Chicana/o Studies – Publishing an Alternative View Since 1970 – CSU, Northridge

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The Word is Text - page 12

Remembering Frida

in The Word is Text by

by Laura Gomez

image of model depicting Frida Kahlo
photo courtesy of CR Guerrero

Remembering Frida was  edited by Roberta La Vela Orona-Cordova, Associate Professor at California State University of Northridge who teaches Chicano literature, Chicano film and  creative writing.

Professora Orona-Cordova was first introduced to Frida while working on her M.A at San Francisco State University at an exhibit of Chicano artists.  It was not until she was in graduate school at UCLA that she came across a large textbook,  a bio on Frida Kahlo, that she became intrigued with her work and later wrote her master thesis on Frida for her Masters in Fine Arts (MFA).

It took some time before Professora Orona-Cordova realized her connection with Frida was not jus on an artistic level but  also on a personal level. Although she did value her art because it was creative, different, and challenged traditions that made no sense especially for woman, she admired the fact that although Frida was in the upper middle class, she embraced the indigenous people of México through her vivid paintings and her colorful dress attire. With further research and visiting México to interview old friends of Frida,  Professora Orona-Cordova comprehended why she had such a strong personal connection. Frida reminded her of her own mother. Her mother too, like Frida, had a challenging life with her husband that was witnessed by Professora Orona-Cordova as a young child. They both suffered of strokes and had to be on bed rest. Her mother was born a year before Frida and died a year after Frida’s death, but they both passed away at the same age. One of her favorite paintings by Frida is, Unos Cuantos Piquetitos, the painting truly illustrates all the pain and suffering that one carries with them emotionally and physiologically.

This anthology brings to life the struggle of Frida, her activism, and how she represented her culture. The book includes various essays by diverse authors that share the life of Frida and the impact she has made upon many Chicanas and Chicanos today.

Mental Disparities: Latinos and the Mental Health Stigma

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Mental health issues have taken center stage in the United States but not in the Latino community.

According to the 2010 article published by the APA (The American Psychological Association), 1 out of every 11 Latinos with a mental disorder sought professional health. That is less than 10% of the population. What does this say about the rest of the population?

Socioeconomic status, awareness, and even culture, are some of the barriers the Latino community faces in the United States today. Our culture and our community itself are the biggest barriers Latinos have to deal with on a daily basis. In our community, we label someone who suffers from depression as being “lazy”, someone how is bipolar or suffers from Dysthymia as “crazy or loco”. Yet these diagnoses are among the most common, along with anxiety and stress, within our community. These beliefs represent a serious health concern among the 49 million Latinos living in the United States. The majority of the Latino families are not able to afford the proper health care insurance.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), 30.9% of Latinas ranging from the age of 13 to 18 will have attempted to commit suicide; that’s 1 out of every 3 girls of high school age. Compare to 9.0% in the African American community and 10.3 in the non-Hispanic community (Caucasians, Asians and other). Many of these youth are misdiagnosed of having anger problem or behavioral problems, which is all too common in schools throughout the country. School officials and parents rather than professional clinicians, are the ones making these diagnoses which ultimately lead to the high percentage of suicide attempts.

Acknowledgement and acceptance of mental health is even more difficult among Latino men. Why one may ask? In our community, we view men as the bread winners and providers of the family, this come from a “machismo” culture in which men are view as weak individual if they complain about any type of illness or are not able to provide for their families, especially if it’s regarding their mental state of mind.

In the Latino community, stigmatism is still the biggest barrier where families do not want to have the label of “being the family with a relative who’s crazy”. Instead of being a concern for the family, it somehow brings shame to them and generations to come.

According to a recent study done by Dr. William Vega, Ph.D., (USC),

“200 depressed and low-income Latinos in Los Angeles; more than half said that depressed people weren’t trustworthy and that they’d be unwilling to socialize with someone who’s depressed. Those self-stigmatizing respondents were less likely to take medication and keep scheduled appointments with primary-care physicians, the study found.” (CNN, 2010).

The statistics are not only alarming but proof that within our community a change must be done. Our culture has gone through changes during the last 50 years. The one area where change is crucial and a must is mental health. Our views about mental health and disorders must change in order for our community to better understand those who suffer from mental health, just as we’ve learned to deal and understand with such illnesses as cancer, AIDS and other health diseases.

Education and acceptance is the key to overcoming stigmatism of someone suffering from mental health. Someone who suffers from a physical illness receives the proper care because they physically show the signs but someone who suffers from a mental disorder or illness will ever show any signs and he/she is more at risk to die than from someone who has cancer. Learning about the signs of mental illness and being able to engage the individual just by asking more questions may end up saving the individual’s life. I know because I suffer from a mental illness and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

For more information, go to the following links:

  1. Latino Community Mental Health fact sheet. (2006). Retrieved from
  2. Dichoso, S. (2010, November 15). Stigma Haunts Mentally Ill Latinos. Retrieved from

Mexican-American Studies Ban: An Update

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Students of the Tucson School District found identity in the Mexican-American Studies program which is precisely what Tom Horne wants to ban.

In 1997, Mexican-American Studies was brought into the Tucson School District. The high rate of Mexican/Latino students dropping out of high school was the main reason they created the program. The program offered an interest in education by creating a curriculum that would be geared toward their ethnicity. Having a program like this helped students to find identity in their ethnicity; it helped them to find their purpose. MAS also encouraged students to attend class because they would be learning about their own ethnic background, a subject they found a high interest in. However, Tom Horne, Superintendent of all Arizona’s schools, believed the MAS program was in violation of Arizona state law HB2281.

What sparked the controversy in April of 2006 was when a guest speaker, Dolores Huerta, came to a high school and stated that “Republicans hate Latinos.” A statement like that caused uproar with Republican Tom Horne. He began an investigation in the Mexican-American Studies program and believed it to be in violation with HB2281. Arizona state law HB2281 states that school districts cannot promote the overthrow of the U.S. Government or promote resentment toward a race or class of people. Although he never actually attended any of the program’s classes, he deemed that “[the program] caused resentment toward white people.”

Both teachers and students denied that their teachers ever taught to resent white people or overthrow the U.S. Government. In fact, the University of Arizona study found in 2009 showed that MAS improved Mexican/Latino standardized test scores. The study also showed that 51% of students enrolled in MAS were more likely to graduate high school than students not enrolled in the program with a similar ethnic background. This is solid proof that the purpose of the Mexican-American studies program is effective.

In no way was the curriculum designed to promote the resentment of any race, it simply shined a light on a particular culture. Not to mention that this program is not a requirement to take. Every student has the choice to opt out of taking World History and take Mexican-American studies.

January 10, 2012 – After reviewing all the information on the case, the federal court made their final decision to ban Mexican-American studies in a vote 4-1. Although this sounds like complete racism toward the Mexican and Latino people, the federal court later announced that there can be the study of Mexican-Americans. Sounds like the outcome we were all hoping for right? Not quite. The federal court is allowing Mexican-American studies with the addition of African-American studies. The problem the court faces is that they have to comply with both HB2281and the desegregation order that says Tucson has to create “culturally relevant courses of instruction” for both Latinos and African-Americans due to the hardships they faced in the past. With the Fall semester just beginning, the community awaits to see  the new curriculum .

New Building Complex Disturbs Neighborhood

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249-2By  Gabriela Torres

Marmion Way runs through many neighborhoods such as Highland Park, Mount Washington, and Lincoln Heights. Throughout the years, the City of Los Angeles has made changes to Marmion Way.

Beginning in the early 2000’s, many homes were affected by the construction of the Gold Line Metro. Numerous homeowners were asked to leave their properties and others were asked to remodel their homes in order to make the users of Gold Line feel comfortable about local transportation. Now, the residents of Marmion Way have a set of people who chose to remain anonymous trying to build a 50 unit apartment complex. There are many upset residents who do not like the idea of once again being bothered to make changes to accommodate more disturbance.

The residents of Marmion way believe that the new apartment complex will be a burden to the community, “not only will there be construction going on for a year or two, but this is not safe for the children of the community considering Loreto St. Elementary school is located just a couple feet away from this area,” expressed a concerned resident.  Many of the residents seem to be against the idea of this apartment complex being built. They worry for the community and the safety of the children.

It appears that the residents of Marmion Way are fed up with people coming to their community and always asking to make a changes. “ We already had to adapt to the Gold Line station coming in to our community, we should not be getting stepped over by all these companies, enough is enough we do not need any more changes!” The concern of these residents is still there, the residents are going to neighborhood council meetings and making petitions to stop the apartment complex from being built. No promises have been made and no action has been taken, whether or not the apartment complex will be built is still a question.

Sal Castro Passes Away

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Sal Castro passed away on April 15, 2013.

I’m sure many of us have seen the movie “Walk Out” or heard of the story behind the east LA walkouts of 1968. In 1968, after many events and acts against Latino students at different schools, teacher Sal Castro decides to take a stand for his students and encourages students to walk out of school. In the late 1960’s East Los Angles high schools were predominantly made up of Latino students.  Students who were constantly put down by their teachers for speaking their native language, students who were encouraged by their teachers to go out and get jobs that are not taken serious. Sal Castro was a teacher who was not okay with the mistreatment of Latino students. He dedicated his career to advocating education and rights for Chicano and Chicana students from the Los Angeles Unified School district. Sal Castro led Latino students to fight for themselves to prove to misjudging teachers that Latino students were not incapable of succeeding and that they should not be prohibited to speak their native language at school. Sal Castro and the Chicano Youth Leadership brought a group of high school students together to show them how Latino students at the time were last on the list based on education, and appeared to be the ethnicity with highest drop out rates. The purpose of Sal Castro and the Chicano Youth Leadership conference was to encourage Latino Students to earn a higher education and to make something of themselves in order to put Latino students in a better place. It is thanks to Sal Castro that Latino students from East LA high schools made a change, a change that ‘til this very day still makes a difference in lives of many current Latino students. Forty-five years later Sal Castro passes away, leaving his honor to many Latino students. He will always be known as a hero to Latino students and will be remembered as the teacher who led his students to success, the teacher who helped his students earn respect from foul teachers who misjudged Latino students. Sal Castro will be remembered through out history as a brave teacher who legitimately cared for his students and the education system, Thank you Sal Castro, thank you for helping students like myself have an interest in earning a higher education.  Castro always said, “Go to school pendejo!”


Living in Liverpool: My Memories by Thania Delgado

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It was the summer of August 1998, and I had just turned eight. I remember the cracked concrete sidewalks of Liverpool, and I remember the way the store clerk looked at me every time I said “Hola.”  What I remember the most, however, were my mother’s words.

No vamos a comer hora. Juega con tus amigos,” she’d say to me, then hug me and let me go.

I didn’t understand what she meant every time she’d say this. All I knew was that playing with friends was better than eating. We’re oblivious to a lot of things in our childhood, and I was no different. I never looked into my parent’s eyes and saw the hardships they faced.

The year 1998 marked the twelve years my parents had been living in Liverpool. The opportunity that once shined in the sun was now a faded dream. Work dominated their life. The clothing factory they worked in was a building of hazards with security guards at every corner.

“I worked with packaging and machinery. You’re mom sewed pants, jeans and blankets all day. Workers were separated by race. The Irish and Scottish in the first rows, Mexicans in the middle and blacks in the back row and so on…” recalls my father.

According to my parents, work shifts were about 12 hours. If a person could not work those twelve hours, they would be fired. On some days, workers would be paid 3 pounds (about $5 in the United States) or they weren’t paid anything at all. Talking and going to the bathroom would be forbidden. Female workers had to take a pregnancy test, and if they tested positive, they would be fired on the spot.

Despite the long hours and limitations, it was the hazards of the workplace that took a toll on my mother, my father and the rest of the workers. “We could take the long hours and the demands of what we couldn’t do, but the hazards scared me and your dad, the workers, everyone.”

There was no air conditioning in the factory, so it was very hot. One bottle of water wasn’t enough to sustain a sweating human being. Dust covered the air day and night, and the workers breathed it in. My mother recalled a time when she came out of work with her hair white or blue or whatever the color of the pants and shirts they were working on. “That day we could only smell the dye of the clothing when we left work,” recalled my mother. “Everyone breathed as if they’d just been saved from drowning.”

Every day the workers faced conditions that took a toll on their health. For them, it was a daily routine where they sacrificed their well-being in order to obtain the essentials—money, food, and clothing. Although all of them came from different countries, it was their shared experience that brought them together.

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