Latina Journalist Who Paved Way For Latinxs In Newsrooms Dies After Battle With Cancer

Cecilia Alvear, former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and longtime NBC producer, succumbed to a long battle with breast cancer on Friday and died at the age of 77. Alvear is touted for advocating for Latinos in the newsroom and for being a groundbreaking journalist.

Alvear, born in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, began her career as a production assistant at KNBC in 1971 in Los Angeles. Media Moves reports that Alvear was the first Latina news producer at any of the three major TV networks, when NBC hired her to run their Mexico City bureau in 1982. There she covered wars in Central America, the unrest in Chile, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia, and earthquakes in Mexico City, El Salvador and Ecuador.” She also produced interviews with Fidel Castro in Cuba.

“She was a dedicated journalist, a champion for diversity, and a socially-conscious individual whose generosity of spirit made her a selfless and incredible friend,” Media Moves reports. “Her death is a great loss for those who knew and loved her and for those whose path she helped pave.”

Credit: CNN Money / YouTube

Alvear was also the first Latina selected for a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University in 1988. In 2007, she retired as a producer for NBC.

“I met Cecilia in 1982 when she was sent, as an NBC producer at the height of the Cold War, to run the war coverage of NBC in Latin America,” Los Angeles Times Latin America reporter Anne-Marie O’Connor said to LA Observed. “At the time it was rare to even meet a female producer, much less an Ecuadorian-born Latina who spoke English with an accent. Cecilia broke the mold.”

Read more about Alvear’s achievements here.

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100 Days After Hurricane Maria This Puertorriqueña Continues Helping Her People In A Major Way

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100 Days After Hurricane Maria This Puertorriqueña Continues Helping Her People In A Major Way

Across Puerto Rico, twisted metal roofs and scraps of baby cribs, kitchen tables and satellite dishes lie on brown grass and cracked concrete. Just three months ago, these remnants made up colorful houses. Today, Hurricane Maria’s destructive 155-mph winds turned them into debris. Federal relief for those displaced by the September 20 storm has been shoddy, if present at all, leaving countless people throughout the archipelago without shelter, and even more to dwell in unsafe residences that are missing roofs and growing mold. Stepping in where the government has fallen short is Ayuda Legal Huracán María, an access to justice initiative providing free legal services to Puerto Ricans whose properties were affected by the disaster.

The brigade, which started the day after the hurricane hit, is comprised of more than 200 attorneys and 200 law students on the island as well as several additional U.S.-based Puerto Rican legal experts who are volunteering their time and expertise.

“As lawyers, we felt we had to do something, and that is usually done through legal services,” San Juan-based human rights attorney Ariadna Godreau-Aubert, who is the coordinator of Ayuda Legal Huracán María, told FIERCE.

Credit: Ayuda Legal Huracán María

Currently, the team is providing communities throughout Puerto Rico with legal education through Know Your Rights workshops and handouts as well as offering free legal advice and representation to those in need. According to Godreau-Aubert, the biggest demand, and where the group is focusing their efforts at the moment, is on FEMA appeals, claims against FEMA, evictions and family law.

During presidentially-declared disasters, like that in Puerto Rico, FEMA provides support through immediate shelter for those who lost homes as well as temporary housing and home repairs to renters or homeowners. But residents must meet criteria, fill out forms — online — and provide necessary documentation. As a result, the most impacted, those without Internet access or lacking paperwork, are oftentimes not given the aid they deserve.

“A lot of people go to FEMA because they suffered harm to their property or personal belongings, and many times, what we are seeing is FEMA is fighting not to provide assistance by saying the person is not eligible for help. But many of the people consider these decisions wrong and can do an appeal, so we are helping them do that and providing legal representation to those who can’t afford it in the process,” Godreau-Aubert, 32, said.

While there aren’t solid calculations, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of homes in the U.S. territory were damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Many of the people coming to Ayuda Legal Huracán María for help have been denied by FEMA because they lack deeds to their homes. In Puerto Rico, especially in the remote mountainous areas hit hardest by the storms, houses are often passed down through generations, with no legal documentation noting the transfer in ownership.

“We explain to FEMA that a lot of people in Puerto Rico will never have that paperwork, and definitely won’t be able to get it in time for inspection, but that doesn’t mean they don’t own a house and that they don’t need help,” she said.

Credit: Ayuda Legal Huracán María

Additional concerns include non-Spanish-speaking FEMA personnel performing the inspections, illiterate elders signing documents they don’t understand and the lack of Internet and telephone services, which are prohibiting the needy from filling out applications for governmental assistance online and preventing them from following up on claims.

In the U.S., Puerto Rican law students and practicing lawyers are also training to be a part of the brigade, with several planning on traveling to the island to assist and others staying in cities like New York, Orlando and Philadelphia to help climate refugees who have relocated, whether temporarily or permanently, to the contiguous United States.

The group has also teamed up with LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Latinos in the United States, and recently received some funding from the Open Society Foundation to help them prepare materials and continue to provide free services.

According to Godreau-Aubert, the hourly rate for lawyers in Puerto Rico ranges between $100 to $200, but long, expensive commutes could put the cost even higher for clients from faraway municipalities. For Puerto Ricans — many of whom have been out of work for weeks, can’t access ATMs and don’t have enough cash for much outside of basic necessities, should those items even be available — paying lawyer fees, even when their services are required, is just not feasible.

“We want the people to know they’re not alone,” Godreau-Aubert said. “We want this initiative to be a safe space for people at this time.”

Credit: Ayuda Legal Huracán María

But Godreau-Aubert’s goal for the project is long-term. She would ultimately like for the group to create disaster relief clinics that operate year-round throughout Puerto Rico to provide free legal education, capacity and aid for those impacted by catastrophes on the island and throughout the Caribbean.

For now, in these uncertain times, she is staying flexible, willing to adjust the brigade’s focus and efforts to the people’s needs.

“I just feel grateful that I am able to work with people who want to build in Puerto Rico. I’m part of a group of lawyers and students building something different here by reframing access to justice and what human rights looks like,” she said. “There’s a general feeling of stagnation on the island, so just to be able to move and share and collaborate is a blessing.”

READ: Donald Trump Said Puerto Rico Wants ‘Everything To Be Done For Them,’ But These Women Are Proving Him Wrong

Let us know of other brigades in Puerto Rico doing great work in the comments!

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This National Poetry Month, Do Yourself A Favor And Get Acquainted With These Latin American & Latina Poetas

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This National Poetry Month, Do Yourself A Favor And Get Acquainted With These Latin American & Latina Poetas

The rise of social media has led to a rebirth of poetry and a platform for talented writers of color to shine. From spoken word videos going viral on Facebook to short verses filling up our Instagram feeds, the art form, which some have called an “outdated pastime,” is very much alive, and Latinas are among those breathing new life into it.

Here, some of the fiercest and current Latina voices whose poetry help us understand our identities, navigate trying times, heal and, ultimately, inspire us to live our best lives.

1. Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo is a Dominican-American poet and author from New York City. She has performed her work, which often tackles issues of Afro-Latinidad, anti-blackness, colonialism, feminism and spirituality, on stages across the world and has been featured on BET and Mun2. The author of the chapbook Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths, a collection of gendered folkloric poems, Acevedo’s debut novel, “The Poet X,” which tells the story of a 15-year-old Afro-Dominican teen who uses poetry to navigate life in Harlem under a strict, religious household, will hit bookstores in 2018. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

2. Sonia Guiñansaca

Sonia Guiñansaca is a queer New York City-based poet, cultural organizer and activist. Born in Ecuador, Guiñansaca’s work, which she has performed at The Met, El Museo Del Barrio, The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, the NY Poetry Festival, Galleria de La Raza and more, centers on migration, climate justice, migrant rights, queer/femme identity and the role of artists in social movements. Her chapbook, Nostalgia & Borders, was reprinted in June 2017. Follow Guiñansaca on Instagram and Twitter.

3. Yesika Salgado

Yesika Salgado is a Salvadoran-American writer from Los Angeles. The self-described “fat, fly and brown” poeta writes about her family and culture as well as her body and heartbreaks. A National Poetry Slam finalist, she is the co-founder of the Latina feminist poetry collective Chingona Fire. Salgado, a social media sensation, has self-published several zines, including The Luna Poems, WOES and Sentimental Boss Bitch, and in October of 2017 she debut her first poetry book, “Corazón.” Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

4. Elisabet Velasquez

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Every game I play. I play for keeps. I don't play to win. I play to defeat.

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Elisabet Velasquez is a Puerto Rican poeta from Bushwick, Brooklyn. Performing on stages across the nation, the writer was a former member of the legendary Nuyorican Poets Café and, with them, placed fourth at a National Slam Team. A Latina feminist, Velasquez’s work largely centers on violence against women and owning our power and beauty as well as gentrification and Puerto Rican identity. She is the author of the chapbook PTSD and, most recently, opened for Amber Rose’s Slut Walk 2017, where she performed her viral piece, “Elephant.” Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

5. Ariana Brown

Ariana Brown is a Black Mexican-American poet hailing from San Antonio, Texas. Currently a student at the University of Pittsburgh, where she’s working on an MFA in Poetry, she has performed on stages throughout the country. Dubbed a “part-time curandera,” Brown’s poetry centers on healing, race, ethnicity, gender, class and sexual orientation. Her latest chapbook, Messy Girl, which deals with depression and romantic heartbreak, is out on November 30. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

6. Denice Frohman

Denice Frohman is an award-winning poet, writer, performer, educator and speaker from New York. The part-Puerto Rican, part-Jewish writer’s poetry largely focuses on race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality and “in-betweeness.” Her work is driven by social change and aims to disrupt traditional notions of power and encourage people to celebrate the parts of themselves they have been told were undeserving of love. Currently on a national tour, Frohman’s debut album, Feels Like Home, a blending of music, poetry and song, was released in 2013. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

7. Angela Aguirre

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Angela Aguirre is a Chicana-Italian poet, mental health activist and teaching artist living in Los Angeles. The feminista writes about womanhood and identity as well as love, loss, heartbreak and growth. When she’s not performing on stages across the country, she is leading poetry workshops at high schools, universities and various organizations. She is also the other half of Chingona Fire, which she and Salgado use to create space for women of color poets. In 2016, Aguirre published “Confessions of Firework,” a book of poems and writing prompts about healing, opening our hearts and growing. Follow her on Instagram.

8. Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Melissa Lozada-Oliva is a Guatemalan-Colombian spoken word poet and educator currently residing in New York. An MFA candidate at New York University’s creative writing program for poetry, Lozada-Oliva’s work, centering on feminism, body image and Latinidad, moves, empowers and will definitely make you chuckle. A 2015 National Poetry Slam champion and Brenda Moosey Video Slam winner, she has authored the chapbooks Plastic Pájaros and Rude Girl is Lonely Girl! Her latest, Peluda, looks at hair removal, the beauty business and Latina identity. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

9. Fior E. Plasencia

Fior E. Plasencia is a Dominican-born, New York-based poet. She is the fierce voice behind Mujer con Voz, a platform she uses to share poetry and provide access to other writers of the Dominican diaspora. Her work is written in Spanish, English and Spanglish, and it centers heavily on immigration, cultural identity, homesickness, struggle and survival. Her poetry book “Para Cenar Habrá Nostalgia,” which was published by DWA Press in 2016, looks at the immigration experience and being neither here nor there. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

READ: Watch A Latina’s Powerful Anti-Street Harassment Poem Come To Life In This Beautiful Choreographed Video

Let us know your favorite Latina poets killin’ it at the moment in the comments.

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