Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Reports from July 2016 Latina/o Studies Association Conference

panelists pictured

Panelists Beatriz Tapia, Alexandro Gradilla, Anita Tijerina Revilla, and Magdalena L. Barrera. Photo by M. Barrera. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Latina/o Studies Association 2016: Nourishing the Mind and the Spirit

By Magdalena L. Barrera

The 2016 LSA conference was a wonderful experience, for many reasons. To situate myself: I am a faculty member of the Mexican American Studies department at San José State University. My primary area of research is analysis of textual representations of Mexican Americans in early twentieth century American cultural production; however, in recent years I have developed a secondary research area that explores the retention and mentoring of first-generation and underrepresented students in higher education. This second area was inspired in part by the learning curve I underwent as my environment changed from the R1 settings of my undergraduate through postdoctoral training to working in the California State University system. Although I have maintained my primary research area, it requires some effort to stay in touch with emerging trends in the field, as I am the only person at SJSU who does Humanities-based work in Chicanx Studies. Moreover, I had not attended a conference in a couple of years, and so I welcomed this year’s LSA as an opportunity to fully engage as both a presenter and participant, and to expand my professional network. Continue reading

Zika and Abortion

The sign says “Stop Criminalizing Women.” The woman belongs to a protest movement in Chile, which, like El Salvador, has draconian laws that criminalize women who terminate their pregnancy. In both countries abortion is illegal under all circumstances, even if necessary to save the life of the woman. In El Salvador the exception that allowed abortion when the mother’s life is in danger was removed in 1998; in Chile it was removed under the military dictatorship in 1989.

The sign says “Stop Criminalizing Women.” The woman belongs to a protest movement in Chile, which, like El Salvador, has draconian laws that criminalize women who terminate their pregnancy. In both countries abortion is illegal under all circumstances, even if necessary to save the life of the woman. In El Salvador the exception that allowed abortion when the mother’s life is in danger was removed in 1998; in Chile it was removed under the military dictatorship in 1989.

by Ann Hibner Koblitz

(This essay was originally published on February 1, 2016 on the author’s blog:  “Sex, Abortion, and Contraception”)

The spread of the Zika virus is causing consternation and alarm in many countries. The symptoms of the mosquito-borne virus are generally quite mild, to the extent that many victims don’t even know that they are ill. Recently, however, it has become clear that, when contracted by women in the first trimester of pregnancy, Zika can cause birth defects such as microcephaly, brain damage, deafness, and paralysis. The World Health Organization has stated that as many as four million people in the Americas could be infected in 2016, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control are cautioning pregnant women not to travel to certain countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where the virus outbreak is becoming severe.

The Central American country of El Salvador has been particularly hard hit, and the government has taken the unprecedented step of warning women not to become pregnant until 2018. This advice is bizarre. El Salvador is a poor country. Many women face barriers, both practical and cultural, to contraceptive use. Moreover, abortion — even when the fetus is known to be severely deformed — is illegal, and the punishments are severe.

An effective government strategy to combat the epidemic of birth defects would consist of three components: widespread sex education and cheap and easily available contraception; widely available prenatal screening for birth defects (amniocentesis); and safe, legal abortion. Since El Salvador has none of these, women in large numbers will inevitably get pregnant, and some will deliver babies with severe abnormalities.

Note that the government’s admonitions are not directed at men, as if they didn’t realize that men share responsibility for pregnancy. Rather, the clear implication is that women and women alone will be blamed for the expected public health catastrophe. A 25 January 2016 article in The New York Times about the Zika threat in El Salvador aptly describes the Salvadoran government’s pregnancy warning as “the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass that, to many here, only illustrates their government’s desperation.”

In this article the word “abortion” is conspicuous by its absence. This is a peculiar oversight by The New York Times, since the illegality of all abortion in El Salvador is one of the principal obstacles to an effective response to the public health crisis.

Also omitted from the coverage in The New York Times is any discussion of U.S. culpability for the deplorable situation in that country. During the years 1979-1992 the U.S. gave billions of dollars in financial and military aid to the right-wing government that committed large-scale atrocities during a civil war in which an estimated 80 thousand people died. After the war the huge quantity of weapons and the large number of demobilized and unemployed former soldiers set the stage for an epidemic of violent crime. In addition, in the mid-1990s the U.S. deported several thousand Salvadoran pandilleros (gang members, mainly from Southern California), who brought their criminal gangs back with them to El Salvador. Current estimates of the number of gang members in El Salvador (a country having 1/50 the population of the U.S.) range from 30 to 60 thousand. At present El Salvador has the highest homicide rate in the Americas.

The pandilleros are not the only U.S. export to cause havoc in El Salvador. Over the past two decades religious fundamentalist groups based in or funded from the U.S. have given rise to anti-abortion fanaticism on a level that was virtually unknown before. In 1994 the Kovalevskaia Fund (of which I am director) and the Salvadoran Women Doctors’ Association convened an international conference in San Salvador to discuss the medical consequences of illegally induced abortion. El Salvador’s Vice-Minister of Health attended, and topics included the use of herbal abortifacients and menstrual regulators by the indigenous peoples of El Salvador, the actions of RU-486, the efficiency of vacuum aspiration as an abortion technique, the work of South American abortion clinics and their education programs for midwives and obstetricians, and so on. There was a sprinkling of anti-abortion people among the 300 doctors and medical students in attendance, but discussions were wide-ranging and respectful. Yes, that is not a misprint. The abortion opponents in El Salvador listened to the discussions of these topics with interest and respect.

Now, however, such an event would be virtually impossible to organize because religious fundamentalists have become much more visible, violent, and well-funded than they were in the mid-1990s. Medical personnel are prevented from performing abortions even in cases of ectopic pregnancy or other life-threatening conditions. In such circumstances it is not surprising that the Salvadoran government fails to mention abortion in connection with the Zika crisis. That The New York Times fails to mention abortion in its own coverage is harder to explain.

Postscript (added 4 February 2016) Although the article on the response in El Salvador to the Zika virus did not mention abortion at all, a 3 February editorial in The New York Times did: “In Latin America, where many nations outlaw abortion, some governments have advised that pregnancies be delayed, which can create only greater anxiety for women who have sadly limited control over such decisions…. Immediate responses, like increasing access to birth control and abortion, face stiff legal and cultural resistance in the affected region.” The New York Times also carried an article “Surge of Zika Virus Has Brazilians Re-examining Strict Abortion Laws”.

Second postscript (added 8 February 2016) Today’s The New York Times has an excellent op-ed on the situation in Brazil by Debora Diniz, a professor of law at the University of Brasilia.

Ann Hibner Koblitz, Professor of Women and Gender Studies, has taught at ASU since 1998. Her first book was the biography of a Russian woman mathematician, feminist and writer. Her second book examined the lives of the first group of Russian women to receive their doctorates in the sciences and medicine. Her most recent book, Sex and Herbs and Birth Control: Women and Fertility Regulation through the Ages (Kovalevskaia Fund, 2014) received the 2015 Transdisciplinary Humanities Book Award from the Institute for Humanties Research at ASU. She also directs a small non-profit foundation for women in science in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and her blog, “Sex, Abortion, and Contraception,” can be found at

The Decolonial ImaGYMary: Working (and Writing) on My Fitness

November 19, 2012

Fulanas Con Ganas Collective. L-R: Monica Morales, Larissa M. Mercado-López (Photo Credit), Selena Navarro, Giomara Bazaldua, and Jessica Hawkins.

Fulanas Con Ganas Collective. L-R: Monica Morales, Larissa M. Mercado-López (Photo Credit), Selena Navarro, Giomara Bazaldua, and Jessica Hawkins.

By Larissa M. Mercado-López

As I type this, I stop every few minutes to pull my spine up tall, clasp my hands above my head, and slowly move side to side, gently stretching the muscles around my shoulders and latissimi dorsi, or my “lats.” I place my hands on my lower back, elbows bent, and puff out my chest—bones shift and joints pop. My 4 year-old runs up to me, asking for a spin, and I scoop up her 60- pound body and spin her dizzy. Slowly, I return to my writing position and resume working.

In Loving in the War Years, Cherrie Moraga writes, “A friend of mine told me once how no wonder I had called the first book I co-edited (with Gloria Anzaldúa), This Bridge Called My Back. You have chronic back trouble, she says. Funny I had never considered this most obvious connection … And the spot that hurts the most is the muscle that controls the movement of my fingers and hands while typing.”1 We can “read” the pain metaphorically, as the burden that is placed on women of color to write against colonialism and to forge spaces in the women’s movement; however, Moraga may very well have had repetitive stress syndrome, or a similar musculoskeletal ailment, that could have been improved with strengthening exercises.

In my dissertation that I completed in 2011, I read texts in Chicana literature to examine how mestiza mothers read the social and somatic experiences of their maternal bodies, deploying critical and often oppositional knowledges. Similarly, scholars such as Suzanne Bost and Eden Torres, and emerging graduate student scholars such as Christina L. Gutiérrez and Sara A. Ramírez, are articulating decolonizing theories of the bodies and psyches of Chicanas. But in addition to this bodywork, I’ve been consumed with another kind of bodywork: fitness.

Exercise kept me sane through three degrees and three children. Though I won’t deny that the gym has been a space of frustration—especially as I painfully cardio-ed for excessive amounts of time in my attempts to “bounce back” after my pregnancies—it has also helped me reaffirm my sense of strength. The traditionally male-dominated free weight area has become my most empowering space, where I routinely lift heavy weights to strengthen my lower back that was strained and weakened by years of writing, motherhood, and running on pavement. I delight in my growing muscles and find the task of carrying my children and books far easier. Though one reason I exercise is to maintain low levels of body fat, I am driven more by my desire to prevent injury, manage stress, and strengthen my bones and cardiovascular system.

But, I often find myself alone in the free weights area. Among those who do come, many opt for the 5-pound weights because they want to become “toned but not bulky” (never mind the fact that the average weight of a woman’s purse is 7 pounds!).

However, I don’t judge. In many ways, hegemonic (and gendered) constructions of “fitness” and “fit women” conflict with dominant constructions of Latina bodies. The cultural valorization of “womanish” curves and the masculinization of muscular bodies constrain Latinas’ exercise choices, limiting them to those that emphasize fat loss over muscle strengthening. Further, the media’s constructions of “fit women” as white, upper-class, and hyper-muscular, and the capitalist culture of fitness, with its pricey supplements and apparel, render “fitness” a financially inaccessible and time-consuming endeavor. And, when it comes down to it, men in the weight room can be downright intimidating.

While these rhetorics and images of fitness have led some Latinas to either pursue more socially accepted forms of exercise for women or to nix them all together, many still revere their maternal ancestors for their bodily strength, recalling the girth of their strong arms and legs as they carried loads of laundry, tilled the hard earth for their gardens, and lifted sleeping children off their floor and into their beds. These images of strength need to be remembered and re-embodied.

I fully acknowledge that my pursuit of the level of fitness that I desire is enabled by my privileges of income, transportation, a flexible job, the support of my husband, and the availability of day care. We need to be critical of social/structural inequalities that limit how, when, and where Latinas exercise. I’ve responded to some of these issues by blogging for my local newspaper (Fitness Cultures) and starting a free exercise group (Fulanas Con Ganas).

It’s my mission to ensure that all Latinas have the access to the resources they need, as well as the support and confidence, to pursue the level of fitness that allows them to live their best lives.


1.  Cherríe Moraga, Loving in the War Years: Lo que nunca pasó por sus labios (Boston: South End Press, 1983), v.

Larissa M. Mercado-López received her Ph.D. in English/Latina Literature from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her research interests include Chicana feminism,maternal studies, phenomenology, and rhetorics of fitness. Larissa is an adjunct instructor at UTSA for Women’s Studies and Sociology. 


  1. Anonymous  November 20, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    I just started Zumba and like it ok, but I really want to try some weights! Thanks for the motivation!

  2. Seline (Mujeres Talk Co-Moderator)  November 23, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Seline (Mujeres Talk Co-Moderator)  November 23, 2012 at 6:14 PM


    Thank you for your essay on fitness and the different ways to love and be in your body.

    I love that you experience the free weight area as an empowering space. The insights you shared remind me of Jackie Martinez’ essay on weight room semiotics, the mental intensity that accompanies brute physical force, and embodied intentionality.

    Keep up the good work that opens pathways to access.

  4. Larissa    November 26, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    Martinez and I both do phenomenology; I used her work in my dissertation 🙂

  5.  Jessica Lopez    April 22, 2013 at 8:12 PM
    As for me, I exercise because I like breaking out a sweat after a stressful day. It is enjoyable since I go to the gym with my friends. It is important to love it and not think about what other people see. It also helps me to regulate my diet and be more aware of proper nutrition.

My Shadow Beast’s Time

November 12, 2012

Photo Credit: "Our Time is Running Out 157/365" by gravity_grave on Flickr

Photo Credit: “Our Time is Running Out 157/365” by gravity_grave on Flickr

By Anonymous

I have been thinking a lot about time and its processes lately. When I took and passed the Candidacy Exam in my graduate program, time was paramount. As in most universities, departmental guidelines dictate that students in the program make timely progress to the degree. There are, however, minimal guidelines for writing the requisite three exam papers. Some said that the reading lists were to help me write the dissertation. Others told me that this exam was completely separate from my dissertation. I then couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to write about my reading lists. “Was I to integrate all 40 books and articles from one reading list into a paper? How?” I kept asking. I was unable to get a straight or clear answer about what to write. Previous students successful in advancing to candidacy did not allow the program to archive their papers as resources for future students working on their exams. Social scientist candidates in the department were willing to share their work with me, but I felt I couldn’t follow their examples because I was working with texts in the humanities.

Still, I read every day. I was determined to finish on time. I joined a writing group, and in two months, I wrote countless drafts of the first paper. The group was organized and led by a senior professor who I eventually learned did not take well to assertive feminists. One day, before a group of other graduate students, the professor asked if I had “a chip on [my] shoulder” because my writing style seemed “bitter.” I conceded that the passion behind my writing stemmed from anger prompted by relentless systemic violence. The professor had not expected my response, and he answered by saying I wouldn’t go far with my “attitude.” I smiled nervously as he initiated the class’s roar of laughter. After our session, I felt even the snowy wind was mocking me. I couldn’t run fast enough into my sister’s arms.

My subsequent anxiety about writing catapulted me into a depression. No matter how much I beckoned it, my writing voice would not come out of hiding. I had to finish these papers within four months in order to be eligible for a fellowship for those who are making “timely progress.” My inner critic wouldn’t go away: STUPID. SLOW THINKER. BAD WRITER. BAD PERSON. IDIOT. LOSER. JUST SIT DOWN! UNFOCUSED. LIMITED VOCABULARY. STOP CRYING. IMPOSTER. It was not until after I suffered a major break down that I learned I could ask for an extension without penalty. Why hadn’t anyone told me this before? Was the break down part of the process? I had been conditioned to believe that the only way I could be a “good person” was by being a “good student.” Facing my Shadow Beast, I realized my self-worth had been dependent upon my ability to produce, my colleagues’ perceptions of me, my professors’ praise, my parents’ “Good girl, m’ija,” and on someone else’s notion of “timeliness.” Western culture has us believe we are essentially flawed, we must constantly work on ourselves, and we must prove ourselves to belong. Resenting the exam process as yet another way for me to prove my worth, I refused to write until I could convince myself that there is no sinful self to redeem. Humans never fell from grace. All beings are essentially good.

Although I certainly learned in the depths of Coatlicue, I knew couldn’t stay there forever. I moved and began the healing process. I stopped thinking so much about what I had to do and what I hadn’t done and tried to focus on each present moment. I began to practice compassion toward myself including my vicious inner critic, my Shadow Beast. I learned that I couldn’t go on ignoring her. We had to dialogue. When I listened, I learned she only wanted to help me achieve that happiness I feel when I read, think, and write. I explained to her that I can’t work with unrealistic daily goals and harsh criticism used as “motivation.” She pointed out that no one taught her how to practice non-violent communication. Together we learned that time is but a construction, a historically specific concept, and we came to a truce. I was finally able to write. I finished my papers, took my exams, and passed at the right time.

I write about my struggle to underscore our continuous negotiations as Chicanas in the academy. Confessing that I embark on more writing with trepidation, I am reminded by my MALCS mentors that I must revel in this moment’s sense of accomplishment and the fact that I found ways to manage an arduous process. Yet I know I must remember my time in the depths of Coatlicue so I too can be compassionate toward my students in their times of crisis. The U.S. university system is not set up to be conducive to our “timely” progress. As a capitalist enterprise, the university embraces competition—a race against time—to produce extraordinary scholarship, thereby discouraging genuine collegiality. This system does not encourage us to satisfy our urge to “make face and heart,” or to find ourselves, by learning from one another through compassionate social interactions. For this reason, I look forward to summers during which MALCS, conversely, focuses on giving shape and meaning to our selves and community. MALCSistas remind me that there have always been philosophers, artists, scientists, and lovers of “making sense” of the world. I dream that it is possible to transform the U.S. university to meet our needs as humans. I look forward to this reemergence from what may be our collective trance in the Coatlicue State. I look forward to our inherently interlinked individual and collective experiences of triumph.


  1. Monica    November 12, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    Thank you for your words. This is definitely a process many of us go through, and yet very few talk about it. Gracias.

  2. Anonymous   November 12, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    What a “timely” piece! I was driving to my office with my inner critic saying many of the horrible words you mention. It has been a long time since I have written out of joy rather than fear. Deadlines and timelines help me to be “productive” but are sucking the life out of my voice. Thank you for such a thought-provoking piece.

  3. Unknown   November 12, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    Thank you. So very much. Thank you.

  4. Anonymous   November 12, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    This is exactly how I felt a couple of days ago when I was going through my exams. Thank you so much for writing this!

  5. Anonymous   November 12, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    THANK YOU! This is exactly what I experienced.

  6. Theresa Delgadillo  November 19, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    Dear Anonymous Blog Author,
    In the classroom scene you describe, where a focus on the work and the writing would be most beneficial to all, the discussion unfortunately shifts to “correcting a person,” making an individual Latina the problem. Your honesty appears to have been alarming to those present then but shared here, in this space, it is a welcome meditation on the kind of relationships we build together in academia as well as the self-knowledge and skill you have gained in working with others and negotiating your expectations of others and self. I join in thanking you for this beautiful essay, especially the brilliant observation: “I look forward to this reemergence from what may be our collective trance in the Coatlicue State.” It’s a statement that resonates beyond academia as well as sign of the keen insight with which you have emerged from the fire. Congratulations to you! I am so very glad you will be making a difference in higher education!

  7. Anonymous   November 22, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    Dear Anonymous,
    Thank you for your essay, and speaking truth to power.
    My writing style has also been called ‘bitter,’ but by an anonymous manuscript reviewer who also asked why I was complaining about the lack of mentorship if I successfully received my Ph.D.! In other words, the lack of compassion in academia is pervasive. It is scholars like you and other MALCSistas who will make a difference

Understanding Diabetes to Help Yourself, Your Family Members, Your Friends . . .

October 22, 2012

Amelia María de la Luz Montes

Amelia María de la Luz Montes

By Amelia María de la Luz Montes

Diabetes is different from other diseases. Once you have it, you have it for life. There is no remission. Your pancreas will remain either completely non-working (type 1) or forever debilitated (type II). With diabetes, if you want to live a long life with a balanced glucose level, it is primarily up to you to completely change your eating and exercise habits (even with medication). Unlike cancer which most often concerns medical doctors locating and excising a tumor, followed by chemotherapy and/or other medications, the burden of controlling blood sugars rests upon the individual, not in excising the pancreas or getting a new one. An individual with diabetes could be taking medication like metformin, a well-known drug that has been on the market a long time and has had a good record in assisting the body to control sugar or glucose levels, but that is not enough. Notice that I wrote “assisting” because, again, the burden falls upon the individual. You can take all the drugs you want, but without a diet you create yourself that fits your chemical makeup, and without a good exercise regimen—complications from diabetes will appear (retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy).

And that is why doctors become so very frustrated with patients.  “I tell them until I’m blue in the face,” a doctor once told me.  “I tell them that it’s up to them.  They have to control their glucose levels.  A pill is not the answer.  Most people are not willing to make any changes until it’s too late—until they can’t walk, they go blind, they go on dialysis.”

I’ve thought about what this doctor and others have similarly said. And in reading so much about this disease, I’ve also understood another aspect to the patient’s inabilities to change.

First:  It’s very hard to come home after a diagnosis and be told to completely change your diet. To what? How does one know? Insurance companies often will not include “Diabetes Education” for patients until they are actually diagnosed with the disease. For those who are diagnosed as “Pre-Diabetic” (meaning that there is evidence of high glucose levels but not quite high enough for the diabetes diagnosis), there is no education. This should be the exact time when much of the education should take place. Or, if it is apparent that the disease is a genetic factor in an individual’s family history, that individual should have the opportunity to enroll in diabetes education even if she/he may never manifest the disease—at least they are more equipped to understand themselves and help other family members or friends who have it.

Second:  Michael Montoya’s book, Making the Mexican Diabetic (2011) is a must-read for all of us because he points out how Chicano and Chicana/Latina and Latino communities can so easily become areas with high rates of diabetes. For familias with a tight income, it’s hard to think about buying expensive organic food and taking the time to cook it when McDonalds offers a sausage burrito for $1.00 and when you are tired from working two jobs—who wants to cook?  And if you’re tired from work, the last thing you want to think about is exercise. Or if the doctor tells you to at least walk your neighborhood for a half hour every day, you may live in a neighborhood where that would not be a safe thing to do. I agree with Dr. Montoya that as long as we have the fast food companies setting up shop everywhere, as long as towns and cities do not offer safe public areas (parks!) with activities to join (swimming, running clubs, yoga, kick ball, sports for youngsters and adults), it’s going to be very difficult to lower the rate of diabetes in our population.

Third:  A key component to understanding your body is to test your blood and if you are on a very tight budget, this can be difficult. The glucose test monitor is often available for “free” (once you’re diagnosed). But the problem here concerns the test strips, which are expensive. Just yesterday, I bought (with my prescription) my supply of test strips. There are 100 in two vials. With insurance: $62. Without insurance: $124.

If you do not have diabetes (but you know it runs in your family and you’d like to start monitoring your blood so you will prevent the disease) or if you have been told you have “Pre-Diabetes”—you will have to shell out the $124. Something needs to happen so that the cost of test strips can be more affordable making it possible for people to purchase. I’m not sure what the answer is yet regarding the cost of test strips.

Why testing is so important: Without testing, you have no idea what your body is doing. You could feel just fine and your body may be riding on high levels of glucose and the longer you have such high levels running throughout your bloodstream, the quicker you will damage various organs in the body. It will only take a few months before the damage manifests itself in a variety of ways (neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy).

Fourth:  Trying meditation or learning strategies to cope in stressful situations is also key but difficult. Studies show that testing one’s blood regularly and keeping it balanced plus learning coping strategies is important in lowering glucose levels. Why? Keeping a normal blood pressure level prevents inflammation and inflammation will then also cause high glucose levels in your body which then also damages organs. And that is another aspect to this disease:  it’s not only about the food you eat, it’s also about how much stress there is in your life. Something as small as a simple cold cause glucose levels to rise. Illness, trauma, stress, major disappointments in life: all cause glucose levels to rise.

The U.S. can boast about all of us being hard-working people who produce more in a year than neighboring countries around the world. And we do. However, a study showed that even though we produce more, we also make more mistakes (because we are overworked) and therefore spend millions having to correct those mistakes. We also spend millions on emergency hospital visits and doctor’s visits.  The first year of my diagnosis, I ended up in the emergency room three times and even with insurance, my out-of-pocket expenditure to medical issues were quite high.

What to do? Some tips:

1. There are foods that do not have such a high residual pesticide load and are very affordable (non-organic).  These are:

a.     broccoli
b.     cabbage
c.     asparagus
d.     cauliflower
e.     avocado
f.      brussel sprouts
g.     garlic
h.     bananas
i.      zucchini

2. A QUICK RECIPE:  I have found “mashed cauliflower” a most delicious substitute for mashed potatoes. Potatoes are not good for all individuals with diabetes. The high starch content will affect most people (and that includes rice as well—brown or white). Directions:

a.  cut up the cauliflower
b.  steam
c.  mash it up (either in a food processor or with a potato masher)
d.  add spices if you wish

Mashed cauliflower is easily frozen so you can make a lot of it, freeze it, and then you don’t have to keep taking the time to cook it each time you want some.

3. During that first year of diagnosis, what really helped me was figuring out how many carbohydrates are in foods. There is a little book which I call the “carb helper.” It’s title is: The Calorie King: Calorie, Fat, and Carbohydrate Counter 2012. It is revised every year or so and it’s vital for those of us with diabetes. You’ll be surprised what foods are high in carbohydrates (glucose) and what foods are not.   Those who are unfamiliar with diabetes may think that it’s just about staying away from desserts or sugary drinks. Onion and carrots have a lot of sugar, but I did not know this until I began studying carbohydrate counts. One carrot is like a spoonful of sugar. Who knew? And onions: why do onions carmelize?  Because they have a high glucose level. Since finding this out, I now cook with shallots instead of onions and it’s just as delicious.

4.  For exercise:  If you cannot afford a gym or cannot exercise outside, walk around your house (inside) for twenty minutes to a half hour, or climb stairs (if stairs are at your work, take time to walk up and down during half your lunch hour) if there are stairs at or near home or at work.  Purchase a new/used bike if you can afford it.


The most important aspect I have discovered in researching this disease is understanding how each individual (chemically) is so vastly different. Two people with diabetes may react very differently when they eat, say, a banana.  I know someone with Type II Diabetes who enjoys eating a banana every day and their glucose levels do not spike. I cannot eat a banana—not even a bite because then my glucose levels spike. The one thing to understand about diabetes is that the journey to balance glucose levels demands a journey into keenly understanding your body. Our bodies are like fingerprints. Our chemical and genetic makeup is so fascinatingly individual. And it takes commitment to want to do this.  But it can be done!

Amelia María de la Luz Montes, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska, where she also serves as Chair of the Institute for Ethnic Studies. She frequently blogs about diabetes and health issues.


  1. Dawn Valadez  October 22, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    Thanks so much for posting this! Latinas, especially Mexican American women, have such high rates of diabetes – it is like an epidemic in our community. However, with your guidelines all is not lost. I disagree that it is with you forever though – with a healthy diet and lots of exercise people are able to get off of medicine and live a healthy diabetes-free life. You still have to be vigilant, but shouldn’t we all be anyways? I get concerned when I hear it’s “with you forever” because for some of us with food issues that feels like “why bother” when in fact we can do a lot to stop it in it’s tracks! and even if we need meds we can live healthy lives. My mom has had diabetes for 30 years, she’s in her 80’s and is still walking y qué fregosa! She lives with me and we work together to have a healthy diet and walk daily.

    I agree about the financial and convenience issues but some ways we can help each other is to grow our own food and share it! Or go to the farmer’s market together and buy in bulk, most farmer’s markets take food stamps now which is very helpful for people receiving those benefits. Starting a walking group helps too.

    Anyways, thanks for the post and here’s some more helpful info:

    Dawn Valadez

  2. Amelia ML Montes October 24, 2012 at 8:43 AM
    Dear Dawn,
    Thank you so much for your “reply.” I am so happy to read that your mom is in her 80s and has been self-managing the disease with a healthy diet and walking. This is key to keeping one’s glucose numbers low so that complications do not occur.And thanks for addressing the topic about “reversing Diabetes.” It’s important to discuss this further. When one is diagnosed with Diabetes (Type II), it means that one’s pancreas is debilitated. It is not able to emit enough cells that can collect glucose from the bloodstream. Some of the cells are malformed. With Type I– the pancreas is not working at all and the individual must be on daily insulin. But with Type I, diet and exercise is still key. With Type II– I think the miscommunication here is about being able to self-manage instead of a life of pills and insulin and becoming progressively worse.So I want to be clear here: what I mean by having if “forever” is that those with Diabetes Type II will always have a debilitated pancreas– always. It’s about what you do with your debilitated pancreas that is the key. If you do nothing, you will obviously get progressively worse. Pills and insulin help but again– with only pills and insulin, you will also get progressively worse.Self-managing your pancreas with diet and exercise (as David Spero points out) can have such great effects that a person may not need insulin, meformin, and other Diabetes medication.I am like Bob and Terri who are on very low carbohydrate diets and exercise daily. They were quoted in the article as feeling healthier than they’ve ever felt before and that their A1C levels are below normal which is GREAT because that will definitely prevent complications.But what will always “forever” be the issue is the pancreas not being able to do the work necessary without the individual helping the pancreas with diet and exercise.

    Here’s why diet and exercise is so key:
    First: a low carbohydrate diet keeps the amount of glucose in the blood stream minimal so that the pancreas’ low production of cells will not be overtaxed.
    Second: Exercise is so important because exercise “stimulates” the pancreas to emit more cells than a normal person would need. And since a debilitated pancreas is creating some normal cells and some misshapen cells, having more cells than one needs will definitely take the glucose out of the bloodstream.

    So– low carb diet (making sure you aren’t filling up your bloodstream with glucose) and exercise (stimulating the pancreas to make more cells to take out the glucose) will certainly lower glucose levels and prevent complications.

    One does not die of Diabetes. You die from complications of the disease. And when they say “disease”–they’re talking about the debilitated pancreas.

    So this is why I say “forever”–I’m talking about the pancreas. And this is why I do not agree with anyone who thinks that they can reverse a debilitated pancreas.

    What they CAN PREVENT is getting progressively worse and having complications. So I think it is a matter of semantics. But I worry that people think they can suddenly be Diabetes free. I think the better term is that they are “successfully self-managing the disease” and that is certainly what your mom is doing!

    Hope my further explanation helps.
    And yes–so important to help each other, go to farmer’s markets, have a walking group. I lead a Diabetes Support Book Group at an Independent Bookstore in town and this has been very helpful. I love the idea of a walking group too!

    Sending you and your mom my best wishes, Dawn!

  3. Anonymous  October 22, 2012 at 4:04 PM
    I am a Registered Dietitan in Tx. I have seen many patients w/ DM & understand your experience. It is a great article. My one disagreement is w/ Promoting organic foods to be healthy. Yes, they are a “better” choice if possible, but for so many it’s just not an option. Just adds stress to an already stressful situation.
    Recommend Fresh or Frozen, as avail.
    Thank you for sharing your experience.
  4. Amelia ML Montes October 24, 2012 at 8:08 AM
    Saludos Dawn,
    Thanks so much for your response to my blog. It is indeed an epidemic in our community and I am hoping with more education, we can help each other. I agree with you that with a healthy diet and daily (and I mean daily!) exercise, people can self-manage the disease. And this is what I mean by having diabetes for the rest of your life: the pancreas will never be a normal pancreas if you have this disease. Being off medication only means that you are self-managing the pancreas/the disease. And this is where it can get dangerous if people think that once they are off insulin or medicine, that they no longer have diabetes. The pancreas has not changed. It is still debilitated. I think the better term is that the individual is able to “self-manage” the disease with diet and exercise.As for reversing Diabetes: Once the pancreas is debilitated, it cannot be “reversed.” I think the word choice is the problem here and in Spero’s article he explains it better. He is talking about doctors who tell patients that they will only get progressively worse. And, like Spero, I disagree with that kind of doom and gloom projection. You will only get progressively worse if you do not do anything about it– but it’s up to you. And that is the key to self-managing: it’s all up to you.
    Like Bob (who was quoted in the article), I am on a very low-carb diet and do daily exercise (as my endocrinologist advised) and my A1C level is now lower than what is considered normal. And like Terri (who was also quoted in the article) I also am “far healthier” and feel it is easy now to maintain my glucose numbers. But in the beginning, I knew, when I was diagnosed, that this was going to be a life-long process. It’s important to face the truth. Now I no longer am afraid about this truth. After you get used to self-managing via diet and exercise, it does get easier– but in the beginning it demands a lot of changes in your life.I am so very glad that your mom is doing well and in her 80s. Bravo on the walking– that is key!And yes– growing our own food, farmer’s markets, helping each other– so very important!I’m so glad you wrote in!
    Thank you Dawn. Mil gracias!
    Sending you and your mom healthy energias!


Decolonize Your Diet!

September 10, 2012

Quelites Harvest

Quelites Harvest

By Luz Calvo and Catriona R. Esquibel

We have a passion for Mexican food. We have a passion for gardens, for healthy food, for food justice, and for people of color reclaiming our histories. All of this has led us to our current project, Decolonize Your Diet. This is a project to reclaim the heritage foods of greater Mexico and Central America as a way improving the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of US Latinos/as.


In the US, a person’s health is almost pre-determined by their socio-economic status. For the most part, upper and middle class people, who have access to health care, higher education, healthy foods, and safe spaces to exercise, have significantly better health than poor folks who lack health insurance, education, access to grocery stores, and who live in poor and often dangerous neighborhoods. Public health scholars evaluate the health of demographic groups by looking at mortality, infant mortality, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer rates. Poor people have worse health on all these measures. This is not surprising: Social inequality affects people’s health and lifespan.

However, there is one notable exception to the equation of poverty = poor health—public health scholars have found that recent immigrants from Mexico have very low rates of mortality, infant mortality, and illness compared to other groups. Public health scholars have dubbed this phenomenon “The Latino/a Paradox.”(1) Recent Latino/a immigrants, mainly from Mexico and Central America, have better health than Latinos and Latinas who were born in the US. The health of recent immigrants rivals the health of the [w]healthiest Americans! This fact is somewhat astounding given that Latino/a immigrants face so many challenges: in general, Latino/a immigrants arrive to this country with very few economic resources. They don’t have access to preventative health care and are often afraid to seek care when they are sick. They work in difficult and dangerous jobs and they are under extremely high levels of social, spiritual, and economic stress. One would expect their health to suffer under these circumstances.

Public health scholars have not been able to explain Latino/a immigrants’ health; but there is significant evidence supporting the health benefits of traditional diets of Mexico and Central America. We believe that these food traditions protect Latino/a immigrants from disease, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and some cancers. Unfortunately, the health of immigrants declines over time. The longer immigrants stay in the US and the more they assimilate into US culture, the worse their health becomes. By the second generation, Latinos/as face the same issues as other poor folks in the US, with skyrocketing rates of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Cancer rates also start to increase.


We feel it is imperative that Chicano/a Studies engage food justice in research and teaching. We call to our comrades, colleagues, and students to look at their personal food choices as political acts. Resist cultural imperialism by reclaiming ancestral foods. Honor our ancestors and their wisdom by learning how to cook beans, make corn tortillas, and grow food.  Above all, share your knowledge!

The following chart outlines some of the differences between what we think is a Colonized Standard American Diet (¡Qué SAD!) and a decolonized approach:

Advertising and Fads
Ancestral Knowledge/Oral Tradition
Hybrid Seeds and GMO
Heritage Seeds and Seed Saving
White Supremacy
Respect for Mexican and Indigenous Knowledge and Traditions
White sugar, White flour, White rice
Brown is Beautiful: Honey, Whole Wheat, Brown Rice
Assimilation, Submission, Capitulation
Resistance, Resilience
No connection to the land. Reliance on Chain Grocery Stores.
Community Gardens, Guerilla Gardening, Urban Farming,
Conspicuous consumption
Simple, accessible food
Disavowal, Thoughtlessness
Intentions, Blessings and Ceremony
Processed Foods
Real, whole food
Fair labor practices, Worker cooperatives
Pesticides and Monoculture
Permaculture and Biodiversity
Pharmaceutical industry
La Comida es Medicina, Herbal remedies

As part of our project, we are collecting and sharing knowledge and recipes. We are inspired by Native food activists like Winona LaDuke (2,3,4), Devon Abbott Mihesuah (5) and the Tohono O’odham Nation (6). We’re very excited by the significant health benefits to be gained from eating cooked dried beans (7,8,9), nopales (10,11), chia (10), quelites (12), and verdolagas (13, 14, 15).


We invite you to join us in the reclamation of Mexican heritage foods: join “Luz’s Decolonial Cooking Club” on Facebook or follow our blog at

  1. Viruell-Fuentes, Edna A. 2007. Beyond acculturation: immigration, discrimination, and health research among Mexicans in the United States. Social science & medicine (1982) 65 (7): 1524–35.
  2. LaDuke, Winona. 1999. All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Cambridge, MA; Minneapolis, MN: South End Press; Honor the Earth.
  3. LaDuke, Winona. 2005. Recovering the Sacred: The Power of Naming and Claiming. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.
  4. LaDuke, Winona, and Sarah Alexander. n.d. Food is Medicine: Recovering Traditional Foods to Heal the People. Honor the Earth/White Earth Land Recovery Project.
  5. Mihesuah, Devon Abbot. 2005. Recovering Our Ancestor’s Gardens: Indigenous Recipes and Guide to Diet and Fitness. University of Nebraska Press.
  6. Tohono O’odham Community Action with Mary Pagnelli Votto and Frances Manuel. 2010. From I’Itoi’s Garden: Tohono O’Odham Food
  7. Reynoso, Camacho, R. 2007. El consumo de frijol común (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) y su efecto sobre el cáncer de colon en ratas Sprague-Dawley. Agricultura técnica en México 33 (1): 43–52.
  8. Guevara, Lara, F. 2006. Phenolics, Flavonoids and Other Nutraceuticals in Mexican Wild Common Beans {(Phaseolus} Vulgaris).
  9. Serrano, José, and Isabel Goñi. 2004. [Role of black bean Phaseolus vulgaris on the nutritional status of Guatemalan population]. Archivos latinoamericanos de nutrición 54 (1): 36–44.
  10. Guevara-Cruz, Martha et al. 2012. A dietary pattern including nopal, chia seed, soy protein, and oat reduces serum triglycerides and glucose intolerance in patients with metabolic syndrome. The Journal of nutrition 142 (1): 64–69.
  11. Gutierrez, Miguel Angel. 1998. Medicinal Use of the Latin Food Staple Nopales: The Prickly Pear Cactus. Nutrition Bytes 4
  12. Barakat, Lamiaa A A, and Rasha Hamed Mahmoud. 2011. The antiatherogenic, renal protective and immunomodulatory effects of purslane, pumpkin and flax seeds on hypercholesterolemic rats. North American journal of medical sciences3 (9): 411–17.
  13. Huang, Yun, and Lei Dong. 2011. Protective effect of purslane in a rat model of ulcerative colitis. Zhongguo Zhong yao za zhi = Zhongguo zhongyao zazhi = China journal of Chinese materia medica 36 (19): 2727–30.
  14. Huang, Zhiliang, et al. 2009. Total phenolics and antioxidant capacity of indigenous vegetables in the southeast United States: Alabama Collaboration for Cardiovascular Equality Project. International journal of food sciences and nutrition 60 (2): 100–08.
  15. Shobeiri, S F, et al. 2009. Portulaca oleracea L. in the treatment of patients with abnormal uterine bleeding: a pilot clinical trial. Phytotherapy research: {PTR} 23 (10): 1411–14.

Luz Calvo is an associate professor of Ethnic Studies at Cal State East Bay.  After their breast cancer diagnosis in 2006, Calvo became interested in food justice activism.

Catriona R. Esquibel is an associate professor of Race and Resistance Studies at San Francisco State University. Esquibel started writing about ancestral foods after she and Calvo ate verdolagas at her father’s morada on Good Friday in Holman, New Mexico.


  1. Elena Gutierrez  September 11, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Verdolagas grow in the sidewalk cracks here in Chicago and I have more than once excavated and cooked them with friends. We get a few stares but they are so yummy and worth it! Thanks too for these references- not I can show my mom the “proof” that nopales really will help her diabetes. Excited to hear about your further works in this area.

  2. Theresa (Mujeres Talk Co-Moderator)  September 12, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    When my dad became diabetic i started looking into healthier traditional foods and yes, nopales are, indeed, good for diabetes! Luz and Catriona, thank you for sharing some of this exciting new work, and your emphasis not on the pricey and expensive and hard to find ingredients but on the readily available and traditional prepared in healthy ways. I am curious if anyone has done studies on the practices of keeping milpas that are mentioned in fiction that describes early and mid 20th century Chican@ life and health.

  3. Dianna Ching  November 21, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    I want to get rid of my tummy fats but I can’t deprive myself on foods so I never considered diet. But this one sounds so easy so I think I’ll give it a shot. Instead of having a liposculpture right away, why not try this. Thanks a lot!

Living Without a Car

May 10, 2012

By Theresa Delgadillo

I rode home the other day in the pouring rain, on my bicycle. A few drops fell as I left my office, a few more as I packed the bike and headed into traffic. The umbrellas were out, the windows on passing cars were all rolled up. Then the deluge hit. I stopped under the thick, spring-green leafy branches of a beautiful old tree by the law school to keep dry. From the pace of the clouds crossing the sky it would probably be about twenty or thirty minutes before it let up enough to get home fairly dry. The safest thing would have been to stay under the tree for a half hour … but I didn’t. As nearly everyone else – with the exception of other bikers and runners along the way – ducked for cover under awnings and bus shelters or hopped into cars, I headed into traffic and in short order was completely drenched. The other bikers mostly sped by – those with rain gear looked just so comfortable (I hadn’t packed mine that day). The runners seemed mostly okay in the rain, several laughed and waved, recognizing another intrepid spirit. Bystanders exclaimed and pointed as this completely empapada bicycle commuter passed by. I hadn’t expected to have a hard time keeping my eyes open, but I did – the rain was that hard and fierce.

It felt glorious. It was a moving massage. It inspired joy. If I go on, I will wind up romanticizing – or maybe I already have – a ride on a warm, spring, rainy day on which I welcomed a change in my daily routine. For the past eight months, my bicycle has been my primary mode of transportation. I actually sold my car in the fall – my way of making sure I didn’t backslide on this new adventure. That’s when I realized anew something I had, in fact, long known: in the U.S. only poor people and New Yorkers don’t have cars. I’ll tell you about the many ways I’ve re-learned this another time, but for now let me note that people look at me a little funny when they learn about my “transportation status.” Part of the surprise has to be about the gap between what people imagine a university professor makes and the lack of an automobile as a sign of lower income levels, but another part of it is surely about the difficulty most of us have imagining life without a car. A friend reports that in her neighborhood the parents have started a “bike ride with the kids to school in the morning pool” rather than the traditional car-pool. At a recent conference, I heard several people comment on how they’d like to live in a more ecologically sound way, but we just don’t provide the structures to allow it. I’ve found myself advocating for those structures more often and in more places now that I’m on the bike everyday, getting myself where I need to go on my own Chicana-power; getting a little bit of daily exercise; saving money on car payments, car maintenance, insurance and gas; not making the environment any worse. I highly recommend it. There’s great rain gear available for commuters so you don’t have to ride in the rain if you don’t want to … but I’ve re-discovered that it’s just rain.

Theresa Delgadillo is on the faculty at Ohio State University and is the Moderator of Mujeres Talk blog.


  1. Ktrion  May 10, 2012 at 7:27 AM

    Love the image of you traveling under your own Chicana power!

  2. Danielle  January 20, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    I never owned a car and perhaps ten years down the road, I will eventually own one.

Thoughts on Limbaugh, Sex for Pleasure and Birth Control

March 26, 2012

By Ella Diaz

"Prevention" by brains the head

“Prevention” by brains the head

The recent radio blast by Rush Limbaugh regarding 3rd year law school student, Sandra Fluke, and her advocacy for female student rights to contraception at Georgetown University was jarring for this MALCS blogger. Sandra Fluke was verbally attacked by Rush Limbaugh and I was shocked by the hatred for a particular type of woman in this country. This particular type of woman is like me and you: she is well-educated, articulate, progressive in her politics, and feminist in her worldview and praxis. This particular type of woman is definitely a symbolic threat in our high-security-times in the U.S., a period in which our law enforcement seeks control and surveillance at all levels of society. While many may write off Limbaugh’s attack of Fluke as belligerent, or out of touch, the fact is that global misogyny and feminicide is exploding and undeniable. Left unchecked for so long, it is now rearing its head more visibly in the affluent and privileged classes. In other words, it is of no concern to Fluke’s detractors if she is white, married, a mother, or culturally conservative as she definitely demonstrated in her interview with journalist Amy Goodman on February 17, 2012, which you can watch at:

Fluke was barred from testifying in front of a Congressional panel considering contraception coverage by religious institutions. (Let’s bear in mind that religious institutions are completely entitled to their points of view on the topic, but health care providers are not.) In her interview, Goodman asked Fluke to respond to the charge that the government should not be involved in women’s reproductive choices; Fluke replied that the issue was actually about women’s health. She gave an example of a colleague who suffers from polycystic ovarian syndrome and is under-going premature menopause because she doesn’t have access to birth control at Georgetown, proving her point that doctors prescribe birth control for women’s health issues; it is not merely a family planning tool or a way to avoid having babies. Fluke also made sure to qualify herself as a married (a.k.a. monogamous) woman in her interview with Goodman. Verbal attacks and cultural campaigns against professional women who speak publicly about their bodies will only increase in the coming months leading up to the election.

While I applaud Fluke’s smart strategy for countering mainstream presumptions about why women use birth control, I wonder if it only maintains patriarchal standards for women? I mean, I’m not married, I don’t have or desire any kids, and I am sexually active. With nothing to be ashamed of, I would like to confront Limbaugh’s carefully laid out rationale for why women such as me should post our sexual activities on the internet, since we expect the government to pay us to have sex. Oh, yes, folks, I am not putting words in his mouth or even paraphrasing:

Rush Limbaugh“What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? Makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex, she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

Limbaugh went onto propose that if the government pays for Fluke to have sex, we as taxpayers should get something; we should be able to watch.

The problem, though, is we have already been watching for years. It’s just been someone else’s good time. Everyday we watch ads and infomercials for various men’s enhancements and desire supplements. From Extenze and Viagra commercials, to Trojan Man ads, men’s desire and virility remains perfectly natural and central to the cultural norm in the twenty-first-century. Recently, a series of K-Y Jelly ads have featured mutual “satisfaction,” but I noticed how the ads frame pleasure through a particular moralist and racial understanding of sex.  From the several commercials I have caught, they are always heterosexual couples who are always in bed and of the same race. This is what acceptable sex looks like. Message received.

Limbaugh also issued two apologies in the following weeks, the first was calculated and smug; the second more sober, given that about fifty sponsors had pulled out. The other day in a conversation about the incident I was told that the whole Sandra Fluke debacle was a distraction—a planned event to get us easy-to-rile-“femi-nazis” upset and off topic. I mean, there are so many other important issues facing the nation—gas prices, employment opportunities flat-lining, and the economic downturn. But while I was told not to get too worked up over nothing, a bill in Arizona nears passage (at the date of this blog) that will allow any employer to opt out of providing contraception coverage. Women who seek reimbursement would have to prove they’re using it for medical reasons, and not birth control. Georgia’s state senate also voted to ban abortion coverage under the state employee’s healthcare plan. The New Hampshire State House passed a similar measure. In Utah, legislation has been passed that would make their state the first to ban public schools from teaching contraception as a way to prevent pregnancy or STDs. The Virginia senate passed a bill requiring an ultrasound via vaginal or topical probe for every patient prior to undergoing an abortion. For more, on this whirlwind of legislation, please see:

Ella Diaz is a Visiting Faculty member at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her Ph.D. in American Studies is from the College of William and Mary. Diaz is an At Large Representative of MALCS.


Mujeres Talk Moderator  June 2, 2012 at 6:24 AM

Ella, your blog essay had 179 pageviews on the day it was posted and I recently heard someone mention at a conference how much they liked it! Thanks for speaking out on Latina reproductive health.