Dr. Hayes-Bautista is currently Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the School of Medicine, UCLA. He graduated from UC Berkeley and completed his MA and PhD in Medical Sociology at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco. Dr. Hayes-Bautista's research focuses on the dynamics and processes of the health of the Latino population using both quantitative data sets and qualitative observations. I interviewed him in his office on Wednesday, September 19th, 2018.
Hello Dr. Hayes-Bautista. Please tell us where you are from and where your parents are from.
I am here from LA (Los Angeles), born here. My parents, my family, we are all a western family. Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Colorado. All over.
And you were raised primarily in LA?
That is a different story. I was born here. My family has been here in LA for about 30 years. I have a lot of family here.
When I was seven my immediate family, my mother, father, and sisters moved. I moved with them. I was raised for two years out on the coast by San Luis Obispo (California) and when I was ten we moved to a little tiny agricultural town in northern California called Yuba City. I was there from fifth grade through high school and it marked me for life.
I went off to college. I graduated from Berkeley and went to UCSF (University California San Francisco). I set up the Clinica De La Raza in Oakland then I joined the faculty back at Berkeley. I lived in Berkeley for about twenty years. And thirty years ago UCLA made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was time to come back home and it was a kind of round-trip.
It was mostly California?
It was all California.
Do you identify as Chicano?
Are you kidding? I am writing a book about the Chicano boom in healthcare. I have always said that even back then when people ask, “How do you identify yourself?” I say “Genus: Latino, Species: Chicano.”
That is interesting.
What has driven a lot of my research is understanding Latinos as part of what I call the Indo-Afro- Oriento-Ibero-American experience with Western society. That is really our root, we are part of all that. For the past 150 years we have had to live within a different system that doesn’t always appreciate what Indo-Afro-Orient-Ibero-America has to offer but here we are. We are the best Americans being Latino.
You follow the history all the way back. What do you think the characteristics of the Chicano identity are?
That is a big question.
First of all, I teach a class on theory, method, and data in Latino health research and I base the class on three questions. First question has to do with the Latino health profile where we are remarkably healthy. Compared with non-Hispanic whites we have 30% fewer heart attacks, 40% fewer cancers, 20% fewer strokes, 60% fewer chronic or respiratory disease. Overall, our death rate is 30% less than whites. We have low infant mortality, which is good. We drink less, we smoke less, and we do drugs less. We live 3 ½ years longer.
I don’t think many people are aware of this.
People don’t know that. This is called the Latino Epidemiological Paradox. Everybody assumes we should be sickly because we are low-income. There is no question (that we are low-income), but do it differently.
Again, that is called the Latino Epidemiological Paradox. So the first question we research is, “Why the Latino Epidemiological Paradox?” These are astoundingly good health outcomes across the country. I have been tracking them for over forty years. What are the mechanisms that produce it against all expectations?
The second question is, “How would the Latino Epidemiological Paradox affect health-care reform? It turns out Latino is the population you want because it is young, it is working, it is employed, it is healthy. But, most people have the wrong view. They are driven by what they see on the 11 o’clock news. They run away from it, but in terms of insurance, this is the one you want.
And the third question, “So, what is Latino from a scientific perspective?” I do research. I do biomedical research. Therefore, I need to know what Latino is.
It’s a recent topic? From Nixon…
No, it is way further back. You notice I use the term Indo-Afro-Oriento-Ibero-American and I prefer to say that rather than Latin America but it is a mouthful.
I will say Latin America but I mean Indo-Afro-Oriento-Ibero-America. You have to understand on October 11th, 1492 there was not one single Indian on the Western Hemisphere. Not one. Oh, there were about 250 million people. They weren’t Indians! They were Chumash, Purepecha, Tlalocan, Tzeltal, Araucano. Next day, Columbus who is lost, sees land, “Oh, I have discovered India! And if I have discovered India well then you guys are Indian.” We have been having confusion ever since.
It took a lot of folks 300 years to figure out that they were actually Indians because that is not what they considered themselves. They had to deal with the Spanish crown. Into that, along with some of the explorers, were Africans. And later, about 25 million Africans were brought over as slaves to the Western Hemisphere. A lot of them wound up marrying Indians. Starting in 1565 you had the first tracer fleet that went from Acapulco to Manila and they started going back and forth bringing folks from China, Japan, India, Malaysia, The Philippines, Thailand, you name it. Here we call them all “chinos.”
So, you had that all over. Then you have the Iberians, who themselves in 1492 had kicked all the Jewish folks out of Spain. So, a lot of them came here. They were so happy with the ethnic cleansing that ten years later they kicked out all the Muslims out of Spain. So, a lot of them came here. We have been meeting and having babies and everything else for five hundred years. That is why I call us Indo-Afro-Oriento-Ibero-Americano. A piece of that was brought to California 249 years ago. Next year we are going to celebrate 250 years of Latino presence in California. That is 250 years ago. Most people say, “Ah, you just got here 30 years ago?”
Yes, that is what they say.
It is a longer picture. The Spanish crown was trying to organize the Indo-Afro-Oriento-Ibero-Americano into all these different categories. I’m sure you have heard of these casta (caste) paintings (as he holds up a book on the topic). The people didn’t fit very well into these categories and this was before DNA testing. It was their attempt, but people just didn’t live it. There were up to 32 different categories.
I was aware of them but did not know there were that many categories.
Yes, well they weren’t scientific, they weren’t rigorous. Different regions, even just talking of New Spain, would use different terms. And of course, when a Latino baby pops out, you never know what the baby is going to look like. You don’t know what the skin color is going to be like, you don’t know what the hair is going to be like, or the eyes, until the baby is actually born. And in one family you can get a wide variety. So, how good are these categories that the crown used?
But then, in 1810 Mexico declares independence and as part of the Declaration of Independence Miguel Hidalgo also announces the abolition of slavery, which had existed for 300 years in New Spain. And for racial equality, he got rid of all the caste system and everyone would be a citizen of the republic. We don’t care what your racial background is.
That was then also the law of the land up here (California) because we are now under the Mexican Constitution. Somos Mexicanos! We have about two generations where the norm was no slavery and racial equality. Oh, and women have rights too, although that was not part of the independence, that was because of older Iberian legal tradition. So, folks here were Mexicanos: genus, Californios: species. Just as you have Tapatios in Guadalajara, Jarochos in Veracruz, and I don’t know if they are still calling Chilangos Chilangos in Mexico City. We were simply a racial variant of Mexican society, identity, and culture.
Then, along comes the Big Bang. January 24th is the beginning of the Big Bang because in 1848 gold is discovered in California. Ten days later the Big Bang ends with The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Suddenly, what had been a regional variant of Mexican society becomes part of the United States.
A big transfer. Under the Spanish crown there had been this civil society with the support of the state apparatus. In 1848, in ten days suddenly that support is ripped away and in comes a new state that is hostile to this civil society that had been developing for nearly a hundred years and was part of what had been going on in Mexico for 500 years. Hostile! They (United States) didn’t want these folks but they were here. They were acquired by conquest.
Latinos went to the California Constitutional Convention and they made sure that California came in as a bilingual state. They helped to write the Constitucion del Estado de California. The state came in bilingual and everything had to be published in English and Spanish. Spanish is not a foreign language. Secondly, they convinced the California Constitutional Convention to honor Mexico’s earlier abolition of slavery. California came in as a free state and we upset the balance of the Missouri Compromise. We caused the civil War. And thirdly, non-whites were able to be citizens. A Latino clearly of African or Indian origin was viewed as a citizen but in Mississippi he was a piece of furniture, he was property. We influenced this state!
With the Gold Rush, the world rushed in, including from all over Latin America. It would be one of the hugest population explosions in the next years. People came from Mexico, which is now a foreign country, from Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Brazil, even from Liberia. Everybody got here and formed families. They partnered up and they started to have kids. And the kids grew up speaking both English and Spanish; eating both baguettes and tortillas. This is all taking place within what I call a Latino civil society living within a hostile state that couldn’t care less if we lived or died. So, we had to figure out if we cohere in any way. And clearly we did because as soon as they started the Foreign Miner’s Tax, the first piece of legislation, it was only applied against Spanish-speaking miners. You got the greaser law, you had the land laws, you had the American Know Nothing Party. They were anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and pro-slavery.
I was curious as to what terms Latinos used to refer to themselves at this time. In English newspapers they were referred to as greasers, bandits, criminals, just like today, nothing has changed. But within the Spanish-language world, and I am using the Spanish-language newspapers written at that time, it turns out there was never any convention. There was never any Academia Real de California.
Correct (followed by audible laughter)
As I’m reading in the newspapers, I ask myself, how did people, in their announcements and their letters, talk about this larger grouping of folks that spoke Spanish, and their bilingual children? And the terms they use included raza. They used Latino. They used what we could call today Hispanic. They called it Hispano-Americano.
Okay, so we are getting to where these terms originated.
Does that sound familiar?
Yes, now it does.
They used cholo. They used pocho. They use everything we use today.
And this is right after the Gold Rush?
This is what emerged during the Gold Rush. They used everything we use today except Chicano. That is the only term I cannot find that they used during the war Gold Rush, Civil War, or Reconstruction.
This leads into my next questions. Where does the term come from?
What term? Chicano?
Well, let us go back to the earlier terms. Here we have people inside of a hostile state, although they could vote and earn a living, the state just did not like people who were not white. We are not white in the way the want it.
We are not British. We are not Protestant. We are not English-speaking. We are not Anglo-Saxon. We are mestizos. The groups that call themselves White Nationalists do not want us in their states because we are the wrong race.
All these terms were used. And in fact, pocho I have finally figured out because I am doing historical work on the history of vaqueros. Vaqueros taught cowboys everything that they know and all the cowboy terminology like bronco, corral, sombrero all came out of Spanish.
Pocho was a Yaqui term. If you had a horse and cut off the tail, the act of cutting the end of the tail was called pocho. When the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo came in, it was like we were cut off. We became a pocho.
So pocho is a reference to us being cut off? We are the tail in a sense?
Well that is what they call the horse with the cutoff tail. I think it is the act of cutting off (that pocho refers to). So we are kind of cut off.
Just to clarify for our readers, the Yaquis are a tribe of northern Mexico.
Yes, and you had a lot of discussion even back then of, “What do we call ourselves?” But generally they used the term Californio. They would use Español, but it was a social identity and it meant someone that spoke Spanish not someone from Spain. People think, “Oh, it says Español so it must be from Spain!” But no, it just meant that they spoke Spanish. There was Californio, Mexicano, Español, Hispano-Americano and all used almost interchangeably. That goes back to the 1850s.
Californios would not just refer to people of Mexican descent? Could it be anyone that immigrated?
Correct, they had to live here. And their kids were growing up speaking both languages causing the parents to start freaking out because they are not speaking Spanish correctly. So in 1862, an editor of a Spanish language newspaper in San Francisco complains about this modern generation because when they say they are going to go to the store they don’t say, “Voy al Mercado.” They say, “Voy a la marketa.” Why would you use “marketa” when we already have “mercado.” We are losing it. What do we say today? “Voy a la marketa.” None of this is new! None of this is new!
The changing of language
Well, we were a civil society that was here. We were acquired by military conquest. We then had to deal with a hostile state, quite frankly very hostile. With about every 20 years having an outbreak of very nativist politics to basically try to get rid of us. We are still here. We have to deal with that as well.
So you asked, “What is a Chicano?” Well, there are all this other terms as well. You had Central Americans here during the Gold Rush. You had Salvadoreños. You had Guatemaltecos. You had Chilenos, Argentinos, Peruanos, Colombianos, hasta Nuevo Granadinos, Koreanos. Everybody was here.
People say (about recent events), “For the first time we have all these Latinos.” No! This is how we started! And they go on to say, “We didn’t use Hispanic until the 1980s when President Nixon…” Baloney! We created ourselves back in the 1850s. I personally don’t prefer the term but that is what people used.
I prefer that we are Indo-Afro-Oriento-Ibero-Americanos y ya!
Now I would agree that that is the most accurate term.
Yes, but who listens to a pointy headed professor?
A lot of people do. You are a leading scholar of Latinos in America and public health. How did you become interested in the topics?
As part of the Chicano movement I set up La Clinica De La Raza in Oakland. I had just graduated from Berkeley and had not even started classes at the UC Medical Center San Francisco. I was asked by a group of parents who I had been working with, based on Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Pablo Freire. They had been meeting and identifying the issues that were important to them. I remember they called me as I was just getting ready to start classes at UCSF.
They said, “We have been meeting just as you taught us and we have identified the problem we really need to grapple with.” I asked, “What’s the problem?” “We don’t have any medical services.” Physicians were leaving East Oakland at that time. They went on, “Nobody provides services in Spanish and we can’t afford it anyway because we don’t have insurance. And then they asked, “We want you to be the executive director of this clinic.” I thought to myself, “I am just starting classes! HELLO!” They explained, “You are the closest (person) that we know that knows anything about this.” After I had been working with them, how could I turn around and say: “Oh no. Sorry!” So I said, “Ok, I’ll do it.”
We started La Clinica De La Raza and our goals were to bring services where none existed, to bring them in Spanish, and bring them for free, and we had $240. And we started out. Fifty years later, La Clinica is one of the major healthcare providers in Alameda County and it offers services at about 35 to 40 sites
Oh Wow! That is impressive that they are still around and thriving.
Here in LA, at the same time you have this little hole in the wall called La Clinica Libre del Barrio or sometimes called La Clinica Familiar del Barrio. It has now grown to become AltaMed and gives services in three counties out of 50 sites. It came out of the Chicano movement. When I hear people tell me, “The Chicano movement died in 1974 when Casa blew up.” “It did? I didn’t get that memo!” We set up a whole entire alternative healthcare system. We are writing our own history.
A lot of my friends say the Chicano movement has or is dying out. They say it because you don’t see it as much now in media. Just the term Chicano is just not used.
I hear the term Chicano. Actually, when I was working on my PhD studying the scientists at UCSF, I am a research scientist not a clinician, I wounded up doing the research on that first group of Latino, Chicano if you will, healthcare professional students: medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, and optometry. Prior to 1973, all the California schools managed to graduate about one Latino a year out of all the schools. Not one per school, but one out of all the schools!
Suddenly, we were the first group; there were twelve of us. Los doce apostolos right there at UCSF when there used to be zero or one. We were setting up the National Chicano Health Organization and I ended going to campuses around the Southwest: Arizona, Tucson, University of New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado. There were no Chicano students and then suddenly you have the first small tiny group. We began organizing ourselves. The histories were interesting and I wanted to capture this. So, I did my dissertation on that first wave of Chicano medical students.
And even then it was interesting because here we started the National Chicano Health Organization. I went to Arizona and they weren’t Chicanos, they were Mexican-Americans. They had MASH: Mexican-American Students for Health. And when I went to Texas and there were more Mexican-Americans. They had the Texas Association of Mexican-American Medical Students.
I realized that there are differences here. In about 1972 we went to New York to talk to the Puerto Ricans and they had just set up the National Boricua Health Organization. We had the Chicano National Health Organization and we said, “Hey Boricuas, why don’t you become part of the National Chicano Health Organization?” They said, “We are not Chicanos, we are Boricuas. Why don’t you guys become a part of the National Boricua Organization?” But we are Chicanos, so we had a big fight. Next year we went to Miami with the Cubans. I realized very early on that this issue of terminology is touchy and now I understand it goes back at least 160 years here in California. There is no Real Academia so we just have to settle it for ourselves.
A lot of things used to be called Chicano but that changed as the population changed because you had a new wave of immigration from Mexico beginning in 1965. Plus, you started to get a lot of Central Americans beginning in the 1970s. Everybody has a different definition of Chicano. When I did my dissertation I tracked down 18 different etymologies for the term Chicano. So when I hear people say, “Chicano means…” I start to think, “You are number 13” (as an example).
You probably know a brief history of the term Chicano.
All I know is that in California it was not used by Latinos in California between 1850 and 1880. Where did it come from? I don’t know. My dad had his own theory. During the French intervention, you had the Mexican army and you had the chinacos who were like guerrilleros. They were chinacos.
Chinacos was a tribe?
No, no, no. The Mexican guerrilla soldiers that fought Napoleon III’s troops were not the regular army but the irregular, the guerrillas. They called themselves Chinacos. According to my dad, Chicano was a metastasis of Chinaco. I had not heard that anywhere else, but ok. We don’t know where it came from but we used it to describe ourselves.
It was also generational. I realized, from doing a lot of work outside of California, that not everybody considers themselves Chicano. The older generation didn’t like that term. I remember when my little sister and I, it must have been like 1967, our parents lived in Stockton at that point. I remember telling my mother at our kitchen table, “We are Chicanos!” She jumped back, “Ah, don’t say that. Don’t use that word!” “Why not?” “It’s a bad word! It means juvenile delinquent, it means pachucho!”
As we’ve done more work I have learned she was not unusual. People who were here in the 1930s, like Dr. Figueroa, did not like the term. I interviewed him and he has since passed away. He was on the (UCLA) faculty here since the 1950s. He said that if in the 1930s you would have called him Chicano he would have fought you because that was an insult.
But now after the Chicano movement, and you know we knocked our heads with him, he said, “You know, I’ll accept it now.” That is because we made it mean different things. But I remember around 1995 when our daughter was in high school. My wife and I are of the Chicano generation, and she is actually Mexicana. So, she is Chicana cuando le conviene, y caundo no, she is Mexicana. We were discussing things Chicano and our daughter Catarina piped up, “I am not a Chicana!” I said, “Wait a minute. You are not?” I asked her, “When you hear the term Chicano what images come to your mind?” She replied, “Well dad, when I hear the term Chicano I think of a bunch of old dudes with gray hair and big fat bellies drinking beer sitting around and complaining.” Oh oh!
So, for my kids Chicano is a really retro term but it is not them. To this day, she does not spontaneously call herself Chicana. She is a Latina and there is no question about it. But Chicano for her is a retro term.
I did not identify personally as Chicano until a friend explained it to me as a Mexican-American identity. I felt more Mexican before but I was not born in Mexico and was not raised in Mexico. Once he explained the term to me, it seemed like a more accurate term to describe myself.
Let me put it like this: there are 15 million Latinos in the United States, and as I tell people, there are then 15 million different ways of being Latino. There are some shortcomings of the Chicano movement. One of which is what I call the definition of the two-minute Chicano: all these Chicanos had to fit this one definition and if you didn’t you were not really Chicano. I’m not into that.
It is a term that has a historic meaning now. We liked to think that it meant a person born here not in Mexico who had come to some sort of concientizacion. To become “woke” to use a new term. A “woke” Mexican-American. But that was just us, other people had other terms. And these confusions go back 500 years.
In El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition, you describe the eponymous holiday as an American holiday.
Could you explain that? And please tell us about the significance and history.
Have you ever been in Mexico during Cinco de Mayo?
I have not.
Oh, well you need to go. Do you know what is going to happen? Nothing! Absolutely nothing. And here, we start a week before and go a week after. You have Semana De La Raza thrown in. So the big question is, “Why is it celebrated here and it is not celebrated in Mexico?” First thing, it means it is not a Mexican holiday if it is not celebrated in Mexico. How can it be a Mexican holiday?
That is true and a simple explanation.
If it is not a Mexican holiday, than what is it? I was doing historic work for medical research purposes because I was trying to find out how far back I could trace these spectacular and totally unexpected patterns of health.
I had to get data, and the Spanish-language newspapers were one of my sources of data. As I was extracting data, I was reading a real-time Latino experience here in California from 1851 because that is when the first newspaper (Spanish-language) is published. We go through the Gold Rush, we go through the Kansas Nebraska annex, we go through the first nativist American Know Nothing Party, we go through Dred Scott, and I am reading this in Spanish. We go through John Brown, we go through the guns firing on Fort Sumter, and the Union is beat at the first battle of Bull Run. And oh my God, it is getting worst. And then the French arrive, and again I am reading this in Spanish-language newspapers.
These newspapers would also print news from Mexico and Central and South America as they do so today. “My god! The French have arrived and they are marching towards Mexico City and the Confederates are going to win again against Abraham Lincoln. And they are only five days away from Mexico City.” I am reading this as people did in kind of real-time and I discover that this is the Battle of Puebla! This is Cinco de Mayo! It has to do with the American Civil War and the French Intervention.
This was all going on at the same time, correct?
Yes, and for the same issues that Latinos here in the American west, particularly in California, were involved with. It was the same war on two fronts. One front was against the slave states and the other front against the French but with the same issues. Mariano Vallejo had two sons, one at each front. Platon Vallejo was a surgeon with the Union army and he was there at the second battle at Bull Run. His other son, Uladislao Vallejo, went south and was a captain in the Mexican army. He was part of Benito Juarez’s personal bodyguard and was present at the capture and execution of Maximilian.
Those brothers personify the values the two nations shared right?
No slavery, racial equality, government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We got that from being Mexican because the United States did not have that until the Civil War. We (Mexico) had that since 1810.
And also a fight against royalty, correct?
Absolutely! That is why we began celebrating Cinco de Mayo as part of the Latino experience of the American Civil War. Here in Los Angeles we have celebrated every single year ever since 1862.
I read in your book of the contributions Californio people would make and how they would gather money to send to the Mexican army.
Yes, to Juarez (Mexican President Benito Juarez) because his coffers were empty. They would publish the list of the contributors. It was a giant spreadsheet with almost 14,000 members. Incredible!
I don’t think many people are aware of this.
Read the Spanish-language newspapers of 150 years ago. I love to do that but I am a nerd. I am a data guy. Everything I say in that book I can back up with oodles of data.
Could you speak a little on the relationship with President Benito Juarez of Mexico and President Abraham Lincoln of the United States? Is there data on that?
There is a tremendous amount. The ambassador to the US was Matias Romero. In fact, when Lincoln was elected, back in those days, they had elections in November but didn’t take office until March or April. It was a long time. In January of 1861, he was President-elect. Matias Romero took a train from Washington to Illinois and met with Lincoln. He had a very close working relationship with Lincoln.
There was that movie about 8 or 9 years ago where Daniel Day Lewis was Lincoln by Steven Spielberg. I have a Facebook page for the center (UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center) and I wrote a series of posts about the things that Spielberg missed. This goes back to when the movie came out in about 2012 or 2013 maybe.
For example, General Mariano Vallejo knew both General Sherman and General Grant, the Union generals. They had lived and stayed in his house up in Sonoma during the Gold Rush. The first full admiral of the United States was David Farragut, a bilingual bicultural Latino born in Kentucky.
Yes, first full admiral. He was appointed during the Civil War. He was bilingual and had lived with Vallejo. Vallejo had sold him Mare Island (near San Francisco, CA) which is now the naval shipyard. So, given that Vallejo knew the major admirals and generals of the American Civil War he went back to visit and Farragut got him to meet with Abraham Lincoln in the White House. Farragut got him to meet with Abraham Lincoln in about January of 1865. And you had Matias Romero there.
You had Maria Ruiz de Burton at the White House. She wrote the first Chicana novels. She wrote them in 1860 and 1870 and she wrote them English. She was married to a US army officer. She was in Washington and was good friends with Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s wife. They would go shopping together. So, you had people speaking Spanish in the White House.
Have you watched the movie (Lincoln by Steven Spielberg)?
There were Latinos all over that place (in the White House but not in the movie).
It seems to be a continuous thing that Latinos are left out.
They say we are just an immigrant group and you are going to assimilate just like our parents did. Well, No! We are not an immigrant group. We were conquered. We were acquired by military force. We were not immigrants, dammit!
I ask knowing it is a very broad question. But, how did Latinos adapt to changing circumstances in California?
We have to understand the relationship between the civil society and the state institutions. A slice of Mexican civil society was brought here and next year is the 250th anniversary of Latino presence in California and the day is April 11th. That is when they arrived. They were just a slice of Mexico, they were not Spanish; they were Mexicans. And they were Indians, and they were Africans, the mestizos, the mulattos, and Asians, and a couple dizque Españoles who were both married to Indians, which means their kids were mestizitos.
We were subjects of the king but by 1810 we become independent and are now citizens of the republic (Mexican). We were full participants (in government) with governors, mayors, treasurers, congressional representatives in Mexico. We were part of all that. Suddenly, kaboom! Pochos, we are cut off.
Here comes a hostile state that does not want us participating. You had a huge Latino population because of the Gold Rush, and it is not like people just rolled over and died. It is like today, we had a very hostile state institution and administration. Does that mean we all just go back to Mexico? No! We were born here. What do you mean go back to Mexico? This is our home country. But clearly he doesn’t like us (in reference to President Trump).
We’ve had this every 20 years. It is nothing new. But we have this civil society. Civil society is what is left when we take away all the state institutions like police, the courts, and the schools. It is what is left and that is civil society. Ideally, civil society and the state resonate with one another, but we have not had that since 1848. We have had a state that only recently grudgingly accepted us. And that is only because we went and got ourselves elected to turn the state around a little bit.
But that civil society has continued as our kids our born, as partnerships are formed. People grow up with a notion of justice, good and bad, in their home. That is where they learn it. They don’t learn it from the state; they learn it from their families. And that has been what has kept things going. And we have had the periodic waves of immigration from Mexico about every thirty years. Immigrants always come and they settle into the barrios and they will tear up what was left from the preexisting group. Their kids grow up Latinitos, Chicanos right? Like my generation. This has been going on. Our civil society is extremely strong and that is who we are today. We are a Latino civil society living within the United States.
Would it be despite the United States?
With the United States, without the United States, or in spite of the United States, we are still here. I did a lot of work in Mexico. The official view there is that, ‘(Chicanos) somos el Mexico de afuera.’ Some say we are just like Mexico but just happen to be there (in the United States). But, no! I was born here! When I am Mexico, they let me know I’m not from there and I am different. They say “Eres del otro lado, eres pocho.”
We are something different but we didn’t assimilate like the Italians because the Italians weren’t conquered. We were conquered and that sets up a very different dynamic. So we don’t behave like an assimilating immigrant group. Even the ones that don’t speak Spanish are still Latino.
The assimilation is just not….
It is just different. We didn’t come in as immigrants. Basically, all during the 19th century, beginning in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase, the US as it acquired territory moving west it acquired people. People forget that. We were here first and we had a totally complete civil society. They acquired from the Mississippi River, the Louisiana Purchase, then they got Florida. Then Texas rebels over the issue of slavery. White folks wanted to keep slavery but slavery was illegal in Mexico so they say. “We will set up our own state.” Then they got the rest of Mexico during the Mexico War. And then they picked up Puerto Rico in 1898. And you notice it is Mexicans and Puerto Ricans that upset Americans. You talk about Argentines, they don’t care. You talk about Colombianos, they don’t care! Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, it is a guilty conscience, they conquered us.
It is true!
They say, “Why don’t you behave like Italians?” Well, go take over half of Italy and see what you come up with. It is something totally different.
You have to take that into context.
Just like Latinos who say, “Oh, Hispanic (the term) was invented by Nixon in 1980.” Baloney! We invented it. “Latino was created by the French” (in mocking tone). No, we created it way before!
What advice do you have for Chicanos who want to enter academia?
Let’s call it Latinos.
Yes, Latinos is better.
Try to understand that not everyone is comfortable with that term.
You are correct.
I just did a workshop last Saturday for Latino premeds who are getting ready to take the MCAT. There is a need for diversity on a biomedical research teams because they want to describe to you Latino health behaviors.
You were not aware of that were you? In fact, what had you heard about Latinos?
I assumed they were an unhealthier group when compared with Caucasians. After reading your book I learned that it is actually the reverse.
This is the power of narrative and narrative works in science the same way. I teach the scientific method. I am a scientist! I truly believe in the use of the scientific method. You create hypotheses and you test it with data. And if what you expected to see when you tested the hypothesis and what you actually observed are very close then you probably have a very good model.
Well, people have had this narrative about Latinos ever since the Mexican-American War. If you read English-language newspapers from 1849 it sounds just like Donald Trump. We are all criminals, rapists, uncivilized, and blah-blah-blah. It hasn’t changed. Many historians when they just use English language sources they say, “Oh, that must be the way they are.” That is why the only Latino you ever hear of is Joaquin Murrieta. He probably just is a mythical figure but he fit the English language narrative of a murderous, criminal, rapist Mexican.
This wasn’t a science because when people create theoretical models to test, they carry the narrative that they were watching on the 10 o’clock news last night. They don’t realize that this is a code bias. So, they just replicated that narrative in their minds. One of these narratives is that a non-white population of low-income and low-education is going to have bad health. In spite of the fact the data says, “No! That is not true.” The narrative is so strong that they just ignore it, attribute it to mistakes, or say they will just adjust it. I have heard all sorts of things. They believe this just can’t possibly be!
Is this because there isn’t enough data?
The data is there but the problem is the narrative. Several years ago I was a participant on a panel by the National Institute of Health on “Use of Race/Ethnicity in Genomics and Biomedical Research.” I had three institution directors from three different institutes of health and I showed them our data that in fact Latinos are healthier than whites and their jaws dropped. And one of them, and this is a director from one of the national institutes, said, “I had never seen this data before. Where did you get them” I said, “They are your data. I get them from NIH.”
There is data but his narrative is so strong that he hasn’t seen the pattern in the data. If they do see it, they say, “This must be a mistake; it can’t be right.” How can we ever do anything right? That is part of the narrative. We do everything wrong. So, that is why we need diversity in the research lab. So that we have other people bringing other narratives to say, “Wait a minute, you are leaving these things outs. You are not considering all of this. You are making too many assumptions here. Can we go back to the data?”
You have already partly answered this. What public health research could help improve the living standards of Latinos in America?
For 75 years, from 1940 to 2015 Latinos have had the highest rate of labor force participation of any group. We work more hours per week than any other group. We work more in the private sector than any other group. We work less in the public sector than any other group. We use welfare less than any other group.
So, who has the most income? Not Latinos! In fact, we have the highest rate of poverty. Now, you hear people in Washington say, “Oh, they are poor because they don’t work. We are going to throw them off Medicaid unless they work!” We work our buns off. The problem is we are just not paid! This is not brain surgery and it is not rocket science. Pay us for working! Then we won’t be poor!
We have the family part, we got the patriotism part, and we got everything down, except the money!
Why are they not getting paid? It is a broad question but one I want to ask.
As they say in legalese, “res ipsa loquitur.” We work our tails off and we have for over 75 years and were not paid very much. It is not as if we are not putting our heart into it. Hostile state institutions don’t respond! Who got left out of Social Security and Medicare? It was the farm workers, domestic workers, jardineros, and jornaleros. Up until recently, they couldn’t even pay into social security dues. Ok! So they have Social Security and Medicare, but what do our Latino seniors have? They worked hard after getting paid peanuts. I mean, hello! Sorry, don’t get me going on this.
They try to say we don’t know how to work or that we can’t find jobs. We know how to work but the problem is that we are just living within a hostile state.
We appear to be working from a disadvantage in a sense.
The group that works the hardest and the longest is the poorest, and that is the undocumented. Those are the ones they want to get rid of, the ones that are stitching this economy together.
I would like to ask about the undocumented a little later. But what preventable health issues are afflicting Latinos in America most severely?
Let me turn that around. I had mentioned earlier that generally Latinos have the lowest rates of drinking, smoking, and drug use. If I had to screen 1,000 Latinos for who was at risk for heavy rates of smoking, drinking, and drug use, I would screen 1,000 Latinos by asking simply two questions. The first question would be, “Do you speak Spanish?” Whoever would answer that they speak Spanish, I would say. “You have very low risk. You speak Spanish. You go over there.” So then we have 200 that don’t speak Spanish.
Then I’ll say, “Which of you graduated high school and at least went on to college? Didn’t have to graduate but went on to college.” And about 150 (of the remaining 200) will say, “Yeah, I went on to college.” Ok, I would then ask them to go on over there with the Spanish speakers.
The group that is left is the ones that didn’t graduate from high school and don’t speak Spanish. That is your high-risk group. Violence, drug use, teen-pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases. And the thing that correlates most with that is that they don’t speak Spanish.
Is that, you think, because they lack a sense of identity?
I don’t know. That is why I am a research scientist. That is only association. I can take a bunch of cholos and if I just taught them Spanish, that alone isn’t going to change their behavior.
They won’t stop smoking because they learn to say, “Yo te amo.” Right? But there is something about speaking Spanish that we need to understand because when Latinos don’t speak Spanish and they didn’t go to college then they don’t look like the other 950 Latinos. And yes they have a lot of issues.
Well, what resources are available for those who do not have insurance or cannot afford treatment?
Luckily here in California there is quite a bit. Many providers, like AltaMed and community clinics generally, will not ask your immigration status. That is not their issue. Many hospitals will not ask your immigration status. Thank god we are not living in other states that make that the first question that is asked.
Here in California it is not as difficult as in other states. It is not perfect and it is not completely supportive, but it is much closer (to perfect) than most other states.
How would you describe undocumented immigrants’ access to health care in America?
Latino access to health care is bad to begin with. We have a Latino physician shortage that is bad and getting worse. There is the nursing shortage, the dentist shortage. All these are bad and getting worse. Even after Obamacare, still about one out of three Latinos doesn’t have health insurance. Luckily, somos Latinos and our health is good. But, we do need care.
Why do we have 2,300 physicians per 100,000 in Beverly Hills and only 18 in Bell? 2,223 versus 18. Yeah, that is not fair that is not just. Luckily, it hasn’t been the death of us yet. But, hello! That is a real structural inequity.
It is a pretty clear inequity.
But we are putting are part in. We always put our part in.
You already answered my next question. How does access compare with other groups?
It is bad and getting worse day by day.
Are there practical solutions to this?
Sure! But nobody wants to listen. We can get rid of Latino poverty in a minute, just pay people a just wage. Pay them for what they are working and we will get rid of Latino poverty in a minute. Education, just open the doors. I was an undergraduate at Berkeley in the 1960s and there were 25 Chicanos on campus. We were the first group at UCSF Medical Center. It doesn’t mean we were stupid; things were just stacked against us. We were counseled way from the college-prep courses. I was just speaking to a girl just last week who went to her community college counselor and told her she wanted to go on to medical school. She was told, “With your gpa you’ll never make it, think of something else.”
We can do it. The problem is not with us. The problem is that we still live within a hostile state. In California we have kind-of been able to get the state off of our backs a little bit. We will do our part but just let us fulfill our potential. And we don’t have to change. We are the best thing that ever happened to this country.
I agree, but in closing. What projects or research are you currently working on?
I am working with racially ambiguous babies.
Ok, and why this project and why now?
Because the US racial narrative requires that everyone is squeezed into a single-race group so we know which columns to report birth-weights under. In 2015, of the births in California, 52% of the moms and dads were of different race and ethnic groups. So, under which race do you put their birth-weight under? You want to look at patterns for who is at risk for infant-mortality. And that narrative does not work so we have to figure out what to do. Things here aren’t the way are back on the East coast.
Changes are needed. And to finish up, is there anything I did not ask about that you would like to inform us about?
I was in a bookstore in Mexico City about ten years ago, I found the only known diary of a Mexican 49er. He left Guadalajara in February of 1849.
(Dr. Hayes-Bautista begins to read from the diary) Hoy comienza mi diario o la historia de los acontecimientos que tenga lugar en este viaje que voy hacer a la Alta California.
That is cool! You were just in a bookstore looking through books?
I randomly ran across it. It is a diary written by a Mexican 49er. He leaves Guadalajara and comes up to California. He looks for gold for a year and half and goes back to Guadalajara. He writes this diary, right after the Big Bang (Gold Rush), and the civil society is making adjustments. We are not Mexicans anymore and now we have all these new Mexicans, Central Americans, South Americans, Caribeños, Brazileños, and Ibericos. Our kids are bilingual. Who are we? He describes what is happening but he didn’t know it was this: the very first few seconds after the Big Bang (Gold Rush).
We translated it. I studied academic translation. I have written up an introduction. I tracked down his descendants still living in Guadalajara. He has written an epilogue of what happened after he went back to Guadalajara. We are submitting that to the University of California Press. My goal is to get it in by the end of this month
The title of it is Justo Veytia.
That is the title yes. It is a Xeroxed copy as a family heirloom. I think I am calling it The Latino Big Bang in California: A Mexican 49er Eyewitness
Thank you for your time Dr. Hayes-Bautista. We really appreciate you and your work!