Los Angeles Tests the Power of ‘Play Streets’

The Fickett Street play street, the neighborhood’s fourth since the LADOT pilots began in 2016, was sought by Union de Vecinos as a safe and celebratory refuge. Perched on a bluff overlooking downtown and separated by the Los Angeles River, Boyle Heights, a neighborhood of about 100,000 residents, has long suffered from a host of land-use inequities, including its proximity to polluting freeways that decimated housing and sliced the community’s largest park in half.

Three-quarters of the housing units in Boyle Heights are currently rentals. And the fact that the neighborhood is near the downtown Arts District across the river has brought the issue of displacement to the fore. Art galleries and house flippers have moved in and longtime tenants have received eviction notices, raising the specter of “Ikea catalogs in the barrio,” as Josefina López, the artistic director of Casa 0101 Theater and the writer of “Real Women Have Curves,” put it.


Children take a ride during a play streets event earlier this month. Credit Coley Brown for The New York Times

In her play “Hipsteria,” Ms. López imagined the last building in Boyle Heights 20 years hence, occupied by hipsters wanting to turn it into a dog hotel. “Boyle Heights is not a blank canvas,” she observed. “It’s a rich tapestry of immigrant history, culture and activism.”

It has long been an immigrant hub: The historic Breed Street Shul was the oldest Orthodox synagogue west of Chicago. (The rear building is now a community center.) The neighborhood’s landscape is distinctly Latino, with artful front-yard altars dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe and Mexican-American murals bringing vibrant life to peeling walls.

In recent years, Union de Vecinos has been deeply involved in pro-tenant and antigallery activism, some of it confrontational. (Several galleries, including the artist-run 356 Mission, have announced they will close here.) But over the past two decades, its leaders have also worked hard to make the neighborhood cleaner and safer in the face of longstanding disinvestment. The alleyways crisscrossing the neighborhood were especially dangerous, filled with trash by people pulling off the freeways to dump construction waste, and had become magnets for illegal activity.

The group got rid of the litter and gang graffiti, installed brightly painted speed bumps and, in an alley near a liquor store, planted a garden full of spiky cactuses.


Children on Fickett Street in Boyle Heights turn wobbles into lounge chairs. Credit Coley Brown for The New York Times

But improving the neighborhood has become a delicate proposition. As the area becomes more habitable for residents, it grows more appealing to outsiders, putting more pressure on housing. On Avenue Cesar E. Chavez, the primary commercial street, for instance, young people with laptops and earbuds sip coffee across the street from a lone Norteño accordionist in a sombrero standing beneath a red awning.

“There’s a difference between making something beautiful to sell it and making it useful,” said Leonardo Vilchis, co-director of Union de Vecinos. “So the question is, can we make this place more livable for people living here now?”

With tensions about gentrification running high, the community’s decision to embrace the play street concept was not a casual one.

“So many people want to come in and modify this place,” said Ofelia Platon, 45, a Union de Vecinos leader who lives around the corner from Fickett Street. “So there’s always a question of what would we need to give up?” A mother of three, she recalled taking her son Esteban, now 17, to a nearby park and having to drop on the grass because of a shooting.


The play street concept, known as “playing out” in England, has become an international movement of sorts. Credit Coley Brown for The New York Times

The residents chose Fickett Street with the intention of providing a safe space not just for children but for the community, said Chelina Odbert, KDI’s co-founder and executive director.

“What a play street is not is a replacement for permanent parks,” she said. “But it bridges the gap in a way that’s really needed.”

Scarlett De Leon, a director for the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, grew up there and said she spent much of her childhood glued to television, a pattern she now observes in her younger siblings and her great-grandmother.

“It’s a cycle that affects different generations in one family,” she said. “So having a space to be creative and interact is important for emotional health.”

At the play street event earlier this month, Fickett Street was alive with fathers pushing play bins down the street with children riding in them. The scent of taquitos drifted from Maria Lopez’s kitchen — she made enough for everyone — and young men helped carry jars of watermelon agua fresca down the steps.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez, 18, attempted to jump a wobble with his skateboard. “I feel better when people are interested in each other,” he said of the street. “There’s a time to be indoors and a time to be out.”

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Encounters: Jaina Lee Ortiz, Star of ‘Station 19,’ Tries Her Own Stunts

The actress Jaina Lee Ortiz isn’t normally drawn to high-adrenaline pursuits. Her favorite hobby: flower arranging. Her idea of bliss: neatly folded towels. Her dream job: personal organizer.

And yet on a snowy Wednesday, Ms. Ortiz clambered 40 feet up in the air, clutching handholds and scrambling onto footholds as she climbed the rock wall at Chelsea Piers.

“It’s fun, it’s really fun,” she called out. Then she reached the top and dared to look down. “Oh wait,” she said. “It’s scary.”

Ms. Ortiz, 31, has been scaring herself a lot lately. She plays a firefighter named Andy Herrera — the series lead — on “Station 19,” which had its premiere on March 22. The show is a spinoff of “Grey’s Anatomy,” and the latest from the creative force Shonda Rhimes.

Andy risks death in pretty much every episode. A trained salsa dancer and a natural athlete, Ms. Ortiz has usually done her own stunts for other roles. But the punishing heat, the 70-pound turnout gear and the bodily risks mean that in this show, she mostly leaves the leaping-out-of-the-window action to the professionals.

“You go do your thing,” she tells her stunt doubles. “I’m going to be over here drinking my water in this air-conditioned room.”

Andy, no towel folder, goes rock climbing to relax. So this is one stunt that Ms. Ortiz wanted to try herself. After a busy morning making the publicity rounds, she arrived at Chelsea Piers Fitness Center in glitzy makeup, glossy ponytail and black boots with lollipop heels.

Ms. Ortiz hadn’t packed workout gear, but at the front desk she bought a no-nonsense Under Armour set — black shirt, black leggings.

Andy moves through the world with confidence and dignity, “like Wonder Woman,” Ms. Ortiz said. Ms. Ortiz didn’t move so differently as she strutted in those heels past the weight machines, the basketball courts and the beach volleyball sand pit, until she arrived at the climbing wall. Matthew Carter, a fitness instructor and a climbing guide, handed her a pair of thin-soled red shoes.

Once Ms. Ortiz had switched them out for a larger size, Mr. Carter helped her into a climbing rig that looked a little like an S-and-M harness (“We are in Chelsea,” Mr. Carter said with a deadpan) and watched as she tightened it around her waist and thighs. Then he tied on a woven pouch filled with gymnastic chalk.

After all that firefighter gear, the harness felt like nothing. “It’s soothing,” Ms. Ortiz said.

The wall looked like a hunk of moon face topped with sprinkles. Ms. Ortiz studied it warily while Mr. Carter used a carabiner to hook her to a rope anchored at the wall’s top. She gripped the first handhold, and a minute and seven seconds later she had reached the top. “That was too easy for you,” Mr. Carter said after she descended.

Ms. Ortiz said, “You think so?”

He had her go up using only the green holds and then only the blue ones. She was brisk and methodical, her ponytail swinging as she maneuvered for each new hold. Mr. Carter shouted approval as she moved her legs into a wide split. Later she switched up her feet and rebalanced herself on the wall. “Stylish,” he called.

“Now I see why my character would do that,” Ms. Ortiz said, having bounced back down to earth and chugged some water. “It’s like therapy. It’s like meditation.”

“Moving meditation,” Mr. Carter said. He pointed out that it also built up forearm strength.

Strength is what Ms. Ortiz projects, on the climbing wall and off it. It’s what casting agents see. Still, it’s not always what she feels. She has played a rookie cop, a detective, a Marine and now a firefighter — “public-service, badass characters,” she said.

She often wishes she had more of their confidence, more courage. “I am afraid sometimes,” she said.

But even though she is a self-described “girlie girl,” Ms. Ortiz is also a woman who signed herself up for the firefighter’s Candidate Physical Abilities Test as soon as she landed the “Station 19” role, running up flights of stairs in weighted gear, dragging a 165-pound dummy out of a building. So she’s a girlie girl with muscles and guts.

She is especially proud to play Andy, because “she’s not a sidekick or the friend, or the mistress. She is this strong, independent, passionate woman who will overstep any man just to get to where she wants,” Ms. Ortiz said. Andy is thrill seeking, volatile. Her love life “is a hot mess,” she said.

That’s not Ms. Ortiz. She doesn’t smoke, she barely drinks, she eats sensibly. A few mornings a week she wakes up at 3 a.m. to fit in a workout before she is due on set. “Discipline, discipline, discipline,” she said.

Yes, she married her husband, Bradley Marques, after dating him for only two months, but they did it so that she could have health insurance. Eight years later, they’re still together.

But what’s good for life is bad for TV. “If it’s not messy then it’s not worth watching, right?” Ms. Ortiz said. If Andy stayed home with a devoted husband and folded towels, ratings would tank, “end of story,” Ms. Ortiz said.

But maybe she and Andy aren’t really so far apart. Maybe Ms. Ortiz likes the occasional adrenaline rush, too. After her climb, she rested on a red mat and looked back up at the wall she had just conquered. “I can see how that could be addicting,” she said.

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The Supermarket Cafeteria That Major League Baseball Players Love

The hands behind the food are led by Francisca Dominguez, the Bravo cafeteria head chef who is from the Dominican Republic, which has produced the most foreign-born players in Major League Baseball. Dominguez fields food orders directly by phone from players.

“I always find time in between several things for them,” she said. “I love my job. I love cooking for them.”

Dominguez’s assistant, Eva Macías, is Mexican. The woman who makes coladas, Cuban style espresso, is Cuban. There is to-order mofongo, a Puerto Rican dish of mashed fried plantains. There are tequeños, fried breaded cheese sticks from Venezuela. There is a stand where churros — filled with chocolate, dulce de leche, pineapple, cream cheese or guava — are made.

Each spring, Reyes, 34, places an order of habichuelas con dulce (sweet creamed beans), a popular dessert in the Dominican Republic around Easter.

Bravo is a supermarket chain with at least 60 stores in Florida and the Northeast, including the Bronx and New Jersey, in areas with a high concentration of Latinos. The Port St. Lucie location has perhaps fed the most professional baseball players.

On the advice of his brother, who already lived in Port St. Lucie, Merejo opened this Bravo franchise to cater to the Latino community growing about an hour north of West Palm Beach and two hours north of Miami. About a fifth of Port St. Lucie’s population of 175,000 is Latino, according to the United States census.

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The Prom-Like Intensity of High School Folklórico

FRESNO — Backstage at the Warnor’s Center for the Performing Arts here, Ariana Ferrer, a junior from Monache High School in Porterville, Calif., was engaged in a critical ritual: spritzing hair spray onto nails embedded in the soles of her dance shoes to keep her from slipping during a barrage of rapid-fire footwork.

It was the last Saturday in February, and Ms. Ferrer and 200 or so other dancers from her school were here for Danzantes del Valle: High School Show Offs, the biggest event of the year for local students passionate about folklórico, the storied dance tradition steeped in the regional cultures of Mexico. In a makeshift dressing room, girls applied lipstick using their reflective cellphones as mirrors. Boys struggled to wedge their feet into pointy boots.

The Fresno High School team preparing for Danzantes del Valle: High School Show Offs.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times Some backstage inspiration.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times

Ms. Ferrer, in a ruffled skirt edged with blue ribbons from Chiapas, prepared to go onstage as her teacher, John Gonzales, cinched waist sashes, rearranged hair ornaments and tried not to fret about 15 costumes that had gone missing. “Chin up!,” he always tells his dancers before a performance. “Chest up! Relax your shoulders! Give 110 percent! And don’t forget that safety pins are your best friend!”

Danzantes del Valle, organized by a coalition of school dance directors and ArteAmericas, a nonprofit Latino arts center, is an annual event with prom-like intensity. This year’s edition featured folklórico troupes from 11 high schools, all from the San Joaquin Valley, a vast agricultural region in the state’s midsection. Here, child poverty rates are high and many workers who spend long days harvesting produce have difficulty putting food on their tables.

Dancers from Sunnyside High School in Fresno at Danzantes del Valle.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times Rehearsal.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times

For the dedicated young dancers who find a community of kindred spirits in folklórico, the current political climate — with its immigration raids and anti-Mexican rhetoric — has only inspired them to work harder. “There are many people who are hating our culture right now,” Jenny Cruz, a senior at Central High School in Fresno, said. “Dancing makes you feel empowered over the hate.”

The program in Porterville, a city about 75 miles southeast of Fresno where roughly 80 percent of students are Latino, is emblematic of folklórico’s new burst of energy. Starting with 85 students over a decade ago, it now enrolls more than 450 — with a long waiting list. Mr. Gonzales, who grew up in circumstances similar to his students,’ directs folklórico at all three Porterville high schools, where cafeterias serve as stand-ins for dance studios with sprung floors.

From left, Joseluis Bravo, 16; Brandy Perez, 17; and Kevin Lopez, 16, of the Fresno High School folklórico team outside their dressing room at Danzantes del Valle.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times A quick huddle in the dressing area.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times

From Guymon, Okla. (pop. 12,000), to big cities like Dallas and Tucson, folklórico is increasingly being embraced by schools as part of performing arts or physical education curriculums. Maria Luisa Colmenarez, president of the nonprofit Danzantes Unidos, a transnational network of dancers, said it is “a declaration that the students are part of the fabric that makes America America.”

In Grand Prairie, Tex., a town between Dallas and Fort Worth, recruiters from University of Texas of the Permian Basin scout gifted young folkloristas the way their colleagues check out football prospects. In the Dallas Independent School District, folklórico “is on the same plane as ballet and modern,” said Rachel Harrah, the district’s theater and dance director, offered at 19 high schools, 23 middle and two elementary schools, with master classes held four times a year.

José Tena, a revered dancer and teacher in Las Cruces, N.M., about 45 miles from the border, put it this way: “The purpose is not to create professional dancers, but to create members of the community who value who they are.”

Dancers from Central High in Fresno.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times The team from the Porterville Unified School District.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times

As the students from Monache High stepped onstage in Fresno — the boys in suede over-pants and red kerchiefs, the girls in skirts that become kaleidoscopic swoops of color in motion — they began “El Sapo” (“The Toad”), exchanging side-to-side hops to a marimba beat. As they danced they also stepped into a tradition in which every bandanna, costume, hair ornament, sash, fan, shawl and pair of boots reflects a specific region of Mexico.

Movement and music are vivid partners in folklórico, in which dancers create intricate, energetic patterns onstage that shift and change with lightning speed. The choreography incorporates traditional steps like lazada, which mimics the roping techniques of vaqueros; or, as in Nayarit and other coastal states, aggressive footwork in which men show off their bravado by dancing with machetes, used to harvest sugar cane. Other steps imitate birds, iguanas and snakes, which are walloped with sombreros. Dances from Jalisco, real crowd pleasers, feature dizzying skirt work, in which twirling double layers in riotous colors become presences in their own right.

Flirtation, romance and jostling for a plum partner are prime themes, which makes folklórico a good fit for adolescent dancers. “Folklórico has grown in my heart,” said Michael Herrera, a senior at Lincoln High School in San Jose. “Falling in love, chasing after a girl — for me, that’s kind of how it is.”

Folklórico rose to national prominence in Mexico during the post-Revolutionary period of the 1920s, when several government agencies and institutions began documenting it. The idea was to preserve the dances as living symbols of national diversity, including in public schools, said Olga Nájera-Ramirez, an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

In the United States, the Chicano movement of the late-1960s embraced folklórico as a way to promote Mexican identity and push back against cultural assimilation and discrimination. It was then that it gained a toehold at public schools and universities.

The team from Fresno High, posing for a picture before performing.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times The Porterville team performing at Danzantes del Valle.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times Some of the merchandise for sale at the High School Show Offs. Fund-raising has become a folklórico fixture.CreditPhotographs by Emily Berl for The New York Times

The appeal of folklórico cuts across cultures. Dancers at Fresno’s Central High, for example, have included Hmong, Russian and Punjabi students. Sumith Goyal, a senior whose father is Indian and mother Cambodian, is the Central group’s vice president. But for students with Mexican roots it resonates most deeply. The Central High troupe, for example, is called Danzantes de Tlaloc, after the Aztec God of rain — “because dance is the water that nourishes the culture,” Rosa A. Gonzalez Madrigal, the group’s director, said.

For many students, folklórico is an anchor and a source of resilience. Porterville and environs made international news when its wells went dry during California’s five-year drought. Among the families affected was Ms. Ferrer’s; for nearly a year, they showered at relatives’ houses and Ms. Ferrer sometimes resorted to pouring a jug of bottled water over her head. “It took a toll on us,” she said. “Dance was a relief.”

Many of the parents work several jobs to get by, as Mr. Gonzales’s mother did, and some students miss weekend rehearsals to work in the fields, supplementing family income. The cost of costumes — which can run up to $300 — and special shoes can be prohibitive. Fund-raisers have become folklórico fixtures, with troupes performing at church fiestas, weddings and even casinos to raise money for stock costumes, and parents selling tamales and T-shirts outside packed auditoriums.

Sometimes teachers pick up the slack. Among them is Gustavo Sandoval, a science teacher in Thermal, Calif., where 90 percent of high school students live in poverty, many in ramshackle mobile home parks. Mr. Sandoval and his wife, Gabriela, who works in a school kitchen, subsidize an after-school folklórico program at Desert Mirage High School out of their own pockets — about $11,000 a year. “We want to give our youth something positive to do,” he said.

In Porterville, Mr. Gonzales “made a decision to give it my all,” he said, by using his own seed money to jump-start the program 15 years ago. His sister, Irma Rios, continues to sew many of the costumes.

The principal of Porterville High, Jose Valdez, said that when he’s having a bad day he wanders into Mr. Gonzales’s rehearsals, where the effervescence and joy lifts his spirits. “It gives the students a reason to come to school,” he said. “They’re all in. They perfect their dances for him,” he said of Mr. Gonzales, “because they see and feel his love for what he does.”

At the Show Offs, a group of female folkloristas from Porterville performed “La Bruja”(“The Witch”), a dance from Veracruz in which women in gossamer white dresses emerge onstage, a glass containing a lit candle balanced atop each of their heads.

The ethereal glow suggested the transformative power of folklórico. As Mr. Goyal from Central High, put it: “Even though we stomp really hard, we feel light.”


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Ask a Showrunner: ‘One Day at a Time’: Gloria Calderon Kellett on Crafting Latino Stories in a Changed America

So you sketch out what’s next for Season 2, then what happens?

Going into Season 2, we knew we wanted to end with Lydia having the stroke and that the final episode would be an homage to the “Maud” episode that he and I both love. It’s where everyone gets to do a monologue. So along the way, we knew we wanted to build in some of the stroke stuff. We knew we wanted to have Penelope in a relationship and for it to amicably — over something like having children — end. That just felt like something a lot of women I know who are nearing 40 are experiencing.

Same with Elena. We knew we wanted her to have a girlfriend and to start this positive relationship with her. We knew we wanted to make a baby step with Victor [Penelope’s ex-husband and the children’s father, played by James Martinez]. It’s not a complete resolution, but something that seemed hopeful. We came in with those things, sat with the writers, and they tell us what’s going on in their lives and what’s been important. We find a middle ground and break the stories, and that’s that.

The country’s politics have changed since the premiere of Season 1. How did you decide to incorporate that into the show — like the episode when Alex gets called an ethnic slur?

That was based on a real incident. That happened to my brother at a beach in San Diego. We’ve lived in San Diego for 20 years. He called me up post-Trump, “I was just at the beach, and someone told me to go back to Mexico!” He was laughing about it because he doesn’t care. But it’s like, “What’s happening?” We try on the show to show many points of view. Obviously, the show has a liberal bent, but we try to show all sides of an issue so all sides of the conversation can start. This is something we thought would affect this family, so how would they talk about it? What would that look like?

Do you worry whether any of the characters might become unrelatable as you’re preparing for the next season?

I don’t think so. It all starts from a real place. The Lydia stuff that’s the most outrageous is stuff that’s actually happened in my real life. My mom had a stroke and didn’t tell me for 12 years! That’s real! I was just talking with her and she said, “Aye, when I had a stroke … ” “Wait, what stroke?” “Ah, your wedding was happening, I didn’t want to bother you.” “Oye, mom, you better tell somebody!” All that is real. It seems dramatic, but in a wonderful way in the arms of Rita Moreno, it has that diva turn.

A colleague of mine has written about how the show has this wonderful sense of joy. It feels like a celebration of Cuban culture, Latino identity, the immigrant experience and family. Is that a conscious choice when writing?

Well, that’s just my experience. Really, my house is not a sad place ever. We feel so blessed, we feel so grateful. We have a really good time. In the media, Latino families are always in crisis — there’s gang violence, people weeping. That’s just not what I know it to be. I wanted to reflect my experience, too, and to throw that in the ring. It seems a lot of people relate to that, too.

Last season, you addressed immigration with Elena’s friend Carmen and her parents’ deportation. This time, you have Lydia and Schneider (Todd Grinnell) going through the citizenship process. Was that something you wanted to keep exploring?

In my family, not all of the Cubans became citizens. My parents became citizens, but I have aunts and uncles who did not. When you become a U.S. citizen, you have to renounce your Cuban citizenship. They’re green card holders — they pay taxes, social security and they can’t vote. When Trump started deporting people, my cousins got really concerned. “Should we have mom become a citizen?” There was all this worry. What if Lydia had never become a citizen? Then it would be fun to have her and Schneider go on that journey together.

Another story line you kept exploring this season was Penelope’s depression, and how she’s still struggling with the social stigma and the need to rely on antidepressants to help her.

We really wanted to get that right. It also seemed like something veterans really struggle with; Latinos have a lot of issues with discussing it or going on medications. We wanted to explore what that was like for this character. Also, she’s at a great point in her life, so it’s that placebo of “Everything is going great, and I don’t need to do any of this stuff anymore.” Then, we saw what the reality of that looked like for her. She couldn’t talk to her mom about it, and she couldn’t talk to her boyfriend about it because she was embarrassed. It was also a way to deepen her relationship with Schneider because he was the only person she could talk to about it.

Is there a story you’re looking forward to continuing in Season 3?

Well, we have a few things built in already. Penelope is in school, so she still will be in school, or maybe graduate. We get to see her journey to being a nurse practitioner. Seeing what else is out there for her dating life as well. Deepening Elena’s relationship. Maybe Alex will get to have a little love in his life. And of course, we’ll be taking into consideration what’s happening in the next month or two months from now. The news is crazy.

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In District Known for Failure, Will the State Finally Step In?

For decades, the Hempstead schools have been marked by corruption, political infighting and low performance. Now leaders face a deadline for change.

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Indian Slavery Once Thrived in New Mexico. Latinos Are Finding Family Ties to It.

Those legacies were born of a tortuous story of colonial conquest and forced assimilation.

New Mexico, which had the largest number of sedentary Indians north of central Mexico, emerged as a coveted domain for slavers almost as soon as the Spanish began settling here in the 16th century, according to Andrés Reséndez, a historian who details the trade in his 2016 book, “The Other Slavery.” Colonists initially took local Pueblo Indians as slaves, leading to an uprising in 1680 that temporarily pushed the Spanish out of New Mexico.

The trade then evolved to include not just Hispanic traffickers but horse-mounted Comanche and Ute warriors, who raided the settlements of Apache, Kiowa, Jumano, Pawnee and other peoples. They took captives, many of them children plucked from their homes, and sold them at auctions in village plazas.

The Spanish crown tried to prohibit slavery in its colonies, but traffickers often circumvented the ban by labeling their captives in parish records as criados, or servants. The trade endured even decades after the Mexican-American War, when the United States took control of much of the Southwest in the 1840s.

Seeking to strengthen the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865, Congress passed the Peonage Act of 1867 after learning of propertied New Mexicans owning hundreds and perhaps thousands of Indian slaves, mainly Navajo women and children. But scholars say the measure, which specifically targeted New Mexico, did little for many slaves in the territory.

Many Hispanic families in New Mexico have long known that they had indigenous ancestry, even though some here still call themselves “Spanish” to emphasize their Iberian ties and to differentiate themselves from the state’s 23 federally recognized tribes, as well as from Mexican and other Latin American immigrants.


Brienna Martinez performed the Matachines dance in Alcalde, N.M. Credit Adria Malcolm for The New York Times

But genetic testing is offering a glimpse into a more complex story. The DNA of Hispanic people from New Mexico is often in the range of 30 to 40 percent Native American, according to Miguel A. Tórrez, 42, a research technologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and one of New Mexico’s most prominent genealogists.

He and other researchers cross-reference DNA tests with baptismal records, marriage certificates, census reports, oral histories, ethnomusicology findings, land titles and other archival documents.

Mr. Tórrez’s own look into his origins shows how these searches can produce unexpected results. He found one ancestor who was probably Ojibwe, from lands around the Great Lakes, roughly a thousand miles away, and another of Greek origin among the early colonizers claiming New Mexico for Spain.

“I have Navajo, Chippewa, Greek and Spanish blood lines,” said Mr. Tórrez, who calls himself a mestizo, a term referring to mixed ancestry. “I can’t say I’m indigenous any more than I can say I’m Greek, but it’s both fascinating and disturbing to see how various cultures came together in New Mexico.”

Revelations about how Indian enslavement was a defining feature of colonial New Mexico can be unsettling for some in the state, where the authorities have often tried to perpetuate a narrative of relatively peaceful coexistence between Hispanics, Indians and Anglos, as non-Hispanic whites are generally called here.

Pointing to their history, some descendants of Genízaros are coming together to argue that they deserve the same recognition as Native tribes in the United States. One such group in Colorado, the 200-member Genízaro Affiliated Nations, organizes annual dances to commemorate their heritage.

“It’s not about blood quantum or DNA testing for us, since those things can be inaccurate measuring sticks,” said David Atekpatzin Young, 62, the organization’s tribal chairman, who traces his ancestry to Apache and Pueblo peoples. “We know who we are, and what we want is sovereignty and our land back.”

Some here object to calling Genízaros slaves, arguing that the authorities in New Mexico were relatively flexible in absorbing Indian captives. In an important distinction with African slavery in parts of the Americas, Genízaros could sometimes attain economic independence and even assimilate into the dominant Hispanic classes, taking the surnames of their masters and embracing Roman Catholicism.

Genízaros and their offspring sometimes escaped or served out their terms of service, then banded together to forge buffer settlements against Comanche raids. Offering insight into how Indian captives sought to escape their debased status, linguists trace the origins of the word Genízaro to the Ottoman Empire’s janissaries, the special soldier class of Christians from the Balkans who converted to Islam, and were sometimes referred to as slaves.

Moisés Gonzáles, a Genízaro professor of architecture at the University of New Mexico, has identified an array of Genízaro outposts that endure in the state, including the villages Las Trampas and San Miguel del Vado. Some preserve traditions that reflect their Genízaro origins, and like other products of colonialism, many are cultural amalgams of customs and motifs from sharply disparate worlds.

Each December in the village of Alcalde, for instance, performers in headdresses stage the Matachines dance, thought by scholars to fuse the theme of Moorish-Christian conflict in medieval Spain with indigenous symbolism evoking the Spanish conquest of the New World.

In Abiquiú, settled by Genízaros in the 18th century, people don face paint and feathers every November to perform a “captive dance” about the village’s Indian origins — on a day honoring a Catholic saint.


Miguel A. Tórrez conducts the El Pueblo de Abiquiú DNA and Ethnographic Study, which examines the backgrounds of people who either identify as Genízaros or are descendants of Genízaros in Abiquiú. Credit Adria Malcolm for The New York Times

“Some Natives say those in Abiquiú are pretend Indians,” said Mr. Tórrez, the genealogist. “But who’s to say that the descendants of Genízaros, of people who were once slaves, can’t reclaim their culture?”

Efforts by some Genízaro descendants to call themselves Indians instead of Latinos point to a broader debate over how Native Americans are identified, involving often contentious factors like tribal membership, what constitutes indigenous cultural practices and the light skin color of some Hispanics with Native ancestry. Some Native Americans also chafe at the gains some Hispanics here have sought by prioritizing their ancestral ties to European colonizers.

Pointing to the breadth of the Southwest’s slave trade, some historians have also documented how Hispanic settlers were captured and enslaved by Native American traffickers, and sometimes went on to embrace the cultures of their Comanche, Pueblo or Navajo masters.

Kim TallBear, an anthropologist at the University of Alberta, cautioned against using DNA testing alone to determine indigenous identity. She emphasized that such tests can point generally to Native ancestry somewhere in the Americas while failing to pinpoint specific tribal origins.

“There’s a conflation of race and tribe that’s infuriating, really,” said Ms. TallBear, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe of South Dakota who writes about tribal belonging and genetic testing. “I don’t think ancestry alone is sufficient to define someone as indigenous.”

The discovery of indigenous slave ancestry can be anything but straightforward, as Mr. Trujillo, the former postal worker, learned.

First, he found his connection to a Genízaro man in the village of Abiquiú. Delving further into 18th century baptismal records, he then found that his ancestor somehow broke away from forced servitude to purchase three slaves of his own.

“I was just blown away to find that I had a slaver and slaves in my family tree,” Mr. Trujillo said. “That level of complexity is too much for some people, but it’s part of the story of who I am.”

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Opinion: Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List

Donald Trump has been obsessed with race for the entire time he has been a public figure. He had a history of making racist comments as a New York real-estate developer in the 1970s and ‘80s. More recently, his political rise was built on promulgating the lie that the nation’s first black president was born in Kenya. He then launched his campaign with a speech describing Mexicans as rapists.

The media often falls back on euphemisms when describing Trump’s comments about race: racially loaded, racially charged, racially tinged, racially sensitive. And Trump himself has claimed that he is “the least racist person.” But here’s the truth: Donald Trump is a racist. He talks about and treats people differently based on their race. He has done so for years, and he is still doing so.

Here, we have attempted to compile a definitive list of his racist comments – or at least the publicly known ones.

In 1989, on NBC, Trump said: “I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that. I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I really believe they do have an actual advantage.”

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Economic View: Why Talented Black and Hispanic Students Can Go Undiscovered

The economists David Card of the University of California, Berkeley, and Laura Giuliano of the University of Miami studied the effects of this policy shift. The results were striking.

The share of Hispanic children identified as gifted tripled, to 6 percent from 2 percent. The share of black children rose to 3 percent from 1 percent. For whites, the gain was more muted, to 8 percent from 6 percent.

Why did the new screening system find so many more gifted children, especially among blacks and Hispanics? It did not rely on teachers and parents to winnow students. The researchers found that teachers and parents were less likely to refer high-ability blacks and Hispanics, as well as children learning English as a second language, for I.Q. testing. The universal test leveled the playing field.

Multiple factors could be at work here: Teachers may have lower expectations for these children, and their parents may be unfamiliar with the process and the programs. Whatever the reason, the evidence indicates that relying on teachers and parents increases racial and ethnic disparities.

The gifted program was not a panacea. The researchers found that the district’s specialized classes had little effect on the academic achievement of students who had been specifically identified as gifted, through I.Q. tests. They are not sure why. In Broward County, as in many other places, classes for the gifted use the same curriculum and textbook as other classes. Teachers in the classes for the gifted were required to have a special certification and were encouraged to supplement the curriculum.

But the separate classes did produce enormous, positive effects for children who were high achievers but did not qualify based on the I.Q. test. A quirk in the rules helped these children: Broward requires that schools with even one child who tests above the I.Q. cutoff devote an entire classroom to gifted and high-achieving children.

Since a school in Broward rarely had enough gifted children to fill a class, these classrooms were topped off with children from the same school who scored high on the district’s standardized test. These high achievers, especially black and Hispanics, showed large increases in math and reading when placed in a class for the gifted, and these effects persisted.

What is more, while many children in the gifted program gained enormously, Mr. Card and Ms. Giuliano found no negative effects for those who remained in regular classes. Yet all of these gains came at little financial cost. The enhanced classes were no more expensive than the standard ones. They were the same size as regular classes, and teachers in the classes for the gifted were paid no more than others.

This story has twists, though.

Despite these positive results, Broward County suspended its universal screening program in 2010 in a spate of budget cutting after the Great Recession. Racial and ethnic disparities re-emerged, as large as they were before the policy change. In 2012 the district reinstated a modified version of universal screening, but it has not achieved the same results. Using data from the Florida Department of Education, I calculate that 8 percent of white students in Broward County are classified as gifted. That is twice the rate for Hispanics and four times the rate for blacks, much higher ratios than under universal screening.

One problem with the new screening program is that the previous nonverbal test, which psychologists say they believe to be culturally neutral, has been replaced with one that relies more on verbal ability. Another is that Broward parents and teachers can still influence whether children are selected. While school psychologists test students at no cost, parents can hire a private psychologist to test a child, at a cost of $1,000, and are allowed to pay for multiple tests, should a child not meet the I.Q. requirement on the first try. Mr. Card and Ms. Giuliano found evidence suggesting that private testing gives an advantage to upper-income families, who tend to be white.

Many researchers worry that I.Q. tests are biased against low-income and nonwhite children, and some recommend a more holistic approach that includes teacher referrals. But referrals produce biases, too. Matthew McBee, a psychologist who edits The Journal of Advanced Academics, which focuses on gifted education, recently called referrals “the elephant in the room,” a largely unexamined source of racial and ethnic bias in the identification of gifted children.

Given these problems, we might be tempted to abandon these programs for gifted and high-achieving children entirely. After all, distinguishing between gifted students and everybody else could lock some children, especially disadvantaged children, into a long-term track with low expectations that, too often, are self-fulfilling.

But without some method of identifying talented students, disadvantaged children may fall even further behind those from affluent families, whose parents can afford niceties like private tutors, Kumon math courses and coding camps. Low-income parents just can’t afford these extras.

That’s why the research in Broward County is so important. It shows that there is a fairer way to identify gifted children, and that placing each school’s gifted and achieving students in advanced classes can shrink, rather than expand, racial and ethnic differences in achievement. Universal screening, with a standardized process that does not rely on teachers and parents, can reveal talented, disadvantaged children who would otherwise go undiscovered. Challenging classes for these children can help them to reach their full potential.

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Gender Gap: A Disadvantaged Start Hurts Boys More Than Girls

By the time boys from poor neighborhoods start kindergarten, they are already less prepared than their sisters. The gap keeps widening: They are more likely to be suspended, skip school, perform poorly on standardized tests, drop out of high school, commit crimes as juveniles and have behavioral or learning disabilities.

Boys tend to have more discipline problems than girls over all. But the difference is much bigger for black and Latino children — and more than half of the difference is because of poverty and related problems, the researchers found. For instance, while boys in well-off families have almost the same test scores as their sisters, the gap is more than three times as large in the most disadvantaged families, the study found. While well-off boys are 3.1 percentage points less likely than their sisters to be ready for kindergarten, the most disadvantaged boys are 8.5 percentage points less likely.

The pattern is clear at Astor School, a kindergarten through eighth grade public school in a low-income part of Portland, Ore. More than half the students are economically disadvantaged, and nearly half are minorities.


Tiger Crowley, 4, center, with his family. According to his mother, self-discipline has been more of a struggle for him than for his older sisters. Credit Carl Kiilsgaard for The New York Times

Girls generally enter kindergarten with skills suited to doing well in school, like sitting still and using a pencil, while many boys act younger, having trouble listening to adults and controlling their impulses, said Jeff Knoblich, the school counselor.

“Boys get a message from a very young age to be a man, and to be a man means you’re strong and you don’t cry and you don’t show your emotions,” he said. “I see boys suffering because of that, and a lot of that comes out in aggressive behaviors.”

Problems in elementary school have long-term effects. Early suspensions are strongly correlated with not graduating from high school. The modern economy relies on skills like cooperation, empathy and resilience — and many boys are entering the work force poorly equipped to compete.

The researchers — who also included David Autor and Melanie Wasserman of M.I.T., Krzysztof Karbownik of Northwestern and Jeffrey Roth of the University of Florida — examined various reasons boys could be falling behind. By analyzing brothers and sisters in about 150,000 households using databases from the health and education departments in Florida, they could control for differences in families.

They concluded that boys aren’t born this way. Babies of low-income mothers are less healthy, but the boys are not worse off than the girls.

Though disadvantaged children are more likely to be in underperforming schools or neighborhoods with drugs and violence, this alone does not explain the gender gap, the researchers said. Even in the same neighborhood and schools and for children of the same race, the gender gap is wider in less-advantaged families.

“Boys particularly seem to benefit more from being in a married household or committed household — with the time, attention and income that brings,” Mr. Autor said.

The researchers compared families based on whether the parents were single or coupled, and also looked at the education level of the mother, the income of the neighborhood and the quality of the school. They said they could not isolate which variable mattered most, probably because they are all intertwined.

But they said there were clues to why boys are extra sensitive to disadvantage. A big one is that impoverished households are more likely to be led by single mothers, and boys suffer from a lack of male role models.

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