If you've ever been to a Cambodian-owned doughnut shop, fried chicken restaurant or jewelry store, there's a good chance it was financed by a tontine.
In Cambodia, “tontine” is the name given to a rotating savings and credit association, or ROSCA, an ancient practice that has different versions all over the world. The general concept is that by contributing to a monthly pool that pays a lump sum to a single member, people can make and receive loans as well as earn interest on savings.
The lending circles are especially prevalent in the Cambodian community, where many people don't use banks because of language barriers and a distrust of institutions caused by genocide and economic instability in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
In Los Angeles, diverse neighborhoods probably wouldn't exist today without ROSCAs, which are most often run by women. When banks wouldn't lend to minorities, the kye helped Koreatown business owners cluster in central Los Angeles. The hui helped finance Chinatown, and tanomoshis helped start some of Little Tokyo's early businesses.
There are also Latino tandas or cundinas, Filipino paluwagans and Ethiopian ekubs, and in South Los Angeles, family investment teams were formed after the L.A. riots to help black people buy property. ROSCAs are called tontines in Cambodia, Cameroon and Nigeria because of French colonization, but in Europe the term “tontine” refers to a different financial instrument created by exiled Italian banker Lorenzo de Tonti, who advised the French crown to use it to finance the Thirty Years' War.
Tonti's tontine is actually illegal in the U.S. The practice was outlawed in the early 1900s after abuses were discovered at insurance companies, prompting a New York judge to call it a “death gamble.” Tontines were sometimes called dead pools, a term you might know as the title of a Clint Eastwood film or the name of a Marvel superhero played by Ryan Reynolds, depending on when you were born.
In Long Beach, where more than 50,000 Cambodian Americans make their home, tontines are especially popular because there is no Cambodian American bank. Even in Cambodia, just 5% of people rely on traditional banks to manage their money, according to a 2015 survey, while 12% exclusively use informal tools like tontines.
Tontines help people pay rent, afford homes, start businesses and, for those like Lynn Hong, 25, ease the burden of student debt. Each month the Cal State Long Beach student contributes a few hundred dollars to the pool and receives small interest payments from other tontine members. In 2021, when she graduates, she hopes to have enough to help her pay off her debts and jump-start her career as a social worker.
“It's like gambling, but it teaches you about saving. It's another way to rebuild relationships within families and friends,” Hong said.
In Los Angeles, home to one of the highest unbanked populations of any metropolis, the popularity of ROSCAs is both a product of discrimination and a tool to fight it.
Broadway Federal Bank, the largest black bank west of the Mississippi, was founded in 1967 to help black people combat discriminatory lending and housing practices. Chief Executive Wayne-Kent A. Bradshaw says minority deposit institutions and ROSCAs function on a similar principle: investing in the community. Bradshaw's mother also participates in a Jamaican ROSCA, known simply as a partner.
“It's based on the very powerful cement of social relationships, where if you break the circle, you'd be giving up your membership in that community,” Bradshaw said.
Nowadays the bank's portfolio has broadened to include all low-income and minority communities, Bradshaw said. About 90% of its loans are focused on creating more low- and moderate-income housing by financing so-called Class C apartment buildings, Bradshaw said. It's a reflection of the fact that explicit housing discrimination has given way to gentrification and a speculative housing market whose negative effects disproportionately fall on minority communities.
At Mission Asset Fund, a San Francisco nonprofit in the rapidly gentrifying Mission District, Jose Quiñonez is trying to turn ROSCAs into a tool to support communities' financial health and fight gentrification. His fund ensures and documents ROSCAs so that payments can help build the participants' credit scores.
“We have this notion that poor people or immigrants are poor because of their own fault, that they're not saving or budgeting right,” said Quiñonez, who was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship grant for his work in 2016. “But this proves that poor people pay their loans back.”
The Mission Asset Fund has provided more than 10,000 no-interest loans to more than 68,000 participants. Despite lending to people who are traditionally seen as high risk, the fund has just 0.7% of its borrowers default.
The fund is partnering with nonprofits across the U.S. to expand the program, including six groups in Los Angeles.
ROSCAs are more popular among older immigrants; it's unusual for younger people like Hong to participate. She has a savings account and a 401(k), so she's no stranger to the mainstream financial system.
But she says tontines help Cambodians learn to trust one another, and that's something a community with many former refugees and genocide survivors really needs.
“It's a risk, but it's a risk that we are taking together,” Hong said.
It's a powerful idea no matter who you are or what is happening in the news. Tontines, ROSCAs and minority banks are gestures of faith and trust in a community, a reminder that sometimes our biggest strength is in one another.
Source: Published originally on Los Angeles Times, Excluded by banks, minorities in California became their own lenders, by Frank Shyong, March 18th, 2019.
"We kept our languages hidden," says a host from Central California's Radio Indígena 94.1, "but no longer." The shows appeal to farmers of indigenous origin.
Josefino Alvarado, a California farm worker, describes his typical morning picking blueberries at a Ventura County farm.
As the sun beats down on him and his fellow workers, a crackle of static hums at their feet. “Hola mi gente,” (Hello, my people) a voice calls out from the radio's speakers in Spanish. Then, “tanìndíí,” which means ‘good morning' in Mixteco.
On this farm and most of the farms nearby, workers have their radios tuned into the same station: 94.1, Radio Indígena.
Radio Indígena (indígena means indigenous in Spanish) is one of the first indigenous Mexican radio stations in the United States. The community-run station boasts 40 hours of original programming every week, broadcasting music and talk shows in a handful of indigenous languages, as well as Spanish programming too.
The station is a welcome cultural lifeline for thousands of farm workers who speak Mixteco or other indigenous Central American languages.
“Listening to it is a point of pride,” Alvarado, who is a frequent listener, said. While he only understands Spanish and Mixteco, he often will listen to some of Radio Indígena's shows in Zapoteco, Triqui, and Nahuatl. Even if he doesn't understand them, he said he's proud to hear the languages being kept alive on the airwaves.
Alvarado, who moved to the U.S. in 1997, was born and raised in the city of Oaxaca in central Mexico, where he and his family learned Mixteco as their first language.
Although Mixteco has come into the national spotlight thanks to the Academy Award-winning film, Roma, the language is still virtually unknown to the general population.
Mixteco or Mixtec is spoken in the central region of Mexico often referred to as “La Mixteca” — which includes parts of Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero. Mixteco is part of a group of Mesoamerican languages whose origins go back 10,000 years. There are many variations of Mixteco, and the dialects have also absorbed some Spanish and English words.
Experts say that migration and economic pressure have led these languages to extinction both in their home countries and the U.S. Due to economic and cultural pressure in Mexico, many Mixtec communities are shifting to Spanish. UNESCO considers almost half of Mixteco's 50 dialects to be either severely endangered or at risk of endangerment.
According to the 2010 census, over 685,000 Latinos in the U.S. identified themselves as American Indian, up from around 400,000 in 2000. But experts agree that the actual number of indigenous Latinos in the U.S. is much higher than estimated because many don't report to the census due to stigma and immigration status.
AMONG FARM WORKERS, A SIZABLE INDIGENOUS PRESENCE
Alvarado is not alone. Ventura County is home to an estimated 20,000 indigenous people from southern Mexico. Due to soil erosion in the ancestral farmlands of the Mixteca region, many Mixtecs have been drawn to California in search of agricultural work.
About one-third of farm workers in California speak indigenous languages from southern Mexico, including Triqui and Mixteco. Many of them don't speak Spanish or English.
“There's a lot of radio stations in Oxnard, but they just play music,” said Roberto Jesús, who listens to the show every morning as he drives to work, getting informed about the news and about his legal rights as an immigrant.
Jesús, who is from the Mexican state of Guerrero, works in the strawberry fields of Ventura County. Like most from his community of San Rafael, Jesús spoke Mixteco and it was a struggle just to learn Spanish as a second language. The prospects of learning English, he said, were virtually impossible.
In the U.S., Mixtecs face barriers because of their limited English and sometimes limited Spanish. This leaves many of them vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination.
That's why Radio Indígena came about. Radio Indígena is hosted and run by the Mixteco Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), a nonprofit organization formed to provide health outreach, humanitarian support and language interpretation to this underserved and often unnoticed community.
“There are very few ways for us to receive information in our own language,” Arcenio Lopez, executive director of MICOP and Radio Indígena, said. The project began in 2014 as a community radio station that only lived online, but after years of fundraising, the station finally reached FM airwaves in 2017.
Source: Published originally on nbcnews.com, A radio station becomes a lifeline for endangered Mexican, Central American indigenous languages, by Ludwig Hurtado, April 8, 2019.
"If I were going down to the local taquería, they wouldn't know what you are saying if you used the term,” said a scholar near the Mexican border.
The gender-neutral "Latinx" is becoming the preferred term over "Latino" or "Latina" in some circles — but Hispanic-Americans are debating among themselves about whether it should be.
The question goes to the heart of Hispanic identity in America, and it sheds light on the diverse array of family histories and present-day experiences of millions of people who would have a hard time agreeing on a single word to encapsulate who they are.
Pronounced “Lah-teen-EX," the term has emerged among younger and more progressive Hispanics — as well as scholars, writers and civil rights advocates — to express inclusiveness and recognize the sexual, ethnic and racial diversity of Hispanics. Unlike "Latino" or "Latina," the term does not refer to any specific gender.
The University of California, San Diego, recently announced that it would use Latinx to replace the gender-specific terms Latino and Chicano when referring to those groups. Other universities have already made the change.
But as the term gains traction, some scholars are pointing out that there are Latinos who don't see themselves reflected in the word. Some see Latinx as an elitist attempt to erase a history of more traditional gender roles, or as a distraction from other pressing issues facing Latinos in the United States.
"I am just a few miles from the Mexican border. If I were going down to the local taquería, they wouldn't know what you are saying if you used the term,” said David Bowles, an author and assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Though he is a proponent of using "Latinx," Bowles said it's mainly used among his Mexican-American and Chicano studies colleagues, LGBTQ activists and authors of color.
Motecuzoma Sanchez, a political activist in Stockton, CA who works in community advocacy, police and government accountability, and is the founder of a local organization that focuses on literacy called Semillas (seeds), views Latinx as a “fashionable identity” adopted by elite Latinos to address an issue he doesn't see as crucial in his community.
Latinos "still struggle with educational advancement, incarceration, teenage pregnancy, police brutality, predatory bank practices, discrimination, crime and violence, low literacy, immigration and labor exploitation, diabetes, etc., but suddenly gender nouns are the priority,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez,43, is also concerned that Latinx erases Hispanic history by suggesting that the use of traditional gendered Spanish terms is exclusionary. He sees "Latino" and "Latina" as describing the different roles men and women have historically adopted.
To discard those terms "is to disrespect the entire culture as well as our brothers, fathers who have fought hard to be respected as men," Sanchez said.
Like Bowles, Sanchez said Latinx is rarely used in everyday situations. “No one calls themselves Latinx,” Sanchez said.
Enrique Salas, 27, a South Carolina resident who works in retail, said there's a simple reason he won't use Latinx.
"I don't see the point of it when there's already a word for it, and it's Latinos," Salas said.
But supporters of the term point out that in their experience, much of the resistance comes from Latino men, while proponents include those who want to raise awareness of gender as nonbinary, including those who identify as gay, queer or transgender.
"People who identify as such should have language that validates their identity," said Christian Uruburo, 24, a clinical research coordinator at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who is gay. "I use it on a regular basis to identify myself or in English conversation."
Using Latinx avoids the complications that come from gendered language like "Latino" or "Latina," he added.
Liza Estrada, 22, a student at San Francisco State University, said she first became aware of "Latinx" on Twitter. She praised the fact that it's becoming more common in her academic life.
"Professors at my school have started incorporating the term as well, which is really great," Estrada said. "It's a huge step that teachers are becoming aware about the nonbinary students in their classes and aiming at inclusivity," she said.
"It teaches us to accept everyone in the community — even more so, we aren't valuing the masculine over the feminine."
In her experience, the majority of those who object to the term are men, especially those she encounters on social media.
"It's usually men who have a problem with it," Estrada said. "They claim that we're trying to change the Spanish language, which is ridiculous because the Spanish language is constantly changing."
Proponents of Latinx argue that Spanish's gendered structure privileges men in many ways: For one, masculine terms are often used to describe dominant traits. Simple, everyday uses of gendered pronouns reaffirm social relationships in which women are viewed as inferior. One example is the common use of the pronoun “he” to describe God.
Studies have found that gendered language can reinforce existing inequalities between men and women and that this can even affect economic productivity. One study by a researcher at the Rhode Island School of Design who studies the role of norms and identity suggests that countries that speak gendered languages have less gender equality than countries that speak in genderless languages, particularly in terms of economic participation.
Some see Latinx in the context of social justice: María R. Scharrón-del Río, an associate professor at Brooklyn College, has made the case that Latinx succeeds in incorporating groups and communities that have traditionally been left out of the greater Hispanic umbrella.
“As Latinos, we pride ourselves on the strength of our family ties,” Scharrón-del Rio told NBC News in 2017 for an article on the growing use of the word. “Using Latinx is a way to bring visibility to people who have been marginalized and who we have not taken care of as part of our families.”
ACKNOWLEDGING A WORD'S SOCIO-POLITICAL HISTORY
Concern over the use of Latinx also comes from Chicanas, women of Mexican descent who have a desire to respect past political battles, including the fight to use terms like Chicano/a and the more gender-neutral Chican@.
Denise Sandoval, a professor of Chicano and Chicana Studies at California State University at Northridge, grew up identifying as Chicana while fighting for recognition of the role of women in the Chicano experience. Chicana activists in the 1960s sought a voice in a movement dominated by men.
Bowles recalls gender activists in Argentina and Paraguay in the 1970s who crossed out the letter "o" at the end of gendered words on their protest signs as a demand for acknowledgment.
Sandoval sees the discussion over Latinx as both important and a distraction.
“My tendency is to not enter this discussion, because this is really not about labels, but all the forms, both institutional and collective, that marginalize and oppress us, such as homophobia, racism, sexism, etc.,” she said.
Sandoval said it's important to focus on the intersections of race, gender, sexuality and power, and how they affect identity.
“I can't use Chicano only to map the Mexican-American experience. One word doesn't define us. One label doesn't define us. When you get to unmasking the layers that make up our communities and the different ways to identify ourselves and the ways we negotiate identity-making in the U.S., no one word works. No one term is going to fix it,” she said.
The scholars who spoke to NBC News said that people have a right to identify themselves however they wish, but that things get complex when institutions, such as the media, the government or universities, privilege one set of identity terms over another.
Everyone agrees, though, that Latinx will not be the last word coined by Latinos.
"We, as Latinxs, make new words everyday," said Estrada, the student from San Francisco State. "Why should Latinx be any different?"
Source: Published originally on nbcnews.com, Is 'Latinx' elitist? Some push back at the word's growing use, by Stephen Nuño-Pérez and Gwen Aviles, March 7th, 2019.
No phrase better defines the American experience than the clear directive: No taxation without representation. With one set of words, a nation's value system is captured and guided into the future, giving every single resident a voice.
You'd think we would do everything in our power to protect and preserve that which makes just representation possible — like making sure the decennial census count is accurate, right?
Let's take a moment to look at lessons learned. When the British Parliament ruled this land and passed a series of taxes on stamps and sugar without consent, this phrase became the rallying call among colonists demanding fair political representation. Give us a seat at the table or forfeit your right to govern, it declared.
We know what happened next. The movement led to a series of acts of resistance — from the Boston Tea Party to the First Continental Congress — and eventually transformed into the American Revolution, giving birth to the representative democracy we see today.
Yet here we are, 243 years later, with the United States of America bordering on reneging that sacrosanct American guarantee with an undercount of Latinos in the 2020 Census.
The U.S. Census is designed to count all residents regardless of where they live or how many people are in a given household. From that count, seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are apportioned to the states, and critical federal dollars are allocated for schools, hospitals and roads.
Clearly, the numbers matter, especially in California where billions of federal monies could be lost due to an inaccurate tally. In a state where Latinos make up nearly 40 percent of the population and contribute to its thriving economy, we need to get this right or the 2020 Census could shape up to be one of the most disastrous threats to our democracy since our founding.
A series of factors could be credited with a potential undercount. To start, this will be the first census to move online. An online census sounds ideal for reduced costs, but considering that only 54 percent of Latinos in California access the internet through broadband, compared to 69 percent of all Californians, this move will prove difficult for counting the Latino population.
The Trump administration's attempt to add a citizenship question to the census was dealt a legal blow this month when a U.S. district judge ruled adding such a question violates federal statute. But since the administration promises not to quit the threat to add the question, the mistrust that officials are breeding stands to scare immigrant and Latino communities from participating, which could lead to an even greater undercount of these populations and prevent states from their rightful share of representatives in the U.S. House.
This hits home hard in California, where more than 15 million Latinos work and live, including close to 3 million undocumented immigrants. Since California is the most populous state in the union, constitutionally speaking, it should also possess the maximum share of political representatives at the federal level. Because Latinos and immigrants were counted in the 2010 Census, California obtained the most number of members in the U.S. House at 53.
This seems like a big number, but even 10 years ago Latinos were undercounted, including more than 100,000 Latino children ages 0-4.
The Latino Community Foundation, a statewide foundation in California focused on unleashing the political power of Latinos, continues to call for a fair and accurate count of Latinos, and planning ways with like-minded groups to do so. LCF began in early 2018 to actively engage Latinos up and down the state with a roadmap to prepare for the 2020 Census.
California is also stepping up, issuing an application for community-based organizations to help conduct critical education and outreach for getting the census count right. Organizations must apply by Feb. 15 to be considered for dollars that both former Gov. Jerry Brown and current Gov. Gavin Newsom budgeted to achieve a successful count.
There is still hope in achieving a complete count, but time is getting tight. It's on us, the 57 million Latinos who live in this country and who are yearning to be politically represented.
Like our founding fathers who said that a true representative democracy derives from the will, and the taxes, of the people, it's time to view counting in the census as an act of resistance. For to resist, we must exist. The census is the mechanism to make sure all voices are represented.
Christian Arana is policy director with the Latino Community Foundation in San Francisco.
Source: Published originally on FresnoBee.com, The importance of counting Latinos in the 2020 Census, by Christian Arana , January 30, 2019.
El Programa Maestro para Conservar Alimentos de UC mantiene una participación activa con las comunidades tribales de los condados de Humboldt y Del Norte. De hecho, los voluntarios de este programa han estado preparando mermelada desde el 2017 a través de 15 seminarios que han organizado para los miembros de la comunidad tribal.
Kella Roberts, de Servicios Unidos de Salud para los Indígenas (United Indian Health Services), ha ayudado a más de 280 miembros de la comunidad a mejorar su salud y bienestar – un frasco, un deshidratador y una bolsa para congelar a la vez. Sus talleres apoyan los esfuerzos existentes en las comunidades tribales para darles el poder a individuos, familias, tribus y comunidad para tomar decisiones saludables.
Roberts, junto con sus compañeros voluntarios del Programa Maestro para Conservar Alimentos de UC, merece el reconocimiento por coordinar e impartir clases sobre la preservación de alimentos para nuevas audiencias. El grupo adoptó métodos para ayudar a quienes padecen diabetes reduciendo el azúcar en la recetas e impartieron cuatro talleres sobre la elaboración de mermelada de jengibre, calabacita y naranja y fresas usando pectina.
Más de 130 jóvenes y adultos que participaron en cuatro talleres pasaron por el proceso de triturar y deshidratar bayas para elaborar láminas de fruta de fresa y betabel con sus propias manos.
Roberts mantiene el interés crocante al impartir talleres sobre kosher dills, ejotes y betabeles en vinagre. Chips de col rizada y otras golosinas crujientes con beneficios saludables que fueron resaltados durante un taller de la Conferencia Manos en la Salud (Hands on Health Conference). Entre otros talleres sobre conservación de alimentos se incluyeron la elaboración de puré de manzana y deshidratación de frutas.
Para incrementar la participación, estos talleres fueron realizados en lugares en los que los miembros tribales se reúnen y viven, incluyendo las rancherías de Bear River Band de Rohnerville, Big Lagoon, Blue Lake, Elk Valley y Resighini y la comunidad indígena Cher-Ae Heights de la ranchería Trinidad, la tribu Wiyot, la Nación Tolowa Dee-Ni' y la Reservación Yurok.
Busca aquí un programa Maestro para Conservar Alimentos de UC en tu área si deseas participar y compartir las técnicas sobre conservación casera de alimentos con tu comunidad. El programa utiliza métodos basados en la investigación para enseñar a los californianos las técnicas para la conservación casera de alimentos.
Preparando tostadas de col rizada. (Fotografía: Programa Maestro para Conservar Alimentos de UC)