Axios Latino

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🚨Join Axios’ Russell Contreras and Jay Jordan in Houston, Texas, at 8am CT Tuesday as we celebrate the launch of the Axios Houston newsletter with an event focused on sustainability efforts and eco-friendly initiatives in the city. Register here to attend in person or virtually.

This newsletter, edited by Astrid Galván and Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath, is 1,439 words, a 5.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Latino workers rise up

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Latino workers say they are finding their voice in the resurgence of unionization across the U.S, Axios' Shawna Chen and Hope King write.

The big picture: The pandemic and tight labor market are leading more workers to organize for better conditions across the country and within new companies, including Starbucks and Amazon.

What they’re saying: The pandemic made clear corporations’ lack of commitment to employees, with many “choosing their profits over their workers,” Beto Sanchez, an organizer with Starbucks Workers United, says.

  • Sanchez is one of seven workers in Memphis that Starbucks fired after going on a local TV station to talk about their union campaign. A federal judge last month ordered the company to reinstate them.
  • Sanchez, 25, says organizing is “deeply embedded in Latino culture.” His own grandparents joined protests for better working conditions as coffee bean pickers in Nicaragua in the mid-20th century.

State of play: Since the end of last year, workers have voted to unionize for the first time ever at Amazon, Apple and Chipotle.

Latinos are not just a part of unionization efforts but of wider labor movement gains as well.

  • Latinas in California helped drive a successful campaign for a new law that will give fast food employees a larger role in setting wage and workplace standards.
  • “As Latinos, sometimes they see us as if we don't know how to defend ourselves,” Angelica Hernandez, a McDonald's employee who helped lead the effort, said. “But it's not just fast food workers that are standing up and fighting ... We're all raising our voices as a Latino community.”

Flashback: Many consider Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta to be the most notable Latino labor leaders, but organizing has always been part of Latino history.

  • In 1903, Mexican and Japanese farmworkers created the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association and organized a strike to protest wage cuts and an exploitative subcontracting system.
  • Puerto Ricans led several labor unions that went on strike to demand better wages and working conditions for food and hotel workers in the 1930s.

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2. Square goes Spanish

Illustration of a pair of exclamation points, one inverted, both using Square's logo as the dots.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

One of the biggest payment-processing companies in the U.S. now offers its services in Spanish, Marina writes.

Why it matters: Spanish is the second most-used language in the U.S., after English, with over 41 million people speaking it at home, according to Census data.

Details: Square, which allows millions of small businesses to accept credit card payments, announced this week that all of its services and hardware will work in both English and Spanish in the U.S.

  • Businesses — Hispanic-owned and otherwise — will be able to choose which language to use for any banking and loan services hired through Square.
  • Those businesses’ customers will be able to select either language when looking at order totals and tipping options or to input their contact information for a digital receipt.
  • Square, part of a conglomerate that also runs Cash App and the “buy now, pay later” service Afterpay, says it has “millions of users.”

The big picture: Financial tech companies increasingly offer an avenue for Latinos to access cash and payment transactions.

  • Banks have historically underserved Hispanic customers, charging people of color higher fees, for example. They have in the past also denied Latinos loans at higher rates than white non-Hispanics.
  • Over 12% of all U.S. Hispanic households said they don’t have a bank account in 2021, as many Latinos say they distrust banks or fear not having the minimum amounts to maintain an account.

What they’re saying: “By providing fair and accessible financial services tools spelled out in Spanish and backed up by Spanish-language customer service, Square is taking one step further toward ensuring Latino entrepreneurs have the tools they need to start, run, grow, or adapt their businesses,” Christina Riechers, head of product for Square Banking, said in a statement.

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3. Visionaria: Sylvia Mendez

Sylvia Mendez speaks with a microphone after being honored at an event in Colorado
Sylvia Mendez speaks at the Aspen Meadows Resort. Photo: Nick Tininenko/Getty Images for The Latinx House

Editor's note: As we prepare for our inaugural Axios Latino Visionarios event, we're highlighting different people who have made a mark in the lives of Latinos.

Sylvia Mendez has dedicated much of her life to ensuring that the legacy of her parents' landmark school desegregation crusade on her behalf be remembered. But, at the age of 86, she's ready to pass the torch, she told Russell.

Why it matters: Mendez was at the center of the 1947 Mendez v. Westminster case that ended legal segregation in California schools and helped set up the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation decision.

The big picture: For 20 years, she has campaigned to raise awareness of the case. Now the city of Westminster is building a Mendez Historic Freedom Trail and Monument to tell her family's story.

  • Mendez was honored last month at the Raizado Festival Icon Awards Ceremony and Dinner at the Aspen Meadows Resort, but she told Axios she is ready for her younger sister, Sandra Mendez Duran, to take up the campaign.
  • The younger sister was born after the case was decided and said she never heard her parents talk about it. “They didn't brag. They were humble people.”

Background: In 1945, Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez sued a school district in Westminster that refused to enroll their children because of their dark skin color.

  • The case brought together Black and Latino intellectuals and lawyers. Education scholar George I. Sánchez and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, then with the NAACP, soon started corresponding about future school desegregation strategies.

The result: The case went to trial in federal court in Los Angeles and the plaintiffs won. On April 14, 1947, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision. Two months later, then-California Gov. Earl Warren outlawed school segregation in the state.

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4. Gen Z's dreams of homeownership

Data: Bank of America; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios

Hispanic members of Generation Z are more likely to prioritize homeownership than non-Hispanics in their same age group, a new study by Bank of America found.

The big picture: Latino homeownership rates have grown from 46% in 2000 to 48% in 2021, according to a report by the The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. But young Hispanics still face barriers to financial success, the BofA report found.

By the numbers: The study surveyed nearly 1,000 people ages 18 to 25.

  • 22% of Hispanic respondents said they're likely to prioritize buying a home in the year ahead, compared to 14% of non-Hispanics.
  • 45% said fully paying off a home or mortgage aligns with their definition of financial success
  • 42% don't have any investments, compared to 36% of non-Hispanic respondents.

The intrigue: 36% of Gen Z Latinos want to pass down wealth to the next generation, and 36% want to succeed financially to make their parents proud.

Yes, but: Obstacles remain for most Gen Zers, Hispanic or not.

  • 59% of all respondents said the high cost of living was a barrier to financial success, and 45% said not having enough income was a barrier to achieving financial goals.

5. Stories we're watching

Colombian President Gustavo Petro stands with shadows behind him
Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Aug. 20. Photo: Guillermo Legaria Schweizer/Getty Images

1. Colombia’s new government is set to restart peace negotiations in the coming weeks with the last major guerrilla force in the country, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN).

  • Venezuela accepted an invitation this week to be one of the third-party countries that will facilitate discussions.
  • Colombian President Gustavo Petro promised during his campaign this year to restart negotiations with the ELN, which were suspended in 2018 after a car bomb attack, and to re-establish relations with Venezuela, which stopped three years ago.

2. A glacier on the Chilean side of Patagonia collapsed this week amid unusually high temperatures.

  • Tourists at the Queulat National Park caught the incident on video.
  • Spring is approaching in the Southern Cone, where the past three summers have shattered temperature records.

6. 🪅 Pachanga: David Plazas

A photo illustration of David Plazas.
Photo: Courtsey of David Plazas.

David Plazas is a friend of Axios Latino and honestly one of the nicest guys Astrid's ever met. We're excited to celebrate him today!

  • He's especially proud of having won the 2021 Leadership Award from the Association of LGBTQ Journalists.
  • Plazas is the opinion and engagement director for the USA TODAY Network newsrooms in Tennessee, including The Tennessean's.

Thank you for reading! And a big thanks to Carlos Cunha for copy editing today's newsletter.