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


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El Popo Staff has 176 articles published.

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!”


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