Reflecting on the Border

El Espace is a column dedicated to news and culture relevant to Latinx communities. Expect politics, arts, analysis, personal essays and more. ¿Lo mejor? It’ll be in Spanish and English, so you can forward it to your tía, your primo Lalo or anyone else (read: everyone).

For those of us who are immigrants or part of the diaspora, celebrating Independence Day this year may spark some internal dissonance. While many of us prepare for fireworks or the beach (I’ll be cookout-hopping and catching the fireworks from a block party), the news from the border over the last few weeks still weighs heavily.

Since reports of unsanitary conditions at an overcrowded Border Patrol facility in Clinton, Tex., emerged last month, there has been extensive public backlash. And though the 249 children being kept there were later transferred to nearby tent facilities and shelter settlements, concerns about poor conditions persist.

The same week, a graphic photo of a Salvadoran father and his young daughter who drowned in the banks of the Rio Grande went viral, prompting a dialogue about the ethics of distributing disturbing images of Central American bodies on social media.

And most recently, ProPublica released a report about a secret Facebook group, in which current and former Customs and Border Protection agents cracked jokes about migrants’ deaths and directed vulgar comments at Latinx Congress members, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in particular. The head of the Border Patrol has since denounced the agents’ behavior, and Customs and Border Protection has opened an investigation. After a visit to a border facility this week, Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet that while members of Congress were asked to give up their phones, “we caught officers trying to sneak photos, laughing.”

Immigration and migrant detention were among the many topics discussed at the first Democratic presidential debates last week. And some of the candidates showed off their rudimentary Spanish to appeal to Latino voters watching on Telemundo, which simulcast the debates in Spanish for the first time. Julián Castro, the sole Latino candidate, called the image of the dead migrant and his daughter “heartbreaking,” but added, “It should also piss us all off.”

Here are more stories to read this week.

El Roundup

📲I recently discovered and was gutted by this photo essay on Lucia Vazquez Valdez, an 86-year-old descendant of the Mascogo tribe (African-Americans who fled slavery for northern Mexico in the 19th century). Valdez is one of the few living descendants of the tribe.

📲Alexis Ruiseco-Lombera, a Cuban photographer based in New York, captured the stories of the Caribbean island’s L.G.B.T.Q. communities in this stunning photo series.

📲ICYMI: #SaveODAAT worked y’all! “One Day at a Time” will be back on TV next year.

📲An indigenous Mexican woman writes about parenting her fair-skinned child.

📲Some good news! Employment rates are up among Latinas. 👏🏽👏🏽

📲Bad Bunny and J. Balvin discuss their new collaboration, “Oasis.” Asked why they sang exclusively in Spanish, Bad Bunny said, “Because that’s the language we speak.” Obvio!

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