Latinx organizations forge alliance in support of sexual violence survivors

Story and photo by JASMINE BARLOW

 Comunidades Unidades/ Communities United (CU), a Latinx empowerment organization, and the Salt Lake City-based Rape Recovery Center (RRC) have forged a community partnership to heal survivors of sexual violence.

Established in 2016, the partnership is dedicated to providing comprehensive education, community resources, and professional services to support and empower survivors, particularly of Latinx identity. Weekly meetings, specialized trainings, policy negotiations, and coalition building are essential for long-term development and impact.

Barlow_RRC

Art installation project at Rape Recovery Center at 2035 1300 East in Salt Lake City.

According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 50% of Latina women will experience an episode of sexual violence in their lifetimes. Nearly 20% of Salt Lake County residents are Latinx. Staggering statistics, an emergence of Utah’s “minority-majority” demographic, and a tumultuous political climate, particularly immigration rhetoric and policy, are primary motivators for the partnership’s formation.

Stephany Murgia, director of education and outreach at RRC, is hopeful for the future of the partnership, while acknowledging advocacy and healing of Latinx survivors poses a myriad of challenges. “Sexual violence is a huge issue for all communities, more specifically in vulnerable communities,” Murgia says. “The most pressing issue [being] that Latinx survivors are underreporting at higher rates than any other group.”

Murgia says she believes the hesitation of reporting stems from a paralyzing fear of authoritarian backlash and possible deportation, as many victims are undocumented. “If you are undocumented choosing to report to the police or get state funding for victim reparations, police are not supposed to ask about [immigration] status. However, this isn’t always the case,” Murgia explains. “When people see [RRC’s] name, they think we are affiliated with law enforcement.” RRC honors and abides by confidentiality, and wants this precedent to be potential clients. “We will never turn them over to authorities or violate their trust,” she says.

Mayra Cedano, Department of Justice representative and Comunidades Unidades community engagement manager, provides immigration services and advocacy, and is deeply invested in the partnership’s success. Serving as a liaison to local government organizations and councils, Cedano is continually pushing for workplace rights and dignity, particularly Latinx and immigrant women facing workplace harassment. She recognizes limited language options in the community and limited availability of interpreters may de-incentivize survivors to seek help. “What is that telling [people of color] and other groups? What message are we sending to [Salt Lake City]?” Cedano wonders.

Daunting as these challenges may be, Murgia and Cedano are looking forward with optimistic vigor. Murgia reports: “We have seen significant growth in outreach, with Latinx backgrounds making up 30% of clientele.”

To mitigate the language gap, RRC is launching a Spanish speaking-only training for volunteers. Meetings are held on a weekly basis at the Mexican Consulate, allowing opportunities for networking, workshops, and connecting with community resources. Getting involved with No Mas, a domestic violence prevention campaign can also be helpful.

Overall, Murgia and Cedano both urge for a call to action, an essential ingredient for solidarity and effective peace building.

Utah’s air: Not good for what ails you

Inversion

Brace yourself — The inversion is coming. This is the text of a bumper sticker.

Story and photos by SARAH SAIDYKHAN

On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers of what is now The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived on the outskirts of the Great Salt Lake Valley looking for a new place to corral their wagons and set up camp. The church’s archives state that as Young gazed over the vast and barren land sprawled out before him, he said, “This is the right place.”

City View

Salt Lake City.

Nowadays we know that what Brigham Young was looking at were massive mountain ranges surrounding a desert-valley landscape. This mountain range design creates a makeshift bowl that protects the valley from strong winds and other harsh elements. Along with adventurous recreation, the mountains assist in creating high- and low-pressure systems that trap toxic particulate matter in the air during winter inversions and smoke-filled haze pollution resulting from possible summertime fires.

Kellie McCleve lives in the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley and is a mom to five kids under the age of 14. From her home, she is able to see the smog pollution that covers the Valley. She said, “Sometimes the sky’s so gross you can’t see anything but like, a yucky, brownish haze. It covers the whole Valley.” McCleve said that when she takes her kids into the city, she has a mask for each of them to wear. “It’s so gross! We shouldn’t be breathing that in. No one should be breathing that in.”

Smog Lake City

Light haze covering the Salt Lake Valley.

But every day, hundreds of thousands of people do breathe it in. McCleve said that when she moved, the inversions were something she could see from a distance. But now she knows her home was never actually immune. “I worry because when we moved out of the city, I really thought we escaped it, we didn’t. We just see it now from a distance. It’s always around us but it’s worse down in the Valley.” McCleve believes that no one person can fix the depleted air quality and for now, she continually looks for ways to lower her carbon footprint saying, “We’re all responsible for the problem and that means, we’re all responsible for cleaning it up. If we don’t, we’re all in trouble.”

Today, Utah is home to over three million people and the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute projects that by 2065, Utah will be home to roughly six million people. Even as the state grows more diverse, there is still an environmental justice divide visible in the Valley.

The east side houses a predominantly white population. One can usually find new and remodeled schools and readily available public transportation. There are pricey coffee shops every few blocks and multiple grocery stores within walking distance where residents can purchase organic, fresh fruits and vegetables. The east side of the Valley also sits at a higher elevation and in a way, overlooks the west side. But even at higher elevations, the air is still filling with particulate matter from emissions, just not at the same levels as what accumulates in the air down on the Valley floor.

West Side Industry

Westside industry.

The west side of the Valley houses a large majority of Utah’s lower-income families. There’s more diversity in the communities and predominantly, most people of color live on the Valley’s west side. Grocery stores are spread miles apart from residents, creating food deserts, and there’s a significant lack of public transportation. Instead of coffee shops and farmers markets littered throughout the neighborhoods, there are factories, refineries and major transportation, and trucking hubs all contributing to the air quality.

With the depleted air quality in the Valley, who is affected the most? Anthony Sudweeks is one of the principals at Wallace Stegner Academy (WSA), located on Bending River Road on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. The school offers a free, college preparatory education for grades K-8. With over 600 students, the majority of kids attending WSA are Hispanic, students of color and/or from low-income families who reside in the neighborhoods surrounding the school.

Sudweeks said he is asked by parents frequently, “Can you keep all the kids inside for indoor activities?” As much as he wishes that were possible, it’s not a reality. A few days of inside play are OK, but kids need to run and expel their energy so they can pay attention and learn while the teacher is instructing. Instead of packing hundreds of energy-filled kids in a crowded lunchroom like sardines in a can, the school adheres to strict guidelines on how the red, orange and yellow days are handled.

utahblueskyslc

A “green day” in Utah.

Sudweeks said, “On red days, no kids play outside. On orange and yellow days, students with asthma or heart conditions, who have to have a doctor’s form filled out, don’t go outside.”

The school uses one of the state’s outdoor air quality monitoring websites to decide who or if any students go outside during the orange and yellow days. “There are air testing monitors that the state funds all over the place,” Sudweeks said. “There’s one about two blocks from here.” He and the other employees at WSA are vigilant in making sure that the kids are not outside when the inversions are happening and when the air quality monitors show that any unnecessary exposure to the air would not be safe.

WSA checks the air quality website multiple times daily because, even though the weather is not the culprit, the pressure systems may change from morning to afternoon. But Sudweeks said, “It’s not really dependent on the weather. High- and low-pressure fronts can change it, but the air quality’s not very unpredictable. It’s predictable. In the morning we know what it’s going to be like in the afternoon, it doesn’t randomly change. It doesn’t predict green and turn into a red.”

Sudweeks did say that during the winter inversions the forecast will sometimes show a yellow day in the morning, but by the afternoon it will have turned into a red day. Those days, he said, “It’s a constant check, constant.”

An inversion builds, trapping pollution.

The area of WSA is surrounded by four major freeways. Sudweeks explained that the neighborhoods around the school are some of the worst polluted spots in the state when it comes to bad air quality. So, why knowingly put a school in an area that suffers from some of the most polluted air in the state? “Because this is where our students live,” Sudweeks said. “This is Glendale, and most of our students live in Glendale. If we moved the school somewhere else, what we’d be saying is, these kids don’t deserve a good charter school.” Glendale is a suburb of Salt Lake City and according to Statistic Atlas, roughly 40 percent of the population living there is Hispanic.

Sudweeks quickly affirmed, “This is their neighborhood and these kids absolutely deserve to have a great school in their own neighborhood.” He said that one of the reasons why the school’s location was decided was “to make sure that the kids living in some of the most polluted and lower-income parts of the city still have access to the best education possible.”

Sudweeks explained the environmental justice issues the school and area are facing. “It’s a nationwide phenomenon where the lower the income neighborhoods are, the more likely they are to live in bad air quality. Nearer to freeways and industrial areas.” He said that’s also particularly true in Utah. The area is economically growing and with that growth brings large diesel-fueled trucks, more traffic, congestion and, overall increased pollution.

Winter Smog

Eastside winter smog — University of Utah’s family housing.

Sudweeks also ran for state legislature in 2018. One of his platforms was Utah’s air quality, more specifically, the air quality monitors and their need to be updated. He said, “They need about $3 million invested into them because they’re falling apart. The session before the last, they voted to not put any money into them and this last session they put $1 million. But they are in desperate need of upgrades on the monitors themselves.”

Sudweeks said he feels like the majority of the legislature just doesn’t care because it would mean truly facing the air pollution problem. “They just pretend like it’s an issue we have no control over, which is not true.” Sudweeks said the state could completely move to Tier 3 fuel, which is low in sulfur and according to the EPA, reduces carbon dioxide emissions into the air.

Sudweeks said the state is also needing a revamp of the public transit system to meet the needs of the people. “Buses don’t get people on public transits, trains do,” he said. “We’re a big enough county where we could justify a large investment into public transits. Because of our air quality needs, we have no business not investing heavily in public transits.” Sudweeks referenced the recent legislature and said, “No money for public transit, but a lot of money for widening and expanding roads.”

He said Utah’s inversions give residents a false sense of security in believing the air is only bad when inversions are happening. A large study by Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health agrees. The study found that EPA standards may not be strict enough in preventing premature deaths from air pollution. The research showed that if particle pollutions in the air could be lowered by roughly 10 percent, the death rates of people 65 and older would be lowered, possibly saving 7,000 to 10,000 lives each year.

Hazy City

Haze building over the Salt Lake Valley.

Improvements to the air quality in Utah have been made over the years. Technological advancements created cars that run on natural gas and batteries. Electric vehicles, trains and buses are carrying more people around the Salt Lake Valley, reducing the need to get in a gas-operated vehicle for a quick drive to the store. More homes are being powered through renewable solar energy, and in general, more people are aware of the issues of air pollution and what contributes to it. Still, with all the improvements, there is a visible racial divide when it comes to air we breathe.

Rep. Angela Romero represents Salt Lake Valley’s House District 26. She is also one of the many advocates fighting for clean air in Utah. Of the roughly 39,000 people living in her district, almost 60 percent are Hispanic and people of color.

Romero said in a phone interview that when the topic of air pollution comes up, people have to realize there’s more to it than just air pollution. “There’s an environmental justice concern for those affected the most.” The EPA recognizes environmental justice as the fair treatment of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, and income with regard to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulation, and policies. This means that every person living has a right to a fair and meaningful life and protection from environmental and health hazards. This is not the case for hundreds of thousands of people living in the most polluted parts of the Valley bowl.

Romero said, “Most working-class communities and communities of color, live in areas that are more industrial, so they’re going to be exposed to more toxins in the air than others.” She and her colleagues are looking at the intersectionality of all issues facing people of color and marginalized communities. “We’re not looking at how they collide and how they displace people, it’s how they all work together,” Romero said.

As the Valley becomes denser in population, Utahns must continue being vigilant in finding and implementing ways to stay ahead of the added pollution. Romero said, “It’s kind of hard for us to solve the problem if we’re not coming up with innovative ways to address it [air pollution].”

Public Transportation

Riding public transit lowers dependence on fossil fuels.

Cleaning up the air is not a one-person job. It’s everyone’s job to work together to make it better. Romero said that a lot of time people want to put all the blame on industry and other heavy air polluters. But, she said, “We don’t look at ourselves and what small things we can do when we’re looking at air quality and energy. How do we play a role in that? What are some practices that we can change in our own lives?”

Romero said she’d like to see the state focus on using more renewable energy sources like adding roof-top solar panels to all state-run buildings and offering higher discounts to homes using solar panels. Businesses and homes can also update their heating and air-conditioning units to function more efficiently. Romero said it comes down to all residents making the commitment to change the habits that are contributing to the depleted air quality.

Utah has over 200 sunny days a year. Roof-top solar is an important investment for Utah’s future economy. More importantly, using a 100 percent renewable and clean energy source can help to improve the long-term health of all residents.

In the Salt Lake Valley’s mountain landscape environment, there will always be air pollution concerns. “We have inversions,” Romero said, “and they’re never going to go away, but what can we do to be more proactive, so we don’t make them worse?” Romero said that people can make little changes like taking public transit. Even though it may take a bit longer to get somewhere, plan for it and make it part of the routine. Walk or ride a bike if only going short distances and carpool whenever possible. The more we drive, the more we’re creating dirtier air with our cars. Romero said, “Getting people out of their vehicles and onto public transportation is a great way to start.”

Bikes are readily available around the city.

About the future of Utah’s air quality, Romero said, “We’re trying to be more proactive. We’re looking at inversions and air quality and we’re looking at it more from a public health perspective.” She also said, “If we truly want to change the route we’re going, we have to reevaluate systems that are in current existence. It’s not only about communities of color and marginalized communities. It’s about us as an entire community.”

Romero said all it takes are small changes in everyday routines to help improve air quality. Any day is a great day, to start a new and healthy habit.

To make improvements to Utah’s air quality, follow the CLEAN AIR plan:

C: Carpool whenever possible
L: Limit cold starts on cars and combine trips
E: Engage in clean air advocacy
A: Access public transportation
N: Navigate smog ratings and engine types
A: Avoid unnecessary commutes
I: Idle less or not at all
R: Ride a bike or walk when possible

To learn more ways to help clean up Utah’s air, visit the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Utah Department of Health, or Air Now.

 

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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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Suicide isn’t a “one-size-fits-all”

Story and gallery by KOTRYNA LIEPINYTE

“When I was 13 years old, I tried to commit suicide.”

Illiana Gonzalez Pagan, a member of the U.S. military, struggles to discuss her teen years. She thinks back on the time where she could have been one of the 628 people who commit suicide every year in Utah. Pagan was, however, a part of another scary statistic.

Pagan was part of the 3,280 kids who were taken to the hospital for self-inflicted injuries. “I found myself cutting skin to feel decent,” she says. “And now, I cover those scars with tattoos.” Pagan traces her red-lined tattoos on what used to be her scars. She smiles sadly.

Her red tattoos match the colors of her scars. Pagan’s story is a lucky one. In 2017, over the course of 12 months, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that 9.6% of Utah high school students attempted suicide one or more times. Unfortunately, 5 percent of these students were not so lucky and succeeded in their attempts.

Chelsea Manzanares, a graduate assistant working in the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) at the University of Utah, analyzes the Utah struggle via a conversation through email. “Unfortunately, conversations surrounding mental health are still heavily influenced by the presence of stigmas,” she says. “Mental health was not previously understood the way it is now, and these stigmas are the remnants of a history of violence and discrimination. Many people choose not to talk openly about mental may still hold onto these beliefs, which can ultimately become a barrier in seeking care.”

Pagan agrees, reminiscing on a conversation with her mother. “I just remember, as a child, telling my mama that I was really sad. And I remember her saying I have nothing to be sad about and that was that,” Pagan states. The misunderstanding and lack of communication surrounding mental health is what builds the barrier Manzanares discusses.

Especially in West Valley City, where the Hispanic culture is strong. “Culturally,” Pagan begins, “it’s not really OK to be sad. My mama used to compare sadness to a mosquito and always told me that I can just swat it away and forget about it.” Pagan laughs before saying, “Well, that mosquito kept coming back, mama.”

Manzanares also touches on the rising rates of suicide in minority populations. “It’s important to have a conversation on intersectionality, and what that means in a mental health context,” Manzanares begins. “When we are studying these rates, we have to take into account these conditions and interactions that can impact one’s well-being. Grasping this concept helps us better understand what changes (systematically, individually, etc.) need to be made in order to help the mental health status of these communities.”

In an article for The Conversation by Kimya N. Dennis, she writes that African-American, Hispanic and American Indian suicides have historically been “more misclassified than white suicide.”  This means that when deaths are reported, often times, Hispanic deaths are rarely classified as suicides. This inaccurately represents data that shifts societal attitudes toward suicide.

The barrier between cultures also creates an obstacle difficult to overcome. Kim Valeika, a mother, sheds light on the situation. “I grew up hiding things like this from my mom,” she says. “And I am working super hard to make sure my daughters don’t feel the same way. I want them to be able to talk to me about it, openly.”

Manzanares agrees. “Peer support can be so much more than just providing communities with those tools for education and awareness,” she says. “The sense of comfort, acceptance and support that can be found within a community itself is huge in buffering against adverse mental health outcomes.”

All three women said one thing in common: depressive thoughts and suicidal tendencies must be taken seriously in order for there to be any change.

Although mental health is certainly a public health concern in Utah, it remains a taboo subject. The culture in the state is typically conservative, and upholds many stigmas. Relevant mental health resources also tend to be limited and inaccessible to those who are most in need, creating additional barriers. In order for mental health to be at the forefront, more resources need to be invested in educating the public and supporting the validity of this field.

Manzanares’ work in CESA tries hard to build upon this concept. It offers a free Stress Support Group for underrepresented students on campus. The environment is friendly, welcoming, and confidential, in hopes of offering students a safe space to go and open up about inner battles they might have.

Although Utah struggles with the scary suicide statistics, the discussion about mental health has increased. Resources are slowly becoming more and more available as well as tips for recognizing a struggling person. If a person needs help, health.utah.gov reports to listen without judgement and guide them to talk about their past.

Manzanares encourages students to visit CESA, or the University of Utah Health Center.

“Just talk to someone,” Pagan says. “Anyone is better than no one. Just getting it out there allows people to give advice that maybe you never thought of. Just get it out.”

 

 

Latinx businesses in the Salt Lake City area

Story and gallery by IASIA BEH

Utah’s demographics are rapidly changing.

Not only has Utah’s population grown the fastest in the country in the past 19 years, but the number of people of color who live in Utah has also ballooned in recent years. The Latinx community, in particular, has grown nearly 15 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census. This coincides with Utah’s growing economy, adding 115 percent more Latinx businesses from 1997-2015.

Alex Guzman, the president and CEO of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, located at 1635 S. Redwood Road, has a couple ideas as to what the reasoning behind the population growth could be. One, that Latinx families are more likely to have more children than white families. And second, internal immigration.

“Internal immigration is one of the reasons,” Guzman said. “When the lives turn tough for the immigrant community in Arizona, Nevada and California, they move up.” He said people are moving from nearby cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas to West Valley City, where they can find goods and services in Spanish. 

Rancho Markets is an example of one of these services. Founded in 2006, the stores are run by Latinx individuals and the signs are displayed in Spanish.

Está cerca de donde vivo,” said a mom, Rosa, at the 140 N. 900 West location. Through a translator, she said that the store is close to where she lives and it’s convenient.

Looking at a map of Salt Lake City grocery stores, most are on the east side, leaving the mostly brown west side to go to fewer stores such as Rancho Markets. This is a positive if you are catering to only Latinx individuals as there would almost be a monopoly, but breaking into the white market has proven to be difficult.

There are many reasons why that is. One is the fact that many Latinx people haven’t been taught how to run a business in the first place. The Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, however, is looking to fix this discrepancy.

“[Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce] created a program we call the Business Academy,” Guzman said. “In partnership with colleges and universities, every single 10 weeks we start a new program where we train the Hispanic business community on how to do business in the U.S.”

Another benefit of the program is that it helps its attendees learn English. The language barrier can be a huge hurdle when expanding markets to serve communities that don’t speak Spanish.

“Currently we are teaching these classes in Spanish,” Guzman said. “But little by little we are turning the switch from Spanish to bilingual, and bilingual to monolingual. English is the language of business. If they insist to work and serve just to serve Spanish customers, they have a roof in their businesses because we are just 17 percent of the population.”

Programs like these show that there is a cultural shift happening in the state but it still is a majority English-speaking, white area. But with the way that demographics are swinging and with the booming Latinx business economy, the Latinx community will continue to grow in Utah. Maybe, in a few years, English-centered businesses will have to learn Spanish in order to stay competitive. Until then, the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will be there to make being an entrepreneur a reality for Latinx individuals.   

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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