Interviewer: Welcome to our January podcast. My name is Aaron Dabbah, anthropologist and blogger, and I’m here with Dr. Miriam Vega of the Latino Commission on AIDS, discussing a publication released this week entitled “The State of Latinos in the Deep South: Being Visible by Piercing the Stigma Veil”. We all know that Latinos are now the nation’s largest and fastest growing minority group, with a population increasing from 9.5 million in 1970 to over 53 million in 2012, projected to reach 129 million by 2060. Just as it is a mistake to assume all Latinos are the same, it is a mistake to assume that the lived experience of Latinos is the same across the country. Dr. Vega has recently conducted an ethnographic assessment of the State of Latinos in the Deep South, highlighting a region that has not often been closely associated with Latinos. Welcome, Dr. Vega, and please tell us what led to your latest report.
Dr. Vega: Thank you and greetings to the listeners. Our last report on Latinos in the Deep South was released in December 2008. At that time, Latinos were considered an “emerging” population in the South. Now fast forward five few years later and we’ve had several large events that have put a spotlight on Latinos in the South that we felt necessitated a follow up assessment. Continue reading →
Our news cycle is short, and consequently our attention spans are shorter, thus stories about Latinos in America come and go with the political winds, primarily focusing on immigration or sensationalized crimes that make the dubious discovery that are “White-Hispanics” or debating the relative merits of Hispanic-Americans singing the National Anthem at sporting events. Occasionally, usually in the month of October (the tail-end of Hispanic Heritage Month), all three story lines intersect.
In 2015, we started January off with a news item that may not get much traction in the press about the House Republicans taking on the dismantling of hard-won “protections” for undocumented immigrants. Many argue that “illegals” are taking jobs or are here to live off the public system. Still others, capitalizing on fears of terrorism, actually propose that Latinos pose a security hazard. Continue reading →
With the Being Visible Report now released, I have been rehashing all the stories we heard over the past two years. As a team, we travelled across seven states, driving through back roads and cities, speaking with everyday people in the community – tienda owners in small-town Louisiana, farm workers in rural South Carolina, and Hispanic journalists in Alabama. We also met with people who have dedicated their lives to helping others access healthcare and live dignified lives, working in clinics, AIDS service organizations, health departments, churches and civic organizations. Looking back on all this time spent travelling around the South hearing about the health challenges and triumphs in local communities, there is one quote I really cannot get out of my head….
But first, a little back-story: In the past few months, I have been living outside the US – in Thailand. Here, busses with wooden flooring barely stop for you to jump on or off, there are five tones in the language (where “ma” has five different meanings, for each of the five tones), and it takes a month to figure out how to get Internet to your apartment. It’s exciting and exhausting at the same time. Every day is an eternity, in a good way. Continue reading →
Looking back on a successful year at the Commission gives me such pride to be a part of a leading organization focused on Hispanic health equity. I have been able to mold my internship experience to my interests, and have been involved in everything from HIV testing to writing articles about health disparities in the Deep South. I never would have imagined being able to be involved in projects from all aspects of an intervention. I would use SPSS to enter data and create codebooks on a variety of capacity building programs, a highly marketable skill in Public Health research. I also conducted interviews with a variety of Hispanic leaders in the Deep South for an assessment report on pressing concerns affecting quality of life. It was through these informal discussions that I was able to learn just how different the political and health climates are across varying states. In New York City itself, I contacted local leading policy officials and highly influential community-based health organizations who see and cater to Hispanic communities on a daily basis, in order to create a working document for outreach purposes.
Interns and HEARD staff at the United Nations, December, 2014
I continued with the Deep South assessments in my second semester of work, by researching media outlets, including print and radio organizations, who market to a Hispanic audience in order to disseminate information about National Latino AIDS Awareness Day and HIV/AIDS-related health information. From there, I wrote a number of editorials and opinion articles that focused on health disparities in the Deep South for these outlets. Topics for these articles included obesity rates and chronic illnesses to how the physical built environment affects health outcomes.
Since the beginning of August, I have been interning at the Latino Commission on AIDS. When I first started working at this organization, I did not know what to expect. It was my first time working in an office setting and I was unsure of how the overall experience would be. I have learned a lot from this experience. For example, I learned how to input data using the statistical analysis software, SPSS. Using this program will help me in the long run because a lot of organizations and companies probably use the program for their data. I also learned that there is a oral test that is quick and simple to find out if a person is HIV positive or not.
In this experience I have worked with many people who have taught me a wide range of skills. The tasks I completed included inputting data, scanning newspaper articles and emailing the articles to myself, organizing files and stamping paperwork. While looking through newspaper articles I learned that a patient known as the Berlin Patient was functionally cured of HIV while receiving a stem cell transplant in 2008. I found this one of the most interesting things I have learned while working for the Commission, because it allows me to have hope that people who are living with AIDS will be cured some time in the future.
Overall my experience at the Commission has been amazing. The workers here are all very friendly and hard-working. They have made my time at the Commission fun and interesting. I am glad I took this internship and was able to do something productive with my summer.