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Franklin Garcia

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Count the Dead: Latinos We Lost in 2011

Posted: 12/29/11 12:26 PM ET

At the beginning of 2010, I read an article titled "Dead Latinos," written by Professor Jose Sanchez of Long Island University. In it, he highlighted the absence of Latino deceased in the New York Times' 2009 list of important dead people. The Times' list was an essay featuring 23 of the year's prominent deceased; not a single one was a Latino.

This year, the Washington Post version of the departed is a photo gallery of 83 photos of the notable dead. I went through and looked at each photo, one by one, reading next to each photo a short capture of who the person was. At the end of the slide show, I found a bittersweet photo and the only Latino name in the gallery. It was Saul Solórzano's name, but the picture was of his wife and child; I don't understand why the photo of his wife and child and not of him.

Saul Solórzano, a friend and the long time head of DC based immigrant advocacy agency CARECEN, died earlier this year. I suppose mathematically speaking, 1 of 83 yields a higher ratio than 0 of 23. Also, as a Washingtonian it is gratifying to see Saul Solórzano's name, even if at the end, with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Geraldine Ferraro, Andy Rooney, Kara Kennedy, Nick Ashford, Cesaria Evora, Sammy Wanjiru, and the other notable dead from around the world that made the Washington Post list of notable dead in 2011.

I looked for Facundo Cabral, the Argentine musician, named United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1996, whose death captured Latino media in the U.S. for more than three days. I looked for Gaspar Henaine 'Capulina," the main star of a sitcom I watched for years in the U.S. when I was a child. I looked for best-seller author Piri Thomas, who Pulitzer Prize writer Junot Diaz credits with being "one of his most important influences."

Absent also, like every other Latino notable dead, were Grammy winning musician Manuel Galban of Buena Vista Social Club and human rights advocate Sonia Pierre, who received the International Women of Courage award from our first lady, Michelle Obama, and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in 2010. I have no doubt that these notable Latino dead will get their due remembrance in the Spanish speaking media. Why do we care that they be recognized in mainstream English media? Because as Professor Sanchez puts it, this oversight is one more example of the invisibility Latinos experience in life in the U.S. I don't know how notable the deceased had to be in life to be included in these lists compiled by mainstream English media. What is clear is that if the deceased happens to be a Latino, the bar continues to be set pretty high.


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