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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Latino in America
Aired September 18, 2010 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LORENA GARCIA, LATINO: My name is Lorena Garcia.
JESSE GARCIA, LATINO: My name is Jesse Garcia.
PEDRO ANTONIO MORENO GARCIA, LATINO: My name is Pedro Antonio Moreno Garcia.
BETTY GARCIA, LATINO: My name is Betty Garcia.
ISABEL GARCIA, LATINO: My name is Isabel Garcia.
WILLIAM GARCIA, LATINO: My name is William Garcia. Please call me Bill Garcia.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): The name "Garcia" is now one of the 10 most common last names in America, beating out "Thomas," "Wilson" and "Taylor," and rapidly catching up with the "Smiths." The Garcias are a sign of a sea of change sweeping the country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My parents are Cuban, but I was born in Puerto Rico.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Born in Spain, Irish mother, a big mixture, but Latino.
B. GARCIA: My boys are Dominican-Rican.
P. GARCIA: It's like a beef stew.
O'BRIEN: Latinos are now the largest minority in America - 51 million strong and growing. Some are struggling.
CINDY GARCIA, LATINO: People make mistakes - whatever you do after that, that's what really proves who you are.
O'BRIEN: Some are succeeding -
L. GARCIA: I am living the American dream right now. I'm 40 years old and I run six companies.
O'BRIEN: And some are caught between two worlds -
B. GARCIA: Our children don't identify with the Latino culture.
O'BRIEN: Through the Garcias, we'll tell you the story of LATINOS IN AMERICA.
Tucson, Arizona, awakens to hundreds of protesters in the streets. This is ground zero in the immigration war. And on the front lines, Isabel Garcia. She's an unapologetic champion of the people many Americans love to hate, illegal immigrants.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All illegal aliens, you came here illegally, you broke the law.
I. GARCIA: It's amazing that they try to treat us as illegals or foreigners, because I've been called all of that when this is our home, it's always been our home.
O'BRIEN: Isabel Garcia is a Mexican-American. Her family has lived in Arizona for four generations.
I. GARCIA: This was Mexico, too. We're indigenous to this land.
O'BRIEN: Isabel is Chief Legal Defender for Pima County, Arizona. Many of the people she defends are undocumented, without a visa or work permit.
I. GARCIA: We have 12 million undocumented people in this country.
O'BRIEN (on camera): There are plenty of people would say, then round them up, find them and send them home.
I. GARCIA: It points out the ignorance because we have 12 million people who support the economy of the United States of America.
O'BRIEN: One of Isabel's most controversial cases involves this 26- year-old, Aracely Torres, who has lived in the United States most of her life - illegally.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in Spanish).
ARACELY TORRES, LATINO: (Speaking Spanish).
O'BRIEN: Aracely is one of the Panda Express 11, a high profile case Garcia and her defense team took on last year.
TORRES: So I just would like to get the attention of the president and tell him -
O'BRIEN (on camera): Oh, my goodness. Look at those bangs.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Aracely has attended Tucson Public Schools since fourth grade. She was only 7 years old when her family drove across the border. She barely remembers it.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Did you realize that you were undocumented?
O'BRIEN: When did you know?
TORRES: When I was ready to finish high school and go to college.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): At 17, Aracely dropped out of high school to help her family make ends meet eventually taking a $10 an hour job at the fast food chain Panda Express.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Were you a good employee?
TORRES: Yes, I worked there seven years. They loved me.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): A stable job until March 18, 2008. Aracely came in for her 12-hour shift.
TORRES: We just opened the doors and the first people that came in was the police.
O'BRIEN: Once inside, agents rounded up employees. All told, 11 employees were arrested, all of them working with fake Social Security numbers.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Did you know it was a crime to have a Social Security number that's fake?
TORRES: I know that it's not a crime to work. I knew that I was not doing anything bad because, I mean, we work like everybody else.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Using a fake I.D. to work is a crime here in Arizona - a felony. The state has passed some of the harshest anti- illegal immigrant laws in the country. Aracely, caught up in the crackdown could be deported.
JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY SHERIFF: She's here illegally. That's what it is. If you don't like it, change the laws.
O'BRIEN: Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County is one of the state's toughest enforcers of the law. He's considered by many to be the poster boy of the anti-illegal immigration movement.
ARPAIO: They're not going to intimidate me and think I'm going to hide.
O'BRIEN: Sheriff Arpaio has become notorious for putting inmates in shackles and pink underwear and housing them in tents in the hot desert sun. The Department of Justice is currently investigating his office for racial profiling.
ARPAIO: I'm going to keep enforcing the law. These people that keep going after me, calling me every name in the book, not going to deter me.
O'BRIEN: Arpaio's tactics have earned him lots of media attention and the undying opposition of Isabel Garcia. Last May, she led a march in protest of Arpaio.
I. GARCIA: He has polarized Maricopa County like we've never seen before.
O'BRIEN: For Isabel Garcia, this fight is a family tradition. Her father, Rudy Garcia, was a copper miner and labor leader. He taught her at an early age the importance of fighting for what you believe.
I. GARCIA: My father fought for every civil right. We lived through seven strikes that the copper workers had to go through to gain decent working conditions for their families. So you can say that I was born with - with it in my blood.
O'BRIEN: Her critics say Isabel Garcia crossed the line where she attended a protest where a pinata of Sheriff Arpaio was knocked to the ground.
I. GARCIA: One of the right wing hate radio disk jockeys brought out his video that showed me with a pinata head and they used that to say that I should not be employed in Pima County.
O'BRIEN: Isabel said she had nothing to do with creating the pinata and only picked it up to diffuse the protest.
I. GARCIA: I picked up the pinata head to get the crowd moving.
O'BRIEN: Arpaio's office called her actions disgraceful. They recalled and letters demanding she be fired.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Because you're a public official, you shouldn't have been taking part in the protest? That was just a lot of letters.
I. GARCIA: Yes, absolutely. And I think that's a shame. You see, I believe this is my responsibility.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): And that's brought death threats.
I. GARCIA: I have one gentlemen that in an open hearing came this close to me and with his finger like a gun said, right between the eyes, twice to me.
O'BRIEN: Despite the threats, Isabel continues to challenge Arizona's tough laws.
I. GARCIA: How can we be so hypocritical to say, you know, how can you violate our laws and - and come into the country illegally when we've encouraged that for a hundred years?
O'BRIEN: In fact, for decades, the U.S. government looked the other way as American businesses took advantage of the cheap labor. In the '90s and particularly after 9/11, officials got tougher, deporting hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.
After her arrest, Aracely Torres was detained for five months, separated from her then 3-year-old daughter, an American citizen.
O'BRIEN: Did she ask where you were? TORRES: Yes, of course. She asked for me and I used to call her on the phone, talk to her. And she got to the point that she didn't want to talk to me. She thought that I didn't want to be with her. I just remember praying to God to put her in His hands.
O'BRIEN: Aracely pled guilty to a misdemeanor. She's been out of jail a year. She faces possible deportation to Mexico, a country she barely remembers.
O'BRIEN (on camera): You're daughter is an American citizen?
O'BRIEN: Your mother is a resident?
O'BRIEN: Your uncle?
TORRES: He's a citizen.
O'BRIEN: Your sister?
O'BRIEN: Who do you know back in Mexico?
O'BRIEN: You literally no know one?
O'BRIEN: Do you feel like you're an American?
TORRES: Yes. All of my family is here and my memories are here. I grew up in here. I went to school here.
I. GARCIA: This is her home. This is where she belongs. She should be allowed to remain in this country.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): At her deportation hearing, with Isabel Garcia's help, Aracely tried to prove returning to Mexico would be an extreme hardship for her family. She failed. It took for less than three hours for the court to rule that Aracely must return to Mexico within two months. Aracely plans to appeal.
TORRES: No matter where they send me to, I would still be an American.
O'BRIEN: When we come back, 17-year-old Cindy Garcia fighting the odds.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Los Angeles, California, a city in the grip of a crisis that's sweeping the nation.
Seventeen-year-old Cindy Garcia is in the trenches, she's a senior at Fremont High School in South L.A. It's almost entirely Latino and 70 percent of the students don't graduate on time.
C. GARCIA: I don't want to fall into the 70 percent. No. I know I deserve better than that.
O'BRIEN: It's not going to be easy. Cindy is more than a semester behind and there's just three months until graduation.
O'BRIEN (on camera): What happened your ninth grade year?
C. GARCIA: I guess I didn't find it important, like, I didn't even care and -
O'BRIEN: Did you go?
C. GARCIA: To school?
C. GARCIA: No. I would - I would sort of -
O'BRIEN: You cut every day.
C. GARCIA: Yes.
O'BRIEN: Every day?
C. GARCIA: I would kind of - yes.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Now, she's trying to make up for lost time. But for Cindy, like the children of many Latino immigrants, family often trumps school.
Cindy lives in this three bedroom house with her mother, two sisters, baby brother, and a 2-1/2-year-old niece.
C. GARCIA: Close your eyes.
O'BRIEN: She's constantly pulled out of school to take care of the kids, and help out at the family store which barely makes ends meet.
C. GARCIA: Check if there's some wine in the back, because I don't think so.
O'BRIEN: Cindy also acts as a translator for her mother, Onelia, who speaks no English. She's been sick and needs help navigating doctors' appointments.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Do you ever want to say to her, I need to be in school?
C. GARCIA: Yes. I do.
O'BRIEN: And do you say that?
C. GARCIA: No.
O'BRIEN: No. Why not?
C. GARCIA: Because I'm the only one that can help her sometimes, you know? So I can't - I mean, if it was something else, like go to the store with me, then OK but like if this is very important, so I kind of have to be there.
O'BRIEN: It's a lot of responsibility. You're 17.
C. GARCIA: I guess, yes.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Cindy's mother, Onelia, came here from Guatemala at age 15. Onelia resents her own mother for holding her back.
ONELIA ALDANA, CINDY'S MOTHER: (Speaking in Spanish).
C. GARCIA: Because my grandma was the kind of person that believed that women shouldn't go to school, only men.
O'BRIEN (on camera): I mean, you look at a kid like Cindy Garcia and you see all of the things that she's struggling with and some of that is Latino culture.
MONICA GARCIA, BOARD PRESIDENT, LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: Right. Families need to survive. Latino culture is built around families. But I think it can be a strength as well.
Who knows? Here, we're having the next superintendent, the next teacher, the next board members.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Monica Garcia is the Board President for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
M. GARCIA: Your education is a priority for me. Your education, I'm working to get it to be a priority for California.
O'BRIEN: It's the second largest school district in the nation, overwhelmingly Latino and is in peril. An Education Week study found that half of its 700,000 students aren't graduating on time.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Two students walk in the door. That odds are one is not going to make it.
M. GARCIA: Yes. And that's what we're trying to fix.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): With Latinos on track to be the largest demographic of school age children by the year 2050, the high stakes aren't lost on Monica Garcia. M. GARCIA: The child in our classroom is not the same child that was there 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. And I think more than that, our world is changing. And so the school system hasn't changed fast enough to meet the kids of today.
O'BRIEN: Latinos attend the country's most underfunded and overcrowded high schools. And Garfield, just across town from Cindy Garcia's school, is one of them.
O'BRIEN (on camera): So this school was built to hold 1,500 students.
M. GARCIA: That's right.
O'BRIEN: How many does it hold now?
M. GARCIA: Forty eight hundred year round which means that at least 3,600 kids at one time.
O'BRIEN: Three times the amount it was meant for?
M. GARCIA: Yes. Yes.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Latinos also attend schools with the highest poverty rates. Nearly half are learning English as a second language. And for many, like Cindy Garcia, working and supporting the family come before school.
M. GARCIA: Steve lives here. Mr. Cayetos (ph) live there.
O'BRIEN (on camera): And where do you live?
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Monica Garcia grew up just blocks from Garfield here in East L.A. The daughter of poor Mexican immigrants, she learned English as a second language.
M. GARCIA: I lived here at 759 Hoffner (ph). This is a two-bedroom house, a living room.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Five kids in a two-bedroom house?
M. GARCIA: Yes.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Monica's parents stressed education. They scraped together money for Catholic school and sent Monica to college with the help of scholarships and grants. Education was her ticket out of poverty.
M. GARCIA: I used to be poor. I'm not poor anymore. And so for children of poverty, education is that equalizer. And what we have to do is to help children not have to choose, do I want to support my family or do I want to be in school?
O'BRIEN: It's a tough choice that Cindy Garcia makes every day.
She's nearly 40 credits behind but teachers say she's bright and she's determined to graduate and some day become a social worker. So Cindy's in class from sun up to sun down.
C. GARCIA: I'm tired.
O'BRIEN: And on weekends, to make it happen.
C. GARCIA: It starts at 8:00 with my first class and it ends at 8:30 with my last class. So it's basically a 12-hour day.
O'BRIEN: Still, nobody believes that Cindy can graduate, including her mother.
ALDANA: (Speaking in Spanish).
C. GARCIA: She says she doesn't know of that. I told her yes but that sometimes she doubts it.
O'BRIEN: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is convinced the future of the nation depends on whether the growing number of Latino kids, like Cindy Garcia, graduate.
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, MAYOR, LOS ANGELES: This is the big civil rights issue of our time.
O'BRIEN (on camera): So are the kids just failing or is the system failing the kids?
VILLARAIGOSA: The system is failing the kids.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Mayor Villaraigosa would know. He was one of those kids.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Why did you drop out?
VILLARAIGOSA: When I went to public school, it was the 1960s, they put me in shop classes and basic reading classes, I got turned off. And I just said, I'm out of here.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Thanks to a strong mother and a dedicated teacher, he got back on track. He went to college with the help of grants and loans, and on to law school and finally the Mayor's Office.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Is there hope for someone like Cindy Garcia?
VILLARAIGOSA: I have hope for Cindy Garcia. I believe in these kids.
O'BRIEN: Because you did it?
VILLARAIGOSA: Because I did it and because so many of us who had to - to struggle have made it. Only in America does this story of success against all odds happen on the scale and scope that it happens here.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): But, first, Cindy's got to pass her exams. It's the last day of finals and the pressure is on.
C. GARCIA: It's nerve racking now. Now that I'm here, I'm kind of nervous. O'BRIEN: And even if she does pass, to graduate Cindy will have to spend the next two months making up classes. It will come down to the wire.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Villaraigosa said something very interesting to me. He said, you know, there are not many places where you could have all the list of things that you and I have talked about in the past and still be a giant success. In America, that's very do-able.
Is that going to be your story?
C. GARCIA: Yes. I'm not the kind of person that's just going to sit there and just watch life pass me by and not do anything about it. if I see that - that I don't like where I'm standing, I just move.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Up next, Cindy hits a major roadblock.
C. GARCIA: I'm mad at myself because I messed up.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Cindy Garcia's grades are in.
C. GARCIA: This is my report card, which I'm not that proud of, but I'm kind of proud because I passed most of my classes.
O'BRIEN: All but Biology and a homeroom class. No small feat for Cindy Garcia.
C. GARCIA: All of my teachers told me, if you just would have been here, you would have probably got A's in all of your classes, but I wasn't there. Look.
O'BRIEN: Cindy attends Fremont High School, just one of many over crowded public schools in Los Angeles that's losing students to the dropout crisis and teachers to budget cuts.
But for Cindy, home is also a challenge. Family duties like taking care of the house, translating for her Spanish-speaking mother and helping out at the family store often come before school, which has put Cindy more than a semester behind. So she's in summer school to make up the last four classes she needs to graduate on time.
C. GARCIA: I can't afford no mistakes. Like my plan how it's set, that's how it has to go. It's like it has to go exactly how it's programmed.
O'BRIEN: But it doesn't.
C. GARCIA: I'm mad at myself because - I messed up.
O'BRIEN: Cindy is pregnant. The father, her boyfriend, Javier Abarca (ph). They decide to raise the baby together.
C. GARCIA: I don't want to be another baggage for my mom. I don't - you know, she already has to deal with the store, the house, the baby, her sickness, the bills, my stepdad, the lawyers, the courts, my niece. She does not need another grandkid.
O'BRIEN: The statistics are shocking. More than half of all Latinos get pregnant before the age of 20 and nearly 70 percent of the teenage moms don't graduate. After her older sister had a baby at 16, Cindy vowed it won't happen to her. Now she vows it's not going to hold her back.
GARCIA: It's not even an option anymore. It's something that I have to do.
DEBRA DUARDO, DROPOUT PREVENTION DIRECTOR: Here she is. She's pregnant, and she's not giving up. She's not walking away. She's now saying more than ever now, I really want to make sure that I finish school, and I admire her strength.
O'BRIEN: Debra Duardo is the director of Dropout Prevention in Los Angeles, she knows exactly what Cindy is going through. She's been there.
DUARDRO: I ended up getting married at 15.
OBRIEN: Debra rebelled against her strict Mexican father. Dropped out of high school, got married, and had a baby.
DUARDO: I told myself, if I'm going to be a good parent and raise this child, I better go back to school and get an education.
O'BRIEN: Ten years and four children later, Debra got her master's degree in school social work, all the while working the graveyard shift as a supermarket cashier. Pregnancy wasn't the end of Debra's dream, and she says it doesn't have to be the end for Cindy either.
DUARDO: Well, I don't think it has to do anything for her prospects. It's just about staying focused and getting the support and resources to be able to carry on with her dreams.
MARQUIS JONES, SCHOOL COUNSELOR: It's going to be up to you to follow through.
O'BRIEN: Cindy Garcia's biggest supporter is school counselor Marquis Jones, a diploma project advisor at Fremont High School. A program started by Debra Duardo's office to help kids at risk of dropping out. Today, it's being drastically cut back because of California's massive budget cuts.
GARCIA: If it wasn't for Mr. Jones, I think I'd still be lost. When he tells me like, Cindy, I know you can do it. He says like, it's not even a question to me and he's like, I know you can do it because I know -- that actually like -- wow. OK, he thinks I can do it, you know.
O'BRIEN: Which makes the conversation that Cindy is about to have that much harder.
GARCIA: We're going to see Mr. Jones, the diploma counselor.
JONES: Hey, what's going on? How are you doing?
O'BRIEN: She's been missing classes because of severe morning sickness.
GARCIA: I started feeling like really sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, so -- like, I went to the doctor and they were like, "Yep, you're pregnant." Mr. Jones, what am I going to do?
O'BRIEN: Now Cindy is afraid that she will miss her graduation, but Mr. Jones gives her a sliver of hope.
JONES: You can turn your -- basically, you can turn credits in until the morning of graduation.
JONES: Yes. You have them. I mean if it comes down to that, of course.
OBRIEN: But her morning sickness gets worse and Cindy continues to miss class.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a senior, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, you're not just coming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though you have to graduate?
GARCIA: No. I'm sick, like really sick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, really, really sick?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a doctor's note or something?
GARCIA: No, not exactly.
O'BRIEN: And, Cindy's family situation isn't making things any easier. She's juggling morning sickness, school, and childcare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that your daughter?
GARCIA: No, it's my sister's.
O'BRIEN: No surprise, her niece is a major distraction.
GARCIA: No. She's ready to go. I'm ready for you to go, too. No, no, no. You can't go el bano.
She has to go to the bathroom again.
Can you come pick up the baby because she peed on herself. She's pooping on herself.
If things keep on going that I need to miss school, I'm not going to finish, because I need to be there like at least every day for these next two weeks. I need to be there every single day.
O'BRIEN: It's graduation day for Fremont High, but there's a see of empty seats. A 70 percent of Fremont students don't graduate on time, and Cindy is one of them. She didn't finish two of her classes. So, while her friends received their diplomas, Cindy and Javier are at the doctor's office for her first ultrasound.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look. He has a big head.
GARCIA: My baby has a big head.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm glad you noticed that because, you know what? That is very normal.
GARCIA: If I would have just, you know, kept on going to class everyday of the week and kept on doing the work, I was doing -- I would have been done, right now. But, I didn't. I got pregnant.
O'BRIEN: Still, Cindy says she won't give up. She's determined to graduate from high school, then college, and some day achieve her dream of becoming a social worker.
GARCIA: It's not going to be as fast as it would have been if I wasn't going have a baby, but I mean I can still do something with my life, you know? And, I think all this will do is push me harder to do it.
O'BRIEN: When we return --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go, let's go, let's go.
O'BRIEN: The Garcia's face an identity crisis.
BRIAN GARCIA: In the south, it's either you're white, black, or you're Mexican. I don't like being called Mexican, that's like a stereotype.
O'BRIEN: It's Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina. A party at the Garcias, food, family, and music. For Betty Garcia, it's a celebration of her Dominican culture.
BETTY GARCIA, LATINA: Everybody cut their own little piece. O'BRIEN: She tries to get her 15-year-old son, Andrew, to dance. Andrew's response -- "no way." And the rice and beans leave her other son, 17-year-old Brian, cold.
BRIAN GARCIA, BETTY'S 17-YEAR-OLD SON: I don't like Spanish food. I like fried chicken instead.
O'BRIEN: Bill and Betty Garcia left their home and families in New York City 15 years ago for the suburbs of Charlotte.
BILL GARCIA, BETTY'S HUSBAND: This is beautiful. Charlotte is a wonderful city, kind of like living in your own little park.
O'BRIEN: The Garcias wanted to escape New York's high prices and big city grind, and to give their sons a different kind of life. But, now they fear the boys may have lost a vital connection to their Latino roots.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Do you worry that taking them out of 193rd street and the immigrant experience has somehow hurt them?
BILL GARCIA: Well, I think about it all the time, yes. I think if they don't have a good sense of who we think they are, you know, as Latinos --
O'BRIEN (on camera): Yes, they say my parents are Latinos.
It's a struggle that plays out in Latino households across the country. How to preserve Latino heritage when surrounded by American culture?
BETTY GARCIA: I thought that just because we are Latinos by -- you know, by osmosis, they would be Latinos.
O'BRIEN: Bill Garcia was born in New York City. He's Puerto Rican. Betty moved to New York from the Dominican Republic when she was 9. They met on the subway in 1988. Their first date, at the Museum of Modern Art. Bill and Betty still call New York home.
BETTY GARCIA: I knew that when I left New York, I was leaving a Latino neighborhood. I knew I was leaving home. I was a little saddened -- yes, a little saddened.
O'BRIEN: The Garcias are part of a wave of Latinos moving away from traditional urban centers and settling in new regions like the south. When they arrived in charlotte, they felt like strangers.
BILL GARCIA: This is one of the challenges that we faced here. People not even knowing about Dominican Republic.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Like where is it?
BILL GARCIA: Yes, where is it --
BETTY GARCIA: On the map.
BILL GARCIA: On the map, exactly.
O'BRIEN: The Garcias have built a successful life in Charlotte. Bill has made a career working for non-profit organizations. Betty is a schoolteacher. But, their new life has come at a price. Their teenage sons are more interested in fitting in than connecting with their Latino roots. Andrew is a sophomore in high school and a football player. Brian is a senior who just got his driver's license.
BETTY GARCIA: Where are you guys going? You have to be back before 9:00. You didn't tell me you had girls over here. Oh, he's showing off.
BILL GARCIA: Did you see these pictures? This is me at high school.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man!
O'BRIEN: Bill and Betty do what they can to expose the boys to their Latino heritage. Today, they're trying to get Brian and Andrew to help create a photo collage, part of an upcoming art exhibit on Hispanic culture in Charlotte. But , Brian has little interest.
BETTY GARCIA: Brian.
O'BRIEN: And no interest in attending the opening of the art exhibit.
BETTY GARCIA: So, do you want to go?
BRIAN GARCIA: No.
BETTY GARCIA: What! OK. I'll see you later.
BRIAN GARCIA: Close my door.
BETTY GARCIA: Please? It's been a little of a struggle for me to -- to get them into it.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Like a tug-of-war sometimes.
BETTY GARCIA: Yes.
O'BRIEN: Instead of the exhibit, the boys head to the mall.
BRIAN GARCIA: It's my heritage, I mean I know. I want to learn, but not right now.
O'BRIEN: Brian's reluctance is with the language. He failed Spanish last year.
BRIAN GARCIA: I can't speak Spanish well enough to talk to somebody. It's just in my ear.
O'BRIEN: It turns out, he's not resisting his mother's culture. He's unfamiliar. She thinks you're a little embarrassed of her and you're rejecting your culture.
BRIAN GARCIA: She shouldn't think that. I don't know well enough. I wasn't raised like that. We were raised speaking English and going to Ronald McDonald's and stuff.
O'BRIEN: Once you gave up on having them speak Spanish in the house, do you think that pretty much you gave up on having strong Latino culture in the house?
BETTY GARCIA: I think so. I think the language -- it's the major link to the culture. I really truly believe that.
O'BRIEN: Their decision to speak English at home was a difficult one.
BETTY GARCIA: "Oh, do that one Andrew, please." Your life gets really tough. So, I say you know what? it's too hard to be -- OK, [Speaking Spanish ] and then, you know, he's speaking to them in English and the kids are like, OK.
O'BRIEN: You regret it now though?
BETTY GARCIA: I do, very much. If I had the chance to start over, I would really make a conscientious effort to teach the boys Spanish. Maybe not even move to Charlotte and stay up in New York.
BILL GARCIA: Andrew!
Once a year, Bill and Betty travel back to New York City to reconnect with their families. It means everything to them. The strongest link they have to their Latino roots. But, the Garcia boys don't feel that same connection.
BILL GARCIA: Are you looking forward to at least the trip.
BRIAN GARCIA: Nope.
BETTY GARCIA: Oh, my God. You haven't done anything.
BRIAN GARCIA: So?
BETTY GARCIA: You need to pack.
BRIAN GARCIA: I will.
BETTY GARCIA: OK, maybe, you know, in the next few minutes.
O'BRIEN: When we come back, the Garcias hope a visit to the old neighborhood will change that. BOB GARCIA, ANDREW AND BRIAN'S UNCLE: I think Andrew and Brian, they're young. They're teenagers. They haven't grasped the idea of their identity yet.
O'BRIEN: New York City -- Washington heights -- 12 hours from their home in Charlotte.
BETTY GARCIA: It's good to be home.
O'BRIEN: This is where the Garcias come at least once a year to feel Latino. Back in the same apartment their mother, betty, grew up in as a child, brian and andrew reconnect with aunts and cousins. and their parents hope with their heritage.
BETTY GARCIA: Ola mi amor.
O'BRIEN: Back in the same apartment, their mother, Betty, grow up as a child. Brian and Andrew reconnect with aunts and cousins. And, they're parents hope with their heritage.
BETTY GARCIA: This is what gets us together. El Cafecito. This is the place where I feel Latina -- dominicana. I can identify with the people, the language, the sayings, everything. This is it. This is Latino world right here. It's like a little piece of the Dominican Republic.
O'BRIEN: Bill and Betty slip right back into their comfort zone.
BILL GARCIA: This is home. That's all I can say about that.
O'BRIEN: They want to share the city they love so much.
BETTY GARCIA: This is school.
BILLA GARCIA: This is where I went to school, guys.
BETTY GARCIA: I was walking up this way to give birth to you.
O'BRIEN: Andrew gets his parents to take him to the museum that's the site of their first date.
BETTY GARCIA: One of the things that really made me and Bill happy is that Andrew -- he wanted to go to Moma. This had never happened before. So we were like, yes.
ANDREW GARCIA: Between me and my brother, that's 90 years of age.
O'BRIEN: Another connection --
ANDREW GARCIA: Hustle, hustle.
O'BRIAN: Going back to the same courts where Bill played as a kid. And, the highlight for Brian and Andrew -- spending time with their uncle bob. BOB GARCIA: He shot a good wiggles? He got wiggles? Oh, hit you with the cross?
O'BRIEN: Known in these parts as Bobbito, he's a street ball star, who also made his name as a deejay in hip-hop radio. He's a legend far beyond New York City.
BOB GARCIA: Basically, like our family is so embedded in the asphalt here.
O'BRIEN: For the Garcia boys Bobbito and this basketball court may be the coolest connection to their parents' Latino past.
BETTY GARCIA: The whole community here knows Bobbito. So, our boys say, "well, you know, being Dominican and Puerto Rican or Latino could be cool, you know, because my uncle is the coolest guy, and he's Puerto Rican.?
BOB GARCIA: I don't worry about my nephews. They're young. They're teenagers, they haven't grasped the idea of their identity yet. I trust that the older that they get they're going to seek it out like when it's not being pushed down their throat.
O'BRIEN (on camera): I know you like to have them spending time with their uncle.
BETTY GARCIA: He's made a very conscious effort to learn Spanish, and now Brian is trying to speak Spanish. This morning he was, "uncle bobby, how do you say the toothpaste?" And he goes "pasta dental." He goes, "mom, donde esta la pasta dental."
O'BRIEN: Do you like New York City? Is it fun for you to be back?
BRIAN GARCIA: I love it.
O'BRIEN: You do?
BRIAN GARCIA: Yes.
OBRIEN: Finally, the boys begin to open up about how they struggled with their Latino identity. What do you say you are?
BRIAN GARCIA: I tell them I'm Hispanic. But, I mean, I never was Hispanic people in the south really. Most of my friends are black, really. Because in the south it's either you're white, black, or Mexican. So, I don't like being called Mexican. That's the stereotype.
BILL GARCIA: They may even be thought to be African-American, really. So, I guess when folks find out that they're Hispanic or Latino, that they maybe get these mixed messages, "oh, I didn't realize you were Mexican."
O'BRIEN: Are you worried that they're going to lose the Latino part? BILL GARCIA: Yes. I mean, I am concerned about them losing that aspect of their identity. But, actually, I think it happens over time anyway, as we become more Americanized.
O'BRIEN: The trip to New York seems to have brought the boys closer to their roots. Today, it's a cousin's house just outside the city.
BILL GARCIA: Guys, this is your Aunt Betty.
O'BRIEN: Bill and Betty know the food, conversations, and memories shared here help keep their family's Latino culture alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lord, thank you so much, Lord for bringing us all together.
O'BRIEN: And, they hope eventually their boys will figure out what it means to be Latino in America.
BETTY GARCIA: You know, I went through that.
O'BRIEN: You did?
BETTY GARCIA: I did.
O'BRIEN: The Dominican girl who came to New York?
BETTY GARCIA: Yes. When I first got here, I was mingling with Americans in school. I was learning the language. I was learning the way of life here. And, it was enticing. It was really fascinating to me. And, I felt like I was betraying my Dominican culture, my Latino culture, because I was loving the American culture.
O'BRIEN: Do you have to choose? I mean do you have to be American or Latino? It's not --
BETTY GARCIA: Well, now I know that you don't. Now, you can love the American culture, live the American dream, but still keep your roots. So, I do hope that my boys one day will feel the same way.
O'BRIEN: Tomorrow night, LATINO IN AMERICA continues.