Like a GIRL!

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First aired in June 2014, the Always commercial “Like A Girl” pointed out a phrase that’s normally used in society—a phrase that, whether you realize it or not, has some very negative connotations.

In the commercial, people—men, women, and boys—were asked to do something “like a girl.” When asked to “run like a girl,” each person exaggerated their movements, acting weak and flimsy. When asked to “hit like a girl,” people made a show of hitting clumsily, or sometimes just slapping instead of hitting. When asked to “kick like a girl,” some pretended to drop a ball. One person, in their acting as a girl, added with a falsetto voice, “Oh, but that’ll ruin my hair.” But when the same questions were asked to young girls, they ran, they hit, and they kicked hard and forceful, like anyone would. So what does the phrase “like a girl” imply? That to do something like a girl—to be a girl—is to be weak and clumsy and, in general, to do it badly. The girls in the commercial certainly showed that this is definitely not the case.

Gabriela Moreno, a middle school student at Regents School of Austin, helped illustrate this point: “This guy told me I hit like a girl. So then I hit him like a girl and he never said that again.”

The phrase “like a girl” shouldn’t be negative—but it’s used that way.

Have you ever used the phrase “like a girl” to describe something someone’s done badly? You’ve at least heard it. Many don’t even realize what they’re implying. As school director Monica Moreno pointed out, “I have heard that expression for a long time and haven’t felt that it was something sexist. But then I realized that it’s used as an offense. That shouldn’t be an offense. It’s the same thing as the phrase ‘be a man!’. A woman can be strong and tough, too. Actually, we are. We need to educate people, show them that these phrases are wrong…most people don’t realize what they’re saying, we should show them what it really means.”

When doing something like a girl is an insult, how does that make girls feel? “It makes me feel weak and embarrassed,” high school sophomore Mackenzie Henson said, “It bothers me because there are girls who are stronger than most guys. By saying that you are demoting girls and making them feel inferior.”

So what does being like a girl truly mean?

Being a girl can be tough, especially when using expressions such as “like a girl” negatively is so prevalent in our society. But being like a girl is anything but bad. It’s being awesome, true to yourself, strong, and confident in who you are. Westlake High student Hannah Young adds that “Being a girl means that you can kick butt and wear high heels at the same time. It’s the ability to never let people belittle you or make you feel bad just because you have boobs.”

Just look at all these women in history who have left a mark on the world: Rita Moreno is a legendary singer, dancer, and actress and is the only Latino who has won the prestigious EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony)—like a girl. Mexican Hilda Solis is the former labor secretary and helped labor unions by pushing wage and hour laws and job safety regulations—like a girl. Julia Alvarez, a Dominican poet, essayist, and novelist, wrote pieces that changed the world—like a girl. The list could go on forever!

Gender should not stop you from being strong and powerful. “Being a girl is amazing,” says 15-year-old Rachel C..

“If you want to do something, do it. Being a girl does NOT make you handicapped at ALL. It makes you who you are. If someone says anything like “you ____ like a girl” you should say it’s because you are a girl and believe in yourself,” she adds.

So run, kick, hit as hard as you can. Be yourself, be proud of being a girl. And next time, whenever someone says you or anyone around you does something like a girl, you can go up to them and say, “That’s a nice compliment!” Because it really is.

A Corrido

You may have heard a corrido on the radio, on your father’s cds, or even from your grandfather whistling. These narrative songs, extremely popular amongst the Latino population, are widely known and recognized by many due to their universal themes and poetic lyrics. While these corridos all vary in popularity, they have served as an outlet, both presently and historically, for the Latino population to express themselves in a creative way about their history, culture and current events.

First of all, what exactly is a corrido? A corrido is a song genre found in many parts of Latin America such as: Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Mexico. This song genre describes a social, political and religious event shared by the Latino community and in many ways offers an outlet for people to celebrate, understand and share these events in an artistic way. A corrido is typically very structured and can usually be divided into five parts. It first begins with an introduction from the singer announcing that he will be singing a corrido. Secondly, the singer shares information and describes the main character of the song. Thirdly, an action presents the character, followed by an introductory farewell and lastly, the final farewell, also known as la despedida. Following this specific structure, these songs serve as a way to tell a story or a legend about an important person, historical event or religious occurrence in the form of poetry in a way that is easily identifiable and very comprehensible.

Escobedo_CorridoDeLaPersecusionDePanchoVilla_1938_M_MTRThe more popular and widespread corridos are those from Mexico, particularly those dealing with Mexican history. These songs can be dated back to the 1800’s and are most often associated with the Mexican Revolution. For example, the popular singsong for young children called  “La Cucaracha” at one time was used by the revolutionary hero, Fransico “Pancho” Villa, and his soldiers to rally against President Victoriano Huerta. Today, the song can be compared to a nursery rhyme or a fun sing-a-long but its traditional lyrics are loaded with political symbolism that reflect the social and political events of that time in history. Interesting, huh?

While there are many traditional folk songs that tell about Mexico’s history, today, corridos describe very important aspects of Mexican culture. They are important in sharing and dealing with issues such as: border-town life, special events, drug-related problems and religious stories. Recently, it has become a popular way for people to share a very dark story about the state of Mexico.  What has resulted is a genre that follows the same structure as a traditional corrido but deals with contemporary issues such as drugs and topics related to the drug war called narcocorridos. While the style and sound are drastically different from a traditional corrido, the song describes events that many people in border towns and in Mexico experience on a daily basis. This way, they not only tell a tragic story but they also express hardships in order to connect with an audience that is able sympathize.

In this way, corridos have served as a way of expressing oneself about an event, a person, or religious event in the form of music. While the musical part is important, the words are the ones to convey the real message of the song. The lyrics, many times, tell about hardships and people overcoming adversity. In many ways, these songs serve as a way of therapy, not only for the composer but also for the listener. Corridos serve as a way for people to find an outlet to connect with others and share experiences that directly affect people like them. So the next time you sing a song or listen to a song that you think may be a corrido, look for the clues and try to understand the REAL message.

Decolonize Your Diet: Latin American Superfoods

Raw Organic Quinoa Seeds

Raw Organic Quinoa Seeds

In recent years there has been a movement towards healthy living, which includes eating a healthier diet. As more and more Latinos face health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and different forms of cancer, it is extremely important to take care of our bodies. The easiest way to accomplish this is by changing our diet. Food blog Decolonize Your Diet teaches people the importance of eating natural food: “it is time to reclaim our cultural inheritance and wean our bodies from sugary drinks, fast food, and donuts. Cooking a pot of beans from scratch is a micro-revolutionary act that honors our ancestors and the generations to come.” So maybe we ought to think twice before we pass on the beans.

Here are 10 foods you can introduce to your diet that are not only super healthy, but can help you connect back to your ancestral roots:

Quinoa:
Quinoa has been all the craze lately, this grain is a popular substitute for rice. It is rich in nutrients and acts as a complete source of protein (something that can’t be said about other grains). Quinoa is rooted in Andes region of South America. It was one of the two significant sources of food for the Incas, the other being maiz.

Bell Peppers:
Bell peppers are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, which provides potential anti-cancer benefits. Bell peppers have also been found to provide 7 percent of total vitamin C intake. Bell peppers have been cultivated for over 9000 years in South and Central America. It was first “discovered” by European colonizers in the 1500-1600’s.

Chia Seeds:
Chia seeds used to be available in certain health stores, the superfood seeds have become so popular that they are now common place in restaurant menus, and grocery store isles. There are about 140 calories per two tablespoons along with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein. These seeds are popular as additives in fruit smoothies and shakes since they contain all nine essential amino acids, which are essential for muscle-building. Other popular ways to eat them include sprinkling into yogurt, oatmeal, or in a salad.

Chayote:
The chayote, native to Mexico, is a member of the squash family. In fact the word chayote derives from the Nahuatl word chayotli. Chayote comes in two forms, prickly and smooth. It can be eaten raw in salads or stuffed and baked. Other preparations include mashing, pickling, frying, or boiling. The chayote contains fiber and is high on potassium and low on sodium which makes it good for supporting healthy blood pressure.

Sweet Potatoes:
Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and have been consumed since prehistoric times. Sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants and minerals, such as manganese, iron, and vitamins C,E, and D. Their high potassium content is great for lowering blood pressure because it removes excess sodium and regulates fluid balance in the body. They also help in reducing stress since they can help relax muscles and steady nerves. Sweet potatoes should be steamed or boiled when cooked to get the most nutritional benefit.

Sunflower Seeds:
Sunflower seeds make a great go-to snack and are readily available almost everywhere. These seeds are the actual seeds of the sunflower plant and have been eaten by Native Americans for over 5,000 years. They not only help get you through until your next meal but they contain high amounts vitamin E, magnesium, and  selenium which helps in preventing cardiovascular disease, maintaining healthy bone production and reducing cholesterol.

Papaya:
It is no small secret that papayas are native to Latin America. This delicious fruit was once called the “fruit of the angels” by Christopher columbus. It contains high levels of vitamin E as well as the digestive enzyme, papain, which  has been shown to help with inflammation and to improve healing from burns.

Blueberries:
Blueberries are often included in health lists for their high antioxidant values and associated health value. However, what many don’t know is that this superberry is native to North America and Native Americans used different parts of the plant for medicinal purposes.

Peanuts:
Peanuts are not actually nuts, they’re legumes (similar to peas, lentils, and other beans) and are believed to have originated in South America.  Peanuts grew as far north as Mexico when the Spanish began their exploration of the “New World.” Peanuts are rich in fat, the kind of fat you want in your body. The monounsaturated fats in peanuts are important for a healthy heart. In fact they have higher levels of antioxidants than apples or carrots, which helps reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Cashews:
The cashew nuts, as you know them, are actually the seeds stuck at the bottom of the cashew apple. They belong to the same family as the mango and pistachio and are native to Brazil.The fruit is actually considered a delicacy in Brazil, and the juice of the cashew apple is considered a popular beverage. The nut itself contains many of the same benefits as peanuts, and it contains essential unsaturated fatty acids as well as monounsaturated fats that are good for your heart.

Spotlight: Rosa Guerrero

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Written by Renee Malooly and originally published on Borderzine 

Link to article: http://borderzine.com/2014/11/at-80-el-paso-folklorico-pioneer-rosa-guerrero-still-lets-faith-guide-her-steps/

Dressed in a bright orange jacket adorned with a necklace and a crucifix pendant, Rosa Guerrero flashed a warm smile, projecting the trademark youthful spirit and upbeat stamina that belied her approaching 80th birthday.

“Age is just a matter of the mind,” Guerrero said as she sipped her cranberry and orange juice drink, a mix she concocted herself. “If you don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter.”

Guerrero’s long resume in the professional dance world has not weighed her down. An avid dancer in all types of genres, a dance teacher of students that range in age from two-year-olds to 100-year-olds, and an ambassador for Mexican folkloric dance, her love for dance is evident in the rhythm of her hand gestures and expressive nature.

“I started dancing in my mother’s womb,” Guerrero exclaimed as she sculpted a simple dance move with her hands.

Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Guerrero has always been a dedicated individual who never settles for the bare minimum. Growing up without a car, Guerrero said she would walk to dance practice downtown from her central El Paso home.

“We did without a car,” Guerrero said. “It’s not a sin to be poor but it is a sin to be lazy,” she said, proud of her humble origins.

Frank Lopez, a friend of Guerrero for more than 10 years, first saw her in her dance element at a nonprofit performance. Lopez is an executive director of Ngage, a Las Cruces,New Mexico, nonprofit educational organization.

Lopez said Guerrero’s kind nature makes her unique. “She’s very down to earth,” Lopez said. “She gives as much of herself to her community.”

A Roman Catholic, Guerrero said her strong sense of faith has guided her. She describes herself as ecumenical — someone who has a love and respect for other religions, beliefs, and faiths.

“To me there is only one God and he is our father and our maker,” Guerrero said. “I believe that all religions are based on that creator.”

Lopez said that Guerrero takes deep subjects of culture and race that are usually difficult for others to be open about, and makes them poignant subjects.

“She’s very spiritual in a beautiful way.”

Guerrero became immersed in other religions and cultures through dance. She is responsible for spreading Folklorico dance style throughout the United States after becoming the founder and artistic director of the Rosa Guerrero International Folklorico Dance Group. Guerrero said all individuals are unique and together make one giant tapestry, the title of a documentary she made that stresses this concept.

Guerrero’s nonprofit was the first Mexican folkloric dance group in the nation to dance at the Kennedy Center in 1991. They were also the first to dance for the CIA in 1992. Former secretary of defense, Robert Gates, was the CIA director at the time.

“He gave us a tour and he was very friendly to me,” Guerrero said.

Describing the performance for the CIA, Guerrero said the environment was very professional. Never letting go of her cheerful personality, Guerrero presented a gift consisting of El Paso Saddleblanket and Chile Company souvenirs to Gates on stage in front of the large conservative crowd. Guerrero said she jokingly told Gates that she is president of the CIA in El Paso, which filled the auditorium with laughter.

“All I did was break the barrier,” Guerrero said.

Dennis Bixler-Márquez, director of the Chicano Studies Program at UT El Paso, has known Guerrero since 1971 when he was a member of Teacher Corps. He said that Guerrero captures and represents what El Paso is about in an artistic sense through music and dance.

“What makes her inspirational is that she is a cultural ambassador for the city on both sides of the border,” Bixler-Márquez said. ​

Exposure of culture is important to Guerrero. Receiving bachelor’s degree from Texas Western College, now the University of Texas at El Paso, in elementary and high school education in 1957, Guerrero has worked at numerous public schools throughout El Paso to spread that idea. She hopes to spend the rest of her life writing.

“One written word is worth one thousand spoken ones,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero’s husband of 60 years, Sergio, three children and five grandchildren are strong figures in her life. She said everything she has wanted is to make her family proud. She is grateful for her parents and said she is thankful for anyone who has been a part of her life.

“God put you here and your parents give you your life,” Guerrero said. “The rest is up to you.”

18 Things to Do Before You Turn 18

10974162_390886677749379_2469496210793465877_oAdulthood is relative, some people have to grow up very young and start to have many responsibilities as a 40 year old person. And some of us are really lucky and we get our time to adapt to this new stage of our life. If you’re like me and you’re about to finish high school and haven’t started working or going to college, or if you really know how to manage your time, you need to do these 18 things before you get all caught up in the new things that will come to your life.

1. Go on a road trip with your best friends

This is something that you really should do, a road trip is an amazing experience that you need to do at least once. With this experience you’ll learn how awesome it is to travel with the people you love (outside your family), probably get to see so many different places and observe things in a way that you haven’t done before, and will be able to things that you don’t normally do.

2. Go camping and sleep under the stars

Whether you would like to do this alone or with someone else, camping sets you free. You get a day/night without technology and a place to appreciate what nature has given you.

3. Eat exotic food

Eat food from another country, as I read on the internet “food that you don’t know how to pronounce.” Even if it’s some simple drink to a fancy dish or a weird combination of food. Trying new food makes you aware that not everything in the world is the same. Not everyone shares the same food traditions and recipes. Even if you don’t like the food, you’ll get a good story about how the food gave you food poisoning or it was so spicy that your mouth felt like it was on fire.

4. Go to a music festival

The energy and the intensity of going to a music festival is indescribable; you see all kinds of people, outfits, music and everything! You get to meet new people and listen to great music. Music festivals are an amazing experience because of the different environment.

5. Make new goals

This is the time to set new goals for your future, whether these goals are academic, financial, of relationships or self improvement; being open to change and to accomplish new things says that this person is not stuck on the same and wants to become someone better. Life is about this, always moving forward and trying to do something good with our existence.

6. Learn to play an instrument

Taking the time and patience to learn how to play a new instrument will give you some tools to take advantage in the future; playing an instrument is not just because you want a future in the music industry, it can be as a stress reliever, it increases your memory capacity, enhances your coordination and it’s something you can do when you’re bored!

7. Learn the basics of a new language

Or learn a new language! This will not only help you when you’re trying to get a job, because it looks good on a resumé, this also helps you for when you get the chance to get out of the country and you can communicate better with the people living on it. Learning a new language is really fun and it gives an opportunity to explore another culture.

8. Do nothing for a whole day

Yes, even if this sounds silly and really easy to do, your mind and body will appreciate this because you get the most amazing day to rest and to enjoy doing nothing; just watch a movie or TV show marathon, play video games all day long or just sleep for 24 hours. Because once you grow up, you won’t get as many lazy days as you used to.

9. Do Something Nice For A Stranger

Buy food for a homeless person, give out money to charity, smile to people, hold the door for someone, give a compliment, whatever it’s fine! These actions can change someone’s day or even their lives! Doing something good for someone can be pleasing for you as well!

10. Start to work out

I know it’s not like a fantastic thing to do before you hit the 20s but this will do great things to your body and mind. Staying healthy and in good shape gives you a better life quality and probably add years to your life and of course, it boosts up your confidence.

11. Make a new friend

Making friendships is really important, that bond is so different and unique and at this age (and at every other age) we need someone to share our best and worst moments with. Someone new to have inside jokes with, someone to laugh and cry at the same time, someone to tell your life story to — who knows, they might even become your best friend. Making new friends doesn’t stop in high school.

12. Get a makeover

Reinvent yourself, do something good for you and/or for your image. Change is always good and giving yourself a change will make you feel different. Want to try that cute new hairstyle? Do it!

13. Learn about your heritage/ family history.

Ask your grandparents/ great grandparents about your family, any good things or events that marked your family, or just listen to them and their stories. They have so much to share with you, pay attention to them and they’ll open up to you.

14. Volunteer on a non profit 

Join an organization that does something good for the community, besides doing your good deeds, it’s a good way to spend your time and energy because it’s a positive thing to do for you and others. Plus, you get to meet new people and retrieve a little of what life has given to you.

15. Make a scrapbook of all the special moments that you had

Take pictures, write something on them, keep your movie/concert tickets and special things and paste them in a scrapbook. Or save a shoe box or cookies box with memorable items. Years later you’ll look back at it and be thankful that you kept all of those things.

16. Start a journal

Write every day; a simple verse, a meaningful quote, anything! Write something that happened to you that day and keep writing every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s something short, at the end of the journal/ year read a few pages and see how much you’ve changed.

17. Ride a “dangerous” roller coaster

Not dangerous “Final Destination” type; a super big/tall roller coaster that you may be afraid of. Those that make your stomach twist; get on one and defeat the fear of heights and feel the adrenaline. Plus, you’ll have a cool story to tell to your friends/ family.

18. Write a letter to your future self

Write the things you want to tell your future-you; what you expect of her and things you are sure you’ve already accomplished. Tell her that you need to be happy and achieve everything you want in life, tell her silly things about her that she surely doesn’t remember and needs to; some memories, weird habits, and even a photo! Open that letter in 5-10 years and see what has come true and what has changed about you.

Step out of your comfort zone! Even if you don’t plan to do any of these 18 points, do something that you think is fun or different. Your future-self will look back and thank you for taking risks and having fun.

Latinas in Brooklyn Nine Nine

Screen-Shot-2014-08-16-at-5.45.26-pm-1There has not been a large variety of leading Latinas in television shows. If a show has a Latina actress, one assumes she is there for diversity instead of representation. And shows having two leading Latina actresses are even more rarer. Suddenly in the fall of 2013, FOX unveiled its new comedy about the crazy antics of police detectives working for a fictional Brooklyn Precinct, Brooklyn Nine Nine. Created by two writers who had previously worked for The Office and Parks and Recreation, Dan Goor and Michael Shur. Brooklyn Nine Nine has won two Golden Globes so far due to its witty script, character development, and all star cast. The cast has a variety of actors with different ethnic and career backgrounds. Including comedy veterans like Andy Samberg, Chelsea Peretti, Joe Lo Truglio, and Terry Crews or dramatic actors like Andre Braugher. However, Brooklyn Nine Nine‘s most representational casting choice came when they cast two up-and-coming Latina actresses, Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz.

Melissa Fumero, or formerly known as Melissa Gallo, was born on August 19, 1982 in New Jersey to Cuban parents. Her parents are first generation Cuban immigrants. She was formally trained to become an actress, receiving her Bachelors degree in Drama from New York University in 2003. Fumero is mostly known for her role of “Adriana Cramer” in the Soap Opera One Life to Live from 2004-2011. While working for the soap opera she met David Fumero whom Melissa Fumero married in 2007. She also has had a small supporting role in Gossip Girl. It wasn’t until 2013 when she proved that her acting range was not solely dramatic.

 Stephanie Beatriz was born on February 10, 1981, in Argentina to a Bolivian-American mother and a Columbian-American father. Even though she has a large variety of Latino roots in her, she was raised in Webster, Texas. She graduated from Stephens College in 2002. It wasn’t until 2010 when she got her big break with a small role in the independent movie “Short Term 12”. From there she was attained a small role in Modern Family and eventually was able to get her current role as the short-tempered yet tough Rosa Diaz in Brooklyn Nine Nine.

In an interview with Front Row Live Entertainment, Stephanie Beatriz was asked about what it feels to be a successful Latina actress within Brooklyn Nine Nine. She exclaimed. “I’m not doing an accent of any kind, I’m playing this great strong woman character, and there is another Latina on the show too. It’s not just one of us. That felt like a success to me.”

Communication Challenges with Family

A huge problem that happens in almost every household everywhere in the world is handling family relationships. Almost everyone has experienced this at some point in their lives. You love your family and you wouldn’t change them for anything, but that doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t change a few things about them. Sometimes this can lead to having serious arguments with one another, so what happens when it escalates to a huge argument? What happens when there’s a bad communication? When you don’t get along with your mom, dad, brother(s) or sister(s)? What needs to be done to fix this?

Talk about your differences.
Communication is one of the best things you need to do at first when you see that things are not working out. If someone’s talking behind your back, doing things against you that you don’t like, offending another relative or anything similar, you need to talk it out. According to Stress.about.com, if you have some problems with someone you should “see where each of you may have misunderstood the other or behaved in a way you would change if you could, offering sincere apologies, and in other ways resolving the conflict can heal the relationship for the future.”

Communication may solve most (not all) of the problems you may face with your family. So, instead of ignoring the problem, or doing something you may regret, talk it out!

“I used to fight with my mom all the time, until one day I got tired of it and sat with her and talked for hours, problems minimized and now we have a much better relationship” says, Paola Lopez, 15.

See the consequences of your actions.
Don’t do anything you may regret, don’t say anything that you may regret in the future. Think about the situation and what may happen before acting. You don’t know if the other person is going to react the wrong way or take your words or actions. Don’t say anything while you’re angry. Because most problems can be fixed and they will pass, and if you say something hurtful, it may not be possible to take it back.

“I regret some things I said to my cousin, and after 10 years, we are finally talking again,” shares Arely Zapien, 20.

If you can’t see the end of the differences, distance yourself from bad influences.

If you’ve tried to work things out several times and there’s no good answer from the other person, the best you could do is distance yourself from them. You’ve tried and tried, and you’ve done everything in your hands to fix the problem but if things are still the same, it’s time for you to walk away. Even if it’s for a while, distance yourself from the problems and let things cool down a little bit. Don’t hurt yourself no more, be free from that complication and live your life knowing that you did the best you could to work things out. Maybe after a few months, the other person will realize that this thing is not worth risking your relationship for.

“I had to get away from my problems for a while, my aunts didn’t come to their senses, the problems have lowered and now after a long time, they’re realizing they were wrong to judge me,” says Gloria Lopez, 18.

Redefining Mental Illness

It’s not physical, it’s not easy to understand, and, most of the time, it’s completely ignored or called “just a phase.” I’m talking about mental illness. In the Latin@ culture, stigma often follows mental illness. Your “abuelita” may have tried to cure your anxiety with home remedies by rubbing an egg all over you to get “el malo ojo” out. Or your tía saying to “get over it” because it’s only a phase. Deep down we know that it’s not that easy to remove what we’re feeling. Everyone has a battle to fight, but, chicas, you’re not alone.

Dealing with Depression

I experienced depression at a young age, but it became more evident in high school. I lost weight, I had no appetite, and I was becoming extremely introverted. The effects of all this led to more serious symptoms, bone pains, insomnia, and stomach cramps. My parents took me to various doctors to “fix” the problem, and the doctors would check my blood and do all kinds of crazy tests. To them, the problem wasn’t there because it was in my head.  Not once did they ask me how I truly felt. I had a boyfriend, I had great friends and a great family, but I just wasn’t happy. I didn’t see a purpose in life.

One day I was even taken to the emergency room due to serious joint pain and stomach cramps. Nothing was found, of course, except that I hadn’t eaten in 2 days. Through frustration my father said it was “all in my head.”  His words hurt me, it hurt a lot. He didn’t understand, but how could he? Growing up in Mexico meant that mental illness didn’t “exist.” I couldn’t blame my parents for not understanding what I was going through.

Depression followed me to college. Episodes happened, sleep was lost, and concentrating on my schoolwork was extremely hard. One day, through extreme insomnia, I made the decision to see a specialist. It was really difficult for me to get to this step in my life, but I knew I had to do something.

I held my rose gold iPhone in my hand, Student Health Center’s phone number on display, but all I could hear in my head was my Tía calling me crazy, saying it was all in my head, or saying this is a result from leaving to college. I was scared of the criticism, but I overcame it and finally made the phone call.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, but I felt uneasy about the diagnosis. Self-doubt led to thinking if it was really in my head, and knowing what I had just made me feel more insecure! Luckily, my specialist, a very understanding Hispanic doctor, calmed by nerves by saying to “not feel insecure about this; mental illness is just like any other illness and it should not be considered any less. It’s serious and I’m proud of you for coming in on your own to get help. That’s brave. ”He mentioned how anyone who feels something wrong should always look for help. I was prescribed medicine and I was given techniques for my anxiety. For once, I felt the feeling of being able to concentrate on schoolwork and I could breathe without a bad sigh.

Stigma within the Latin@ Community

Stigma regarding mental illness is fairly common within the Latin@ community.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness found that lack and/or misunderstanding of information regarding mental health, language barriers,  lack of health insurance and/or legal status, misdiagnosis, homeopathic remedies, privacy concerns, and  religion are some of the leading causes that contribute to being resistant to mental health care, help, etc. In fact, Latinos are “less likely to seek mental health treatment.” This poses a risk since Latinas have higher risks of depression and suicide. A study on depression and anxiety within the Latin@ community by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University found that “First-and second-generation Hispanics/Latinos were significantly more likely to have symptoms of depression than those born outside the U.S. mainland.” Mental health is real, and it should not continue to be stigmatized and treated as if it’s not.

Linda Eguiluz, a graduate from the University of Texas and now a graduate student at Lewis and Clark college, is familiar with dealing with mental health within the Latin@ community. As a graduate student, the pressures of school has led to dealing with anxiety.

“I think [being a Latina has] definitely affected the way I dealt with [anxiety] initially, and sometimes even now. There is no way to disassociate my ethnic identity from my mental illness, and it is a struggle to reconcile the cultural values placed upon me regarding mental health.”

“I know it is not an easy task to confront our own mental illness when we come from a culture where we are automatically labeled as broken. Educating our loved ones is not our primary responsibility, so it is important to reach out to people that can advocate for you and can guide you through the process. Family is important for latin@ folk, and having that extra layer of support is incredibly important for our well being and progress through medication and psychotherapy,” she adds.

So, chicas, please seek help if you feel that something isn’t right. You are not alone in this, and there are so many people who would love to help you. Seek help from a teacher, counselor, an adult, or make the decision to seek professional help yourself. Mental illness is just like any illness and it is not a joke.

Spotlight: Latina Artist, Author, and Poets

Art is a lifestyle of hard work, dedication, and creativity. These outstanding mujeres make it look so easy.

Rosa Guerrero, founder and artistic director of the International Folklorico Dance Group, is an inspiring folklorico dancer. As an artist, educator, dance historian, and humanitarian, teaching, she has an extensive background and involvement with the El Paso, Texas community.  She is the first Latina in El Paso to have a school named after her: Rosa Guerrero Elementary. Winner of several awards including, but not limited to, the Outstanding Woman in the Arts from Woman’s Political Caucus, LULAC Arts and Humanities award, Arts Alliance Individual Dance Award and Outstanding Hispanic of El Paso.

Helena Maria Viramontes is an iconic Chicana writer whose literary masterpieces reflect her childhood upbringing in East Los Angeles. Her first novel, Under the Feet of Jesus, jumpstarted her career as a renowned author. She is currently the Director of Creative Writing at Cornell University, and is a community organizer and former coordinator of the Los Angeles Latino Writers Association.

Bessy Reina, a highly accomplished poet, was born in Cuba and raised in Panama. Her poetry has been published in both English and Spanish, and in 2001, she was named Latina Citizen of the Year by the State of Connecticut Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission. Later, in 2012, she was named as one out of ten women honored by the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.  Vivian Shipley, another highly accomplished poet, describes Bessy’s poetry as a “…. a channel, a way to bridge east and  west by reconciling the warring needs of the body, the mind and the heart. Whether Reyna is dancing with a stalk  of sugar cane in Hartford, Connecticut, or in her birthplace of Cuba, poem after poem is as lively as a salsa. Like chewing sugar cane, her poems ultimately reward with their hard-won sweetness, with the taste that leaves us wanting more.” She is currently a writer for the Hispanic newspaper Identidad Latina and for www.CTLatinoNews.com.

Julia de Burgos
A renowned Puerto Rican poet, she is best known for her feminist written contributions for African/Afro-Caribbean writers. As a civil rights activist and teacher, she has, and continues to, inspire many women writers. Her poetry on the struggle of feeling oppressed has touched so many hearts, including the one of the famous Pablo Neruda. Her final poem foreshadowed her death in 1953, and, in 1986, she posthumously received a doctorate in Humans Arts and Letters from the Spanish Department of the University of Puerto Rico.

Police Brutality and Coverage in the Latin@ Community

On February 15, 2016 Antonio Zambrano-Montes was shot in Pasco, Washington. Zambrano-Montes was shot and killed by three Pasco Police Officers. Some might recall the video of Zambrano-Montes’s encounter with the police circulating through the media, which followed the height of the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by the death of another individual shot by the police, Michael Brown.

The Black Lives Matter movement made significant strides to garner attention towards the injustice committed. But, for the Latino community, how does police brutality affect us?  While the shooting in Pasco is not an isolated incident for the Latino community, the impact of this incident shares similarities with the systemic racism and racial tensions of Ferguson. Ferguson is sixty-seven percent black but its police force and government officials majority white, similarly Pasco is fifty-six percent Latino yet the majority of government and law enforcement officials are white. Even though both communities differ, the racial tension for both is worth considering. Including the reaction from both communities after each event. When Brown was shot and killed at the hands of police officers, many citizens from all over the country took to the streets in protest. Soon the hashtags #ferguson #blm and #justiceformikebrown were trending globally. The reaction to the Pasco shooting wasn’t nearly as significant to the one in Ferguson, but, for some, the lack of coverage and significant protests against police brutality in the Latino community poses an issue.

“Is it that we didn’t hear about it or that Latinos didn’t care about it?” added Georgina Perez.

“Why can’t we get the same type of coverage or help?” Kris Ramirez said, echoing the same sentiments when her brother was shot by LAPD in 2014.

A study from Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, showed that Latinos comprise less than one percent of total news media coverage, the small coverage that feature Latinos are often portrayed as criminals.

“Violence or discrimination against Latinos does not tend to resonate among most Americans because Latinos are generally not perceived as Americans but recent immigrants or foreigners with no deep roots and histories in the U.S.,” Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the center’s director, said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

The lack of coverage of Latinos shot and killed by police is not an indicator that this isn’t happening. Statistics on the killings committed by police officers are not only hard to find but are also inconsistent. Even so people have crowdsourced information to keep some form of record of police killings. According to research done by Al Dia news, at least 714 people were killed by law enforcement in 2015. 105 of those killed were identified as Latino. 16 of those Latinos were unarmed while 19 showed signs of mental illness.  In fact, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Latinos are 30 percent more likely to be killed by police than average (right after Native Americans and African Americans).

The reason behind so much coverage of any shooting or incident with the police lies in the hands of the people. People’s involvement can become so significant the the general news media cannot ignore their voices. The issues we face today can receive more coverage if we use social media to voice our concerns of crimes against our own community. But, we shouldn’t just be outspoken of the crimes against us. Sharing positive news of our own community, of working alongside others, also helps empower our narrative as Latin@s.