September 16, 2013
Recipient of the French-American Foundation's 2012 Immigration Journalism Award.
Cindy is Arizona Bureau Chief and a National Correspondent for the Los Angeles Times where she covers the Southwestern United States, focusing on border and immigration issues. Recently she traveled to Honduras on special assignment for the Times, where she covered the exodus of children from Central America to the U.S.
She is a recipient of the French-American Foundation’s 2012 Immigration Journalism Award for her Slake magazine narrative about the first 48 hours of a deportee’s life after his return to Guatemala on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement flight from the U.S.; additionally, she was named finalist for the 2012 PEN Center USA Literary Award in Journalism and the 2011 Livingston Award. Cindy was a fellow for ICFJ’s 2012 “Bringing Home the World” Program where she wrote a three-part series for the Orange County Register about how the Pacific Ocean has become the latest route for human smuggling into the United States from Mexico. She also reported as a correspondent in Argentina and Mexico during her time as an Inter American Press Association scholar.
Why did you apply to the Young Leaders Program? What are you seeking to get out of it?
I hope to learn more about the similarities and differences between French and American culture and policies, especially regarding immigration. In addition, I look forward to making bons amis in the process.
What is an interesting fact about you that some people might not know?
While I’m Latina and was raised in a Christian household in Los Angeles, I’ve never attended a Quinceañera. I did, however, go to plenty Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs because of the community I grew up in.
What did you aspire to be when you were young?
It changed often. First, I wanted to be a paleontologist and later aspired to be a flight attendant so I could travel the world while working. Almost every career choice I decided on as a youngster carried the same theme of adventure and travel. At 14, I decided on becoming a journalist, particularly a Foreign Correspondent.
You are obviously highly accomplished professionally. What is one mistake you made that was a great learning lesson?
Growing up, I was fascinated by an old family friend whose love for big bands was so infectious that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the music, too. He’d enthusiastically play old records while enthralling me with stories about his time as a “swing kid” in Germany during the Nazi reign. We’d talk for hours about band leaders he’d met.
At the same time, beautiful brass blasted from his makeshift record studio in the background. He seldom talked about what happened after he openly spoke out against the Nazi regime while growing up in Germany. I do know he was sent to a concentration camp and forced to fight for Germany during World War II. He always said he was treated better as a prisoner of war in England than he ever was in the German military. For years, we kept in touch with phone calls and I tried to make plans to visit but they always fell through–partly because I was a foolish 20-something-year-old at the time who was too preoccupied with being young.
Eventually, we fell out of touch. A couple of years ago, I called him and his wife answered, telling me that he had Parkinson’s disease and wasn’t himself, any longer. I told her I’d like to come visit but he declined, telling his wife to tell me that he’d rather I remember him fondly, as he was when he’d play those old records for me. It was a huge mistake to have missed out during those years and never come by for a visit and convince him to allow me to document his amazing life. The great learning lesson for me is to “do now” and not leave things for later because you can’t predict the future.