Join us for a look back at the newsmakers of 2010—from the election of the first Latina governor to the controversial Arizona immigration law.
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Latino conservatives rise to power
Call it discontent over the recession, call it disapproval of President Obama, or call it, simply, the usual midterm election turnover. Whatever the reason, Republicans swept into Congress in big numbers in November, and among them were six Latinos who challenged the notion that politically, we are a Democratic monolith. Bill Flores and Francisco Canseco of Texas, Raul Labrador of Idaho, David Rivera of Florida and Jaime Lynn Herrera of Washington are all elected on conservative promises of overturning health reform, cutting government spending and cracking down on illegal immigration—as was Marco Rubio, the handsome, articulate Miamian who looks very much like the future of the dying-to-diversify GOP.
The Latino voters prove everyone wrong
Though a Pew Hispanic Center poll said that many Hispanics planned to stay away from the polls in the midterm elections on Nov. 2 and despite one Latino’s shameful plea that Hispanics withhold their vote as a protest, we showed up at the polls anyway, making up the same percentage of voters as the 2006 midterm elections (8 percent). Not only that, but in states like California, Illinois, Colorado and Nevada, a Latino “firewall” of voters proved key in several races, keeping Democratic losses from being much worse. That’s power.
The Chilean Miners thrill, resurrect
They were rescued on October 12 and 13. By Halloween, Chilean miner costumes were all the rage. That’s how quickly the 33 men trapped miles underground entered the world’s consciousness. After watching the men take up a routine to keep sane—doing everything from chores to jogging to writing poetry—everyone held their breaths as one by one the men were brought to the surface as if resurrected. For their families and just about everyone watching, it was an early Christmas present.
Susana Martinez is the first Latina gobernadora
Latinas head families, newsrooms, science labs, congressional committees, multi-million dollar businesses, and they have for decades in some instances. So why did it take so long for one of us to govern a state? No telling, but we’re here now, in the form of Martinez, a descendant of a leader of the Mexican Revolution. She was born in Texas and transplanted to New Mexico and has become the first Latina governor ever.
DREAM Activism takes flight
The Senate’s failure to pass the DREAM Act this month was heartbreaking. It means that thousands of kids who want to attend college and serve in the military—in short, contribute to the country’s economy and future—won’t get the chance. But if there’s something that the effected undocumented students who tirelessly campaigned all year in sit-ins, hunger strikes and marches can be proud of is that they almost singlehandedly made historic legislation. And hey, there’s always next year.
Latinos impact the census
The push to get the burgeoning Latino population to participate was bigger than ever, and while different reports will be released throughout the next months, thanks to the millions of us who filled out the census form, we are already getting a picture of what’s going on with Latinos in the U.S. We know, for instance that immigrants are moving in record numbers not to big cities as traditionally has happened, but to the suburbs. That extends our reach and our opportunities. Stay tuned for more stats to come.
Sonia Sotomayor’s first full year
With Elena Kagan’s appointment to the Supreme Court, less attention was paid to Sotomayor as she finished her first full year on the highest court. But after conservatives’ concerns that she would be an ‘activist’ judge who’d go beyond interpreting the law to trying to change it, Sotomayor, who has voted with fellow liberals on the court, has proved herself to be a strict reader of the constitution.
Youngest female Mexican police chief takes over
Marisol Valles Garcia is still alive, thank God, and in deadly Northern Mexico, that’s not something to take lightly. The 20-year-old mother of one and criminal justice student became top cop of her town, Pradexis G. Guerrero, in October, after the position had sat vacant for almost two years. Her bravery in the face of the thousands and thousands of murders and rampant drug trade of her region made international news and she has become a symbol of Mexico’s desperate situation. That became even more apparent in November, when her counterpart, Hermila Garcia of Meoqui, was gunned down on her way to work.
Arizona SB1070 bill sparks protests
In April, Governor Jan Brewer and the state legislature (backed substantially by private prison companies) passed what is the broadest bill aimed at curbing illegal immigration, basically giving cops the green light to stop anyone they think may be an undocumented immigrant. Though a judge blocked some of the bill’s more controversial parts, protests followed in more than 70 cities, Obama condemned the measure, but sadly, 60 percent of the American public supports it and other states are looking to set up similar laws.
Latinas clean up Gulf oil spill
Wherever there’s a disaster that needs hard workers to clean up the aftermath, count on Latinos to be there. It was true of Hurricane Katrina and this year, it was true of the devastating BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of Latinos took up the dirtiest of jobs, with almost 150 women—calling themselves Las Aceitosas—included.
Mario Vargas Llosa wins Nobel prize for literature
Gabriel Garcia Marquez may be the sentimental favorite, but for many critics, Vargas Llosa is Latin America’s true literary heavyweight. All debates aside, it was gratifying to see the Peruvian writer get his due in December by winning literature’s biggest prize. A bonus was his wonderful acceptance speech, in which he wished that his mother and grandfather were there to share the moment. Hearing the big man choke up was precious.
Earthquakes shake Haiti, Chile
The year started with tragedy and hope, as an earthquake measuring 7.0 devastated Port-au-Prince. Some 300,000 died and 1 million were made homeless. Immediately, the world—and notably, neighboring Dominican Republic—stepped in to donate everything from money to equipment to security to try to stabilize the country, which still has a long way to go toward recovery, especially after a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 1,400. A month-and-a-half later, an even stronger earthquake, measuring 8.8, shook six provinces of Chile. The human toll was much lower, 521, but the terror and uncertainty must have been the same. You can still help both places recover by donating to, among others, the Red Cross, at redcross.org.