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Tattoo artist Andy “Kedavra” Rodrigues in the studio he co-owns, Chupacabra Tattoo in New York. Photo: J. Conrad Williams, Jr./Newsday RM via Getty Images

Latino tattoo artists and studio owners are helping drive the industry's fast growth as the pandemic wears on.

Why it matters: Tattooing is a booming industry that brings in more than $1 billion yearly in the U.S. alone. Its popularity keeps growing — with estimates its market size will increase 23% this year — and ink artists are influencers on Instagram and other platforms.

Details: Latinos now account for 21% of all tattoo artists in the U.S., the second largest group after white non-Hispanics, according to data compiled by career site Zippia.

  • Several of those tattoo artists are in high demand and have thousands of followers on social media.
  • Freddy Negrete, a tattooing pioneer known for creating black and gray tattoos with shadowing, in what is known as Chicano style, is among the best-known Latino artists.
  • Latino tattoo art now also ranges in styles and colors, from fine-line to floral, with several artists incorporating their Indigenous roots into designs that emulate Otomí, Mapuche or Huichol art.

Context: A 2019 Ipsos poll found 30% of Americans have at least one tattoo and 36% of non-white respondents said they were inked (the poll didn’t include an ethnic breakdown).

  • Almost all said they did not regret getting tattoos.

What's happening: Tattoos were controversial for many years, believed to be signs of gang affiliation and past crimes, especially among Latinos and Black people.

  • But they’re becoming more accepted, in part because of their popularity among celebrities and professional athletes, tattooer Nikko Hurtado told Radar Telemundo.
  • Disney, where 27% of workers are Hispanic, recently changed its dress code to allow visible tattoos.

Yes, but: Latino immigrants and asylum-seekers are still sometimes discriminated against and accused of being gang members solely for having tattoos, regardless of their imagery.

  • Tattoo removal remains popular, especially for former Latino gang members, who usually have face or hand tattoos referencing the group they were in, or for Latinas who were sex trafficked and branded.
  • Gang intervention organizations and job training programs for people who have left gangs offer tattoo removal services as well. There are also groups that offer free cover-ups.

Go deeper

Ward remap battle could come to ballot near you

Chicago Ald. Gilbert Villegas, chair of the Latino caucus, during a City Council meeting in 2021. Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

It's early 2022 and the Black and Latino caucuses are still at odds over the new city ward map with no compromise in sight.

Why it matters: This decennial remap will set the course of Chicago politics for the next decade as a theoretical reflection of the 2020 census figures.

FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly COVID antibody treatments

A coldbox containing monoclonal antibody treatments at a Regeneron clinic in Pembroke Pines, Florida, in August. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FDA said Monday it's limiting the use of two monoclonal antibody therapies as COVID-19 treatments because data indicates they're "highly unlikely" to be effective against the dominant Omicron variant.

Driving the news: The FDA revised the authorizations for Regeneron and Eli Lilly "to limit their use to only when the patient is likely to have been infected with or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments," per a statement from the agency.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

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