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Latin American Roundup -- April 16

April 16, 2008 |  8:17 am

A gunman robbed a family of American tourists of their small plane in Los Cabos, Mexico, yesterday, reports the Associated Press. The robbers struck as the American couple and their two daughters, ages 6 and 8, were about to take off from a hotel airstrip in the Baja California beach town of Mulege. Small aircraft are commonly used by Mexican drug cartels to smuggle narcotics.

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department officials issued a travel alert prompted by drug violence in the north of Mexico, warning that victims have included foreign visitors and residents. American visitors are advised to be especially alert about their safety in the border region, and to avoid areas where there are high levels of drug dealing and prostitution. Read the story here.

Immigration_office_south_cal Some immigration offices in Southern California are working weekends to deal with the number of naturalization applications coming in. There is a backlog of more than 180,000 people hoping to become American citizens, and the seven-county L.A. district receives more such requests than any other in the nation. H.G. Reza reports.

Picture: Nearing the last step before naturalization, prospective citizens waiting for their private interviews at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Santa Ana are reflected in the glass covering a giant flag in the waiting room. Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Following our report earlier this week that Los Angeles County supervisors were considering new restrictions for taco vendors in East Los Angeles, vendors are vowing to stay put. Jean-Paul Renaud reports today on how taco truck owners vowed to ignore a law passed by supervisors Tuesday making it a misdemeanor -- punishable by fines and jail -- to stay parked in one place for more than an hour.

Resada_theatre_3 The abandoned Reseda Theatre in the San Fernando Valley suburb is to be renovated after an agreement between the CIM Group, a firm that operates the Hollywood & Highland complex in Hollywood and the Community Redevelopment Agency. It’s hoped the renovation of the 60-year-old structure will serve the area's growing Latino population and return to being one of the centerpieces of the neighborhood. Amanda Covarrubias reports.

Picture: CIM Group, a firm that operates the Hollywood & Highland complex in Hollywood, has entered into an agreement with the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles to renovate the 60-year-old Reseda Theater. The $8.7-million project should be completed this fall. Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

While Los Angeles County celebrates Chicano art with the “fabulous” “Phantom Sightings” exhibition at LACMA, writes Gustavo Arellano in an op-ed piece today, Orange County “deals with its own brown Botticellis the way it always has: “with dismissals, ignorance and a can of paint thinner.” Last week, Fullerton City Councilman Shawn Nelson stated during a council meeting that the city should remove a set of 1970s-era murals, claiming that the depictions -- classic lowriders, sultry girls in sombreros and fedoras, stylish pachucos and the Virgin of Guadalupe -- might make people think Fullerton sanctions gang activity.

Lisa Richardson writes in Opinion about the face-off in a San Francisco hotel between oil behemoth Chevron and a pair of Ecuadorean environmental activists. The occasion for the showdown was the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Chevron, hearing that Ecuadorean activists Pablo Fajardo Mendoza and Luis Yanza were going to hold a news conference, decided to do the same -- in the same hotel, on the same day, only an hour earlier.

And the head of the Smithsonian Latino Center resigned after an investigation found she had abused her expense account to fund her extravagant use of spas, luxury hotels and frequent limousine rides, according to a report released by the institution. Pilar O'Leary, 39, billed the nonprofit museum complex for "extravagant" and "lavish travel expenses," the Smithsonian Institution inspector general found. The center is devoted to research advancing knowledge and understanding of Latino contributions to U.S. history, culture, and society. Read the Associated Press report here – scroll down.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City