‘Harvest of Empire’: Book to Documentary

Originally published in the May 2016 issue of LatinTRENDS magazine

By Clara Galvano-Rivera

From the beginning of time, groups of humans have migrated across this planet searching for adventure, food or opportunity. Unfortunately, some need to flee horrific circumstances. In his groundbreaking book Harvest of Empire, Juan González gives us a pretty clear picture of the conditions that create these crises. González, who has been a journalist for more than 30 years and former staff columnist for the New York Daily News, is also the co-host of the award winning daily radio and television news program “Democracy Now!”


Luis Enrique, Emmy-winning singer and composer, wrote a song for the film about his experience in Nicaragua during the bloody war between the Sandinistas and the Contras. He says that there are two 15-year-old in him: The 15-year-old from before the war and the 15-year old from after. His song is very moving. Listen carefully, and you will hear sadness, pain, broken dreams, and, yes, anger. One woman, María, talks about being tortured. It takes a certain amount of courage and valor to share such unspeakable experiences, and the director’s lens is as kind as it can be in those circumstances. Juan González also shared his family’s migration to New York, as did Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz.

Although the book is being brought into schools and study guides to start a conversation between teachers and students, as well as their families and friends, a 90-minute documentary has now been created. Gonzalez shared, “When I was approached about this project, I was very interested because—although ‘Harvest of Empire’ is more comprehensive and carries a wealth of information that would be impossible to fit into a documentary—a film can capture the feelings, emotions and the visceral ways in which people relate to one another much better than a book can. You know, most people don’t really know why the explosion in the Latino population has been happening for the past 50 years. They don’t really understand it wasn’t an accident or freak of nature. I wanted them to understand what the forces were that made these people leave their homes, their families, and come here. I wanted people to see that the U.S. benefited from these migrations. These migrations were fundamental to our country’s development. The documentary will be able to open many eyes.” There are some strong scenes from Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba, and Guatemala.

Speaking with Gonzalez, he explains that migrations are not haphazard; they all have a reason. He mentioned that he was recently speaking at a function in Arkansas and that, in the past 10-15 years, many Guatemalans have taken root in the community. I asked him why. “Tyson Foods is there, and they needed labor to work in the chicken processing plant. Arkansas has not taken an anti-migration stance. They have been very welcoming to the Guatemalan population, and are very happy to have them in the community. This is not the case in states like Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama. The Guatemalan laborers,like all migrants, are risk-takers, and it’s worked out really well for them.”

Gonzalez goes on to say that many industries in the early days of U.S. expansion depended on cheap labor. Mexicans in the Southwest, for instance, were the reason that the 19th century King Ranch was so successful. At one point in time, there were 500 field hands on one ranch alone, all Mexican laborers. Mexicans were involved in the copper, sheep herding, cattle and gold industries, and made many companies rich by the sweat of their brow.

In 1820, the U.S. started to keep immigration data. Since that time,records show that Mexicans, not the Germans, French or Irish, are the largest group entering the United States. They were after all, close by. Mexico at that time was huge, and California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and parts of Utah belonged to Mexico.There is a saying in the film that some people in Texas still use: “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!”

We also spoke with Maria Hinojosa, executive producer of the long-running NPR show, “Latino USA” and anchor of the Emmy Award-winning talk-show “Maria Hinojosa.”  Dr. Hinojosa has known Gonzalez since the late 1980’s. “As a young Latina journalist trying to make her way, I respected him and his work. Juan has become the People’s historian. He has helped us to understand who we are and where we come from. How did we get here? Most people don’t realize that the very first European colony was St. Augustine. St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by the Spanish, way before the English arrived. Central America and North America are deeply connected. Always have been. The history books that our kids are reading will reflect this true and honest history of the Latinos in the U.S.A. 2016 is clearly a year of change and transition. The center of any conversation is now about demographics. Any piece that can help uncover the complexities of how the cultures can co-exist and can clarify why Latinos are coming here is welcome. I hope people will see this documentary, step back and say: ‘I never knew that,’ and realize how intertwined our countries are. Media can have a good influence.

Dr. Hinojosa thinks there has been too much division between genders, ethnicity, and people in general. And it certainly seems to be so at “the wall” that divides Mexico and the United States. According to Enrique Morones, Founder of Border Angels, more than 10,000 people have died trying to cross. He and volunteers take gallons of water into the desert to help those in need. Many migrants have died just from crossing the desert without enough water.

Hinojosa continues, “I was really surprised when I was asked to participate in this wonderful documentary. My part is pretty small and it happens at the end of the film. I was given the closing thoughts. That was really special. An important life lesson for me was when I met Elie Wiesel, who said to me that no human being can be‘illegal’, that we are all one, and that we have to see our common humanity.” Mr. Wiesel is a Romanian-born Jewish American writer, professor, political activist, Holocaust survivor, and Nobel Laureate.



Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America by Juan González is a Penguin book available in bookstores and online. Get this book. It is a game-changer. Watch the Harvest of Empire 90-minute documentary based on the ground-breaking book by Juan González, which includes special cameos by Junot Díaz, Geraldo Rivera and more:

Latin America… the New China?

post china emerging countries in latin america

On Feb. 23, 2015, Stratfor, a geopolitical firm, released its annual Decade Forecast (2015-2025), which analyzes the future of industries and markets around the world. One prediction is that within the next decade China’s economy will rapidly slowdown because of internal conflicts within the country, and economic reforms that will focus on “return on capital.” Four of the sixteen countries anticipated to fill the gap in garment/footwear manufacturing and mobile phone assembly jobs are in Latin America: Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Mexico (specifically Campeche, Veracruz, Yucatan & Chiapas). Part of the economic shift from China to these countries is because of entrepreneurs of small businesses choosing to invest in these new developing countries.

(Photo courtesy of Stratfor)

Queens College Students Volunteer in Nicaragua

While most students from CUNY Queens College in Flushing, NY went on vacation during winter break, a few volunteered to help the underprivileged in Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American and has a population of approximately 6 million people. Nicaragua is also the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and a developing nation that faces many economic and political challenges. 95% of the population speaks Spanish while native tribes on the eastern coast speak indigenous languages, such as Miskito, Gariuna, Sumo, and Rama, as well as English Creole.

The volunteers from Queens College which included Mamadon Sire Bah, Darya Rubenstein and student leader Yassmin Simmonds among others were part of a Global Brigades chapter. Global Brigades is an international non-profit organization focused on introducing sustainable methods of development in communities all over the world. This grass-roots movement has expanded to other countries such a Panama and Ghana.

The Global Brigades was chartered in September 2010 at Queens College and their vision was to bring awareness to global health issues. This mission combined both the Public Health and Medical Models to Nicaragua where volunteers worked with brigade coordinators, interpreters, and community members to run three days of medical clinics and three days of construction public health infrastructure. Before entering any community, there must first be a consensus amongst the people before bringing in development programs. Some communities were resistant to such programs.

The medical mission consisted of volunteer medical professionals and student volunteers that set up a small clinic in a community and took patient vitals, their temperature, pulse, breathing and blood pressure. The volunteers also assisted pharmacists with medications. Each patient received a physician consultation, public health talk, and prescribed medicines as well as had access to PAP smears, prostate exams and restorative dental care as necessary. In the dental area, the students showed children how to correctly brush their teeth and administered fluoride treatment and dispensed vitamins, free toothpaste and toothbrushes.

The Public Health Brigade included four days helping to build homes, installing eco-stoves, latrines and water storage units. Replacing wood-burning stoves with eco-stoves was important because it helped reduce pollution in the homes. Within the Public Health Brigade, students constructed one house, 16 latrines, and 6 ovens.

The first Global Brigades medical mission was held in Honduras in January 2012 and was led by Yassmin Simmonds, 21, a pre-med senior majoring in psychology at Queens College. She also led the nine-day mission to Nicaragua which began in San Gabriel, about 40 miles northwest of Managua, Nicaragua’s capital and ended in El Limon. For the first three days volunteers helped the local physicians and dentists examine residents for illness and educate them on proper hygiene and health issues. The hardest thing to witness says Simmonds was “Turning patients away with serious illnesses, such as cancer.”

All the students raised funds for their airfare, food, and housing and funds needed to purchase the medications (antibiotics, vitamins, topical meds, etc), supplies such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and combs. Mamadou Sire Bah, 20, pre-med junior majoring in anthropology at Queens College volunteered for the mission. What surprised him most were the living conditions of the families. “Most of the families live in homes with chickens surrounding them and were more susceptible to disease.” They had no access to water let alone proper hygiene and healthcare.

Another volunteer Darya Rubenstein, 22, a senior majoring in psychology at Queens College, was also surprised how families lived in such an underdeveloped country. Almost all the patients had internal parasites and other preventable diseases. Even with so little the Nicaraguans remained happy and positive. All three students were grateful they were able to experience greater awareness outside of the U.S. and would love to continue work in public health as a result.

To volunteer you can either join an existing Medical Brigades chapter on your campus or create your own chapter and recruit other volunteers. To learn more about Global Brigades visit

14th Havana Film Festival NY (@HFFNY) Opening Night


The 14th Annual Havana Film Festival New York (HFFNY) runs April 12-19

The Havana Film Festival New York (HFFNY) collaborates with Havana’s International Festival of New Latin American Cinema to introduce its audience to prominent and emerging filmmakers by showcasing the latest award-winning films and classics from and about Latin America, the Caribbean and the U.S. Latino community. HFFNY seeks to cultivate audience-artist dialogue through panel discussions designed to give a behind-the-scenes look at an industry that continues to gain global recognition. The festival program offers directors, actors and producers an opportunity to exchange ideas, enriches and expands the vision of Latino culture and provides a multi-cultural experience for a diverse audience.

Havana Film Festival New York (HFFNY) is an internationally recognized film festival celebrating Latin American cinema. In its 14th anniversary, HFFNY features more than 40 films from the most current cinematic talent from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Puerto Rico, U.S. and Venezuela.

HFFNY upholds the reputation for which it is known: enriching and expanding the vision of Latino culture here in the United States. The films chosen each year reflect strong cultural and social identities rooted in their respective cities and countries. Our audience has an opportunity to see award-winning full-length feature films, documentaries, shorts, animation and classics as well as new independent films that are rarely screened in the U.S.

All foreign language films are subtitled in English.

For further information visit:

Septiembre con sabor a Tequila


La palabra celebración para nosotros los hispanos implica más que un festín, celebrar significa estar en compañía de nuestra familia y seres queridos, significa calor de hogar, compartir, unidad. Estas son algunas de las características que nos identifican como auténticos hispanos y son razones suficientes para celebrar el Mes de la Herencia Hispana.


La conmemoración de la Herencia Hispana une a millones de residentes en los Estados Unidos provenientes de España, el Caribe, Centro y Sudamérica para celebrar y reconocer la contribución de los hispanos a la sociedad estadounidense en el ámbito político, económico, social y cultural. Culturas unidas por el idioma, valores, herencia cultural y por supuesto, el orgullo de SER HISPANOS.


La Herencia Hispana se celebra cada año en los Estados Unidos del 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre, dando inicio justo en el aniversario de la Independencia de México, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua. Cabe mencionar que la Independencia de México, evento conocido como “Grito de Dolores”, celebrada en el año de 1810,  marcó un periodo importante en la historia de las Américas, ya que despertó el deseo de libertad en los pueblos asfixiados por las colonias del Virreinato de Nueva España, por lo que la Independencia de las Republicas de El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua se decretó 11 años después, en el año de 1821 y durante el mes de septiembre.


Septiembre es mes de entera celebración, y por ello, Jose Cuervo empresa 100% Mexicana con un exquisito legado familiar de más de 200 años, te invita a “gritar tu independencia”, a celebrar nuestra hispanidad y rica herencia de culturas ¡a lo grande!


¡Arriba hermano! es tiempo de celebrar nuestra tierra, nuestra independencia, nuestra sangre y por qué no celebrarlo con una Techelada Tradicional o con un Cuervo Bloody Maria*.


*Recetas sugeridas para celebrar el mes de Septiembre


Techelada Tradicional 

Ingredientes de la Techechala

  • 1.3 oz. Jose Cuervo Tradicional (25 oz. Por botella)
  • 0.8 oz. Cerveza
  • 1 Splash de jugo de limón
  • 3 Rebanadas de limón
  • 2 Gotitas de salsa picante
  • Sal al gusto

Preparación de la Techelada

En un vaso alto con hielo agrega Jose Cuervo Tradicional, cerveza, jugo de lima, 3 rebanadas de limón  y unas cuantas gotitas de salsa picante (Tabasco). Decorar con un trozo de limón

Cuervo Bloody MariaIngredientes de Cuervo Bloody Maria

  • 1.5 oz. Cuervo Especial Gold (25 oz. Por botella)
  • 3 oz.  Jugo de tomate
  • 2 Gotitas de salsa picante
  • Sal al gusto
  • Pimienta al gusto
  • 1 trozo de apio

Preparación de Cuervo Bloody Maria

En un vaso alto con hielo, agrega y mezcla Cuervo Especial Gold, jugo de tomate y salsa picante. Agrega el trozo de apio, sal y pimienta al gusto.


Drink of the Week: Macua


1 ½ oz Flor de Caña 7 year old

1 oz guava juice

1 oz orange juice

½ oz lemon juice

1/3 oz simple sugar

1 orange slice

1 cherry with stem


Fill ¾ of a cocktail shaker with ice and add Flor de Caña rum, guava juice, orange juice, lemon juice and simple sugar.


Shake well for 20-30 seconds, serve in a Tom Collins glass with ice and decorate with orange slice and cherry.

For our national cocktail, we wanted to choose a mystical name which reflects the real magic of our land, which would be provocative and evoke the tropical wonders of Nicaragua, and which of course enchants all with its refreshing appeal.

Now we have it, and it comes from a place of love, as the bird of the same name is the messenger of this emotion. This enchanting creature of flight mesmerized the indigenous peoples of the land, so much so that they coveted its nest and feathers as it is the only bird to build its nest next to its loved one.