Voices in Focus: $300K Settlement in Tortilla Factory Death

Today we have news of a settlement in the death of a Guatemalan tortilla factory worker who fell into a dough mixer in 2011; more attention to the issue of Korean “Comfort Women” following the controversy over a monument in New Jersey; and views on young Latino political participation from both the left and the right.

Juan Baten's daughter Daisy will now receive $300,000 from the owner of Tortilleria Chinantla, where her father was killed in the dough mixer January 2011. (Photo by Meredith Hoffman / DNAinfo)

* The daughter and partner of the Guatemalan immigrant who died in 2011 after he fell into a dough mixer in a Brooklyn tortilla factory will receive $300,000 compensation from the factory’s owner, a judge ruled yesterday, El Diario La Prensa reported. Erasmo Ponce, owner of Tortilleria Chinantla on Grand Street in Williamsburg, pleaded guilty to several labor and insurance violations.

Rosario Ramirez, partner of Juan Baten, a Guatemalan worker aged 22 who died in 2011 after falling into a dough mixer, said in a broken voice that finally the father of her daughter rest in peace.

“Justice is our comfort,” said the young mother. “John’s death did not go unpunished and in my heart there is peace now,” he added.

Five stamps commemorating the plight of Asian "Comfort Women" will be released this year. (Photo via the Korea Times)

* The small plaque in Palisades Park New Jersey commemorating the plight of Korean “Comfort Women” — and Japanese efforts to have the monument removed — continue to galvanize Korean-Americans, we saw last week.

In Queens, a group of Korean-Americans vowed to build more monuments to the women, who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during World War II,  the Times Ledger reported. Japanese officials say the extent of the practice has been overstated.

And nationally, the United States Postal Service will release a set of five stamps featuring images of the Comfort Women, the Korea Times reported. The stamps commemorate a U.S. House of Representatives’ 2007 resolution which urged the Japanese government to “acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery.” The illustrations are by the artist Steve Cavallo, a New Jersey artist who also designed Palisades Park’s controversial Comfort Women monument.

* Feet in 2 Worlds‘ interview with two young Latino political activists from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum revealed some overlap when it came to the issue of young Latinos’ political participation. Leo Curiel, 21, is president of the College Democrats at Florida International University in Miami, and Daniel Oliva, 20, is the president of the College Republicans at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

In spite of differences in their political affiliations, the two young leaders are in agreement on at least one point – the necessity of getting young Latinos out to vote this fall, and the importance of making their voices heard by each of their parties’ candidates.

According to NALEO, 2.4 million Latino youth will turn 18 before November 6, gaining the right to vote for the first time. The sheer number of potential voters makes Latino youth a potentially powerful constituency for either party, if they can get to the polls, that is.

In 2008, an election year marked by historically high levels of participation by youth voters across the nation, 50% of the 3.5 million Latino youth eligible to vote within the ages of 18-24 were registered, and of these, only 39% turned out to vote, according to data from the U.S. census. This year, the number of eligible voters ages 18-24 has swelled to 5 million, according to the polling firm Latino Decisions, but registration rates are expected to be lower than 2008.

Curiel and Oliva also agree on the reasons why more young Latino voters tend not to vote. They say that the young voters they meet are often discouraged by Congress’ inaction on immigration reform and other issues concerning youth in general, such as student loans.

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