Axios Latino

Red wooden block with Latino in colors engraved on it.

It's. Almost. Friday. Thanks for joining us today! 😁

🚨 Axios and Noticias Telemundo invite you to join us virtually for the inaugural Axios Latino Visionarios event on Sept. 29 at 6pm ET, featuring interviews with top Latino newsmakers across policy, culture and business. Register here.

  • Puede leer la versión en español aquí.

This newsletter, edited by Astrid Galván and Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath, is 1,357 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: Latinas climb in the Western Slope

Colorado Democratic State Senate candidate Elizabeth Velasco and Roaring Fork school board member Jasmin Ramirez pose in Aspen, Colorado.
Colorado Democratic state House candidate Elizabeth Velasco and Roaring Fork school board member Jasmin Ramirez. Photo: Russell Contreras/Axios.

Aspen, one of the nation's wealthiest communities, relies on Latinos to build and run hotels, but they haven't traditionally had political power. That may be changing, Russell writes.

The big picture: Latinas in and around Aspen are increasingly running for — and winning — elected office, a notable trend for the affluent and traditionally white-dominated mountain communities of Colorado, a battleground state.

What's happening: In June, Elizabeth Velasco became the first Latina to win a Democratic primary for a state House seat in the Western Slope.

  • The Mexican immigrant and firefighter is challenging Republican incumbent Perry Will to represent Aspen in a redrawn district that leans Democrat.
  • Jasmin Ramirez won a seat on the Roaring Fork School Board in 2019, becoming one of the area's first Latina school board members.
  • That made her a mini-celebrity around Aspen and inspired other Latinas to run for office, Alex Sánchez, founder of Voces Unidas de las Montañas, a nonprofit that helps elect Latinos, tells Axios.

Latina environmental activist Beatriz Soto came within a few hundred votes in 2020 of being elected to the Garfield County Board of Commissioners, traditionally a conservative body.

Zoom in: The progressive hamlet of Aspen is also home to the Aspen Ideas Festival, which brings together thinkers, writers, artists, business people and others. But it's part of a broader area represented in Congress by conservative firebrand Rep. Lauren Boebert (R), who often rails against undocumented immigrants.

What to watch: Voces Unidas de las Montañas is preparing at least three other Latinas in the Aspen area to run for any office in the near future, providing fundraising training and public speaking workshops, Sánchez says.

  • The Latinx House last week held its inaugural Raizado Festival in Aspen and said it is committed to holding the event there for at least 10 years to bring attention to Latinos in the area.

Keep reading.

2. Sundance Film Festival's first Latino leader

Eugene Hernandez, who was just named the next Sundance Film Festival director, smiles
Eugene Hernandez was announced Wednesday as the Sundance Film Festival's next director. Photo courtesy of Henny Garfunkel

Eugene Hernandez, an indie film veteran who has been running the New York Film Festival, is becoming the first Latino director of the Sundance Film Festival.

Details: Hernandez is a founder and former editor-in-chief of the indie-film publication Indiewire and has more than 25 years of experience in the film and media industry.

  • He is slated to lead the 2024 Park City-based event.

Why it matters: Latinos are deeply underrepresented in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera, according to the UCLA Hollywood Diversity report, which found only 2.7% of directors are Latino.

But, but, but: The Sundance Institute is trying to diversify indie film and, in addition to appointing Hernandez, is adding two new programs focused on developing Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander artists.

What they're saying: "Nearly 30 years ago, looking for direction and curious, I went to the Sundance Film Festival for the first time. I immediately connected with its mission, and it changed my life," Hernandez said in a statement.

  • "I'm so pleased to have him serve as our new Festival Director, helping to support a new generation of artists, and taking us into the next decade of Sundance's story," Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford said in a statement.

Flashback: Tabitha Jackson stepped down as director in June. She led the festival through two virtual years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The 2023 festival will be led by Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente and Kim Yutani, director of programming.

Share this story.

3. Opposing consultants start "Latino Vote" site

Logo of the Latino Vote podcast with Chuck Rocha and Mike Madrid.
Courtesy of

Two Latino consultants — one Democrat and one Republican — are launching a new website focused on news about Latino voters, Russell writes.

The big picture: aims to be a RealClearPolitics or Drudge Report-like aggregation source for news about Hispanic voters, whose political power is being closely tracked amid recent shifts in voting behavior.

  • The website promises to feature updated polling about Latino voters, news from other media sites and opinion pieces by Latino consultants and advocates.

Details: The project is an extension of the Latino Vote podcast run by Chuck Rocha and Mike Madrid, two Latino political consultants from opposite sides of the political spectrum.

  • Rocha and Madrid say Democrats and Republicans are ignoring the needs of Mexican American voters in the American Southwest and Puerto Rican voters in New York and Florida.
  • Rocha and Madrid also say a shortage of Latino journalists and distrust in media have helped contribute to disinformation on social media, which experts say has influenced Latino voters.

What they're saying: "We're taking on disinformation in a bipartisan way," Rocha told Axios.

  • "This website will fill a big need for journalists, academics, political professionals, and elected officials,” Madrid said in a statement.

The big picture: Data, surveys and recent primary elections show that Republicans are making inroads with Latinos, but Hispanic women are now shifting their support back to Democrats in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Keep reading.

4. Inside the battle against human smuggling in Guatemala

Guatemalan law enforcement prepare for an early morning search warrant execution. Photo: Stef Kight/Axios
Guatemalan law enforcement prepare for an early morning search warrant execution. Photo: Stef Kight/Axios

Axios' Stef Kight recently embedded with a special group of Guatemalan national police who are trained by U.S. officials to crack down on migrant and drug smuggling, human trafficking, fraud and other crimes that affect U.S. security.

State of play: The group is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit in Guatemala. TCIUs leverage diplomacy, tens of millions of dollars, training and equipment to support vetted police forces in tackling cartels, visa frauds and smuggling networks.

The big picture: Guatemalan police have been working hand in hand with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security since 2011.

  • Stef witnessed a search and arrest in Ciudad Mixco related to alleged visa fraud. It marked the TCIU's 21st case this year.
  • Human smuggling cases have become a primary focus of the unit, especially after the rise of migrant caravans in 2019 and back-to-back years of record numbers at the U.S. border.

What they're saying: "We're extending the border," says Ricardo Mayoral, deputy assistant director at the Homeland Security Investigations division of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

  • "We're providing the capacity, the training to our partners in the Western Hemisphere and other areas of the world" to stop criminal networks from coming to the U.S, Mayoral tells Axios.

Between the lines: For years, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — known as the Northern Triangle nations — have been top sources of migration to the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • Migrants and asylum seekers coming from Central America often cite financial strain, violence or political persecution as reasons for fleeing.

Read more.

5. Stories we're watching

Waorani Indigenous people outside of Ecuador’s Constitutional Court, September 6. Photo: Rodrigo Buendía/AFP via Getty Images
Waorani Indigenous people outside Ecuador’s Constitutional Court on Sept. 6. Photo: Rodrigo Buendía/AFP via Getty Images

Indigenous groups in Ecuador filed a lawsuit against the government on Tuesday that argues Quito has not kept its promises to keep loggers and miners away from their territories.

  • The Waorani and A’i Cofan peoples, native to the Amazon, told the Constitutional Court that local tribunals had previously demanded reviews of mining concessions.
  • Negotiations between the government and Indigenous groups have seen little progress, with the latter warning they may return to the streets. In June, Indigenous protesters blocked roads to demand an end to the extraction of gold and copper in their lands.

2. At a commemoration of Brazil’s independence bicentennial yesterday, President Jair Bolsonaro's supporters called on the military to take control of the country's electoral institutions .

  • Bolsonaro has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims of election fraud ahead of Oct. 2’s first-round presidential election.
  • The latest polls show Bolsonaro has slightly cut Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's lead but still trails the former president by 12 points.

6. 🪅 Pachanga: Lea Márquez Peterson

Photo illustration of Lea Marquez Peterson.
Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Courtesy of Lea Marquez Peterson.

Today's pachanga celebrates Lea Márquez Peterson, chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission and recently appointed to the National Association of Regulated Utility Commissioners’s subcommittee for nuclear issues.

  • Lea says she is proud to be the first Latina to serve in statewide office in the history of Arizona. As you should be, Lea! Congrats 😁

Do you also want to be featured in our🪅pachanga series? Reply to this email. Thanks for reading!