application process started in late October and final decisions will be made by the Board of Education in February. Cortines released a statement on Jan. 15 in which he stressed that LAUSD is “encouraging input from all community members who support [their] public schools including parents, guardians, students, teachers and other LAUSD employees.” The application process is detailed, but the final word will rest upon the Board of Education.

Much will remain uncertain within the coming months, however what will be certain is that the takeover among schools will likely be messy, leaving hundreds of teachers unemployed. Whether or not charter schools can effectively pick up the pieces LAUSD leaves behind, students will be the first to feel the resounding effects of this change.

Plans will be available Tuesday, Jan. 19 at the LAUSD website

Previously printed Fall 2009

Obama Takes Step Backward on Cuba

Republished with the permission of New America Media

The Obama administration took a step backward on U.S. relations with Cuba when it included it on a terrorist list. We urge the administration to reconsider this decision.

The list of 14 nations the United States considers either sponsors of terrorism or countries of interest includes Cuba and Saudi Arabia. U.S.-bound air passengers from these nations are to receive extra security checks, including pat-downs. This was in reaction to the Christmas day terrorism attempt during a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Last we understood, the attempted attack broke through because of a failure of national intelligence, not out of a terror campaign by Cubans. As is, the United States applies a long list of restrictions to Cuba under a decades-old embargo policy.

The U.S. State Department has said that Cuba harbors fugitives from justice and has supported Colombian and Basque rebel groups. The Cuban government disputes these claims or offers political rationalizations for individuals it brands as asylees.

But we know that if Cuba posed such a clear and present danger to the United States, that President Obama would not have relaxed some travel and other restrictions on Cuba, as he did last year. Representatives like Jose Serrano and Sam Farr have called for building on that momentum to change stagnant, ineffective policies toward Cuba.

In the context of the last eight years and specifically the events since Christmas day, the nation has been focused, and rightfully so, on terrorism campaigns against U.S. citizens. It makes sense that Saudi Arabia, where the Sept. 11 attackers trained, is included on that list.

While the Castro regime is not innocent, putting Cuba in the same league as Iran, for example, is unfair and undermines efforts towards a 21st century foreign policy.

My Imagined Rendezvous With Julian Casablancas

Jan 8, 2009

So he said to me before the end, “well what can I say, unlocking life’s mysteries is the responsibility of the dissatisfied”

I have this thing for rugged guys with leather jackets who have hair that teases the eye, barely touching what is the contour of a shoulder, that wear shiny black boots that turn themselves to spears at their front end, existing for the purpose of piercing out the eyeballs of careless children here and there (as in the left and the right eye sockets respectively or interchangeably). From New York City preferably, signs of alcoholism maybe, it’s the worthless bonus that comes with the ultra package, like the worthless wipe samples we get ALWAYS poorly attached. (Make sure this reference to always pads is made more obvious somehow). They sing passionately and smoke although I wish they didn’t. Deep, raspy yet smooth voices: First box checked. They sing, they weren’t thought to sing though. No lessons. Naturals. Some propose these guys were singing in the womb to the beat of the pulsating viscera. They don’t have soul they are soul and they are creators of soul and fuel soul into the soul of the world. Please don’t be shy, trust that this world is loosing its soul as you read. Whatever you’re thinking is exactly right, no doubt, hang in there. They sing all the way to hell in purple baskets they just go go go go go go go go leaving their words behind for soul searching fiends to follow, leaving their Phrazes For The Young behind for soul searching fiends to swallow, leaving their Phrazes For The Young behind because the young are the future and the world is shallow and hallow (whichever rhymes better I guess is good).

Jan 4, 2009

Note: Alas my thoughts found the words I sought. Time 12:51. Thanks Julian

Verses in gratitude to Casablancas: for ALL your Phrazes

I thought I thought I could not stand but I do

Sit in the tree and hang from the branch and the bar and I could

Go you know go to the movie grab some grub at the burger place

Chewing once and twice choo choo choo chewing away and I will always

Go go go go go go go go like the strokes

They re my favorite band of

Gypsies that steel your soul away I wish

I could but I thought I could and I can’t

Or I couldn’t? Maybe if I try again

Ill win?

But I tried and that time showed me I can’t win

Like the strokes they’re my favorite band of gypsies

Cus they’re jingles are sweet and long they go on they just

Go go go go go go go go like the strokes because it feels good to keep going sometimes when the song’s

really good and

it gots lots of soul away I wish I could steel yours

But I tried one more time and I didn’t get it

You see

I said I can’t win like the strokes

And I should probably stop trying my luck like the strokes cus I talk way too much like the strokes and that’s why maybe last night like the strokes you asked me is this it? Like the strokes and I told you to be patient with me Cus it’s hard to explain like the strokes but I guess that in this age, in the modern age like the strokes you just have to deal with life as it comes, just take it or leave it like the strokes just take it or leave and go go go go go go go go go

NY Dominicans feel Haiti’s Pain

Republished with the permission of New American Media

While two-thirds of Haiti’s capital was being destroyed by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, people felt a tremor throughout the Dominican Republic as well and took to the streets in panic, reports El Diario, which spoke to family members in Manhattan’s Dominican community. Amantina Otero said when he learned that the earthquake was felt throughout the island, he immediately called his family in Santo Domingo, who then told him all was well. Now his concern is for those in Haiti. Joseph Mercedes also called his family and was told that everyone was safe but that the cathedral in Haiti had fallen and there were hundreds dead. Others contacted siblings, who claimed Dominican people were screaming in the streets with fear but then everything calmed down.

Jesuit Massacre Still Haunts Salvadorans After 20 Years

Republished with permission of New American Media

Written by Mary Jo McConahay, Originally posted: Nov. 16, 2009

SAN SALVADOR — Twenty years ago, three colleagues and I were the first reporters on the scene of the murders here of six Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter, a turning point in the civil war that cost 75,000 other Salvadoran lives. As gatherings the world over commemorate the special anniversary, I remember details of that morning I do not want to forget.

“They’ve killed Ellacuria,” said the young priest in the hotel parking lot.

He had rushed over to tell reporters, he said, and we were the first he met.

We reserved belief. The death of Ignacio Ellacuria, rector of San Salvador’s Jesuit university and a world-renowned theologian, had been announced more than once during the civil war. We jumped into a jeep anyway.

At the university side gate, we knocked on a black iron door. From across the street, a soldier in a guardhouse kept watch. Guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) had been trying for six days to take over the capital. The army was fighting back with all the U.S.-supplied arms and aircraft it had. At this hour of morning, just after curfew lifted, you didn’t know what lay behind any closed door.

Inside, on the grass, we saw four bundles covered with white sheets stained with what looked like blood.

“Come with me,” said José María Tojeira, the Jesuits’ Central America provincial. My colleagues, radio reporters, were already striding with their mics toward two clerics, one elderly and one very young, who stood gazing at the bundles. I followed Tojeira.

“Come, look,” he said as we stepped inside the residence.

A man lay lifeless in the hall. A priest, I supposed, but not Ellacuria. A smear of crimson streaked the floor. Tojeira stood by an open door to one of the rooms. He didn’t speak, but tilted his head for me to look inside. A narrow room with a small bed and books, one fallen on the floor, next to a man’s body, some blood. Not like knife wounds, likely bullets. I wrote in my reporter’s notebook furiously, sloppily, tethering myself to the pages. Each time, Tojeira waited.

Instead of returning to the garden, however, we descended a short flight of outdoor steps. A door stood ajar. I asked myself what more might be possible.

The body of a woman lay over that of a girl. The woman’s remains faced the door, as if she had stood in front of the girl at the last moment. I could hardly breathe. My own daughter was three at the time.

By the time Tojeira and I ascended to the garden once more, news photographers had arrived.

“Father, you have to take the covers off the bodies,” I said.

Tojeira looked alarmed for a moment, then decisive.

“Promise me that these pictures, all this, will reach the Jesuits, will be known,” he said.

I felt a jolt. Tojeira’s words told me he was uncertain whether he would live through the day. Jesuits, most notably Ellacuria, had had the ear of both sides in the civil war, from President Alfredo Cristiani of the right-wing ARENA party, to leftist FMLN commanders. The scholar-priests pushed for a negotiated, non-military solution. To radical rightists, this was intolerable. A call for “Death to Jesuits” had surfaced, along with threats to others in the atmosphere of war.

I knew the photographers. I promised Tojeira. The sheets came off.

There was Ellacuria, still in his bathrobe, looking up, as if he had faced his killer. There was Ignacio Martin-Baro, the psychologist I had first met in San Francisco years before, when he explained to me how difficult it was to treat traumatic stress while people were drowning in war. Segundo Montes lay there, the sociologist to whom we always went for facts about the exodus that was making Los Angeles the second largest El Salvadoran city. He had tracked the uprooting carefully, sadly, holding back anger -– it seemed to me -– when he had described how the war was separating families, and emptied old towns.

I did not know the other priests who died that day, Amando López, Joaquín López y López and Juan Ramón Moreno. I did not know (but felt I did) the cook and her daughter, Julia Elba Ramos and Celina Ramos. When I visited the place of the murders recently, I saw that the roses Julia’s husband planted in the days after the massacre had grown to dominate the garden. Ellacuria’s brown bathrobe hung behind glass in the nearby museum.

An engineering student named Martin sat in the little room I had last seen disheveled and smelling of death, with the bodies of the two women on the floor. Young Martin was describing to visitors the history of that day, allowing them to choose which of two photo albums they wanted to see, one that was more “difficult” to pore through, and one that was “softer.” How in God’s name, I wondered, might there be a “soft” version of the images I saw?

I did not feel like speaking, but carried away something I heard Martin say. He was only a toddler on that day 20 years ago, but as he learned how the men worked to end the war, minister among the suffering, and how they died, he decided to join others volunteering for the “museum.”

“We cannot allow forgetting,” he said.

Journalist Mary Jo McConahay’s “Maya Roads, Travels through Space and Time in the American Rainforest,” will appear in 2011, from Chicago Review Press

Estimates of up to 100,000 Dead in Haiti’s 7.0 Earthquake

Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake yesterday, Jan. 12. There has been a worldwide response with nations like the U.S., Iceland, Spain, France, Brazil and China sending aid in the form of search and rescue teams, doctors, medical supplies and troops. Organizations such as the World Food Program, Americare and the United Nation’s World Health Organization have also sent aid. The World Bank has pledged $100 million. The first 72 hours are going to be crucial in the search and rescue for those trapped under the rubble. Haiti must clean up and rebuild their infrastructure; as of yet such necessities as water and electricity are unavailable.


Click here for up to the minute updates and information through CNN.

Nortec Collective: Revitalizing Musical Art

By Violeta Lerma

Since La Gente newsmagazine printed a review of Nortec Collective’s “Tijuana Sessions Vol. 3” in spring of 2006, the group has entered into new territory receiving the 2009 Grammy nominations for Best Alternative Album and Best Recording Package. The five-member group has since become four and has has opted to split their act into smaller collaborations instead of performing together. Here is a quick recap.

Nortec, the musical style, blends electronic beats with the rhythms of Mexican norteño, banda, and tambora music. The name is a combination of norte, referring to northern Mexico (not norteño, as commonly thought) and techno. Nortec music exploded onto the Tijuana underground music scene in 1999 after Ramón Amezcua, under the stage name Bostich, digitally processed a sampler of drum, tuba, and accordion recordings to produce the dance hit “Polris.”

Fellow music producers creating more tracks that Bostich, Fussible (Pepe Mogt) and producer Melo Ruiz compiled into “The Nor-tec Sampler.” Thus Nortec Collective was born. However, there is more to Nortec Collective than innovative music; at its heart is the spirit of collaboration. “With the Collective, we invited a bunch musicians and artists to collaborate,” Mogt said in an interview with “We created Nortec to be part of an aesthetic, not only the music, but graphic design, as well.”

Colectivo Visual (Visual Collective), a group of designers and video performances artists, take care of the visuals of Nortec’s live shows as a compliment to the music. The resulting aesthetic is an amalgamation of graphic design, animation, short films, creative lighting and of course, Nortec music.

Undoubtedly, Nortec Collective’s productions require elaborate technology. “Nortec has always been creating music based on the technologies available,” Bostich said in an interview with La Gente. They use technology such as the Tenori-on, a handheld interface that programs musical notes into LED switches,a fruitful decision, for in 2008, they received yet another Grammy nomination for the album “Tijuana Sound Machine by Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich and Fussible” (Nacional Records).

While electronic beats are standard for each song, Nortec Collective “essentially will always be an instrumental Norteño-Electronic collaboration, ” Bostich said to La Gente. “If we were to mix in Mariachi, for example, our music would seem fake. Although our music will always be electronic, we will continue to use live instruments to bring about the Tijuana soundtrack that has been our lives.”

Previously printed Winter 2009

In Response to the UC Fee Increase

December 3, 2009

Dear La Gente,

I hope this letter reaches you in the best of health and spirits hechandoles ganas a su lucha. I’m writing in solidarity with you all. While I was in the Secure Housing Unit you reached out with your newsmag and made us all proud of the path you’re on and the love for our people. I was outraged at the choices that were taken by the UC Regents to increase student fees. And most of all by the lack of support for your protest by elected officials. The mayor loves the camera yet when it matters he’s nowhere to be seen. There’s no justification for not standing with people like Gloria Molina in the Assembly and others in Senate. These democrates with raza surnames take us for granted. You are the future. “Remember to Remember” – let’em know that too. There are thousands of you across the state network let’em know you’ll see them at the ballot box. How can they guarantee a prison cell but not a college education – the true equalizer in this world. Moral cowards, they want to keep the club at the top exclusive to the families with money and disenfranchize the rest. You only lose when you quit puro pa’delante! Keep your head up always with dignity of our ancesters, and for all the lil’ ones who look up to you for makin’ it to college, you gotta persevere for them most of all. Hechenle ganas like your jefes, jefas and abuelitos taught you!


Armando Ibarra

Editors’ Note:

A prisoner in the California Correctional Institution, Armando Ibbara is part of La Gente’s Prisoner Letter Program which provides information about present-day issues affecting Latinos, either through our newsmagazine or donated books. La Gente also provides a space for the prisoners’ opinions and creativity through the Sigan Luchando section currently in our print newsmagazine and upcoming in