by Clayton Rosa
Kids today are heavier, leading to many lasting health effects. The Institute of Medicine suggests “one in five pre-school children is overweight or obese.” Recent census numbers reveal that underrepresented groups – Latinos, African-Americans, and Asians – make up the majority of babies. “Non-Latino whites make up just under half of all children 3 years old”, CBS News reports.
Add that together and Latino communities are facing a problem that extends beyond lack of exercise and poor nutrition. Arguably, some Latino foods, if consumed too regularly, perpetuate poor health outcomes. Therefore, we need to update our conception of what a Latino person should eat and be.
Healthy eating and regular exercise will curb back the gut, but a larger cultural shift needs to occur to ensure our children are not plagued with the illnesses that face many Americans today. For Latinos, this is especially true. Walk around the regular Latino kitchen and it is filled with staples of Latin American cuisine that contribute to what is weighing us down today, literally.
Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I struggled with obesity. Now whenever I travel home one of the first stops I make is to the local grocer because as much as I love my mother’s cooking, how she cooks minimizes the nutrients vegetables and lean meats have. This is where the sazón and spices add zest and flavor but vegetables bathing in fat can be as detrimental as any other unhealthy food. Let’s extrapolate this to Latinidad.
Libby Juliá Vázquez emphasized how culturally significant it is to pass down the Latino traditions. However, passing down tradition can also be harmful to the vibrancy of the culture. We need to ensure the tradition does not come with high cholesterol, diabetes, or an increased risk of heart attack. Our children do not deserve that and while we can proudly recognize that 50 plus million Latinos are changing the face of America, we need to understand how America is changing us.
Who determines that a spinach salad with raisins and walnuts is not Latino?
Latinidad is and was never about the foods we eat. Although I grew up on platanos con salami and mangu, I do not recall the last time I had either. It is not about the twists in merengue, the four steps in bachata, or Mexican folklore. I forgot how to dance merengue a long time ago. It is not about speaking Spanish or Spanglish.
The more we associate Latinidad with these things the more we’ll fail to truly build a unified Latino identity. If being Latino is about anything it is about understanding difference. For the longest time we’ve lived between borders yearning to no longer be faced with that dichotomy and now diversity is forcing the rest of America to live where we’ve lived. We are in a position to influence and shape how America sees itself but first need to be comfortable with confronting ourselves, and challenging the practices of our culture that do not serve us well – even if it means breaking from tradition
To learn more about Clayton, visit ClaytonRosa.com.
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.