Tag: family

Family Far and Wide

So I was at the ophthalmologist’s office, getting my yearly exam to make sure glaucoma hasn’t kicked in, or that my retina hasn’t detached (again).

In any case, the nurse looked at my chart and said, “Hey, we have the same last name.”

Now, the only people I’ve ever met with my last name are cousins or aunts or some other semi-immediate family member. So this was a little surprising.

The nurse made me go through my family history, and we discovered that we have the same great-grandfather (!). Yes, I too am impressed that I was able to remember the name of my great-grandfather. Try it sometime — it isn’t easy.

According to my subsequent Google research, the nurse and I are second cousins. She was California-born, which makes sense in that the largest population of Salvadorians (outsider of El Salvador, of course) is right here in Los Angeles. And she assumed, naturally, that I was also a SoCal native.

“No,” I said. “I’m from Wisconsin.”

Consider her mind blown.

Yes, the nurse was impressed that our family name had made it all the way to the American Midwest. But then she added that some of her cousins (my third cousins?) moved to Melbourne a decade ago.

“I talked to them on FaceTime a few weeks ago,” the nurse said. “They have these El Salvadorian kids who have thick Australian accents.”

Well… crikey.

nw-gal-aus-20140125214254582223-620x414

 

Later, I told my mom about running into my second cousin, the nurse. Mi madre really wasn’t that surprised.

“Your great-grandparents had eighteen children,” my mom said.

“I’m guessing they were very Catholic,” I said.

“Yes, so you were bound to run into a cousin someday.”

OK, that’s true. But I still thought it was kind of cool.

 


The Paranoia Cha Cha

Recently, I wrote about the fear and loathing that many Americans have for immigrants in general and for Latino immigrants in particular.

fearfear

Hispanic immigrants are, to hear some people talk, hell-bent on bringing death and destruction across the border. Well, as we all know (or should know), immigration — both legal and undocumented — is way down over the past few years. So that surge at the border is greatly exaggerated.

Furthermore, numerous studies have found that “immigrants—regardless of nationality or legal status—are less likely than the native population to commit violent crimes or to be incarcerated.”

The nativist ignores that part about “regardless of nationality or legal status,” and says, “Well, sure. Those good immigrants from Europe and maybe India aren’t committing crimes. It’s the illegals!”

Sorry, but the data shows that while the undocumented population more than tripled between 1990 and 2013, the violent crime rate declined 48 percent. And violent crime continues to go down across America.

In addition, a separate paper explains that it’s not “well-behaved, high-skilled immigrants from India and China offsetting misdeeds of Latin American newcomers.” The study shows that “for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants.” And in a stat sure to annoy conservative alarmists, this “holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.”

Digging deeper into the data, we find that immigrant adolescents — often portrayed in the media as a swarm of Latin King gangbangers — are in fact, “statistically less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting, selling drugs, binge drinking, carrying guns, or using marijuana and other illegal drugs” than their peers.

So if immigrants — even the undocumented Hispanic ones — aren’t committing all these crimes, who is? Or to paraphrase a not-so-wise man, “Who is doing all the raping?”

The answer seems to be, “Americans.” The immigrant boogeyman is no match for born-and-bred craziness.

Now, if we eliminate the immigrant subcategory and look at crime rates among Hispanics, we get a more nuanced picture.

A study shows that Latinos made up about 16.6 percent of all arrests, comparable to our percentage of the US population. We are sadly overrepresented in some categories (e.g., motor vehicle theft) and underrepresented in others (e.g., there are few Latino embezzlers). One stat I found interesting is that Hispanics have a very low rate of offenses against family members and children (6.2 percent of all arrests). Clearly, the legendary emphasis that Latinos place on family isn’t just talk.

In any case, one of the more disturbing aspects of the study is the following: For all the fears that white people have about being victims of crime (often at the hands of some swarthy minority), it is Hispanics who should be concerned.

For example, the homicide rate for Latinos is double the rate for white people.

And Latinos experience a higher rate of hate crime than whites or blacks. The data shows that the rate of hate crime incidents against Latinos is slightly higher than the rate for blacks. And the Hispanic rate is more than triple that of whites.

So perhaps it is we Latinos who should be saying, “Crime is out of control” and locking ourselves up in gated communities.

Hey, don’t rule it out.

 

 


All You Need Is… Wait, You Need More Than That

In the realm of simplistic nonsense, few ideas are more insidious than the claim that you don’t need money if you just, well, love each other a whole lot.

hugging

This sentiment has lived on despite the well-documented fact that the number-one cause of marital tension is money. It also ignores the overwhelming financial stresses that clobber poor people every day.

And as for how poverty affects children, well, the data is just too depressing to mention.

And now a study has verified what we all suspected, which is that a family’s income level is a better indicator of the overall well-being of children than other factors. The research “cuts against the grain of oft-stated public opinions on traditional family composition,” which is a nice way of saying that being married doesn’t matter much when it comes to raising kids. Having bucks is vastly more important.

For example, the study found that just 9% of children from the lowest income bracket go on to earn college diplomas. But 77% of children raised in the top quarter of income eventually graduate college.

Take a look again at those numbers. They basically say that if you come from a poor family, you almost certainly won’t go past high school. But if your parents are somewhat well-to-do, you have a great shot at snagging at least a BA.

The researchers believe that richer parents — whether they are married, divorced, or single — can afford to provide their kids with certain advantages, like the best pre-schools, trips abroad, and extracurricular activities.

Hispanic parents often do not have the financial ability to offer their children such resources. So while our strong familial bonds help kids develop into responsible adults, it is no match for the dollars that rich people can spend on their offspring, who will almost inevitably do better in life.

Of course, a rugged individualist is bound to say, “Tell those lazy Latinos to work harder and get out of poverty.”

And this brings us back to simplistic nonsense.

You see, another study says that roughly two-thirds of low-income Latino children have at least one foreign-born parent. This isn’t surprising, as recent immigrants are often poor. But what’s interesting is that low-income Hispanic children are also more likely to have at least one employed parent, compared to other low-income children. This means Latino immigrant parents are more likely to fall into the category of the working poor.

So Hispanics, especially immigrants, are already working harder than many poor people. And yet they are still broke.

The study points out that poverty hits Latinos disproportionally. In addition, poverty often plays out differently in Hispanic households, in that the influence of extended family and community is stronger, which can be an asset.

However, it can also be a hindrance, in that low-income Latino homes often have different structures than the general population. For example, low-income Hispanics may have to set aside money for elderly parents or for remittances back home, which can cut into funds for childcare.

The study also found that among Latino children with a foreign-born parent, just 36% live with parents who are married. But of course, that doesn’t matter much, does it?

 


The Even Greater Outdoors

Few demographics are more environmentally conscious than Latinos. I mean, we are more likely to lead green lifestyles, buy green products and support efforts to fight climate change. And on a personal note, let me remind you that I was once a Boy Scout, and I can still start a fire without using matches… probably.

Anyway, the point is that we really love nature. So maybe it’s not a big surprise that Latinos are also taking the lead in creating new national landmarks and preserving natural spaces.

When President Obama declared part of the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California to be a national monument, it was with the hearty support of Latinos. Polls showed that almost 90% of local Hispanics supported the San Gabriel Mountains designation. You can’t get 90% of Hispanics to agree that salsa is better than ketchup. But when it comes to nature, we’re overwhelming in our agreement.

Cook_Lake_Bridger_Wilderness

Yes, there are even organizations like Latinos Outdoors, Green Latinos, and HECHO (Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors), and they have worked for the protection of areas like the San Gabriel Mountains and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico.

So why do Hispanics show all the love for mountains and streams and lakes and trees and such? Well, one theory is that our legendary focus on family drives our desire to maintain the environment for future generations. Another is that because we tend to be recent immigrants, or the offspring of recent immigrants, we have more of a connection to the pristine environs of Latin America.

That certainly makes sense. But I also think it’s because we’re less likely to be right-wing industrial polluters who only care about the bottom line and think climate change is a left-wing conspiracy.

But maybe that’s just me.

 


All You Need Is…

I’ve written before about the mythical Hispanic Health Paradox. Basically, despite the fact that Latinos “are less likely to have health insurance, go to doctors less often, and receive less in the way of hospitalization or high-level care when they are sick, they have lower rates of heart disease, cancer and stroke.”

Now, a new study shows that Hispanics “throughout the U.S. outlive people of all other races.” That’s right — having a bit of Latino in you means that you will probably live almost three years longer than white Americans, “and in some states, nearly eight years longer than African-Americans. The effect is more pronounced in immigrants but also applies to Hispanics born in the U.S.”

The reason the word “paradox” is attached to this phenomenon is because Latinos face “higher rates of poverty and lower rates of education and employment,” which implies that we will die off faster, not live longer. “But after nearly 30 years and hundreds of studies looking at the health behaviors, migration patterns, and characteristics of Hispanics, scientists still haven’t found the answer” to why we stick around for years past our white and black brethren.

Well, the latest conjecture for why this happens is a little awkward, scientifically speaking. Some experts have theorized that the reason is, “in essence, love.”

hearts

Yes, the infamous Latino fixation on family apparently provides Hispanics with strong emotional support and social interaction, both of which are important in fighting off disease and recovering from illness. Other cultures in America do not have the same bedrock foundation, and this may be why they kick the bucket sooner.

The report concludes that “the importance of family is more pronounced among Hispanics,” which has to be the least shocking announcement ever. But the fact that those same families help us to keep chugging along is an insight that researchers hope “has the potential to help us all live longer.”

So once again, you’re welcome, America.

 


Plot Twist

My wife is pregnant.

Yes, it’s pretty great news.

Our daughter is due in January. We’ve never been parents, so by next summer, I’ll be one of those annoying first-time fathers who believes the most important thing in the world is his baby’s capacity for drool. Just wait, I’ll be blogging about it day and night. This may cut into the readership of the 19.3 million mommy bloggers out there, so I apologize in advance for usurping their authority.

But with all the hectic preparation for the child’s arrival, and careful time set aside for crippling self-doubt and solipsistic panic attacks, I’ve barely had time to ponder the political ramifications of this kid. That has to change.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


Power Play

Perhaps you didn’t notice when a national political leader said that America was entering the “Decade of the Hispanic.”

You can be forgiven, because the speaker was Henry Cisneros, and he wasn’t talking about our current decade. He was talking about the 1980s.

To continue reading this post, please click here.


Long Distance

I recently completed the final profile of my family’s members. The anecdotes will keep coming, of course, but I won’t be focusing on a single member at this point.

I’ve written before of how Latino families tend to be close, and indeed, my cousins and I were raised more like siblings than distant relatives.

Still, I don’t know if it’s ironic, coincidental, or completely logical that people who grew up in a tight bunch are now so scattered around the Western Hemisphere.

Perhaps it’s the confidence that we will always remain in touch that has allowed us to branch out. Or maybe it’s just our immigrant roots that propel us onward.

I spoke to many of them last month, on various long-distance phone calls and/or email exchanges around Christmas. I’ve written before about how Hispanics tend to treat Christmas as a true fiesta and not a somber obligation.

Decades ago, shortly after my cousins from El Salvador came to America, we had our first mongo-huge event. What I remember most was Cousins #4 and #5, speaking to each other in fast overlapping English and Spanish. Half of their communication consisted of attempts to get their points across. The barrier would frustrate most adults, but to the girls, it was a hilarious game that never got old. Their pantomime and mangled words amused them so much that they often forgot what they were trying to say and just laughed in harmony. Their medium truly was their message.

At one of our last get-togethers, some of the cousins were holed up in a bedroom, talking about the pressures and stresses of the holidays. Of course, one by one, we all wandered into the room, until we had to stop bitching about the burdens of family because we were all pretty much crowded in there, which negated our insistence that we spent too much time together.

We see each less these days, of course. New bonds have formed over the years. For example, one of Cousin #2’s children shares my name. I presume that this connects us, although he is a toddler and doesn’t seem to recognize the significance.

When I was introduced to him, his mother referred to me as his uncle. Someone else in the family said that we were cousins, twice removed or something like that. I honestly don’t know what our precise connection is, and like him, I won’t give it a lot of thought.

It’s enough that we’re family.


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