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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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.”

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Latinx business owners bringing value to Utah

Story and photos by KAELI WILTBANK

Hector Uribe stepped out from behind the restaurant kitchen, dressed in a white apron and a University of Utah cap. He sat down on a stool inside the lobby of the restaurant his father-in-law passed on to him in 2011 and began explaining his journey toward becoming a business owner.

Uribe explained that he grew up in Mexico and learned the value of hard work from a young age. He explained, “I ditched school when I was in sixth grade, so I was 11 years old when I went to work for somebody else to make money to help out the family.”

Uribe came to the United States from Mexico when he was just 17 years old and started working at his father-in-law’s restaurant weeks after his arrival in 1992. His plan was to save enough money to open up a hardware store back in Mexico. But, he said business owners in Mexico face great dangers because they are at risk of being robbed by the cartel. Uribe realized greater success was awaiting him as a business owner in Salt Lake City.

Hector’s, the chosen name of the company after Uribe took it over, has become a popular Mexican food destination for locals, with both the man and his food becoming iconic elements of the community.

A group of students from Highland High School recently came and interviewed Uribe about his journey as a business owner, he said. They were looking to speak with a successful person in the community, but Uribe explained, “I don’t see myself that way, I just think I am hard working.”

Salt Lake City was recently ranked as one of the best metropolitan areas for minority entrepreneurs to start a business. With the Latinx population becoming the second most rapidly growing demographic of the state of Utah, there has been a corresponding influx of Latinx-owned businesses. 

According to the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, 10,000 businesses in the state of Utah are Latinx-owned and operated. 

Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a former Utah State House representative, is a third-generation American, with her grandfather immigrating to the United States from Mexico. While immigrants like Uribe are seen as successful business owners, Chavez-Houck is familiar with the negative connotations associated with immigrants. She said, “There is this notion of the deficit within communities of color, instead of looking at where our strengths are. Yes, notably persons of color are more within the criminal justice system. We have challenges with poverty and a variety of different things, but that’s not all who we are.” She added, “We are a much more complex community than that.”

Nera Economic Consulting found that nationally, “Latinos are responsible for 29 percent of the growth in real income since 2005.” With successful Hispanic-owned businesses dotting the Utah map, the positive impact brought by the Latinx community is significant to the local economy. The study continued, “They account for roughly 10 cents of every dollar of US national income, and that proportion is rising both due to growth in the Latino population and rising per capita earnings.” 

Uribe spoke with gratitude as he described the opportunity he has had to operate a business of his own. “When we come over here we are happy to have a job. I don’t say it’s a necessity for Hispanics to own their own business, but if there’s an opportunity you need to take it. It’s not as easy to start a business there (in Mexico).”

Alex Guzman, president and CEO of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, explained to a group of students at the University of Utah, “The Hispanic business community, in the majority of cases, open businesses not because they want to be an entrepreneur, but because they have to provide for their families, so they become business owners with no intention of becoming business owners. But,” he said, “as business owners, they need to learn how to run a business. They need to learn how to file taxes, they need to know how to hire, how to do invoicing, how to deal with customers, how to marketing and sales, human resources, legal issues, etc.”

Offering resources and a supportive community, the UHCC provides local Latinx business owners and entrepreneurs with valuable tools they need to succeed. Guzman explained, “We created a program called The Business Academy. Every 10 weeks we start a new program where we train the Hispanic community on how to do business in the U.S.” 

The rapidly growing Latinx community in Utah has made an impact on the local economy and culture of the state. Resources offered by the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce have become valuable tools for business owners and entrepreneurs like Uribe. His words of wisdom to other entrepreneurial-minded people in the community was, “You’ve got to do everything you can and do it the best you can so you don’t ever feel like you left something behind. The world is full of opportunities and you just need to feel which one you want to take.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

IMG_6697

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

img_6696.png

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

IMG_6638

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

img_6694.png

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. 

IMG_6698

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

IMG_6703

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

IMG_6695

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

Latinos in Action member setting an example and breaking stereotypes

Story and gallery by EMMA JOHNSON

Yuritzi Huerta Campos is an 18-year-old senior at Jordan High School. Campos is the first U.S. citizen in her family. Both of her parents were born and raised in Mexico. Her parents moved to Utah before her and her two sisters were born in hopes of giving them a better life with more opportunities.

Campos joined Latinos In Action (LIA) four years ago when she was s freshman at Jordan High School. According to the Latinos in Action national webpage, there are LIA groups established in eight states, in over 200 schools, with 8,000-plus total student members.

Campos’ two older sisters participated in LIA when they attended school. She saw how their student involvement with LIA changed their high school experience. Hispanic cultures dedicate great respect to their rich heritage. Yuritzi appreciated how LIA also allowed her sisters to express and honor their culture through a public group. She says joining LIA has made them all feel like they are a part of something bigger. “Being able to give out a part of ourselves and serve other is what I love,” Campos says.

“In school, you have a place you belong,” she says when talking about why she decided to join LIA when starting high school. Latinos In Action was created in 2001 in Provo, Utah, by Jose Enrique. According to the Latinos In Action webpage when Enrique was in high school, he recognized the lack of programs created for Latinx students to participate in.

After high school, Enrique attended Brigham Young University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Education and Spanish, a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership.

Enrique became an administrator himself and was again reminded of the lack of academic resources available to Latinx students. He felt Latinx youth were often disengaged at school and shunned for their cultural heritage. The disconnect was unacceptable in his eyes, so he created the Latinos In Action.

Matthew Bell, a foreign language teacher at Jordan High School, said in an email that the Latinos In Action program was first presented to Jordan High nearly 10 years ago by founder Jose Enriquez. “Through the presentation, we immediately saw this program as an opportunity to help Latino Heritage students become more involved in the school and in their community,” Bell says. “Another selling point was the strong emphasis the program placed on post-secondary study and achievement.”

Campos says she feels her LIA membership has gotten more impactful as the years have progressed. When LIA was first introduced to her school, she says it wasn’t widely known or understood. “We wanted to change that,” Campos says. Now, LIA hosts assemblies and plays a role in the Student Government program.

The Latinos In Action program emphasizes serving the community. Campos and her LIA classmates spend two days a week at a nearby special-needs school, Jordan Valley, where they help those with severe disabilities communicate through an assisted software called EagleEyes.

EagleEyes is a mouse replacement system for the computer that tracks eye movement and converts it into mouse movement. The system is primarily used to assist those who are profoundly disabled. Campos spends a few hours a week helping different students learn and communicate through the software.

She says her time spent using EagleEyes has changed her life. Debbie Inkley, Executive Director of OFOA says “The EagleEyes-LIA Program changes lives.” Inkely expresses the beauty of the two groups working together. She says it’s changing the volunteer’s lives through their service but giving the Jordan Valley students the peer experience of a lifetime.

LIA values have influenced all aspects of Campos’ life. “LIA setting self aside to help others grow, to build a stronger community.” She is planning on attending Utah Valley University for a year then she hopes to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The service opportunities through LIA has played into her decision to serve a mission and her decision to help people better their lives.

The Latinos In Action program was created to empower Latinx youth through their culture and prepare them for college and leadership opportunities. “We can be perceived as minority, going on a lot about drugs and criminals and all that stuff but we’re really not here to do that. We are here to show the best of ourselves,” Campos says.

LIA activity has shown Campos’ classmates what LIA is all about. She says many of her LIA peers were raised with very little. Most of their parents moved to the States to give their children a better life and a chance at an education. She says LIA helps her show her peers that you don’t have to come from much to break commonly believed stereotypes.

Campos uses her LIA membership to show everyone around her that your time and energy can be spent how you choose and that not all Hispanics fall under brutal stereotypes. She says, “We can show we aren’t that and that we can show love and give service.”

Photos courtesy of Opportunity Foundation of America.

Editor-in-chief in his veins

Story and gallery by Kara D. Rhodes

Utah loves local culture especially in Salt Lake Valley, from the local farmers market and local breweries to our very own local newspapers. One of the most popular independent newspapers in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City Weekly, has a stellar editor-in-chief you may not be aware of. Enrique Limón moved to the city after having lived in Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego.

Limón comes from a long line of “newspapermen,” as he describes it. “My great grandfather, Hernando Limón, a general in the Mexican Army, was editor and publisher of a bilingual weekly in the SD/TJ (San Diego/Tijuana) region generations ago,” Limón says in an email interview. His family is very proud of this achievement, especially his mother.

Being Latinx is described by Limón as being an “invaluable tool.” This includes his language skills, current event knowledge and pop history knowledge. Limón wakes up every day with the energy to excel in his duties. “Careers in media are notorious for burning people out, so thinking about every day as a new adventure, is my accomplishment,” he says.

Not only is Limón a part of the Latinx community but he is also a member of the LGBTQ community. “I am aware of representation issues within those two communities (and beyond), and I do my best to contribute,” Limón says. He also explains how it shapes his day-to-day routine. Although there are many challenges one faces by being in both communities, Limón says he wouldn’t trade being a part of them for anything.  

Limón, like others, has concerns about the Latinx/LGBTQ community. “Higher risk of homelessness, drug addiction, and other life-altering situations. There is a good number of crimes against people on DACA, for example, that never go reported in this country, because victims think doing so might affect their immigration status. It’s heartbreaking,” Limón says.

Limón suggests several ways that Utah could better serve the Latinx/LGBTQ communities, including creating safe spaces, so that people may be themselves without fear of harm or ridicule. A larger spread of gay-straight alliances is important as well. “Normalization, ensuring kids don’t feel ostracized because of something that’s embedded in who they are, should become second-nature,” Limón says. Multiple organizations in Salt Lake City offer programs, such as Encircle and the Utah Pride Center.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Everyone could benefit by being a little kinder — parents, schoolmates, teachers, clergy, etc.,” he says.

Limón concludes by giving praise in an email. “Congrats to The University of Utah. For Voices of Utah, Westminster College for their office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and other educational institutions across the state for highlighting the importance of inclusiveness. Your efforts are positively affecting people, especially young people, in ways you might never know.”

Nick McGregor, a City Weekly employee, has worked with Limón for one year. “Enrique’s background and position at City Weekly help him think outside the box and seek out underrepresented voices to make sure they’re present,” McGregor says in an email interview. Having worked with over 25 editors in his 13 years of journalism, McGregor says he believes that what sets Limón apart from the numerous editors before is his passion for the city as well as his audience.  

Another City Weekly employee, Namoi Clegg, praises Limón, “Enrique is always willing to work with new ideas and people. He also has high expectations, which is a good thing, I think. You damn well better be prepared, because he is not putting up with bullshit from staff or writers. I think his skills really lie in the curation and community-building aspect of the paper,” Clegg says in an email interview.

Clegg says there is no doubt that Limón’s background plays a role in the way he is an editor. “Enrique is a gay, Latinx man. He’s also an excellent editor. It feels reductive to say that Enrique is an excellent editor because of his personal characteristics; at the same time, his background gives him a much-needed perspective that a white, straight man would most likely lack,” Clegg says.

When asked about her thoughts on diversifying the newsroom Clegg had a lot to say. “I really strongly believe that our lived experiences — as women or LGBT folks or people of color — allow us to see angles and stories that are really difficult to pick up on for people who haven’t been marginalized. It’s really, really easy to miss small pieces of the story, pieces that are really essential to the people living the story but pieces that privilege often doesn’t allow us to see, even if we’re doing a lot of work to get outside of our preconceived notions.”

Limón shows that where one comes from is a strength and should be used to one’s best ability. 

 

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.”

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.