Latinx Files: Happy Hispanic Heritage Month. The world is on fire.

Photo of earth with flames behind it
It’s getting hot in here.
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times)

On Monday, on the heels of a record-breaking heat wave that cooked Southern California for more than a week, The Times published a story by transportation and mobility reporter Rachel Uranga about how the overwhelming majority of the 12,200 bus stops served by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority lack shade or rain protection.

Uranga reports that “only a quarter have some kind of shade or rain shelter, and only half have a seat for those waiting.”

The people most affected by this? Poor Latinxs.

Uranga’s story is emblematic of how not everyone experiences the effects of climate change the same way. No matter how you slice it, Latinxs are disproportionately bearing the brunt of it.

And we’re keenly aware of it, too.

According to an October 2021 report by the Pew Research Center, the majority of Latinxs surveyed said that climate change is affecting their local community (71%), that they lived in an area that had experienced an extreme weather event in the last year, and that addressing global climate change is important to them (81%).


That same report found that the majority of Latinxs surveyed said they believed the federal government was doing too little to address climate change (67%).

You don’t need a crystal ball to tell you that, barring immediate action, things will only get worse. All you have to do is follow the news.

And believe you me, it’s going to get worse.

On Tuesday, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published a multi-agency report that warned that we are “heading into uncharted territory of destruction.”

Let me repeat that. Uncharted territory of destruction.

“Floods, droughts, heatwaves, extreme storms and wildfires are going from bad to worse, breaking records with alarming frequency. Heatwaves in Europe. Colossal floods in Pakistan. Prolonged and severe droughts in China, the Horn of Africa and the United States. There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. They are the price of humanity’s fossil fuel addiction,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement.

These catastrophic events aren’t theoretical. They’ve already happened.

As reported by the Washington Post, a group of researchers determined that global warming contributed between 8 and 10 inches of floodwater when Hurricane Harvey struck Houston five years ago, and that Latinx households accounted for 48% of properties that flooded because of climate change. (The study also found that of the properties that would have flooded regardless of climate change, 50% belonged to Latinxs.)

It’s not just flooding, either. As Politico reported last year, Latinxs make up 37% of people who live in areas with the highest risk of extreme wildfire. (A special shout-out to the Boiling Point newsletter, which is where I first came across this story. Sign up for Boiling Point here.)

The world is on fire and instead of doing anything about it, we’re just going to pretend like nothing is happening and let the most vulnerable among us suffer. We are in a severe drought, and yet rich people’s lawns will remain as green as ever.


“We have never stopped working in Beverly Hills, we have never stopped watering mansion gardens because of the restrictions,” Álex Guzmán, who works for a landscaping company, told my colleague Soudi Jiménez. “We are working normally, the bosses have not told us anything about lowering the use of water.”

That light in the distance isn’t a beacon. It’s a train heading straight at us.

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My panic? Hispanic Heritage Month.

That today’s Latinx Files comes out at the start of Hispanic Heritage Month feels like the gods are playing a joke on me. It’s pretty obvious at this point that the 30-day period of federal recognition that we exist is unavoidable. It’s like paying your taxes or having the Dallas Cowboys make you feel stupid for rooting for them.

So with that said, here’s a little story:

One year ago, after having filed a newsletter focused on Hispanic Heritage Month and how various people felt about it, I headed to Dodger Stadium because the team was celebrating 40 years of Fernandomania by giving out a Fernando Valenzuela bobblehead. I was so excited to add this plastic trinket made in the likeness of the Mexican pitching icon to my collection that I had completely ignored what had just taken place.

Despite my best efforts, I had been hoodwinked into participating in Hispanic Heritage Month. And not only did I take part in it, I did it willingly and excitedly.

Now, the Fernando Valenzuela bobblehead night wasn’t technically a Hispanic Heritage Month event. But let’s be real. The Dodgers know who their fans are and it was Sept. 15. Who are we fooling here?

Here’s the worst part. Within moments after realizing what happened, I got up from my seat to get a Dodger dog. With the glizzy in hand, I headed to the condiment station and placed my bobblehead down so I could add the requisite condiments. I then headed to my seat. The moment I sat down, I realized I’d left Fernando behind. I hurried back, but he was long gone.

Me quede con las ganas.

I tell you this story because I feel it encapsulates so many thoughts and feelings I have about Hispanic Heritage Month.

We all like to think that we’re above it, that brands and organizations that partake in Hispanic Heritage Month should be laughed at. But the joke might be on us. Surely companies see some value in these 30 days. I imagine that brands make enough money from this monthlong observance that being corny on the main account is worth it to them.

I wasn’t mad that day because the Dodgers tried to make money off of my heritage. In reality, I was mad that I lost out on a little plastic trinket that doubled as a marker of my identity.

Things we read this week that we think you should read

— For the last five years, my colleague Gustavo Arellano and KCRW have organized a tortilla tournament to find the best tortilla in Southern California. After Week One of the tournament, here’s how the competitors fared.

Columnist Jean Guerrero wrote about the various actions President Biden can take to help out undocumented Americans. As Guerrero points out, the president has plenty of options at his disposal, but he’s not using them. This part of her column right here, though:

“We need Dark Brandon at the immigration table, bringing the same zeal to protecting the community that former President Trump brought to damaging it.”

— From the “news that will make my job easier” department, Axios is reporting that Latinx consultants Chuck Rocha and Mike Madrid are creating a website that will aggregate stories pertaining to Latinx voters.

— You don’t really see too many Latinx athletes at the Winter Olympics. A curling club in Oakland is hoping to change that. Story by Kevin Baxter.

— The Miami-Dade County School District is banning students from attending a production of “Anna in the Tropics,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Nilo Cruz. The school district is defending its decision by citing sexually explicit lines in the play, but Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago says this decision is nothing short of censorship.

This story by Sergio Burstein about a multi-event tribute in honor of Peruvian singer Yma Sumac was such a fun read that it sent me down a YouTube rabbit hole of Sumac’s music. Here is Sumac performing on the David Letterman Show in 1987.