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That poverty sure looks bad on you

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Tenemos que platicar. We as a people have exhibited some sobering national trends; we need to brainstorm and organize. The manner in which we respond to these trends and the pressure we exert on elected officials for accountability will directly impact our collective socioeconomic status in the U.S. Failure to act could result in a long stay as the underclass of the nation. As a focal point, let us consider the newly released data collected by the Pew Hispanic Center. Latinos have the largest number of impoverished children, and, we have the dubious distinction of leading the nation in this sad statistic. Obviously, no one considers this a mark of success. Let us consider some of the contributing factors so that we can begin to frame a discussion about solutions.

We are a fecund people. Immigrants, often entering with limited marketable skills, have high numbers of births. The mismatch of a large number of children with scarce family resources seems inherently clear. Yet, the cultural and religious influences that inform immigrant parents’ decisions to have many children continue to plague the most economically disadvantaged segment of our community. Eighty-six percent of the 4.1 million impoverished Latino children of immigrants have been born here. Direct and explicit family planning guidance is lacking when it comes to this population. Social intervention to counteract the cultural tendencies for large families would be a crucial component, as would a realistic and rethought dogma by the christian religions to stress the importance of birth control.

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We have a disturbing trend of having babies as teenagers.  Approximately one year ago, Latina teens were three times more likely to have a baby than their Caucasian counterparts. Although the statistic does not guarantee that the Latina mother and her child will end up in poverty, it is nevertheless, a strong determinant. Households headed by women tend to be overrepresented in poverty statistics. It is worthwhile to consider what might be the effects of having schools take a more forceful leadership role in educating parents of Latino teens about the dangers of teenage pregnancies. Convincing parents to reinforce these ideas in the home is crucial to the success of any program designed to curb this trend. Honest discussion about all aspects of sexual activity must take place in order for the teen to be prepared to make the wisest decision. Parents should be counseled about the ineffective use of a “just don’t do it” strategy to keep their children in school and on the path to success.

The poor educational attainment of Latinos has been discussed. The lack of proper preparation for a world-wide economy has obvious implications for our financial insecurity. In this aspect in particular, we must become more demanding of our public officials. Let us organize ourselves to bring about these changes starting from our very own neighborhoods. Dale la mano a tu hermana/o, mi gente! Ideas and change begin with you.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Good piece. I appreciate the fact that you are making an effort to confront the very grim statistic of 6.1 million Latino children living in poverty and offering solutions. Focusing on only part of your ideas, I agree that critical sexuality education could be a key solution to this issue. Clearly, the struggle for parental – and student – access to comprehensive sexuality education in US schools is extremely important.

    However, after reading your piece something comes to mind. If more than two-thirds of the 6.1 million are children of immigrant parents, I wonder if any of these parents are undocumented. Presuming that some in fact are, how then would schools reach undocumented immigrant parents for sexuality education at a time when undocumented Latino immigrants are the targets of a racist, xenophobic witch hunt? I can’t help but think of Alabama, where Latinos are abandoning schools because of HB 56.

    It seems to me that in order to fully address the issue at hand we must fight for comprehensive sexuality education in US schools as well as for immigration reform and immigrant rights. We have to work to fix our inhumane immigration system and fight against racist anti-immigrant policies.

  2. I am (now somewhat reluctantly) on Google , and the chat is decidedly bigoted, even joined by a young businessman/student who says he is Mexican but is working hard to give Governor Jerry Brown hell for signing the Dream Act to provide educational opportunities for young people whose parents immigration status is in this limbo. There are many Tea-Baggers and such ilk as well, it all reeks of an organised reactionary presence, with brazen talk amongst them about organising resentment in the public and “rolling” back this policy. To me it sounds very nazi, and I use that term advisedly. I keep injecting characterizations of what NAFTA has caused in Mexico to drive Mexicans north, but no one takes that theme up. Their spiel is very “business men” oriented. The “Mexican” disregards my brief but not bad California History since 1849, and the treatment of Mexicans since then, the segregated schools, low-end jobs, lack of voter participation, horrible educational system version of what Mexicans are as a people (horrible version of what human beings are!) But the rhetoric is all “illegals versus legals”, “we don’t have the money”, etc. I do get several “followers” and on-line support, but it is not a nice experience, and the reason that I stay off most chat blogs–too many wacks.

  3. To continue: the “Mexican” businessman/student I characterised on-line like this 1.) You have a chance to go to school, and can dream, with your wife about a nice home, car, education for your kids. 2. You get on-line with people of questionable humanity to post anti-Mexican, anti-Dream Act comments 3.l You make slurs about me as “probably jobless and uneducated” ergo, you are a serious hypocrite! You want to keep people from an education, yet slam them as lacking it! But these guys (mostly men) are heedless, and gross. There is no answer of mine or of the other reasonable people that they will accept, that is clear. I can effectively destroy several in argument, but someone else takes their place. And I even do some excellent and humerous parody, but maybe I should just focus on characterizing them for the public. I repeat: these are fascists for real. Saludos.

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