How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Narco novias' and the drug war art of Carolyn Castaño

Photo by Julio Cruz/KPCC

A nude figure reclines among marijuana leaves in one of Castaño's paintings, January 2011

The ugliness of the drug war has inspired some hauntingly beautiful paintings from a Los Angeles artist, the daughter of immigrant parents from Colombia. KPCC's Alfredo Guzman-Lopez interviewed Carolyn Castaño, who has created a series of paintings based on real-life "narco novias," women drawn into the netherworld of drug cartels through romantic entanglements.

From the piece:

Three years ago, Carolyn Castaño created a portrait of Pablo Escobar and other drug cartel leaders in Colombia and Mexico, paired with the women who became the drug dealers’ lovers, girlfriends or wives.

"What I found is that there’s a high degree of beauty queens and very, models, actresses and journalists who get involved with these kind of dark personas," she said.

She scoured the Web for pictures of what she calls "narco novias" and "muñecas de la mafia" – narco-girlfriends, mafia dolls. The images she found are spread out on her work desk in her second-floor artist’s loft just east of downtown L.A.

The women’s perfect skin and hair makes the pictures look like head shots for a telenovela casting call. Such as Angie Sanclemente, who was the "Reina del Café" – Coffee Queen – and became a model, actress and allegedly the leader of a drug ring that lured attractive young women.


On the emergence of a mixed race nation

Photo by (Creative Commons)

One of the most e-mailed and tweeted stories yesterday involved students from the University of Maryland, but it involved a subject very close to the heart of Southern California. The New York Times piece explored the emergence of a mixed race America created by immigration and intermarriage through the members of the university's Multiracial and Biracial Student Association, a group of students of mixed racial and ethnic heritage ranging from black-white to Japanese-Irish who are proud to identify as such.

According to the story, one in every seven new marriages in this country is between people of different ethnicities or races (there's a nifty graphic). Mixed race Americans are "one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups," and racial statistics from the 2010 census, which will soon be released, will likely reveal more along the lines of this trend.


In the news this morning: English-only bills, Napolitano defends her record, young Egyptian Americans on the turmoil in Egypt, more

English-Only and English as Official Language Bills Gain Momentum - Fox News Latino The English-only movement continues, this time in the form of bills being pushed in Indiana and Minnesota.

Janet Napolitano Accuses Critics of Politicizing Border Issues - New York Times The Homeland Security chief said yesterday that arrests logged by the Border Patrol have fallen 36 percent in two years and that crime rates in many U.S. border cities remain low, in spite of continuing drug cartel violence on the Mexican side. She accused detractors of trying to "score political points."

Egyptian-American Youth Affected By Political Turmoil - NPR Michel Martin interviews two Egyptian American protesters from the Washington, D.C. area on what the protests in Egypt means to them, and how family members in Egypt have been affected.


An Egyptian American blogger's take on the crisis through two different lenses

Photo by Asim Bharwani/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Egyptian solidarity demonstration outside the federal building in West Los Angeles on Saturday, January 29, 2011

The blog Muslim Matters has an interesting post from a second-generation Egyptian American who was born in the United States but raised in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, giving him unique perspective on the anti-government demonstrations rocking Egypt.

It's been a week since the start of protests in the capital city of Cairo, with thousands of people clogging the streets to demand democratic reforms and the resignation of president Hosni Mubarak, a close ally of the United States but regarded by many in his country as a dictator.

Identified as Haytham, the author, a 28-year-old activist and graduate student who lives in New Mexico and occasionally posts on the site, contrasts his reaction as an Egyptian to the crisis with how it is viewed, he writes, "through an American lens."


Report: 287(g) immigration enforcement program isn't focused on serious offenders

Photo by 888bailbonds/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Los Angeles County prisoner bus, June 2009. The county extended its participation in the federal 287(g) program in October.

The federal government's controversial 287(g) program, which partners local agencies with immigration authorities, is the subject of a new report out today from the Migration Policy Institute.

Among other things, the report echoes some of the already existing complaints about federal-local immigration enforcement in that there is not as much of an emphasis on finding and deporting immigrants with serious criminal records as promised by the Obama administration.

According to the analysis from the institute, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C. think tank whose senior staff includes former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service chief Doris Meissner, the 287(g) program as it's being implemented "is not targeted primarily at serious offenders," with only about half of 287(g) activity involving non-citizens (mostly undocumented immigrants, but also legal residents) arrested for misdemeanor or traffic offenses.