Guest editor column: Celebrating two worlds

Fall, 2014 issue of USA TODAY's Hispanic Living

Fall, 2014 issue of USA TODAY’s Hispanic Living

When I was growing up in the Bronx with parents from the Dominican Republic, my bedtime stories didn’t include Goodnight Moon or The Cat in the Hat, considered by some to be mandatory for the mainstream American-childhood experience. Instead, we sang Los Pollitos Dicen and Arroz con Leche.

Growing up, I didn’t know who Frank Sinatra was or that he had blue eyes; I never watched M.A.S.H., and I had no idea what cranberry sauce was or that it was a Thanksgiving Day staple.

Instead, I could sing – and dance – along with Johnny Ventura; could tell you the comings and goings on the telenovela Esmeralda; and would be the first in line for concon, the crunchy rice that forms at the bottom of the pot, or the cuerito, the crunchy skin on a roast pork.

As I grew older, I came to love The Police and Depeche Mode. And if I was ever deserted on an island, French fries and all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be at the top of the list of things I’d take with me.

This theme of living in two cultures is visited again and again throughout this issue of USA TODAY’s Hispanic Living.

One article examines the idea of what it really means to be Hispanic. The article addresses stereotypes of how Latinos are supposed to look and explores biases that are sometimes attached to being dark skinned.

There is a first-person account from a writer on her struggle to choose between her Peruvian heritage and becoming a U.S. citizen.

We also look at the strides and successes of Latinos who have become players in every facet of American life, from education to business to entertainment.

Our cover story profiles the two Latino actors – Stephanie Beatriz and Melissa Fumero – in leading roles on Fox’s Brooklyn Nine Nine sitcom; they talk about the successes and the power of having  more Latinas on TV.

In a salute to the evolution of the lowrider car culture, we introduce Latinas who have embraced the once all-male community and are proud to be behind the wheels of their hydraulic-hopping autos.

Continue turning pages and you will find great stories on travel, food, fashion and beauty.

You wll see throughout the pages that it is possible, not just to exist, but to thrive with your feet in both cultures.

As for me, I’m sharing both of my cultures with my son. We are reading Goodnight Moon and The Cat in the Hat. Only we read them as Buenas Noches, Luna y El Gato en el Sombrero.

I am guest editor in this year’s issue of Hispanic Living. Pick up a copy on your newstands this month.

 

Parents who do the unthinkable — kill their children

In South Carolina, a 32-year-old father faces murder charges after he led police to the bodies of his five children, ages 1 to 8, who were dumped on the side of an Alabama road.

In Georgia, a 33-year-old father is charged with intentionally leaving his toddler son to die in a hot SUV, strapped in his car seat for seven hours.

In Utah, a 39-year-old mother is charged with strangling or suffocating six of her newborns from 1996 to 2006 because, police say, she was addicted to drugs and could not care for them.

Three parents accused of crimes that society considers among the most heinous. All three high-profile incidents occurred this year, raising again the terrible question: What kind of parents intentionally kill their offspring?

A USA TODAY examination of more than three decades of FBI homicide data shows that on average, 450 children are killed every year by their parents. Northeastern University criminologists applied statistical models to the records. USA TODAY analyzed the database for a detailed look at who kills, who is killed and how. Several patterns emerge.

READ MORE at USA TODAY.com.

‘Sextortion’ is an online ‘epidemic’ against children

The number of complaints of online enticement of children is climbing. The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which helps state and local law enforcement agencies fight online child pornography, reports that the number of complaints to its 61 offices nationwide has grown from 5,300 in 2010 to 7,000 in 2013.(Photo: Sam Ward)

The number of complaints of online enticement of children is climbing. The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which helps state and local law enforcement agencies fight online child pornography, reports that the number of complaints to its 61 offices nationwide has grown from 5,300 in 2010 to 7,000 in 2013. (Photo: Sam Ward)

Unemployed high school dropout Tremain Hutchinson spent a lot of time talking to young girls on Tagged.com, a teen chat site.

Sometimes he was “Mario,” sometimes “Quan” or “Money,” but Hutchinson, 28, always pretended to be a cute 16-year-old Georgia boy. He used a photo of a younger cousin in the profiles.

He was interested in girls 11 to 17. Race or economic background didn’t matter.

His opening line was always the same: ” What’s up? You be my freak once a month. I will spoil you, buy you a cell phone, keep your bill paid. Hair, nails done. Buy you shoes, clothes, whatever you want.”

Dozens of girls responded. One of them was a 15-year-old girl in the Atlanta area who has regretted it ever since, her father says.

Hutchinson enticed the girl to send naked photos. Then he turned vicious.

For weeks, he pressed her for more images. He threatened to post her nude photos online. He threatened to kill her and her parents and blow up her house.

Every time she begged him to leave her alone, he told her he would if she did one more thing. Then came the day he ordered her to do something so unthinkable, it led federal investigators to his door.

It is a crime of the digital age.

READ MORE at USA TODAY.com.

No victory in war on poverty in eastern Kentucky

Fifty-year campaign shows strengths, limitations of government programs

President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes the hand of one of the residents of Appalachia in 1964 as he launched his War on Poverty. (Cecil Stoughton, LBJ Library)

President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes the hand of one of the residents of Appalachia in 1964 as he launched his War on Poverty. (Cecil Stoughton, LBJ Library)

INEZ, Ky. — Fifty years ago, when President Lyndon Johnson drove into this Appalachian town, Route 3 was a two-lane road that hugged the mountains in tight curves. Minzie Stanley was 6 years old, living with her parents and 17 brothers and sisters on one of the narrow gravel lanes that sprouted off the main road.

Johnson was there to shine a spotlight on families living in rural poverty, families such as Stanley’s. Minzie’s father didn’t have a steady job. The family had to grow everything they ate, or they’d go hungry. She got a pair of hand-me-down shoes once a year if she was lucky. There were few good-paying jobs. College was a distant dream.

Stanley moved up and out of poverty, thanks to a coal boom that provided her husband with steady work as a miner. But the cycle wasn’t broken. Her daughter, Jennifer Jarrell, 34, and two grandchildren live on food stamps and child support in a two-bedroom trailer that’s more than 30 years old.

“We’ve progressed in certain areas,” Jarrell says. “We do have things like indoor plumbing.”

READ MORE at USA TODAY.com.

 

Investigators race to find victims of child pornography

Jim Cole is national program manager for the victim identification program at Homeland Security Investigations' Cyber Crime Center. (Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)

Jim Cole is national program manager for the victim identification program at Homeland Security Investigations’ Cyber Crime Center.
(Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)

The mother of five remembers the moment when everything she thought she knew about raising her children exploded into shards of anger, despair and confusion.

She was sitting at a conference table with federal computer forensics experts, a victim’s advocate, a police detective, and state and federal prosecutors. They showed her photos she couldn’t have imagined: her ex-husband, naked, posing next to their 7-year-old daughter, who was unconscious on his bed.

“I asked for a garbage can. I thought I was going to throw up,” she says. “Those photos are burned in my head.”

She learned that her ex-husband had drugged and raped their daughter and invited other men to choose among his three young daughters for sex. He took photos of himself and another man raping the youngest and posted them online for other pedophiles to enjoy.

If not for the agents who knocked on her door that Fourth of July weekend in 2010, the mother would have had no idea.

“They swooped in and saved my kids,” she says. “They were my kids and I did not know they were in danger.”

The expansion of the “Dark Web,” where pedophiles hide using websites that encrypt their computers’ identifying information, has fueled an explosion of child pornography that has law enforcement in a race against time to find victims before they are abused again.

READ MORE at USA TODAY.com.

For many, Mandela’s promise for better life unfulfilled

With Mandela’s death, many have little faith the government will help improve their lives.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

ALEXANDRA, SOUTH AFRICA – Tucked behind a black steel gate and a partially collapsed cement wall with barbed wire sits Nelson Mandela’s first house when he moved to Johannesburg in 1940.

A pile of garbage and a giant nylon bag full of empty bottles stand at the entrance to the courtyard with its dirt paths and crumbled patches of concrete. Most nearby houses have no electricity or indoor plumbing. People use buckets to haul water from a communal tap and use outhouses, called long drops, that they lock, so no one steals the metal toilets inside.

In some parts of this sprawling township, the conditions are not much different from what Mandela described in his autobiography about his time here: “It was no more than a shack with a dirt floor, no heat, no electricity, no running water. But it was a place of my own and I was happy to have it.”

Two miles away, past the boulevard where hawkers line the sidewalk selling fruits, vegetables, hats, sunglasses, goats and cellphone minutes, lies Sandton. The well-heeled suburb is home to a swanky mall, gated apartment complexes, the South African stock exchange and an Aston Martin dealership.

The disparity between abject poverty and great wealth that is evident in Alexandra and Sandton is representative of a growing income inequality throughout South Africa since the end of apartheid.

READ MORE at USA TODAY.com.