Stop the Trauma. Start the Healing: A Latino Health Context

Editor's note: On February 26, 2013, Jerry Tello and Juan Gomez from the National Compadres Network presented their Brown Paper at a Reclaiming Futures webinar. The webinar recording and slides are now available for download.

Census data indicates that Latino children are the fastest growing population in the United States. A growing body of research has highlighted the continuous plight of Latino male health and health related outcomes in this nation. The cycle of inequity has negatively impacted health outcomes for Latino boys and men. This disparity also contributes to unacceptably low levels of educational achievement and poor outcomes related to the social determinants of health. For example, a 2011 study by the College Board’s Advocacy & Policy Center indicates that 51% of Hispanic male high school graduates ages 15-24 years should expect to be incarcerated, jobless, or dead.
While the field of philanthropy has recently seen a notable shift toward investing in Males of Color (MoC) initiatives, gaps in Latino specific research, allocated funding and organizational capacity still exist. Essentially, funding targeting Latinos has been neither focused nor explicit. The existing body of literature that addresses the complexity of Latino identity, tradition and culture is under developed. Furthermore, trauma within the field of MoC dominates the conversation but does nothing to emphasize movement toward a healing aspect that this field so critically needs.

In response to the need for informed dialogue, the National Compadres Network (NCN) released a Brown Paper: Lifting Latinos Up By Their “Rootstraps:” Moving Beyond Trauma Through a Healing-Informed Framework for Latino Boys and Men, developed by the National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute (NLFFI), a division of the NCN. The paper highlights ways in which NCN can successfully work with and support community and system leaders alike to integrate a La Cultura Cura (LCC), or transformational based healing within systems of care. The paper set a new precedent: systems leaders and decision makers can no longer simply ignore the importance of cultural traditions, values and mandates that subsequently improve health outcomes for Latinos. Research suggests that foreign born immigrants can expect to live longer, healthier lives than their native born counterparts. We attribute Latino cultural health values and narratives as conduits to health. NCN believes that as Latino populations continue to increase, culturally responsive programming and policies are imperative.
The success of NCN-NLFFI is attributed to a cadre of leading experts and elders of color who have been at the forefront of Latino male issues for over 20 years. They have developed a host of evidenced based curricula, training and technical assistance opportunities that have helped communities move interventions toward a culture positive and healing directed methodology. The Brown Paper itself is built upon the strength and resilience inherited from a rich history and cultural principles that have evolved from Meso-America over the last 500 years. The teachings and principles of LCC are used as core tenets toward the transformational healing and healthy development of Latinos and other youth and men of color. The teachings of LCC have been translated into measurable outcomes that address:

  • machismo
  • positive youth development
  • cognitive restructuring
  • achievement related metrics

Stop the Trauma but Start the Healing is a mantra for the NCN. This seminal Brown Paper concludes that being simply “trauma informed” is not enough. More importantly we encourage readers to adopt a healing informed approach toward the health and well-being of Latinos and other populations of color. The United States needs to uplift the cultural wealth and capital that each of these children possess. As a nation we must see our economic prosperity deeply interconnected with Latinos and other populations of color. In the wise words of our traditional elders, "What we do now will impact the next 7 generations."  

Juan Gomez is a Senior Consultant with the National Compadres Network. He was raised by his grandparents Amelia and Ampelio in Watsonville, CA. 
*Photo at top by Flickr user Shavar Ross

Updated: November 05 2012