Latin Beats: Raul y Mexia

Photo credit: Latinousa.org

Photo credit: Latinousa.org

Have you ever noticed just how much Latinos are surrounded by music? Think about it, whether you’re listening to your parents’ favorite rancheras on a Sunday afternoon or dancing the night away at your quinceañera, Spanish music is almost always playing wherever Latinos are gathered. For most music-loving kids, a desire to be a famous Rock Star seems like nothing but a dream, but for Spanish pop duo, Raul y Mexia, they’ve made their dreams a living reality.

Raul y Mexia say their passion for music runs in their blood because they’re the sons of artist Hernan Hernandez from the legendary Mexican group, Los Tigres del Norte. “Our father would take us on tour with him and introduced us to various instruments, like the accordion,” says the eldest brother, Mexia.

While famous Latino artists would often visit their house to have “jam sessions” with Señor Hernandez, the brothers say they got the best of both music worlds as their mother also played popular American music. Raul y Mexia say growing up in a bilingual environment has helped shape their career. “We definitely are proud of our roots and want to showcase that but we were born in the U.S. and have our own musical tastes so I think that makes it easy to relate to a younger audience, ni de aqui, ni de alla,” says Mexia.

The San Francisco Bay Area native group defines their music as Urban Cumbia and says they want to use their songs to shine light upon their beliefs and passions, like immigration reform. Their song, “Somos Arizona,” Raul says, may be considered political and controversial but plays a crucial role in giving Latinos a voice. He knows his lyrics and band mates need “to be smart and educated about the topic they are fighting against.”

Karen Gonzalez, a Political Science major graduate from San Jose State University, says she enjoys listening to Raul y Mexia because they use their talents as a platform to positively speak out to Latinos. “Latinos in media is essential for growth of our community. If Latinos can be an influence, we can essentially share our culture our style and every other aspect of our roots.”

To date, Raul y Mexia feel their proudest moment as a group was when they were featured in both Billboard Magazine and The New York Times. They say there’s definitely more to come, but the best part of these experiences is sharing them with family. “We travel together so life on the road doesn’t seem lonely. We are able to share successes and failures and lean on each other when one is down.”

Los Tigres del Norte offspring say they credit much of their success to the work ethic and determination their father instilled in them and say they want to help spread that message to those looking to go into the music industry. “If you love to rap, sing or just play instruments, practice daily. The most important thing, though, is having love for what you want to do,” says Raul.

To learn more and hear Raul y Mexia’s music please visit their YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/raulymexia/videos

Review: “I am Malala”

80ba698508f76288e82c306520908022In “I am Malala” by Mala Yousafzai, we journey through the story of Malala.  Malala, a young girl born in Pakistan where educated women are rare, grows up with an understanding of how the power of raising our voices, words and education can change the world.

The book is inspirational right from the beginning with the story of Malala’s father,  Ziauddin. Her father, despite his upbringing in poverty, manages to become an educated man. Through the story of Ziuaddin, we first gain a glimpses to the environment and ideas that will later influence Malala. Unlike many other Pakastani men who are upset when a daughter is born, Ziauddin is proud of having a daughter. He makes sure that she receives the same  treatment as her brothers. He proceeds by refusing to allow the Woma (the celebration of a child’s life in the Pashtun culture) be paid by Baba (Malala’s grandfather) when her brothers are born. Ziauddin knows that an education that promotes independent thinking is nonexistent  in Pakistan, he decides to open a school.  Opening a school is not easy in Pakistan since principals are expected to bribe school officials for registration. This ignites Ziuaddin to speak out on the importance of children being educated and created an organization for principals to gather and fight the restrictions. Despite the adversities to education that are imposed, the Khusal school managed to flourish.

Malala grows up in her father’s school, develops a love for knowledge and, even though she’s a girl, is allowed to listen to politics. When she encounters children ridden in the dumps squandering for food, she realizes that not every child — especially girls– have an opportunity to be educated. Her own mother and aunts are unable to read, write, and share the same view that many Pakastani women share about school: Not seeing the point of going to school since they will end up being mothers and wives. This makes her even more appreciative to have an education, and she promotes a new way to view education as a gateway to change and opportunity.

During this time, Islam was gaining even more importance in the Pakastani society. False interpretations began to emerge, and the bearers of false interpretations of the Qu’ran were the Taliban terrorists who had moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Unknowingly, people began to support these terrors. This made Malala and her father realize the necessity of literacy more evident. If more people were literate, they would know about the misinterpretations of the Qu’ran the Taliban were giving. Schools began to be attacked and death threats began to spread with restrictions on how women and men should dress by the Taliban. The first to speak up was Ziauddin, encouraging  more people to speak up, reminding the reader how powerful our voices can be and how they can inspire others to stand up against injustices. During those dark days, students like Malala and her friends took refugee in school; for them, school became a getaway from the darkness the Taliban brought.

Under a pen name, Malala kept an online diary in a blog about living under the Taliban rule enhancing awareness to the problems Pakistan was facing. It is here where she realizes, “that the pen and words that come from it can be much more powerful than machine guns, tanks or helicopters. We were learning how to struggle. And we were learning how powerful we are when we speak.” Ultimately, this awareness is what saved her life in the end. “I am Malala” is a book worth reading to gain a greater understanding of world affairs and is a powerful reminder of how we can make a difference.

Film: Life on the Line

Photo Credit: http://finelinefilms.org

Photo Credit: http://finelinefilms.org

In the documentary, “Life on the Line: Coming of age between nations” by Jen Gilomen and Sally Rubin, the life of a young eleven year old girl, Kimberly Torrez, is portrayed in the story to show her family’s hardships in life facing difficulties in two different worlds. This documentary will be aired during Hispanic Heritage Month, in September on PBS.

Growing up is hard as it is, with all of the different changes happening, especially when you have to grow up in two different countries. In the life of Kimberly Torrez, the oldest of three children, she is faced with drastic changes in her life living in Mexico and going to school in Arizona. Each morning she wakes up early to walk across the border to go to school because she does not drive.

At such an early age of only 11 years old, she is faced with many responsibilities, has to wake up extra early, takes care of her little siblings from time to time to help out the parents, and, most importantly, is being brave through this passage of growing up.

As if it isn’t enough, she also has to deal with the ongoing violence occurring in Nogales; from hearing gunshots to police sirens nearby, at an early age in her life, she has many worries at such a young age.

In addition, she also has to cope with her parents going through a rough patch. Her father has Hepatitis C from getting several tattoos, which he later realizes were done with unsterilized needles. In need of a liver transplant, it became difficult for the father to find a reliable job in Nogales.

Because of the father’s sickness, the mother became the only one that could work to provide for their family.  She worked in Mexico because she was never a U.S citizen; she had crossed a long time ago illegally to have her children, but returning was not possible.

Times began to get more difficult, and the father then decides to cross the border and find a job in the U.S, which he did. He found a job in construction in Arizona, which was hours away from his family. He took the job and was separated from his family for months, in order to earn more money to be able to support his family through these difficult times.

After a while Kimberly’s mom got her Visa in the mail, which allowed her to finally cross the border to the U.S.. To add to the good news, Kimberly’s family finds out that a liver became available for their father’s transplant

Growing up is hard, and living in two worlds is difficult, but with Kimberly’s family supporting one another and always trying their best without giving up, they did it, together. For a tale of perseverance and the obstacles that come from immigrant families, this film is a must-see this September.

REVIEW: Instructions Not Included

11175771_800Instructions Not Included is the 2013 directorial debut of Eugenio Derbez. While Derbez also stars as the main actor, the film serves as the acting debut of 9-year-old Loreto Peralta who plays his daughter. In a 115 minute bundle of laughs, anger, and tears, Derbez is successful in entertaining his multicultural audience and providing a different take on the father daughter dynamic.

Warning: the following may contain spoilers.

The movie begins by introducing Valentin (Eugenio Derbez) as a crazy, single bachelor in Acapulco. Throughout his journey, he meets Julie. What he does not know though is that Julie gave birth to a daughter. And sooner than later he finds out that he is the father to Maggie – Julie’s daughter.

This turned Valentin’s world upside down – literally. It so much fun to watch how Valentin was forced to change right away and become a more responsible adult. He began to do more stunt work and began getting more money to give Maggie everything she wanted. This includes the loft in which they live in where a fantasy land exists.

The reason Valentin does this though is because he does not want Maggie to know her mother left her when she was just a baby. He worked tremendously hard on keeping the truth hidden from her. He does this by writing letters to her every week pretending that they were actually from her mother — one letter even said that she knew Batman.

Within each letter Valentin writes to her different things, always making sure her mother is not always doing the same thing so Maggie would not question her mother’s absence as much. He also photoshops Julie into different photos to add to the idea of her being out meeting celebrities and protecting the world.

Thinking about this in real life truly makes your heart break. How would you feel as a mother or father having to do this for your child? How would it make you feel knowing you had to lie to your child every single day?

Even with all the hard work Valentin  put into preventing Maggie from finding out the truth, she grows to become very uneasy with the reality of not having ever met her mom. This comes after a powerful scene at a carnival where a woman confuses her as her daughter that then makes Maggie think about what would happen if she really was this woman’s daughter.

Peralta (Maggie) does a great job at conveying such raw emotion. It so easy to see her heart break right after this scene. This scene really emphasizes the gap Maggie must feel by not having a mother, also bringing out more reasons why Valentin is very important to her.

He will literally do anything for her. This passion and love is greatly seen when Valentin goes out of his way to hold an open call for an actress to pretend to be Maggie’s mother. He was determined to find the perfect actress that most resembled Julie. While that proves to be unsuccessful, Valentin soon after receives a call from Julie out the blue letting him know that she was going to go “see her daughter.”

This however, ends up in Julie wanted to take Maggie back to New York with her and her girlfriend, but Maggie does not want to go. After being raised by Valentin all her life, Maggie does not how to live life having a mother even after she longed one for so long.

While this is where the movie takes a twist that you will not see coming the film, it nevertheless does a fabulous job in capturing the relationship between a man and his daughter. It truly shows you how much a father will do for his daughter just to keep her safe and be able to have her taken care of.

The film’s story line is also one that is not really seen a lot, which makes the film a bit more special.

But I have already told you too much. What happens next in the movie will make your heart ache – be warned. As emotional as it is though, you will be satisfied with this conclusion and the movie as a whole.

My rating for the movie is: A-

Instructions Not Included is available via DVD, Blu-Ray, and Netflix.

Review: Cesar Chávez

Cesar_Chavez_2014_filmIt’s only appropriate that around the time of Cesar Chávez day, that we reflect on the work of Chávez and the strides he made for Mexican American workers. He founded the United Farm Workers in 1962 and supported various worker strikes in California and Texas; his impact is still felt today.

Diego Luna’s film, “Cesar Chávez,” premiered nationwide on March 28th 2014; it is a biographical film that celebrates the life and accomplishments of Chávez. The film stars Michael Peña as Chávez and John Malkovich as the owner of a grape farm who leads the opposition to Chávez. The film includes great Latina and Latino actors, such as America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson, Yancey Arias, Jacob Vargas, and cameos by Gael García Bernal and Hector Sanchez. The film mainly focuses on Chavez’s efforts to organize farm workers in California, many of them being braceros.

The film screened earlier in the year at various locations in the US but the most noteworthy film screening was in Los Angeles, California. A group of 1000 migrant workers sat in folding chairs and watched “Cesar Chávez” on an inflatable screen outside of the union hall where the first contracts were signed in 1970 between workers and the company owners.

Diego Luna does a great job at executing what he set out to do: he paints a portrait of Cesar Chávez that audiences will admire and respect. Throughout the film we get to view Chávez not only as a pacifist leader, but also as a human being.  The film starts with Chávez in jail explaining who he is and where he comes from. The audience gets an idea of his life and what he stands for and throughout the film we are introduced to his relationships with his wife and his children.

The film captures the time period of Chavez’s life starting with his organization of the United Farm Works all the way to the 1975 Modesto March,which established the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Through the portrayal of events, we get a sense of what Chávez had to endure and the sacrifices he had to make throughout his life in order to achieve his goals. All of the actors do great jobs, especially Michael Peña as Cesar Chávez and America Ferrera as Helen Chávez.

“Cesar Chávez” had a lot of heart touching moments; particularly the fasting scene. Seeing Chávez having to starve day by day in order to get his union to become dedicated to non-violence was a touching moment that moved the audience. It’s important not only to view Chávez as a rights activist but also as a human being with faults. The scenes in which Chávez is seen as a husband and a father displays a different side of his persona that we don’t usually tend to see.

All in all, the film was a great ode to Chavez and his life work. It’s important that a film encapsulates the hard work and dedication of not only Chavez, but his wife and Dolores Huerta.  It is highly recommended to watch this movie; it is a reminder of all the struggles that minority workers faced up until 1960s. Learning about the story of Cesar Chávez riles up all sort of emotions, but it mainly acts as a reminder of Chávez’s inspirational sense of duty and the importance of dedication.  It’s impossible to walk away from this film without feeling motivated to make a difference in this world.

Quiz: Are you a Leader or a Follower

latina leadersDo you fall into peer pressure when you see everyone wearing the same type of clothes? Do you do your own thing and expect everyone else to do the same as you? Take this quiz and find out if you are a leader or a follower.

1. When you see everyone wearing clothes you don’t like, but they look at you weird for not wearing them, you:

a. Quickly go to the nearest mall and buy some of those clothes

b. Stay with your clothes because you like it, and you don’t care what they think

c. Tell them they’re wearing ugly clothes

2. You see someone eating alone during lunch, and everyone is just making fun of them, so you decide to:

a. Make fun of them too because they’re by themselves

b. Go eat with them and tell them not to listen to everyone else

c. Ignore everyone

3. You’re in class and the teacher asks the class a question, everyone is shouting out the same answer and you know it’s wrong so you:

a. Shout the same answer as everyone else, even if you know it’s wrong

b. Say the answer you think is the right one, even if it’s different than everyone else

c. Just sit there waiting for everyone to be quiet

4. You go out to eat with some friends and they order a salad but you really want a burger, so you decide to:

a. Order a salad, then they’ll think you eat too much

b. Order a hamburger because it’s what you want

c. Not eat anything

5. Everyone is skipping class to go swimming, you remember you have a test, what do you do?

a. Skip class and go swimming because you don’t want them to make fun of you

b. Go to class because you think it’s more important than swimming

c. Not go to class at all and go home and sleep

6. Your “Friends” start saying bad words in public at each other, but you know that’s not good, so you:

a. Say bad words anyway, they think it’s cool

b. Don’t say bad words, leave to another place where you’re more comfortable

c. Tell everyone they’re stupid and go home

7. You’ve always wanted to dye your hair blonde, but your other friend says she’s the only blonde and if you dye it, you’re out of the group, what do you do?

a. Don’t dye it, you don’t want to be out of the group

b. Dye it and find new friends that like you for who you are

c. Tell her she’s dumb and go dye your hair

8. You learn a new phrase in class and you think it sounds cool, but your friends don’t, what do you do?

a. Stop saying it, and say only what they want you to say

b. Say it anyway and start hanging out with better friends

c. Ignore them, say the phrase and fight them if they don’t like it

9. Your Mom just made new food to try, but it looks weird and your sibling says “That’s gross, I’m not eating”, but you decide to:

a. Say the same thing, and not eat it, because it looks weird

b. Try it and find out if you like it or not

c. Buy some pizza

Now you can look below to see whether or not you are a Leader, or a Follower. Good Luck!

Mostly A’s:

Definitely a Follower, you think way too much about what people think about you and you want them to be happy with you, even if you think differently. Try hanging out with different crowds, if they don’t let you be yourself, they are not your real friends.

Mostly B’s:

I smell a Leader! You don’t care what people think about you, even if it means losing some friends, you go with your gut, try new things, and do what makes you happy. Keep doing that, you’re doing great!

Mostly C’s:

You certainly don’t care what people think about you, but you’re not quite the leader either. You need to get more involved with people and be nicer, even if you don’t like what they think, you have to take in consideration their feelings instead of bursting with mean words at them. Try harder!

Book Review: “Fostered Adult Children Together”

9781475988390_p0_v1_s260x420Written by Alexis Bobadilla

Fostered Adult Children Together, On The Bridge to Healing … Will we ever get over it? tells the stories of over 60 former foster children whom faced several obstacles within the American Foster Home system and came out scarred, broken, yet positive, hopeful and faithful. Aside from the devastating experiences, there were many positive notes in the stories as well. Most of the journeys throughout this book end with the writer being emotionally scarred but with a positive view that they survived.

The main author of the book is a powerful woman named Carol Lucas who was also a former foster child. Lucas is the founder of F.A.C.T., or Fostered Adult Children Together, which she created to help former foster children come together for support, to encourage them, give them strength and help them heal together. Carol Lucas also wrote this book hoping to help other former foster children know that there are other people who have gone through the system, and to let them know that they are not alone.

Many of these stories are very moving, and show the benefits that come from the book and from receiving assistance from her organizatione. One of the stories is from a Hispanic woman named Tianna (Tia) Marie Hartford. She went through so much before the age of 9 years old. From being drowned to being chained in the basement, her story does not get better until the age of 25. The strength that this Latina woman has shown is very admirable. Even after everything she endured during her childhood, she still had enough courage to have children, twins to be exact. For most people the events that have happened to her would have traumatized someone from having their own children. Even though she has her doubts about being a mother, she is still trying to make sure they have a better life than she did. Hartford has a truly inspiring tale that needs to be told.

In another story the writer Terri Rimmer, who is also a former foster child, provided 10 Tips for Former Foster Children that every former foster child should follow.

Terri Rimmer shares the following tips for former foster children: 

Tip #1: Think positively about your future, now is a fresh start.

Tip #2: Find support

Tip #3: Get counseling

Tip #4: Join a church

Tip #5: Keep in contact with siblings and think wisely regarding family contact

Tip #6: Enjoy life without children for awhile

Tip #7: Volunteer

Tip #8: Stay away from drugs

Tip #9: Speak out

Tip #10: Ask for help

These tips should be a guideline for every former foster child who has been pushed through the foster care system. This book is highly recommended to anyone who is either interested in social work, foster care and for any former foster child who wants a support group to overcome their childhood memories.

Latino Spotlight: Lalo Alcaraz

Art, satire, politics. Lalo Alcaraz, Chicano cartoonist and political satirist, discusses these issues via his popular political comic strip. Earlier this year, Latinitas was able to attend one of his talks at the University of Texas at Austin.

To his online readers and motivating conferences, he always delivers clever jokes and often describes the importance of his political cartoons. Alcaraz’s “La Cucaracha” is the first political Latino daily comic strip published nationally. The comic provides a necessary Latino voice in publications nationwide.

“You can use satire to teach critical thinking,” Alcaraz said. He uses humor as a weapon against social injustices aimed at Latinos. Many of his cartoons focus on Latino-centered issues, such as immigration, education, politics and racism.

Alcaraz is a supporter of the DREAM Act. “I love the dreamers and the civics lesson they are teaching everyone,” Alcaraz said. He has drawn cartoons depicting DREAMers in graduation caps and gowns. Alcaraz also supports Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In honor of Sotomayor’s appointment to the Supreme Court, Alcaraz drew a cartoon of a young Latina aspiring to be her when she grows up. Sotomayor has a copy of the cartoon in her office.

Having two children, a son and a daughter, has inspired Alcaraz to write a children’s book based on them. He is thinking of titling it “Little Moco.”

“It’s a nickname my daughter gave my son. It’s like a reverse ‘Dora the Explorer,’” Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz, the son of immigrant parents from Sinaloa and Zacatecas, claims he grew up experiencing racial inequality and wanted to do something about it. According to Alcaraz, his great cultural epiphany came when he was 13 years old, as he stood in front of the Aztec calendar.

“That’s where I became Chicano, in Mexico City,” Alcaraz said.

Recently, Alcaraz has been most well known for his creation of Mexican Mitt Romney, a satirical Twitter account created in response to Romney’s anti-immigrant stance during his run for President in 2012. His other satirical characters include “anchor baby news” and “Beandocks.” Alcaraz also has a radio show based in Los Angeles, Calif. called Pocho Hour of Power.

Underrepresentation of Minority Heroines

It is no big revelation that women of color seldom see themselves in powerful positions in the media, oftentimes making them feel homely and irrelevant. But according to some experts, the lack of representation of minorities in cartoons could also be causing a similar effect for young girls of color.

Today’s Youth in Media

Maria O. Alvarez, the Hispanic media consultant at Common Sense Media,  a non-profit organization that studies the effects that media and technology have on young users, believes the lack of colored girls in youth media leads to low self-esteem among minorities.

“We do know that all these messages have a direct impact in all their behaviors and how they see the world,” said Alvarez. “You feel that you’re in a lower level in society when you see that people like you, your skin color, are not in powerful positions.”

Her thoughts are supported by a 2011 study by Nicole Martins and Kristen Harrison, which found that minorities tend to feel worse about themselves after watching youth media.

The study found that unlike white male characters, who are often presented as highly educated and powerful, which tends to lift white boys’ self-esteems, girl characters are often simplistic, sexualized beings, while characters of color tend to be more violent.

But this particular study, like many, lacks to demonstrate how youth media represent young girls of color.

According to Hugh Klein, who has been studying the underrepresentation of out groups in animated cartoons for the past 20 years, it is difficult to break down the representations of girls of color in animated cartoons because there are too few of them to analyze.

In Klein’s ongoing study, which examined more than 4,000 cartoon characters, he found that only 3.6 percent of the characters were African American, 1.8 percent were Latinos and 1.0 percent were Asian.  Out of the 27 Latino characters in Klein’s research, only one-third, or 9, of them were Latina.

“In the process of leaving people out of the media, you communicate a message to viewers just as much as if you were portraying them in a positive or negative way,” said Klein. “They’re so few in number probably because they’re unvalued in our culture,” said Klein.

According to his research, because animated cartoons are likely to be among the earliest media types to which young people are exposed to and because they are exposed to these messages on a daily basis, animated cartoons end up being “one of the earliest and most influential sources of negative messages.”

Minority Heroines

Some have argued, though, that with minority heroines like Doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer and Kai-Lan, non-white children are now unburdened by stereotypes and underrepresentation.

But just as mainstream films or music videos feature the token colored gal, Doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao, Kai-Lan are some of the only programs on TV with leading girl cartoons of color.

The halfhearted gesture to include a single leading Black, Latina and Asian cartoon character, according to Alvarez, sends the message that although several little white girls can be pop stars (Olivia from “Olivia”), mechanics (Widget from “Wow Wow Wubbzy”) and mathematicians (Milli from “Team Umizoomi”), there’s only room for one visionary girl of color.

“It’s not just cartoons. It’s all over. And it has an impact on how we see ourselves and how proactive we are,” said Alvarez. “We all have great value to share with the society; we can all be in powerful positions. It’s hard to believe that when the media doesn’t show you like that. But if together, parents and community, can share those messages with kids, that’s going to help.”

Alvarez believes that young girls need role models outside of the media.

“There’s a huge gap in reality and what they see in the media. We need to help them see that what they see in the media is not reality.”

Here are a few tips for young girls from Alvarez and Common Sense Media to help with self-image:

  1. Limit media consumption: Limit the amount of media you expose yourself to every day. Set limits. The earlier you start, the better.
  2. Become a media critic: Pay attention to ads, magazine covers, billboards—and talk to your parents about how these messages make you feel and ask them about their own reactions.
  3. Look for role models that look like you: Ask your parents or older relatives about professionals and community leaders who look like you do.
  4. Find everyday role models: Role models don’t need to be famous. They can be teachers, neighbors or family members. You just need a positive influence to look up to.
  5. Understand your value: Even if you’re not seeing people who look like you in the media, understand that race doesn’t define value. Compliment yourself and your peers on all of your/their wonderful talents, like your/their creativity or thoughtfulness.

Documentary: The Battle for Land

The Battle for Land, the fourth installment in a documentary series directed by Juan Mejia, aims to expand on the complexities of Afro-Colombian displacement. Told through a hybrid of documentary and animation styles, it tells the heartbreaking, but inspiring stories of Afro-Colombians from the Pacific coast of Colombia who have been displaced, as they foster community and organize to fight for their land.

Internal displacement, or the forced removal of peoples from their land to other parts of their respective country, is a growing global concern. While many activist organizations discuss displacement as a result of civil war, genocide, and ethnic cleansing—all absolutely real occurrences—this analysis fails to capture the complex nature of the displacement process. Mejia’s film aims to reveal that behind the  progress, lie the economic interests that see the land Afro-Colombian communities live in as opportunity for profit-making. Mejia works to uncover the darker underside of progress by showing how large corporations exploit the conditions of civil unrest, and how Afro-Colombians have organized and resisted.

At the center of this exploitation is FEDEPALMA, a national palm oil producer featured in the film that uses local farmers, many of whom are Afro-Colombian, to grow its oil palms. Oil palms have a devastating effect on the natural environment. Despite this, palm oil is seen as a symbol of progress by the Colombian government, and is touted for producing jobs and products that will supposedly boost Colombia’s economy. Palm oil is also hailed for its “eco-friendly” biofuel capability.

The film is still undergoing edits, and has only been officially screened twice. This explains why it felt a bit disorganized in parts. Afro-Colombian displacement is an extremely complex issue, and The Battle For Land needs more editing in order to more efficiently narrate this story. Mejia sheds light on an important and tragically overlooked issue. At the end of the screening, an audience member tearfully thanked Mejia for giving Afro-Colombians a voice. The Battle For Land is definitely worth a watch, but its rawness is not suitable for the lighthearted. An official release date for the film has not yet been set.Using infographics, animation, and interviews, Mejia takes us through the lives of several Afro-Colombian community activists, as they battle systematic racism, nurture each other’s empowerment and fight to gain back their land. They have seen cruel and senseless violence destroy their people, and threaten to do the same to their culture. The testimonio-style narrative allows the viewer to become immersed with their struggle, and does an excellent job of bringing light to the strong resistance movement that has taken shape in Colombia over the last several years. Although the subject matter is tragic and difficult to watch in many parts, especially the violent animated scenes, this film is no sob story. The activists are strong and resilient despite the heavy obstacles they have yet to overcome.

For more information on this film, visit the film’s site: http://www.battleforland.org/BFL/language.html

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