Axios Latino

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This newsletter, edited by Astrid Galván, is 1,444 words, a 5.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Schools' rising segregation hurts Latinos

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The share of Latino students attending intensely segregated schools has skyrocketed over the last three decades, according to two new reports and an Axios review of federal data.

Why it matters: Intensely segregated schools, defined as schools with a student population that is more than 90% nonwhite, have fewer resources, more teacher shortages, higher student-to-school counselor ratios, and fewer AP class options.

Driving the news: As the U.S. marks the 70th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling tomorrow, American public schools are growing more separate and unequal even though the country is more racially and ethnically diverse than ever.

State of play: Around 28% of the nation's public school students were Latino in 2021, compared to 16% in 2000. But as the share of Latinos in the country has surged, the schools they attend have become much more segregated.

  • On average, the percentage of Latino students who attended intensely segregated schools jumped by 67% 1968-2021, although some regions in the country saw much more dramatic shifts, according to an Axios analysis.
  • For example, the percentage of Latino students in the West who attended intensely segregated schools spiked from 12% in 1968 to 46% in 2021, according to a UCLA Civil Rights Project analysis of federal data.

Flashback: The 1947 Mendez v. Westminster case, which outlawed school segregation in California, helped set up the Brown case. But when the Supreme Court handed down the 9-0 Brown decision, Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans weren't considered in the ruling.

  • Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project, tells Axios it would take years for Latinos to be included in school desegregation cases, and even then, enforcement was always weak.

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2. Before Brown, Hernandez v. Texas changed a lot

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Days before the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, another landmark Supreme Court decision granted Mexican Americans in Texas the right to serve on a jury — and opened doors to more civil rights battles.

Why it matters: The Hernandez v. Texas ruling in May 1954 affirmed that Mexican Americans were protected under the 14th Amendment and couldn't be excluded from jury duty under Jim Crow laws and practices in Texas.

Zoom in: The case involved murder, death threats against attorneys, lawyers forced to use segregated restrooms, and Gus Garcia, the case's star attorney, getting drunk the night before Supreme Court oral arguments.

Flashback: Garcia of San Antonio and John J. Herrera of Houston sought to use an alleged murder in Jackson County, Texas, in 1951 as a test case to challenge racist jury policies in Texas.

  • They represented Peter Hernandez, a Mexican American cotton picker accused of fatally shooting another man.
  • Jackson County labeled Mexican Americans as white, and its leaders argued that having an all-white, non-Hispanic jury wasn't discrimination.
  • Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison. No Mexican Americans served on the jury.

But the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court with the help of returning Mexican American World War II veterans, who urged Texas Latinos to donate what they could to fund the effort.

  • On May 3, 1954, the court unanimously ruled that the 14th Amendment protects those beyond the members of the "two class theory" and that Mexican Americans were a "special class," even though they were "white."
  • "The exclusion of otherwise eligible persons from jury service solely because of their ancestry or national origin is discrimination prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment," Warren wrote.
  • Hernandez was later retried and sentenced to 20 years.

The big picture: Garcia and Herrera built the foundation for future civil rights battles such as housing discrimination and voting rights.

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3. Haiti a key issue in Dominican elections

Dominican President Luis Abinader delivers a speech on Sept. 2, 2023. Photo: Felix Leon/AFP via Getty Images

Migration and the future of Haiti are among the key issues in the lead-up to Sunday's presidential and congressional elections in the Dominican Republic.

Why it matters: The Dominican Republic's restrictive immigration policies have regional implications as many Haitians try to flee violence.

  • The top three candidates running for president agree on restricting the flow of Haitians through Dominican territory.

State of play: President Luis Abinader is likely to be re-elected and avoid a possible runoff, as he's the overwhelming favorite in the polls, followed by Leonel Fernández, a former president, and Abel Martínez, a former mayor.

  • Abinader's government has been building a wall on the border with Haiti, has increased deportations and last fall suspended giving visas to Haitians.
  • The measures are popular among Dominicans, but international organizations have criticized them as possible human rights violations.
  • More than 8 million Dominicans —about 10% of them living abroad— are registered to vote, according to the electoral board. Turnout in the past has averaged 70%.

What they're saying: The Dominican Republic "has been a strong democratic society for many, many years and, to the extent that continues to be the case, it's a contrast with other jurisdictions like Venezuela, an hour flight away, or Nicaragua, also very close by," says Luis Fortuño, former governor of Puerto Rico.

  • Fortuño will be one of the international observers of the Dominican election.

What we're watching: Abinader promised before his first term to loosen the severe restrictions on abortion in the country. Activists are hoping he'll keep to his word if he gets a second term, though he hasn't broached the issue.

  • So far this year, at least two people, Adlika Féliz and 13-year-old Cristal Peguero, have died after being denied safe abortions, according to their families and abortion rights defenders.

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4. Latinos smash WWE

Wrestler Damian Priest during a WWE event in France on May 4. Photo: WWE/Getty Images

Latinos are laying a smackdown for their share of the limelight on one of the largest televised wrestling stages.

Why it matters: World Wrestling Entertainment events can be seen in more than 160 countries, and the group has been diversifying and becoming more international over the years.

  • It has over time attracted more U.S. Black and Latino viewers.

State of play: Now a new generation is following in the footsteps of Hall of Famers Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio.

  • That includes Dominik Mysterio, the latter's son, who made his debut in 2020 and is on one of the largest "heel" (or villain) crews, called Judgment Day.
  • One of his teammates is Damian Priest, the ring name of Puerto Rican Luis Martínez and currently the WWE's world heavyweight champion.
  • Other stars include Raquel Rodríguez and Zelina Vega, the reigning winner of the WWE Queen of the Ring tournament.

Between the lines: Last year, the WWE merged with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, whose biggest stars include Brazilian and Mexican fighters such as Brandon Moreno, Alexa Grasso (currently the women's flyweight champion) and Alexandre Pantoja (the men's flyweight champion).

What they're saying: "The dream for us was to be wrestlers, win championships … now we're also much more aware of the example we can give to other Latinos," Damian Priest told Noticias Telemundo last month.

  • "We're here at the top of the WWE stage, but we started very much at the bottom of the organization. And if we could make it, I'm sure many others will follow."

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5. Stories we're watching

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

1. Brazil's government announced a huge aid package yesterday for the hundreds of thousands of people affected by floods in the south of the country.

  • Authorities said they'll help people who have lost their homes purchase a new one and give each family 5,000 reais in cash (about $980).
  • At least 149 people have died in the last two weeks from the floods and heavy rains.

2. Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora, who had been in jail for almost two years, was ordered released last night after a panel of judges deemed his detention too onerous.

  • Zamora will now be under house arrest as the trial against him continues. He's accused of money laundering and obstructing justice in a case that advocates say is unfounded and an attempt to silence the press.
  • Zamora was the publisher of elPeriódico, which regularly ran stories about previous government corruption and which had to shut down last year.

6. 🪅 Pachanga: Emilio Estefan

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Courtesy of Estefan Enterprises, Inc.

He needs no introduction ... but today we celebrate the legendary Emilio Estefan, who was recently appointed to the Aspen Institute Latinos & Society Program's advisory board.

  • The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit that seeks to make the world a better place.
  • Emilio Estefan is ... Emilio Estefan. Legend.

🫡 Russell is reflecting on the work of civil rights leaders 70 years ago and is remembering the stories his Uncle Ernest shared.

⭐️ Marina thinks it's dope that an unassuming taquería made it onto the inaugural Michelin star guide for Mexico, unveiled this week.

🇻🇳 Astrid is thinking about watching the HBO Max miniseries "The Sympathizer" because she really loved the book.

Thanks to Carlos Cunha, Alison Snyder and the Axios Visuals team for their contributions!