Health

Sunbathing in Curacao Dreaming of the Blended Latino Family

Before I visited Curacao, I watched a tourism video that extolled the virtue of all things curacao: its history, its current economic standing and position in the Caribbean, its high literacy rates and its diversity. In Curacao, they speak English, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamentu. A bit of a badass Portuguese meets creole. Its like they are a mix between Cape Verdeans and the Dutch. What struck me further in watching the Tourism video was that they featured an inter-racial couple honeymooning. Nothing more was made of said couple. They just were. But I digress a little here. I’m fascinated by this blending of languages and ethnicities in Curacao for it reminds me of what is going on in the United States with Hispanics.

Latinos/Hispanics are the fastest growing group in the United States; who now constitute about 1 in 6 Americans. They are also one of the groups with the highest rates of Type II diabetes , in particular amongst children. Oftentimes we think that the little “rollie pollie” baby boy is just so darn cute; but we forget that “cuteness” is part of a larger systemic problem and also symbolizes the precarious situation Latinos are in. With such high rates of Type II diabetes and being the fastest growing population, the future health of the United States depends in part on addressing the poor nutrition of Hispanics/Latino children. But how do we address this problem if so much of the government funded prevention efforts are directed at individuals subsequently decontextualizing the family unit. Huh, that was a mouthful, eh? Pun intended.

The modern Latino/Hispanic family represents a post-modern blended family that has not been systematically or rigorously studied in terms of health outcomes. Blended families have traditionally been defined as a reconstituted family that may consist of stepparents, children and the merging of two different families. Popularly known as the “Brady Brunch.” However, there is a new dynamic to consider and henceforth a new definition of blended families that takes into account the emerging Hispanic population in the United States. These are generationally diverse family units that are layered with differing acculturation and acculturative stress profiles and patterns. Basically there are now Spanglish families. Seated at a Hispanic dinner table you may see the following scenario: the grandmother that speaks English and Spanish but is way more comfortable in Spanish. The younger cousins who don’t speak Spanish at all (and is almost a source of pride for them) but yet they look Hispanic and can Zumba. You have the generation X cousin who speaks both languages and is interested in understanding the family’s cultural roots but can’t dance salsa even if given a million dollars to do so. How does such a family interact at the dinner table? How do they communicate about what is important to each of them and how do they help each other overcome “the social determinants of health” that pose such challenges overall to the Hispanic community when they are all speaking different versions of Spanglish and dancing to totally different music? It’s time to understand the shared multi-layered space in the Hispanic kitchen so that we can have meaningful efforts to combat the obesity epidemic in the community.

Now that I finished my diatribe I will go back to my blue curacao drink which is actually not blue, but is instead orange. Whatever color we all call it, it’s still yummy.

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