Expanding Voter Access In RI Clears Another Hurdle

The Let RI Vote Act, which would permanently adopt measures used in 2020 during the pandemic, has cleared another hurdle as the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed the measure on a 52-13 vote Tuesday.

The goal of the bill is to expand voter access while ensuring integrity in state elections.

“As we saw in 2020,” said lead sponsor state Rep. Katherine Kazarian (D-63), “early voting alternatives were used by a large portion of our population and the results of this change in voting patterns produced a smooth and secure election process that ensured that everyone’s vote was safely counted.”

But Republicans questioned the need for the bill and raised concerns about voter fraud. “We are sacrificing the security of our elections for convenience,� Representative Robert Quattrocchi, a Scituate Republican, said in opposing the bill.

“This is a major milestone in the history of voting rights in Rhode Island,” said Marcela Betancur, spokesperson for the Let RI Vote Campaign and executive director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University.

A key component of the measure include setting up a hotline in multiple languages that Betancur said, will provide accurate information in the language a person is most comfortable in, like foreign born Hispanics-Latinos who may not be proficient in English.

On the “3 Questions With…� podcast, Betancur shared insights on how the proposed legislation would break barriers keeping the Hispanic-Latino electorate and other marginalized communities from voting.

Improving Access and Opportunities to Vote in Rhode Island

In 2020, voting by naturalized U.S. citizens was approximately the same rate as those who are Hispanics-Latinos born in the United States, according to a City University of New York study.

Governor Dan McKee sent out statement following the House passage supporting the proposal, adding he’s “ready to sign it.�

Pretextual Traffic Stops Target Latinos In NH

Michael Vazquez didn’t know why a New Hampshire state trooper was pulling him over one afternoon in August 2018. He’d been driving his BMW on Interstate 93 in Salem, doing the speed limit.

Trooper Michael Arteaga told Vazquez he was tailgating another vehicle. But he had other reasons for the stop.

Arteaga was a member of a specialized unit whose chief mission isn’t traffic safety, but looking for drug traffickers on New Hampshire’s highways. He made what’s called a pretextual traffic stop because he thought the car might be involved in criminal activity.

A pretextual traffic stop occurs when a police officer stops a vehicle in order to conduct a speculative criminal investigation unrelated to the motorist’s driving, and not for the purpose of enforcing the traffic code.

It’s a workaround because state and federal constitutions bar police officers from stopping and investigating civilians on nothing more than a hunch. But motor-vehicle violations are so common that an officer can usually find a legal reason to pull over just about any car, then probe unrelated suspicions.

Police often say such stops are an important tool for seizing drugs and guns. But, research has found the practice leads to significant racial disparities, with police disproportionately stopping and searching Black and Latino drivers.

State officials have celebrated the Mobile Enforcement Team’s many arrests and drug seizures, dismissing critics’ concerns as based on a handful of cases that have spilled into public view. At times, they have denied troopers were trained to use pretextual stops.

In 2020, advocates like the ACLU, brought the issue before the Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency (LEACT) — formed by Gov. Chris Sununu after George Floyd’s murder to consider changes to policing — raising concerns about civil liberties and disproportionate impacts on drivers of color.

“In 2019, the Division of State Police issued its Fair and Impartial Policing policy, which aims to prevent and prohibit the practice of biased policing and other discriminatory practices in any law enforcement-related activity involving a member of the Division,� Tyler Dumont, a department spokesperson, said in the statement. “Additionally, all new recruit troopers now attend a multi-day implicit bias and procedural justice training at the police academy.�

Police in the United States have used pretextual stops since at least the 1980s, when the DEA began training state and local officers to spot cars that fit supposed “drug courierâ€� profiles. At times, officers were taught to look for explicitly racialized characteristics, like someone with dreadlocks or two Latino men in a car.

The reason he gave in his report: Vazquez was tapping on the brakes to stay in his lane rather than speeding up to pass.

Publisher’s Notes: this is an aggregate story from:

How pretextual traffic stops by N.H. police disproportionately affect Black and Latino drivers

‘Why did I get stopped?’ How N.H. state troopers use minor traffic violations to search for drugs

States, cities rethink use of police traffic stops as investigatory tool

The Path Forward: Overcoming Mental Health Stigma in the Latino Community

Many Hispanics-Latinos view mental illness as a sign of weakness. Shying away from addressing mental illness for fear of being labeled “loco,� Spanish for “crazy,� only makes matters worse.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and in recognition of that observance, it was the subject of this month’s Latinx Talks (LT).

Hugo Balta, Publisher of Illinois Latino News (ILLN) and moderator for LT, led a panel discussion on the stigma associated with mental illness within the Hispanic-Latino culture.

Hispanic-Latino adolescents’ mental health and academic performance declined during the COVID-19 pandemic as parents’ job loss forced many teenagers’ to take over childcare responsibilities for their younger siblings and for others to get a job to help make ends meet.

Pamela Fullerton, a bilingual and bicultural Latina Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and professor at Northeastern University, believes most schools do not have the resources to support students adequately.

“Schools, WAKE UP!” Fullerton said. “I was working for a school that had two social workers for the entire school. How are we going to serve our students with that lack of mental help support? We’re not.”

Spanish is the second-most spoken language in the United States, and the number of Hispanics-Latinos who speak Spanish at home has grown from 24.6 million in 2000 to 39.1 million in 2019, according to the Pew Research Center.

Still, between 2014 and 2019, the proportion of facilities offering mental health treatment in Spanish declined by nearly 18 percent, according to a study published last week in the journal Psychiatric Services.

Language is a clear barrier to seeking and delivering appropriate treatment among Hispanic-Latino. Language proficiency is especially important in psychiatric care because the determination of psychiatric diagnoses significantly depends on verbal communication between patients and professionals. 

“Hospitals are required to provide an interpreter for their patients,” said Laura Martinez, Mental Health Equity & Inclusion Director with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The Joint Commission, the primary accrediting organization of U.S. hospitals, requires institutions to have a language services policy in place. “They also have to have signage throughout the hospital in the top five languages in their area.”

Omar Corro, Senior Director of Operations with Rincon Family Services, says language alone isn’t enough to serve the needs of the Hispanic-Latino community best. “Having that cultural humility is very important as well,” Corro said.

Hispanics-Latinos are not a monolith. With a seemingly endless range of subgroups and individual variations, culture is important because it bears upon what all people bring to the clinical setting. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General finds It can account for minor variations in how people communicate their symptoms and which ones they report.

As Chicago, like many cities across the country, continue to crawl from the grip of COVID-19, much of the funding that was available at the height of the pandemic has decreased. Grassroots organizations, like Illinois Unidos, which have been on the frontline in helping Hispanics-Latinos through the crisis, fear that the communities who need the most help won’t get the resources they need.

“If they’re getting money, we want to see transparency,” said Dr. Pamela Vergara-Rodriguez, a triple boarded certified physician in psychiatry in the Cook County Health System, says transparency is paramount. “Where is that money going, and who is it serving?” Vergara-Rodriguez said that coalitions need to demand that local and state governments provide data and transparency in allocating resources to the public.

Latinx Talks is a monthly program produced by Imagen Marketing Consultants. The new Latino speakers series aims to bring to the forefront the inequities facing the Hispanic-Latino community.

Cover Photo: Illinois Department of Central Management Services

The post The Path Forward: Overcoming Mental Health Stigma in the Latino Community appeared first on ILLN.

Hispanic-serving colleges in Mass. support Latino students, but some schools fall short 

When Jennifer Reyes emigrated from the Dominican Republic in 2016, she wanted to make a better future for herself. Upon entering the United States, she listed a few of her goals: to continue her education, find a better job and make more money. But at the time, she couldn’t speak English. 

“One of the reasons why I chose the Urban College was because they have Spanish classes, something that I thought was impossible to find in this city,� she said. “I can say that it was the biggest motivation.�

The Urban College of Boston is one of the state’s seven Hispanic-Serving Institutions, or HSIs, federally recognized colleges whose enrollment is at least 25% Latino. Achieving that recognition opens the door for specially designated federal funding.

A broader look at statewide degree achievement presents a mixed picture of Latinos in higher education. Though Latinos in Massachusetts graduate from four-year institutions at a higher rate than those nationally, they still lag behind the state’s whites in college degrees. Only 27% of Latino adults in the state had earned an associate degree or higher as of 2018, about half of the rate for white adults, according to Excelencia in Education.

“The Latinx population is the fastest growing in the state. In a region like New England, where the overall population is getting lower, it’s absolutely essential,� said Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago. “If we don’t educate the fastest-growing group, we’re going to be at a real disadvantage.�

Diane Adame, production assistant with GBH News’ Higher Education desk explores why making schools of higher learning financially accessible ro Hispanics-Latinos isn’t enough.

Read more by clicking on Hispanic-serving colleges in Mass. support Latino students, but some schools fall short.

Cover Photo: Urban College of Boston student Jennifer Reyes sits in front of the school’s main building on April 27, 2022.

Photo by Meredith Nierman.

70-Hour Work Weeks, Sleeping In A Car: Personal Care Assistants Struggle To Care For Themselves

Dilliner Jordan works 62 hours a week taking care of two people who are too medically fragile to take care of themselves.

But she has no health insurance and often sleeps in her car because she can’t afford rent and a security deposit, even though she has been saving for months. She is fearful of staying at a shelter, which she believes will increase her chances of contracting COVID-19 for a second time.

“It does bother me,� the 63-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., native said. “It bothers me a lot. I don’t understand how I could work two jobs and still can’t afford an apartment. I either make too much money for help or not enough.�

At 61, Lucía Nunez, who also works as a personal care assistant, commonly known as a home care worker, is in the same position. Nunez, of East Hartford, works 70 hours a week, taking care of three individuals who need help with the daily activities of life, including bathing and meals. Still, she hasn’t had a mammogram in four years.

“I can’t remember the last time I went to the doctor for a regular visit,� said Nunez, who also has no health insurance.

Jordan and Nunez are part of a 10,000-member workforce taking care of 6,000 of the state’s most vulnerable residents in their homes, paid by the state Department of Social Services (DSS) and state Department of Developmental Services (DDS) through Medicaid funding.

They are mostly women—predominantly women of color—with no health care benefits, no paid time off, no paid sick days and no path to retirement even as the pandemic has worn on into a third year, said Diedre Murch, director of home care for the New England Heathcare Employees Union, SEIU District 1199.

Dilleener Jordan wipes Tracy Lamb’s face while caring for her in Lamb’s West Haven apartment, March 22, 2022. Jordan is a home health care worker who cares for Lamb four days a week. Photo by Cloe Poisson

“We are unearthing more and more stories like Dilliner’s and Lucía’s,� Murch said. “The pandemic was like pouring gasoline on the fire that was already burning.�

The workers can’t legally strike to get better pay and benefits because the state has no backup system to take care of their clients, Murch said. The union, DSS and DDS have been in talks for months, even as federal pandemic relief for community care was made available. After a meeting with Gov. Ned Lamont last week, the union is hopeful that a new contract is coming, Murch said, but an agreement has not been reached.

Nunez works Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 9 p.m. for two people and then every other weekend taking care of a third person. “I’m always working more than 70 hours a week, so I can survive, pay my bills and put food on the table,� she said.

She gets no benefits other than what she calls “holy day pay,� she said.

“If you work on the Fourth of July—that’s a holy day—you get paid time and a half. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid because we have no paid holidays unless we work.�

Lucia Nunez

She only took a few days off when one of her clients contracted COVID-19 because she couldn’t afford to stop working. Her boyfriend puts gas in her car so she can use that money for food, she said. “Everything is more expensive,� she said.

Jordan works Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Tracy Lamb, a 52-year-old West Haven resident with multiple sclerosis who is bedridden and needs help with bathing, dressing and chores around the house.

“She makes me happy every time,� Lamb said. “When she goes away, I’m miserable.

“We have a very good relationship. She bathes me, she leaves the room spotless, she cooks for me, she’ll clean up the house. She never stops. She’s like the Energizer battery.�

Sometimes the two watch television or movies together while Jordan folds the laundry. Lamb said Jordan will go to the store for her on her day off if she needs something. “She always goes above and beyond for me,� Lamb said.

Jordan also works 10 hours on Fridays and 12 hours on Saturdays taking care of a second client on oxygen.

Jordan will sometimes stay overnight at Lamb’s home if it’s cold out. On the other nights, she’ll sleep in her car, she said. She cooks for herself when she cooks for her clients, leaving foods that need to remain cold in their refrigerator.

“I never hide my situation from them,� Jordan said. “When I cook for them, I cook for myself.�


Jordan said she was raised by a mother who believed that people should help their older neighbors or people in need. “I think that’s why I went into this,� Jordan said.

“My mom would send us to go help people. Even though I work six days a week, I spend Sunday going to see a lady who has nobody. I talk to her. We were the help for the elderly when I was a kid.�

She worked for a nursing home in 1987 but found that the job didn’t provide enough time to take care of people the way she felt was necessary, she said. “You need to make sure they are clean. You want to make them happy,� Jordan said. “There were so many residents you couldn’t give them the attention they needed. When I’m doing private duty, I’m able to do that for every one of my clients.�

After working in home care for nearly 30 years, she had moved to South Carolina before the start of the pandemic to spend time with her son and his family, she said. She was able to work less because she lived with his family and was enjoying life, until tragedy struck.

Her son went to the store one day and never returned, she said. He had been shot and killed by the store manager who mistakenly believed he was trying to rob the place, she said. “It was a shock. He just never came back from the store,� Jordan said. “It was very traumatic. He left nine kids. You come to the point where you can’t feel. I was in trauma.�

She sought the help of a therapist through telehealth and then came back to Connecticut to escape the memories of their time together, she said. “I couldn’t stay. I kept seeing him everywhere,� she said.

Since then, she’s been working with Lamb and her other client while trying to avoid catching COVID-19 for a second time. Her first bout in November 2021 left her with lung problems and fatigue, she said. She lost two weeks’ pay while quarantining because, by that point, federal sick time pay for home care workers impacted by COVID-19 had ended.

Jordan said she makes it a point to tell her clients that they still make life worth living even if they are bedridden or have physical challenges. Some days she tries to motivate them even as she’s exhausted from the workload, she said.

“Everybody has a calling,� Jordan said. “It takes a special person to take tender loving care of people. I try to give them a better quality of life. Everyone should have a better quality of life.�

Jordan covers Lamb with a comforter after helping her get back into bed.

70-Hour Work Weeks, Sleeping In A Car: Personal Care Assistants Struggle To Care For Themselves was first published on Connecticut Health I-Team.

All photos by Cloe Poisson.

Publisher’s Note:  CTLN and c-hit.org collaborate to best serve the Connecticut Hispanic, Latino community.


CTLN Opinion+: Maritza Bond

This week, Connecticut Latino News Opinion+ had the opportunity to speak with Maritza Bond, the current Director of Health for the City of New Haven and Secretary of State Candidate of Connecticut. 

Bond became the first Latina health director for a major city in Connecticut in 2016. She says that “rompiendo barreras� and being a woman leader have been challenging, but that she’s happy to serve the community. She hopes to inspire other Latinas to pursue roles in which they aren’t currently represented as well.

“Listen, a woman like me has been able to be in the position that I am in now, and I want to be able to extend that further and be able to bring hope to others that are in a similar situation that I grew up in, to be inspired to be able to fulfill your passions. There are no barriers to stop you from achieving any goal. I’m so grateful to be in the primary and to be able to run for secretary of state. I’ve never dreamt that this could be possible for a Latina like me,� she said.

Encouraging voter turnout is important to Bond, who says that if she were elected, she would bring early voting to the state because she understands that issues like scheduling time in between work, long wait times at the polls, and transportation insecurity make it difficult for some communities to participate on Election Day.

Martiza says that equity is important to her and that she hopes to help minority-owned businesses by certifying them, maintaining records to make their businesses more visible to larger firms, and offering technical support to help owners with language or literacy barriers overcome those challenges and fully take advantage of the resources available to them.

She invites everyone to vote, stating, “The Secretary of State should have a diverse ticket. Latinos have not served in this constitutional office; we are well overdue. It is ‘el momento de nosotros’. So we have an opportunity to do this, but I cannot do this alone.â€�

Resources mentioned in this video:



ILLN Opinion+: Claudia SIlva-Hernandez

On this week’s episode of Illinois Latino Opinion+, Claudia Silva-Hernandez, who is running for Cook County Circuit Court Judge, joined to discuss her campaign and why she thinks she should be elected.

Silva-Hernandez grew up in the south suburbs of Dalton and Flossmoor, areas which both have low Hispanic-Latino populations. She says that growing up, educators thought she didn’t understand English, because she was bilingual and because she was a shy child. It made her feel invisible during her school years, but she says it now motivates her to try to prevent others from feeling that way while they navigate the legal process.

“So that’s really one of my driving forces for wanting to be a judge is I want to make people feel visible. I know what it’s like to feel marginalized or scared or to feel out of place, and I think a lot of litigants who come to our courtroom these days definitely feel like the cards are stacked up against them,� she said.

Silva-Hernandez’s legal experience includes positions at the Chicago Housing Authority, Will County Public Defender’s, and the Clerk’s Office of the Circuit of Cook County, among others. She says that she’s held each of these roles with the intention of helping others and feels like they’ve all contributed to preparing her for the potential role as Cook County Circuit Court Judge.

She said, “not only am I Latina, but I’m also someone who cares and someone who always makes it a point to connect with other people, to make people feel seen, to make people feel welcomed, and I think that’s an important key takeaway.�

Silva-Hernandez is a candidate in the primary election, which will be held on June 28, 2022. The general election takes place on November 8, 2022.

Resources mentioned in this video:

Silva-Hernandez’s campaign website: Silvahernandezforjudge.org

Circuit Court of Cook County Judge Directory: https://www.cookcountycourt.org/ABOUT-THE-COURT/Judges-Information

Silva-Hernandez for Judge on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/silvahernandezforjudge?_rdr

The post ILLN Opinion+: Claudia SIlva-Hernandez appeared first on ILLN.

RILN Opinion+: Marcela Betancur

This week Marcela Betancur, Executive Director of the Latino Policy Institute (LPI) was our guest on Rhode Island Latino News, Opinion+.

LPI is an advocacy group in Rhode Island that was started by two people with the goal of raising the voices of the Latinx community. The impact Covid-19 had on the Latinx community caused LPI to improve the flow of truthful information on vaccines and resources. “It really helped focus on what we needed,� said Betancur on RILN Opinion+ when explaining the issues of healthcare and employment accessibility.  

The Ocean State has grown in its Latinx presence over the years. Populations from the Dominican Republic and Colombia have moved to Rhode Island over the years. “Every single town has a Latino in it,� stated Betancur. 

Being a part of the immigrant coalition in the state has allowed LPI to advocate for the needs of the Latinx community and even advocate for driving privileges and quality healthcare for undocumented immigrants. They first understand what the community needs and then connect that with what is possible from a policy perspective. 

The largest obstacle faced in Rhode Island is the continuous disinvestment from the state and the U.S. government. Poverty, economic, and housing equity has lacked investment in these issues. LPI builds its community leaders by offering data, research, and practices on bringing people together and building bridges between communities and legislators.

LPI is excited to continue improving voting access, health, and economic equity through driver’s licenses and information. 


Main website: https://lpirwu.org/about-us/

MALN Opinion+: Gladys Vega

Welcome to another edition of Massachusetts Latino News +, a segment where we have conversations of most interest to the Hispanic-Latino community.

Our guest this week is a leader who has been nicknamed Chelsea’s “Superwoman.”

Gladys Vega is the Executive Director of La Colaborativa, an organization with a mission to “empower Latinx immigrants to enhance the social and economic health of the community and its people; and to hold institutional decision-makers accountable to the community.”

The organization’s six-month program focuses on survival, stability, and empowerment in working with individuals. The goal is then for the person to take those skills and reinvest them. “Once we help you…how do you give back to the community,’ said Vega in the interview. “Why don’t you get involved in community organizing?’ she asks participants. “So we can do social justice changes.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Vega moved to Massachusetts with her family at a young age. The experience of witnessing first-hand from her parents the challenges facing Hispanic-Latino residents in the United States inspired her to work with immigrant workers.

“Their rights are being violated,” said Vega about workers (many of them undocumented) who are getting paid below minimum wage and are exposed to dangerous working conditions. “In the United States, regardless of immigration status, you (employers) need to pay the state’s minimum wage.” Massachusetts has a $14.25/hour minimum wage.

In 1990, Vega joined the Chelsea Collaborative, later renamed La Colaborativa, as Office Manager. She wore many hats, working as a receptionist, tenant organizer, and immigrant rights advocate. 

In 2006, Vega became the organization’s executive director. She successfully urged the City Council to make Chelsea the third sanctuary city in Massachusetts in her tenure. In addition, she helped found Centro Latino, the only direct service for Hispanics-Latinos in Chelsea at the time. Vega gave her time to the Chelsea Board of Health and United Way Committee and served as a Democratic delegate for the National Convention in 2000.

La Colaborativa leads community-based COVID testing and vaccinations as Hispanics-Latinos continue to struggle with inequities in Massachusetts’ health care system. The organization provides reliable, healthy, and culturally familiar food distributions five days a week.

“In addition to providing yuca, platanos, aguacate…we also use the food line (pantry) as a lifeline,” she said. “We used the food line to organize our community in terms of vaccinations.” La Colaborativa leads community-based COVID testing and vaccinations as Hispanics-Latinos continue to struggle with inequities in Massachusetts’ health care system.

 In 2007 and 2008, she was named one of Massachusetts’s one hundred most influential leaders.

Last year, Vega was recognized by the Eastern Bank Foundation with the 2021 Social Justice Award. The award recognizes community leaders who have made an outstanding impact in addressing critical social justice issues.

Nancy Huntington Stager, President and CEO of the Eastern Bank Foundation. Said of you, “She is an extraordinary leader and community trailblazer who leads by example and continues to be a social justice champion. She empowers individuals to realize they can affect change and make the difference they seek….�

“We are especially honored to receive the 2021 Social Justice Award from the Eastern Bank Foundation because it understands all too well that relationships and trust in the community are always necessary to create justice, equality, and opportunity and especially during a pandemic,� said Vega in accepting the award.

For more information on La Colaborativa, click on this link:

Everything For The Family

The Garcia brothers are back, and the timing couldn’t be better. Fans of the award-winning Nickelodeon teen comedy series, “The Brothers García,� will remember Larry, Carlos, and George Garcia, who along with their sister Lorena and parents Ray and Sonia, made history as the beloved characters of the first U.S. English-language TV sitcom featuring an all-Latino cast and creative team. Now, more than 20 years after the show’s debut, the fictional San Antonio, Texas, family is making history again–this time as “The Garcias,� premiering on HBO Max, on April 14.

“We wanted to bring it back because there hadn’t been another show like it since,� said showrunner Jeff Valdez, the co-creator of “The Brothers García,� and who, along with global communications executive Sol Trujillo, is executive producer of “The Garcias.� The two are also co-founders of New Cadence Productions, which produced the new series.

“The Garcias� came to life after Valdez’s seven-year quest to obtain the rights to the original show from Nickelodeon. “The Brothers García,� had been highly popular, airing from 2000 to 2004 in more than 40 countries. A breakthrough finally came three years ago when there was a change in studio management. “I went to Viacom and said, ‘This is crazy,’� Valdez recalled. “It’s sitting on the shelf, and we have no shows for Latinos. It’s not just for Latinos–it’s universal. It’s a family show.�

For creator, Jeff Valdez, “The Garcias� is more than just about entertaining an audience. The show represents his deeply personal mission to portray Latinos as “regular� people. The goal is to counter the largely negative image of Latinos in mainstream media. “We’re people just like anybody else, and we’re fun,� Valdez explained. “There’s no crime in this show. There are no border walls. There’s not even the mention of immigration,� he continued. “We are not making programming. We are making deprogramming. That’s really important to understand. Because if we did programming, there would be nothing normal on this show.�

Watch the trailer here.

Now the episodes have all been produced with the original cast members reprising their roles in “The Garcias.�

“It feels amazing,� said Bobby Gonzalez, who plays George Garcia. “You’d think that a twenty-year gap would have made a big difference. But as soon as the original cast was back together, it just felt like home–immediately.�

“To be able to work on something you really love is a blessing,� said Ada Maris, who plays family matriarch, Sonia Garcia.

In the reboot, the family has expanded greatly. Viewers get to follow the lives of the now-grown Garcia siblings, their spouses, children, and parents as they vacation for two months at a beach house in an upscale part of  Mexico. “By having a U.S. Latino family in Mexico, we are showing that we are American,â€� Valdez said.

“To renew my relationships with the original kids who were 12 and 13 and are now in their thirties, was great,� said Carlos Lacámara, who portrays Ray Garcia, the father and grandfather of the family. “For me it was like we had a long weekend, and we just got back together, doing the shows again.�

Ada Maris (Sonia Garcia), and Carlos Lacámara (Ray Garcia). Photo Courtesy of HBO Max

In the idyllic resort-like setting, three generations of the Garcias enjoy adventure and discovery while learning what it takes to be a family. They come face-to-face with their cultural identities as they laugh, cry, and squabble good-naturedly, all the while never forgetting the family motto: Everything for the family–Todo para la familia.

“We’ll go through rough times. We’ll get into fights,â€� said Gonzalez.  “But at the end of the day, we’ll always love each other.â€�

“Todo para la familia,â€� said Vaneza Pitynski, who plays Lorena Garcia, the sister in the family.  “That is what the show is about: who has your back when you’re down. In the end, it is about a successful, hard-working Latino family that really cares,â€� she said.

Bobby Gonzalez (George Garcia) Nitzia Chama (Ana Garcia) and Maeve Garay (Victoria Garcia) enjoy a family celebration. Photo Courtesy of HBO Max

Cast members say the family-centric values found in “The Garcias,� storyline were also evident in their work environment. This, they say, was in stark contrast to what they had experienced on some other productions.

“It is such a relief to be able to just be a human being, and not have to play the stereotype of a Latino written by someone else,� said Lacámara. “For me, being part of this was liberating.�

“We just get to be ourselves. It’s just wonderful,â€� added Maris.

“In the end, the show is authentic. It’s not a non-Latino trying to tell a Latino how to do things, and we are very proud of that.�

“The Garcias� is also groundbreaking for introducing cultural diversity to the series. Carlos Garcia’s wife is Korean American, and the couple has two daughters.

“Honestly, I think it is really great that the show includes the Asian and Pacific Islander community,� said Elsha Kim, who plays Yunjin Huh Garcia. “I’ve had multiple people approach me and say, ‘You know, 20 years ago, it might have been a Latina.’ (But) there are so many mixed families now. If you look around, this is what families look like. Families aren’t all just one color,� Kim said.

Elsha Kim (Yunjin Huh Garcia), Jeffrey Licon (Carlos Garcia) and Trinity Jo-Li Bliss (Alexa Garcia). Photo Courtesy by HBO Max.

Valdez predicts that the show will resonate with viewers because he and his creative team had complete artistic control. “In the end, the show is authentic. It’s not a non-Latino trying to tell a Latino how to do things, and we are very proud of that,� Valdez said. “I would challenge anybody in town to show a credit roll with more Latino names on it than ours. We’re 92%.�

Valdez has high hopes for “The Garcias,� and believes it could pave the way for other Latino-themed programs. In fact, he says he has at least five spin-offs in mind that his production company plans to market. But as Jeff Valdez will tell you, it all starts with the success of this new series. “Watch the show because the Garcias are coming.�

Jeff Valdez, creator of “The Garcias� worked for seven years to get the rights to the original show. Photo Courtesy HBO Max

palabra. continues its conversation with Jeff Valdez, who is credited with pioneering the English-language Latino market in American television. The award-winning Colorado native has been producing, directing, and writing in TV and film for more than 25 years.

His answers  have been edited for clarity and space.

palabra.: What are the reasons you brought the Garcia family back?

Valdez: “It’s really about family dynamics. Every episode has a universal theme. Every episode has a lesson learned in it.  There’s this richness to the show that people can re-embrace. After coming out of two years of Covid, God knows they can use a little love right now.â€�

palabra.: Considering that a lot of Latino-themed shows have been canceled, what is the significance of “The Garcias� coming along at this point in time?

Valdez: “Executives have said that Latinos don’t support their own shows. But there are so few. The solution is to have more than one a year. The business part of it is that it isn’t social justice.  You shouldn’t do this because we are victims and we are owed this. You should do it because this is smart business. We’re 2.8 trillion dollars as a GDP.  If your company doesn’t embrace the U.S. Latino market, you won’t be in business in 10 years.â€�

palabra.: Why is it important to normalize the portrayal of Latinos in the media?

Valdez: “The sad part is that when you look at U.S. Latinos, everything we see on TV is (that) we are crossing a border. And when we see Mexico, it’s always got this really grainy, yellow filter on it. The Mexico I know has got amazing museums.  (My family and I) were in Mexico City just two weeks ago. The food blows anything in L.A. away.â€�

“But the best way to answer your question is that when we first screened “The Brothers García,� a young Latina said afterward, ‘Thank God there’s a show that confirms my normalcy.’ I‘ve never lost track of that and I dedicate everything to that young girl.�

Cover Photo: The Garcias continue their journey of self-discovery and family bonding while on a long summer vacation. Photo Courtesy HBO Max.

Saida Pagan is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the recipient of a first-place award for entertainment reporting in the 2022 National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards competition. In 2021, she also received two first-place awards from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors for a documentary on the history of Los Angeles. Pagán was born and raised in New York City, and is of Puerto Rican heritage. She has worked as a newscaster for television stations across the United States, and has appeared in nearly 100 primetime television programs, major motion pictures and other media projects. Her TV news series on the challenges of ethnic actors titled, “The Color of Movies,� won a Golden Mic Award and was placed in the archives of SAG-AFTRA following a special ceremony honoring her work. Pagán holds a master’s degree with distinction in Strategic Communication and frequently conducts webinars on various aspects of media and communication.

Publisher’sNote: Everything For The Family was first published on palabra.

Illinois Latino News, one of five independent news outlets managed by the Latino News Network, is partners with palabra. in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.