Sustainability and Latinos

15 04 2011

Last week I had the opportunity to share my perspectives on social equity, Latinos and the sustainability movement at the Go Green Conference. While we still need to change behaviors in the Latino community, it is important to also change perspectives within the sustainability movement. If you’re interested in learning about what I mean when I say “changing perspectives,” continue reading…

Sustainability and Latinos

By Mando Rayo

When you think of sustainability, the environment and going “green”, what comes to mind? Is it the conscious-minded people who chooses alternative transportation, recycles and grows their own veggies? Or is it the person who lives in the city but has agriculture in their family history, tends to multiple chickens and roosters and rides their bicycle to and from work because they have no alternatives? I think of the latter.

Even though you can’t help but walk through a minefield when making generalization about any demographic and/or ethnicity in America, there are certain realities that I invite you to ponder; new information that will make you at the very least reconsider the assumptions you make when running into certain sub-segments of the Latino market.

Let me expand.

Culture, Traditions and History

Among Latino and other sustainability is a very familiar concept, in fact, it’s goes back many generations. My grandparents and their grandparents before them, farmed and cultivated their lands with vegetables, fruits and the foods they needed to feed their families and make a living. In the kitchen, they developed and passed on traditions to the next generation including reusing plastic bags and foil paper and creating new dishes from a hodge podge of leftover items. These practices, often starting out of necessity, have become traditions and part of our culture. Among Latinos and especially those in low-income communities, you have to save where you can in order to provide for your family—you have to conserve. While many Latinos may not label themselves “green,” they actually are; they just don’t do it by definition, they do it because it’s a part of their culture.

Choice vs. Necessity

Is the construction worker who rides his bicycle to work going “green” or does he do it because of necessity? How many of us are afforded the choice to leave the car at home and ride our bikes to work or for recreational purposes? Do you consider people in low-income communities as environmentally-friendly because they ride the bus? You could. A lot of us, including myself, are afforded these choices but many Latinos and African-Americans that are living in poverty do not have the luxury to make these choices. For Latinos living in these conditions, it is a matter of necessity; the necessity to get to work, make a living, getting by and providing for their families. With necessity comes ingenuity. We see it in its simplest form by recycling plastic bags and foil paper, by washing and reusing them, or by repurposing old aluminum cans or glass jars for tools and containers and even art projects. While some Latinos, especially older generations, may not consider themselves environmentalist, many of them have been doing their part through culture and traditions.

Creating Inclusion

Sustainability and the organized environmental movement for the large part has been part of the mainstream. The poor and multicultural communities have not been part of this organized movement not because they’ve been intentionally excluded, but simply because not enough relationships and connections exist between these groups. Latinos and most multicultural communities do care about sustainability and doing their part to be “green”. However,  they do it in their own informal way, rooted in cultural traditions and understandings. What organizations and businesses need to do is begin the process of understanding how these issues affect and are relevant to Latino communities. If they truly want diverse insights, perspectives, influence, connections, advocates, and $171 billion of Texas’ Latino buying power the organized environmental movement needs to take time to understand their needs, wants and aspirations. It’s about meeting their necessities, your organization/business’ needs and meeting in the middle or reaching the sweet spot. Once you hit the sweet spot, you can move forward together.

There are real connections between sustainability and Latinos. As we continue this work, we have to change perceptions as well as behaviors and start connecting the issues in more meaningful and relevant ways that include culture, traditions and experiences.

There are definitely situations in which these same Latinos, due to either lack of information or out of pure necessity are engaging in practices negative to the environment. These are opportunities for both nonprofit organizations and the business world as far as educating and empowering these individuals to take environmentally-friendly decisions.

Update: Austin Says No to Arizona’s Immigration Law!

30 04 2010

After one day of hard work & online advocacy via Twitter, FB, snail email and one phone call, we have a proposal for an economic boycott against Arizona by the Austin City Council. Standing up for Austin is Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez who said in a press release that he didn’t want to “expose city employees to potentially hostile environment in Arizona” and “that our Austin community stands in vehement opposition to racial discrimination in any form.” And being who I am, I vehemently agree!

Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Austin Councilmember Bill Spelman and Mayor Pro Tem Martinez will introduce the resolution at the May 13th Austin City Council meeting. Meanwhile, I’ve been gathering mas support via Twitter & Facebook. So if you want to keep up to date on the resolution or show your support, please join us on the “Austin Says NO to Arizona’s Immigration Law!” We’re already up to 294 LIKEs and y’know we like the LIKEs now!

Muchisimas gracias to Bobby Garza and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez for taking the lead on this effort. They are a prime example of city officials listening and working for the people! You can read the full press release below.



For Immediate Release

April 29, 2010

Contact: Bobby Garza, Office of Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez

(512) 974-2264

Austin Council Members To Propose Arizona Boycott

Austin, Texas – Austin Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, City Council Member Bill Spelman and Mayor Lee Leffingwell announced today that they will introduce a resolution at the May 13th City Council meeting directing the City Manager to limit employee travel to Arizona and to present a plan to the Council for terminating business and investment relationships with the State of Arizona.

“The reasons for introducing this measure are two-fold,” said Mayor Pro Tem Martinez.  “First and foremost, we want to ensure that we are not exposing city employees to risk by sending them into an uncertain and potentially hostile environment in Arizona .  Second, we want to send a loud and clear message to the State of Arizona that our community stands in vehement opposition to racial discrimination in any form.”

“This resolution has precedent in past Council actions,” added Martinez .  “For example, we’ve previously passed policies prohibiting the city from doing business with manufacturers who utilize sweatshop labor.  It is squarely within the Council’s purview to determine with whom the city should or should not do business based on their practices.”

The resolution comes on the heels of passage of SB 1070 in Arizona that effectively mandates racial profiling throughout the state.  Other cities across the country, including Los Angeles and Washington D.C. , are contemplating similar legislation.  San Francisco has recently passed a resolution that will terminate all contracts with Arizona-based companies and end city business with the state.

“ Arizona ’s new immigration law puts anyone traveling to the state in jeopardy of being detained, based on a law enforcement officer’s ‘reasonable suspicion’ that that person might be an undocumented immigrant,” said Council Member Bill Spelman.  “That’s wrong, and I can’t responsibly allow our city employees to be placed at such a risk.”

“While I’m normally reluctant to support the Council formally weighing in on issues outside of our jurisdiction, Arizona ’s legislation potentially has a direct impact on our employees, and is generally so offensive that I believe it demands our attention,” said Mayor Leffingwell.   “I’m supporting this resolution because I believe that we have a responsibility not only to protect our own employees, but also to speak out loudly against racial discrimination wherever it exists.”


National Museum of the American Latino, Texas Public Forum – Sat. May 1st

28 04 2010

Latinos – Stand up! We have an opportunity to showcase 500 years of Latino contributions with the creation of the National Museum of the American Latino. And there’s a chance that it might live in Austin, TX! This Saturday, May 1 at 10am, the National Museum of the American Latino Commission will be hosting the only forum in Texas to get feedback from Tejanos, Americanos, Latinos and the like. So Saturday morning, make your pan dulce and breakfast taco to go and particpate in the forum!



In honor of Cesar Chavez Day: I believe in Si Se Puede!

31 03 2010

I believe in Si Se Puede!

I believe in Si Se Puede – Yes We Can. We all know the rallying cry; it’s part of our history, our culture – it’s what gives us the ganas to fight for our rights, opportunities and our freedoms. It’s as old as Latin American revolutions to the huelgas of the 60s and the campaigns of today.

Si Se Puede – it’s more than just a mantra – it’s an attitude – a call to action; a way to realize our dreams – it’s the ganas to fight for what we believe in – a constant reminder that we can and shall overcome. Si Se Puede is reaching out to people and getting connected, it’s helping people that need help & being helped when we need it, it’s undoing the wrong and making it right, and it’s standing up for what you believe in and standing up for others.

I believe in Si Se Puede because as a community organizer, I see it, breathe it and live it everyday. It embodies my outlook on life, it affects my everyday work and I’ve seen how inspirational it can be. I’ve seen the hope it brings to peoples’ lives; the idea that people can overcome any obstacle, no matter how difficult the situations may be, is life-changing.

And we need it, not only Latinos but all people. We have families living in poverty, managing two or more jobs and trying to put food on the table; our workers are earning non-livable wages; our kids aren’t prepared for school and dropping out; and too many people do not have access to healthcare. Yes, these are daunting problems but with our Si Se Puede attitudes, ganas y el pueblo unido, we can do it!

Si Se Puede means we can make things better for our families, neighbors and generations to come. We can reach out to our neighbors & stay connected, we can volunteer and give back, not because it’s a nice thing to do but a necessity to solving our community’s critical issues and, we can inspire others to make change.

Cesar Chavez, a migrant farm worker and community activist once said “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

I believe in Si Se Puede

Mando Rayo

Latinos movin’ on up with the Best of Austin Chronicle 09

4 09 2009

Yeah, go Latinos! I did a round up of Latinos getting some love from the Best of Austin Chronicle 09. Muchos props to Austin Chronicle staff (see critic’s picks) for highlight the good work of the hardest working Latinos in Austin. We’re movin’ on up!

From the Best of Austin Chronicle 09

Critics Picks…

Best Municipal Rocker: Bobby Garzamanejabeto (far left)
The demands of being a City Council aide are tough enough – with a scant seven council members for a city of almost 800,000, aides act as de facto council members themselves, sussing out the issues for each office. Despite the workload, Bobby Garza, family man and executive assistant to Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, finds time to – what else? – rock. He’s a singer and percussionist with reunited Latino indie rockers Maneja Beto, and also sat on the high-profile Live Music Task Force. Crank the agenda up to 11, Bobby!

Best Ode to the (Namesake of the) Road on Which It Resides: Rayo de Esperanza

photo by Sandy Carson

Right outside the Terrazas Branch Library she looms. The César E. Chávez Memorial Project – awarded by the city of Austin Art in Public Places program to Connie Arismendi and Laura Garanzuay – is a literal nighttime beacon as brilliant as its potential to inspire hope. Like a (no disrespect intended) bat signal to justice, freedom, and equality, this soaring United Farm Workers phoenix ignites the night and reminds us that: ¡Sí se puede! … because yes we did! And with due diligence and the dedication to create a better world, yes, we will again!

Best Place to Discover Latino Music: Austin
From such old-school promoters as Jerry Avila on Primetime Tejano and Isidoro Lopez on KOOP Radio’s Fiesta Musical and the Premios Texas awards hosted by Austin’s Univisión affiliate to longtime Horizontes host Michael Crockett on KUT, to Johnny Ramirez’s Indie Live Austin, to Paul Saucido over on ME TV (and beyond), to youngblood promoters like Brandon Badillo, to Alba Peña’s Conexion Rockera website, to new festivals like Pachanga Fest, and the monthlong events of Latino Music Month — there’s no reason, no way, no how for anyone in Austin to say they don’t know what’s going on in Latino music. And let’s not forget Alicia Zertuche’s work pumping up the Latino music presence at South by Southwest. Old, new, cutting edge, folky, funky, and fabulous, Austin is quickly becoming the city to watch for what’s happening in Latino music outside the usual places of New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. Pachanga Fest, which had its second successful festival earlier this year, promises to be the next must-hit Latino music festival in the nation. Yeah, that’s right. You read it here first.

Best of the Fests: Pachanga FestivalpachangaLogoCircle-Small
With a lot of ambition and heart, Pachanga Fest ’08 showed a lot of promise to annually showcase Latino musicians in a fun festival setting. In ’09, however, Pachanga Fest truly lived up to its potential with a dazzling array of acts that included the edgy Mexican Institute of Sound, the all-female Mariachi Las Alteñas, the eclectic Los Bad Apples, and hot hot hot singer/accordionist A.J. Castillo. That’s what founders Rich Garza and A.J. Vallejo were hoping for, and it’s a good indicator that for t

Hardest Working Vato in the Music Biz: Paul Saucidosaucido
Remember last year when ME Television started to go down in flames and laid off everyone? Well, ME TV is still around (barely), and when it started to get its act together, the first thing it did was rehire VJ Paul Saucido. Even if ME TV goes away, Saucido will survive. VJ job? He don’t need no stinkin’ VJ job! As soon as the ground started to crumble, Saucido went to work on his own website (, providing regular commentary on, hosting music shows all around town, and generally working it. Most people would have ditched Austin. (In fact, Saucido pulled a good April Fools’ prank on Facebook when he announced that he was leaving Austin and going back to Los Angeles. The response was swift, forlorn, and heartfelt. Funny, Paul. Very funny.) Who knows what’s going to happen at ME TV. But for Saucido, the only way to land is feet first, facing the sky.

Most Socially Responsible Hip-Hop Crew: The Cipher

Best 3am Grocery Shopping, 1997: Fiesta Mart

Best Way To Keep the Conversation Going: Southwest Key

Best On-Air Mayor of East Austin: Isidoro Lopez, KOOP-FM

Best Mayor of South Austin: Mayo Pardo, Jovita’s

Best Cool Down With a Cold One: Rabbit’s Lounge

Best Museum Refreshment: Mexic-Arte Paletas

Best Drowning Flautas: The Screaming Goat

Best Eastside Juiciness: Veracruz All Natural

Best Farmers’ Market Maestra: Suzanne Santos of the Sustainable Food Center

Reader’s Poll…

Best Council Member: Mike Martinezmmartinez
Community: It’s what he saved in his many years battling fires and what focuses his vision during his years thus far on Austin’s City Council. His leadership on diversity issues, including spearheading the Hispanic Quality of Life Initiative and his continued visibility as a firmly entrenched East Austinite make Mike Martinez a continued favorite of our readers and beyond.

Best Bathroom: Vivo

Best Bar Staff: Nomad – Peeps from EPT!

Felicidades to everyone! Check out all the ganadores at the Austin Chronicle!


Hispanic Futures Conference

17 04 2009

Don’t miss out on the tomorrow’s Hispanic Futures Conference.  AISD is getting on the ball con los Latinos (about time right?).  The initiative, headed up by Margarita A. Decierdo at the Department of Diversity & Intercultural Relations brings together Hispanic families to engage in connecting & learning. Check out the details from their press release.


AISD Press Release
“College, Technology and the Workforce of the 21st Century” is the theme for the next Hispanic Futures Conference, organized in partnership with Austin Community College. The conference will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 18, at the Austin Community College Riverside campus, located at 1020 Grove Blvd.
The conference, which will address technological/digital skills, leadership and college-ready literacy needed for success in the 21st Century, will feature speakers, workshops and information for students, teachers, parent support specialists and parents.

The conference is open to the public, and lunch, entertainment and transportation will be provided. For more information, contact the Department of Diversity and Intercultural Relations at either 414-0884 or 414-0365.

RISE Hispanic Sessions – Wednesday

3 03 2009

Don’t miss out on the last day of the RISE Hispanic Sessions.  We’ll be at the MACC all day.  Show up or register online at


Thursday, March 4

10:00 – 11:30am Targeting and Motivating the Latino Community

10:00 – 11:30am Starting a Company without start-up money: How to grow a business organically?

10:00 – 11:30am “Social Business Tool Kit : A practical road map”

12:00 – 1:30pm Performance Lab Entrepreneurship Beyond Business

12:00 – 1:30pm Local to Global: Modern Media and Filmmaking

12:00 – 1:30pm Strategies for Bootstrapping a New Publication

2:00-3:30 Performance Lab Hispanic Philanthropy

2:00-3:30 Event Production/Music Festivals 101

2:00 – 3:30pm Engaging the Hispanic/Latino Community

4:00 – 5:30pm The Impact of Corporate Culture on Performance


4:00 – 5:30pm “Spa for the Soul”-Entrepreneurial Survival Skills for 2009

Also, don’t forget to to RSVP for the RISE Hispanic/Latino Networking Happy Hour.  We’ll be at the Nomad from 5:00 – 8:00pm.



Edward James Olmos in Austin: Pimps Farmers Insurance, Battlestar Galactica & the Latino Community

26 02 2009

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend Success starts here…an evening with Edward James Olmos presentd by Farmers Insurance.  Of course, I was super excited to see 5 heroes in 1: Jamie Escalante (Stand & Deliver), Santana (American Me), Lt. Martin Castillo (Miami Vice), El Pachuco (Zoot Suit) & Admiral Adama (Battlestar Galactica)!  I scored the free tix from my involvement with YHPAA.  I guess volunteering does pay off!?! 😉


Anyway, it was great to see “Eddie” again (he spoke at my elementary school en El Chuco). Besides pimping Farmer’s Insurance (which is probably paying him for his speaking engagements), he totally represented! His passion for La Raza, kids & community came out in his message.  I was totally inspired & motivated to do even more community work!

What about you? What are your impressions of Edward James Olmos? Are you an Admiral Adama or an old school Jaime Escalante fan?

I was also able to capture some video clips of the conversation on my borrowed Flip camera.  So here’s the raw footage….

Edward James Olmos reflects on the Americanos Project & Cultura in the U.S.

Edward James Olmos discusses the importance of giving back to communities & the real struggles of kids.

Edward James Olmos discusses Battlestar Galactica.

Btw, I’m also cross-posting in the Hispanics in Austin blog.