👋🏽 Hello there! We hope you had a nice holiday weekend.

👀 En español 👀

This newsletter, edited by Astrid Galván, is 1,415 words, a 5.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Underground railroad's unsung hero

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: The University of Texas — Rio Grande Valley Digital Library

Descendants of Silvia Hector Webber, who played a role in helping enslaved people escape through Texas to the underground railroad into Mexico, are working to resurrect her story, Russell writes.

Why it matters: Texas is one of many states that have passed laws limiting discussions about slavery in schools, and Webber's descendants say teaching her story is the best way to fight attempts to erase history.

Driving the news: Descendants announced Saturday that they have found new records showing Silvia Webber was 8 years old when she was sold along with her mother, Sarah, from an area near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

  • Before the announcement at the Briscoe Center for American History, Webber had been a mysterious but influential figure in the often-overlooked underground railroad to Mexico.
  • She was the first free Black woman in present-day Austin, Texas.

Details: Webber's descendants recently created a nonprofit to preserve the history of a woman known in the region as "Aunt Puss."

  • The group is also raising money to maintain a Webber cemetery in South Texas and learn more about a woman who risked her life to help others seek freedom.
  • "We're not going to stay quiet, and we're going to ensure that the story, and this history and others like this, get out there," Omar "O.J." Treviño, a descendant of Webber, tells Axios.

Zoom in: Webber was the wife of John Webber, a white man who purchased her freedom before they settled in Webberville, Texas, which is now part of Austin.

  • The couple operated a ranch and built a ferry landing on their property to help slavery escapees move along the Colorado River toward Mexico, according to Ohio State history professor María Esther Hammack.
  • The couple had 11 children and used their ranch as a stop in the underground railroad to Mexico until racial discrimination forced them to move to South Texas, where they continued their clandestine mission, Hammack tells Axios Latino.

Background: The underground railroad to Mexico was a loosely organized path allowing enslaved Black people in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Alabama to escape bondage by fleeing south.

Zoom out: Many of Webber's accomplishments would have remained unknown had it not been for Hammack, who found Webber's freedom papers and has been researching the topic for years.

  • Hammack says she found Webber after searching for the "Harriet Tubman" of the underground railroad to Mexico.
  • "If I hadn't considered the importance of Harriet Tubman and her significance in the histories of freedom and abolition in the U.S., I perhaps never would have found Silvia," she says.

Keep reading

2. Homeownership rises despite interest rates

Homeownership rate
Data: National Association of Realtors; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The share of Hispanic, Black and Asian Americans who own a home grew over the past decade despite soaring interest rates in the past few years, the National Association of Realtors reports.

Why it matters: Homeownership is "Americans' biggest asset," says Jessica Lautz, deputy chief economist and vice president of research for the association.

  • "We know the typical homeowner has nearly $400,000 in wealth in comparison to the typical renter who has just over $10,000 in wealth."

Details: A report by NAR released today shows that Asians and Hispanics had the largest gains in homeownership rates from 2012 to 2022, while Black Americans had the smallest, Russell and Astrid write.

  • 63% of Asian Americans owned a home in 2022, compared to 57% in 2012.
  • Hispanics' share hit a record 51% in 2022, up from slightly more than 45% in 2012.
  • Black Americans' rate went from 42.5% in 2012 to 44% in 2022.
  • White Americans continue to have the highest ownership rates, increasing from 69% to 72% in the same time frame.

Between the lines: Although interest rates began to rise in 2022, peaking at nearly 8% last year, ownership rates have continued to climb, according to NAR.

  • "It's really important to note that even though we see a lower homeownership rate (for Latinos and Asian Americans) in comparison to white households, they are gaining ground," Lautz tells Axios.

Yes, but: Black and Latino households are still seeing higher denial rates for mortgage loans, Lautz says.

State of play: Geography plays a major role in homeownership for people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

  • Latinos (71%) and Black residents (57%) had the highest rates of homeownership in two of the poorest states — New Mexico and Mississippi, respectively.
  • That's because homes there are more affordable and there are programs that help first-time homebuyers, Lautz says.
  • Asian Americans had the highest rates in Hawaii, Maryland and South Carolina.

Share this story

3. The health care discrimination crisis

Data: The Commonwealth Fund/The African American Research Collaborative; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: The Commonwealth Fund/The African American Research Collaborative; Chart: Axios Visuals

More than half of health care workers say racial discrimination against patients is a major problem or crisis, while nearly half report seeing it happen in their own workplaces, according to a large national survey.

Why it matters: It's well-documented how racism in health care settings can harm patients' health, Axios' Maya Goldman writes.

  • But witnessing it can also hurt health care workers' wellbeing, potentially making it more difficult to hire and retain staff as serious provider shortages loom, according to the Commonwealth Fund and the African American Research Collaborative, which conducted the survey.

By the numbers: Black and Latino health care workers were more likely to report seeing racial or ethnic discrimination against patients compared with Asian American and Pacific Islander and white workers.

  • There's also a generational divide: 64% of health care workers ages 18 to 29 said they've seen patients face discrimination, compared with 25% of workers 60 and older.
  • Nearly half of health care workers (48%) said medical professionals are more accepting when white patients advocate for themselves than when Black patients do the same.
  • 57% said patients who don't speak English don't always get the same level of care as English-speaking patients.

Zoom in: Researchers last spring surveyed 3,000 health care workers representing 26 different job titles, including doctors, nurses, dental hygienists and mental health workers.

  • About half (47%) said discrimination in the field causes them at least some stress, with higher rates among Latino (63%) and Black (66%) health care workers compared with white workers.
  • To reduce discrimination, Commonwealth and AARC suggested that health care systems make it easier for workers and patients to submit anonymous reports, train staff to recognize unfair treatment, and introduce more opportunities to listen to patients and workers of color.

What they're saying: "Racism in these cases is especially worrisome because it can be lethal," Henry Fernández, the report's main author, told Noticias Telemundo.

  • He added, however, that younger generations are more aware of the issue because of anti-racism movements such as Black Lives Matter.

Continue reading

4. Stories we're watching

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

1. The federal trial against former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández starts today in New York. Hernández is charged with drug-trafficking, arms dealing and taking bribes from criminals while he was in power.

  • Hernández, who was once deemed by U.S. authorities as an ally in combatting high migration flows, faces a possible life sentence.
  • He denies the accusations, and claims the witnesses against him are drug-traffickers trying to frame him for his work with the DEA.

2. Cuba had a new round of mass blackouts last night, extending an electricity problem that's left between 20-45% of the island without power for several weeks.

  • The state electrical company and the country's power grid have long been plagued by a lack of maintenance and old infrastructure, as well as being dependent on imported fuel.
  • Similar mass blackouts in 2021 led to major protests.

5. 🐕 Smile to go: Puppy love matures

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Couples getting married in Lima last week. Source: via Telemundo

The Peruvian parks system helped several animals couples say "I do" in Lima last week with symbolic weddings, Marina writes.

Details: The "Michi boda" and "Matri-Can" event for cats and dogs was organized as part of a vaccination campaign that also included adoption drives and workshops on responsible pet ownership.

  • Aside from Peru, events like these symbolic unions between four-legged beings that show they really like each other have gained some traction.

✊🏽Russell is wondering if Silvia Hector Webber had a connection to his family, since his great great grandmother Francisca Martinez was a Black woman born in Monclova, Mexico.

🍿Marina is experiencing internet issues, but once that's fixed she will take advantage of Netflix putting the nominated animated film "Nimona" for free on YouTube.

📚 Astrid is in search of an enthralling new read (fiction only please!)

Thanks to Carlos Cunha, Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath and Axios Visuals for their many contributions!