How Hispanics can counter the popular narrative

Hispanic Heritage Month banner
“A Day Without a Mexican” came out in 2004, and Jason Daniel-Ulloa says its message holds true to this day. In the movie, a mysterious fog surrounds California, and all the Mexicans disappear, affecting daily life and the state economy. Farm produce goes unpicked, cars are abandoned on the street, and business owners are missing. As the summary on Imdb.com says, “Even the border guards grieve.” 

We all need to see that, said Daniel-Ulloa, assistant teaching professor in UW Bothell’s School of Nursing & Health Studies

“What would this country be without Latinos, Native Americans, African Americans, Asians? Where would we be?” he asked. “So much of this country would not be the same, if it wasn’t for us and the people like us.” 

National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15-Oct. 15, is a good time to reflect on those questions. The Library of Congress, National Archives, National Endowment for the Humanities and other organizations sponsor the observance “to pay tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.” 

Ethnicity, class intersect 

Jason Daniel-Ulloa

Jason Daniel-Ulloa

Marc Studer

Working at UW Bothell for just one pandemic-interrupted year so far, Daniel-Ulloa has taught Introduction to Public Health, Social Determinants of Health and Program Evaluation in Public Health. Previously at the University of Iowa, he had research interests in Latino health and men’s health at the intersection of gender, ethnicity and class in the United States. 

Before the coronavirus disrupted UW Bothell operations, Daniel-Ulloa had been talking with the Student Diversity Center about forming a men of color group for students. He has also been talking with the Latino Education Training Institute, a nonprofit University partner in Lynnwood, Washington, about plans for promoting health among Latino men. 

The coronavirus itself is an example of how ethnic groups are scapegoated in the popular narrative, he said. 

“We tend to blame people as opposed to conditions when it comes to these things. When COVID broke out, who did we blame? China — the Chinese! As if it had nothing to do with our total lack of preparation, lack of leadership and the gutting of public health infrastructure,” Daniel-Ulloa said. 

When the coronavirus spread in meatpacking plants, some people blamed Latino workers, unfairly making them the ethnic scapegoats, he said. 

The hot spots were largely an issue of plant operations and the physical conditions under which the employees were working. “Poverty also makes people vulnerable to disease, not their ethnicity or their race,” he said. 

“So, we’re seeing these narratives keep coming up, and we have to have a counter-narrative,” Daniel-Ulloa said. “Hispanic Heritage Month is a little bit about that.” 

The counter-narrative 

Latinos are underrepresented not only in science and academia but also in Hollywood, literature and the other arts, he said. 

“It isn’t that nobody is telling our stories; there are quite a few Latino artists. It’s that they don’t get broader nationwide or mainstream attention. It is hard to find those stories,” Daniel-Ulloa said. “We need to remind ourselves, whether it’s Black History Month or Latino History Month, that this is needed because we are typically forgotten in the narrative.” 

It’s particularly important right now to think about what Latinos have brought to the country, he added, given the rise in fear-mongering around immigration and migrant workers. 

“Acknowledging the contributions — artistic and scientific — of Latinos in the United States is more important than it ever has been before.”

 

 


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