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.

Finding the “Right” One: College Edition

Preparing for college will be one of the hardest decisions you’ll make in your life, but by being reflective of your strengths and passions will help make the college decision process feel like a breeze! Here are some helpful tips for the college search process:

Finding the “perfect” college

First, make a list of all the colleges/universities you want to attend, be realistic and choose twelve at most. Then, look at the programs each college offers and select the one that fits your college plans. During your college search, be sure to look up the percentage of admittance, the overall accepted GPA, population of students,  job/internship opportunities, financial aid opportunities, and how accredited the college claims to be. These areas will help you get a better understanding of the campus, student population, and whether or not it will be a good fit for you.

Another great deciding factor in choosing a college would be to decide where you want to live for the next few years. Look at the schools’ hometowns and research those areas, then whittle your choices down to which university or college offers the best programs and opportunities for you. If you’re torn between staying home and going out of town for college, realize you are beginning a new chapter in your life. You’ll never know unless you try. Rocio Rangel, an admissions officer for St. Edward’s University stated, “College is a time to put those values your parents gave you to practice. It’s also a time to become independent. If it had not been that I left home to go to college, I would never have known how to pay my own bills, or what it meant to provide for myself. There’s a great sense of pride in that.”  Living independently is terrifying, exciting and rewarding.


Selecting the right major/area of study

Think about what you enjoy doing,something you excel in, and/or something you see yourself doing for many years. Selecting the right major will depend on your interests, passions, and, most importantly, how much time and money you see yourself realistically investing in. If you’re still in a slump on your future study subject but want to go to college right after you graduate high school, don’t stress, most colleges offer an “undeclared” major which gives you a whole year to contemplate. And if that’s not enough, every college requires a few general courses and electives that will help you discover what you’re really interested in. You are young and have the rest of your life to figure out who you are, but it takes a lot of reflection in college to figure out your strengths and passion in life. Try different extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities to find out what you like and don’t like — trust me, experiences outside of school will help give you an idea of what your future career will be.

Still need help narrowing your college or area of study down? You might want to talk to your educators, parents, older siblings or friends who have already been to university.



Teen’s Guide for Finding a Job

Money2Recently, my family and I went on a very cool family vacation in South America; every day was filled with fun-in-the-sun, hanging out with cousins, and no worries, whatsoever. When you’re a kid at 15, you don’t want to be worrying about anything but what fun thing you’re going to do that day. However, upon returning to the United States, I was immediately hit with the realization that all my friends were getting jobs.  I was VERY surprised that so many of my friends were already taking on this huge responsibility! Not wanting to fall behind, I immediately searched: “What do I need to know about getting a job as a 16-year-old?” Well, I found a lot of great info for chicas like myself wanting to get a job, but not knowing where to start.

Getting Started:

Find the basic information like hiring practices and salary. Most places that hire teens will start doing so at 16 years old, however, most states restrict what kind of jobs teens can do, and how many hours we can work. If you’re 14 or 15, for example, you can work a maximum of 8 hours on a school day, and 16 hours a week during the school year.

It is always good to know that there is a minimum on how much you are required to be paid, and each state has its minimum, which you can check at this link: For a reference, the United States Federal minimum wage is $7.25.

Finding the Right Fit:

While not all places will hire teens, some great places to start looking for a job if you’re a teen include fast food and restaurants, or retail shops.  If you love little kids, why not be a baby-sitter? While it is not necessary if you’re working for your close grown-up friends, getting a baby-sitting certification class is always a good idea so you can show other adults you have experience once your customers start to grow. If you need help thinking of other jobs, some likely ones are as library assistants if you love books, as a lifeguard at your local pool, or maybe a job at your favorite arcade or amusement park, or as a sport coaching-assistant.  If you’re good with computers, you could work at your local technology appliances stores, like Best Buy– depending on your technical skills you could easily be earning $15 an hour!

Building your Work Experience:

If you’re working for a store, or other business, don’t expect to get your ideal job position right when you start if you have no previous job experience. In most cases, you will be getting paid minimum wage and working cleaning, delivering, and filing jobs before you can move to handling money or becoming a restaurant server. Don’t be discouraged, it takes time but you WILL get there.

However, because of the mentioned above, I advise you to start your OWN business, be your own boss! If you have a lawn mower at home, you could easily start a business and be getting a bigger portion of the pay! Start by asking around your neighborhood or around a close neighborhood that has bigger lawns. If that’s not for you, simply think of a hobby that you have, and see how you can use it to your advantage, be creative! If you like art or crafts, consider making your crafts to sell at a local market or fair. Use any of your skills to help get the job done for other people, in the end, you have more control on what job you will be doing and you will definitely be making more money for your work.

All you need is to make sure you have thought of a plan on how you’re going to run your business, and stay committed. Soon, the money will start rolling in!

Diary of an International Student

A story of an international student 

I look to my old self now and think: “Oh I’ve changed a lot.” A few years ago, I decided something that would change the rest of my life. I decided to come to study in the US and to leave my home in Mexico. My main motivation to come here was to follow my dreams. I’ve always wanted to do something different and positive that would benefit a lot of people. I wanted to become a journalist. So why not study in an American university and start working on my dreams now!

Not everything was easy.  I was really afraid. First of all, it was college and it’s a different environment from high school. Secondly, it isn’t my home. Most of the people around me used to say that I wouldn’t make it. A lot of them told me that I would come back before my first semester ended and some didn’t even want me to move away from my home! I also had to work on improving my knowledge of the English language. I fought against all the bad vibes and made it through.

Even if it’s a few minutes away between the my hometown of Juarez, Mexico and the neighboring border city of El Paso, Texas, everything’s different. I moved across the border to attend college and become an international student. The culture changes, the language, the ways people interact is different. At first, I wasn’t really excited about the differences. At the beginning, my surroundings were very different from what I was used to. People acted differently. It felt like not a lot was similar to what I was used to seeing every day. After a few days of “analyzing” the place and observing, I realized that it’s not that different. It’s just a different stage of my life. It would have been the same back in Mexico. It is just that I was growing up and that I was about to enter a new chapter of my life.

It’s hard at first to adjust to a new place. It is important to not to try to “fit in” and be like the rest. What I did was act like myself and adapt to something new. More than a year later, here I am telling you my story and my journey through it.

What do I miss? I miss my old friends. I rarely see them. When I do, there isn’t enough time. I miss spending every minute of my day with them and doing the crazy things we used to do. A good thing is that I made new friends, and I appreciate every single one of them.

I love being here. I love the reason why I’m here. I’m here to follow my dreams and to become a better person. If you’re in the same situation as I am, that is amazing. This is a great purpose and you can achieve everything you want. If you live in another country and your dream is to come here to the US, do it. You can work hard for it. Some people may be against you and your ideals, but at the end it will all be worth it. While I’m still far from achieving what I want, today I can be happy because I’m on my way.

Driven By Emotions

It can seem like life is a rollercoaster of emotions with feelings like anger, sadness, fear and nervousness. You may feel like one day you’re up with happiness, the next you find yourself feeling down. Millions of things and situations can make us feel all sorts of emotions and these include bad emotions too. Have you ever done something you regret doing because perhaps you were too busy thinking about what you were feeling and not about the consequences? It is important to make sure that emotions are you not driving you to bad decisions.
Making Bad Decisions
Mariana Govea, age 17,  got an injury on her knee. She recalls how she felt upset, angry and scared and all these emotions led to bad decision making. “The moment I got hurt I was very upset and angry at myself for the fact that I knew I had hurt myself really bad. At the moment, I was very angry and I was kind of scared of telling my mom that I had hurt my knee. So I kept it for a while and I did not tell my parents and unfortunately that led to me injuring myself even more.  I think that if I would of actually express my feelings to my mom, told her what had happened and not let myself get driven by the anger and fear, that wouldn’t have happened to me.”Sisters Mariana and Fernanda Gutierrez, ages 14 and 11, tell similar stories where they both lied when they got taken over by emotions.

“There was this time where my friends were like trying to joke around,” said Mariana. “They were saying that they wanted to have a sleepover and they didn’t technically invite me so that kind of got me angry so I told them I was also going to go to a sleepover party even though I lied to them.”

“I lied to one of my friends that I was going to go somewhere with them and I ended up not going and they got really mad at me,” added Fernanda. “I lied to them because I had a lot of things to do. I had homework and a project coming up that had to involve a book report I had to read over the summer. I couldn’t do anything else, I felt stressed and pressured on.”

Hiding certain things from others or lying to people are very common things to do when you are driven by fear anger or stress. You may do it in order to not upset others or as a way to defend yourself. Yet remember that these decisions can end up being worse and at the end you may end up doing just that, hurting someone else of even yourself.

Once the emotions wear off you probably find yourself  wishing you hadn’t done what you just did. When you’re stuck in this situation there are two things to do. First, think of any way that you can fix the situation. A great example is apologizing. When you know you hurt someone’s feelings without intending too, taking responsibility for your own actions and mistakes shows that you are responsible and that you care for that other person. Hey, everybody makes mistakes, what counts is how you react to them.

Avoid Bad Decisions

Once you’ve apologized there’s one more thing to do. Reflect on what just happened. What a mess right? It is now time to think of how you can avoid all of this from happening again. Think about what steps you can take next time to avoid making the wrong decisions when you’re rushing with emotions.

Jeanette Ortiz, Mariana Govea and Bianca Castrejan give some advice on what to do before acting on impulse and making wrong decisions.

“Stop. Breath and take a minute to think before you act,” shared Jeanette Ortiz, age 24.

“Think about what you’re actually doing because if you don’t stop and listen to what your doing you can commit something that you might regret later and might actually turn worse than how it would of been if you actually took the time to pay attention to what’s going on,” shared Mariana Govea, age 17. “Feelings are just feelings and they can go away if you know how to handle them.”

“The best thing is to try to calm yourself down.When you’re full of emotions it’s hard to think at that certain moment but I think it’s better to just leave the situation and take the time to calm down and once you’ve calm down then you can address the problem that you had,” added Bianca Castrejon, age 24.

Emotions can be controlling and sometimes they can lead to making the wrong decisions. So the next time you are being driven by one of  these emotions just…stop, take a breather and take a minute to think before you act!

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!

The “Perfect” Fit

As the years go by some might remember things of the past, such as technology or fashion, as in the case of young girls. For some, they might remember wearing chokers or wide-cut jeans with with the baby doll shirt, etc.

But now, the girls of today are noticing a trend when they go shopping for clothes and find more revealing fashion trends.

“I definitely felt pressured to dress more provocative when I shopped for clothes as a freshman,”  says Bailee Ortiz, now an incoming sophomore.

As young teenage girls get older they are pressured to look perfect by society. This occurs when young freshman girls in high school attempt to look older in order to fit in. This can be daunting for them as the transition to the ‘big kids school’ means entering young adulthood. Such mind set can be negatively damaging for girls as they can develop mental and physical health problems, such as: depression and  eating disorders.

“The outfits found in clothing stores today are so much more ‘out there’ than what I was used to. All of the current trends are everywhere that you cannot escape it without scavenging other stores,” shares Amelia Guitérrez, 16.

Fashion designs for older teen girls have indeed been steadily targeted to younger consumers. According to a survey by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, found that 95% of students with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.8.  This shows the negative effects of advertising where young girls are so afraid of not looking like the images in the media, that they turn to harmful methods to please society.

“I just finished shopping for clothes,” said freshman bound Lily Estévez. “Most major clothing stores have these displays of current trends-which I don’t like- and it was really hard to find simple shirts that at least had the back fabric sewn on.”

Many girls are fighting back against this by ignoring pressures from society and the media.

“I fight back by purchasing clothes that I am comfortable in,” says 14 year old Leslie Muñoz. She added, “We shouldn’t give power to people who break down the confidence of young girls.”

There are many ways staying positive in the world today by surrounding yourself with family or friends that make a positive impact in your life. If you’re ever feeling down about your body image, you can keep a journal where you can write all of your insecurities just to let all  the negativity out. But at the end of each entry, you should list five things you love about yourself and why you’re happy.

Coming to America


Christina Lorenza Aybar (Peralta – her mother’s maiden name which was removed when she became a U.S. citizen) was four years old when she moved from the Dominican Republic (DR) to the United States. She grew up in Washington Heights in Manhattan, New York, and now lives in South Texas. She is a wife and a mother of three children. She works with children at a school as the Science-Technology manager.

Q: Okay, so to start off, do you remember anything from the day you came to America?
A: I remember when, on the day, we were coming to the United States, I remember saying bye to everybody.

Q: Did you know what was going on? Were you sad?
A: I think I knew we were leaving to move somewhere else. Yeah, I was sad saying goodbye to everybody.

Q: Do you remember anything from the trip?
A: I remember being on the plane and looking out the window, and then I remember fussing with the curtains, and it feel down. I guess it broke, and I fell asleep until it was time to get off.

Q: When you were sixteen and visiting the Dominican Republic, did you wish you had never moved? Or were you just happy to be visiting?
A: I was happy to be visiting, happy to be meeting my cousins for the first time that I had never met before, but I was happy I lived in New York.

Q: Who was in the U.S. when you came over?
A: My mom, dad, one sister, and one brother.*
*Christina is the youngest of ten, she has six sisters and three brothers.

Q: How old were you when your parents moved away?
A: I think I was about two and a half when my parents first moved from the Dominican Republic.

Q: Do you think you know enough about Dominican history and culture?
A: No. I wish I knew more.

Q: Did you ever want to live there or move back?
A: No, I never wanted to live there because I was used to living in the United States, and over there it’s very different. The electricity goes away for periods of time and the water comes and goes, as does the hot water, and I couldn’t get used to that.

Q: Where were you born?
A: In Santiago, well, in the country…but I don’t remember the name. En el campo.

Q: In New York, what were your parents’ jobs?
A: My mom worked as a seamstress in a factory, and my dad had several jobs, but when I got there he was a dishwasher in the Sheraton Hotel.

Q: So were they gone a lot because they were always working?
A: The way it worked, my mom worked during the day and my dad worked at night. He would make me breakfast and lunch, then around 3 o’clock, we would walk halfway to the train station (subway station), and my mom would pick me up. Then he’d take the train to work, and my mom and I would walk back home.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about the Dominican Republic?
A: When I visited when I was 16, and then again when I was 20, it was so peaceful and everything was nice and clean, just the country itself. Skies were blue and the trees were really green. People could leave the doors open and not have any problems.

Q: So you visited again when you were 20?
A: My parents had retired, so they went back and I went with them. I visited and I was going to live there, but I had a job back in New York before I left, at Albert’s Hosiery, and the owner kept sending messages asking me to come back, and I hadn’t gotten a job in the Dominican Republic, so I decided to go back to New York and work.

Q: You said you loved that the Dominican Republic was peaceful when you were younger. When you visited when you were older, it wasn’t as peaceful anymore?
A: Things had changed, there was more violence. We stayed in Santo Domingo with my mother-in-law. No, it wasn’t as peaceful.

Q: What’s your favorite Dominican food?
A: Sancocho. It’s kind of like a beef stew, rather than soup, I guess. It has the meat and a mixture of vegetables.

Q: And your favorite Dominican dessert?
A: Dominican cake with a guayava filling in the middle.

Q: Did you get to go to all of the “cool” places in DR?
A: No, not all of them. When I was sixteen, I went to Puerto Plata with my uncle. We stayed at this resort kind of thing, called El Sombrero because all of the huts were in the shape of a sombrero. And then we took telefericos, cable cars, to go up into mountains where the huge Jesus statue is. It’s beautiful up there and there are these beautiful gardens with plants and flowers. It’s really beautiful.

Oh! And on the way to Puerto Plata, when we were almost there, we were on the cable cars and we could see a house built on the side of the mountain shaped like a ship facing the ocean. I thought it was really cool!

We went to a beach, Puerto Escondido, or Playa Escondida, and it’s called that because it’s hidden. You park and then you have to walk through trees and stuff, and you get there and you see the beach and the water’s clear and everything.

I went to Santo Domingo, to El Malecon, which is a big wall by the ocean where people go to hang out and there are restaurants there. I visited the Basilica en Higuey when I was older, it was my first time there. It’s beautiful, and we saw La Virgen de Altagracia – she’s treated the way La Virgen de Guadalupe is treated by most Mexicans. I went to la playa de Sosúa, which is near Puerto Plata too.

When I was sixteen, we’d walk from my uncle’s house to el monumento de Santiago, and people would hang out there. It was a long walk, but my cousin, Milagros, and I would do it anyway.

Q: Anything else?
A: No, I’m sorry I can’t remember a lot about coming to America. I was little…I’ve forgotten a lot.

Although Christina may not want to move back to DR any time soon (or ever), she is happy to be from there and happy to be able to visit whenever she gets the chance.

Impact of the Supreme Court Ruling for the Latino Community


On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage across the nation, making this a historic victory in the gay rights movement. Before this decision was made, 37 out of 50 states (and the District of Colombia) had already extended this right to same sex couples throughout the course of eleven years. With Massachusetts becoming the first state in the United States to allow same sex marriage in 2004, many states began to follow suit as this issue picked up wind. With the ruling, the remaining states that had yet to recognize the rights of gay couples will now be legally required to issue marriage license to them and give the legal benefits that come with it.

Upon hearing the news, individuals across the country rejoiced with their loved ones. Celebration of the decision took on various forms throughout social media as people rallied together to show their support from likes to tweets. Hashtags like “LoveisLove” and “#LoveWins” spread throughout the internet as people embraced the news. Websites like Google and Yahoo modified their logo appearance, while Facebook created a rainbow filter to go over a user’s profile picture to show support and acceptance. Historic landmarks and tourists sites alike were illuminated with rainbow colored lights on Friday night.

Simultaneously, there was explosion from those that opposed the ruling. From justices to conservative Christian pastors, their stance on the issue began to appear in headlines and their reasons varied anywhere from states’ right to religious freedom. Homophobic remarks and attitudes were seen throughout social media when the news broke, often resulting in online arguments.

Whether you are in favor with the ruling or not, it cannot be denied that the decision will go down as an important moment in the history of the United States. The Supreme Court’s verdict was based on the idea that denying gay couples the right to marry meant they were being denied equality and therefore fundamental rights as Americans.  As members of the LGBT+ community continue to fight for their rights, they have slowly been chipping away at barriers that oppress them. Celeste Ledesma, a junior at Bryn Mawr College, knew that the legalization of marriage was not the end of the fight.

Latino culture is centralized around the family unit and there are often strict social rules to uphold its values; coming out as queer can often challenge those ideals. Since that is the case, queer young Latinos/as often face the reality of being thrown out of their home or of being mistreated, of living in a homophobic household where religion or ​machismo​ often contribute to this attitude, and of facing discrimination. Often times, Latinos/as might be forced to choose between their ethnic and sexual/gender identity for their own well-being.

Ledesma argues that acceptance of being queer might depend on the generation. “When you go back to our parents’ generation or our grandparents’ generation, they might not be ready [for the change]…[the challenge then becomes of] explaining the changing world to a generation that already has their world view that set.”

Not only are queer Latinos/as fighting for the ability to be accepted by their own families, but they fight to be respected within their communities. According to a 2011 study by ​Mujeres Latinas en Accion​, a Latina advocacy organization, and ​Amigas Latinas,​ an organization to support lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning Latinas, found that 25 percent of the 300 survey Latinas felt that they were discriminated against in the Latino community. In the same survey, they found that many queer Latinas had had racist remarks directed towards them in predominately white LGBT+ support services. This discrimination and racism can have detrimental impacts on the individual’s life. When you are rejected by your loved ones, it causes extreme emotional stress.

Apart from their attempt to be accepted, queer Latinos and Latinas also have to fight against stereotypes placed on them by their own community and those outside of it. The media continues to perpetuate the stereotypes that all Latinos are lazy, uneducated, and undocumented. Some stereotypes have been created with the help of ​machismo ​and religion, while others have been created through the systematic oppression that all Latinos and other people of color face. Standards have been placed on Latinos/as on how they should act, the roles to perform, and how they should look. When individuals deviate from these standards, it causes problems.

In a time where we encourage young people to be who they are and to love themselves, we should not be hypocritical and reject those that are different from us.  Rejection of queer Latinos only fragments families and communities, driving a wedge further between them. There is nothing wrong with being queer. We love who we love, and we are who we are. If we wish to overcome things such as racism and discrimination, if we wish to overcome systematic oppression, we have to start by looking into our own community and fix the problems within. We cannot ask to be free of oppression, when we act as oppressors to others. Latinos come in all shapes, sizes, colors, sexualities, genders, and background. If we wish to create a better world for the future generations of Latinos, we have to learn to accept one another and through this, a positive social change will occur.

Tattoo Taboo in Latino Culture

sugar skull tat

Tattoos have long been a controversial subject, and often a social taboo. The reasons for their negative image are many, but mostly they stem from their historical association with criminal activity. They were oftentimes used to brand criminals, and sailors utilized them as well as a means of identification in case they were drowned and washed ashore somewhere. In more recent history, and nowadays, tattoos are intimately associated with gangs who use them to pledge loyalty by permanently imprinting gang symbols on their bodies.

In the US and parts of Latin America, however, this trend is changing as more and more young people are choosing to get tattoos for personal reasons. A poll conducted in 2012 by The Harris Poll showed that 1 in 5 American adults possess at least one tattoo. Approximately 15-20% percent of those tattooing are Hispanic. The majority of those interviewed in the poll were not gang members or criminals but rather chose to tattoo because they wanted to express a facet of their identity through body art.

Nonetheless, tattoos are still regarded negatively within the Latino culture. Parents of tattooed young people often react to their offspring’s decision with anger or even horror. Daphne, 23, a Mexican-American of immigrant parents, recalls the day her parents discovered a large tattoo on her ribcage. While her father was disappointed in her so-called “foolish choice” her mother was especially upset. “She was screaming and cursing and crying,” Daphne says. “She didn’t speak to me for months after that. She said this wasn’t how she raised me and I looked like I belonged in gang.” She and her mother finally reconciled, though her mother still can’t stand to see her tattoo. She believes her mother overreacted, but admits that after speaking to her mother about the issue she has come to understand a little better her reasons. Daphne’s mother is from Mexico, where currently gangs involved in drug cartels terrorize the country. The gangs are often recognizable by their symbolic tattoos, and for many who live in fear of gang violence they often try to spot danger by scanning questionable-looking individuals for their telltale tattoos.

Throughout Central America the attitude towards tattoos is based in similar realities. Candi, 26, grew up in Honduras and says that in her home country tattoos are also deeply connected to violent gangs that the people greatly fear. Having lived in the United States for a decade now she has one small tattoo on her wrist. “The attitude here is so different. Most people don’t have the same fear of gang violence so tattoos have a different meaning. They’re just art.”

So, because of the differences in ways of life in parts of Latin America versus in the United States, older-generation Latinos are often more wary of tattoos than cultures not currently entrenched in gang warfare. As shown by Daphne’s and Candi’s anecdotes tattoos often make them think immediately of dangerous gangs, while for those raised outside such fears tattoos are not so instantly threatening. Latinos raised in the US, while sometime having encountered gang activity, do not endure the national fear of violence by drug cartels, so their view of tattoos is not as extreme. It is easier for them to view tattoos as innocent works of art and self-expression. These differing experiences, however, have caused some disagreement between generations about the nature of tattoos. In the end it is important for those for and against tattoos to understand one another’s point of view. As far as the art of tattooing is concerned, its stigma will likely never disappear as long as gangs and criminals continue to use them for their own purposes.