Latinos | St. Louis Public Radio


Nurse Michelle Radomski finishes giving someone a coronavirus nasal swab test at Affinia Healthcare's South Broadway location on July 13. 7/13/20
Kayla Drake / St. Louis Public Radio

Latinos have been hit hard by the coronavirus. But many who primarily speak Spanish have not been tested for the virus because they do not have enough information in their language.

Some Latinos have trouble following automated phone recordings in English and navigating a complex health care system, said Diego Abente, president of Casa de Salud, a clinic that primarily serves immigrants. 

To address the need, hospitals and clinics have hired Spanish-speaking workers to screen immigrants for testing. The Immigrant Service Provider Network also pooled resources to translate information about the coronavirus.

Horacio Esparza owns and operates La Guadalupana grocery store in St. Charles. 10/28/19
Andrea Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

ST. CHARLES — About a mile from the Schnucks across from Lindenwood University sits a less visible grocery store that caters to Latino customers. It’s about the size of a supermarket’s produce section. La Guadalupana’s narrow aisles are lined with crowded shelves holding food with Spanish labels: salsa verde, semita larga, chile morita and more.

The store also sells food seen in other grocery stores, like oatmeal and ramen noodles. Owner Horacio Esparza says he thinks the family environment attracts customers more than his products do. He strives to welcome everyone with a chipper, “Hola, ¿Cómo estás?” and greets familiar customers by name. 

The Greater St. Louis Hispanic Festival celebrates its 25th year with the 2019 event.
Familia Barrera Foto & Video

National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Begun in 1968 as a week-long recognition of the contributions of people with roots in Spanish-speaking countries, it was expanded to a month in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan.

The starting date recognizes five Latin American countries that declared their independence on Sept. 15 and 16, 1821: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico declared its independence on Sept. 16, 1810.

"Flores Mexicanas"painting by Alfredo Ramos Martinez in storage at the Missouri Historical Society's Library and Research Center prior to conservation.
Photo courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society

Mexico City, Mexico, is the special spot where famed aviators Anne and Charles Lindbergh met and where their relationship formed. And in 1929, then-president Emilio Portes Gil gifted the celebrity couple the 9-by-12-foot “Flores Mexicanas” masterpiece by renowned Mexican artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez as a wedding gift.

Extravagant, right? St. Louisans will also get a chance to admire the painting as part of the Missouri Historical Society’s upcoming “Flores Mexicanas: A Lindbergh Love Story” exhibit, on view June 1 through Sept. 2.

Local artists José Garza (left) and Miriam Ruiz (right) present their collaborative project, collectively titled Ojalá, in El Chico Bakery on Cherokee Street.
Photo courtesy of José Garza

The Luminary Arts Center is in the midst of its ongoing show “Counterpublic,” a triennial exhibition scaled to a neighborhood “set to animate the everyday spaces of Cherokee Street” with expansive artist commissions, performances, processions and more through July 13.

While the exhibit itself is only around for a few months, participants including local artists José Guadalupe Garza and Miriam Ruiz have created a series of “art interventions” in El Chico Bakery, a family owned and operated Mexican bakery in south St. Louis.

Families gather at the Fairmont City libary to play, read books and take classes.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It's a common sight at the Fairmont City Library Center: Students discussing the grammar and syntax of English sentences in small groups.

On a recent night, the teacher wanted to know what another word for “per” is. The word got lost in translation. Some students suggested “for,” but in the sentence the teacher gave the correct answer is “each.” It was a confusing answer for one student who offered the Spanish word for “each” instead. It’s “cada.”

The class is just one of the night English language classes the library offers adult native Spanish speakers in the area who want to perfect their second language.

In "Islandborn," Junot Diaz writes for immigrant children.
Illustration by Leo Espinosa

For more than 20 years, novelist Junot Diaz has explored the immigrant experience.

From his debut 1996 novel, “Drown,” a semi-autobiographical work on the life of a young Dominican transplant to the United States, to “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, Diaz has found inspiration in the culture that surrounds him. 

His work has won him more than just accolades. He is a MacArthur “genius grant” winner and teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In his books and in person, his use of language is very much for an adult audience. But for years, his two goddaughters and other children have asked him to craft stories with them in mind. Diaz has done so with his latest book, “Islandborn,” which tackles the dilemma of an island girl in the United States: How do I remember where I come from?

Mexican immigrants participating in English and Citizenship classes for new immigrants organized by the YMCA Industrial Commission. There was additional programming, like, apparently this trip to Forest Park.
State Historical Society of Missouri

Fewer than 4 percent of St. Louis city and county residents are Latino. While the Midwest as a whole has a reputation for very small Latino populations, St. Louis County Historian Daniel Gonzales says it wasn’t always on track to be that way.

Gonzales has been focused on uncovering forgotten narratives since he started his job about a year and half ago. One such story is the subject of an academic publication he's working on. It relates to the 19th and 20th century Mexican immigration to St. Louis, how the community was encouraged to blossom, and then pushed out.

Las Posadas celebrations keep revelers close to their faith and culture

Dec 23, 2016
Participants in Las Posadas procession, which tells the story of Joseph and Mary as they sought shelter before the birth of Christ, walk the Anza Trail in Martinez, Calif., this Dec. 6, 2014, photo.
Anza Trail NPS

In churches and neighborhoods across St. Louis, many Latino parishioners gather before Christmas for Las Posadas, a 500-year-old practice that retells the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, where they sought shelter before Christ was born. For many, the celebrations that take place from Dec. 12 to Three Kings Day on Jan. 6 help keep religious, family and cultural traditions. Gustavo Valdez, a St. Louis resident, has celebrated them since he was a 9-year-old boy in Monterrey, Mexico.

Alexandra Noboa takes pictures for social media as reporters conduct a pre-game interview at Busch Stadium. Noboa, the Cardinals' Spanish translator, launched the @cardenales Twitter account.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

This week, for the first time in team history, two St. Louis Cardinals' games will be broadcast in Spanish. It’s one of the biggest nods to the local Latino community, and comes during what has been a big year for Spanish speakers in Major League Baseball.

Grammy Award winner La Santa Cecilia performs in St. Louis

Sep 3, 2016
Humberto Howard | Criteria Entertainment

The St. Louis Ballpark Village is usually a venue for throwing back a few cold ones and watching the Cardinals game. But today the venue will give locals a taste of Los Angeles. La Santa Cecilia, a modern band that fuses Mexican roots music and Pan-American sounds, from cumbia to soul, is the headliner for the En Vivo Latino Music Festival.

St. Cecilia Parish hosts third annual community health fair

Aug 26, 2016
LAMP Facebook Page

Where can you get a dental exam, immigration resources, and hear traditional music from Michoacán, Mexico? On Sunday afternoon, your best bet is the third annual community health fair at St. Cecilia Catholic Church on Louisiana Avenue.

A scene from "Menudo Pops," a spoofy  commercial for popsicles created from a traditional Mexican dish that's made from the stomachs of animals.
Mike Snodderley

This month, St. Louisans can experience something they’ve likely never seen or heard before: 90 minutes of local theater focused on Latino themes and characters.

Theatre Nuevo is staging a series of one-act plays in English, Spanish and a sprinkling of Spanglish, from the touching tale of a struggling family restaurant to a new take on “Little Red Riding Hood.”

The presentation is the brainchild of Anna Skidis Vargas, a local theater professional who wants to honor her heritage. Skidis Vargas, who's from Southern Illinois, has Mexican-American roots. She said the project gives all Latinos a chance for visibility.

Idealism vs. pragmatism: the economics of Cinco de Mayo

May 2, 2015
Gigante puppets pulled by bike in the People's Joy Parade during Cherokee Street's Cinco de Mayo festival Saturday,May 2, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Glittery sombreros big and small. The occasional plastic mustache dangling from sunglasses. Reggaetón blasting from one speaker, pop tunes blaring on another. Tacos, piña coladas and colorful margaritas in fish bowls.

Wrestling, live music and the eccentric, playful People’s Joy Parade. This is Cherokee Street during  Cinco de Mayo.

A lot of fun for sure, but was Saturday's festival all in good fun or was there an element of cultural appropriation going on?

Dancers perform at the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration at Holy Trinity Parish on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014.
Camille Phillips | St.Louis Public Radio

At Holy Trinity Catholic Parish in St. Ann, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is cause for major celebration. The north St. Louis County church honored the patron saint of Mexico last month with a special mass attended by more than 300 people, many of them Hispanic.

When the church bell struck noon, the parishioners processed around the church with an icon of the patron saint, singing songs in Spanish, led by a mariachi band. Inside the sanctuary, dancers in red moved to the beat of a drum, and the priest gave a blessing to the children.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 28, 2013 - By some of the most important measures of social progress, black and Latino residents of the United States have lost ground as compared to the nation’s white residents in the decades since the civil rights movement.

Some gains made by the nation’s two largest minority groups during the 1960s and 1970s have eroded with time, an analysis of six decades of demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau found. In other categories, the gaps between whites and minorities have steadily widened since 1960.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 3, 2012 - A few weeks ago, while writing a story about approaching events for Hispanic Heritage Month, I stood up and said to my editors: “Which one’s right? Hispanic or Latino?”

Like good editors, they all had different answers. So we turned to the bible of journalism, the Associated Press stylebook, which said something to the effect of, it’s preferable to use Latino but Hispanic is OK, under the Latino heading, and it’s preferable to use Hispanic but Latino is OK, under the Hispanic heading.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 7, 2012 - The Latino population in St. Louis is a small one, at least from a numbers perspective.

As of 2010, the metro as a whole had a Latino population of about 2.6 percent, according to a report by the East West Gateway Council of Governments, which uses Census data. That’s up from .3 in 1990.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 16, 2011 - The changes, for Haniny Hillberg and her daughter, Elisa Bender, feel big here. Decades ago, there was one church with a service in Spanish. Now, several offer services in Spanish.

Then, tortillas seemed a rare treat. "Now, I can just walk into Schnucks or Dierbergs and find them," Hillberg says.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 5, 2011 - Dina Siegel Vann, director of the Latino and Latin American Institute with the American Jewish Committee, comes to St. Louis on Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with local Jewish and Latino leaders and talk about issues that tie the two as well as the new Latino-Jewish coalition in Congress.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 12, 2010 - LThe Latino population in St. Louis continues to increase along with the number of university researchers who are interested in studying everything from attitudes about immigration to educational challenges facing the recent arrivals.

So it seems fitting that St. Louis University, Washington University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis are pooling their resources in an effort to further the understanding of the burgeoning Latino population both regionally and statewide.