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Archive for the ‘Latin America’ Category

Post Written by Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Note: In this blogpost Latin@ with an @ is used to be inclusive of all gender identities.

Take a moment to think of some of your favorite celebrities. Do you have a few in mind? Good, now take some time to think of your favorite queer, Latin@ celebrities. I’m not talking about inspirational activists, independent artists I’m talking about super stars. I’m talking about the people you see on billboards, in commercials, on the cover of magazines. It’s tough, right? The queer community and the Latino/a community are both individually underrepresented in popular culture. Queer and Latin@ representation is virtually non-existent in mainstream media. So what does it matter? Why do we need Latin@s represented in our media? LGBTQ Latin@ youth are suffering. They are being bullied, harassed and killed. Many of them have no adults in their lives they feel they can turn to, and almost all of them believe they must leave their current communities to live happy successful lives. Some people say that it is more difficult for LGBTQ Latin@s to come to terms with and be open about their sexuality because of the unique cultural values many Latino/a communities have. This idea ignores our societies’ responsibility to represent and support Latin@s, it blames Latino/a communities for their values and tells Latin@ youth that they must choose between being Latino/a and being queer. We should bring Latin@s into the spotlight to show our communities that we’re here, our identities are complex and valid. We deserve love and respect. We should be teaching Latino/a communities how to incorporate LGBTQ Latin@s into Latino/a culture, not telling them that their cultural values must be ignored.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

The two main cultural values that are cited as being exclusive to LGBTQ Latin@s are religion and the importance of family. Religion has been used to oppress queer folks of all racial and ethnic identities. Using religion to deny the identities of queer Latin@s is making the assumption that being religious and being queer are mutually exclusive. A study of LGBTQ Latin@s called The Social Justice Sexuality Project shows that 60% of Latin@s look to their faith to provide meaning and purpose in their life, disproving that it is impossible to be both queer and religious. Religion is not a one size fits all suit, nobody practices their religion the exact same way as anyone else. The majority of Latino/as believe in Catholicism and though the Old Testament says that male homosexuality is a sin, there are quite a few sins that are punishable by death that have been ignored in the modern day including lying about one’s virginity, being a stubborn or and rebellious son and failing to pen a bull that is known to be dangerous and many more. Is it more important to follow every rule in the bible literally, or to follow the overall belief that God loves all of His children and we honor and love our neighbors and family? It is important to be respectful of religion and not to dismiss it as wrong or ignorant. Religion is an essential part of many peoples’ lives, however it should be recognized that religion is something that is learned and practiced while sexual identity is something we are born and live with. No one needs to abandon their religion to accept LGBTQ people, one just needs to realize that the importance of loving one another is a more valuable aspect of being religious than following the rules exactly as they were written thousands of years ago.

To say that valuing family excludes accepting LGBTQ Latin@s assumes that only “traditional” families are of value. Family love should be unconditional, and generally in Latino/a communities it is. The Social Justice Sexuality Project indicates that 52.9% of LGBTQ Latin@s feel supported by their families and another 29% feel somewhat supported. Another study of LQBTQ Latin@ youth indicates that 60% of Latin@ youth feels their family supports LGBTQ identities. Regardless of acceptance, less than half of LGBTQ Latin@ youth feel like they have an adult to turn to if they are sad or worried. If queer Latin@s were more present in the mainstream the general public would have more awareness about the needs of these young people and adults would be better prepared to help Latin@ youth confront issues that are specific to them. Family is extremely valuable in the Latino/a community and the love is there but the knowledge around LGBTQ Latin@s needs to expand.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

LGBTQ Latin@s need their place in mainstream culture not only to improve their living conditions in their current communities, but also to expand the general knowledge of LGBTQ Latin@ issues. LGBTQ Latin@s are rarely the focus of LGBTQ and reproductive health advocacy, and almost never the focus of the general public. While LGBTQ Latin@s are fighting many of the same battles as other LGBTQ people, without focus or representation many issues specific to queer Latin@s go ignored. For instance immigration status has a huge effect on many Latin@s ability to access their reproductive rights and though immigration status may not seem to affect the entire queer community it must be addressed to serve the needs of a community as a whole. It is much more challenging for LGBTQ people to access all their healthcare needs than it is for heterosexual cisgender people. For LGBTQ immigrants, addressing all of their medical needs can be impossible. Currently, there is no way for a same-sex undocumented couple to be recognized at all. These are issues specific to queer Latin@ that cannot be ignored. Immigration reform is not something that can wait, it cannot be put to the side while other LGBTQ issues are dealt with in the spotlight.

The lack of queer Latin@s acknowledged by popular culture creates the illusion that these people do not exist. It denies Latin@ youth the role models they need and deserve. Having queer or Latina representation is not enough,  queer and Latina folks must be represented and acknowledged by the mainstream media. Both Latino/a communities and the general public need to gain greater awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ Latin@s. If we had more (or any) positive queer Latin@s represented in popular culture maybe people would stop trying to make Latin@s have to pick and choose which parts of their identity to accept. Maybe the minority of parents of Latin@ youth who are unsupportive would have someone to look to and help them come to terms with their child’s identity and maybe Latin@s would be targeted less often by people who are afraid of difference. To say Latin@s need to be represented by mainstream media is not entirely accurate. We don’t need a queer Latin@ star to validate our identities but we deserve our place in popular culture. We don’t need a famous Latin@ to prove that we exist because we’re certainly here and we’re not going anywhere. The mainstream needs Latin@ representation because we’re not getting any less queer or any less Latina and everybody needs to get used to it. With or without a celebrity advocating for us we are entitled to our identities. We are here and there will be more of us. We’re also fabulous and anyone turning a blind eye to us is seriously missing out.

The Social Justice Sexuality Project

http://www.slideshare.net/socialjusticesexuality/lgbt-latinos-in-the-social-justice-sexuality-project-vs-us-latinaos

Latino Youth Report

http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/LatinoYouthReport-FINAL.pdf

Images were found on Vanessa Ramos’ WordPress, Follow Her Here:http://varphoto.wordpress.com/author/luxvideri/

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Women holding sign "No mas mujeres muertas por abortion  clandestinos!"By Stephanie Rodriguez, Policy Intern

What happens when you are scared to go to the hospital?

This is the reality for thousands of women in Mexico where abortion is still outlawed in most states. Research from around the world has shown us that in places where abortion is illegal, it still happens, yet women are put at risk by underground procedures and the fear of persecution. This is the exact situation in Mexico.

A recent article in the New York Times highlighted this issue, discussing eight women who were jailed on homicide charges from supposed clandestine abortions. The process is shady at best, when evidence is difficult to find. Yolanda Martinez, one of the woman who was freed from jail after serving 7 years of her 25 year sentence stated; “They accuse you of crimes that you never committed.”

Women are afraid to go to hospitals whenever they are confronted with complications throughout their pregnancy because of these laws. It can be difficult to distinguish between miscarriage and complications from induced abortions, creating a culture of fear for women. From Guttmacher Institute:

Abortions in Mexico take place under unsafe conditions, resulting in serious health consequences for women. Seventeen percent of the Mexican women who obtained abortions in 2006 were treated in public hospitals for complications.

To make a bad situation worse, laws are being put in place to prevent even the idea of legalizing abortions. This is in response to the recent decision by Mexico City to legalize early abortions there.

Women’s safety should be our first priority–not driving them underground to unsafe procedures. We are not in a position where we can have women think twice before going to a hospital. We are not in a position to see more women die because they had no other option.

By Stephanie Rodriguez, Policy Intern

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By Susana Sánchez, Community Mobilization Intern

Given the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment in this country it was not surprising to me that the Health Care Reform excluded undocumented immigrants from insurance coverage, even going further to ban them from paying for it with their own money.  However, I have been pondering about whether legal status is a valid argument to deny a human being, what I consider the inalienable right of good quality health care. My curiosity led me to learn about how my home country, Costa Rica, deals with undocumented immigrants as the country is well-known for its “universal” health care.

“Health Is Hard Here” or “Health for All”? The Politics of Blame, Gender, and Health Care for Undocumented Nicaraguan Migrants in Costa Rica,” a scholarly article by Kathryn Goldade explores the barriers of undocumented Nicaraguans to get health care in Costa Rica. Similar to the recent Health Care Reform law passed by Congress, since 2004 Costa Rica legally excludes undocumented immigrants from the national health system.

Undocumented Nicaraguans migrate to work on jobs that most Costa Ricans do not want. They do the most dangerous, backbreaking and low-paying jobs: they do domestic work, harvest sugarcane and coffee, and build houses. The common belief is that because most of them get paid through the informal sector, “they excessively use public benefits” their medical bills get paid by Costa Rican citizens. Similar to the ideas about undocumented workers in the U.S., Nicaraguans are believed by many to be a burden on the system, despite evidence to the contrary.

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Those following the aftermath of the magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile know that the dilemma is far from resolved. Several powerful aftershocks and the likelihood of additional tidal waves are prolonging the danger of the quake for Chileans. Moreover, President Michelle Bachelet has predicted that the death toll will exceed the official figure of 800, and many victims have been searching for missing persons in the rubble.

Thankfully, many families have been found within the last few days, but the death count still remains ambiguous at best. The Latin Americanist, an English-language forum, and Datéate, a Chilean blog, suggest ways to help victims of the recent quake.

By Nicole Cata, Policy Intern

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As the world already knows, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti yesterday afternoon near Port-au-Prince, the capital and largest city of the country. The earthquake, the strongest to hit Haiti in more than 200 years, devastated the 2 million people who live in and near the capital. According to some reports, the death toll could possibly run between 100,000 to 500,000…and untold numbers are still trapped. But, 80% of Haiti’s 9 million residents were already desperately poor, and after years of political instability, the country had no real construction standards to begin with. Tens of thousands of families lost their homes as buildings that were “flimsy and dangerous even under normal conditions” collapsed in the earthquake. As Edwidge Danticat, the award-winning Haitian-American author said, “Life is already so fragile in Haiti, and to have this on such a massive scale, it’s unimaginable how the country will be able to recover from this.”

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In the past month, two Mexican states have passed laws to further criminalize abortion. Queretero and Oaxaca became the 15th and 16th Mexican states out of 31 to define life as beginning at fertilization. These laws result in the criminalization of abortions for all women with the exception of rape victims but not victims of incest.

What these legislators are forgetting is that the prohibition of abortion will only cause many of these women to seek to terminate their unwanted pregnancies under dangerous and risky circumstances. According to the Secretary of Public Health, in six of the 16 states that have criminalized abortion, maternal mortality is five times the national average.

According to John Ross in his article War on Mexican Women:

The anti-abortion push is being orchestrated by the ruling right-wing PAN party in connivance with the Princes of Catholic Hierarchy…their goal is to repeal Mexico City’s free abortion-on-demand law…which has provided 30,000 women the right to choice over the past two years, according to the Mexico City Women’s Initiative.

In addition, the Secretary of Education (run by the PAN party), confiscated first year high school biology text books in the city of Guanajuato, on the charge that they included education on birth control methods. According to John Ross,

The Guanajuato Education Secretariast (SEG) distributed 114,00 of their own biology textbooks that demonized masturbation and homosexuality, skipped any mention of AIDS prevention and advocated abstinence as the only method of avoiding unwanted pregnancies.

Last month the Mexican Senate also voted in Arturo Chavez Chavez as their new attorney general. Chavez Chavez’s previous work was as chief prosecutor in the state of Chihuahua, home to Cuidad Juarez, the location of hundreds of brutal murders of young women throughout the 90s and until today.  His conduct in regard to those murders has been seriously questioned, including assertions that he actually tried to place blame on the victims themselves.

With the same abortion criminalization bills pending in Michoacan, Sinaloa, Veracruz, and Mexico State, and the current tide of anti-choice and anti-women policies, it’s a difficult road ahead for women in Mexico.

We’ve seen time and time again internationally that laws which criminalize abortion don’t serve to lower overall rates of abortion, they just increase rates of maternal mortality. We’ve got to work against these policies that put the health and livelihood of women at risk.

By Krystal Chan, Communications and Development Intern

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Since 2006, Nicaragua has been one of only 3 countries in the world to completely ban abortion under any circumstance. Most recently in July 2008, the penal code was reinforced by the government to criminalize abortions sought, obtained or performed for any reason, the medical providers who perform abortions, and even women who suffer from miscarriages. In addition, doctors and nurses who treat pregnant women for illnesses where the treatment can cause injury or death to the embryo or fetus she carries will also be prosecuted for causing harm to the developing pregnancy.

Amnesty International has a report which details the atrocities that have occurred because of this law and discusses the various human rights violations as a result of this ban. The article goes further to include the official figures of 33 girls and women who have died during pregnancy in the past year alone, most like an under-reported figure, and how there has been a recorded rise in pregnant teen suicide by poison in 2008.

It is obvious to anyone who values the lives of women and the right to control their reproduction, that this continued ban in Nicaragua is a dangerous to women and is a clear violation of human rights. It is important to recognize what barriers to reproductive justice Latinas face around the world, because it is possible that any woman anywhere could be discriminated against for wanting to control her own fertility and reproduction. If people continue to bring attention to this detrimental legislation and organize communities around these offenses against women, hopefully laws such as this one will be overturned soon.

By Robin Mangini, Research Intern

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From the International Women’s Health Coalition, a call to action to support Dominican Women’s Rights. About the situation in the DR:

Recently, President Leonel Fernandez proposed new Constitutional language to establish the right to life from conception. Women’s rights and health advocates, led by Colectiva Mujer y Salud, are concerned that this new language could make it illegal for women to use contraceptives or assisted reproduction and stop any progress on making abortion safe and legal. 

You can take action two ways:

(1)    Sign a petition, asking the President Leonel Fernandez and Vice President Julio Cesar Valentin Jiminian to stand strong for women’s rights, and
(2)    Send a letter to the President and Vice President to express your concern women’s rights are being eroded in the Constitutional reform process and demand that they stand up for women’s rights and health. Read a sample letter, Spanish language only, here.

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hospital-bed1

Photo courtesy of healthypr.wordpress.com

 

In a recent Newsweek exclusive, Tina Peng writes about medical tourism and the shift in health care, especially for uninsured Americans, to Mexico.

 

In America, there are approximately 47 million uninsured, and many more that are underinsured, or paying for coverage that costs carriers large out of pocket expenses. 

 

For Americans like these, paying for expensive medical procedures can be a distant dream.  However recent trends in opening up American hospitals in Mexico are making the country the hot spot for people who can’t afford care in the U.S.

 

Countries such as Mexico and India, have offered services at a fraction of the cost charged in U.S. hospitals.  Because Mexico is only a short plan ride or drive away, the cost of traveling to hospitals in Mexico and paying for airfare can still end up being significantly cheaper.

 

As mentioned in the article, Dorthea, an American living in Texas, was able to drive across the border and get a $30,000 gastric band procedure done for $10,000. 

 

With rising costs for health insurance and medical care, medical tourism may be the way to go for the uninsured.  Texas, a state which as of 2006 had the highest uninsured population in the United States, would benefit the most, as they can get to Mexico fairly quickly and cheaply. 

 

Furthermore, this practice may be an added benefit to Mexican immigrants, many of whom are barred from health care coverage for five years after migrating to the United States.

 

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to seeking medical care abroad:

Accurate statistics on botched procedures involving foreign nationals at hospitals around the world aren’t available, but critics point out in addition to the lack of information about the quality of care in various countries, there are inherent drawbacks in a situation where patients have to return to another country to get follow-up care. And of course there’s often a lack of access to malpractice insurance coverage in Mexico and other countries. But a similar argument could be made against American health care, the University of Texas’s Warner says: “It’s not clear that you have such wonderful protections here, especially if you can’t afford to get the care, so then you go to a public facility that’s more or less protected from too much malpractice liability.”

These concerns aren’t stopping Texans who view the hospitals across the border as an affordable alternative. It remains to be seen whether more Americans will take a gamble and bet that Mexican hospitals can provide care that is as good as their counterparts north of the border. Meanwhile, as Warner points out, for the uninsured, Mexico may be the only option.

Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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