HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO MIS AMERICANOS: CHECK OUT THE SEVEN CITIES WITH THE HOTTEST FIESTAS ACROSS THE COUNTRY

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

From margaritas to Mariachi and everything in between, here’s a rundown of the biggest fiestas taking place across the country.

(1) Los Angeles, California

The Fiesta Broadwayis known as “the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world. The monster street fair, which covers more than 24 square blocks of downtown Los Angeles, draws crowds of more than half a million people. This year the fiesta happened on April 27th – 29th.

(2) Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Cinco de Mayo – Denver

The Mile High City is home to “Cinco in the Park,” a two-day festival hosted by Denver’s Civic Park Center that typically attracts more than 400,000 visitors and features over 350 food and retail vendors.
Look out for three stages of live entertainment, a Navy flight simulator, and the highly-anticipated annual Green Chili-Bowl Cookoff when the party — now entering its 25th year  anniversary kicks off— kicks off with a parade on Saturday, May 5th at 10am.

(3) Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Cinco de Mayo – Arizona

This year, the 19th annual Cinco de Mayo Phoenix festival willtake place May 5th and May 6th.  The big bash draws in more than 150,000 enthusiastic attendees.
Look forward to the endless mix of live music, batting cages, and party-goers chomping down on one and half pound turkey legs.

(4) St. Paul, Minnesota

St. Paul, Minnesota

Cinco de Mayo – Minnesota

The “Spiciest Celebration” in Minnesota takes place in St.Paul’s District del Sol, which opens its streets to more than 100,000 attendees each year.
The party begins on Friday, May 4th at 4 p.m. and keeps raging through Saturday night. What should you expect? Six blocks of traditional latin food, music, and dance, a lowrider car show, and a “people’s choice” salsa tasting contest!

(5) Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois

Cinco de Mayo – Chicago

This year, Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood — the heart of the city’s Mexican community — will host its second annual Cinco de Mayo festival from Friday, May 4 to Sunday, May 6.
The three-day celebration is said “to be one of the largest Mexican cultural fests in the Midwest.”
In late September, Little Village is also the site of the Chicago’s annual Mexican Independence Day Parade.

(6) Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Cinco de Mayo – Oregon

Get ready to see professional luchadores (Mexican wrestlers) riling things up at Portland’s 28th Annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, which starts today and continues through Sunday, May 7.
The extravagant celebration takes place along the waterfront and showcases a variety of local talent and professional entertainment, including ethnic Mexican ballet dance and a Latin rock band.

(7) San Francisco, CA

San Francisco, CA

Cinco de Mayo – San Francisco

The Mission neighborhood in San Francisco celebrates its eigth annual Cinco de Mayo spectacular this weekend in Dolores Park.
The family-friendly, alcohol-free extravaganza is expected to draw more than 5,000 people — just the right number to start a giant Zumba-thon Exercise Class, which will launch the entire event on Saturday, May 5.
Updated from 2011: Business Insider

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WHO IS MIKE OQUENDO: MEET THE PUERTO RICAN FROM CHICAGO BEHIND MIKEY O COMEDY PRODUCTIONS

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“If we want to compete at another level, then we have to behave at that other level.”

Mike Oquendo photo source: Mikey O Comedy Productions

Chicago is an awesome place for standup, it’s an awesome place for comedy. The audiences here are amazing,” said Mike Oquendo, the man behind Mikey O Comedy Productions. The son of Puerto Rican parents and Chicago native, Oquendo has managed to maintain a solid comedic reputation for 10 years, has given back to the community and has made people of all different backgrounds laugh.

For the last five years, Oquendo’s production company has done no less than 80 shows in a year. Last year, they finished off with 114 shows. Catering to a predominantly Latino audience, Oquendo said that when he first began hosting these comedy nights, there was a thirst for it. “When people heard ‘Latino comedy’ they said, ‘What’s that?’ When people come to a show, I ask how many people have been to a comedy show. About half of them raise their hands,” he explained. Oquendo owes his comedic passion to the Freddie Prinze comedy album.

“I remember being fascinated by the fact that this guy was a Puerto Rican comedian and there was an album out in which this guy was telling the Puerto Rican story,” he said. “There was a part of me that learned at that moment that that was ok; that talking about that experience was nothing to be ashamed about.”

From high school he enlisted in the U.S. Army where he was a medic. Oquendo used his experience and worked in hospitals in Chicago. Eventually, he went on to become a dispatcher for the Chicago Fire Department getting jobs where he could, with comedy in the back of his head.

grant Jose “Pepe” Vargas, director of the Chicago Latino Film Festival. (EFE)
FOX NEWS LATINO

It was Pepe Vargas, executive director of the International Latino Cultural Center, who Oquendo says, gave him his big break and first real job with being a member of the gala production team. After, he went on to work at museums and eventually the Adler Planetarium where he was in charge of special events, still having an incredible passion for comedy.

Mike Oquendo photo source: Mikey O Comedy Productions

“Taking that combination for production experience and my love for comedy gave birth to what I do today,” he explained. “I’ve done every single job in this business: I’ve been the box office guy, I’ve been the coat check, I’ve been the janitor, I’ve been the guy that delivers the sound equipment, I’ve been the host, I’ve been the usher. I wanted to be in it so badly, that I took any job to be in the mix.”


Fourteen years later, Oquendo has left a lasting impression on the community he decided to stick to. Dedicating funds to particular charities and organizations that support the arts, among others, Oquendo says that his team raised just under $90,000 in 2011, 70 percent of that, arts related. Inclusive of production, Oquendo says his biggest job is motivating his comedians to be professional and authentic in their performances. Taking experiences from his youth to create standards and upholding them, Oquendo believes that if he demands more, the performers will deliver at a higher quality.

Read More: Extra News

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WHO IS THE LATINO VP AT TAMPICO BEVERAGES: MEET PEDRO DE JESUS THE DOMINICANO IN CHICAGO MAKING A DIFFERENCE

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Pedro DeJesús Jr. isn’t afraid to knock on doors—or to get knocked down. In his early years, he would cold-call executives for everything from jobs to advice. His intrepidness has led him to the top of one of the world’s leading juice companies, Tampico Beverages, Inc. As senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, DeJesús Jr. brings order to Tampico’s global brand and pushes it into new territories.

The son of Dominican immigrants, DeJesús Jr. graduated from high school in his hometown of Chicago at 16. He got an associate degree in radiologic technology, working to help his mother with bills after his father’s passing. He quickly realized that life as an X-ray tech wouldn’t get him far financially. So he looked to where the money flowed: the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

“I walked into the Merc’s administrative office and said, ‘Give me a list of every company in this building,’” DeJesús Jr. recalls. “Then I walked over to a telephone booth, and went down the list, starting with A.” By “G,” he had landed a job as a runner.

For two years, DeJesús Jr. worked days at the “Merc” and nights at the hospital, until he landed a strong opportunity that warranted hanging up his lab coat. But four years later, with little long-term job security, he decided to become an attorney. By 29, he had earned a political science degree from Roosevelt University and entered Northwestern University School of Law. During his first summer, he heard that a Northwestern alum, Ruben Castillo, had just been appointed the first Latino federal judge in Illinois. Though the two had never met, DeJesús Jr. rang his chambers, and within a few weeks, Castillo granted him a meeting. When DeJesús Jr. told Castillo he hoped to work in public-interest law, Castillo advised him to consider joining a big firm first.

“If you don’t do it,” DeJesús Jr. recalls Castillo saying, “people assume that it’s because you couldn’t do it. If you still want to work in public interest, a firm can help subsidize those interests for you.”

The Big Law Firm Track

Although DeJesús Jr. took the big-law-firm track, the pecking order frustrated him. Big decisions, and often the big picture, weren’t privy to him as a junior associate. In 2000, he made a risky leap to a tech firm. Soon after, the dot-com bubble burst, sending DeJesús Jr. back to law-firm life, but with a clear advantage.

“Just to see how business operates, it was a world of learning compressed in a very short time period,” he says. “It’s very difficult at a big law firm to learn that.” In 2010, De Jesus was appointed to the Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Consumer Goods, whose members advise the US Commerce Department on trade agreements impacting the consumer-goods industry.

In 2004, DeJesús Jr. became vice president and corporate counsel for Information Resources, Inc., a consumer data company. DeJesús Jr.’s experience at IRI prepped him for his current post with Tampico Beverages, which sells its brand in more than 50 world markets.

Since 2007, DeJesús Jr. has helped CEO Scott Miller steer Tampico’s culture away from complacency. “When the senior management team came into this business, there was a lack of discipline in legal and business matters,” he says. “Instilling that level of discipline in the organization was one of our big challenges.” Over time, DeJesús Jr. has revamped the legal department, building a new team with “a stronger sense of accountability.” He issued a new employee handbook, business ethics and conduct policy, crisis-management plan, and a first-ever contract-approval procedure. He also redrafted Tampico’s bottling-and-licensing agreement and centralized the company’s trademark database, enabling him to manage the trademark portfolio globally.

(In 2008, Tampico was acquired by Houchens Industries, Inc., the largest employee-owned company in the United States and, according to Forbes, among the largest privately held companies in North America.)

Next up for Tampico is expansion into other Latino food-and-beverage categories. DeJesús Jr. and Miller spent much of 2011 mapping out a growth strategy and evaluating potential acquisitions in “synergistic” industries. As usual, DeJesús Jr. is ready to pounce on a winning opportunity. “More often than not, in both business and life, those who take advantage of change and embrace it—rather than run from it or ignore it—almost always beat out those who do not,” he says.

What’s more, DeJesús Jr. believes it’s his duty to create positive change. He serves as a trustee of Roosevelt University, works for government transparency and accountability with the Better Government Association, and serves on the board of Chicago-based Mujeres Latinas en Acción, which offers culturally sensitive services to Hispanic women.

DeJesús Jr. hopes more Latinos follow the path of doing good—and doing well. “We tell people to go to school and get an education, but we also have to instill the importance of being strong corporate leaders and building wealth,” he says, matter-of-factly. “Because it puts you in the room with people that are making decisions affecting positions of power.”

READ MORE: HISPANIC EXECUTIVE

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LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: CALLING FOR “LIGHT SKINNED HISPANICS”

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Casting call asking for "Caucasian or light skinned Hispanic" extras in New Mexico's tourism campaignCasting call asking for “Caucasian or light skinned Hispanic” extras in New Mexico’s tourism campaign. (On Location Casting, Facebook Inc. / March 23, 2012)
New Mexico was planning to celebrate its statehood centennial by inviting tourists to come experience the state’s rich culture, take in its extraordinary views and have epic outdoor adventures.

But the Land of Enchantment‘s promotion hit a snag, raising questions about who exactly is being represented in the celebration — and reviving  historical insecurities.

It all started when the New Mexico Department of Tourism began planning  a $2-million marketing campaign to attract outsiders to the state, which  had observed its statehood centennial Jan. 6.

The department had learned that the state ranked 38th in a poll ranking tourists’ preferred destinations — and wanted to do something about that.

“We really want to move that needle up,” said Veronica Valencia, director of marketing and communications for the department.

Focus groups in Chicago and Los Angeles assessed the public’s perception of New Mexico, and “the feedback was that it was a dry, barren wasteland with nothing to do,” Valencia said. “So [the state] set on a course to change this misconception.”

Austin, Texas-based marketing agency Vendor Inc. was hired in January to handle the campaign, titled “Adventures Steeped in Rich Culture.” The agency soon contracted with On Location Casting to assign roles in the ad, which was to be filmed in March.

Soon a casting call went out on Facebook seeking “Caucasian or light-skinned Hispanic” people.

The specificity of that call has caused quite a stir, prompting a critical editorial last week in the Santa Fe New Mexican and an even harsher reaction from the state’s Democratic Party chairman.

“Hearing that term brings to mind a vision of casting agents holding up paper bags next to people’s faces to ensure they can pass,” the New Mexican wrote. “We don’t know, of course, who made it into the shoot and how New Mexico will be presented to the world once the campaign is unveiled. But really, light-skinned only? What were they thinking?”

The request seemed ironically appropriate to at least one historian, who noted the territory’s long-ago efforts to attract more light-skinned residents.

“New Mexico’s population in the 1900 census was 70% Nuevomexicanos [today called Hispanic] and 7% American Indian. In the quest for statehood, each group followed many of their traditions in language, dress, religion… all of which alarmed a few hardcore opponents of statehood in the U.S. Congress,” David Holtby, a research scholar of regional studies at the University of New Mexico, wrote in an email to The Times.

Perhaps New Mexico could have been celebrating more than 100 years of statehood by now if it could have proved to Congress that a significant percentage of light-skinned people inhabited the area at the time.

Holtby added: “Now we have the newest ‘tourism message’ being revised to ‘lighten’ the color of people. This can be seen as an example of a throw-back to racial bias of a century ago.”

The hubbub, however, is all an unfortunate misconception, Valencia said.

“We were casting for the role of ‘tourist,’ ” she said. “It was never our intention to make any of this about race. It was more to focus on the experiences and adventures that someone could have in New Mexico rather than the background of the people having them.”

Valencia said the concept for the shoot came from a collaborative effort between the state, Vendor Inc. and On Location Casting, but the specific wording for the casting call was developed by people in the industry, she said.

Tina Kerr, a casting director for On Location Casting, said the request was filed by Vendor Inc. That company didn’t respond to repeated attempts for comment.

“We believe that people from all backgrounds visit New Mexico and it is not a place for any one type of visitor,” Valencia said.

The first ads will be launched April 16 in regional markets near New Mexico, and the state is developing more spots.

This time, Valencia said, industry standards will be shunned when casting the next adventurer.

Read More: LA TIMES

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WHY ARE HISPANICS RALLYING AGAINST BANK OF AMERICA?

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Hispanic Community Rallies Against Bank of America‘s Attack on Minority Business

Members of the Chicago-area Hispanic community are sending a loud and clear message to Bank of America officials: stop the unjust attacks on Illinois’ third largest minority-owned business that have placed more than 1,400 jobs in jeopardy.
Bank of America has taken extreme and unprecedented measures to intimidate and put the Hillside- and Downers Grove- based direct mail and financial marketing company out of business, which would result in 1,400 lost jobs, nearly 1,000 of which are held by Hispanics.
VMark workers as well as elected and business officials and community activists are asking BOA to serve the very taxpayers who helped bail out the banking giant by working with the company to resolve the matter and ensure the employment of thousands of local residents and the economic health of the community.
“This is simply unacceptable,” said State Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford (4th District), who represents the district where the Hillside facility is located. “I’m not going to stand by and watch Bank of America victimize minority communities. These hard-working employees and their families are being punished for failed corporate boardroom policies.”
Some of VMark’s owners, who are the minority shareholders in the company, defaulted years ago on $39 million in loan guarantees unrelated to the company. But while the owners have sought to fulfill all of their obligations during the past year, BOA has curiously refused their offers and is now leveraging that debt to put the company out of business. Meanwhile, VMark is currently pursuing other legal avenues to remain in business and retain jobs.
“We’re here to show Bank of America that we’re not going to let them ruin a successful business that serves as a lifeline to thousands of local Chicago and suburban families,” said State Sen. Martin Sandoval (12th District), whose district is home to many VMark employees. “We cannot let the big corporate banks turn their backs on a successful company and the Hispanic community when working families are struggling to make ends meet.”
VMark supporters noted that the issue comes on the heels of the U.S. Justice Department‘s recent order that Bank of America pay $335 million to settle claims that its subsidiary Countrywide discriminated against minority borrowers. It was charged with hiking interest rates and fees for more than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers who qualified for lower rates. The fees and interest rates were higher than those of non-Hispanic white borrowers.
Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, whose 16th District includes VMark’s Hillside facility, was hopeful the two sides could work something out to retain the jobs.
“These workers serve on the front lines and help drive growth of the company and the region,” Tobolski said. “Through no fault of their own, they stand to lose their jobs and benefits, which impact families and the overall economic health of Cook County. We need to do all we can to create a business friendly environment in the county to not only retain existing jobs but attract new ones and spur economic growth.”
VMark has been a valued member of the corporate and Hispanic community since 1974, when it started as a magazine subscription service. Since that time, VMark has expanded to include eight separate companies that service a diverse client base.
“VMark is an anchor of the Hispanic community and a true American success story, growing and thriving as a small business that contributes to the overall financial health of the Chicago area,” said Chicago Ald. George A. Cardenas (12th Ward). “Bank of America needs to resolve this matter so VMark can continue to operate and families can keep their jobs and survive.”
Nilda Esparza, Executive Director of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce, noted that VMark plays a vital role in the Hispanic community.
“Minority owned-businesses are among the fastest growing segment of new business and job creation among small businesses,” Esparza said. “Companies like VMark create jobs and opportunities in the Latino Community. As a fellow minority group, we stand with VMark and their employees in the hopes they are able to reach an amicable resolution that allows them to continue to prosper and generate jobs in Illinois.”

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