Love Knows No Boundaries

Modernization has pioneered interracial relationships. The 1967 Supreme Court Case Loving v. Virginia overturned the illegality of mixed race relationships. However, in such a modern world, how does culture influence the dating game?

Vietnamese-American student, Tiffany Vo has been in a relationship with her boyfriend, Jesus Urzua since they met in high school for over three years. Urzua identifies as Mexican-American.

Both Vo and Urzua say their relationship is more acceptable to the outside world, considering the United States’ history. “I think society has definitely grown to accept it more and more,” said Vo.  Urzua added, “But not every single person is accepting of it.”

Vo’s family values have affected her relationship. “My parents holding such strong traditional Vietnamese values, they only accept him as a close friend, even though I have made it quite obvious that he is a lot more than that,” said Vo. To this day, Vo says that her family does not consider Urzua her boyfriend.

Urzua said that his family however, is more open to his first interracial relationship despite cultural or racial barriers. “There is definitely a language barrier with her parents and I, and also between my parents and Tiffany,” said Urzua.

Dating, however, is different than marriage. Colombian native, Elizabeth Maker has been married for 12 years to her U.S. born, white husband. Maker and her husband met in Bogota, Colombia.

Two different countries mean compromise. “My religion is Catholicism. When we started our relationship, he was not involved at all in my Catholic Parish,” said Maker. She added that the difficulty of the situation changed as he learned to practice her religion.

Maker’s first and only interracial relationship also results in language barrier. It is a feat overcome by combining each other’s culture into a Colombo-American life.

As diverse as cultures are from one another, couples are capable of learning much from their partner. “I have learned a great deal about partner communication in these past couple of years,” said Vo. Urzua added that his commitment to Vo has taught him a lot about relationships and has given him the pleasure to explore a different culture, while sharing his too.

“[A relationship] changes you point of view of what works in the world and realize each human is equal,” Maker said, “I am happy and lucky to have this cultural marriage… and grow as a human being.”

Relationships may face problems over race, socioeconomic status, gender, etc. In any case, there are times where a person has to choose between their traditional family values and partners.

“In my opinion, society sees interracial relationships as normal situations because we are living in a different time with a more open mind,” said Maker, “I had a very private life with my husband when we started our relationship.” For that reason, Maker says she never felt criticized.

Vo says her family is very traditional and claims she chooses her boyfriend over traditional family values. “It’s a real struggle, but it’s worth it.” She says she realizes that in the future, she will have to abide by her parents “guidelines on what guys to date and which career to pursue.”

Who a person dates may be highly influenced by their culture. While some know that they will face cultural barriers, in the most cliché of terms love overcomes anything. For now they are happily committed to a person of a different race.

In Search of Female Doctors

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To be a doctor, one must be passionate, dedicated, intelligent, hardworking, and compassionate.

Women are ideal for these positions! Why is it, then, that less than half of all physicians and surgeons are female? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “in 2012, 34.3% of all physicians and surgeons were women.” Even though it is better than older statistics, there is still an unequal amount of female doctors compared to male doctors. Why is that?

Robert Fiorentine from Pennsylvania State University mentions in his work, Men, Women and the Premed Persistence Gap: A Normative Alternatives Approach, that when starting college, the premed programs have an almost equal amount of men and women enrolled.

The University of Illinois in Springfield says, “The ratio between men and women varies between schools, and from year to year, but is usually close to 50/50.” In their research for “Medical Schools in the United States, 2010-2011,” Barbara Barzansky and Sylvia I. Etzel discovered that 48.3% of medical school graduates are women. All the research shows that up until the actual work field, women and men are pretty balanced.

Why are there fewer women practicing medicine than there are men?

Because fathers are not seen as the more nurturing of the two, they are able to continue working and getting their dream job is a frequent explanation of the gap in the field of medicine. They hardly ever have to make a choice between being a father and being a doctor, businessman, lawyer, etc. Women do not have the same good fortune. Since they are the ones carrying the child, they have to take time off of work during their pregnancy and sometimes after, too. If they choose to continue working after having children, they are harshly criticized, but if they choose to not work, they are still criticized.

Career VS Family

Women currently enrolled in a university were asked why they think women put a pause to their career goals or never go through with them. One answer was repeated more than any others: women do not want to be doctors because they do not want to take time away from starting and taking care of a family. Melissa Moya, 21, says, “Women are stereotyped to be caregivers instead of in the workforce.” This stereotype can cause changes in the way women planned their future. Although this idea that doctors cannot have both a family and a career is a popular one, it is not one that is always instilled in all women who dream of being medics.

For example, Emily Orquiz, 14, still holds to her dreams of finding a profession in the medical field, regardless of the stereotypes. “I [want to] help people,” she says. She plans on attending college and then medical school to do just that.

In her article, “Faces of Change, Voices of Inspiration: Celebrating Latina Women in Medicine,” Sethina Edwards highlights Latinas who have proved that women can be doctors and lived a balanced familial life. Sethina Edwards talks about Dr. Sandy Tsao. Dr. Tsao, a Navajo Indian, Hispanic, and Basque woman, did not let anything stand in her way and she attended Harvard Medical School. Since graduating from Harvard, Dr. Tao has had many successes which include, but are not limited to, “a high-profile career and book coming out.” Adding to the list of achievements is her loving family. At the time the article was written, she was expecting a second child.

The second person featured in “Faces of Change, Voices of Inspiration” is Perla del Pino-White, the first one of her Cuban family who was born in the United States. In spite of facing harsh circumstances such as her father tragically dying when Perla was only fourteen, she persevered and followed her dream of becoming a doctor. Although Perla continued to face unfortunate and tragic events, she kept fighting to make her dream come true. She got accepted into medical school. When this article was published, Perla was on her fourth year of medical school, balancing not only the stress of med school, but the birth of her first son. She, too, proved that it was possible to seek a career as a doctor and have a family.

Although statistics show that, for multiple reasons, women are not following through with their dreams of becoming doctors, there are still women out there who are fighting to change those numbers. Today the stigma that women cannot do what men can do is slowly but surely dissolving, allowing women of all backgrounds to, like Emily Orquiz said, “help people” through the profession of medic.

To Your (Mental) Health!

Girls JumpingHave you ever felt really, really bad but worried that if you told someone, they just might not understand? That they might totally miss the point, overreact, or, even worse, not react at all? As teenage girls, we go through a ton of changes in a short period of time. As Latinas in the United States, we face the added pressure of having to navigate and satisfy different cultural expectations and social pressures.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, it is projected that up to 46% of Latina women  in the US have experienced or will experience clinical depression (NAMI). Satisfying varied cultural and gender expectations while constantly feeling “different”  is certainly not easy, and can sometimes make us feel overwhelmed, lost, anxious and sad. Sometimes these feelings are fleeting, lasting only a few days, but sometimes difficult feelings can linger…and linger….and linger.

Unfortunately, there are people who will tell you to just “snap out of it,” as if at the flick of a wrist your emotional clouds will disappear behind happy rainbows and unicorns. Others might tell you to simply “get over it.”  As if.

Time for Help?
It is true that sometimes we just have some good old teenage angst.  And yes, sometimes we do overreact. For example, your crush going on a date with your frenemy is not the end of the world (even though it feels like it). Neither is being grounded for a weekend. But sometimes feelings go beyond regular troubles. Maybe your parents recently divorced or you feel lonely at school. Maybe you lost a loved one. Maybe you worry about everything so much that you cannot do anything.

Lucia Schmidt, 23, confides “sometimes I get so anxious at school that I just go in circles, paralyzed, feeling worse and worse. I cannot seem to accomplish any amount of productivity. On a good day, I can conquer my anxiety. On a bad day, I fall into an attack of sweats, shortened breath, and loss of emotional control” (known commonly as a panic attack). It is important to recognize at which point emotional stress exceeds healthy levels.

Sometimes we get so low and stressed that we need help coping with our feelings. This is the time to consider talking to a trusted adult. This person can be a parent, a teacher, a school counselor, or perhaps a psychologist. A psychologist is a professional trained to help you work through hard times. A psychologist specializes in mental health care, and your school counselor can probably recommend one to you (and help you find the most affordable—even free—options).

Gabriela Mendoza, 19, is grateful that she was encouraged to seek professional help.  ”It is so comforting to have a knowledgeable, unbiased person to talk to. I feel like I can truly unload my stresses and fears. My therapist helps me untangle my emotions and develop ways to handle emotionally difficult situations.”

It is neither weird nor bad to need and seek help. The hormones of adolescence, stress of school, and social pressures can make times feel pretty tough. You are not alone, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. On the contrary, kudos for recognizing that something is getting in the way of you being your absolute most fabulous self!  Asking for help shows not only great maturity, but that you want to live the healthiest, happiest life possible. Cheers!

You Are Never Alone
Feelings can be pretty tricky to talk about. It is normal (though unnecessary) to feel shy when talking about the inner workings of your mind and heart. Don’t beat yourself up if the right words seem hard to find, and never think a particular feeling is weird or bad—if you have felt it, so have millions of others, and you can be sure any psychologist or counselor knows exactly what you are talking about. In fact, amongst your friends and family you are almost guaranteed to find someone who has at some point struggled with a similar feeling. Unfortunately, not everyone acknowledges his or her emotional struggles. Not only is this unhealthy, this contributes to a culture of denial and poor mental health. Be patient with yourself, open up to a trusted person, and afford yourself the emotional care and space you need in order to be your happiest self.

Mental health is perhaps the most overlooked yet most important aspect of our overall wellbeing. You, querida amiga, deserve the best in this world. In order to lead the most fun, fulfilling, and fabulous life possible you need to take great care of your entire self: body, heart, and mind.

The Beauty Pageant Debate

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Many little girls dream of being princesses. Their games often consist of dressing up in their favorite Disney princess dress. For a few this beautiful dream becomes a reality. Since 1952, 63 women have become Miss Universe titleholders and over a third are Latinas.

Pretty gowns and bathing suits, a beauty pageant is much more than these elements. Miss Universe candidates are judged in multiple areas, which include: proper poise, body proportions, body mass index, parade, and interview responses. Many often forget the last element, affirming that beauty pageants degrade women by creating false images of average women. Believing a flawless face, beautiful hair and a toned body are necessary elements to be happy.

True, some beauty pageants are superficial. It appears in many cases that women are chosen based on their looks and figure instead of prizing intellectuality. An example of this case is former Miss Universe 1996, Alicia Machado. She made headlines when she gained too much weight during reign. In January of 1997, Donald Trump publicly humiliated her by forcing her to lose weight and to work out in front of hundreds of reporters and photographers. Had Machado not completed those requirements, she would have lost her crown.

Former Miss California competitor, Shanay Thompson mentions in her blog, “That night I didn’t place, but it did change me. I got obsessed with exercising and counting calories and dropped down to 118-122 pounds. I remember my sister showing a picture of what I looked like and I was disgusted. I looked sick. I knew as a public figure, I didn’t want young girls to follow this pattern and this wasn’t how I wanted to live my life.” Thompson believed she lost the crown due to her weight, but she realized that barely eating and obsessing over workouts was unhealthy.

Enough with the negativity; girls need to be inspired in a good way: eat right, do non-harmful exercises and have a drive for knowledge. Former Miss Universe 1997, Brooke Lee stated in an interview, “Miss Universe opened doors, windows, sunroofs, and chimneys! For a hula dancer / college student from Pearl City, Hawaii, winning completely changed my scope of the world. I traveled the world, met dignitaries, heads of states. I got to see things and go to places I would have never been able to dream of on my own in Hawaii.”

All in all, beauty pageants seem to ask women to match certain external attributes, but they also go beyond just looks. Women learn about different cultures, competition and many other aspects that prepare them for the professional field. Child beauty pageants; however, push young girls away from princess games. No young child should wear excessive make-up, fake lashes, provocative clothing, heels and inject botox. Every girl needs to live each stage of her life at an adequate pace while parents serve as a guide.

Our Warrior, Sor Juana

Thanks to all the feminist movements of the past, today women around privileged countries have an opportunity to pursue their educational goals. One of the first feminists in history, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, fought to have her voice heard. Sor Juana Ines was born in a time when women were voiceless. She was born in San Miguel Nepantla in New Spain, now known as México. She was a nun, a poet and a writer. Her strongest weapons: her knowledge, pen and paper.  They are elements that do not receive as much credit today.

Sorjuana

As a female of the 17th century, she had little access to education. She began to read and write at the age of three in her grandfather’s library. If she married her thirst for education would be threatened; in 1969, she took her vows at the Convent of Santa Paula of the Hieronymite. Little did she know that her education and writing would be silenced.

In a conversation with the Bishop of Puebla, she critiqued a sermon delivered by Portuguese Jesuit Antonio de Vieira. The bishop asked her to put her opinion in writing. In 1691, he published it without her knowledge or consent. Along with this text, the bishop included a letter condemning her intellectualism as a woman. In retaliation, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz wrote “Respuesta a Sor Filotea.”  In this letter, she condemns the Catholic Church for not supporting women’s rights to have an education and explains that education can be used to serve God. This resulted in censorship; she was not allowed to publish her writing and was forced to give her books away.

LaGuardia Community College Professor, Ana Maria Hernández states, “Juana was a woman alone against the might of the church and the might of the ground. She certainly rose to the circumstances, certainly rose to trace a trail for women who came afterwards.”

Sor Juana Ines’ trail was followed in United States by women’s rights activists in the mid- 19th century. Her voice should serve as an inspiration to many. She fought battle for women yet she was the only soldier.

It is sad to say that the battle for women’s equality continues today. According to National Committee on Pay Equity, women only make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Women’s pay checks for the same job are about a quarter less than men’s. How is this fair?

Examiner, Worcester Catholic Women’s Issues writer, Patricia Clark mentions, ”her battle for equality for women in every aspect of life, but especially in education, should serve to inspire young and old women everywhere who occasionally forget, due to the clamor of the superficial values of the culture, that it’s not what adorns the head from without that makes the woman a beauty, but rather that which embellishes and stirs it within.”

If Sor Juana hadn’t fought against the stereotypes in a male dominated society, today women wouldn’t be able to fight for equal pay doing the same jobs as men. Women do much more than men today; they are employees, mothers and wives. The least they deserve is equal pay.

Women in the United States have a louder voice than many others around the globe. We have a right to vote, drive and work unlike countries where only males rule. If women’s voices unite to demand equality, change will come. Soon other nations will follow, such as Pakistan by having Malala Yousafzai as an activist. Great battles have leaders, but they also have soldiers. Women are strong beings, capable of so many wonders. They are equal to men; therefore they deserve the same rights.

Winter Fashion

This winter has been one of the coldest the nation has seen in several years according to CNN. With extreme freezing temperatures like those in Chicago and New York, you may feel it’s impossible to keep up with the latest trends while avoiding hypothermia. Fear not all you Latina fashionistas! You’re just a few paragraphs away from learning some new and easy ways to keep warm and, of course, in style this winter season.

Now it’s no surprise most girls want to be fashion forward at all times. Think about it, when you’ve hung out with some of your amigas, you’ve probably skimmed through some of your favorite magazines looking for inspiration. You may have even exchanged a skirt or a pair of opened toed shoes with a friend in order to achieve that extra touch of glamour in your outfit. But times are cold these days and quite frankly, frostbitten fingers and toes are never in style. So, what’s a girl like you with so much fashion in her heart supposed to do when the first snowflakes start falling, or when you find yourself helping your parents scrape ice off of the car window before going to school?

Photo credit, Claudia Candelas, http://www.loveallthingsfashion.com

Photo credit, Claudia Candelas, http://www.loveallthingsfashion.com

Fashion blogger, Claudia Candelas says winter is the perfect season for any girl to express her sense of style, “You have the option of layers and adding more to each outfit.” Candelas says that though her staple winter fashion must-have are cozy boots, she can never say no to a good scarf.

“I love scarves because they add a whole different look to your outfit. If you are wearing a solid colored sweater you can add a printed or thick scarf to brighten it up.”

Candelas also says she gets her fashion ideas from social media sites such as Tumblr and Pinterest, but ultimately, she is in charge of what she thinks is stylish.

“Fashion is whatever you make it to be…it does not need to be expensive or the trendiest as long as you have the confidence to rock it!”

For others, sporting the latest winter trends can sometimes feel like a drag. Edna Ramirez, a bridal consultant, admits she falls under this category, but she can’t deny she enjoys the comfort of the winter clothes that keep her snug. “Chunky knit sweaters…they give off a vintage meets boho type of vibe that can easily dress up or dress down any outfit. They help keep you warm but don’t feel as constricting as jackets and coats.” Ramirez says she gives credit to the local weather news report for her fashion inspiration look of the day. “I wake up and look at the weather prediction for the day and base my winter outfit on that. If it is going to be a very cold day I’ll go with thicker scarves, layers of jackets, boots, and maybe even a hat.”

For many students though, being fashion forward can seem impossible especially after tuition and books have been paid off.  “I can’t work a lot because I’m in school so there isn’t much money left over, which is why I shop at secondhand stores,” says Katarina Peña, Santa Clara University Law student. She says money may be tight when it comes down to shopping, but what she enjoys the most about thrift shops is knowing she hasn’t broken her bank account for wanting to look and feel good. “You can find unique and inexpensive clothing and most importantly, it’s not what everyone else is wearing so you’re bound to stand out. ”

Although magazines and social media gurus know about the latest trends to look up-to-date and fierce, it’s important that you remember to listen to yourself when it comes to presenting yourself to the world. Feel free to take ideas and fashion looks into consideration but you must always know that no matter what trends you are following, the one thing that will never go out of style is your heart.

Hispanic Christmas Traditions

Feliz Navidad! It’s the most wonderful time of the year again, and that means it’s time for the family to get together once again.

Latinos celebrate Christmas with an array of wonderful customs and traditions. These practices may differ by country, but there are always three things that are present during the holiday: delicious food, joyful music, and good times with family and friends.

El Niño Jesus

The fun starts early in December (or late November, for those eager kids) when Latino children write letters to El Niño Jesus instead of Santa Claus. They place the letters somewhere on the Christmas tree. Moreover,  the nativity scene plays a prominent role during Christmas. It is usually placed below the Christmas tree and it can get quite intricate.

Posadas

Many Hispanics celebrate the nine days leading up to Christmas with posadas, which means “inns.” This celebration entails recreating the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph trying to find posada or lodging  on their way to Bethlehem. People will go from house to house singing carols and inviting those inside to join the procession. This tradition is primarily popular in Mexico.

Nochebuena

Hispanics celebrate Nochebuena or Christmas Eve  by dancing, eating and  going to mass with their families to honor the birth of baby Jesus. The Christmas Eve dinner can take place before or after attending mass. The dinner varies in terms of main course, side dishes and desserts depending on the country’s traditions. Pork, chicken and beef as well as tamales are common entrees in  many regions of Latin America.  In the Caribbean and Central America, tamales are wrapped in plantain leaves instead of cornhusks and are known by other names such as hallacas or bollos.

Evidently, food plays an indispensable role during Navidad (or Las Pascuas). Each country has its own unique dish. If you are in Mexico, the Pavo (turkey) and the Russian potato salad are bound to be at the dinner table. What’s more, the adoption of the turkey is modeled after the American Christmas and is nowadays adopted as a common dish throughout Latin American Christmas celebrations. In countries like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, one will find lechón asado,  a barbecued pig, as part of the dinner menu. As far as beverage go, egg-based drinks are frequent throughout Latin America during Christmas time. For instance, Venezuela’s ponche crema  is popular throughout Mexico, El Salvador  and Costa Rica.  

Once dinner has ended and you are stuffed with food,  that’s your cue to go outside and have some fun. Fireworks of every kind are very popular during this time of year. Kids play with sparklers called chispitas or estrellitas.  In Mexico, star-shaped piñatas made out of clay pots are filled with peanuts, candies and fruit for kids (and young-at-heart adults) to enjoy.

Each country has their own villancitos de Navidad, which are basically the Spanish version of Christmas carols. In Maracaibo, Venezuela,  they have the traditional folk music, called  Gaitas. They are only heard around Christmas time in many regional festivals. In Puerto Rico such Christmas songs are called aguinaldos.

On a different note, one of the many things Hispanics have adapted from the American culture is the practice of playing “Secret Santa” or just giving a present to the person whose name you draw from a hat.  This is becoming fairly common amongst big families.Furthermore, Hispanic holiday celebrations continue on to the New Year with Día de Reyes on January 6th, or Three Kings Day. Interestingly enough, even though the Western concept of Santa Claus has gained popularity among Hispanics, traditionally, presents are given on Día de Reyes, not Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas in Venezuela

hallacasI still recall my Christmas celebrations back  in Venezuela, when my parents used to give the children estrellitas,  a little stick that sparks when it is lit, and when all the family, from the oldest to the youngest, came together to make hallacas. However, my all-time favorite traditions occur during New Year’s Eve. In Venezuela, we have very peculiar customs during the last night of the year. One of them is eating 12 grapes as a countdown to the New Year. The fun part is that one must make a wish for the New Year as as one eats each grape.  Moreover, there are also plenty of customs for the more superstitious folk.  For example, do you wish to travel more in the upcoming year? No problem!  Grab a suitcase and walk around with it for a minute or two. Or are you looking for love?  Get a chair and stand on it for a few minutes.  And finally,  are you looking for a prosperous new year, full of lots of riches and money? Easy! Place a $1 bill under your shoe!  As silly as these sound, when you’ve become accustomed to these customs, they eventually turn into an indispensable  aspect of the holidays. Soon, one starts to realize that Christmas is not quite the same without these crazy traditions!

Disclaimer: These practices must be done at (or after) the strike of the New Year, not before. Hey, don’t ask me, I don’t make the rules.   

Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans,  Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Argentineans, etc. don’t celebrate  Christmas the same way. However, as mentioned earlier, celebrating with family, music and food is what makes up a typical Hispanic Christmas tradition.

Poem: Broken

by Fallon Sousa, 18

rainAs I glance out past my window
and I see these broken skies;
Oh, how they closely mirror
the teardrops in my eyes.

I have listened to such thunder
as I walked beyond the trees,
like a chained, forgotten lover
who hopes only to be freed.

As I fade into the darkness;
each soft whisper in the night,
I pray to gods of silence–
so that none shall hear my cry.

I have left you in a hurry;
you will scarcely hear me breathe
even though I have sought wonder
far beyond my own true need.

Once I’ve realized that I’m lonely,
and you take away my pain–
we can hold hands and walk slowly
through the heavens, in the rain.

Dealing with Depression

Whether you have been feeling blue for a week or for a couple of months, you are not alone when it comes to dealing with a constant feeling of sadness. Fighting depression is a tough battle for many Latinas, but there is hope for those feeling under the weather.

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What is depression?

Depression is not just stress. According to PubHealth.com, clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer. According to “Understanding depression,” an article published by Harvard Health Publications, depression is more complex than a chemical imbalance in our brains. It is believed to be caused by a combination of faulty regulation of chemicals in the brain, stressful events, genetics, medication, or medical problems.

Anyone can be affected

Anna is a Latina teen dealing with depression. “I remember my frustration with my parents as a teen. My friends were going through the same problems. Yet, I began isolating myself and pushing them away.”  Anna’s life is different than from her friends. Her father has gone through cancer treatment, her brother is currently serving time in jail, and her mother lives in Guatemala after being deported. Although she smiles each day as she is around friends, Anna hides her suffering and sadness, claiming it is merely the stress all teens experience.

According WebMD, certain types of depression can be hereditary, meaning depression can run in the family. Yet, depression can occur if you have no family history of depression. Depression is not limited to adults, it happens to children and adolescents as well. The US Department for Human Services reports that Hispanic students (12.8%) are significantly more likely than White, Non-Hispanic or Black Non-Hispanic students (6.7% and 7.3%) to attempt suicide. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2007 report found  Latinas suffer the most from this culture clash. The report states “Hispanic female high school students in grades 9-12 reported a higher percentage of suicide attempts (14.0%) than their White, non-Hispanic (7.7%) or Black counterparts.”

Symptoms

MedlinePlus explains that depression can change the way you perceive yourself, your life, and others. Those diagnosed with depression usually see everything with a more negative attitude. They have difficulties imagining a positive solution to a problem. A depressed person feels agitation, restlessness, and irritability. They become withdrawn and isolate themselves. They often describe lacking the ability to concentrate, lacking energy and have a feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, worthlessness, self-hate, and guilt. Depression can also cause trouble sleeping or too much sleeping. In extreme cases, depression can lead to thoughts of death or suicide.

A Lack of Understanding

Wendy Gonzalez, 19, shared her experience with chronic depression. “I told my parents that I had chronic depression and my dad responded with a ‘Tu no tienes nada.’ He said I didn’t have anything and that it was all a product of my fast paced life. I lived a fast paced life in order for me to not be so aware of my emotions,” Gonzalez said.

Depression can result from cultures clashing. As these two cultures share different values, a lack of understanding between parent and child develops.

Remember, depression is temporary. You are not alone; follow these tips in order to kick depression to the curb.

1. Add an Energy Boost to Your Diet

The first step in feeling better is to focus on taking care of yourself. Adopt a healthy food diet that contains quality nutrients. This means adding whole foods, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats to your diet. Eating junk food can make you feel weak and sluggish, while eating properly will give you the energy boost to get moving. Adding structure to your meals and eating at same times each day can help you avoid overeating or skipping meal. Being healthy also means being active. A healthy exercise routine of 60 minutes three times a day is helpful when combating depression. Take a walk around your neighborhood with a parent, pet or friend.

 2. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

This may be a no brainer, but to some drugs and alcohol present themselves as tempting mood boost. Reality check: those boosts are only temporary and will cause more damage than you think. Not only do drugs and alcohol damage your body, the use can also increase suicidal feelings once their effects fade. Additionally, drug and alcohol use can lead to addiction, which can also worsen your depression. While people often use drugs and alcohol to forget their troubles because it temporarily relieves their anxiety and relaxes them, this habit can develop into alcohol or drug abuse once the individual becomes dependent on the “boost.” The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that teens with depression are twice as likely as those who are not depressed to start drinking alcohol.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

There are many forms of help out there. One common form are self help books varying from guidance published by professionals, scientific explanations of depression published by scientists, or collections of inspiring stories of people who have overcome their own depression. “Before I learned that I had chronic depression I got to a point that I did not know what to do anymore…My therapist recommended a book called The Mindful Way Through Depression,” explains Wendy Gonzalez. Do not be shy to talk to your school counselor or therapist; you will not be judged for your actions and these are professional people that can help your fears and frustrations, as well as give you the contact information of a psychiatrist to get you some therapy or medication.

  4. Catch Those Z’s

Make sure you are get enough sleep. When feeling depressed, 8 hours simply isn’t enough. Attempt to sleep early by removing distractions like TV, laptops and cellphones. Sleeping will help you think clearly and give you energy. Experts say sleep disorders could be the hidden cause of depression among the youth. A study presented by Dorothy Bruck at the Australian Psychological Society’s inaugural Health Psychology Conference  found that about one in ten women between 21 and 25 years old  experienced recurring problems sleeping, but otherwise had no symptoms of mental illness. But nine years later, those women were four to five times more likely than others in the study to be diagnosed with depression.

 5. Acknowledge and Share your Feelings

  “It’s a process of being mindful of our feelings,” explains Wendy Gonzalez. “When I started feeling depressed I acknowledged how I feel. I’d say: Okay, yes, I am feeling sad…unfortunately this sadness may never go away and I can’t sit here all my life, so why not try and do something more entertaining,” she adds.  Opening up to a trusted adult or friend can help reduce the feeling of loneliness. Find a way to express your emotions because it is not healthy keeping them bottled up. Instead write music, paint, or write in your journal.

6. Don’t Isolate Yourself

Remember to keep your friends close because there is someone there who wants to help you. When you want to give up, keep pushing yourself to move forward. A helpful way to accomplish that is by continuing to do those things you enjoy and never fear getting help. It may be difficult seeing an end to your depression, but through therapy, medication, or a combination of both, your depression can stop. Lack of communication is a severe problem with those suffering from depression because they have so much going on inside. It is best to deal with your problems than having to deal with depression longer than necessary.

With the high statistics of depression, you are not alone. There is hope to fighting the blues, but it starts with taking the first step. Even if it is a small step, it is the step in the right direction.

Klassy the Chica Lyricist

Photo by JDF Films

Photo by JDF Films

A brand new MC from Los Angeles, CA is taking over the L.A. rap scene. An MC describes a word rapper in the hip hop scene, but the term is not limited to the word play of hip hop. Klassy is a 17 year old Filipino chica who began her career in the ninth grade. Her real name is Graciela Moreno, but she prefers to be addressed as Klassy.

“My goal is to open my people’s minds, to see life in a positive angle, to live life in tranquil and understand true happiness. I want to spark inspiration. To change a bad mood into a good mood is worth more than money,” she explains.

Klassy grew up around the Latino population of Los Angeles. She is a sophomore at VAPA, the Visual and Performing Arts school in L.A. Her Filipino background did not limit her ability to take hip hop in the direction she did.

“It started off as almost a bet. I was around my friends who didn’t think I could rap, but I did it. I recorded a song and uploaded it [to the internet] and the next day my manager and I saw that it had a lot of views,” Klassy shares.

Klassy takes on the approach as a positive lyricist. She uses this label to describe her role in the underground music industry. “When I listen to music I can say that listening to powerful messages is the kind of music I want to surround myself with. I surround myself with positive people and I hope other girls or other people see that in my lyrics,” she says.

Unlike many other girl lyricists, Klassy is among the youngest. “My manager tells me, ‘You know you’re getting a lot of attention, but I am myself. I am looking at all from the inside out,’ she adds.

Vanessa Olivar, 16, says, “Klassy as a rapper is so cool. Her videos on YouTube are not like other artists. She doesn’t need to drink to have a good time. She shows herself dancing and playing arcade games, things that I like to do.”

“I think it’s great that girls look up to me, but I don’t like labels. When people want to limit me as a ‘girl rapper’ I get freaked. I am an MC. A girl lyricist only limits my potential. It creates a boundary with men and women. I prefer the term lyricist. I create music for everyone and anyone,” Klassy shares.

Genises Polito, 15, says, “I listen to her. I think she is so cool. She really is all about having a fun time…as herself. I like her music.”

Klassy adds, “People have questioned my rap abilities, but as an artist [I] realized there will always be haters, but I do notice that there are more Latinas and Latinos supporting the movement that I am in.”

A femcee, or female rapper, is no different than the similar lifestyles that Latinas or Latinos have with other ethnicities and cultures. Klassy explains, “If people are truly going to look at me and try to break me down because I am not a Latino or Latina then they are creating limits to my potential.”

The wave of female rappers is changing the way people look at hip hop . Hip hop was once dominated by males. Becky G, a teen Latina sensation from Inglewood, CA, was recently nominated by Radio Disney Music Award for Best Crush Song.

Klassy says, “It feels great to be among them, though I still say that I do it because it is something I am good at. I am me. I am an MC. I rap, I create music. I believe in myself. I have more people believing in me than haters and that there is enough for me to continue to do what makes me happy which is to create music.”

You too can take steps in promoting and surrounding yourself with the arts. Attend and become a member of the theater arts groups and attending poetry beats are good ways to start. You can only become better at what you are good at.

“The key to success for [anyone] is having a focused mind. Just be true to yourself, stay humble, and remember that there’s always room for improvement. I want to continue making music and if people like what I say then that is a motivator to continue to share my experiences, ideas and feelings,” she says.

 

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