Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Racism and Prejudice among Latinos! – Qué!

Racism and Prejudice among Latinos! – Qué!

Growing-up  in NYC  you tend  to meet people from the around the world. As a child raised in Hell’s Kitchen I was exposed to various cultures but, the circles that I was exposed to more often were mainly Latino and Black children. Throughout my childhood I would hear Latinos poking fun of other Latinos. It was innocent fun but, everyone usually got along or so I thought. As I got older I noticed that some Latinos took stereotypes to heart and framed their minds to classify people according to that perspective.  I am going to divide  my prejudices, stereotypes and Racisms experiences  from a Latino perspective so you can see my point of view.

Stereotypes:  These are sometimes are funny remarks about a culture, group or race.  What I have heard: Mexicans are always drunk, or having babies. Puerto Ricans are loud, beat their wives and live off of welfare. Argentinians are stuck-up and think that they are all European only. Salvadorians are hard-working but are violent - of course since I am Salvadorian  (I don’t know what other Latinos are saying for real!- trust me its’  probably bad).  Dominican women are good but the men are control freaks that kill their wives if they ever leave them, and are loud.  Columbians think that they are the best in everything and are just broke people who spend all their money on looks or drugs. You get the point! No one is spared from stereotypes.  The problem is if you truly believe in them then you will never get to know other Latin American cultures and how beautiful they are. Also, the people that are from NYC are not always a good representation of the cultural norms and values people have in their native country. My experience is that one fellow Central American friend who  thought I was “tough” because I was from El Salvador, um no I don’t carry machete with me. However, I do have one at my farm house in El Salvador- LOL!

Prejudice:  This when Latinos from on group want to divide themselves from others. Latinos with papeles ( legal) vs Latinos without papeles ( undocumented). Nothings get my blood boiling is when I hear other Latinos bashing a fellow Latino for not being legal.  Let’s  start geographically :

North and Central America: Mexicans take all the heat for undocumented people. In the news when there is a law affecting immigrants they run to the Mexican community and take videos of Mexicans protesting and talking about how this law will affect their lives. Hellloooo there are other people in America that are undocumented – such as other Latinos from all over Latin America- including Brazil! Lots not forget Europeans, Indians, Asians, and Africans! But no, according to the media it only Mexicans- I am sick of it!

Some Mexican and Central American Latinos get upset at other Latinos for coming here illegally accusing them of abusing the system - " I  came here legally why can't everyone else".  Undocumented people may seem that they are taking advantage of the system but, they are not. We all know  many employers of undocumented people pay them very low rates (below minimum wage), if they get fired they can't collect unemployment, welfare or social security. They do have to pay taxes so -who is taking advantage of who?  Medical use, they do not have medical insurance  and it's  well documented that illegal immigrants under use hospital care because they are afraid of being caught. Everyone is trying to do the best they can based their own reality. 

Caribbean:  The same issues here as well-  some Puerto Ricans look down upon  Dominicans for being illegal. Puerto Rico is a territory of the US so they are automatically US citizens.  Let’s not kid ourselves- if Puerto Rico was not a territory of the US then some Puerto Ricans will be here illegally as well . Some Dominicans   discriminate against Haitians - it’s was in the news recently that the Dominican government wants to ban Haitian children to attend Dominican schools. Some Cuban's try to assimilate to the American culture as best as they can -so much so that some choose to not speak Spanish their children so they won’t have a Spanish accent! Ay Dios Mío!  I think that is fine but, it important to teach your children your roots.  There are of course many Caribbean people who advocate for immigrant rights no matter where they are from and helped immigrants out in generous ways. I am speaking from experience!   I've had the privilege enjoy  the Caribbean culture growing up in NYC and I  love  its music, beaches, people and food! 

South America:  I am not that familiar discrimination among these countries  but, given the pattern I seen it probably happens.

Racism: It’s a color thing! Yes we too have this issue and its bothers me as well. If a fair skinned woman wants to marry a dark skinned man it’s an issue or at the very least they will say comments about the guy’s color.  
In Central America when describing someone you tend to hear“ he was so good looking he was white, blues eyes, blond haired” You will hardly ever  hear: "he was so good looking he was dark, brown eyed and had brown haired” I am even laughing at the thought because I have hardly ever heard someone say that – it’s a shame! But guess what -  I do – I always  say “ he was so handsome – brown skinned, beautiful brown eyes” – especially to people who always say the opposite. 
In El Salvador it's really bad:  you used to ( don’t know if still happens) have to put your picture on your resume. If you looked dark- well you might not get the job! El Salvador was so racist with Blacks that until recently Blacks could not  immigrate into the El Salvador. There was a banned on Black immigrants in 1930 and it was removed in 1980. Crazy!  It’s a  really ugly way of thinking and I have to say when I was pregnant the people that were most polite and helpful was the Black community and they did not care that I looked “white” or another other ethnicity! Don't get me wrong, there many great Salvadorians that are not racist and will welcome you with open arms no matter what!

Side Note: its goes far  beyond color if you look “ indio” meaning native American some Latino people will discriminate you as well.

Once-  I was in a store shopping, the store had a Latina saleslady she looked at me like with  what do you want face- so I said “ do you have  blah blah blah ” and she said “look over there”. Then a blond haired, blue eyes woman  came in the store- and  it’s as if the Queen of England  herself walked in - this sales lady was like “Hiii how can I help you” – her voice went up I don’t know how many octaves and all her teeth were on display. O-M-G- What a shame – that was not my only experience and it won’t be my last.  

The reason for writing all these things is that Latinos already have other groups discriminating, stereotyping and hating on our culture that we don’t need more hate from each other. It would be so wonderful for Latinos to work together more often to become prosperous not only in America but, with among Latino countries.

How I  view Latinos               vs.     How the media portrays Latinos


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Breastfeeding a Gateway into Cultural Norms!

  The TIME magazine cover where the mom is breastfeeding her soon to be  4 yrs old son.  I wanted to talk about breastfeeding in general and then I will express my opinion. Every culture has their view points on breastfeeding, how and when a woman should breastfeed. In the Latino culture breastfeeding practices varies from country to country but, generally a woman who breast feeds in public is not frowned upon. In El Salvador for instance it is  normal to see women breastfeeding on the bus, in the market, church, park etc. In fact, breastfeeding is the norm, its odd to for a woman not breastfeed.  However, i find that women with higher socioeconomic status tend to breastfeed less in public. I have a hunch that developing  countries breastfeed more than developed countries. Why do I think that, breastfeeding is inexpensive, accessible - while formula is expensive and depending on where you live not as accessible . As a research at heart I went ahead and looked at data for breastfeeding trends to verify my hunches.Unicef has a nice dataset for various countries around the world.  The data shows that 76% of Salvadorian women exclusive breastfeed until the baby is 9 months.  There was no data for the US or the UK. However i did see developing countries have a higher trends of breastfeeding than the developed countries listed. There are many organizations out there such as La Leche League who work hard to increase breastfeeding among women in the US due to these trends. 

         In my family, breastfeeding is encouraged but, i had to do it behind closed doors because men are not allowed to see women breastfeed. I am happy about that because i wont want them to see me either. One thing I was surprised about was my mom and my mother-in law wanted me to give the baby formula so he can be strong. I was caught by surprise  by this, as I thought they would be my cheerleaders encouraging me to keep up the good job. My mom bless her heart tried every chance she would get to tell me give my baby formula. My doctor on the other hand wanted to make sure i was exclusively breastfeeding. Why did this happen? Why were two women from different developing countries telling me the same thing. I think that marketing companies back in the day did a good job in convincing women that formula is better than breast milk - think about there is no fda or fcc  in developing countries ( not that they always have our health at heart- that is another story) . For the record my mother and my mother-law gave  and still give me tremendous amounts of support in other areas-I am indefinitely indebted to them.   I had a great support system  my for breastfeeding from my cousins, friends and my awesome husband! Currently in the Uk infant formula commercial are  banned. In Iran you can only get formula by prescription only. 

 With all that being said,  I am not against formula. I had to use it for my baby for medical reasons and if you want to give your baby formula that is your prerogative. Everyone chooses what is right for them and their family! Here what i think of that magazine cover:i am happy to see that this woman had the patience and was brave enough to breastfeed past 1 yrs old.  Notice I did not say healthy. In don't think  she is significantly improving this child health or mental mental health by breastfeeding for this long.  Skin to skin contact is important for infants  Mother -child bonding - I am sure that you can have a healthy bond with child that you don't need  to breastfeed a  4 yrs old. There are plenty of other methods to bond with your child. Nutrition-i dont know how much nutrition the 4 yr old is getting with  the breast milk --he needs to eat more than breast milk to stay healthy. I dont know enough about immunology to say if his immune system is really benefitting from breast milk.  Besides she could pump ( if she can )and give him the milk in a sippy cup. What i really think happened is TIME magazine needs money so they needed something that will bring attention to their magazine. What I think is hypocritical is that if you care so  much about your son why expose him to the media and make a spectacle out of it.  So I question her true intentions to expose her sons identity.  The mom on the cover said she was breastfeed until she was 6! So her cultural norms told her its ok to breast feed for a long time, so I don't blame her to do the same with her son but, she knows it's odd and  is aware of the positive negative attention her family will receive.      

Monday, March 19, 2012

General Knowledge about Popular Medical Conditions : Cholesterol, Diabetes, High Blood pressure and Obesity

This blog post is a lot and dense but, I  felt the need to write it.
Medical Disclaimer: The medical information provided on this blog is just information and cannot substitute for the advice of a medical professional (for instance, a qualified doctor/physician, nurse, pharmacist/chemist, and so on). I am not a doctor.
I do not take responsibility for the results or consequences of any attempt to use or adopt any of the information presented on this blog.

I am sure we all know someone who has high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, is overweight or obese. Some of these people are really close to home, they can be a family member, a close friend or even yourself. The sad thing these things do not frighten us anymore. When someone says they have diabetes you don’t say “I am sorry to hear that, it must be hard for you to deal with this is disease”. We have become so accustomed to people having all of these conditions that we don’t think that is serious disease.

Let’s break it down:  A simple overview of each condition.
High Blood Pressure
 Your body for some reason is pumping your blood throughout your body at a fast rate even though you are not running, climbing, are fighting for your life. Your poor hard working heart has to deal with this fast rate – it’s getting pounded!
So… what is the danger?: you could have a stroke, heart attack, go blind, or faint.  There many different types of blood pressure medication. One type is called beta blockers, they  reduce your heart rate and the way  your heart pump blood throughout your body. BTW normal blood pressure is consider 128/80. High blood pressure is 140/90.
How is it controlled by: Medication, Exercise, Diet, Stress relieving techniques. MEDS is an acronym I came up this because these methods are used to control most heart related conditions.
Bottom Line: There is no one single way to get high blood pressure (some people are pre-disposed due to genetics, other people it’s their lifestyle: smoking, drinking, and eating unhealthy).  There is no cure that we know of as of yet. Therefore, there is no magic pill that will cure you once you take it, this is a lifelong disease that can be controlled and you can live a happy life. You can reduce your blood pressure by changing your lifestyle – you can even get off medication- only if you doctor says you can.

 Your hard working liver makes cholesterol for our bodies every day. We also consume cholesterol by eating things that are from animals (meats, poultry, fish and dairy products). The problem is when we eat too much cholesterol our body is getting clogged up with the waxy stuff.  This is called plaque - having clogged arteries is no laughing matter or something to take lightly. 
So…what is the danger?: If you have clogged blood vessels they can’t carry blood to your arteries which deprives you heart from getting enough oxygen. This can lead to a heart attack or the vessels in your brain may not get enough oxygen- you could have a stroke.
How is it controlled: Medication, Exercise, Diet, =MED
Bottom Line: Your cholesterol can be controlled and you can be high cholesterol free.  If your genes increase your chances of having cholesterol you might have to be on medication if diet and exercise does not work. Make sure you know your numbers! When I ask my loved ones what was your numbers they say “I don’t know – my doctor said they were good”. It’s your job to ask about your numbers and it’s the doctor’s job to explain it to you.
Your TOTAL cholesterol reading is made of two numbers: HDL( Good)  and LDL ( bad L) .  A High cholesterol reading is  240 and above, the ideal cholesterol reading should be less than 200, new studies now  say less than 170 is best. You also get a triglyceride test.  You should be more mindful of what these numbers mean!
HDL ( the good one) : an very good score is that you have  60 or higher. If you have less than 40 -its poor.
LDL ( the bad L) : You want less than 100-HOWEVER – if you are high risk for heart disease you want it even lower like 70. High LDL is 160 or more.
So what does this mean? If you doctors says your total cholesterol was 200 , you feel good about it! But find out that that your LDL is 160 and your HDL is 40. Then you may feel concerned.   Talk to you doctors about how you can decrease the LDL and increase your HDL.
Triglycerides: ( this is fatty substance found in the body) A good score is less than 150. A high amount of Triglycerides is 200 or more.

For me diabetes is more complicated to explain. I will give it my best shot. We all have heard of  type 1 or type 2 diabetes. We know that diabetes has something to do with the sugar levels in your blood. Here is why is more complicated than that.
If you have diabetes one or two of these scenarios could be happening:
·         Your wonderful pancreas is the one who regulates your glucose ( sugar), sometimes it  has problems such as making enough insulin
·          Your cells are responding to insulin,
·          or both.
 We need insulin to convert the sugar we eat and turn it into fuel for us to burn.
Here are the different types of Diabetes:
Type 1: This where your body make little or no insulin. It can occur at any age, but mostly its diagnosed during childhood –young adult age.
Type 2: Your fat, liver, and muscle cells are not responding correctly to insulin. The sugar just accumulates on your blood- this is called hyperglycemia. If you are overweight it’s harder for our bodies to use insulin the right way. This generally occurs in adulthood, however there more and more  teens and young adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  
Gestational Diabetes: A pregnant women develop  diabetes who do not have the disease prior to being pregnant. There are risk factors for gestational diabetes-some of them are: genetics, body weight, and too much amniotic fluid. Generally after they give birth most women do not have diabetes.  To make sure women are tested after birth to see if they still have diabetes. Having gestational diabetes puts a woman at risk for developing diabetes later in life.
So…what is the danger?: If you have diabetes and do not control it over time you can eye problems, foot and leg infections ( sometimes an amputation of the foot or leg is needed), you can have a harder time controlling blood pressure and cholesterol which puts you at risk for heart problems. Nerve and kidney damage can occur.
How is it controlled:
Type 2: MED
Type 1: You may need insulin shots and MED
Gestational Diabetes: monitoring of your baby, EDS= (some women may need medication)
Again you need to know your numbers. When you go to your doctor’s office ask what where my diabetes numbers:
You can receive two types of test: You doctor should explain to you what is test represents and why he is giving you each test.
Fasting glucose blood test: you want your score to be less than 100mg/dL. If your score is 126 mg/Ld or higher you have a high sugar content in your blood.
HbAlc: This is tests tell the doctor how well your body is handling your sugar over a three month period.
Normal : Less than 5.7%
Pre-Diabetes: 5.7-6.4 % ( this generally means you do not have diabetes but, your high than normal amount of sugar in your blood. Be careful.
Diabetes: 6.5% or higher
Only your doctor can diagnose you with having diabetes.
The Bottom line: It can be overwhelming to deal with diabetes and hard to manage each day. However, your doctor should provide great support. Also, there are nutritionist and diabetes counselors that are available to help, you can ask your doctor for a referral. Being pregnant is already a challenge, having gestational diabetes can make this more complicated but, pregnant woman can have nutritionist and diabetes counselors that can support them through pregnancy. Being pregnant with gestational diabetes can be very difficult as cravings for sweets  or carbs can increase and the thought of being on a special diet while being pregnant seems so unfair. Diabetes is a complicated disease and should be taken seriously. If you are at risk for having diabetes it would be a great idea to talk to your doctor about prevention, if your loved has it try to be supportive as you can.  Sugar is addicting!... and it is hard  stop the cravings – if you feel you have a problem talk to your doctor. You can greatly improve your diabetes by diet and exercise.!
Overweight/ Obese:  
Extra fat on our body does more damage than giving us a muffin top.  This is a sensitive issue, there many many many reasons why people are overweight: genetics, environment, diet and lack of physical activity, eating fast foods, stress, depression, hormonal imbalance.
I feel that it hard to keep your weight off living a world of hundreds of commercials about fast food , unhealthy foods and  drinking. Then you have the media that have mostly slim people and you are left confused. Yes there are more commercials for the gym and there are warning or recommendations about being healthy but, still do not compare the Pepsi and Coke and MC Donald’s campaigns. I am not saying are to blame but they are not helping!
So…What is the danger: Being overweight and obese puts our bodies in danger of many diseases such as High Blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. Your body does function as well as should with the extra fat.
How its controlled: Well if I knew the answer to that I would be a millionaire! We know that maintain a healthy lifestyle is the best way to keep your body healthy. What does that entail:
Eating: Fruits, Veggies, Whole grains, low fat diary (cheese, milk, yogurt), sweets and junk in moderation ( ice cream, juice, candy, cake, chips, all fried foods)
Exercise: You should be getting 30 mins of moderate exercise on most days ( jogging, speed walking, dancing, jumping rope, swimming). You can do 10 minute intervals at one time.
Stress reducing activities: yoga, meditation, praying, laughing with a friend, having a support group.
Educate yourself: read food labels so you know what you are eating. Learn about different whole grain – such as Quinoa or bulgur. There are many Asian and Indian veggies that taste great and are good for you. Like bitter melon, chana and bok choy
Know your numbers: Know your cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose numbers. Ask the doctors what they were- don’t just settle for they were good.
For people that want to look thin,   “Sexy “or “ “healthy”: Some people set these unrealistic bars for themselves and then they fight to keep their weight at that level until they give up. Let me explain ( like my father in-law would say) I am talking about people who want to look thin by only dieting and not by lifestyle change. I am not talking about going from a size 12 to a size 6 but going from a size 12 to a size 0 within two months. I am talking about this group of people because some them end up in the overweight category as well and they need support. It’s normal to want to be thin- its much easier doing it if your change your lifestyle: eating healthy exercise, stress relief , getting your annual checkup, cooking at home,  and reading food labels.  
Again - It’s much easier said than done, as we are human as our emotions are complex- and so is life -things happen. So we all gain weight that we don’t want -it’s just how we handle it that makes the difference. 

Much of this information is combination of work experience, the DASH eating plan and general knowledge from NIH.gov