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Mexican-Americans: Health and Culture Lucero Villegas

CST 430 January 27, 2013

Mexican-American Culture 2 Mexican-American Culture Introduction The cultural group that I identify with is Mexican-Americans in the United States. Its traditional cultural beliefs and practices greatly affect my health as a twenty-one year old heterosexual female. Mexican-Americans are individuals who claim Mexican cultural heritage, but are permanent residents in the U.S., despite legal residency standing. Of the 20.8 million Hispanics in the United States, 13.3 million are Mexican-American. The majority of Mexican Americans live in Southwestern Unites States and only California, Texas, and New Mexico surpass the number in Arizona by state population (Lipson, 2011). Those who reside in urban locations, just as I do, have privileged levels of education are more exposed to Western medical practices, or tend to be more bicultural. Approximately 80-90% of Mexican-Americans are Roman Catholics and the Virgin of Guadalupe, the mother of Christ, is considered a powerful and religious icon (Lipson, 2011). This image is the model of motherhood, faith, peace, strength, and endurance; prayers are often directed to her. The socioeconomic position of MexicanAmericans is recurrently characterized by poverty: 25.7% of Mexican-American families live under the poverty level in the United States (Bethesda, 2008). Therefore, housing is a problem and many are forced to live in unhealthy homes with many family members to be able to afford rent. Our limit or lack of health care and health education or ignorance is due to lower financial resources, poor transportation, fear of legal authorities (for those who are undocumented), and sense of losing respect or pride. Due to the need for health care in American and the lower costs outside of the U.S., traveling to Mexico to receive health care is not uncommon. Medical conditions experienced by my cultural group, such as the prominently affecting diabetes, are due

Mexican-American Culture 3 to lack of access to preventative care, shortage of health insurance, and deprivation of health education. Mexican-Americans are influenced by education, economic status, beliefs, and more. Body My personal health goal involved learning to eat healthier and establish self-control to prevent further health problems with over-eating. Mexican-Americans suffer enormously from diabetes. Diabetes is a cluster of diseases formed by a persons high levels of glucose in the blood that results flaws in insulin production. This can lead to more serious problems if it is not taken care of. The prevalence of diabetes is 11.9 percent of Mexican-Americans over the age of twenty have the disease (Galarraga, 2007). Data for incidence rates was not available. Furthermore, being a Mexican-American female, 44.7 percent of us have overall blood cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or higher and males are at 54.3 percent (Galarraga, 2007). Diabetes is greatly affected by an individuals weight, and it comes to no surprise to me that 71.7 percent of my cultural groups females are overweight or obese, while 73.1 percent of our men lead us (American Heart Association, 2005). This has greatly affected my health, and I will become part of the 11.9 percent of diabetics if I do not change my diet. Many MexicanAmericans believe, just as I do, that diabetes is caused by a family member passing it down in generation, consuming foods high in sugar or fat, and not getting enough exercise. Relating to our culture, many also believe that strong emotions, like fright, anger, and sadness or depression attract diabetes. The impact of the health issue of diabetes on my community is due to higher rates of obesity and inactive living. The number of diabetic Mexican-Americans will keep increasing without health education.

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The Mexican-American culture values privacy and health issues are kept within an individuals family. This information is not new to me, and those who spread word of any disease are judged as disrespectful and are shunned by family members for long periods of time. Serious or terminal illnesses information may be kept from the sick member, due to the strong belief of mind-body connections and to not worry the person and worsen their health circumstance. The information of the gravity of illness is usually handled by and older son or daughter of the individual. Women, in this community, keep contraceptive use private from family and men self-disclose to the same sex comfortably (Lipson, 2011). Lastly, MexicanAmericans believe that modesty is respected by a woman or man being examined health-wise by the equal sex. Many Mexican-American households include distant relatives who regularly live with us. Cooperation, faithfulness, and respect are stressed within the family home. The oldest male in a household is often in charge of deciding healthcare situations. Women, on the other hand, are expected to follow along with the mans opinion and decision with respect. Our families also have gender roles, where fathers are expected to take care of the family financially and physically, while mothers sacrifice their individual needs and are nurturing towards their children and husband. Males are typically autonomous and women raised dependent on them; both have assumed roles and responsibilities. I am very accustomed to these practices and have had contradicting ideas in my mind to relate to the American womans role.

Mexican-American Culture 5 Moreover, non-verbal communication is strongly influenced by respect towards authority figures, and direct eye contact is avoided often with them as well. Authority figures are considered to be health care individuals and higher class people. Respect is also shown to family members and guests by standing when a person enters the room. Shaking someones hand is expected and considered a polite and welcoming gesture. The Spanish language is a strong communication link among Mexican-Americans, and it is very important for us to pass this down to our children. Additionally, if a stranger touches a person, it may be considered disrespectful (Lipson, 2011). When it comes to time orientation with healthcare appointments, MexicanAmericans are very flexible and consider 10-15 minutes late to be acceptable and social time is more present-oriented than business time. The American culture considers time to be very important, and Mexican-Americans who reside in the U.S. have integrated this more into their schedule (Lipson, 2011). Mexican-Americans also do not take prescribed medication on time on a regular basis as Americans do, since they take health precautions more seriously. Additionally, religious items are kept on a persons body, believing it keeps a person safe when facing a health problem. Informal health care is accepted and self-medication, with the practice of sale of drugs allowing a pharmacist to be more a physiciansurrogate. There is traditional belief that a persons health is controlled by the environment, by fate, and by the will of God. We do not immediately rely on medical science and try to find alternatives to curing the illness. The family is very involved to help an ill member to carry out daily tasks. Ritually, Mexican-Americans use food to keep their body in balance with heat and cold. Certain

Mexican-American Culture 6 illnesses are believed to be hot or cold; Diabetes is considered to be a hot sickness. Mixing hot foods with a hot disease is not encouraged and many Mexican-Americans will not eat or take the items. People typically drink herbal teas such as Yerba Buena shown to the left, take chamomile to treat gastric problems, and meats are avoided (meat is thought of as a heavier food). Curanderismo is traditional Mexican healing, but Mexican-Americans rely on them less as they integrate into the American Culture. Curanderos (male healers) use prayer, pledges, and rituals to correct imbalances in the body. Curanderas (female healers) are listed as ethnophsychologists in places with big Mexican American populations (Lipson, 2011). In addition, Sobadoras (masseuses) are female healers that massage and control the movement of bones and joints to balance the body. They can also serve with assisting in child birth. Younger generations of Mexican-Americans may not rely or even have much knowledge of these folk practices and beliefs. Since they are more acculturated to the American way of life, they are more likely to seek medical assistance sooner and rely more on medical prescriptions to heal them. These beliefs are traditionally passed from generations in women and continue to be present in the U.S., since Mexican-Americans use them as alternatives for small medical, psychological, and chronic A disease, such as diabetes, is thought of to come about because there is an imbalance between the person and the environment. God, spirituality, and interpersonal relationships all add to an illness and biomedical health care may be sought while also using folk healing to deal with chronic symptoms and spiritual or psychic power. Illness is seen as a social crisis and is an experience of the community and families are attentive caregivers. Mexican-Americans have a strong attitude towards pain and health and individuals tend to not state that they are in pain; non-verbal communication has to be taken into consideration instead. They prize inner control

Mexican-American Culture 7 and ones self-endurance, and men express no pain to not show weakness or lose respect; a woman showing physical pain is deemed more acceptable. Illnesses, such as depression, are assumed to be a sign of weakness and an embarrassment to the family. Conclusion All of the Mexican-American cultural beliefs and practices affect my health both positively and negatively. I tend to rely on non-medical practices and direct myself to herbal teas and alternative methods of decreasing my pain. However, I am not educated on how to eat healthy and I live in a household that does not take health precautions when it comes to food portions and ingredients. We consider someone who is overweight to be health; meanwhile, Americans believe that skinny is the only way to be healthy. I have contradicting beliefs in my mind, since I am a first generation Mexican-American. I do not want to lose these cultural beliefs and practices, but I they have enabled me to become ignorant to the fact that exercise and diet is a must. I have unhealthy habits that have been instilled in me by my culture and I am at a very high risk to end up with diabetes. I have to learn to use these practices to impact positive behavior and no longer rest on the fact that chubby is healthy in my cultural group

Mexican-American Culture 8 References American Heart Association (2005). Facts about womens heart disease and stroke risk factors. Retrieved October 22, 2011, from Bethesda, M. (2008). Diabetes epidemic among hispanics/latinos. National diabetes education program. Retrieved October 20, 2011, from Galarraga, J. (2007). Hispanic-american culture and health. Hispanic americans. Retrieved October 18, 2011, from Lipson, J. (2011). Cultural aspects of healthcare. The college of st. scholastica. Retrieved October 22, 2011, from