Axios Latino

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¡Muy buen jueves! Today we talk of preventable cancer and forensic justice, cast light on a world-changing technique, and broach Latino professionals’ dissatisfaction.

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This newsletter — edited by Michele Salcedo — is 1,250 words, about a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: Unknown no more

Crosses, some with rosaries, in Darwin Cemetery in the Malvinas Islands.
Over 200 crosses dot the Darwin Cemetery in the Malvinas, aka the Falkland Islands. Most once marked the graves of unidentified soldiers who have since been ID’d. Photo: Martín Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

Latin Americans lying beneath unmarked tombstones and in mass graves across the region are recovering their names, decades removed from the conflicts that took their lives.

Driving the news: Last week six Argentine soldiers who died on the Malvinas Islands during the 1982 Falklands War were ID’d through forensic anthropology and genetic testing, as part of an international project supported by the Red Cross.

  • Five had been buried in a single grave with a plaque that reads “C.1.10: Argentine soldier known only to God.”

Why it matters: The identification of sometimes minuscule remains are helping build cases so justice can still be served and families can finally get closure. Experts around the world have engaged in the pioneering work.

  • The Equipo Argentino de AntropologĂ­a Forense, for example, has supported investigations in 35 countries, including identifying remains of migrants who died along the U.S.-Mexico border or the search in South Africa for people who went missing during apartheid.
  • A similar team in Guatemala has so far identified over 3,700 people who were slaughtered or disappeared during three decades of civil war.
  • And a trial is underway over the massacre of 1,000 Salvadoran civilians at El Mozote in 1981, after remains were partly identified and studied by the region’s forensic anthropologists.

Between the lines: Some of the people who do this work are not professionally trained, such as the Buscadoras in Mexico, who developed through trial and error a way to find remains in cartels’ “extermination fields.”

  • They insert a metal rod deep into the soil; if it smells like rot when taken out, they know they’ve found remains. Then they dig hoping to find their loved ones.
  • Authorities claim they are too overwhelmed to search for those reported missing due to violent circumstances, with official estimates pointing to over 85,000 people who have disappeared since 2006, and over 1,600 mass graves sites found just in the past three years.

Keep reading.

2. Heritage imprint: Digits to solve crimes. Credit Argentina

A fingerprint is examined under a magnifier in a Moscow lab.
A fingerprint under study in a Moscow lab, June 2020. Photo: Sergei Karpukhin/TASS via Getty Images

To crack a case, search for fingerprints: They're a tool used around the world thanks to an Argentine, Axios' Yacob Reyes reports.

Why it matters: The technique to classify fingerprints, developed by Argentine-Croatian police officer Juan Vucetich in 1892, introduced the role of biometric data in crime-solving.

  • Fingerprints are still some of the most commonly collected evidence at a crime scene, according to a National Institute of Justice report.
  • Cases with biological evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA, are more likely to end in arrest than cases without, per the report.

Details: 129 years ago, Vucetich’s classification system was used to solve the murder of two children in the small town of Necochea, Argentina.

  • It is considered the first homicide solved by fingerprint evidence, demonstrating the value of Vucetich’s system. Before long, the practice spread rapidly throughout the world.

Flashback: Before Vucetich developed his fingerprint identification system, the only available identification method was Bertillonage, which involved recording highly detailed body measurements and what has come to be known as the mug shot.

Keep reading.

Go deeper into Axios' Hispanic Heritage Month coverage:

3. Latino professionals to managers: Walk the talk

Data: YouGov on behalf of LinkedIn; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: YouGov on behalf of LinkedIn; Chart: Axios Visuals

Half of U.S. Latinos feel their workplace is not a nurturing environment for diverse professionals, even as a majority think their office leaders do consider inclusion to be important, per a poll carried out by YouGov and LinkedIn.

By the numbers: 37% of Latino professionals in the survey said they are considering leaving their jobs because of lack of recognition, of opportunities and of leaders with shared experiences who can offer mentorship.

  • That number is greater than the 1 in 4 American workers who are planning to look for other work post-pandemic, in what’s been dubbed the Great Resignation.
  • 51% of those surveyed pointed out that, after mass racial justice protests, their company talked a lot about making office culture changes but those reforms often did not come to pass.

Keep reading.

4. ⚕️ Facing higher rates of preventable cancer

Data: Miller et al., Cancer statistics for the US Hispanic/Latino population, 2021; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

U.S. Latinos are more likely to suffer from potentially preventable cancers than non-Hispanic whites, according to a report released Tuesday, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez writes.

Why it matters: The research underlines how a lack of health insurance for Latinos blocks early detection of preventable cancers, such as stomach, liver and cervical cancer.

  • The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 176,600 new cancer cases and 46,500 cancer deaths in 2021 among Latino communities in the U.S.
  • The report’s authors noted the burden “could be reduced by increasing access to high-quality prevention, early detection, and treatment services.”

By the numbers: 1 in 42 Latino men will develop liver cancer, compared to 1 in 85 non-Hispanic whites, the researchers found.

  • Similarly, 1 in 64 Latinos will develop stomach cancer, compared to 1 in 122 non-Hispanic whites. Latinos are also around twice as likely to die from these cancers.
  • Latinas are more than twice as likely to develop liver cancer (1 in 81, compared to 1 in 200 for non-Hispanic white women) or stomach cancer (1 in 89 for Latinas, compared to 1 in 210 for non-Hispanic white women). They are also more than twice as likely to die from those illnesses.

Keep reading.

5. Stories we’re watching

A Puerto Rican worker bottles water in a plant after Hurricane Maria struck the island, September 2014.
A Puerto Rican worker bottles water in a plant after Hurricane Maria struck the island September, 2017. Photo: Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post via Getty Images

1. Puerto Rico will raise its minimum wage for the first time in over a decade, so workers could earn $8.50 an hour in January, $1.25 more than the current U.S. minimum.

  • Wages in the U.S. territory have been comparatively lower than in the mainland for years, which specialists link to a weak job market and subsequent brain drain.

2. Venezuelans will receive $336 million for food assistance, access to health care and protection for groups like LGBT and Indigenous people, the State Department announced on Wednesday. The money will most likely be funneled through opposition leader Juan GuaidĂł, whom the U.S. recognizes as the country's legitimate president.

  • Nicolás Maduro’s regime, which claims to be the legitimate government, finally allowed the UN to distribute meals to children in the crisis-ridden South American country after a deal with the World Food Programme in April.

3. Latin America and the Caribbean need to move beyond depending on imports in order to prop up the region’s vaccination campaign and economic recovery from the pandemic, government and World Bank officials said during an event moderated by Axios Latino in alliance with the Atlantic Council.

  • Less than 4% of medical products essential to combating COVID-19 are sourced from within Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a May 2020 report.
  • Watch the event.

6. 🥫 1 smile to go: Street skills for good

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
The food bank run by Manuel “Manny” Flores is in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. Photos: Noticias Telemundo

Many Angelenos in need seek food and shelter through North Valley Caring Services, with the help of owner Manuel “Manny” Fernández.

Details: Fernández's current role contrasts with his past life — he spent 20 years in prison for gang activities.

  • After getting out, he sought help in a San Fernando Valley community center where he later proposed establishing a food program.
  • He started out with 10 small boxes. Now the food bank distributes over 40,000 pounds of groceries yearly.
  • Fernández says he now uses for good some of the “tricks learned on the streets,” like making sure the food boxes get into as many hands as possible.

Hasta el martes, have a safe one.