Celebrating Hispanic Culture

More than 400,000 Hispanics and Latinos call Wisconsin their home. Since the early 1900s, the community, led by Mexicans, has played an essential role in shaping the state’s identity. Travel Wisconsin has come up with a list of fantastic local attractions, events, stores, and restaurants to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

Among the highlights are:

  • Alice Good Coffee in Verona. The coffeehouse focuses in Colombian coffee with a goal to “return as much of the economic benefits of its income to the South American country.
  • Make your way to Hillsboro to visit La Marimba Nicaraguan Cuisine for some great food. The Central American restaurant specializes in ‘fritanguero’ style of cooking that one savors in dishes like carne asada or grilled meat.
  • When in Whitewater, be sure to stop in at Miriam De La Vega’s Happy Little Gems, a jewelry and gem shop with all handmade pieces made with ethically sourced stones. 
  • If art is what you’re into, check out Francisco X. Mora’s “Small Works” at Latino Arts, Inc. in Milwaukee. The arts institution is dedicated exclusively to showcasing the works of Hispanic and Latino artists, Latino Arts, Inc. provides high-quality low-cost, and accessible arts programming.

National Hispanic Heritage Month (9/15-10/15) traditionally honors the cultures and contributions of both Hispanic and Latino Americans.

Cover Photo: Fiesta Point 2022

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Fight To Win Wisconsin’s Latino Voters

“We defeated Trump and all Trump-like candidates — we defeated you in 2020, and we will defeat you in 2024,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera Action. The immigrant rights activist led a protest on August 23, the day of the first Republican presidential debate. Neumann-Ortiz told the Wisconsin Examiner that the demonstration was meant to send a clear message to Republican leadership that “you are not welcome here.”Â

Inside the Fiserv Forum, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the front-runner of the eight on the GOP debate stage, said, “I’m not going to send troops to Ukraine, but I am going to send them to our southern border.” DeSantis told people in attendance and 11 million viewers watching on Fox News (according to ratings data from Nielsen) that the Mexican drug cartels are killing tens of thousands of our fellow citizens. “We have to re-establish the rule of law, and we have to defend our people… We’re going to use force, and we’re going to leave them stone-cold dead.”

Despite the cold reception by some Latino-led organizations that night like “Voces,” Hilario DeLeon, chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, feels good about his party’s chances of attracting Latino voters in next year’s presidential election.

“You know, we’re not going to win Milwaukee outright. It’s impossible. It’s just a Democrat city. But we can increase that voter percentage to, you know, help the rest of the state, give them breathing room,” said DeLeon. He told PBS Wisconsin that conservatives have more to offer on issues like jobs and high food prices, which are essential to the community.

Neumann-Ortiz said that unless the GOP changes its political stance on immigration and workers’ rights, the party will not make inroads with Latinos in the state.

The Hispanic Latino population is Wisconsin’s largest minority group, according to the 2020 Census report. The group’s numbers rose 7.6 percent in the last ten years, making up more than 447,000 Wisconsinites. The nonprofit Migration Policy Institute reports that many of them make up approximately 70,000 undocumented immigrants.

One hot-button issue affecting undocumented immigrants is Wisconsin Act 126, which prohibits undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses. In Clark County, home to more dairy farms than any other county in the state, the number of undocumented Hispanic workers on medium-to-large farms is roughly 6,200, according to a University of Wisconsin at Madison study.

A recent ProPublica report finds that law enforcement officials say the roads are less safe because undocumented immigrants aren’t trained and tested on basic driving rules. Still, they drive anyway — and often without insurance. Court officials say tickets for driving without a license overwhelm their dockets and drain their limited resources.

Democratic Governor Tony Evers included a provision in his biennial budget proposal that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to receive a driver’s license, but Republican legislators stripped it out.

“When people talk about immigrant families, they talk about them being an economic engine for the United States,” Milwaukee County supervisor Juan Miguel Martinez told Urban Milwaukee. “Yes, they are, but we need to realize that they are not just that. Humans are more than the labor they provide to uphold capitalist systems that wish to destroy them when they cannot work. Driver’s licenses are a way for them to live a dignified life, where they will be able to drive, get car insurance, and have a shot at a normal life in society.”

Democrats traditionally have relied on their positions on immigration to attract Latino voters. Still, despite those efforts, former President Donald Trump improved with the electorate in his unsuccessful 2020 re-election bid. Exit polls reported that Trump won 37 percent of the Latino vote in 2020 (vs. 34 percent in 2016). The Atlantic reported that an election-eve poll from the Latino-run firm Latino Decisions showed a shift in Wisconsin, from 10 percent Latino support for Trump in 2016 to 22 percent in 2020

In 2016, Trump won 16.2 percent of the vote in Milwaukee’s majority Latino wards, and Hillary Clinton won 79.5 percent. In 2020, Trump won 21.8 percent of those wards’ votes, and Joe Biden won 76.6 percent. (Biden won Wisconsin overall by about 20,000 votes.)

In 2020, 18,000 Latinos in Wisconsin turned 18 and are U.S. citizens. That’s enough to make a difference in an election in a swing state like Wisconsin.

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Cristina Carvajal: Environmental Equity

“We advocate for environmental justice,” said Cristina Carvajal about the disproportionate impact poor air quality has on the Latino community. Carvajal, the founder and executive director of Wisconsin EcoLatinos said, “Latinos are connected to nature and we want to advocate for the inclusion of our community in all spaces.”

Founded in 2021, EcoLatinos is a nonprofit that works to mobilize Latinos in south central Wisconsin to protect the environment and advocate for environmental justice.

“We work on four main areas,” she told The Cap Times. “First, environmental literacy and sustainability, because for many people, it’s just not their focus to follow all these issues. Many people just don’t really understand what climate change is, for example. Our other main focus is pollution and health, because we need to bring awareness of the effects of contamination. There are communities that are disadvantaged, and they’re more exposed to pollution than others, so their vulnerability is compounded. That brings environmental justice into the equation.”

Wisconsin EcoLatinos partnered with the Latino Academy for Workforce Development on a program focused on air quality. As part of Breathing Justice, a project by the Environmental Protection Agency, students were taught how to install and read air quality monitors in their neighborhoods. Carvajal taught the participants for two months.

“So we have Latinos living in areas like Fitchburg or the north side, and closer to highways. It’s going to increase the chances of having bad quality,â€� Carvajal said about air quality monitors placed in neighborhoods with environmental justice concerns. “It’s important for people to understand this situation.â€�

SUGGESTION: Unhealthy Air Conditions Sweep Across Midwest

A Colombian native, Carvajal moved to the U.S. more than 20 years ago — first to east coast, then to Janesville and Madison. Volunteering with environmental advocacy organizations while raising her children reignited a passion for Carvajal who has always considered herself an environmental activist.

“We need to take action, [and] everyone can take action to improve our environment and also mitigate climate change,â€� Carvajal said. “So for us, it’s fulfilling our mission as an organization to be able to engage people and see their positive reaction towards taking action and preparing for climate adaptation.â€�

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Pedro Colon: Serving Justice

Come November 18, Pedro Colón will become the first Latino Judge to the Court of Appeals – District I.

Colón was appointed by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers earlier this year, to fill the vacancy that will be created by Judge Timothy G. Dugan’s retirement. Colón will complete a term ending July 31, 2024.

“Judge Colón has dedicated his life to public service on behalf of the people of Milwaukee,� said Gov. Evers. “His dedication to his community, breadth of experiences, and commitment to applying the law impartially and fairly will make him an excellent judge on the Court of Appeals.�

Colón has served on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in Branch 18 since 2010, a position to which he has been elected three times.

“I have had the honor of serving this community for nearly 25 years as a legislator and a judge, and I am looking forward to now taking my experiences to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals,� said Colón. “With my understanding of the legal system and my commitment to equality and justice, I will provide a valuable
perspective to the court and help ensure that all Wisconsinites have equal access to justice.�

Prior to his service on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Colón was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1998, where he represented the 8th District until 2010. He was the first Latino elected to the state legislature.

Born in Puerto Rico, Colón grew up in Milwaukee. He attended Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin Law School. In addition to his public service, which has also included serving on the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Commission and the Milwaukee Area Technical College Board, Colón is a trustee on the Greater Milwaukee Foundation board of directors and has volunteered
extensively in his community.

Judge Colón has two daughters and lives in the City of Milwaukee with his wife, Betty.

(Photo courtesy Judge Pedro Colon)

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Affirmative Action Supreme Court Decision Affects Wisconsin Higher Ed

Another monumental decision by the Supreme Court this year has struck down affirmative action, declaring that race cannot be considered by higher learning institutions during the college admissions process. 

The 6-3 decision ruled in favor of Students for Fair Admissions, who sued Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC), alleging that race-conscious practices discriminate against Asian American prospective students. 

In the majority ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual –not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.�

Unlike the use of racial quotas, which were deemed unconstitutional in 1978, affirmative action intends to consider race holistically, recognizing barriers to education. The 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger case allowed affirmative action, ruling that because college acceptances and rejections are not based on the sole variable of race, it was not a violation of the 14th Amendment. 

WI higher education institutions react 

Leaders at Marquette University penned a letter to community members, expressing their commitment to current and future students, “Marquette will continue to do everything we legally can to recruit a diverse student body that reflects the world around us and enhances the transformational education we seek to provide.�

In 2022, Marquette University and 56 other Catholic colleges and universities joined an amicus brief urging the court to uphold affirmative action as it considered the Harvard and UNC cases.

This ruling comes as UW-Madison welcomed its most diverse incoming freshman class this fall, with about one-third identifying as students of color, a 6% increase from the previous academic year.

“The full implications of today’s ruling — both nationally and on our campus — will not be known for some time. UW–Madison and UW System attorneys are now carefully reviewing the Court’s opinions and monitoring the potential release of additional guidance from relevant federal agencies,� Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin said in a statement.

The statement continues, stating that the school’s admissions process will be modified to comply with the law.

“This will certainly disadvantage students who don’t have access to college counselors and consultants, tutors, in other words, poor, minority students,� U-W Madison Political Science Professor Howard Schweber said during an interview with Fox6 News.

Republican lawmakers target diversity programs at the local level

Days before the Supreme Court decision, local lawmakers voted to cut the University of Wisconsin System’s budget by $32 million, despite a $7 billion state budget surplus. $32 million, republicans say, is what they estimate would be spent on UW’s diversity, equity and inclusion programs over the next two years.

“They need to refocus their priorities on being partners on developing our workforce and the future of the state and we’re hopeful that they’re going to be ready to do that as we move forward,� Republican State Rep. Mark Born, and co-chair of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee said.

Prior to the official cut, System President Jay Rothman warned of potential tuition increases and school closures if the committee carried out the proposed budget.

​​“It’s just that simple,� he stated. “We do not have the resources to continue to simply do what we have done before.�

According to the fall 2022 enrollment numbers, Hispanic students account for 7.2% of the UW Systems student body. 5.1% of students identified as Asian, 2.9% African American and 72.9% identified as white. 

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Unhealthy Air Conditions Sweep Across Midwest

Following a week of unhealthy air quality that spread throughout the Midwest, The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has issued an Air Quality Advisory through Friday.

This is an extension of an advisory originally issued on Tuesday due to smoke traveling from an outbreak of wildfires across Canada. Smoky, hazy skies have swept over Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Illinois. Chicago reportedly had the worst air quality in the world on Tuesday.

“The state of Wisconsin is experiencing a historic air quality event and is currently observing some of the highest concentrations of particulate air pollution on record,” DNR outreach coordinator Craig Czarnecki said. “This is the worst air quality we’ve seen since 1999.”

Air Quality Index is used to measure air safety. A reading above 100 may be hazardous to those with respiratory conditions, and an index above 200 is labeled “unhealthy� for everyone. According to the New York Times, Chicago’s index reached 209 on Tuesday, with Green Bay’s measuring at 175.

63 of the state’s counties are affected by the advisory, with Milwaukee and Waukesha counties remaining among the least healthy on Wednesday.

DNR recommends avoiding or limiting outdoor activity, wearing an N-95 mask when outside, keeping doors and windows closed and running air conditioners on recirculate. 

For construction workers, farmers, first responders and other laborers, remaining indoors is not an option. Electrician Matt Hulbert told Fox 6 that he’s used to working with the elements, but felt the effects of the smoke this week.

“Later in the day, you know, I could feel it in my chest,” said Hulbert. “It felt like you smoked a bunch of cigarettes.”

Hispanics currently hold almost one-third of U.S. construction positions and account for 51% of dairy production labor, making the Hispanic-Latino population especially affected by air conditions.

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, there are currently 500 active fires across Canada, 241 of which were considered out of control at the time of publication. And while this isn’t uncommon for this time of year, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the last time an air quality alert was issued due to Canadian wildfires was in 2011. So far this year there have been nine.

“Getting smoke around here is not unusual, but typically it stays aloft and it doesn’t result in the type of conditions that we have had,” National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Collar said. “There’s no guarantees that we’re out of the woods. But having a more typical summertime, upper air pattern will certainly help our cause.â€�

For real-time updates of Wisconsin’s air quality, use DNR’s Wisconsin’s Air Quality Monitoring Data website.

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Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness; $42 Billion Approved

$42 billion in Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) has been approved since October 2021, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Education this week. The announcement states that 7,000 borrowers had been approved under the previous administration, with the amount reaching over 615,000 approved under the Biden-Harris administration.

“The difference that Public Service Loan Forgiveness is making in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans reminds us why we must continue doing everything we can to fight for borrowers and why families cannot afford to have progress derailed by partisan politicians,� said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

PSLF is a program designed to forgive public service workers including teachers, nurses and other government employees from their student loan debt after 10 years of service. Full-time employees of agencies or non-profits who have Direct Loans and have made at least 120 payments may be eligible to apply.

The program was criticized in 2018 for denying 99 percent of applicants. President Biden brought changes to PSLF including a one-time waiver from October 2021 to October 2022 that expanded eligibility for borrowers, making it easier to receive forgiveness. 

“Since day one, the Biden-Harris Administration has worked relentlessly to fix a broken student loan system, including by making sure we fulfill the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness for those who have spent a decade or more serving our communities and our country,� said Cardona.

PSLF is separate from the blocked Student Debt Relief Plan that includes loan forgiveness for up to $20,000 per eligible borrower. With 23 percent of Latinos taking out loans under $10,000, and 26 percent receiving loans between $10,000 and $50,000 this could potentially forgive almost half of Latino student loan debt

A poll published by Newsweek revealed that 62 percent of Americans surveyed support Biden’s plan for student loan forgiveness. Of the 1,500 sample size, those between the ages of 25 to 34 were most favorable, with 82 percent in support. 

The average amount of student loan debt for Wisconsin borrowers is $31,894, with almost 58% under the age of 35, according to the Education Data Initiative.

Student loan payments have been paused due to ongoing litigation and will potentially go back into effect 60 days after June 30, if the litigation is not resolved by then. 

To find out if you’re eligible for PSLF, use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Help Tool available on the Federal Student Aid website.

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Call For Applications: Journalism Camp 3

The Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF) is pleased to sponsor, once again, the Journalism Camp: Covering Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, a first-in-class 12-week program providing practical guidelines for fair and accurate storytelling.

The FREE virtual workshop led by award-winning news media veteran and twice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ)Hugo Balta, returns in the fall. 

Young journalists from across the country have participated in the first two classes. “Sometimes when you are young and new in a country, you don’t have an experienced person to give you advice and guidance,â€� said Danna Matheus, University of Maryland. “Hugo took the time to listen to me and help me improve in many areas, not only in journalism but with my resume, general life advice, finances, and even my 401k questions.“ Matheus was a cohort in the class of 2022.

Boris Q’va had this to say about his experience, “I felt heard when I needed it the most.� Q’va was enrolled in the New Media Journalism Master of Arts degree at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. “All of the lectures were equally important to me, but I found myself thinking about Solutions Journalism, and how it builds trust with the public through transparency.� Q’va was a cohort in 2021.

Class of 2021

As part of the program, all of the stories produced by the fellows had the chance to be published on one or all of the Latino News Network’s six outlets. Balta is the owner and publisher of Wisconsin Latino News, part of the Latino News Network.

“It is imperative that students get real work experiences and mentoring to navigate a newsroom that more often than not is not diverse and inclusive,â€� said Balta. 

Due to a lack of equitable representation in newsrooms, there is an urgent need to train journalists to be transparent in news gathering and reporting on the complexity of racial identity, social constructs relating to ethnic terms, and cultural competence.

Covering race, ethnicity, and culture: a guideline for fair and accurate storytelling is a course designed to go beyond the inverted pyramid of basic news writing in examining the terminology, usage, and word choice of stories providing greater visibility and understanding of deep-rooted inequities in all aspects of society.

Guest speakers also share insights on networking with a purpose, strategies for managing one’s career, and the experience of often being the only person of color in the newsroom.

The Journalism Camp is open to all students (undergrad, graduate) in good standing.

The application process runs from May 1 to 29. The weekly class will begin on September 3.

For more information about HZF’s Journalism Camp curriculum, how to apply, and ask questions – please email us at hortenciazavalafoundation

The Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF) was founded in 2016 in honor of Hugo Balta’s maternal grandmother.

HZF is a not-for-profit organization that helps students offset the costs of higher education with scholarships. In 2021, the organization expanded its support of students to include the Journalism Camp, and in 2023, sponsoring a paid internship with the Latino News Network.

Cover Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash.

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Statewide Consequences of Restricted Abortion Access

National headlines remain centered on the ongoing case attempting to strip mifepristone’s FDA approval, restricting access to medical abortion in the United States. After a Texas judge ruled earlier this month to suspend its approval, emergency requests were filed by the drug’s manufacturer Danco Laboratories and the U.S. Justice Department to delay it. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s extension on the order keeping the drug available ends at 11:59 p.m. today. 

What is mifepristone? 

Mifepristone and misoprostol, when used together, are two medications considered the “gold standard� in medication abortion and are also used in the medical management of miscarriages. Mifepristone was first approved by the FDA in 2000, with the generic version following in 2019.

A 2020 Abortion Provider Census by Guttmacher Institute found that medication abortions accounted for 53 percent of all U.S. abortions. This number jumped from 39 percent in 2017.

Abortion access in Wisconsin 

For Wisconsinites, this case would have little to no effect on abortion access, but could impact how miscarriages are handled. Healthcare providers in the state immediately ceased performing abortions after the June 24 Dobbs decision – even though the overturning of Roe v. Wade and an 1849 abortion law pushed Wisconsin into a state of limbo regarding whether or not abortion is actually legal.

But Jenny Higgins, Director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (CORE), says that accessing abortion care in the state was an issue long before these recent rulings.

“We’re overlooking the fact that many people were living in a post-Roe world for decades,â€� said the UW-Madison Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

24-hour waiting periods, parental consent requirements, and availability of abortion clinics were some of the issues patients faced when abortions were still performed. The Green Bay Press Gazette reported in 2022, that there were only four clinics providing abortions in the state.

“If you live right in Beloit, it might be closer to get to Rockford, IL… even before Roe v. Wade [was overturned], some people were getting care out of state,� said Higgins.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Illinois announced a partnership immediately after Roe fell to help support the influx of people who would cross state lines for abortion care. NPR reported that 60% of Waukegan’s Planned Parenthood patients derived from out of town, mostly coming from Wisconsin. While many people seek care in neighboring states like Illinois or Minnesota, not everyone has the financial means to do so. 

Cost of care

CORE estimates that on average abortion costs – including medical, travel, hotel, childcare and missed wages – over $1,000. For context, 75 percent of abortion patients have low income.

“If you don’t have a car, if you are having food insecurity, if you are having mental health challenges, even a difference of 300 miles or 200 miles can be the deciding factor between whether you’re able to obtain a desired abortion or carry a pregnancy to term,� Higgins explained.

Besides the financial burden, research suggests that forced pregnancy does impact one’s mental health. Women who are denied abortion report higher stress and anxiety, lower self esteem and lower life satisfaction than women who had an abortion, according to a JAMA Psychiatry study.

With 60 percent of abortion seekers being people of color, abortion bans disproportionately impact minority populations. 

“Women of color face more structural barriers to care to begin with, and those inequities are exacerbated when these policies further diminish their power and bodily autonomy,â€� said Wizdom Powell, Chief Social Impact and Diversity Officer at Headspace Health. 

6,430 abortions took place in Wisconsin in 2020. So on average, about 590 fewer abortions were performed in Wisconsin each month since the Dobbs decision.

“We already know that Wisconsinites have been forced to carry pregnancies to term who otherwise wouldn’t have been, and so given that now all of the clinics in our state don’t offer abortion care, we can say with some certainty that we’ll see increases in birth rates and those will be highly concentrated among people who are financially and structurally oppressed,� said Higgins.

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The Latino News Network (LNN) is accepting applications for the Hortencia Zavala Foundation Summer Internship Program.

The eight week paid opportunity will be considered in all LNN newsrooms in the Northeast and Midwest.

We are looking for students in all fields of Communications with a demonstrated interest in journalism. Successful applicants will be assigned meaningful work in the production of local news, including, but not limited to graphics, content development (photo/video/audio), social media, writing and copy editing suitable for their background.

The program advisors and mentors will meet with students regularly to identify and develop their summer goals.

We will be accepting all applications until May 12th, 2023. The internship is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Applications should include at least three examples of the student’s work. Please send inquiries, resumes and cover letters to hortenciazavalafoundation@gmail.com.

The internship runs from June 5 to July 28.

As part of their internship, students have the opportunity to be one of the attendees in this year’s journalism camp, Covering race, ethnicity, and culture: a guideline for fair and accurate storytelling.

SUGGESTION: Ignacio Dominguez-Coronado, Recipient of the Hortencia Zavala Foundation Scholarship

The Hortencia Zavala Foundation was created in 2016 by Hugo Balta, Owner/Publisher of LNN, and twice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), as a way to help students while honoring the legacy of his abuelita, Hortencia Zavala.

Since its inception, HZF has worked with NAHJ national and local professional chapters in identifying worthy candidates.

In 2021, HZF expanded its support of young journalists to include a journalism camp.

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