By Matthew Stieglitz
This past holiday season was one of great difficulty for my family. Two weeks before Christmas, our matriarch, my Abuela, fell and broke her hip, marking the second time in four years this has happened to her. Despite being in excellent physical condition for an eighty-one year old, her surgery and subsequent rehabilitation have been an arduous process. Always a trooper, her resolve and work ethic never cease to inspire me. During the physical therapy sessions that I attended to translate for her, I made several observations regarding the state of our country, which I’ve connected back to the Latino community.
Observation 1: the United States lacks bilingual medical professionals. My Abuela’s surgery, hospital stay, rehabilitation, and pending transfer home with an in-home therapist have exposed her to countless doctors, nurses, aides, surgeons, Medicare representatives, and therapists. And the lovely number of bilingual professionals who were part of that process? Three. While I know this cannot be generalized to all other geographic regions in the country, it is still disheartening considering my family lives a half hour outside New York City and considering Latinos will be one quarter of the US population in the coming years.
It was a stunning revelation to see hardly a Spanish-speaking medical worker in an urban hospital concentrated near the heart of a Latino neighborhood. We have a need for bilingualism, and the health of our community will depend on satisfying that need. Hopefully, as our community grows so too will our presence in professions as important as the medical field. Unfortunately, the state of our education system only further stacks the cards against aspiring Latino professionals who work towards those goals. As a result, we may not see an influx in that profession of qualified bilingual workers until the need (healthcare provision) forces the education system to be more clearly addressed. Consequently:
Observation 2: nothing in this country can be addressed until healthcare is fixed. Illegal immigrants and the poor flooded emergency rooms before healthcare reform because of their lack of insurance, which highlighted our joke of an immigration system. Instead of focusing on addressing healthcare, the Republican Party spent this past decade engaged in anti-Latino rhetoric that could make even a semi-intelligent observer think our healthcare system was flawed solely because of charity care to illegal immigrants and low-income Latinos on Medicaid. Although illegal immigration and Medicaid inefficiency contributed to the problem, they by no means were the only cause of the spike in health care costs that accompanied fewer services. Unfortunately, politicians seem to have failed in addressing this.
A week and a half ago, Republicans symbolically voted against providing healthcare for the poor, which overwhelmingly includes Latinos and other people of color, further stalling policy reform in other arenas. Let this serve as a stark reminder to our community with respect to which political party actually has our back, and may that reminder carry into 2012 when the Latino electorate cannot afford to reinforce its stereotype as the sleeping giant. Simply stated, Latinos need to wake up and start paying attention to what is going on in this country. We’ve got Arizona making a daily case for exile from the rest of the union, an education system that fails Latinos more than anyone else, and a welcome mat passing for an immigration system. But the only time our community is galvanized is when there is a crisis on our doorstep. Exacerbating this is Spanish-language media, which brings me to my last observation.
Observation 3: there is nothing but utter crap on Telemundo and Univision that is passing for stimulating content. While the news programming does a wonderful job of informing us about what is happening in Latin America and the Caribbean, the domestic content is egregious. Each day I walked into my Abuela’s room I was hard pressed to find something stimulating on the television. I would wager hardly anyone cares. Aside from some potential territorial tendencies readers might now be getting into about their precious telenovelas, Caso Cerrado, and Sabado Gigante, here’s why you should care.
The lack of objective, thought-provoking analysis from Spanish-language media is a disservice to Latino voters who rely on Spanish television for their news. This can easily foster voter apathy, which Latinos statistically embody in the US. This is a stark contrast for Latinos who stay tuned in with what happens in their nations of origin, with many still casting votes from abroad. If they can be informed about issues elsewhere, I find it logical to hold domestic content to a similar standard. While I don’t blame Spanish-language television for our community’s political apathy, I firmly believe Telemundo and Univision can step their game up and adequately provide Latinos with content that is actually intellectually stimulating instead of the usual mind numbing stereotypical, overly dramatic content that dominates those networks. Until such time, I hope it doesn’t take a crisis on our doorstep to galvanize the community like it always seems to. And I certainly hope that what little informative reporting that does take place domestically truly shows the obstacles we still face with healthcare.
Matthew Stieglitz received his BA in Communication from the University of Delaware. He is currently a 2011 Master of Public Administration candidate at Cornell University concentrating in Government, Politics, & Policy Studies. After receiving his MPA, Matthew will attend law school in order to merge his public affairs background with a legal education to most effectively advocate for Latinos.