I was approached by a reader a few weeks ago who told me that she would like for her story to be told. After glancing over her story the first time, it seemed that her story was very interesting and well put. She was a very cautious person when it came to her health because her mother was Type 1 diabetic.
It seemed to me that this woman was bitter at the fact that gangrene had infected her mother’s toe and eventually caused her death. Although this woman blamed it on diabetes, it was also caused because it wasn’t found in time. Her mother didn’t go to the doctor for it; at least, she didn’t mention that in the story.
So since then, this woman has taken excellent care of herself. She had check ups all the time and eventually tested her A1c level, which was that blood test I mentioned before, which gives a broader scope of how well an individual was dealing with their diabetes. Because her doctor was not satisfied with the results (this woman did not mention what they were) she was pinned as being pre-diabetic. This just means that you’re prone to it. So, even after this woman had been taking care of herself her entire life, she was still on the path to possibly having diabetes.
So, after reading this, I thought, what an interesting story. Sure, I’ll post this. Then she revised it saying that the new one may “work better for me.” After reading it, I found that she decided to be a little more savvy about Latinos and diabetes by writing this:
“Hispanics are twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites, partially due to cultural associations with foods, beverages, and mealtimes. Despite stats that say Hispanic female heads of households are more conscientious about calories and nutrition than non-Hispanics, the majority are in total disregard, drinking super-sized margaritas, beers, turkey legs or fritanga and topping it off with tres leches. As a result, obesity is rampant in the Hispanic community, and Type 2 diabetes is hitting children like never before.”
Now, mind you, I agree with the parts about diabetes being a silent killer among the Latino community. I agree that obesity is a problem as well, but I don’t agree with her reasoning as to why. In fact, it was stereotypical and uncalled for, something that I told her in an email. I also mentioned that for being a diabetic advocate, her reasoning as to why Latinos were prone to diabetes was not good.
She claims that she lived and own a tapas bar in South America and she works with LULAC and other Latino organizations, but why did she feel this generalized section about Latinos was necessary? In a way, this just shows what kind of people are marketing to diabetics and the Latino community– people that don’t understand us. Just because you lived in South America and owned a tapas bar, doesn’t make you an expert at Latino culture, just as a visitor.
Diabetes is huge among all people of color and across the entire United States. Latinos have reasons besides super-sized margaritas to explain why diabetes is emerging in many members of the community.
Let’s take a step back and look at the reasoning why.
1. Latinos in their home countries are accustomed to eating healthier foods. This means fresh and not full of chemicals, like preservatives and hormones. They go to the market every day and in fact probably ate organically in their Latin American country.
2. When Latinos come to the United States, they eat the same way. They don’t think about nutritional facts, just wants going to connect them to home, to their roots. This is why 1 in 3 people in the Puerto Rican community are now Type 2 diabetic. In Puerto Rico, everything is fried. Here, there are differences in the food they’re frying and the kind of oil they are using. In Mexico, people eat a lot of beans but they’re not re-fried and they don’t come in a can. Here, we have to resort to cans because who has time to cook beans on a weekday? Seriously, if you have cooked beans you know it takes forever and a day. It’s a cultural difference.
3. Another cultural difference is work. Back “home,” wherever that may be, many people do laborious work. They are out in fields, they walk everywhere, they “work out” because it’s a way of life. Here, we sit in offices and stare at computer screens. This is a big reason why Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance results in people of color. Our bodies are not used to working with so much insulin that our body creates due to what we eat, especially because our food and caloric intake was lower and burned off at a higher rate through all the movement and exercise that was being done. Even if you were born here, your body hasn’t evolved past that of your current ancestors (i.e. your grandparents or great-grandparents)
4. Change of lifestyle is hard. When people come to one country from another, that’s hard. Then you tell them to stay away from what they know because it could cause them harm. That’s harder. But it doesn’t excuse people who have been here longer. They have to learn about what’s going on in their bodies and how to stay healthy. Like ALL Americans, Latinos are getting lazy. A trait gained from the NEW, not old, culture.
5. People choose to disregard their diabetes because they think they’re supposed to die of something and it’s not old age and JUST old age. See, in the Latino community, I’m sorry to say it, but many people are morbid. They think about all of the bad things that have happened and what will happen. They also feel invincible at times. To hear that they have diabetes, they think it’s a disease that they’re supposed to die from. They’re not educated properly about how to take care of themselves, just because they don’t know where to go.
There are a lot of cultural reasons as to why Latinos have diabetes and these are only a few. This woman who made generalizations about the entire community, was obviously not educated on these reasons herself. She represents those people out there who don’t know the reason behind different cultures besides their own and decide to blame cultures and races for their own misfortunes.
Although I thought she was on the right track with educating us about herself and her story, I was obviously wrong and do not plan to promote any generalizations or stereotypes about my own culture.
Your Loyal Latina.
Update: She emailed me back and clarified the fact that she was speaking strictly about San Antonio, noting that in Mexico and South America, they ate very healthily. I would like to hear back from readers as to what your thoughts are.