De incodumentada a Wall Street: Autobiografía cuenta sus logros


Photo credit: Vincent Remini.

By Lucia Benavides

Originally published in ¡ahora sí! on Sept. 21, 2016. Read the English version here.

No muchas mujeres llegan hasta Wall Street. Y si son hispanas e indocumentadas, menos aún. Pero Julissa Arce lo pudo lograr.

En su nuevo libro, My (Underground) American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive (mi (oculto) sueño americano: mi vida secreta como inmigrante indocumentada que se convirtió en una ejecutiva de Wall Street), Arce, de 33 años, cuestiona el estereotipo de una inmigrante indocumentada. Ella se graduó de la Universidad de Texas en Austin con honores, inmediatamente consiguió trabajo en Goldman Sachs y logró llegar a ser ejecutiva en Merrill Lynch en pocos años, todo sin papeles legales.

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The wisdom of getting your wisdom teeth removed


amanda dias/Flickr

By Lucia Benavides

Originally aired on Marketplace on Sept. 20, 2016

Many students returned to school short of a few molars, having used the summer break to get their wisdom teeth removed. The surgery is almost like a rite of passage: It usually happens in the last year of high school or first years of college. In fact, it’s so commonplace that 10 million wisdom teeth are extracted every year nationwide. But there’s a growing debate about the need for those surgeries.

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Bonvenon to Esperanto. Language created to unify world


By Lucia Benavides

Originally published in the Austin American-Statesman on Sept. 16, 2016.

When someone decides to learn a second language, they usually settle on Spanish. Or perhaps outside the U.S., that language might be English. Others may choose French, Arabic, Chinese or Greek. There’s certainly not a shortage of languages, but it’s uncommon to hear that someone is learning Esperanto. Or for that matter, that someone might even know what that is.

To the untrained ear, Esperanto might sound like Spanish, Italian or even Latin. And indeed, it does have roots in the Romance languages. But unlike French or Portuguese, Esperanto didn’t emerge organically throughout the course of history: it was invented by a Polish-Jewish doctor in the 1880s in an attempt to bring about unity between people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Esperanto translates into “one who hopes,” and it’s reflective of its ideology: If everyone learned the language, people would be able to communicate, and therefore, bridge gaps created by language, culture and geography.

The exact number of Esperanto speakers today is unknown, but it’s believed to be anywhere from 200,000 to 2 million, with its highest usage in Europe, East Asia and South America. In Texas, there are communities of Esperantists in every major city, including Austin. Last month, the local group celebrated its first Peralela Universo (Parallel Universe), a national event that took place in over 20 cities. The event lasted all day — from a late-morning hangout in Zilker Park, to lunch and games at Thai Fresh, to dinner at Mother’s Cafe. More than a dozen Esperantists from all around the Austin area came together to meet and chat face to face; there were visitors from Georgetown, New Braunfels and even Germany.

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A Texas connection in the Irish countryside


Lucia Benavides/ Austin American-Statesman

By Lucia Benavides

Originally published in the Austin American-Statesman on Sept. 10, 2016.

Pareja en Austin crea película bilingüe en inglés y español


By Lucia Benavides

Originally published in ¡ahora sí! on Sept. 7, 2016. Read English version here.

Con casi 41 millones de hispanohablantes en Estados Unidos, existe más o menos la misma cantidad que habla los dos idiomas en sus casas. Así se criaron Marla y Julio Quintana, cuyas familias son colombianas y cubanas, respectivamente. Amantes del cine, decidieron crear una película que reflejara su vida bilingüe.

The Vessel (El navío) es su primer film, dirigido y escrito por Julio, y producido por Marla. El productor ejecutivo es Terrence Malick, director de la película The Tree of Life (El árbol de la vida). En la película actúa Martin Sheen como un sacerdote estadounidense que vive en un pueblo latinoamericano que se recupera de un tsunami que destruyó una escuela de niños. Cada escena fue filmada dos veces –primero en inglés, luego en español– usando sólo actores bilingües. Es la primera vez que Sheen actúa en español.

“Terminábamos agregando unos diez, quince minutos a cada escena”, dijo Julio. “Cuando finalizábamos una escena, era sólo cambiar de idioma”.

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Proyecto Defensa Laboral demanda más protecciones para trabajadores


By Lucia Benavides

Originally published in ¡ahora sí! on Aug. 31, 2016.

El municipio de Austin votará el jueves 1 para considerar un nuevo programa que permitirá a los contratistas acelerar el proceso de construcción. Se llama el Expedited Permitting Program (programa de permiso expedito), y le permitiría a los contratistas pagar extra para tener su licencia en dos días, en vez de nueve meses. El Proyecto Defensa Laboral (Workers Defense Project), con el apoyo de varias otras organizaciones, está demandando que se incluyan mejores estándares de trabajo para los obreros de la construcción.

“Mientras crezca Austin, queremos que crezca responsablemente”, dijo Bo Delp, director del programa de mejores constructores en el Proyecto. “Que crezca de una manera que beneficie a todos, no solo a las corporaciones ricas.”

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The cost to vote can be thousands of dollars




Originally aired on Marketplace on August 2, 2016

You may not think twice about casting your ballot this November. But many non-citizens are racing to get their ability to vote in time. Citizenship applications have increased 11 percent in the 2015 fiscal year alone. And the naturalization process is more than just filling out papers and taking a civics test. It can also mean thousands of dollars.

The least anyone will spend is $680 – the cost of filing the citizenship application and getting a biometrics appointment, where your fingerprints are scanned and photos taken. A few months later, you’re called in for an interview and a civics test — no fee for those. If you pass, congratulations: you become an American.

But that’s if your case is straightforward. If you need an attorney, lawyer fees alone can bring the price up significantly.

“I can say that it will be more than probably $1,000. And then average will be from $1,000 to $5,000,”  immigration attorney Iris Albizu said, who offers a payment plan to help clients.

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Out of the Blue: 50 Years After the UT Tower Shooting

ut tower

Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

The Texas Standard spoke to nearly 100 survivors of the UT Tower shooting for an hour-long radio documentary commemorating the 50 year anniversary. Listen to their stories in “Out of the Blue: 50 Years After the UT Tower Shooting,” Texas Standard’s oral history of the first public mass shooting of its kind.

For four months, I worked as Production Assistant on this project. I found survivors and scheduled interviews, conducted a third of the overall interviews, edited audio, archived historical footage, coordinated with the multimedia team, and collaborated on ideas for the documentary’s end result.

Austin’s Jennifer Aldoretta talks menstruation with Humans with Periods


Lucia Benavides/ Austin American-Statesman

By Lucia Benavides

Originally published in the Austin American-Statesman on July 4, 2016

When Jennifer Aldoretta got her period at 11 years old, her first thought was: “What’s wrong with me? I must be dying.”

The severe pain that came with menstruation made her miss school every month. She would sometimes vomit, or be on the verge of passing out. At 14, she was put on birth control to ease the pain, which brought on issues of anxiety and heart palpitations. So at 20 years old, she decided to consult the internet and immediately found answers.

“I stumbled across all of this reproductive health information and learned all of these things that, in hindsight, I wish I had learned in fourth grade about how the menstrual cycle works, why you have a period, what your hormones are doing throughout your cycle,” says Aldoretta, 28. “It really was like a lightbulb for me.”

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Texas lake businesses booming again after long drought

Oasis sunset old 2

From 2010 to 2015, Texas faced a severe drought. Lake Travis was down to one-third of its water levels. (The Oasis)

By Lucia Benavides

Originally aired on Marketplace on May 12, 2016

In Central Texas, the lifeblood of outdoor activity is Lake Travis, a reservoir on the Colorado River that runs through Austin. The lake is just as popular with tourists as it is with locals, who take to its waters to cool off in the heat of Texas summers.

On a Sunday evening in early April, the weather outside is a breezy 70 degrees. The Oasis on Lake Travis has a one-and-a-half hour wait. There’s a live band, and the restaurant’s four decks are packed with customers overlooking the water, waiting for the oncoming sunset.

But five years ago, the scene looked much different. From 2010 to 2015, Texas suffered one of the worst droughts in its history. During that time, Lake Travis dropped to one-third of its level. For a restaurant that offers lakeside dining, the view of a barren lake with islands sprinkled throughout wasn’t exactly what they were advertising.

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