¡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.

 

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.

Mexican Independence Day Celebrations in Austin 2016

A Mexican flag waves at the Fiesta del Grito at the Capitol on Tuesday September 15, 2015. The City of Austin, the Consulate General of Mexico, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and the Fiesta de Independencia Foundation hosted the Diez y Seis celebration on the south steps. The event marked the 205th Anniversary of Mexico's independence from Spain, and climaxed with the re-enactment of El Grito, Father Miguel Hidalgo's 1810 call for independence by Mr. Carlos Gonzales Gutierrez, Consul General of Mexico. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A Mexican flag waves at the Fiesta del Grito at the Capitol on Tuesday September 15, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

This Friday, Mexico will celebrate 206 years of independence from Spain. For those looking for festivities in Austin, you’ve got plenty to choose from. Here are some of the Mexican Independence Day celebrations you can attend while in Austin. And the best part? They’re all free.

Diez y Seis de Septiembre

When: Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Austin Community College, Riverside Campus 1020 Grove Boulevard.

Longtime Texas legislator Gonzalo Barrientos will be the special guest speaker at this celebration of Mexican Independence Day. Other speakers will include Mayor Steve Adler, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and Council Member Delia Garza. Consul general of Mexico in Austin Carlos González Gutiérrez will also speak at the event.

Fiesta del Grito 

When: Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Where: West end of the Texas Capitol on Colorado Street between Eleventh and Thirteenth streets

Organized by the Fiesta del Grito Foundation, the Mexican consulate in Austin, the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus and Univision, this event will include musical performances and traditional Mexican folk dances. The event, which will be televised on Univision, has been held in the city for 24 years and will culminate with the traditional “Grito de Independencia” at 9 p.m., which is a reenactment of Miguel Hidalgo’s call to his countrymen for independence from Spain.

Viva Mexico! 2016

When: Friday, Sept. 16, 2016 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: Mexican American Cultural Center

Consul general of Mexico in Austin, Carlos González Gutiérrez, will give the opening remarks for this celebration at the Mexican American Cultural Center. The event will also include mariachi, traditional folk dances and other musical performances.

Mexican Independence Day Fiesta

When: Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 from noon to 10 p.m.

Where: Fiesta Gardens Park West

Enjoy an entire day of free music, dancing and Mexican Independence Day celebrations during the 38th annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration. More information at diezyseis.org.

RELATED: Where to celebrate Diez y Seis in Austin

Correction: Mexico’s Independence Day is Sept. 16. 

Column: Supreme Court decision turns immigrant’s heartbreak, desire into fire for next election

Montserrat Garibay speaks at a vigil at the Governor's Mansion Thursday June 23, 2016, in response to the Supreme Court decision about President Obama’s immigration executive order. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Montserrat Garibay speaks at a vigil at the Governor’s Mansion Thursday June 23, 2016, in response to the Supreme Court decision about President Obama’s immigration executive order. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

I’ve covered President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration for nearly two years.

Since the first day he announced his plan to shield up to 5 million people from deportation through the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program in November 2014, the issue has been a hot topic that always makes tensions and emotions run high.

I’ve gone to news conference after news conference in which one side denounces the other and touts the righteousness of their own opinion. A day after Obama’s announcement of his orders in 2014, I covered a rally in front of the Texas Capitol, where, far from being happy about the orders, immigrants and their allies urged the Obama administration to do more to protect unauthorized immigrants in the country. One young lady, who was a beneficiary of the original DACA program in 2012, told me she was happy for her mother who qualified for the program aimed at parents of American citizens but disappointed that it did nothing for the parents of her colleagues who did not have siblings born in the United States.

Soon after Judge Andrew Hanen of the federal district court in Brownsville placed an injunction on the programs the day before they were set to go live last February, I covered a news conference in which immigrants rights advocates were stubbornly optimistic saying the injunction would not stand and urged their community to have their documents prepared for the moment when the block on the programs was lifted.

When the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case in January, I remember the hope in the voices of immigrants rights advocates. Finally, they believed, they would get a fair shot at a hearing, away from what they considered conservative-leaning courts that had openly criticized the Obama administration in the past and held anti-immigrant views.

Even after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, immigrant rights advocates somehow found a way to stay optimistic about the outcome of the case in the face of what seemed very likely to be a 4-4 split that would block the implementation of the program for the remainder of Obama’s term and likely leave the fate of the programs in the hands of the next president.

We’ve got nothing to lose, they said. We have to remain optimistic.

But that optimism was hard to spot during a vigil in front of the Governor’s Mansion in downtown Austin Thursday night.

Sure, there were the usual rallying cries of “We must continue to fight,” and the call for the crowd to stick together. But mostly a deep-set anger and heartbreak took the place of that optimism.

As the meaning of the decision set in on the group, the old lines about how the programs would help them out of the shadows and allow them lead a normal life in the country that they loved were replaced by resigned comments about how the Supreme Court had “failed them” and scathing criticisms of Gov. Greg Abbott, who filed the suits challenging the programs as Texas’ attorney general.

“It is a shame and a disgrace that the Supreme Court couldn’t come up with a ruling,” said Montserrat Garibay, vice president of Education Austin, as she fought back tears addressing the crowd of about 100. “This Supreme Court decision has ignited a fire in our hearts to keep organizing.”

She wasn’t the only speaker to break down in tears on the night.

But the vigil wasn’t just a moment to air grievances and mope. It seemed to be a cathartic moment for a community that had placed all its hope on one policy from a man in a white house more than a thousand miles away. A policy that was challenged by another man who resides in the mansion in front of which they stood and was ultimately in the hands of short-handed group of eight people in black robes in a court that they had no connection to whatsoever.

In other words, they had placed all their hope on something that was never within their control. And the saddest part is that it could not have been any other way, precisely because of the immigration status that they are fighting to remedy through the very program they had pinned their hopes on. It was a twisted kind of Catch-22 and the full reality of it seemed to fall on them Thursday night in the suffocating heat of Central Texas.

And yet, they would not give up. In the midst of the heartbreak and anger, they resolved more than ever to double their efforts to get out the vote, to canvas their communities to get their allies to vote for people who supported, not only the deferred action programs at stake in the court decision but an overall comprehensive immigration reform. Standing in front of the Governor’s Mansion, Garibay vowed to do everything she could to vote out Abbott in the next election and to stand against any politician that would obstruct benefits toward the immigrant community.

“We remember in November,” she said.

Of course, we’ve heard these things before. Political scientists have long prognosticated that the wave of growth in the Hispanic population in the state would some day turn Texas blue, if not at least purple. That has not come to pass. And in election years, it’s easy for people to get fired up and promise things way beyond their control.

But, I’ve been following these protests for almost two years. They’re always pretty similar, give or take an update on the case or what the issue of the month is when the news conference takes place. This protest Thursday was the first time the desperation, heartbreak and anger in the air was palpable and visible to the naked eye. Speakers had fire in their voices and broke out in tears in the middle of their speeches. Parents hugged their small children, and adults in the crowd hugged each other. Even the usually uplifting music the activists like to play to lighten the mood sounded unusually melancholy.

Will the Supreme Court decision on this case change anything in the long run? Time will tell. But I’ll tell you this: Thursday’s vigil certainly felt different.