Check One: Hispanic, Latina, or Spanish


In the wake of new and upcoming presidential debates, we are preparing ourselves to hear candidates’ proposals on improving our nation for the people who calls it home. The issues are broadly ranged, discussing topics such as healthcare, education, reproductive rights, and, of course, immigration.

It’s no surprise that the subject of immigration – which is somehow mostly referenced to Latinos – are going to be brought to the debate table in both negative and positive perspectives. It’s inevitable. However, there are perhaps a few simple adjustments every political party should make in their choice of wording regardless of their position on immigration. One of these vocabulary cautionaries includes attaching the description “illegal” and using derogatory stereotypes to purposely dehumanize us.

In this article, we will be talking about another flawed system of categorization when it comes to Latinos that is made by politicians and even Latinos themselves. It’s the difference between the terms Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish.

First, let’s review the difference according to their dictionary definition:

Hispanic - “of or relating to Spain or to Spanish-speaking countries, especially those of Latin America; A Spanish-speaking person living in the US, especially one of Latin American descent.”

Latino/a - “a person of Latin American origin or descent.”

Spanish - “the people of Spain; the Romance language of most of Spain and of much of Central and South America and several other countries.”

In a simpler explanation, we are not all Hispanic. Brazilians, who are Latino/as, are not a primarily Spanish-speaking country, but Portuguese-speaking. It is also important to note that not everyone of a Spanish-speaking country necessarily speaks Spanish. A lot of indigenous civilians converse in their native language. And for those of us who speak Spanish, we are still not Spanish. To be Spanish only means if you are a person of Spain. Since Spanish people obviously speaks Spanish, they are Hispanic, but they are not Latino/a because Spain is located in Europe.

This should be a vital observation. Every September, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, but porque “Hispanic”? Why are we disqualifying Brazilians from this annual celebration when Hispanic Heritage Month is not celebrated by the Spanish either? Is it because the term Hispanic is automatically assumed to coincide with Latinos? Is that wrong?

An experiment was recently conducted in a video by Peruvian and Columbian Youtube personality Kat Lazo. She displayed three different Latinas in pictures to the people of New York, asking them which one is Latina. The Afro-Latina was least likely to be chosen as the Latina. After, Kat Lazo asked the participants if they knew the difference between Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish. Spoiler Alert: most of them didn’t.

However, commenters brought another perspective to the discussion of terms. Many argue the labels are only important in the US, and the confusion wouldn’t of occurred if it wasn’t for European colonization. This is why several people of Latin America with indigenous roots are starting to reject the labels ‘Hispanic’ or even ‘Latino’.

And the various terms do for the most part complicate us. Latinos are united, but we are definitely not duplicates. We are not a race. Some of us are Indigenous, White, Black, Asian, or a mix of some (or all!). It is important to remember that each heritage and culture is unique.

What are your opinions, chicas? What do you describe yourself as? Are labels important to you? Let us know in the comments down below!

Latin@ and Mental Health

sadgirlMental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, which affects our daily life in a variety of different ways. A healthy mental state affects how people interact with other individuals, form relationships, handle stressful situations, and be able to perform daily tasks without much difficulty. However, when there is a disruption or compromise of an individual’s state of being, problems begin to arise.

Over the past couple of years there has been an increase of public awareness of what mental health is, the stigmas present, and the symptoms of a mental health illness. The National Alliance of Mental Illness found that  approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States (43.7 million) experiences a mental illness in a given year.

Programs have slowly popped up in multiple ways: from city-run campaigns to student-created clubs in school to increase awareness. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, about about 50.6% of children aged  8-15 received mental health services in a past year. The hope of this is to allow individuals that might be struggling in their daily life to reach out for help without being stigmatized by their peers.

Mental Illness and the Latino Community

Having a mental health illness is a serious issue and needs treatment so the individual can continue to perform at their normal capacity. In the Latino Community, symptoms of a mental health illness are usually dismissed or are written off as an attempt for attention, and mental health illnesses are heavily stigmatized. This combination usually prevents the individual from receiving help.

Celeste Nevarez, who earned her Masters of Counseling Psychology from Arizona State, is a licensed psychiatrist who works at the Family Service of El Paso. A native of El Paso, she decided to return to her city after graduation to help her community; she now works at a non-profit organization that offers counseling regardless of ability to pay and is a professor at El Paso Community College. Passionate about her work, she is determined to improve the mental health scene of the city.

Nevarez states that having a mental health illness can be due to a combination of genetics, psychology, and the social environment of the individual. Lacking a family history of mental health illness does not mean that the person is immune, mental health knows “no gender, race, culture, [or] religion.” Mental health illnesses do not discriminate, everyone is vulnerable. According to Nevarez, the best thing for someone that is suffering from a mental illness is to seek professional help if possible- especially if his/her case becomes dangerous; however, sometimes having support from a peer might help.

However, this might sometimes be hard to come by. Nevarez believes that the Latino Community is proud and tough, and asking for help to treat a mental health illness signals that the person is weak and that something is wrong with them. She thinks that the stigma might come from a combination of culture, religion, stereotypes of “crazy” people, and shame placed on the individual and on the family. Nevarez often hears similar lines to “‘it is just a faze,’ ‘nothing is wrong with you,’ and ‘I need help.’ ‘But you’re not crazy,’” when someone attempts to reach out for help.

Treatment of a Mental Illness

By prolonging treatment the individual might feel isolated if no support is given and that is one of the worst things to happen. Nevarez argues that the lack of treatment could possibly make the mental health illness might take a turn for the worst. Although there has been improvement of slowly breaking down the stigma and more people reaching out for help, Nevarez believes that there is still a long way to go.

With the continuation of breaking down stigmas and making mental health services easier to access, those in the Latino community will be able to reach the help that they need. Those that are asking for help should not be ignored or laughed at, but understood and supported through their struggles.

K-Pop and Latin America

Music2Have you even heard of K-Pop? If you have, it is more than the songs of PSY, the solo artist whose song “Gangnam Style” went viral with over 2 billion views on YouTube. K-Pop is more about Korean culture and the artists, and, the most surprising thing, is that K-Pop has a high popularity in Latin America — specifically, Peru and Chile.

The are many reasons why K-Pop is now rising to popularity. From the catchy tunes and the artists’ good looks, but the success of K-Pop is also attributed to their personalities and the numerous behind-the-scenes documentaries. Korean dramas, also called K-dramas, has immensely helped K-Pop become bigger in Latin America, since singers often appear both in the music and acting industry.

Almost all K-dramas are subbed in Spanish by the fans themselves in order to share their love of Korean culture. In fact, K-Pop continues to be so popular that in 2013 some Peruvian barbers were offering K-Pop inspired haircuts!

Maria Gonzalez, 16, explains why she loves K-Pop, “I like it so much because of their music are so fun and upbeat to hear. They’re much more modest and it’s not that sexual like American pop music.”

“It also helps that they are so handsome and beautiful,” adds Maria.

It might seem confusing for Latin American fans to listen to K-Pop where the language and their culture are so different from each theirs. But some might be surprised at the two main similarities: family and language.

Within Korean culture, family is very important as it is not unusual for young people to continue to live with their families until they are married, which is usually not until their 30s. This might seem familiar with Latino culture as families are generally filled with parents, children, grandparents, with even aunts and uncles.

In addition,  both Korean and Spanish share deep respect for elders just as Latinos do, so language is important. For example, we have had to have a mood of communication where are you words to those above us the chance to send the word usted to a professor.

“They might speak and sing in a different language,” says Marissa Montes, “But us fans feel the happy energy and charisma of our favorite group and artists. This is literally the case of when music has no boundaries.”

Whether you are into Korean culture, K-Pop is worth giving a shot. Bands like BOYFRIEND, JYJ, super Junior, Big Bang, and 2NE1 are worth a listen.

Machismo Culture

feminismopunhoMachismo, or macho, can usually be described as a number of presumably masculine traits, such as aggressiveness, strength, and dominance, that a man identifies with and which form his personality. This personality can dictate his behavior and ultimately affect everyone around him. Although this “manly man” can surely be found in almost any culture, we can take a look at it from a Latino perspective and see how it has influenced women over the generations and see if it has evolved with the changing times.

For a lot of Latinas, their fathers are the first macho people that they encounter and are affected by regularly. “I recall, in high school, telling [my dad] I wanted to leave home to attend college and he wasn’t supportive; if anything, he discouraged me and told me I was a girl [and] I needed to stay close to home,” reflects 32 year-old Linda Flores. Linda also acknowledges that her father was the one to help her with her homework and encourage her to finish high school, which she is thankful for. However, she still felt stifled by the limitations that he placed on her while growing up.

It is not uncommon for a girl who grows up in an environment fueled by machismo to feel limited, to be told that she is not capable of certain things, such as leaving home for college or going to college at all. It is not necessarily the case that this girl is unloved, but rather, is expected to meet different standards than her brothers, for example.

“I grew up with four brothers,” shares 20-year-old Latinitas volunteer Polet Espinoza.

“When our dad would ground us our punishments would be different. I would have to clean the house and the boys would get their phones taken away,” adds Polet.

Although Polet recognizes the machismo nature of her father and how this affects the way the household is run, she also acknowledges that her mother has been the one to teach her that women are capable of leading independent lives. Polet compares her own world-view to that of her grandmother’s, whom she declares has the understanding that a woman cannot be independent, and decides that, in her family, the way women deal with machismo has definitely changed over the generations.

“I grew up in an all girl household. It’s more of my school life…it’s like guys are good at math and science, but I want to be also,” states 17-year-old Alliris Lopez. While she doesn’t necessarily feel the effects of machismo culture in her home, she has definitely noticed the macho tendencies of her classmates and teachers. Alliris is in the Math club at her school and expresses that she and the other few girls in the club have to try especially hard to be acknowledged as much as the boys.

This is the reality that many Latinas over the years have had to deal with in their own ways, whether it has been domestically or socially. Some choose obedience, some choose to rebel, but it is also safe to say that in recent decades many girls have taken the negative influences of Machismo and used that to help themselves grow as strong women.

“I believe…it’s made me stronger, it’s made me want to excel, and show myself it is possible for women to be independent and successful,” asserts Linda.

Above all else, perhaps what we can be sure of is that girls and women will continue to set goals and continue to strive. Machismo influences may have evolved and become less impactful to a great many American Latinas, but is still a factor in certain domestic environments and even in the media. However, what we can also see is that so many girls and women have changed their ideas about their own roles in the world too. “[Since I began college], I’ve started to think I can do anything, “declares Polet. “I have my own voice.”

Frida by Design

Latina designer Adriana Pavon has worked in the fashion industry for years, and was responsible for overseeing the design and manufacturing processes of many popular clothing brands. However, two years ago, Pavon realized that the industry she was working for was doing more harm than good. Many mass production clothing factories that are located in third world countries have been known to provide unsafe work spaces for employees and pollute the air and water in the surrounding regions. Pavon decided she did not want to contribute to this industry anymore, and she went on to create a fashion line that supports fair trade between countries.

“My goal was to create contemporary collections in collaboration with indigenous people of my native Mexico,” states Pavon. She realized that there is a more fulfilling approach to the way we look at fashion and clothing production, as an art and a representation of culture. Pavon has also found that European and American mainstream fashion industries have been know to mimic the styles of many indigenous groups from around the world, including those in Mexico, and create inauthentic designs based on the originals. These are the reasons why Pavon decided to name her new collection Mexico: Cultura y Orgullo, or in English, Mexico: Culture and Pride. She has been working with the indigenous people of Oaxaca, Mexico, who artfully hand-make all of the collection’s products.

“Frida on White Bench,” photograph by Nickolas Muray, 1939. Submitted image“I was inspired by Frida Kahlo…her colorful wardrobe, the designs, the richness within her personality and within her life,” says Pavon. She did research on Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe and the way her clothes were made so that she and her team could come up with designs that represented Frida’s style. Pavon and her team at Mexico: Cultura y Orgullo also decided to launch a collaborative exhibit called “Through Frida’s Eyes.”  Pavon explains that the exhibit will travel around the U.S. and that the experience will be like visitors are virtually traveling through Oaxaca, getting a close-up look at what life is like in this community. Money to pay for the exhibit’s tour is currently being fundraised through an organization called Kickstarter. Pavon is hoping that people will be inspired by the finely crafted works of the indigenous people of Oaxaca and motivated by the use of ethical labor and production (rephrase?) so that they will want to contribute.

It must not have been easy for Adriana Pavon to leave the industry she had been dedicated to for 20 years, but she took the chance anyway is clearly glad that she did. “I wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives,” expresses Pavon. Looking at the way Mexico: Cultura y Orgullo is making efforts to preserve and respect the culture of an indigenous group as well as the environment, it seems like Pavon and her team are definitely making a positive difference in the world.

Celebrating Hanal Pixán


“You’ve probably heard of the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.” Since my ancestors were Mayans who originated from Yucatan, Mexico, we sometimes celebrate the holiday with a different name: Hanal Pixán.

Hanal Pixán and Dia de Los Muertos are practically identical, except Dia de Los Muertos was inspired by Aztec festivals and Hanal Pixán was created by Mayan culture. Whether one was inspired by the other is unknown, but, in modern days, the holidays are interchangeable due to their similarities.

For Hanal Pixán, my family goes to an annual “Day of the Dead” festival in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to celebrate with other Mexicans and Latin Americans. We decorate our faces as sugar skulls, and my mother and I wear traditional Mayan dresses. We usually parade the streets with enormous puppets and posters while other members hold candles and pictures of their passed loved ones.

At home, we make sure our house is clean the day before. The reason for this is because we want the ghost of our ancestors to feel welcome. We tie red ribbons on the children, so our ancestors won’t accidentally take them when they leave. We also set their favorite foods on the table, which often includes traditional Mayan cuisine, like chimole, tamales, tortillas, arroz con frijoles, and spicy hot chocolate, next to beautiful altars dedicated to them.

Hanal Pixán has become more important recently since my Maya great-grandmother, who raised my father, passed away two years ago. She was an important part of my family and one of the reasons I am passionate about embracing my indigenous background. During this day, we also honor my mother’s brother who died at the age of 16 during a house fire, and my pet bird Kiwi who passed away a few months after my great-grandmother.

Hanal Pixán and Dia de Los Muertos are my favorite traditions

It is Rocket Science! Latinas Rocking the Science World

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we want to honor and remind young, intelligent girls like you that everything is possible with perseverance, dedication, and confidence!

We have gathered five biographies of women in science: a pediatrician, an astronaut, an inventor, a surgeon general, and a marine biologist. Before these scientists started running the STEM world, they faced many obstacles and discrimination that, unfortunately, is way too familiar to us. However, the women you are about to read overcame every negative force that were thrown at them, and they are now history-makers – just like one day you may be!

So, grab your labcoat, put on your goggles, and prepare your big, beautiful brains to soak in some incredible inspiration and knowledge. Here are five Latinas rocking the science world!

Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias


Born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias (1929 – 2001), was an award-winning pediatrician, educator, and women’s rights activist who became the first Latina president of the American Public Health Association.

A victim of racism during her childhood, Dr. Rodriguez-Trias used her experience as a motivation to excel in academics, particularly in the area of science. After her high school graduation, she studied medicine in her parents’ native land at the University of Puerto Rico where she ruled the campus as a student activist.

Following a medical degree she obtained in 1960, Dr. Rodriguez-Trias opened Puerto Rico’s first health center for newborn babies. Within three years, the center helped the death rate for newborns decreased by 50%, and had established Dr. Rodriguez-Trias a recognition in the medical community.

Ten years later, Dr. Rodriguez-Trias headed back to New York where she became involved in the Women’s Health movement. Along with being an advocate speaker for reproductive rights, Dr. Rodriguez-Trias opposed sterilization abuse, a discriminating trend in the 1970’s where clinics would purposely trick women of color into signing papers regarding permission for the doctors to eliminate their ability to conceive; therefore, the women are permanently infertile and can no longer reproduce (have kids). The issue led Dr. Rodriguez to create the Campaign to End Sterilization Abuse (CESA) and strict federal sterilization guidelines.

 Dr. Rodriguez-Trias’ activism and medical doings elaborated into the 80’s and 90’s when she served as a medical director for the New York State Department of Health Aids. Along with her primary focus on women with HIV, she also nursed and treated children who were victims of abuse. Dr. Rodriguez-Trias’ commitment and dedication to women, children, and underprivileged citizens’ health won her a presidential position in the American Public Health Association, making her the first Latina president for the program! Almost a year before her death in December 2001, Dr. Rodriguez-Trias received the Presidential Citizens Medal, and she continues to be an inspiration in spirit for many Latinas. Maybe she will even inspire YOU to help people!


Dr. Ellen Ochoa

A second generation Mexican born in Los Angeles, California, Dr. Ellen Ochoa owns the title as being the first Hispanic woman to fly in space. Today, she serves as the director for NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

Dr. Ochoa was always fond of science. She dreamed of exploring space since she was a schoolgirl. She graduated at the top of her high school class with the role of valedictorian, and was even offered a scholarship to Stanford University; however, she decided to attend San Diego State University, a school closer to her home, to help provide for her family.

A gifted flute player, Dr. Ochoa considered majoring in music, but chose to pursue her love of science by majoring in engineering instead. She was taunted by her peers because engineering was “no place for a woman,” and she switched her major to physics. Dr. Ochoa was finally able to attend Stanford for graduate school where she received a fellowship for her original major in engineering, and eventually earned a doctorate in electrical engineering.

Dr. Ochoa never allowed rejection to discourage her from her dreams; she applied and was denied three times to participate in the NASA Training Program. It wasn’t until 1991 she was accepted, and after two years of training, she was assigned as a mission specialist aboard the Discovery shuttle, and left Earth to become the first Hispanic woman to travel in space! In total, Dr. Ochoa logged in more than 950 hours in space throughout her four space flights. Her responsibilities during these gravity-less hours included collecting data during a study of the sun’s energy, deploying a new satellite, and developing flight software and computer hardware.

The passion for science lives on for Dr. Ochoa. She is currently the director for the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center which is operated by NASA. The second woman and the first Hispanic to achieve that position, Dr. Ochoa has definitely broken boundaries by making history and establishing her name as an important figure in astronomy. Here at Latinitas, we salute a warm gracias to Dr. Ochoa for opening so much opportunities for our space-loving, starry-eyed amigas!


Olga D. González-Sanabria

Although being an astronaut is definitely a unique and rewarding job, working on the ground can also be “out of this world.” Olga D. González-Sanabria is the highest rank Hispanic at NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center. She also holds a creative mind which was used to invent a special variety type of battery that helps contribute power to international space stations.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, González-Sanabria attended university in her homeland and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering. She furthered her education in Ohio where she attended University of Toledo and obtained a Master’s Degree in the same discipline.

In 1979, González-Sanabria’s NASA career began at the Glenn Research Center as chief for the Plans and Programs Office and executive officer to the center’s director. In this job, she assisted the director and helped plan and organize Glenn’s technical and institutional programs.

González-Sanabria is a holder of a patent, a license of rights to an invention, for the creation of “Alkaline Battery Containing a Separator of a Cross-Linked Polymer of Vinyl Alcohol and Unsaturated Carboxylic Acid.” The name may sound sophisticated and difficult, but it’s in no comparison to the actual creation. This invention is incredibly important; the batteries contributes to the strong, useful power that keeps international space stations in activity.

The author and director of numerous scientific experiments, González-Sanabria has had her share on leadership positions. In 2002, she was promoted to Director of Engineering at the Glenn Center, thus making her the highest rank Hispanic at the center. Since then, she has been granted the Presidential Rank Award, YWCA Women of Achievement Award, the NASA Medal of Outstanding Leadership Award, and the Women of Color in Technology Career Achievement in Award. Way to go, chica!


Dr. Antonia Novello
Surgeon General

Another praiseworthy Puerto Rican scientist on our list, Dr. Antonia Novello, a physician, served as the fourteenth Surgeon General of the United States of America, making her the first woman and the first Hispanic to own that title.

Dr. Novello’s inspiration to pursue a life in the curative field was caused by personal medical battles she faced as a child. Although the condition has never been specified, we know it only could’ve been corrected by surgery. She wasn’t able to be qualify for surgery until the age of 20. Dr. Novello’s childhood suffering made her promise herself that she would study hard so she can help people in the same situation.

She graduated and received a Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Puerto Rico, and then went on to receive her M.D at the same institution’s medical school. Dr. Novello earned another degree in Public Health at the John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. After years of studying, she insisted on furthering her knowledge by completing a medical training in nephrology, the study of kidneys, at the University of Michigan. There, Dr. Novello was also named Intern of the Year; she was the first woman to earn that title.

In the year 1978, Dr. Novello’s career begun at the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She joined the specific division at the National Institution of Arthritis, Metabolism, and Digestive Disorders, and soon became the deputy director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Her main concern was pediatric, or children, AIDS.

More than a decade later, former President George H. W. Bush appointed Dr. Novello as Surgeon General of the United States of America. A Surgeon General is the senior medical military officer, and Dr. Novello was the first woman and the first Hispanic to earn that title. In this position, Dr. Novello focused on issues concerning children, women, and minorities, and spoke out on many occasions about HIV/AIDs, underage drinking, tobacco industries, drug use, and health care. Latinitas definitely rank Dr. Novello high in our hearts for having the courage to speak out about important causes and making her-story!

Mei Len Sanchez
Marine Biologist

Mei Len Sanchez is a Costa Rican marine biologist and entrepreneur who founded Eco Adventures, an educational program and facility to provide awareness for children about conservation, endangered animals, and the overall protection of wildlife.

Sanchez was first intrigued by marine animals in a bittersweet epiphany during a moonlit evening in her native land Costa Rica. She witnessed a couple of sea turtles gracefully swimming upon the sandy shore to nest; Sanchez never saw an animal so majestic. Little did she know her tío, along with other poachers, were there to snatch the eggs to sell. It was then, at age 8, Sanchez knew she wanted to dedicate her life to the animals of the deep blue.

She studied rigorously, and was able to attend the University of Miami to study right near any aspiring marine biologist’s dream workplace – the ocean! Oddly, Sanchez’s senior thesis was based on lizards; this was most likely because it’s in relation to Sanchez’s fondness of alligators. Nonetheless, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology and Science.

Sanchez’s degree and passion for animals opened many opportunities for her, including working at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the National Audubon Society, and the Miami Seaquarium. She became such a great speaker and advocate for her admiration for the ocean and the living things residing in it, she eventually convinced her tío to stop poaching! Any animal lover can agree that that’s a huge victory.

When she became a new mother, she took a long-time off work to dedicate her time to parenting. However, this wouldn’t last long. Eco Adventures was opened in the state of Maryland by Sanchez, who also serves as executive director, to inform youth about conservation and wildlife. The facility operates after school programs and summer camps in their replicated underwater and rainforest discovery rooms.

Sanchez earned numerous awards and recognition in the past few years. She has been featured in the Baltimore Times in celebration of Women’s History Month, and Latina Magazine as one of the many inspirational Hispanic women in the science field. And here she is – the last, but certainly not least, scientist on OUR list to inspire you!

Latino Racism Against ‘Indios’

In the United States, it is common to hear about discrimination against Latinos, particularly immigrant ones, by other Americans. An AP-Univision poll conducted in 2010 showed that Latinos in the United States experience more discrimination than any other minority. 61% of those polled said that Latinos face considerable discrimination, while statistics for blacks and women were 52% and 50% respectively. Furthermore poll research showed that the inferior treatment of Hispanics stems largely from controversy surrounding undocumented immigration.

But this is not the only type of racism that plagues the Hispanic community. Latinos themselves are not innocent of discrimination against a people they sometimes view as undesirable. In Racism and Discourse in Spain and Latin America, Teun A. van Dijk, a scholar who researches racism, writes that “racism against the indigenous peoples has been a fact of their everyday lives since the conquista [Spanish colonization of Latin America] nearly 500 years ago.” According to his research and interviews, Latin America is a hotbed for racism against native peoples more commonly known as indiosIndios, unlike majority Latin American populations, did not adopt cultural aspects from the Spanish colonizers or reproduce with them. Some examples of indigenous populations include the Maya in Mexico and Central America, the Inca in South America, and the Taino in Caribbean countries.


In truth, present-day indigenous populations in Latin American countries are still remarkably isolated, often living in their own villages and speaking their native tongues instead of Spanish. Many live in poverty, and those who travel to the cities for work are subject to discrimination due to their indigenous appearance and strange Spanish.

Sylvia, a 19-year-old Mexican-American and Latinita, recalls visiting Mexico City growing up and noticing the inferior treatment of indios by other Mexicans. She said the only jobs the indios could get were selling stuff on the streets, and people were likely to be rude or refuse to acknowledge their presence. Sylvia says that even as a child growing up in a Texas border town she knew that indios were considered of the lowest class.

The Latino hatred towards indigenous populations is apparent even in every-day speech. It is not uncommon to hear a Latino insult another’s appearance by saying that he/she looks indio/a.

Maria, 18, recalls thinking how hypocritical other Latinos sometimes are in their attitude towards indios. Other girls in her Chicago, Illinois high school would complain about discrimination or stereotypes based on their obviously Hispanic features or their slightly accented English, but then they would insult girls they didn’t like as indias. Maria was shocked that people who complained about racism could turn around and be guilty of the same wrong themselves. What’s going on, she wondered?

Truth is, discrimination against those viewed as ‘different’ is an unfortunate tendency of human nature that has probably always existed. Racism is even documented in the Second Book of the Bible when it describes the enslavement of ‘inferior’ races by Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans hundreds of thousands of years ago. But just because this discrimination has always existed and comes naturally to some people does not mean we should disregard its poisonous effects. Instead one should be conscious of the natural human tendency to discriminate against people whose differences make them seem strange or lesser. If one is aware of the driving force behind racism she can better combat it in every day life. Simple actions, like eliminating indio as an insult and treating with attentive respect indigenous peoples in the United States and Latin America, reject the engrained belief that indigenous are somehow lesser than other Hispanics.

What’s the big deal about ‘Jane the Virgin’?

Jane The VirginBy now you have probably heard about the hit TV show ‘Jane the Virgin’, starring Gina Rodriguez as the titular star. The show, which is based off a Venezuelan telenovela called ‘Juana la Virgen’, debuted in the fall of 2014 on the CW. It is set in Miami, a city known for its lively Latino culture, and features a largely Hispanic cast and much Spanish-language dialogue. The sitcom immediately took the airwaves and the awards season by storm, and Gina herself won this year’s Golden Globe for Best Actress.

So why is this new show so explosively successful? For one, the premise and main character are in stark contrast with many other shows popular among preteen and teenage girls. Jane is, like the title says, a virgin who is waiting until marriage to have sex. The show explains early on that her reason for this decision is multifold: She is Catholic, she does not want to get pregnant before marriage, and she deeply respects her grandmother who taught her the values behind waiting to have sex. But Jane is no goody-two-shoes: She is a normal 23 year old woman who is both studying to become a teacher and working as a waitress at a posh hotel. Also, she has a boyfriend of two years whom she plans to marry.

She ‘miraculously’ becomes pregnant after a visit to the doctor’s office, where her gynecologist mistakenly artificially inseminated her. When she discovers what happened her life is thrown into turmoil. Her boyfriend, who had just recently asked her to marry him, tells her he does not want to raise another man’s child. Her mother is grief-stricken that her daughter will become a single mother like she did. Jane is horrified that the father of the child, Rafael, is a notorious playboy and also the owner of the hotel where she works.

But Jane’s miraculous pregnancy is only a small part of the whole show. The first season is laced with intrigue, as people are mysteriously murdered at the hotel and Rafael’s wife attempts to get custody of the unborn child. Jane also finally meets her own father, whose identity has been kept a secret her entire life. The one constant in Jane’s life, however, is her own integrity. Though she is often overwhelmed by the pregnancy and the drama that has turned her life upside down, she maintains her pure heart and her desire to pursue her dreams. She does not quite her job or school when she falls pregnant, but continues to work hard to achieve her goals. Throughout, she is loving to her mother and grandmother even when they disagree on how she should live her life. She is compassionate towards Rafael despite the fact that she does not want to have his child. But just as importantly Jane is never a doormat. She openly asserts her wants and needs and she protests when others attempt to manipulate her. Jane is truly a new sort of sitcom heroine, one whom is not ashamed of her beliefs and consistently acts with intelligence and empathy.

And what makes Jane’s character even better is the fact that she and her close-knit family deeply embrace Latino culture and values. Of Venezuelan descent, they often speak Spanish [with subtitles] and openly practice their Catholic faith. They exhibit a truth about the US’s Hispanic population that is often ignored by mainstream media: we are growing and flourishing and possess strong beliefs and character. Latinas are proud to have Jane as part of our ranks! And we can’t wait to see what adventures the second season of her show will bring!

Latinas in Sports

We’re highlighting the top Latinas in sports history. These chicas poderosas know the importance of fitness, endurance, and passion for sports.

Rebecca Lobo is an American television basketball analyst and former women’s basketball player in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) from 1997 to 2003. Lobo played college basketball at the University of Connecticut, where she was a member of the team that won the 1995 national championship. Her father is of Cuban, Spanish, Polish and Ashkenazi Jewish descent, while her mother was of German and Irish heritage.
Marlen Esparza is an American boxer who in 2012 competed at the Olympics, became the first American woman to qualify for the Olympics in the first year that women’s boxing was an Olympic event. She won the bronze medal in the women’s flyweight division at the 2012 Olympics in London. Esparza has an endorsement deal with Cover Girl cosmetics. She also appeared in a Spanish language commercial for Coca-Cola, and on a commercial for McDonald’s. Esparza was the subject of Soledad O’Brien’s 2011 CNN documentary, Latino in America 2: In Her Corner

Amy Rodríguez is an American soccer player who currently plays for FC Kansas City in the National Women’s Soccer League and is also a member of the United States women’s national soccer team. She is called “A Rod” by her teammates and sometimes by soccer commentators. Her paternal grandparents were from Cuba and immigrated to the United States in the 1950s. In 2005, was considered the nation’s top recruits and was named National Player of the Year by Parade Magazine, EA Sports and NSCAA. She was a four-time all-league selection and All-CIF honoree. 

Nancy López is an American professional golfer. She became a member of the LPGA Tour in 1977 and won 48 LPGA Tour events during her LPGA career, including three major championships. Lopez was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1987. Lopez is the only woman to win LPGA Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, and the Vare Trophy in the same season. Her company, Nancy Lopez Golf, makes a full line of women’s clubs and accessories.

Dara Torres is a former American competition swimmer who is a twelve-time Olympic medalist and former world record-holder in three events. Torres is the first and only swimmer to represent the United States in five Olympic Games and, at age 41, was the oldest swimmer ever to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic team. Torres has won twelve Olympic medals, one of three women with the most Olympic women’s swimming medals. Torres was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Edward Torres and Marylu Kauder. Her father was a real estate developer and casino owner; her mother Marylu was a former model.  

Brenda Villa is an accomplished American water polo player. She is the most decorated athlete in the world of women’s water polo. Villa was named Female Water Polo Player of the Decade for 2000-2009 by the FINA Aquatics World Magazine. Villa started swimming with a club team, Commerce Aquatics, at the age of six, and followed her brother into water polo at eight years old. She made the girls’ Junior Olympic Team while in high school. At Bell Gardens High School, Villa played with the boys’ water polo team because her school did not have a girls’ team.

Diana López is an American Olympic Taekwondo competitor from Sugar Land, Texas. She represented the United States at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where she won a bronze medal. In 2005, Diana and her brothers made history by becoming the first three siblings, in any sport, to win World titles at the same event, when they did so at the 2005 World Taekwondo Championships in Madrid, Spain and in 2008, Diana and her brothers made history again by becoming only the second set of three or more siblings to all qualify for the Olympics. 


Jennifer Rodríguez  is a Cuban-American speed skater. She started her career as an artistic roller skater, winning multiple national championships and placing second and third at world championships. Later she switched to inline speed skating and became world champion in 1993. In 1996 she made another career move by giving it a try on ice, in order to have a chance to make the Olympic team. Rodríguez participated in the 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, winning two bronze medals in Salt Lake City in 2002. She is also known by the nicknames Miami Ice and J-Rod “dame cucita.”

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