What would you give for an extra year of life?
Most of us would sacrifice a fair amount for that luxury. Everyone is on limited time, after all, and we likely want as many days on Earth as we can get.
However, if you are Latino, you are not in a position to angle for additional time. Hell, you’re lucky to be alive enough to read this.
Yes, in addition to the fact that we perpetually lag behind other groups when it comes to mortality, there is the disturbing fact that COVID-19 hit Latinos harder than other demographics.
Just how devastating was the pandemic to Hispanics?
Well, researchers estimate that in California alone, Latinos lost a combined 370,000 years of potential life due to the virus.
Dwell on that number for a moment. 370,000 years—erased.
And again, that’s just in California. Across the nation, older Latinos were robbed of their last few days, and younger Hispanics had most of their lifetimes cancelled.
The chronic health problems that plague Latinos are the chief culprits for why we have become COVID fodder, despite the fact that the vaccination gap between Hispanics and whites is narrowing. Latino Catholics, in particular, have one of the highest rates of vaccination in the country.
Hey, who knew?
In any case, having an earlier date with death is just the culmination of a hard collective life for Latinos.
There are other downsides to tracing your ancestry to south of Texas—or, for those Latinos whose roots in the present-day United States are much older, just south of Denver.
Consider that a majority of Hispanics “think their skin color hurts their chances at social mobility and makes them a target of discrimination.” As you would presume, the frequency and intensity of racial attacks increases the darker your skin is, but even those Latinos who can pass for vaguely European tend to agree that “a darker skin color hurts them.”
But to be fair, it isn’t all bad news for Latinos. Recently, thousands of Latinas collected a cool $25,000 apiece from the state of California. Pretty great, huh? And all they had to do to catch this windfall was… wait… oh shit.
Sorry, it seems that the 25 grand was compensation for “the victims of eugenics laws, which sought to sterilize people” against their will or without their knowledge, in a grotesque crusade to “improve the human race.”
Starting in the early 1900s, California sterilized more than 20,000 people “before the eugenics law was repealed in 1979.” For the sake of historical context, keep in mind that this was not the distant past. The eugenics law was on the books when the first Star Wars movie came out. And it should surprise no one to learn that when it came to forced sterilization, “Latinas were disproportionately victims.”
Now, all of this news is fairly grim, and it leads to a natural question: are there any actual benefits to being Latino?
Well, we tend to have stronger family bonds than other groups. Yes, every Hispanic believes that, but there are actual stats to back it up.
Also, we’re clearly the sexiest demographic. OK, I don’t have a scientific study to verify that assertion, but we all know it’s true.
And perhaps there is one more advantage. In this era where Latinos are blamed for everything from viral outbreaks to crime surges, and Hispanics get “Build the wall” shouted at them (still a thing), it is our pure resiliency that shines through. It is our weird blend of optimism and tenacity that prevents us from giving up. It is our faith—religious or otherwise—that propels us forward.
Basically, it takes cojones to be Latino.
Featured image: Mexican girl (Curt Carnemark/World Bank)