Q: Daniella, can you share a bit about your own cultural identity?
A: I identify as Mexican-American.
I identify as Latinx.
I identify as Hispanic.
I identify as Chicana.
I identify as Tejana too.
I grew up in a small town in West Texas—a town too far from the Texas-Mexico border to be considered a border town—but was still once a part of Mexico prior to being claimed by the United States. I share all this information because it plays an important role in my cultural identity. My identity is not fixed; I am not just one “category”. All these moving pieces have shaped who I am today. They shape how I grew up perceiving myself and others in my community, how I feel about those perceptions now, and how and where I feel I do or do not fit in.
Q: What has your experience been like growing up within the Hispanic community?
A: Growing up in a small town that was predominately Latinx and white, I felt I “fit in” more so with my Mexican upbringing than my American upbringing. When I relocated to a larger city, my perspective changed as I was surrounded by more cultures and ethnicities, as well as Latinx folks who are not part of the Hispanic community. Trying to understand “where I fit” has been a lifelong battle. Am I “Hispanic” or “Chicanx” or “Mexican” or “Latinx”, or all the above? There is an unspoken pressure of having to identify in one way and having to fit into one box.
As I traveled outside of Texas, these questions of identity began to hit me harder. My maternal grandmother passed away when I was very young, and my family stopped speaking Spanish in the home. In many ways, this left me feeling disconnected from others in my community and gave people a different perception of me and how “Mexican” I was. I often find myself navigating the liminal space of not feeling “Mexican” enough and not feeling “American” enough.
Q: Can you share your perspective on the diversity within the Hispanic community?
A: I believe there is a lot of diversity within the Hispanic community. But it’s also important to note that not everyone who may be perceived as “Hispanic” is part of the Hispanic community. For those of us who are, there are many things that can vary between person to person, family to family, and community to community. Identifying as more than Hispanic demonstrates how one person can carry multiple identities. Geographical location, language, and having intact cultural traditions all play a role in the lived experiences of the Hispanic and Latinx community. All these factors impact how we navigate the world within and outside of our communities. It shapes how our culture intersects with other identities. The amount of complexity surrounding identities within the Hispanic community is often overlooked, not discussed, and misperceived.
Q: What are some barriers you’ve observed for aging Hispanic and Latinx older adults in the community?
A: The language barrier and lack of resources for those with limited English proficiency is a serious concern for aging and older adults in the Hispanic community. I’ve seen things not being thoroughly explained because of language differences, which can lead to misunderstandings and misinformation being shared. A difference in cultural beliefs towards things such as medicine, illnesses, and family roles also impact the type of care and resources older Hispanic adults receive. From what I have experienced in both my work and with family, is that this disconnect leads to gaps in care, creates issues with medication literacy, and overlooks and undervalues the importance of a person’s community.
Q: What should social service agencies and non-profits do to support their Hispanic and Latinx client populations?
A: In social services, “cultural competency” is a term that is used often, and yet, is impossible to achieve. One cannot be fully competent in all cultures. The idea of “cultural humility”—which essentially means you are open to others’ cultures and aren’t trying to master or perform them as if you know more than the people coming from those communities—is much more appropriate.
Agencies and social service providers should always consider a client’s culture when providing any type of service. Each person’s individual culture plays a critical role in how they respond to services, work with a social service provider, and understand the role that the provider/agency is taking on.
As social service providers, it is our ethical responsibility to be aware of how well a client understands the services we are providing and what is available to them. We must listen—really listen—and be open to their views, concerns, and questions. This is what true humility is. We may know the ins and outs of our services and programs, but we are not the experts on our clients’ lives or lived experiences. As social service providers, we must stay cognizant of the power dynamic between client and case manager, as well as reflect on how this impacts client and provider/agency relationships.