Latinas discuss the mixed messages of cultural beauty standards

Story and photos by BRITT BROOKS

For some Latinx American women, the beauty industry has been a beacon of inspiration, color and expression. But for others the cultural standards of beauty can be exclusive — even discriminatory  — and spur insecurities.

Jasmyne Magaña

Jasmyne Magaña is a 20-year-old student at the University of Utah studying political science. Magaña’s mom is white and her dad is Mexican. Though she’s loved by both sides, she said she struggled to find an identity that wasn’t “too white,” in the eyes of her traditional Hispanic family.

Comments about her lack of jewelry or American accent when speaking Spanish discouraged her from feeling connected to the Hispanic culture, or like she belonged in it at all. “I’ve had to teach myself about it,” she said.

Though she’s fluctuated between feeling like she belongs in the Latinx sphere or not, Magaña has witnessed the inflexibility of Latin American beauty standards personally. She recalled being asked multiple times by her Hispanic family if she was a lesbian because when she was younger she didn’t like makeup and preferred to wear her hair up. “It’s influenced me more than I like to admit,” she said.

Classic gender roles play a big part in the overall culture of Latin America. They affect Latinx women by more or less putting them in a box, laying out guidelines for what men want. For example, the perpetual stereotype of the “Spicy Latina” bothers Magaña as it does so many other Latinxs. Women should not be fetishized for showing emotion or speaking their minds.

How culture influences beauty standards

Like Magaña, Kiara Grajeda-Dina, 19, has felt pressured by various beauty ideals for as long as she can remember. She identifies as Afro-Latinx and has Mexican, African, and Aztec lineage. Grajeda-Dina has lived in Utah her whole life but said she’s been surrounded by her Mexican family and friends, and immersed in local Hispanic culture, including panaderías and salons.

Grajeda-Dina said she’s fortunate to have a mom who taught her and her sisters to embrace all body types and skin tones as beautiful. Because she and her sisters are part black, their skin gets quite dark in the summer, something Grajeda-Dina said a lot of Latinxs avoid. However, their mom encouraged them to do whatever they wanted, like playing in the sun.

But the same can’t be said for the popular mentality in Latin America, which celebrates a very precise definition of beauty that all but excludes those with darker skin. In a lot of ways South American countries that have European influence, like Argentina and Colombia, tend to look down on neighboring countries that have large populations of indigenous people and people with darker skin, Grajeda-Dina said.

The beauty culture in Latin America focuses on having a specific blend of Hispanic and European features including lightly tanned skin, long styled hair, an hourglass figure, large light eyes and plump lips. Grajeda-Dina said these features are exceptionally popular in the aforementioned South American countries as well as Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.

Kiara Grajeda-Dina

The unrealistic balance that popular beauty demands just isn’t possible for a lot of Hispanics. Grajeda-Dina mentioned that the majority of Latina women have medium-to-dark skin tones, are short, curvy, and express themselves in many more ways than the oversexualized image of what they “should” look like, according to both Latin and American media.

As reported by Reuters, the global beauty industry is expected to reach a market value of $805.61 billion within the next five years, so it’s no wonder that women all around the world are surrounded by ads for makeup, hair, skincare and diet products every day.

The erasure of certain features like large noses, natural hair and dark skin combined with the underrepresentation of different body types in the media leads to a society that isn’t exposed to the different ways to be beautiful.

Even Latina role models like Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Shakira often change their looks to be more marketable or desirable to an American and European audience. “It’s kind of hard to follow beauty standards of [Latinx] women who are still trying to follow American beauty with the pale skin and the long blond hair. It’s closer but it just isn’t it,” Grajeda-Dina said.

Grajeda-Dina remembered that as a young girl she had to actively search for characters that reflected similar features, skin tone, and culture as her own. She said that Disney’s “Coco” as well as “The Princess and the Frog” and “Moana” are examples of films that portray people of color in protagonist roles and also show their respective cultures accurately.

Grajeda-Dina said she’s happy her 3-year-old sister has opportunities to watch more people who look like her. “It’s super comforting because growing up I constantly had to go looking for stuff like that,” she said, “You would just have to wait for something to come out that was closer to something you could relate to.”

Discrimination within the beauty industry

The inner workings of the beauty industry aren’t perfect. Latinx people in all professions are sometimes the only person of color or the only Latinx at their job.

Grace Cordero, 20, has experienced this tokenization and how racial stereotypes and misconceptions can exist anywhere. Cordero is Puerto Rican on her dad’s side but said her father never knew much Spanish and didn’t focus on passing down the language.  She said her lack of Spanish didn’t really affect her until salon coworkers started treating her differently.

Like many hair stylists fresh out of school Cordero quickly started working at a salon to gain experience. The salon was close to her home in Bountiful, a suburb of Salt Lake City that is reportedly 88 percent white and mostly middle-to-upper class. As a result of the town’s demographics, the vast majority of clients and stylists at her job were white and only spoke English.

Working at that salon had its ups and downs, but Cordero started noticing a pattern. She said she realized that because she’s Latina her coworkers were giving her a disproportionate number of Hispanic walk-in clients. Cordero wasn’t upset about helping Latinx clients, but the fact that she was cutting their hair solely because she is Latina put her in an uncomfortable position.

Grace Cordero at the salon Forget Me Knot.

“Just because they’re Latin doesn’t mean they should have to only go to Latin people,” Cordero said about the walk in clients whom she ultimately couldn’t help any more than her white coworkers. After multiple incidents in a row she said she came close to filing a report.

The anxiety that can accompany a language barrier was only strengthened when the clients also expected her to speak Spanish. Cordero was the butt of jokes about Latinas who can’t speak Spanish — something both she and Magaña said can be frowned upon by a lot of people in Latinx communities and families.

Cordero’s coworkers didn’t seem to understand that her role as the salon’s Spanish-speaking stylist didn’t fit reality. “They think you’ll be able to figure it out,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you know I’m Puerto Rican, you shouldn’t be treating people different.”

Beauty and appearance can be sensitive topics because they’re often extremely personal. Cordero said the salon not only disregarded her as an individual but the Spanish-speaking clients as well. “Communicating a haircut just isn’t the same,” she said. “There isn’t much room for error.”

Now Cordero is working at a different salon called Forget Me Knot, one that respects her as a stylist and doesn’t treat her like their token Latina.

Cordero, Magaña and Grajeda-Dina have experienced the competing messages of Latinx and American beauty culture and overcome discrimination and insecurity. In their own ways, each woman said what isn’t Latina enough for some is too Latina for others. They’re adamant that Latinx women can create their own definition of beauty.

 

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The sound and taste of Hispanic Culture— Utah Hispanic Heritage Parade

Story and photos by LINA SONG

The nonprofit organization Take Care Utah hosts the Hispanic Heritage Parade annually to share arts and culture and draw attention to the need for health insurance for Latinx children. It is a great example of sharing the arts of culture and bringing communities together to experience each other’s culture better. The events and performances promote community involvement and provide the chance to see, hear, and taste the traditions of the Hispanic culture in Utah. 

Randal Serr, the director of Take Care Utah at Utah Health Policy Project (UHPP), shares the growth and process of the parade over the past several years. The heritage parade is organized by the UHPP which is an organization that started in 2006. The main goal of the Take Care Utah organization is to reach out to the Hispanic community and raise the awareness of the health insurance needed for Hispanic children in Utah. 

Serr stated that after a study by Kids Count Data Center released in 2014 saying that Utah had the highest uninsured rate in the nation for Hispanic kids, they knew that they had to start thinking bigger about how to reach the Hispanic community and take action. By raising the seriousness uninsured Hispanic children, Take Care Utah offers themselves as a resource to help them sign up for health insurance and celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month. 

In September 2019, Hispanic Heritage Parade will hit its fourth annual parade. Since the start of the parades in 2016, the event has doubled in size every year. The first year started off with 2,500 people that attended the parade. The second year increased to the attraction of 5,000 people and the third year 10,000 people showed up to the parade. It takes place at The Gateway in Salt Lake City, Utah. With the increasing numbers of participants, there will be a higher benefit towards the UHPP goal and connecting communities together in Utah. 

The UHPP event is unique because it is the only event that celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with a parade. The Take Care Utah nonprofit organization is helping with community involvement and sharing the Hispanic arts of culture in Utah by including diverse sections which are dedicated to people having the ability to represent their country and culture of origin.

With the fourth annual UHPP approaching in September, Neida Munguia, a yearly participant of the parade discussed her thoughts and experiences of the event. Munguia stated that it has been fascinating to see the growth and the increase of participants throughout the past years. She believes that the parade benefits the Hispanic community by displaying and sharing a piece of home through the celebration of culture. Since Utah is filled with people from various ethnic backgrounds, the parade also enhances the connection within all communities to connect and learn about the Hispanic culture. 

Munguia also talked about how she wanted to see more marketing and advertisement for the UHPP because it is a beautiful and fun event that more people in the community should take part in. Furthermore, she expects that the growth of participants for this year’s parade will be significant and wants to see more food and larger dance performances. Munguia believes that due to the increase and acknowledgement of the UUHPP, the parades should expand the amounts of events and other factors in the future. 

 

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Am I Latinx? Or am I Black? What if I’m both?

Story and photos by SHAUN AJAY

The intersection between Latino and Black runs deep in racial and self-perceptions among those who identify as Afro-Latinx. The term Afro-Latinx encompasses those from Mexico, Central and Latin America of majority African descent. The choice rests on the individual and what they choose to identify with. Since Latino is not a race or ethnicity, the term Afro-Latinx is an umbrella for those who identify primarily with their African roots and their ethnicity such as Afro-Dominican or Afro-Cubano. This article tells the experience of three Afro-Latinas in Utah.

Portia Saulabiu

Portia Saulabiu is a retention coordinator and advisor at the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) at the University of Utah. She was born and raised in different neighborhoods in Chicago, where her parents had met. Saulabiu’s mother is African-American and her father is a Taíno from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Saulabiu said she felt a great desire to connect with her father’s side of the family, but growing up in different areas had impeded her.

Saulabiu was raised with her mother and so mainly involved herself with Black culture. It wasn’t until college, when she started to embrace her Latinx culture more. But Saulabiu’s connection to the culture, either through blood or an inborn interest, had begun at a young age. She began speaking Spanish at the age of 8, learning the language formally from middle school through college.

As a college student, she traveled to Cuba for a learning-abroad program, where she worked with a church in rebuilding homes, and conducted research on interracialism. This was her first experience in Latin America and Saulabiu said she began to grow more comfortable with her identity. But coming into contact with a different culture can sometimes mean hardships and miscommunication.

Colorism, she said, played a huge part in her identity as an Afro-Latina. She said there was no greater understanding of the concept of colorism in Latinx homes. Colorism is the prejudice or discrimination against individuals with darker skin tones within the same ethnic or racial group. Saulabiu was often treated differently because of her darker skin. “The color of your skin, your lineage of indigeneity, it all affects how you’re viewed as a Latinx,” she said.  

Her heritage and ancestry is something that Saulabiu couldn’t be taught by her parents. At first, she explained that it was weird having to learn more about her background. “It’s because you’re so socialized to identify yourself as just being Black. But to be Black means so many different things,” she said.

Saulabiu wants more people to be introspective of their racial and cultural identity. Saulabiu said that being Afro-Latinx is not about being Black or being Latinx, it means being Afro-Latinx as its own autonomous identity. “There is value in finding about all parts of yourself,” she said.

Tierra Yancey

Tierra Yancey is a junior anthropology student at the University of Utah. She comes from a military family, so a majority of her childhood involved moving across the country and around the globe. She and her family have been living in Utah for the past 10 years.

Yancey spent most of her time with her mother’s side of the family. Her maternal grandmother is Puerto Rican and her maternal grandfather is African American. Since her mother’s family is also mixed, Yancey did not grow up feeling too different. But on her paternal side, she was often confused with being half white, because of her hair texture or the way she talked.

In her formative teenage years, Yancey mainly identified as being Black. “That’s how I was seen to others, but I knew I was a bit different.” In high school, Yancey said it was hard for her to identify as being Latina, as she does not speak Spanish. “I was never Latina enough,” she said, “but Black people consider you Black enough.” The Black community, she acknowledged, is more accepting of Afro-Latinx than Black people with white ancestry.   

Among her nine siblings, Yancey is the only one with her particular hair texture, which she describes as a more loose, mixed-look style than typical Black hair. “Hair texture is really important in Black culture,” she said. “It can signify what kind of mixes you have.” In her family, Yancey is considered to be lighter skinned, and has “good” hair — traits that make her stand out more among other Afro-Latinx who have coarser hair and darker skin.

Yancey said hair also plays into the concept of colorism. Her grandmother, who is light-skinned, always used to tell her, “Oh! Mija, put sunscreen on. You don’t need to ruin your skin.” Yancey said she felt pressured to highlight those particular standards of beauty as an Afro-Latina. She was told to wash her hair properly, or not spend too much time out in the sun, while her siblings were never told anything.

Yancey continues to explore her identity as an Afro-Latina. She wants to push herself to dive into both cultures by defying the boundaries of racial categories. “It’s like having a plate of tacos, and bowl of baked mac n’ cheese — it’s different, but it’s good.”

Kiara Maylee Grajeda-Dina

Kiara Maylee Grajeda-Dina is an Afro-Latina from Salt Lake City, a business major and aspiring fashion entrepreneur. Both her parents are from Mexico; her mother from Guerrero and her father from Guadalajara. Her upbringing was cultural Hispanic. She goes to Catholic Church and speaks Spanish as her first language.

Grajeda-Dina’s mother has primarily West African ancestry dating back to the 1780s, when enslaved people were brought to the Americas through trade. Afro-Latina is a newer term for Grajeda-Dina and her mother. Before, she said her mother used to just consider herself as Hispanic, but now embraces the new term. Grajeda-Dina pointed out that West African or Black culture is very evident within the area of Mexico where her mother grew up. She said that it was incorporated into the rest of Mexican culture along with indigenous Acapulco and Hispanic traditions.

Grajeda-Dina gave an example of a dance called danza de los diablos (dance of the devils), which originated from slaves who were taken to the state of Oaxaca in 1442 to work in the plantations. The dance features indigenous masks with horse hair and colorful clothing that Grajeda-Dina said is heavily inspired by African culture. She also said that the dance is a special way of protecting the Afro-Mexican legacy from cultural assimilation.

Although colors are celebrated in tradition and clothing, darker skin is disdained. Grajeda-Dina said that she struggles with her skin color as an Afro-Latina. She said she doesn’t feel Black enough, or brown enough in both communities in the U.S. “Being a colored person, your skin speaks volumes before you even open your mouth,” she said. Grajeda-Dina’s family considers her skin as “piel que mada” or charred skin. She compared this to an onion, like layers of skin that you want to peel off. “It’s hard when your culture only embraces parts of you. We’re pitting ourselves against each other.”

With celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o identifying as Afro-Latinx, Grajeda-Dina has found confidence in her identity. Grajeda-Dina said she hopes that more Latinxs start to acknowledge the power of identifying with their roots as an Afro-Latinx. “Knowledge is power,” she said. “Look into what makes up who you are. It’s part of what makes you you.”

 

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How a local Latinx makeup artist is transforming music into makeup

Story and gallery by KILEE THOMAS

Just like her bio says on her Twitter profile, Madeline Maldonado is a “local Starbucks barista with bold eye looks.” Maldonado is a Latinx makeup artist and beauty guru from West Jordan, Utah, who is gaining tremendous notoriety and recognition in the online beauty community. Her popularity comes from her creative, bold and artistic makeup looks that are often inspired by her favorite bands, their album covers and merchandise.

“I get inspiration from a bunch of different things, but I think the main thing is music. Just like drawing, you can listen to a song and draw what you’re feeling. It’s the same thing with makeup,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado said music launched her makeup career in September 2018 when she posted a makeup look on Twitter that was inspired by one of the Meet You There Tour posters from Australian band, 5 Seconds of Summer. The band’s lead guitarist, Michael Clifford, retweeted her look and provided Maldonado with a platform and the numbers to gain some major online recognition. As of today, this post has over 18,000 likes.

She approaches her looks like a painter approaches a canvas. Maldonado said the looks can take up to four hours, depending on the amount of detail and how much surface area on her face she is planning to cover with makeup.

Her looks are no small endeavor and makeup rookies should be forewarned. One look can be completed with the use of only one eye shadow palette, while other looks require four or five palettes, she said.

As a member of the Hispanic community, Maldonado said she believes her ethnicity will give her a leg up in the beauty industry. “My culture gives me an advantage. I feel that being a Latina helps inspire a wide range of culturally diverse individuals. It helps me connect with creators from all around the world and as I create a platform for myself, I aspire to spread cultural awareness through my message and my art,” she said.

She said she believes the makeup industry is growing in terms of diversity, but there’s still a lot of room to go. “All different types of people do makeup now, but the first makeup artist I started watching was Jaclyn Hill (one of the leading makeup personalities on YouTube). Because she had blue eyes, so many colors complemented them and it made me hate my dark brown eyes because the makeup didn’t make my eyes pop like hers did,” Maldonado said.

“My plan is to begin a YouTube channel where I am able to explicitly teach and inspire others. My hope is to create a diverse community where people can express their feelings, creativity and spread positivity,” Maldonado said.

According to Forbes, “It’s never been a better time to be a beauty entrepreneur.” And for good reason. The beauty industry is one of the largest markets in the sales industry, which is why it’s the perfect place for “women to self-start their way to big-time success,” according to Forbes.

Statista reports that in 2016, the cosmetics industry in the United States generated more than $62.46 billion and that videos on YouTube containing beauty-related content were viewed more than 169 billion times in 2018.

Maldonado said she believes YouTube and social media are the future of makeup. “You definitely need to have a large social following to get started. I think I could do makeup for a long time and not get a big response or recognition until someone with millions of followers notices me. That’s what sucks about the way the beauty industry is going. It’s not just about talent,” she said.

Anyone who takes a quick glance at her Instagram feed, which is jam packed with colorful makeup looks that resemble art more than they do makeup, could tell you that she has a gift. But, it wasn’t always this way, Maldonado said.

Maldonado said she has always been artistic. She danced her whole life, loved her painting and drawing classes in high school, but she didn’t have any idea that makeup would end up being her creative outlet.

She credits her older sister, Marisa Barber, for being the source of inspiration to get her started in makeup. “I had zero clue what I wanted to do after high school. I was a little lost until one day I was going through my sister’s makeup and took interest,” Maldonado said.

Barber is proud of her little sister’s accomplishments and said she believes she has the skill to be a successful social media influencer. “There is a huge platform set for these aspiring makeup artists and I feel that all Maddie needs to do to make it big is the right equipment. She definitely has the talent and personality to be entertaining,” Barber said in a text.

Until Maldonado creates her YouTube channel, she does recreational and experimental makeup looks for her close friends and family. Whether it be for senior pictures, portraits or her personal favorite, Halloween, she “creates a story with meaning behind it. The masterpieces she paints on faces are beautiful,” Barber said in a text.

Maldonado’s older sister is one of the people she feels comfortable experimenting her beauty looks on. Barber said she feels that her sister is always professional when she is sitting in her makeup chair. “She always makes sure that I am happy with my look by constantly checking throughout the process how I am feeling and self-assessing her work,” she said.

Barber appreciates how open Maldonado is to new ideas and collaboration when it comes to her clients, but thinks letting Maldonado work her magic without outside input generates the best results. “For me, I like having her work freely on my face. She gets in a zen type of state and the work she produces is magical,” Barber said.

Leigh Ventura, a previous makeup client of Maldonado’s, said she is in awe of how Maldonado takes a piece of art to new levels. “Most people, like myself, would just see the album cover and try to use the shades of the colors to create a look, but she does more than that. She thinks outside of the box and I think she actually goes into character. I’m a big fan of her work, huge,” Ventura said in a text.

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Maldonado was inspired to create this look after watching 5 Seconds of Summer’s Valentine music video. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado.

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Maldonado created this makeup look based on the band BTS’ “Love Yourself: Answer” album cover. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado.

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 Maldonado spent five hours creating this floral makeup look based on Shawn Mendes’ self-titled album. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado.

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Maldonado spent four hours creating this look. The look was inspired by 5 Seconds of Summer’s Meet You There Tour Live album cover. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado. 

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 Maldonado created this makeup look based on the Meet You There Tour Poster. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado. 

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The products used to create Maldonado’s Shawn Mendes self-titled album makeup look, sprawled out across her vanity.

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Maldonado created this stormy eye look after listening to Forever Rain, written by RM of BTS. Photo courtesy of Madeline Maldonado. 

Community and inclusion in art — Latin social dancing in Utah

Story, photos and gallery by KRISTEN LAW

“There’s dance for everything. You don’t have to be a competitor, you don’t have to be a professional,” said Julio Morales, a professional Latin ballroom dancer and instructor in South Salt Lake.

Morales said that students come for many reasons: to increase health benefits, enjoy the community and socializing, or to compete and perform. “You get to meet a lot of people from different backgrounds who have different goals, so it’s a great community,” Morales said.

The purpose of Latin social dancing is to build community. Social dance is centered around socializing while engaging in different styles of dance. Morales said all of the styles have their own kind of “flavor.” Salsa is a “high-energy, happy dance,” Morales said. Merengue and bachata are Latin dances originating in the Dominican Republic but have slightly different characteristics from one another. Merengue, according to dance websites, is more of a traditional, lighthearted and festive Latin dance, whereas bachata is more of a sensual and intimate Latin dance.

DF Dance Studio located at 2978 State St. in South Salt Lake offers many Latin social dance classes that fit any level. The beginner Latin social dance classes encourage a comfortable and relaxed environment for learning the basics. DF Dance Studio provides professional performances for attendees for social dance nights to encourage beginners to come out and dance.

Some people come who have never danced before. Teachers are there for students to ask questions and make them feel comfortable.

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Hope Jackson (second from the right) watching the students dance during the Latin Nationals Prep Camp.

Beginner or not, even the professionals take classes. “I’m a professional, but I still take lessons from other professionals because we understand in our sport that we’re never too good to learn something,” said Hope Jackson, a professional dancer and instructor in Utah.

Kyle and Madelaine Treu grew up dancing a variety of styles of dance and now the professional dancers specialize in Latin American dancing. The couple teaches at a studio in Idaho Falls, Idaho, called Extreme Ballroom Company.

“Those who get the ‘bug’ are in it for life, whether they want to pursue it consistently socially, or consistently competitively,” Kyle Treu said.

Jackson and the Treus are professional dancers who put together a Latin Nationals Prep Camp to help students and competitors practice and hone skills for a competition in March 2018. The team flew in Pasha Stepanchuk and Gabrielle (Gabby) Sabler, Latin dance world champions, for this camp to help teach the students.

“In this particular group of people, [the students] were beginners that were adults, beginners that were kids, and then there were our competitive adults who were 19-25 that are going to be competing against [the instructors],” Jackson said.

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Students practicing at the Latin Nationals Prep Camp.

“I want this to be an inclusive sport,” she added. Dance itself is inclusive, but she longs to see growth in the arts in this way.

Latin and ballroom dancing in Utah is very popular and common. Salt Lake City supports the arts well and has donated money for years in support of the growth of arts and culture. 

“It’s a sport, but it’s art as well,” Jackson said. “The arts [in Utah] are really important.” She said kids in Utah are usually either in sports or in an art, and most parents want their kids to be well versed in both.

Madelaine Treu said, “I think overall, dance anywhere is very accepting. So there can be a lot of diversity and age and race and status because dance is so much about self-expression, and the beauty and happiness that dance brings to life. So when you find that community or that coach that gives that to you and you really click with them, then so much happiness and acceptance and family really revolves around that.”

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Gabrielle (Gabby) Sabler finishing a demonstration with Pasha Stepanchuk, behind her, for students at the Latin Nationals Prep Camp.

Jackson said she loves the art because she values being around people who inspire her. “I want to bring more of that to the community here, but I also really just love being part of it.”

Professional Latin dancer and instructor Julio Morales said when he goes out to social dance he sees a relaxed, community environment. “I like to go out there and have fun, whether it’s salsa or bachata,” Morales said. “It’s whatever you like, just to go out there and enjoy yourself and have a good time.”

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The cultural significance of soccer in the Latinx community

Story and photo gallery by TYSON ALDRIDGE

Soccer, or futbol as it is called in Latin America, is the most popular sport in the Latinx community. Children from the time they are born are given a soccer ball to play with, or share a couch with a loved one to watch a game. That is why the love of soccer is so deep, it is firmly implanted in their day-to-day family lives.

Carlos Deschapelles of Univision Communications INC. explained in a 2016 article that Latinx communities have a love for soccer. “Look at the numbers: a whopping 84% of Hispanics follow the sport, compared to 47% of non-hispanics.” Deschapelles also said that 76 percent of kids and teens who watched the Copa America Centenario on Univision did so with an adult.

Grant Barnes, sports editor for the Tulane Hullabaloo, said in his 2018 article, “In 2017, Latinx people accounted for 68 percent of soccer viewership in the U.S. alone. Univision has estimated that approximately 84 percent of Latinx people follow the sport, and that they watch approximately three times as much soccer as non-Latinxs.”

It is no surprise that Latinx people in the U.S. are responsible for most of the soccer viewership in the U.S. because as Deschapelles said, “Based on U.S. census data, approximately 75% of U.S. Hispanics will find their country of origin represented by one of the teams at the Gold Cup in the Summer.” This gives the Latinx community here in the U.S. a sense of pride and excitement when their team is represented at the Gold Cup.

The U.S. does a great job of trying to keep the Latinx culture involved by hosting foreign tournaments in the U.S. Deschapelles explained, “By keeping Hispanics connected to their culture and their home country through tournaments that take place in the U.S. — like the 2016 Copa America Centenario and 2017 Gold Cup — soccer allows them to acknowledge and thrive in their duality.”

Dominic Militello is the head coach of the Cottonwood High School soccer team. Just watching the practice, it is easy to tell that these players absolutely have a burning passion for the game. Senior defender Josue Calderon said, “We were born with it, we basically grew up with our parents playing it and showing us the ways and their love for it.”

The great thing about this connection to the sport that the Latinx community has is that it brings them closer together as family and as friends. Whether it is through their local school team or club, or even recreational leagues that they play in on the weekends, they love the sense of family and community the sport brings them.

Christian Alfero, a sophomore midfielder, said that soccer has been a huge component for him and his family his whole life. He said, “I grew up watching the game and seeing the professionals on TV, and once the games were over my family would go outside and have 5 vs. 5 games.”

Brandon Morales, a sophomore defender, said, “I think it’s more like a family. It makes you act like you are actually a part of a family. You can relate to each other better because we are all Hispanic, and having that similarity with our culture makes us like each other more.”

Each of the players stressed family as the main component of their love for soccer. Sophomore forward Kody Flores said, “Ever since I was little my first toy was a ball. When you’re playing soccer it makes you feel at home.”

The Cottonwood High players’ faces lit up when talking about the competitiveness that soccer brings them within their community. Senior defender Calderon said, “We have a lot of Mexican league teams that we have friends and family playing on, and you look forward to playing against your friends.”

Soccer also brings this community a sense of pride. Morales, the sophomore defender,  said, “Mexico has always been good at soccer. It is one of the things that they are really good at and have a ton of talent when it comes to soccer. Just showing it off and displaying it feels good.”

The Cottonwood High School soccer team puts a tremendous effort toward getting better daily. They practice from 3 in the afternoon until 4:30 Monday through Friday, with games mixed in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The team has Latinx representation, and as result, spectators can see the passion go from them to the rest of the team. Coach Militello pushes his team to succeed. And that is shown through constant instruction and coaching to ensure each player is doing their best. Sophomore defender Alejandro Barahona, said, “Being on this team and playing soccer makes us more like a family, and brings us closer together as a team.”

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You are not crazy: Mental health stigma among Latinx community

Story and photos by SAYAKA KOCHI

One of the frequently discussed topics is that Latinx people are less likely to seek mental health treatment by themselves. Even when they are suffering from severe mental disorders, asking someone for help isn’t easy. There are several reasons why they cannot signal SOS.

“I didn’t want to admit that I was not OK,” Diana Aguilera said. Aguilera was born in Mexico and moved to Utah at age 10. She is a Peer Programs coordinator at the Latino Behavioral Health Services (LBHS) located at 3471 S. West Temple in Salt Lake City. LBHS is a nonprofit organization for unserved Latinx and Hispanic Utah citizens with mental illnesses, co-founded by Jacqueline Gomez-Arias and other contributors.

Before Aguilera became involved in LBHS, she had been suffering from depression, triggered by a harsh breakup. Because of her mental breakdown, she said she gave up school, her desire to be a social worker, and full-time work.

“I went to bed every day and like ‘please, don’t wake up anymore.’ I asked my body to give up because I couldn’t literally go on anymore,” Aguilera said. “I didn’t like to talk about it. I tried to hide it. Because I didn’t want my family to feel guilty.”

While she was ignoring her mental breakdown, she started volunteering at LBHS to help others in 2015. There, she said she met people with depression and those who have overcome their mental illnesses. Through being with them, she said she could finally acknowledge that she had to seek help.

“I met one of the founding members, Jacqueline [Gomez-Arias]. She was so open about her mental health issues. Through the conversation with her, she was like ‘you need help. You have depression. You have to seek help,’” Aguilera said. “Hearing from her, it was reassuring that it’s OK, I’ll be fine.”

With the help of Gomez-Arias and Aguilera’s sister, she was able to find a therapist and start fighting against her depression. At this point, health insurance is one of the main reasons that Latinx people cannot seek treatment. According to a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one-third of Latinx immigrants are uninsured.

“I was really lucky and privileged that I had health insurance. Not everyone has health insurance. Not everyone can afford a therapist,” Aguilera said.

After several years of taking multiple medications and attending therapy, she said her mental health slowly but steadily recovered.

“Right now, I’m doing very well,” Aguilera said. “I don’t think that is a magic thing. It’s just a huge combination of everything.”

Aguilera also explained the importance of belonging in the community. “I’ve gone through therapy but that wasn’t super enough. For my recovery, I needed my community. Latino Behavioral has been my community. That was the most important thing for me.”

Like Aguilera, Carla Astorga had also suffered from mental breakdown for a few decades. Astorga was born and raised in Lima, Peru, which was a “corrupted” place for her to live. Through a lot of traumatic events from her childhood, Astorga said that her mind was broken. To escape from such a harsh environment, she said she decided to move to Utah in 2005.

“I didn’t recognize my symptoms at first. I felt sadness for whole days. So I didn’t know that it became a depression,” Astorga said.

Ten years had passed since she escaped from her country, but she said her symptoms reached such a level that she couldn’t stand them anymore.

“Anxiety, depression, panic attack, paranoid, fear — everything was starting to growing up and growing up,” Astorga said. “I started to see things that were not there. One day, I was driving to send my kids to school. After that, I went to the police station, because I smelled a bomb in my car. Police checked my car, but there was no bomb.”

At this moment, Astorga said she realized for the first time that she had a mental illness. She then decided to take treatment. As a first step, she came to visit LBHS to pull herself out of the darkness. She said she also took psychiatric medication, therapy, and some training provided by NAMI, which is the nation’s largest mental health organization. Over a couple of years going through hard times, she could finally overcome her mental disorder.

“The most successful part of my recovery was to be able to find one place with my own culture and language that I could feel like I was at home,” Astorga said.

Ever since her symptoms improved, she has been helping people at LBHS as a peer supporter and at NAMI as a Wasatch/Summit affiliate leader.

“I didn’t see enough sources with my own language in my area. Latino people need more sources for mental health,” Astorga said. “When I was getting recovered, I started to be aware that I had confidence and trusted myself. So I started thinking that I wanted to help other people.”

Astorga said a lack of knowledge is the main issue for Latinx people when they develop mental illnesses.

“In my culture, if you go to a psychologist or a doctor to take medicines, you are crazy,” Astorga said.

As Astorga pointed out, finding a peer mentor who has the same cultural background is really hard for underrepresented minorities.

Laiyan Bawadeen, a counseling intern for international students at the University of Utah, addressed this cultural difference issue from a counselor’s perspective.

“To address cultural differences in general, it is important that a counselor uses a multicultural viewpoint where they approach counseling through the context of the student’s world and culture while their own values or bias is not more important than that of the student,” Bawadeen said in an email interview.

Bawadeen is half Taiwanese and half Sri Lankan, and she is pursuing her master’s degree in clinical and mental health counseling at the U. As a member of the minority group, Bawadeen also suggested the importance of correct knowledge about mental treatment.

“I think demystifying what mental health [is], understanding what a counseling session looks like and what to expect can help demystify the counseling process, remove the stigma around mental health and make it easier for individuals to seek help,” Bawadeen said.

Seeking help is not easy for Latinx and other minority people. This might be because of the language barrier, not having health insurance, stigma, or caring so much about families or those who are closest to them. However, at some point, they need help.

Astorga said, “Latino[x] people are very strong. They were fighters or warriors. So they say they can do this alone, but they can’t.”

 

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