Sammy Sosa Blanco

Sammy Sosa has got a fucú.   Sosa is Dominican, and in Dominican culture a fucú is a spell or witchcraft. Sosa’s got it bad, as evidenced by his new brighter skin tone. 

He used to be an appealing chocolate-brown color, and had kinky hair. Then the legendary ex-baseball player showed up at the Latin Grammys sporting a coffee-with-milk (more milk than coffee) color.  He wore green contact lenses and slicked-down hair, too.  I thought Halloween was over, but Sosa looks freaky indeed.

He has offered a lot of lame explanations for this Frankenstein makeover. It’s a “skin rejuvenation.” He is not a “racist,” he said. Watch the Primer Impacto video here.

Face it, Sosa has obviously gone in for a big-time skin whitening, as only Sosa’s kind of wealth can pay for, rightly unleashing all manner of commentary. Worse still, he's talking of endorsing this wonder product. And saddest of all, it will probably sell big time. 

Who knew that the baseball great had self-esteem and self-worth issues about his skin color? This adds a third dubious footnote to his career, the first being about his corked bat, the second about alleged steroid use and now this.  What kind of hall of fame is Sosa heading for now? The one that includes Michael Jackson.

Sosa is surprised that the media are having a field day, which prompts the question: What planet does he live on?  A black man turns nearly white seemingly overnight, and nobody is going to notice? Nobody is going to comment about the possible self-worth, self-hate issues that may lie at the core of this awful transformation?

People have started to dig deep into Dominican culture traits that might have contributed to this mindset. But we all know that this is both Dominican—and beyond Dominican. In Puerto Rico, the overwhelming majority of islanders said they were white in the last census, when in fact we are a mixed people and come in all hues.

This is outdated attitudes toward race and color, and the kind of advantages that the “right” race and color and "good" hair bestow. Such attitudes are often kept private for fear of being politically incorrect in these days of cultural diversity.

But for Sammy Sosa, his private racial angst has just gone very public.


Who's Got Your Vote?

Last chance to vote for Orlando Latino as best Latino blogger in Central Florida. Voting ends Thursday. Go to http://latism.org

Orlando to Host Social Media Conference for Latinos

Several months ago I signed onto Twitter, the latest spoke in the new wheel known as social media.

Then and now I didn’t fully understand what it’s all about. But I knew I had to be there. On Friday I’ll be attending the Latinos in Social Media conference (LatISM) at the Orlando Science Center, and for the same reasons. I’m not sure what I’m going to find—although I hope to come away with great insights and tips—but I know I have to be there.

Everybody’s trying to figure out the future of social media, which also includes Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc. Is it for business or personal use? Both? The LatISM conference will be a good place to listen, learn and raise questions.

One thing I know for sure, Latinos have to get on board because social media are growing at exponential speed, and you don’t want to be left behind. Just as computer and Internet know-how became a “must,” social media are the next Big Thing. There are now more than 200 million Web sites. The blogosphere is doubling every six months. More than 5 billion tweets have been recorded. YouTube has more than 200 million videos.

You don’t have to love social media, but these numbers indicate you do need to know something about it. Your employer may be looking to you to keep abreast of these changes. You may be a business owner who needs to market in a 21st century way. You may have a Web site or blog, as I do, that can benefit from social media. Or very possibly all three!

Here’s what some gurus are saying will be social media trends in 2010, in no particular order:

• Folks will begin to filter out the clutter. Twitter, for instance, is like a cocktail party, with everyone talking at the same time. Is anybody listening? Does it matter?

• More companies will turn to social technology, and may create social media policies.

• Cell phones will continue to get smarter to accommodate social media. Many companies ban social media on company computers, pushing people onto their phones to sustain the social-media habit. This, in turn, creates the need for more powerful smart phones.

• More sharing of everything from lists to stories on social media. Sharing-apps are already widely available. For instance, you can connect your Facebook updates to Twitter. You can connect your tweets to your blog.

• The top 10 Web sites will stay on the top 10 only long enough to get their 15 minutes of fame, then they'll get bumped off by a newcomer. 

Catch this video on YouTube that compares social media to the Industrial Revolution. Latinos in social media. I like the sound of that. And, as Marc Anthony sings, "I need to know" what it's all about. 

So do you. 

What: Latinos in Social Media
When: Friday, November 13
Where: Orlando Science Center
Time: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tickets: http://latism.org


Olga Tañon Speaks Out

Singer Olga Tañón launched an internet radio program recently that appears to be catching on. "Hablemos D" is Tañón's latest brainchild; she recently also formed her own record label to distribute her music. And did I mention that the Orlando resident is a real workaholic?  She travels and performs constantly.

In case, you haven't guessed, I like la Tañón—and, no, I am not being paid to sing her praises.

"Hablemos D" program most recently focused on issues involving special needs children. The program was so popular that they are going to rebroadcast it Wednesday, November 11. It's a curious topic since Tañón has a daugther with special needs who she rarely talks about. I have noticed that she is speaking out more often. She appeared with her daughter in People en español earlier this year.

This particular program was brimming with many Orlando-area guests, including Dr. Carmen Noriega, Orlando pediatrician; Padre Miguel, Orlando Diocese; Norma Morales, Orlando social worker; Maritza Seda of Windermere, volunteer with special needs children at the Baptist Church; Carmen Portela, of the Florida Department of Children and Families; Marisela Camaño, Orlando psychologist; Antonia Alvarado of Puerto Rico, a mother of two special needs children. 

Check out "Hablemos D"  here.

Run, Don't Walk, in Florida

Four Florida metro areas—including Orlando-Kissimmee in the No. 1 slot—topped the list of the most dangerous cities for walking in a new report published by the group Transportation for America.

As measured by TA’s 2007-08 pedestrian danger index, the other three metro areas are in descending order:

• Tampa-St Pete-Clearwater
• Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach

Orlando’s fatality rate is pegged at 2.9 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people, although only 1.3 percent of people walk to work. That means the few people who do walk to work face a high risk of becoming a traffic fatality due to a lack of sidewalks and crosswalks, among other things.

The TA report has got it both right and wrong. Yes, Orlando-Kissimmee has a high pedestrian fatality rate due to a lack of pedestrian infrastructure. But two other, important factors may play a role: public transportation and the increasing number of Latinos in our area.

What do these factors have to do with anything? Latinos have bigger transportation problems (so do blacks); a chunk do not have cars. They are likelier to use public buses, compared with the rest of the population. They may not necessarily walk to work—come on, who does that in a town as far-flung as Orlando?—but Latinos do use public buses a lot. The Lynx statistics bear this out.

I see many fellow Latinos waiting for buses along my commuter route every day. They have to cross dangerous highways such as 436 to get to and from where they are going. And by the way, a lack of sidewalks and crosswalks are not the only problem. Sadly, many bus riders are left to bake in the Florida sun because so many bus shelters lack covers.

The fact that the Latino population is the fastest-rising across the state is at least a factor in the gruesome rankings of Florida cities when you take into account the lack of transportation among Latinos. 

I particularly recall these Orlando-area accidents in recent years: 

• Two children mowed down, including one in a baby carriage, on Goldenrod as they crossed the street with their mother
• An elderly woman on a shopping trip was run down while crossing Goldenrod at University. 
• And there was the case of the man who bicycled to work and was run over many times (I forget where in Orlando) because commuters thought he was road kill.

Pretty disgusting.  What’s the common denominator here? All involved Latinos. Coincidence? Lo dudo.

Here's the top 10 list of most dangerous metro areas for pedestrians:

1 Orlando-Kissimmee, FL 
2 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
3 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL
4 Jacksonville, FL
5 Memphis, TN-MS-AR
6 Raleigh-Cary, NC
7 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 
8 Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
8 Birmingham-Hoover, AL
10 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 108.3


Burn, Baby, Burn

More than a dozen oil tanks exploded at at oil refinery in metropolitan San Juan, Puerto Rico, several weeks ago, sending mushroom-shaped clouds of thick, black smoke into the air and potentially endangering the health of surrounding communities, many of them poor.

The Caribbean Petroleum Refinery burned for two solid days, generating more than $6 million in damages to the company. No word yet of the estimated damages to the communities.  At first, police and other investigators suspected terrorism or sabotage.  But officials soon discarded that as a cause of the explosions.

Thanks to a report published in today's El Nuevo Herald of Miami, we are now aware of the company's years of shoddy maintenance practices, which have cost it tens of thousands of dollars in government fines in the past. Somehow, the company was able to evade a shutdown.

Read the El Nuevo Herald story, co-written by investigative reporter and friend McNelly Torres,  here.