Carmen Aristegui, renowned Mexican journalist, to speak at UT

Carmen Aristegui, the renowned Mexican journalist behind blockbuster public corruption investigations into top government officials, will speak at the University of Texas on Tuesday.

Aristegui is the featured speaker for the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latino Studies’ annual “Austin Lecture on Contemporary Mexico,” which invites public figures from that country to speak about current issues. Past speakers have included prominent historian Lorenzo Meyer, human rights activist Sergio Aguayo, political activist Marcela Lagarde and writer Javier Sicilia.

Aristegui is widely regarded as one of the top journalists in Mexico and is the leader of an investigative team that has broken the biggest stories on public corruption in the country in recent years. In March 2015, she and her team were fired from MVS Noticias after the radio station said the team used its logo on a whistle-blowing effort called MexicoLeaks without authorization.

The fired journalists were responsible for breaking the “White House scandal” that implicated the Mexican first lady in buying a house from a government contractor. The story, and subsequent follow-ups, raised questions about conflicts of interest involving the presidential family, and the journalists’ firing was seen by many as a reprisal for their aggressive coverage.

Aristegui and her news team, who now broadcast on CNN en Español and continue to write on their website and in some major Mexican newspapers, have given extensive coverage to the case of 43 students who vanished in the southern Mexican city of Iguala two years ago and are believed to have been attacked and arrested by local and federal police working with drug gangs and are presumed dead.

This year, Aristegui’s team published a story showing that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto had plagiarized parts of his thesis project at the Universidad Panamericana in Mexico City.

Ariel Dulitzky, a human rights lawyer with extensive experience in Mexico and a UT law professor, nominated Aristegui as the speaker for the annual series.

“When I nominated Carmen, I was asking who in Mexico is a public figure who contributes to the public debate and is also making contributions to strengthen democracy and the rule of law,” Dulitzky said. “Carmen is that person. … She creates the space to have critical reflection on what is happening in Mexico, what the problems are and what the potential solutions are to those problems.”

Dulitzky, who has been interviewed by Aristegui for his human rights work, said she represents “independent journalists who are willing to investigate and show corruption, human rights abuses and the failure of the government.”

“Because of her work, she suffered some reprisals,” Dulitzky said. “It’s very important to recognize independent voices and Carmen is the best example of that.”

The lecture will begin at 5 p.m. in the Texas Union Theater room UNB 2.228. The event is free and open to the public. Seating will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.

¡Ahora Sí! wins 11 Jose Martí awards for excellence in journalism

The weekly Spanish newspaper, ¡Ahora Sí!, produced in association with the Austin American-Statesman, received 11 Jose Martí awards for excellence in journalism during the annual National Association of Hispanic Publications convention, which took place from Oct. 19 to Oct. 22 in McAllen, Texas.

Among the accomplishments was a second-place award for Best Spanish Weekly in the country for its circulation size, five first-place awards, four more second-place awards and a third place in editorial and design.

¡Ahora Sí! readers are familiar with the passion of our team, because our coverage keeps them up to date with the most important issues and stories,” said Josefina Casati, editor at ¡Ahora Sí!. “But it’s wonderful to receive these recognitions, and to see that our work is the best in the country under so many categories.”

During the ceremony, the association awarded one of the most prestigious first-place awards to the story Niños migrantes: prisioneros sin condena, “Child Migrants: Prisoners without sentence,” written by reporter Marlon Sorto. The article, which won Best Immigration Article, deals with the harsh reality that hundreds of undocumented mothers face when they’re detained with their children in Texas’s immigration detention centers, some of which don’t meet certain standards.

Another first-place award was given to a story by reporter Liliana Valenzuela, Titúlate en línea: Era digital cambia la educación, “Online titles: Digital era changes education.” Recognized as the Best Education Article, the report explores all the options that Latino adults in Texas have to continue their education, primarily through online programs.

The report Latinos regresan a sus raíces de judaísmo, “Latinos return to their Jewish roots,” written by reporter Samantha Badgen, who is now at Univision in Miami, won first place under the Best Culture Article category. Badgen looked into how some Latino families rediscovered their Jewish heritage after finding out their ancestors were forced to adopt Catholicism and suppress their Judaism.

The other two first-place awards were handed to Sorto for Best Political Article, El voto latino importa, y mucho, “The Latino vote matters, and a lot,” and to Alexander Linton and Randal Oliver for Best Design.

The second-place awards were given for the categories: Best Entertainment Section, Best Latin American Culture Article for Valenzuela’s Danzantes Honran a la Virgen Morena, “Dancers honor the brown Virgin Mary,” Best Community Service Article for Sorto’s Adultos latinos abren ventanas a una mejor vida, “Latino adults open their windows to a better life,” and Best Business Article for Sorto’s Más que una sucesión, una herencia familiar, “More than a succession, a family legacy.”

The publication’s website, ahorasi.com, also received third place for Best Online Publication.

The 11 National Association of Hispanic Publications awards will be added to the seven received by ¡Ahora Sí! in April by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors. Then, the Spanish publication received three first-place wins, among them best online website and articles in the categories of news and special reports.

 

Latino Vote: As elections near, advocates urge Latinos to make their voices heard

With less than a month to go before the presidential elections, advocacy groups are urging Latino voters to make their voices heard at the polls.

On Thursday, Janet Munguia, the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza – the largest Hispanic advocacy and civil rights group in the country – will speak at East Austin College Prep about the lack of political outreach to Latino voters.

Later in the month, the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) will hold a “Get out the Latino Vote” breakfast at Angie’s Restaurant on 1307 E. Seventh Street. That event, on Oct. 21 at 8:30 a.m., will be attended by Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, who will inform prospective voters on what documents they will need to present to vote in November.

Several Austin business owners launched a ‘Guac the Vote’ campaign this month to use the ubiquitous taco trucks in the city as voter registration locations.

The General Consulate of Mexico in Austin has also been hosting citizenship drives this year to engage Mexicans in the United States who qualify for citizenship in the American electoral process.

Carlos González Gutiérrez, the consul general of Mexico in Austin, has said in the past: “We will aggressively ask people to exercise their rights and the possibilities they acquire by becoming U.S. citizens.”

On Monday, Travis County announced it had registered more than 90 percent of its eligible voters. County officials said they would make a big push Tuesday – the last day to sign up to register to vote in the presidential election in November – to make sure people get registered before the deadline.

The county’s main tax office at 5501 Airport Boulevard will be open until midnight and voter registrars will be signing people up to vote at all Thundercloud Sub and Alamo Drafthouse locations in the county.

Column: On the veep debate, basketball on summer nights and ‘that Mexican thing’

FARMVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 04: Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine (L) and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence (R) debate during the Vice Presidential Debate at Longwood University on October 4, 2016 in Farmville, Virginia. This is the second of four debates during the presidential election season and the only debate between the vice presidential candidates. (Photo by Andrew Gombert - Pool/Getty Images)
FARMVILLE, VA – OCTOBER 04: Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine (L) and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence (R) debate during the Vice Presidential Debate at Longwood University on October 4, 2016 in Farmville, Virginia. This is the second of four debates during the presidential election season and the only debate between the vice presidential candidates. (Photo by Andrew Gombert – Pool/Getty Images)

I didn’t do college right.

I was a first-generation college student and when I came home for summer from my first two years at UCLA, I didn’t head off to an internship like many of my friends. I didn’t know any better. I was just happy to be home.

So what did I do? I read a lot, ran miles upon miles to lose the weight I’d gained in the dining halls and did chores to keep my mother happy. But my favorite part of those summers was playing basketball with my friends almost every day at Philadelphia Park on the south side of Pomona, Calif.

We’d show up at 5 p.m. and not stop until until the dark of the night prevented us from seeing the orange leather sphere anymore. Those hours upon hours spent at the park are some of the best memories of my life.

So why am I telling you this? Well, it was what popped into my mind as I watched the vice presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence.

Now, how did that pop into my head you may ask? Well our pick-up games at the park inevitably attracted a motley crue of characters.

There were little kids who had shown up to the park with their families and gravitated toward the ball courts, old Mexican guys who had unexpected Dirk Nowitzki-like skills to sink 15-foot jump shots, gangsters who had traveled from the next block over and guys who were completely uninterested in doing anything but shooting three-pointers every time they got the ball.

There was also a recurring character. A scrappy guy with average build. Nice enough, but nothing special on the court. If you had him on your team you were guaranteed that he wouldn’t really hurt you as long as he stuck to his script and didn’t try to do anything fancy. But if you were playing against him, he could annoy the heck out of you with his persistent defense.

That guy was Tim Kaine on the vice presidential debate stage Tuesday night. He came in with a plan: remind the American public about Trump’s tax issues and controversial comments. Stay on that point until you wear yourself out.

There was another recurring character on our basketball court at Philadelphia Park. A fundamentally sound guy with a decent jump shot. He didn’t do anything fancy but he was so smart about the shots he took that, while he didn’t sink every shot, his output resulted in an overall plus for his team. And he was tall enough to play solid defense and make some good blocks on the other team.

That was Mike Pence Tuesday night. No matter how much Kaine prodded him to defend Donald Trump’s controversial comments, Pence wouldn’t take the bait. Showing tremendous restraint and a spotty if not selective memory, Pence deflected point after point from Kaine on Trump’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, his suggestion that women who had abortions should be punished and Trump’s remarks against a Mexican-American judge hearing a case against Trump University.

Whatever you want to say about the lack of fact-checking from the moderator in the debate, Pence on Tuesday night was tall enough to play the solid defense the Trump campaign needed from him.

In contrast to Kaine’s strategy of pressing his point until exhaustion (and possibly an undecided voter’s chagrin), Pence took a different approach. The reality of his running partner’s statements notwithstanding, Pence came off for much of the debate as aloof, calm and collected to those who (like much of the American public) do not follow every single turn of the campaign.

He interrupted far less than Kaine and, much like Hillary Clinton in the first debate, he let arguments slide off of him and appeared to take the high road as his opponent stayed on the attack.

But near the end of the debate, I realized that no one had really made any attempt to appeal to Latino voters. The immigration segment of the debate, where most people seem to like to pigeonhole Latino voters, offered no new information on the candidates that would change a person’s mind.

And although either side could have used the issue of refugees (there are plenty of them from Central America) or foreign policy (Colombia just decided against a peace treaty to end a half a century of war with Communist guerrillas, the U.S. has re-opened diplomatic ties with Cuba, and Mexico, our neighbor to the south, offers an ally that is at the same time rich with potential and plagued by drug wars and political corruption), to appeal to Latino voters neither of them even tried.

This again brought me back to the basketball court of my college years. During our hours of revelry on that asphalt, we became so enthralled in the competition, so enraptured by the joy of basketball on summer nights with our friends that we often forgot the world around us.

But right next to our basketball courts there were soccer fields. There, groups of paisanos who came to the park after work ran pick-up soccer games and enjoyed, in their language, the game that they loved. Sometimes, it was our neighbors or tíos and tías who were on the sidelines of that soccer field watching their kids play a middle of the week game.

We didn’t really pay that much attention to them. We were too caught up in our game. But they always noticed when something happened to us, whether it was someone causing trouble, a fight breaking out or somebody getting seriously hurt during a play.

For much of the debate, Pence played brilliant defense. On immigration, he side-stepped and avoided elaborating on Trump’s plan, which could have made his numbers among Latinos even worse.

But near the end of the debate, Pence blurted out: “You whipped out that Mexican thing again” when Kaine brought up Trump’s characterization of Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.

No one had really appealed to Latinos throughout the entire debate, but when Pence said that, you better believe the Latino voters on the soccer field of America started watching the vice presidential basketball court. That’s the line Latinos are going to remember after this debate.

Now Pence and Trump have to walk out of that basketball court and through the soccer fields to get home. On Nov. 8, we’ll see if Latinos let them.