Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Presents

Latino in America

Aired October 21, 2009 - 21:00   ET



LORENA GARCIA: My name is Lorena Garcia.

JESSE GARCIA: My name is Jesse Garcia (ph).

PEDRO ANTONIO MORENO GARCIA: My name is Pedro Antonio Moreno Garcia (ph).

BETTY GARCIA: My name is Betty Garcia (ph).

ISABEL GARCIA: My name is Isabel Garcia.

WILLIAM GARCIA: My name is William Garcia. Please call me Bill -- Garcia.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, HOST (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 change sweeping the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My parents are Cuban, but I was born in Puerto Rico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Born in Spain, an 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People make mistakes. Whatever you do after that, that's what really proves who you are.

O'BRIEN: Some are succeeding.

L. GARCIA: Gerico (ph). 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.


O'BRIEN: She's an unapologetic champion of the people many Americans love to hate -- illegal immigrants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) all illegal aliens. When you came here illegally, you broke the law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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. This has 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 who would say then round them up, fine 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 (voice-over): One of Isabel's most controversial cases involves this 26-year-old, Araceli Torres, who has lived in the United States most of her life -- illegally.


O'BRIEN: Araceli is one of the Panda Express 11, a high profile case Garcia and her defense team took on last year.

ARACELI 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): Araceli has attended Tucson public schools since fourth grade. She was only seven years old when her family drove across the border. She barely remembers it.

(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, Araceli 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.

(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 18th, 2008. Araceli 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.

(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. Araceli, caught up in the crackdown, could be deported.

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY: 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. (VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: 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. And these people that keep going after me, calling me every name in the book, they're not going to deter me.

O'BRIEN: Arpaio's tactics have earned him lots of media attention and the undying opposition of Isabel Garcia.


O'BRIEN: Last May, she led a march in protest of Arpaio.


O'BRIEN: 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 I was born with -- with it in my blood.

O'BRIEN: Her critics say Isabel Garcia crossed the line when she attended a protests 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 says she had nothing to do with creating the pinata and only picked it up to defuse the protest.

I. GARCIA: I picked up the pinata head to get the crowd moving.

O'BRIEN: Arpaio's office called her actions "disgraceful." There were calls and letters demanding she be fired.

(on camera): Because you're a public official...


O'BRIEN: shouldn't have been taking part in a protest.


O'BRIEN: That was the gist of a lot of the 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. 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, Araceli Torres was detained for five months, separated from her then 3-year-old daughter, an American citizen.

(on camera): 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 just praying to God to put her in his hands.

O'BRIEN: Araceli pled guilty to a misdemeanor. She's been out of jail a year. She faces possible deportation to Mexico -- a country she barely remembers.

(on camera): Your daughter is an American citizen.

TORRES: Yes, she is.

O'BRIEN: Your mother is a resident.

TORRES: Um-hmm.

O'BRIEN: Your uncle?

TORRES: He's a citizen.

O'BRIEN: Your sister?

TORRES: A citizen.

O'BRIEN: Who do you know back in Mexico?

TORRES: Nobody.

O'BRIEN: You literally no know one?


O'BRIEN: Do you feel like you're an American?

TORRES: Yes. All my family is here. All 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, Araceli 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 Araceli must return to Mexico within two months. Araceli plans to appeal.

TORRES: No matter where they sent me to, I'd still be American.

O'BRIEN: When "Latino In America" returns, Lorena Garcia building an empire.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we opened the restaurant, it was hard for us, because people would walk in and they'd say, oh, can I have a burrito?

Can I have a taco?

I said, we don't sell burritos. We don't sell tacos.

It's not a Mexican place?

Yes, but we don't eat that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want people to come to our restaurant and to try moles, chilis and nogala (ph), pipienes (ph), the real thing -- the food that we Mexicans eat.

L. GARCIA: Hello?

O'BRIEN (voice-over): It's three hours until show time. There's fruit to be chopped, flowers to arrange. And the makeup has to be just right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five, four, three, two -- camera three.


L. GARCIA: (INAUDIBLE) como estas?

O'BRIEN: Lorena Garcia is a television chef and her weekly Friday morning segment on America's largest Hispanic network, Univision, has made her a household name -- in Spanish-speaking households. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: La chefe Lorena Garcia.

O'BRIEN: "Despiete America," "Wake Up America," is enormously popular among Latinos.


O'BRIEN: It's a relaxed, off-the-cuff blend of humor, news and Latin lifestyle. And, get this -- the show draws more Hispanic viewers than the big three network morning shows combined.

L. GARCIA: Being a Latina in this country right now, I think it's the best position that we can be. We're growing. We're being noticed. So pay attention.

Aye es lomihor (ph).


O'BRIEN: Martha Stewart, step aside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lorena Garcia. It doesn't get better than this.

O'BRIEN: Chef Lorena has got her own product line and she's building an empire.

L. GARCIA: Oh my god. Oh my god. This is amazing.

O'BRIEN: The host of her own show in South America, a spokesperson for major food labels and a businesswoman ready to start her own restaurant chain in the Miami airport. She's one busy Latina.

L. GARCIA: Let's do this!

O'BRIEN: Never heard of Lorena Garcia?

That's OK, Lorena says, it's only a matter of time.

L. GARCIA: The demographic is changing.

O'BRIEN (on camera): So they're crossing over to you?

L. GARCIA: I think so. Hopefully, I'm right.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Lorena Garcia moved with her family from Venezuela to Miami in 1990. She was expected to become a lawyer. They were shocked when she announced her new career.

(on camera): What did your father say?

L. GARCIA: Lorena, please, you -- you're giving up being in your desk, really working with a level of people to be in a kitchen cooking.

What are you doing? O'BRIEN: What did your brother say?

L. GARCIA: He thought I was crazy.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Now, Lorena wants to share her passion for cooking and reach a bigger audience.

L. GARCIA: Is my cherry on top?


Having my own English speaking show, cooking show, that's what I'd like to do.

O'BRIEN: Fresh out of culinary school, Lorena was told to break through, she'd have to lose the accent. It didn't stop her.

L. GARCIA: I realized that when people tells you no to something that you cannot do, I mean that should give you the strength to continue.

O'BRIEN: She decided to go it alone by marketing herself as a national brand.

L. GARCIA: I mean, it doesn't get more American.

O'BRIEN: With Garcia on the label, Lorena's a hit in the heartland.

L. GARCIA: You come to Lorena Garcia and you see bold colors. I mean, for my towel -- I'm going to show you the towel line. Check out. Check all these out -- bold, nice colors.

O'BRIEN: With her product line now in over 300 Belk department stores around the country...

L. GARCIA: So check this out.

O'BRIEN: ...Chef Lorena is capturing a new audience.

L. GARCIA: If you want to add a little bit of cilantro in there, I always recommend it. You know, I love cilantro.

O'BRIEN (on camera): People are more open to Latinos?

L. GARCIA: Yes. Oh, our food, our accent. It's -- it's cute now.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Lorena is banking on a changing America, where she be a crossover success without losing her Latina identity. But she'll always be loyal to her core audience.

L. GARCIA: Check it out. You look like professionals.

O'BRIEN: It's why she started Big Chef, Little Chef.

L. GARCIA: OK. There you go mommy.

O'BRIEN: Her hands-on program that teaches kids how to cook and eat healthfully. Obesity is a chronic problem for Latino children.


O'BRIEN: Lorena grew up surrounded by family. But at age 40, she doesn't have any children of her own.

(on camera): No regrets ever?

Never want to be a lawyer?

You never say, gosh, I mean I could have that?

L. GARCIA: I want to have my kids.


L. GARCIA: I want to have my kids, definitely.

I -- I -- it's something...

O'BRIEN: Can you do all this and have kids?

L. GARCIA: I don't know. Sometimes I'm afraid of it. You know, I dedicate my time to -- to work and to make everything that I have so much passion about. It's not a regret, but it's something that I think about every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: welcome to Orlando.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): It takes sacrifices to get to where she is. But to get her own American TV show, Lorena needs more name recognition.

L. GARCIA: You're dangerous with a car.

O'BRIEN: The American Culinary Federation's annual convention is a good place to start. With over 800 chefs attending, the ACF is the place to impress the competition.

L. GARCIA: So you like the glamour?

O'BRIEN: Behind-the-scenes, Lorena hurries to prepare.

L. GARCIA: Aluminum foil, where do I find it?

Do you have pasting spoons in the kitchen?

OK. I'm going to be running, guys. Wonderful. Let's do it.

O'BRIEN: She'll be cooking for other chefs, so everything must be just right.

L. GARCIA: Eighteen hours of continuous work and, you know, only five hours of sleep and go back again. But, you know. I'm Lorena Garcia. I come from Miami.

O'BRIEN: At 8:00 a.m., she's the first chef to take the stage.

L. GARCIA: Let's make some food. I think we're going to do that. And I need to wake you up, guys. Anybody had coffee?

O'BRIEN: It's a tough crowd.

L. GARCIA: I think you're still a little bit sleepy. Check it out, guys. Ooh, this smells good. I start with rice, black beans and plantains. I love it.

O'BRIEN: Lorena works her magic.

L. GARCIA: Come on, wake up. Feel the love.

Where is the love, guys?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want some love?

L. GARCIA: There you go I'm serious.

Yes, you like?


L. GARCIA: There you go.

O'BRIEN: The chefs love her Latino flavor.

L. GARCIA: It's nice to meet you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You did a great job.


Thank you.


MIKE HERR: This is Mike Herr (ph). I'm with Tyson Foods.

L. GARCIA: Wonderful.

O'BRIEN: She's approached by a Tyson Food representative. It's clear this time the accent is not a problem.

HERR: Yes. We can help each other. That would be just great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as for Lorena Garcia, chef, owner...

O'BRIEN: Later, Lorena is recognized by the president of the ACF.

JOHN KINSELLA, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CULINARY FEDERATION: This is the most talented young chefs I -- I've been honored to watch and work with.

L. GARCIA: Thank you so much.

KINSELLA: You're wonderful.

L. GARCIA: I appreciate it. Thank you.

KINSELLA: Thank you.

She should have her own show. Her personality would attract an awful lot of viewers. She -- she's -- she's prime time.

O'BRIEN: A hit with the chefs, a hit with her fans, Lorena Garcia is glad she never lost the accent.

(on camera): Have you thought about what it's going to feel like when you have your name up in lights?

L. GARCIA: Wow! I...

O'BRIEN: So tell me.


O'BRIEN: Have you imagined it?

I mean at night, do you think about it?

L. GARCIA: Oh, boy.

Imagine it, girl?


L. GARCIA: Soledad, I talk to the universe. I talk to my guard (ph). I talk to -- you know, to the sun (INAUDIBLE) sol rays when I wake up in the morning.


L. GARCIA: And, of course.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): When we come back, 17-year-old Cindy Garcia fighting the odds.




(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MONICA GARCIA: We know fundamentally education changes lives. And so I think we need to all be interested in education and quality schools in every neighborhood. We want safe homes, good homes, good jobs, strong families, strong communities and an opportunity to be the best in life that we can.

O'BRIEN: Los Angeles, California -- a city in the grip of a crisis that's sweeping the nation.


O'BRIEN: Seventeen-year-old Cindy Garcia (ph) 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.

CINDY 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.

(on camera): What happened your ninth grade year?

C. GARCIA: I -- I guess I didn't find it important, like I didn't care and...

O'BRIEN: Did you go?

C. GARCIA: To school?


C. GARCIA: No. I would...

O'BRIEN: You cut every day?

C. GARCIA: Yes, mostly.

O'BRIEN: Every day?

C. GARCIA: 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 2-and-a-half-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: Like if there's someone 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.

(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?



Why not?

C. GARCIA: Because -- because I'm the only one that can help her sometimes, you know. So I'm -- I can't -- I mean if it was something else, like go to the store with me, then OK. But like, this is very important. So I kind of have to be there.

O'BRIEN: That'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: Por que me (INAUDIBLE) de los personas que cre que la maher (ph) en estudiar. Solo los -- los hombres.

C. GARCIA: Because my grandma was the kind of person that believes 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 the things that she's struggling with and some of that is Latino culture.

M. GARCIA: Right. Families need to survive. Latino culture is built around families. But I think it can be a strength, as well.

M. GARCIA: Who knows, here we're having the next superintendent, the next teacher, the next board member.

O'BRIEN: 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 it's in peril. An "Education Week" study found that half of its 700,000 students aren't graduating on time.

(on camera): Two students walk in the door. The odds are one's 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 under-funded and over-crowded high schools. And Garfield, just across town from Cindy Garcia's school, is one of them.

(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 3,600 kids at one time.

O'BRIEN: Three times the amount as meant?

M. GARCIA: Yes. Yes.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Latinos also attend schools with the highest poverty rate. Nearly half are learning English as a second language. And for many, like Cindy Garcia, working and supporting the family come before school.

MONICA GARCIA, GREW UP IN EAST LA: Steve lived here. Mr. Gaieros (ph) lived there.

O'BRIEN: Monica Garcia grew up just blocks from Garfield here in east LA. The daughter of poor Mexican immigrants, she learned English as a second language.

M. GARCIA: I lived here at 759 Hofner. It's a two-bedroom house, living room.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Five kids in a two-bedroom house?


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. So for children of poverty, education is that equalizer. And what we have to do is 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 the 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 is in class from sun up to sun down, 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.

C. GARCIA: She says she doesn't know. I told her yes, but that's 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 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.

(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, then on to law school, and finally the mayor's office.

(on camera): Is there home 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 who have had 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: But, first, Cindy has 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 last two months making up classes. It will come down to the wire.

(on camera): Villaraigosa said something very interesting to me. He said, you know, there are not many places where you could have all of 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 doable. Is that going to be your story?

C. GARCIA: Yes. I'm not the kind of person that is just going to sit there and just watch life pass me by and not do anything about it. If I see that I don't like where I'm standing, I just move.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Up next, Cindy hits a major road block.

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 home room class. No small feat for Cindy Garcia.

C. GARCIA: All of my teachers told me, if you would have just been here, you would have probably got A's in all of your classes. But I wasn't there. So --

O'BRIEN: Cindy attends Fremont High School, just one of many over-crowded public schools in Los Angeles that is losing students to the dropouts crisis, and teachers to budget cuts.

But for Cindy, home is also a struggle. 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 it how it has to go. 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. She already has to deal with the store, the house, the baby, her sickness, the bills, my step-dad, the lawyers, the courts, my niece. She does not need another grand kid.

O'BRIEN: The statistics are shocking. More than half of all Latinas get pregnant before the age of 20. And nearly 70 percent of those teenage moms don't graduate. After her older sister had a baby at 16, Cindy vowed it wouldn't happen to her. Now she vows it's not going to hold her back.

C. GARCIA: It's not even an option anymore. It's something that I have to do.

DEBORAH DWARDO, DROPOUT PREVENTION: Here she is, she's pregnant, and she's not giving up. She's not walking away. She's saying now, more than ever, I really want to make sure that I finish school. And I admire her strength.

Thanks for being here.

O'BRIEN: Deborah Dwardo (ph) is the director of Dropout Prevention in Los Angeles. She knows exactly what Cindy is going through. She's been there.

DWARDO: I ended up getting married at 15.

O'BRIEN: Deborah rebelled against her strict Mexican father, dropped out of high school, got married, and had a baby.

DWARDO: I told myself, if I'm going to be a good parent and raise this child, I'm better go back to school and get an education.

O'BRIEN: Ten years and four children later, Deborah 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 Deborah Dwardo's dream. And she says it doesn't have to be the end for Cindy either.

DWARDO: I don't think it has to do anything for her prospects. It's just about staying focused and getting the support and the resources to be able to carry on with her dream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be up to you to follow through.

O'BRIEN: Cindy Garcia's biggest supporter is School Counselor Marquis Jones, diploma project adviser at Fremont High School, a program started by Deborah Dwardo's office to help kids at risk of dropping out. Today, it's being drastically cut back because of California's massive budget costs.

C. GARCIA: If it wasn't for Mr. Jones, I think I would still be lost. When he tells me, Cindy, I know you can do it. It's not even a question to me. He says, I know you can do it. I know you. That actually like -- wow. OK. He thinks I can do it, you know.

O'BRIEN: Which makes the conversation Cindy is about to have that much harder.

C. GARCIA: We're going to Mr. Jones. Du, du, du. The diploma counselor.


O'BRIEN: She's been missing classes because of severe morning sickness.

C. GARCIA: I've been really sick, sick, sick, sick. So, like, I went to the doctor and they were like yes, you're pregnant. Oh Mr. Jones, what am I going to do?

O'BRIEN: Now Cindy is afraid she will miss her graduation. But Mr. Jones gives her a sliver of hope.

JONES: You can turn your basic credits in until the morning of graduation.

C. GARCIA: Really?

JONES: If it comes down to that, of course --

O'BRIEN: But her morning sickness gets worse and Cindy continues to miss class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a senior.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're still not coming even though you have to graduate?

C. GARCIA: No. I'm sick, like really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really, really sick?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a doctor's note or something?

C. GARCIA: No, not exactly.

O'BRIEN: And Cindy's family situation isn't making things any easier. She's juggling with morning sickness, school, and child care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that your daughter?

C. GARCIA: No, it's my sister's.

O'BRIEN: No surprise, her niece is a major distraction.

C. GARCIA: She's ready to go. I'm ready for you to go, too. No, no, no. 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 how they're going, that I need to miss school, I'm not going to be able 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 sea of empty seats. Seventy 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.

C. GARCIA: Look J. He has a big head. My baby has a big head.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm glad you noticed that because, you know what? That's very normal.

C. GARCIA: If I would have just, you know, kept on going to class every day, every week, and kept on doing the work I was doing, I would have been done right now. I would have been done. 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.

C. GARCIA: It's not going to be as fast as it would have been if I hadn't had a baby. But I can still do something with my life, you know. And I think all of this is going to do is just push me harder to do it.

O'BRIEN: When we return, the Garcias face an identity crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the south, it's either you're white, black or Mexican. I don't like being called Mexican. That's a stereotype.


ROBERT GARCIA, LATINO AMERICAN: I think the unique thing about being a Latino American is that you really live in two worlds. I think you have the world that you live in as an American, that you see in every day life. But then you have the world you come home to. It's a Spanish speaking family. It's Peruvian food.

It's very important because it's who you are. It's a big part of who you are, your culture and your heritage. You try to keep both of those as complete as possible, I think, growing up as a Latino in America. O'BRIEN (voice-over): It's Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina. A party at the Garcia's. Food, family, and music. For Betty Garcia, it's a celebration of her Dominican culture. 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, LATINO AMERICA: I don't like Spanish food. I eat fried chicken.

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, LATINO AMERICA: 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.

(on camera): Do you worry that taking them out of 193rd Street and the immigrant experience has somehow hurt them?

BI. GARCIA: I think about it often, yes. I think if they don't have a good sense of who we think they are as Latinos --

BETTY GARCIA, LATINO AMERICAN: Yes, they say my parents are Latinos.

O'BRIEN: It's a struggle that plays out in Latino households across the country. How to preserve Latino heritage when surrounded by American culture.

BE. 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 nine. They met on the Subway in 1988. Their first date, at the Museum of Modern Art. Bill and Betty still call New York home.

BE. 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.

BI. GARCIA: This is one of the challenges that we faced here. People not even knowing about Dominican Republic.

O'BRIEN: Like where is it?

BI. GARCIA: yes, where is it.

BE. GARCIA: On the map.

BI. 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 school teacher.

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. Ryan is a senior who just got his driver's license.

BE. GARCIA: Where are you guys going? You have to be back before 9:00. You didn't tell me you had girls over here. He's showing off.

BI. GARCIA: Did you see these pictures? This is me in high school.

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. And no interest in attending the opening of the art exhibit.

BE. GARCIA: So do you want to go?


BE. GARCIA: OK. I'll see you later.

BR. GARCIA: Close my door.

BE. GARCIA: Please?

It's been a little of a struggle for me to -- to get them into it.

O'BRIEN: Like a tug of war.


O'BRIEN: Instead of the exhibit, the boys head to the mall.

BR. GARCIA: I guess I just wanted to chill. It's my heritage, I know. I want to learn, but not right now.

O'BRIEN: Brian's reluctance is with the language. He failed Spanish last year.

BR. GARCIA: I don't speak that good Spanish. I can't speak it 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.

(on camera): She thinks you're a little embarrassed of her and you're rejecting your culture.

BR. GARCIA: She shouldn't think that. I just don't it well enough. I wasn't raised like that. We were raised speaking English and going to 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?

BE. GARCIA: I think so. I think the language is the major link to the culture. I really, truly believe that.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Their decision to speak English at home was a difficult one.

BE. GARCIA: Oh, do that one, Andrew, please.

Life gets really tough. So I say you know what? It's too hard to be -- (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?

BE. 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.

O'BRIEN: Once a year, Bill and Betty travel back to New York City to reconnect with their family. It means everything to them, the strongest link they have to their Latino roots.

But the Garcia boys don't feel that same connection.

BR. GARCIA: We look forward to at least the trip. You know?

BE. GARCIA: Oh, my god. You haven't done anything.


BE. GARCIA: You need to pack.

BR. GARCIA: I will.

BE. 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Andrew and Brian, they're young. They're teenagers. They haven't grasped the idea of their identity yet.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): New York City, Washington Heights, 12 hours from their home in Charlotte. BE. 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 (ph), grew up in as a child, Brian (ph) and Andrew (ph) reconnect with aunts and cousins, and, their parents hope, with their heritage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what gets us together. (SPEAKING SPANISH)

This is the place where I feel Latina, Dominicano. 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 Dominican Republic.

O'BRIEN: Bill and Betty slip right back into their comfort zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is home. That's all I can say about that.


O'BRIEN: They want to share the city they love so much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, there's the school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where I went to school, guys.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I was walking up this way...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the right-hand side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Between me and my brother, that's 90 years of age.

O'BRIEN: Another connection, 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. 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's made a -- 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 -- the toothpaste?" And he goes (SPEAKING SPANISH) He goes, mom, (SPEAKING SPANISH)


O'BRIEN: Do you like New York City? Is it fun for you to be back?


O'BRIEN: You do?

(voice-over): Finally, the boys begin to open up about how they struggled with their Latino identity.

(on camera): Then, what do you say you are?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say I'm Hispanic, but, I mean, I'm never with Hispanic people in the South, really. Most of my friends are black, really, because, in the South, it's either you're either white, black, or Mexican. So, I don't like being called Mexican. That's the stereotype.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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: Well, oh, I -- I didn't realize you were Mexican.

O'BRIEN: Are you worried they're going to lose the Latino part?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 (voice-over): 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. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I went through that.

O'BRIEN (on camera): You did?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Dominican girl who came to New York?


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 -- 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...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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 (voice-over): Up next on "Latino in America":

(on camera): Why did you want to kill yourself?

O'BRIEN: Why are one in seven Latina teenagers attempting suicide?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am Pedro Antonio Moreno Garcia (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Lorena Garcia (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Molinka Garcia (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Jessie Garcia (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Jennifer Garcia (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Christina Elena Garcia (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name should be Garcia, but it's a long story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a proud Chicana.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Latino, Irish, Cuban, Spanish.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a Cuban-American born in Puerto Rica.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Mexican-American.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is (INAUDIBLE) Garcia, and I'm a Latina.




O'BRIEN (voice-over): Noelle Garcia can't stop smiling. Family and friends smile back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My distinct privilege to present to all of you Mr. and Mrs. David and Noelle McCue (ph), husband and wife.



NOELLE GARCIA, LATINA: I call David sometimes my prince. And I felt like his princess.

O'BRIEN: A princess with a fairy tale ending. But Noelle's story almost ended very differently. Twelve years ago, struggling with depression, Noelle Garcia did not want to live.

N. GARCIA: It was like a self-hatred that is so intense that you literally want to claw yourself out of your skin.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Did you ever try to commit suicide?

N. GARCIA: I thought about it. I felt unloved and unworthy of anything. So, I just wanted to die.

I spent a lot of time just learning to be confident in myself.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): With the help of her family and her strong Catholic faith, Noelle recovered and is now a youth minister in her church.

N. GARCIA: ... and loving yourself.

O'BRIEN: Noelle's story underscores a shocking statistic. One out of every seven Latina teenagers attempts suicide, according to the CDC.

Dr. Luis Zayas, a psychologist at Washington University, has spent the last 25 years trying to find out why.

DR. LUIS ZAYAS, PSYCHOLOGIST, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: We were seeing girls coming to our emergency rooms and our outpatient clinics after having attempted suicide. And what we noticed was that there was a preponderance of Hispanic girls.

O'BRIEN: Hispanic girls, he finds, who are caught in a conflict with their mothers.

ZAYAS: What we have is the U.S.-born daughter of immigrant parents who is feeling the need to become more independent, while her parents are saying, no, you cannot. You must retain and kind of keep to the values of our culture.

O'BRIEN: One of the girls Dr. Zayas is studying is 15-year-old Francisca Abreu from the Bronx.

(on camera): So, what is this neighborhood like?


O'BRIEN: Boring? It sounds like a party 24 hours a day.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): I meet up with Francisca and her mother, Isabel, on Mother's Day. Isabel knows how hard it can be to raise a daughter in America. Isabel tells me about her life over cake and a Dominican milkshake called (SPEAKING SPANISH), which means "to die dreaming."

ISABEL VALDEZ, MOTHER OF FRANCISCA (through translator): When I came to this country, I did it with the thought of wanting the best for my children.

O'BRIEN: In 1997, Isabel left the Dominican Republic for the United States. Desperate to find a better life for her three children, she left them behind. Without her mother, 3-year-old Francisca was devastated.

ABREU: I used to tell her, oh, you always say you're going to call, but you never do. You always say you're going to call, but you never do. O'BRIEN: For four years, Francisca could only dream about being with her mother in America. When she was 7, she got her chance.

ABREU: The first night that I came, it was snowing a lot. I was like, what is this?


O'BRIEN: It was anything but a dream come true. Isabel worked three jobs. Francisca barely saw her.

ABREU: I just thought it was going to be different, you know, that my mom won't have to be working so much.

VALDEZ (through translator): There were days when she would lay down and cry.

O'BRIEN: The distance between Francisca and her mother grew, as she spent time at school with her new American friends.

VALDEZ (through translator): There are many girls who are well- behaved, but there are others who are on the wrong path. They like to flirt. They like hanging out. They like to stay out late.

ABREU: She wanted me to be American, but she did not want me to act like them. She said, they're -- you know, they're very rude to their parents. They tell you what to do, where they want to go, what they want to eat. No, it doesn't work that way.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Not in the Dominican household?

ABREU: No, not in any Latina household, let me tell you that.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Francisca wasn't allowed to hang out with her friends.

(on camera): Do -- do you guys fight a lot, you and your mom?

ABREU: Oh, yes.

O'BRIEN: You went at it?

ABREU: Every day...


O'BRIEN: Over what?

ABREU: (INAUDIBLE) be cleaning, doing everything she basically does, because, you know, I'm the girl.

O'BRIEN: Did that make you angry?

ABREU: Yes, of course.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): That mother-daughter conflict is what Dr. Zayas suspects is bringing many of the Latinas he studies to the brink.

ZAYAS: Teenagers have certain freedoms. They don't need to consult with their parents to make certain decisions. That's the culture that's here. And inserted in that is the Latino family that says the family is much more important than the individual.

O'BRIEN: Trapped between two worlds, 11-year-old Francisca fell into a deep depression.

ABREU: I would cry mostly about my family, my dad, not being with him, how I miss my country, how I wish I wasn't like this with my mom or my mom wasn't like this with me, like she wouldn't be mean to me and tell me mean stuff like: "Oh, I wish you could put you back in my belly. I wish you weren't born. You know, things could have been easier."

O'BRIEN: But her mother remembers a difficult child who wouldn't open up.

VALDEZ (through translator): She would throw things, stomp her feet. When she got home, all she wanted to do was sleep. She didn't talk and was rude to her brothers and me.

Perhaps, who knows, maybe I wasn't very understanding with her. I don't know.

ABREU: My mom doesn't understand, because she's not from here. She never, you know, was my age here.

O'BRIEN: Trying to escape the pain, Francisca made a desperate choice and took her mother's pills.

(on camera): Why did you want to kill yourself?

ABREU: Because I was tired of being, you know, another burden in my mom's life.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The pills didn't work. The pain didn't go away. She told no one. One year later, Francisca was in trouble again.




O'BRIEN (voice-over): Isabel received a frantic phone call from her daughter's school.

VALDEZ (through translator): They called and told me I had to come to the school, because there was an emergency.

O'BRIEN: Twelve-year-old Francisca Abreu was in trouble. Isabel rushed to the middle school and was greeted by a counselor. VALDEZ (through translator): She told me Francisca was going through a very deep depression. She asked if Francisca had told me about what was going on. I told her, no, she hadn't told me anything.

O'BRIEN: Francisca was torn -- between the lifestyle of her American friends and the traditional ways of her mother.

ABREU: I have it in a note myself. It just said that I can't do this anymore. I want to kill myself.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What was your mom's reaction when you first saw her?

ABREU: She was surprised.

O'BRIEN: Why do you think she didn't know?

ABREU: Because I never told her. I never bothered. And she probably never bothered to notice.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Worried she would try to kill herself, counselors insisted Francisca get help. She was admitted to this psychiatric hospital.

ABREU: What helped me was time away from home. It gave me time to think about myself and me think about what I'm doing wrong, what I need to change.

O'BRIEN: Francisca was released three days later. Still fragile, she immediately began seeing a therapist. Weeks later, she met 15-year-old Xavier Cardona at school. The connection was instant.

(on camera): Why did you fall in love with him?

ABREU: The first time we were ever together, you know, we was in the park, and he hugged me. And I felt like, oh, my gosh, that felt so good. And I felt so safe and so secured. You know, it felt good to have someone hug you that way, with such meaning.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Breaking with all her mother's values, she began skipping school to spend time with Xavier. Then, two days after her 14th birthday, Francisca brought home devastating news.

ABREU: I held my boyfriend's hand real tight, and I told her, "Mommy, I am pregnant."

VALDEZ (through translator): I felt like I was going to die. I was embarrassed when it came to the rest of the family. What were they going to say? That I was the one who didn't take care of her?

O'BRIEN: Last November, Francisca gave birth to a baby girl. She named her Destiny, and almost immediately began to understand her own mother better.

ABREU: All that she did was be a good mother, work, sacrificed her life for us. That's all she did. O'BRIEN (on camera): Why are you crying?

VALDEZ (through translator): There are times when life is very hard. But I think the worst has passed.

ABREU: Bye, princess.

O'BRIEN: Do you ever worry that you could become your mom? You're young. To get a job, you have to work, got to leave that baby behind, just like your mom left you behind. You run in and out of her life, and Destiny saying, like you said...

ABREU: "Where's my mom?"

O'BRIEN: ... "I want my mom."

Could that be your life?

ABREU: I will try my best, absolutely my best, not to make it that way.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Francisca says she needs her mother now more than ever. Still, she vows to do some things differently.

(on camera): How?

ABREU: Not be so strict. I will be so much lovable. Oh, my gosh, hug you, kiss you every day before you go to bed, anything. I will be so much different.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): With the help of therapy, Francisca is learning to cope with her depression and gain confidence.


O'BRIEN: In June, she spoke about growing up Latina in front of hundreds at a fund-raising gala for her counseling center.

ABREU: I came to this country not knowing the language, the people, or how it is here.

O'BRIEN: It was a moment of courage, followed by heartfelt thanks from a daughter to her mother.

ABREU: But, at the end of the day, my mom was my biggest support.

VALDEZ (through translator): It feels very nice. At least now she knows I tried to do the best I could. Times change. My times were different from hers. And I have to understand that.

O'BRIEN: Coming up: The Latino faithful are filling the pews and shaking up the church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hispanics are coming. Hispanics are coming. Run, run. (MUSIC)




"Latino in America" continues in a moment -- first, a 360 bulletin.

The White House will soon order sharp pay cuts for executives at companies who received billions of bailout dollars from the federal government. Sources say the average salaries for the 25 highest-paid employees at seven firm will be slashed by at least 50 percent. We will have more on the move at the top of the hour on "360" half-an- hour from now.

In Massachusetts, federal prosecutors announced a major terror arrest. They say a 27-year-old pharmacist plotted to attack Americans here and abroad. The man allegedly conspired to target a mall, kill U.S. troops, and assassinate members of the Obama administration.

In Virginia, a mystery deepens. A Virginia Tech student vanished after attending a Metallica concert. Morgan Dana Harrington has not been seen since Saturday night. Police have launched a criminal investigation into her disappearance.

The New York Mets failed on the field, but they scored a fortune from, of all people, Bernie Madoff. A government-appointed trustee said the team invested with the Ponzi scheme crook and apparently made nearly $48 million in profit.

I'm Anderson Cooper.

Join me for "A.C. 360" at the top of the hour" -- more "Latino in America" after the break.



STELLA SANTAMARIA: My parents were very, very overprotective. I couldn't do a lot of things, like normal American kids could do. Like sleepovers. I always wanted to do a sleepover. Never could. Because you never know what's going to happen at Juanita's (ph) house.

Boys pretty much could do whatever they want. They could bring the girl home, and Mommy and Daddy won't say anything. I couldn't bring anybody home. Are you crazy? I still have to leave my bedroom door open when I visit my parents if anybody comes to see me at the house. Yes, and I'm 36.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): Sunday at the New Life Center near St. Louis. At this Pentecostal prayer service, they're speaking in tongues and in Spanish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking Spanish)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are the Spanish speakers tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking Spanish)

O'BRIEN: Pentecostals are one of the fastest-growing Christian movements worldwide, and here in the U.S., Latinos account for about 20 percent of its new members. That so many Latinos are moving to the Pentecostal church has Pedro Moreno Garcia worried.


O'BRIEN: A Puerto Rican from New York...

P. GARCIA: (speaking Spanish)

O'BRIEN: ... he leads the Hispanic ministry for the Catholic Church in St. Louis.

P. GARCIA: Some people leave to another church sometimes because they weren't treated that well or welcomed in the Catholic Church. Instead of screaming out "The British are coming," some people would be, "The Hispanics are coming, the Hispanics are coming. Run, run." You know?

O'BRIEN: Behind Pedro's laughter is real concern. Just two miles down the road from the Pentecostal center is Holy Trinity, a Catholic parish where the growing Latino population is creating a rift in the flock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This has been going on long enough. You know, when is it going to change?

O'BRIEN: A typical council meeting is under way at Holy Trinity. The hot topic: Latinos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the attitude here, that they are minorities and they're lower than we are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any way to fix the problem of trying to get some communication, like them understanding our language, our understanding theirs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is their representation here? Where -- can we get them into this meeting?

O'BRIEN: Pedro goes from one church to another, trying to bridge the divide between his English and Spanish-speaking parishioners.

P. GARCIA: So what can you all tell me about the Hispanic community up here?


P. GARCIA: It's growing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They make great food.

P. GARCIA: They make great food.

It's not an easy thing to do. It's like a wedding. And you have two families coming together. Let's learn to be a bigger family.

O'BRIEN: That bigger family has been a struggle at Holy Trinity. In 2002, three area churches were forced to merge due to declining membership. A year later, the parish added mass in Spanish. Today, hundreds of Latinos fill the pews.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in Spanish)

O'BRIEN: And as their numbers grow, some, like Jody Deteske (ph), fear the parish is growing apart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have two separate parishes up there. We have Holy Trinity Catholic Church, and we have Holy Trinity Hispanic church.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Why is that a bad thing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a bad thing. But we're -- you know, we should come together. We should be as one.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Separate masses, separate activities. And separate parish councils.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is so much tension in our church because of this that, you know, it bothers you.

O'BRIEN: Latinos at Holy Trinity say the tense climate is fueled by fear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking Spanish)

GRAPHIC: Many people tell me they don't want to come to this church because of the police. The police see people with a Hispanic face and automatically pull them over and check them.

O'BRIEN: Mexican born, Anjelica Garcia (ph), a legal U.S. resident, has lived here for 18 years. Holy Trinity has been her church for the last four.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking Spanish)

GRAPHIC: I would really like if we could all be together because we all worship the same God. We are all God's children. But the problem is the language.

O'BRIEN: A language barrier Anjelica (ph) hopes her 7-year-old son, Jose Miguel, will overcome.

JOSE MIGUEL, SON: It gets long... O'BRIEN: He's attending summer classes at Holy Trinity Catholic School to improve his English.

MIGUEL: The good thing about it is I don't always have to make my bed.

O'BRIEN: Jose's teacher has a stern message for Anjelica.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very important that you talk English to him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know this is difficult for you.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't try. Say, "I will do it."


O'BRIEN: The scolding touches a nerve. Twelve-hour workdays have kept Anjelica (ph) from learning English.

(on camera) How much of this issue is about language?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people coming in are not going to learn the language. It's going to be the children. We need to get our communities together.

O'BRIEN: Gina is shaking her head, no, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom came over on the boat from Italy, didn't speak a lick of English, as an adult. And she had to learn. She had to learn.

O'BRIEN: Do you think the parishioners here at Holy Trinity should learn English?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they should learn English, and I think we should learn Spanish.

O'BRIEN: Jody looks like she does not agree with you. Do you think the people who come to this country should learn English?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes, I think you should have to learn English.

O'BRIEN: Do you think it's a mistake to have a Spanish language mass and a English language mass?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having the Spanish mass makes it possible for anyone who speaks only Spanish to fully participate in the mass.

O'BRIEN: Jody (ph), you said you think that there should not be a Spanish language mass. Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much longer do we have to accommodate?

O'BRIEN: Does that not sound very Catholic to you? "How much longer do we have to accommodate?" We're talking about mass. Do you think giving a mass in Spanish is going out of your way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To a certain extent, yes.

O'BRIEN: Technically, isn't the language of the church Latin?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. If we were in Latin, it would be fine. There would be no problem, because we would all be speaking Latin then. You know?

O'BRIEN (voice-over): On the Latino side of the aisle, we heard a very different story. How come you don't go to the English language mass?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you go to mass, you want to understand and you want to feel it. And if you go to one that you don't understand because of the language, then that's going to be a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking Spanish)

GRAPHIC: That is why we sometimes don't socialize with Americans because beyond hello, sometimes we don't know what to say. And if they want to have a conversation, I get scared because of the language barrier.

P. GARCIA: Scripture calls us to be hospitable, to love the stranger.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Is there a big gap between scripture and practice at Holy Trinity?

P. GARCIA: Well, of course there's a gap. But it's part of the process of growing in our faith. Love your brothers and sisters as yourself.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Today, a third of all Catholics in the United States are Latino. That trend rescued another of Pedro's parishes, St. Cecilia's.

Beset with rising debt and declining attendance in 2004, church leaders considered closing the doors of St. Cecilia's. Instead, they opened their arms to Latinos, and the congregation quadrupled. Now for Lent, chile rejanos (ph) competes with the fish.

P. GARCIA: The Hispanic presence in St. Cecelia's is hope for that parish.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Would it have to chose?

P. GARCIA: I think it would have had to close, were it not for the Hispanic presence.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Pedro hopes Holy Trinity can pull together like St. Cecilia's.

Preparations are under way for Holy Trinity's annual parish fiesta. It's a test, of sorts. A fund-raiser for the Hispanic ministry.


O'BRIEN: And a chance for the English-speaking community to show support for Latino parishioners.

(on camera) Will you go to the fiesta?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not planning on going.

O'BRIEN: No? Why not? I mean, you talk about doing things extracurricularly and reaching out and finding people where they are. And here's an opportunity where the bulk of people will be Latinos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we all have our own reasons why. How do I say it? It's kind of like an eye for an eye. I'd like to see them at some of our activities.

O'BRIEN: The fiesta tonight, will it bother you if no Anglos show up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't show up to their activities.

O'BRIEN: Do you want to see them at your event? Does it matter to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It would show unity.

O'BRIEN: Have you gone to any of theirs?


O'BRIEN: Is there something completely contradictory in that?


O'BRIEN: Can you come together?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't see people coming together unless they learn to tolerate each other. And come together as we should, love each other, I don't see it happening, not here.

O'BRIEN: You're almost near tears. Why is it so worrying?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you want something so bad...

O'BRIEN: Because you want unity so badly?


O'BRIEN (voice-over): A lot is riding on this Holy Trinity parish fiesta. It starts like an awkward junior high school dance. Before the meal, Sister Roseanne Ficker (ph) encourages everyone to mingle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're kind of spread out here. If we could -- when you get your food, come to a table with somebody that you have not met and contacted before. (speaking Spanish)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you going to sit down?

O'BRIEN: People cautiously take their seats. Eventually, some people start to mix. Anjelica Garcia (ph) arrives late from work. She shares a table and a recipe. For Anjelica (ph), the night is filled with hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking Spanish)

GRAPHIC: Look, I've got goose bumps. I've got goose bumps because God is here with us. He is here. I can feel him.

O'BRIEN: Next, no one goes to the movies more than Latinos. But is Hollywood getting the message?

EVA LONGORIA PARKER, ACTRESS: I find you have to live by example. Which means if more Latinos want to be in Hollywood, then more Latinos have to be the creators behind the camera.




ALEXI SILVA, MEXICAN: My name is Alexi Silva, and I'm Mexican. It's interesting when I walk into a place and I speak Spanish. And so I tell them, "I'm Mexican," and they don't believe me. They always tell me, "Wow, really? I didn't know that a Hispanic person could be blond or have green eyes."

But I say, "Yes, you know, we can look like you, too."

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Jesse Garcia is part of Hollywood's new Latino entourage. Trying to break into the old Hollywood establishment is no easy feat.

(on camera) What's the experience been like for you as a Latino actor in Hollywood?

JESSE GARCIA, ACTOR: It's a struggle for 99 percent of actors to even break in and get a small little gig, a co-star in a show or a commercial. I've gone through times where I've, you know, been surviving on a can of refried beans and a dozen eggs.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Jesse proved his acting chops in the 2006 independent hit "Quinceanera." His breakout role: a troubled gay teen.

J. GARCIA: It's my sister's birthday, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) fool.

The movie as a whole is very honest, and the performances are great. And it's just -- it's just good story telling.

O'BRIEN: But not every role is so rewarding.

J. GARCIA: A large part of what -- the roles that we've been given are the gangsters or the thugs or the gardeners, maids, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

O'BRIEN: In the last two years, Jesse has played an illegal immigrant and a gang member.

Today, another casting call.

J. GARCIA: I try to make smart choices. At the same time, you know, it's making a living. When you get to the point where it's like, "All right, it's time for the next job. I'll take that gangster role."

O'BRIEN: Actress Lupe Ontiveros can relate. She spent much of her 30-year career playing the stereotypical Latino maid.

LUPE ONTIVEROS, ACTRESS: (speaking Spanish)

GRAPHIC: My God, I'm in a crazy house!

O'BRIEN: From "The Goonies" to "As Good as It Gets."

ONTIVEROS: Even things like this happen for the best.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What does it do to your psyche to consistently be asked to put on an accent to play...

ONTIVEROS: Well, it's disturbing. Let me tell you, after 30 somewhat years, over and over and over again. I'm an educated person. I speak five languages.

(speaking French)

I am very capable of a lot, more than they think that I am.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): "They" are Hollywood studio executives whose casting decisions don't come close to reflecting the changing American demographic.

Latinos go to the movies more than any other ethnic group. They make up 15 percent of the population, but in 2008, were cast only in 6 percent of the roles.

Gabrielle Reyes is the head of his own Hollywood Latino marketing company.

GABRIELLE REYES, HEAD OF MARKETING COMPANY: We're going to be almost a quarter of the population in 20, 30 years. It's truly a no- brainer that that's, you know, a demographic that you really would like to market to. So I think some people are missing the boat.

O'BRIEN: There are signs of change, however. Case in point: ABC's "Ugly Betty," starring America Ferrera, a huge success for the network. The story line isn't overly ethnic, and the main character just happens to be Betty Suarez.

AMERICA FERRERA, ACTRESS: I think that that is the greatest triumph for the show for the Latino culture is there is a show. It's on network television. It's mainstream, and the fact that she's Latino is the least of the labels that is put among her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is wrong with getting a nice Latina a job?

GREG TREAS: You know what? I agree, Sunni. When can you start?

O'BRIEN: George Lopez created one of the first primetime shows about a typical Latino family. A Latino Cosby show, the show's focus was on story telling, not ethnicity.

GEORGE LOPEZ, ACTOR: The victory in TV is that the actors and the producers and the writers who are Latino get out of their own way and think about things that are other than Latino. And beautiful stories. "Slumdog Millionaire" great example.

O'BRIEN: When I show him the picture of "The George Lopez Show" cast, it gets to him.

LOPEZ: It's very emotional. Yes. I mean, it's you know...

O'BRIEN (on camera): You're sort of choked up about it.

LOPEZ: I am. I'm very emotional about it. And, you know, I love them, and they helped me, you know, create something that I thought would never be done. They were my soldiers in the war, and we did it.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Another sign of progress.

ONTIVEROS: You know that I mean what I say.

O'BRIEN: Last season on CW's "The Reaper" Lupe Ontiveros, the perennial maid, played a millionaire. ONTIVEROS: She's wealthy. I almost died when I saw the clothes I was going to wear. And I said, "Why didn't you guys tell me I was going to be wealthy."

They said, "Well, we forgot."

O'BRIEN: Ontiveros has also shared the screen with Eva Longoria Parker, who's anything but a maid on "Desperate Housewives."

LONGORIA PARKER: I've never played stereo typical parts. I've never played a maid. I've never paid a gardener. I've never felt like, you know, "Desperate Housewives" had an overly ethnic line with me -- story line regarding Gabriel and me. And they've never been like, "Come on over for tortillas." You know?

Let's write this down, that starting at stage left.

For Latinos to really change the way Hollywood works, Longoria Parker believes they have to control the product. She's the executive producer and host of ABC's Alma Awards, celebrating Latinos in entertainment.

LONGORIA PARKER: I find you have to live by example, which means f more Latinos want to be in Hollywood, the more Latinos have to be the creators behind the camera.

O'BRIEN: Hollywood icon actor Edward James Olmos is almost making decisions as a director and producer.


O'BRIEN: Olmos plays commander William Adama on "Battle Star Galactica."

OLSON: I've been waiting to meet you my whole life.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What's your name?


O'BRIEN: Two weeks after his past college, he gets the part.

J. GARCIA: Well, you look at a mind like Jonathan, who's 12. and you have to imagine that she's thinking, if the commander is a Latino and he clearly is a Latino, there's a whole bunch of possibilities open to him.

OLMOS: Yes. And that's exactly what happens. You just are allowed to dream. It's not brain surgery. We're not helping, you know, cure cancer. But we are working directly with self-esteem and self-respect.

O'BRIEN: As for Jesse Garcia, two weeks after his casting call, he gets the part. A Latino gardener in the upcoming film "House Arrest."

It's the dues he must pay. But Jesse's confident his time will come.

J. GARCIA: I want to direct and produce and act and write more of my own stuff in the future and do the projects that I feel like we haven't been shown that we can do yet.

We're everywhere. And we're going to be here to stay. We're definitely on the cusp of something huge.



COOPER: We're hearing their stories right now on "Latino in America." Watch Sheriff Joe Arpaio and activist Giselle Garcia (ph) goes head to head lives.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): Tomorrow night, it's a journey as old as this country: the pursuit of the American dream. There are 51 million Latinos in America, 51 million dreams.

She came here from Central America, searching for her mother and a better life. She crossed the Rio Grande, clinging to a tube, ended up in a detention center, dreaming of freedom.

O'BRIEN: Do you feel it's sometimes being unfair?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It always seems unfair, always.

O'BRIEN: Forty years ago, he was also a child refugee. From Cuba. Mel Martinez found his dream.

MEL MARTINEZ (D), PENNSYLVANIA: When I think in one generation I could have gone to become a lawyer, and then a U.S. senator, I think is pretty remarkable.

O'BRIEN: Latinos are reshaping America's towns. It looks like a movie set. Towns like Pico Rivera, California. Ninety-two percent Latino.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I call it Pico Rivera Americana. And Pico Rivera Americans everything is done the American way.

You'll have 10,000 people at the Fourth of July celebration. Cinco de Mayo, you know, "Let's have a Corona and we're done."

O'BRIEN: In this all-American town, Latinos have found a home.

Across the country, in a small town in Pennsylvania, a very different reality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so hard to be stuck in a place where you know that people killed the person you love, the father of your children. O'BRIEN: Her boyfriend, Luis Ramirez, was beaten to death in a fight because, prosecutors say, he was Latino. Those who beat him, sons of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. An honor student, the high-school quarterback. When the beating was done, one had a chilling message.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He says, you tell your "F"-ing Mexican friends to get the "F" out of Shenandoah or you're going to be "F"-ing laying next to him.

O'BRIEN: The trial split the town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a hate crime, and I just wish people would just understand that and just be done with it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not justice. Not even one little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How could kids do this? How could kids who were raised in my hometown do this? What happened that night? What was this about?

O'BRIEN: Tomorrow night at 9 p.m. Eastern, "Latino in America" continues.


COOPER: We're going to have more on the status of Latinos in America in a little bit. You'll hear from Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and attorney and activist Isabelle Garcia.