Jun 24, 2021

Axios Latino

¡Muy buen jueves! This week’s Axios Latino newsletter dives into what shortens some Latinos’ life expectancy, and asserting identity through humor.

  • Situational awareness: Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the border tomorrow as part of her task to stem migration flows, as the Biden administration discusses ending a Trump-era policy that expels even asylum seekers to Mexico without processing.

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Smart Brevity™ count: 1,121 words, about a 4.5-minute read. Edited by Michele Salcedo.

1 big thing: Cartels attack civilians near border bridge

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Getty Images Photos: Guillermo Arias/AFP, Erin Clark/The Boston Globe, Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call.

Transnational criminal groups have operated throughout the pandemic despite border closures, and the fight over routes is again resulting in the slaughter of civilians in Mexico.

The latest: Last Saturday 19 people were killed, four of them suspected cartel members, and two women kidnapped across the border from McAllen, Texas, in Reynosa, in a rare attack on civilians.

Why it matters: The cartels smuggle drugs and even people through legal ports of entry, in hidden car compartments or commercial trucks. The movement is undeterred by any border wall or COVID-related closures. Now criminals are clashing violently to control the corridor to at least one crossing.

  • Authorities are blaming two Gulf Cartel splinter cells that are fighting over the area near the Pharr, Texas, bridge.

Meanwhile, unwitting border area residents are being roped into smuggling contraband for the groups. The criminal organizations recruit unsuspecting civilians by advertising "courier" jobs on Facebook, looking for people with cars who can still go through the ports of entry.

  • The cartels request an “interview” with “job” candidates in places like Ciudad Juárez, and while they talk the contraband is stashed in the distracted person's car.

Between the lines: The outbreak of violence comes as both governments hold advanced discussions on when and how to safely reopen the border.

  • Its closure to “non-essential” movement because of the pandemic has hit businesses that rely on customers from both sides of the border. The closure was just extended at least until July 21.

Go deeper.

2. The price Latinos pay for segregation
Expand chart
Data: Othering and Belonging Institute report; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. Latinos have a higher life expectancy and earn more yearly income when they live in integrated neighborhoods, compared to segregated areas, according to an analysis.

By the numbers: Latinos living in highly segregated white neighborhoods had a life expectancy of 81 years compared to 77 years in highly segregated areas where Latinos live.

  • The study found segregation of Latinos has skyrocketed in both small and large metro regions since 1990.
  • Latinos raised in integrated neighborhoods also earn $844 more per year as adults than Latinos raised in highly segregated communities of color, per a study by the University of California Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute.

What they’re saying: “Segregation remains one of the principal causes of group-based inequality, by separating people from life-enhancing resources, such as good schools, healthy environments, and access to jobs,” the report states.

Go deeper.

3. Behind the CDC-WhatsApp vaccination alliance

The WhatsApp tool also provides information on where and how to get the vaccines. Photo: Courtesy of WhatsApp.

The biggest messaging app in the world and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started collaborating this week to increase vaccination rates among U.S. Latinos.

Details: Latinos use WhatsApp more than any other demographic group in the U.S., and remain the second-least vaccinated group, after Black Americans, per CDC data.

Why it matters: WhatsApp was for several months a vector for the spread of COVID-19 disinformation across the globe until the Facebook-owned app began countering with chatbots.

  • Sonia Sroka, head of multicultural communications, tells Axios Latino the CDC alliance expands on a campaign first begun with the World Health Organization and Latin American governments like Argentina's and Mexico's.
  • The CDC chatbot is in Spanish since there is less factual immunization info available in that language in the U.S.

The big picture: Vaccination rates for Latinos in the U.S. have stumbled over hurdles to access.

  • Younger Latinos also report hesitancy over confusion and misinformation about the vaccines’ effectiveness.
  • The idea is to provide accurate information through “the apps that people actually use every day,” Sroka tells Axios Latino.
4. Stories we’re watching

Two women console each other next to a memorial on Copacabana beach. Around 2,000 people die daily from coronavirus in Brazil. Photo: Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty Images

  1. Over half a million Brazilians have now died from COVID-19, as the vaccination campaign struggles to get off the ground and President Jair Bolsonaro falsely claims that infection is better than vaccination.
  2. Renowned journalist Carlos Chamorro and opposition figure Luis Carrión were forced to flee Nicaragua this week after their homes were illegally raided by Daniel Ortega's regime, who’s already detained 19 dissidents since early June.
  3. Four high-level Guatemalan judges who have ruled against the military and former presidents for misconduct have made an unprecedented request for protection from the attorney general, claiming armed men have been harassing and following them.
5. The humor in being “authentically” Latino

John Paul Brammer’s well-reviewed “¡Hola, Papi!” hasjust gone into a second printing. Photo: Courtesy of John Paul Brammer

The question of what makes us Latino “enough” is lovingly and humorously discussed in a book that explores coming to terms with how we shape our identities and choose to express our Latinidad.

Why it matters: As a broader section of the U.S. acknowledges the cultural nuances and differences among Latinos, projects like ¡Hola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons show how the community’s diverse experiences can be universally connected.

  • The essays deal with “feeling homesick for a home [you’ve] never had,” bullying, queerness, mental health and being in love.

Details: Author and advice columnist John Paul Brammer told Axios Latino how turning “painful things” like discrimination “into lyrical or funny things” gave him a sense of agency and power by changing how he looked at them.

  • He says he feared the book would fail and be taken by some to represent the viability of all similar artistic works, since “people don’t give a whole lot of shots to Latino projects.”
  • But the book has now gone on to a second printing, just two weeks after launch.

What they’re saying: “What I hope people, specifically Latinos, get out of this book is to feel a little bit more empowered in who they are without trying to stretch or shift or edit themselves to try and fit into others' idea of what their lives should look like,” says Brammer.

  • Another project that humorously takes on the weighty expectations of Latinidad is the podcast “Hyphenated,” hosted by comediennes of Venezuelan and Cuban ancestries who discuss curse words, abuelas and the freedom of not fitting in.
6. 1 smile to go: An infestation turns into income

The Chávez family's work helps reduce invasive water hyacinths in El Salvador's Lake Suchitlán. Credit: Noticias Telemundo

A family has turned an invasive plant that is smothering the lakes near their home in northern El Salvador into a livelihood.

Details: The Chávezes remove water hyacinth from the shores of Lake Suchitlán and dry the plants to make a durable fiber, which they then turn into handicrafts.

  • That way they get an income as they help restore the lake.

Hasta la próxima semana, have a safe one.