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Women rising to positions of power in South America

Elections in several countries in South American demonstrate the trend of Latina women rising to positions of power. Voters will have the opportunity to elect intelligent women who show strength in leadership.

Susana Villaran was recently elected as Lima, the capital of Peru’s, first female mayor. The moderate leftist edged out her competition, another woman, Lourdes Flores, of the Social Force Party. Villaran gained her fame as an advocate for human rights, according to NPR.

In Brazil, Dilma Rousseff is likely to become the first female president. Though she did not win a enough votes to avoid a runoff election on Sunday, October 3, Voice of America News reports that she is still the people’s favorite for the position.

Rousseff was chosen by current president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. She served as her chief of staff, and he has deemed her as an important player in his administration’s success. Though she recently survived a bout of cancer, Rousseff will continue to run in a second election at the end of this month.

Latin America already has two female presidents – Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Cristina Elizabet Fernandez de Kirchner, of Argentina. Both were elected in the past four years, showing the increasing support of women in leadership positions.

These two women have received many acknowledgements for the improvements they have brought to the nations they lead. Fernandez de Kirchner has been featured on the Forbes list of 100 most powerful women for three consecutive years, while the Winnipeg Free Press reports that Bachelet recently was awarded the prix international courage au feminin for her work with human rights and liberty.

“We women were always expected to take care of the house, and that alone,” Jacqueline Campos, of Brazil, told the Christian Science Monitor. “Now we have much more to offer. We might lead the country.”

Women’s representation in Latin American legislatures increased by 35 percent between 2000 and 2008, according to the news source. Much of this was spurned on by the successful campaign of the now leaders of Chile and Argentina.

Women in leadership roles may provide some hope to a population that has largely gone unrepresented in governments. Many women have had to rely on their male family members’ income for support. For instance, some women may seek assistance from family members living abroad who send moneyto pay for things like clothing, medicine and education.


Filipino DJ lauded for talents, educational initiatives

The fans have spoken – DJ Qbert was recently named America’s Best DJ by popular vote in a contest held by DJ Times magazine and Pioneer DJ, reports He beat out 100 other DJs in the U.S., in part because he pioneered what is known as skratch, a technique heard in many dance clubs.

“We’re thrilled for Qbert that the voters supported him in such numbers,” Jim Tremayne, DJ Times editor, told the news source. “Obviously he’s always commanded respect from the DJs, but its’ great to know that the fans still hold him in such high regard.”

DJ Qbert also runs the Qbert Skratch University, an online institution that mentors DJs around the world. Amateur and professional DJs alike can learn from the large library of video curriculum made available, and submit their own lessons for QBert’s review. Lessons available at Skratch University include Setup and Gear, Helpful Hints, Freestyle and Basic Master Classes, Beat Juggling and Skratching with DJ Qbert.

The DJ, who is also known as Richard Quitevis, says that he doesn’t allow himself to be self conscious when he’s dropping beats. “It’s all about being in the zone, letting your spirit go,” the 40-year-old told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Who cares what you look like? What matters is the actual sound coming out of the instrument. The feeling, the emotion and all the energy flowing out of you- stuff that you cant’ even see, but you can feel it.”

Quitevis has jammed out in clubs all over the world, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots. The DJ is proud of his Filipino heritage, and fondly recalls a visit to his father’s hometown in Vigan, Philippines. There he saw a simpler lifestyle, and was inspired by the creativity of some of the citizens of the city.

“Back in Vigan, I saw children making small wooden carts by fastening rubber bands around the wheels and other parts of the toy,” he told “Their creativity is amazing!”

Filipino citizens may have to make due with fewer resources, as many people in the nation are stricken with poverty. Fortunately, workers in the U.S. who send money to the Philippinescan help family members pay for education, medical supplies and basic needs, according to the Migration Information Source.


Brazilian citizens see increase in quality of life under President Lula

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, current president of Brazil, will step down from his position on January 1, 2011 after eight years on the job. With soaring approval rates, he has changed the lives of many of Brazil’s poorest citizens, reports the BBC.

“It has been the best government, before Lula, we didn’t have a government,” Cremilda Maria da Silva, a citizen of Brazil who lives in a poor neighborhood in the state of Pernambuco, told the news source. She receives regular payments to help support her family under the Family Grant, a program that was expanded by Lula.

One woman who also lives in an impoverished section of Brazil told the news source that under the same initiative she has been able to purchase medicine, a computer and a washing machine.

Perhaps Lula has been so successful because he understands the plight of the poor. He himself was born into a low-income family and worked to support his loved ones in the industrial belt of Sao Paulo, the source reports.

Many people from the nation move to the U.S. in order to find work so that they can send money to Brazil to support their family at home. According to the Migration Information Source, money from remittances can help a family pay for education or durable goods.


Immigrant laborers find an online voice

Maria de Lourdes Gonzalez, a 62-year-old immigrant working as a housekeeper in California, runs a blog titled Vozmob, a site launched by the University of Southern California and the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California to give immigrants a voice on the internet, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The site allows workers throughout the region to record or take pictures of their experience in the U.S. and upload them onto the web to share with friends, family members and the public at large.

Gonzalez herself conducts many interviews with a tape recorder and video camera, often trying to engage people outside garment factories, on buses or those who pass her on the street. She conducts many of these one-on-ones in Spanish.

“The idea is to let those voices be heard,” the woman told the news source, “to bring out of us what’s already inside.” In addition to providing the workers with a space online, the project aims to provide technological education to immigrants.

Many immigrants, like Lourdes and the immigrants she has recorded have come to the U.S. in order to send money home to family and friends living abroad. According to The Migration Information Source, sending money to loved ones abroad helps pay for durable goods as well as education and household expenses.


The price of naturalization

Many immigrants coming to the U.S. work hard and travel long distances in order to seek new opportunities. When it comes time for these immigrants to naturalize, they may face one unexpected hurdle – fees.

Despite discussions of increasing the fee, the current cost of a naturalization application remains $595, according to The Washington Independent. The Citizenship and Immigration Service declined to raise the fee, but several other costs experienced a hike, such as the price of a green card application or petition for an alien relative.

Immigrant rights groups are advocating to lower fees, as they feel that some immigrants who do not make much money will not be able to afford the application. Because the fee is the final step toward becoming a citizen, many workers are held up by the high price of becoming a citizen, even though they are eligible for naturalization.

Workers who do manage to pay these fees likely understand the improvements money can make in one's life. Some immigrants go through the costly process of naturalizing so that they can send money home to family members still living abroad.

According to the World Bank, the total amount of remittances to developing nations in 2009 was estimated to be approximately $290 billion.


Award-winning chef inspired to help feed the poor

When Narayanan Krishnan took a trip to his native country, India, to visit family and friends in 2002, he likely didn’t expect that the visit would lead him to dedicate his life to feeding the hungry.

Krishnan was originally planning to return to Switzerland, where he was living, to take on an elite job in his field. However, Krishnan decided to change his plans when he saw an old man living under a bridge, struggling to feed himself, according to

The experience inspired the chef to found a nonprofit, known as the Akshaya Trust, which has served more than 1.2 million meals to homeless and poverty-stricken people living in India.

Krishnan and a team now travel 125 miles in a donated van seeking out people in need of a good meal. He personally delivers delicious vegetarian cuisine, feeding almost 400 people every day, the news source reports.

Like many foreign-born workers, Krishnan is striving to find a way to help struggling people who are living in his home nation. Many other immigrants working abroad send money to India to help provide for family members at home. Indian immigrants make up the fourth largest immigrant population in the U.S., according to the Migration Information Source.


Majority of Mexican workers in New York City hold a job

Mexican immigrants comprise a large portion of the work force in the U.S. According to the New York Times, three quarters of Mexican immigrants between the ages of 16 and 65 living in New York City are working or actively looking for work.

According to the 2008 census, 96 percent of Mexican immigrants in the city hold a regular job, which is two percent higher than the national average. Men of Mexican descent have the second highest rate of employment among U.S. immigrant populations, just behind Italian immigrants.

Some experts believe that these numbers may be a slight underestimation, as it is likely that some undocumented workers are unwilling to reveal their employment status.

The source reports that numbers collected by the Fiscal Policy Institute show that 28 percent of all working-age Mexicans work in the food-service industry, while an additional 20 percent are working in construction.

Many of these immigrants likely come to the U.S. in order to send money to Mexico to support family members who still lives south of the U.S. – Mexico border. According to CBS, the Central Bank recorded a total of $21.2 billion was sent in remittances to Mexico from the U.S. in 2009.


Journalist discusses experience coming to America

Wendy Carrillo recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post discussing her experience coming to the U.S. as a young girl. Carrillo’s mother left for the U.S. in 1983, when the journalist was only three years old, in order to help her family leave El Salvador.

Though she was only in her early 20s, Carillo’s mother was able to find a position working as a nanny. She was able to send money to El Salvador, and within a few years, Carrillo was able to join her mother.

She writes that it was difficult to adjust at first, but that she was excited about the new opportunities presented to her. “I was five years old. [My mother] had remarried and I had a new family. Life was wonderful and the American dream was within reach.”

Since that time, Carrillo has seen major success in the U.S. She holds degrees from both California State and the University of Southern California, and was recently recognized as Woman of the Year by senator Gloria Romero for her work as a broadcast journalist.

According to the Migration Information Source, more than half of foreign born citizens from Central America living in the U.S. are from El Salvador and Guatemala.