This is a page where I’m providing access to pdf files of things I published in various publications in the 1990s. Happy reading!
Under the Guns: Navy Threatens Puerto Rican Squatter (5/23/89)
I went to the NAHJ convention in San Juan in 1989 and hung around with some people from the Miami Herald and some independentista lawyers. After the panels and a night out to see El Gran Combo, I headed (with an LA Times photographer) out to Vieques on the ferry from Fajardo. I found the seeds of a movement that would finally drive out the Navy 10 years later.
Left Turn on 137th St: Is Washington Heights Incubating a New Latino Politics? (11/28/95) In this piece I take a look at various centers of Latino activism in New York centered around the movement against police misconduct in several communities. It crystallizes a moment when Puerto Rican and Dominican activists were focusing on similar goals, and features interviews with various leaders. I was excited when it was published because it was featured on that morning’s “In the Papers” segment on NY1.
Rock Is Dead and Living in Mexico
The Voice’s Rock and Roll Quarterly had quite a budget, driven by music-oriented advertising, affording me a trip to LA and Mexico City to investigate this new phenomenon called Rock en Español. It was a rare opportunity to witness the peak of a genre that embodied a visceral reaction to the onset of NAFTA, as well as a protest against the social conformity imposed by the infamous PRI. I probably never had as much fun since.
Brown-out: Searching for the Missing Latinos in the Media (7/30/1996) It’s almost 16 years later and it’s almost the same story, although I suppose things are a little better now. The major change has been that alternative media, niche websites, and blogs/social media have allowed Latinos to have an increased presence. This piece features interviews with María Hinojosa, Elaine Rivera, Felipe Luciano, and others. This was actually a cover story.
Freddy’s Dead: Latinos Call for an End to Brutality After the Pereira Killing (4-9-91) This was an earlier story I did about the tragic death in police custody of a young man named Federico Pereira. It turns out Freddy’s mom married salsa star Tito Nieves and moved him out to Jersey–Freddy missed his boys back in Queens and ran into trouble when he went back home to hang out. The saddest part was interviewing his girlfriend, who was still in mourning.
Rockin’ La Casa: Reflections on the New Latin Groove (10/15/96) Perhaps an overambitious attempt to tie several different strands of “Latin” music in New York together. At the time (the mid-’90s), you had r&b-influenced salsa, nascent merenhouse/rap, lots of Cuban music blowing into town, as well as a bossa nova fad and of course David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label almost breaking what became Latin alternative.
Amis and Envy: Review of The Information by Martin Amis (5/23/95)
When I was promoted to staff writer at The Voice, they decided I should be able to weigh in on mainstream stuff like the latest novel by big-time English writer Martin Amis. I actually kind of like his style and had enjoyed some of his books, but here I had my own take about his seeming bitterness that they were awarding the Booker Prize consistently to writers of color.
It’s Not La Vida Loca to Her
One afternoon I was at my office at the Voice and I got a call from the LA Times asking would I be able to go to the MTV studios tomorrow to interview Jennifer Lopez. Alisa Valdés Rodríguez of Dirty Girls Social Club fame was their big entertainment writer at the time (and she would later quit with an infamous calling out the bosses letter that was circulated to almost every journalist I knew by an ancient form of communication known as “email”) but apparently she couldn’t do it. So I got to spend about 2 hours with La Jennifer right in the middle of the Latin pop explosion era. I can assure you she was intensely beautiful and sharp as a tack–maybe a little too calculating for my taste. The best moment came when she and her personal assistant fielded phone calls from her friends, announcing that she was staying at the Carlyle under the name “Jessica Rabbit.” I’ve never been able to separate Jennifer and Jessica in my mind since.
Circle of Fire: Santería Comes Out
I think I may have taken on more than I could handle with this story, and at times my observations can come off as superficial, if not naive. Despite my misgivings, re-reading this one surprised me with how much I tried to feel this one out viscerally, and what I got out of myself in doing so. The subject, Afro-Caribbean Santería, is probably not best spoken about casually, but i hope my real attempts at getting inside stand the test of time.
Joseph B. Vasquez, 1962-1995
For a while I was pretty good friends with Joe–I’d profiled him for the Voice when his first major film Hanging With the Homeboys came out. I think we met in that fake Latin@ restaurant that used to be on First Avenue and Houston. He immediately invited me to play basketball on Saturdays with John Leguizamo. He was in love with a lady from the Bronx who had a trendy shop on Houston near Broadway, and I thought he had good taste. He got a terrible scar on his face when he got pissed at a guy bumming change at the 110th St. station on the 6 line. He learned to make films at City College, not NYU or UCLA, and he was proud of that, and being from the Bronx. I felt terrible when he died.
New World Order
In the late ’90s I did a feature on playwright José Rivera’s decontextualization of Calderón de la Barca’s classic play La Vida Es Sueño. Rivera, who went on to write the screenplay adaptations for The Motorcycle Diaries and On the Road, thoughtfully tried to create new settings for the moral dilemmas of a play written at the crossroads of the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment. It starred John Ortiz, who has tirelessly given much of his career to a marginal theater audience, but has emerged all the better for it.
Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexican Pie
This piece was actually published in 2002, a feature on Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también. We did the interview at the Mercer Hotel with co-stars Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna in tow. Now that Cuarón has won big-time Oscars, it’s worth looking at where he was 12 years ago, aspiring to do mainstream movies and reveling in having escaped the PRI-dominated Mexican film establishment. Too bad Maribel Verdú was not around.
A Festival Latino
Speaking of Ms. Verdú, here’s my first dispatch from a three-year run of covering the Puerto Rican International Film Festival, published in 1991. Although not as cool as another festival that was happening in Puerto Rico those days, this one afforded me the chance to see new releases like Reservoir Dogs, which I saw on a tiny Hi8 viewer in the festival director’s suite at the Sands, to long-forgotten Latin American gems like Confesión a Laura. Plus i got to hang out with the irrepressible Verdú, who flashed her tetas at me poolside–resentful of Puerto Rico’s prohibition on topless sunbathing–before she was whisked away by her handlers, never to be seen again (by me, at least).
Back in ’96, when he was first getting “discovered” Junot was partial to big geeky aviators and striped polos. He was always a peer, or at least I perceived him as such, in terms of multiple identities that were firmly based in a nebulously defined lower-middle-class Nuyo-Caribeño experience. Probably easier shooting the shit with him than just about any of my interview subjects. In this piece you get an idea of his deliberate working pace–he mentions working on a “novel” called The Cheater’s Guide to Love, the strongest story in his most recent collection, published in 2012.
Hangin With the Landlorda and Heights Stakes
For those of you following the current race between Adriano Espaillat and Charles Rangel, here’s a couple of stories I published about Espaillat in the ’90s. Like just about every politician, he had some questionable campaign contributions.
A Brief Dispatch on the Francis Livoti Trial
King of New York
I’ll never forget hanging out with King Tone in the process of putting together this fascinating feature story on the Latin Kings