Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Day! May Day!

Image Source:
Felicidades trabajador!  For many around the world, May 1st marks International Worker’s Day or May Day.   In the Americas, the day is known as El Dia Del Trabajador or El Dia Del Trabajo.   Most countries, from Argentina to Venezuela to everything in between, observe the day as a way to commend the struggles of working people worldwide. 

While laborers around the world take the day off on May Day, in the United States, May 1st is just another regular work day.   The US, is one of the very few countries that does not recognize International Worker’s Day on May 1st, which is quite ironic, because the roots of the holiday start here. 

On May 1st, 1886, thousands of workers nationwide took to the streets to rally for shorter work days.   You think you work long hours now?  Think again.  In the nineteenth century, it was expected for employees to work anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day in unsanitary, unregulated and just outright dangerous conditions.  Adopting British social reformer, Robert Owen’s, slogan “Eight hours’ labour, Eight hours’ recreation, Eight hours’ rest”, the workers boldly demanded an eight-hour work day. 

A few days later, on May 4th, a riot broke out at a rally organized by the anarchist political organization “International Working People’s Association” (IWPA) in Haymarket Square in Chicago.  In what started off as a peaceful protest, a bomb went off and police opened fire.  Even though there was no evidence to prove their culpability, eight men were charged with murder, four of them subsequently hanged.

In 1889, the International Socialist Conference acknowledged May 1st as an international holiday in order to promote worker solidarity and in remembrance of the events of the Haymarket affair.    In an attempt to distance itself from socialism and anarchy, the U.S chose not to adapt the holiday, instead opting to celebrate Labor Day in September.  

Go to any Latino country, however, and “May Day” is in full effect. 

In Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Uruguay and Venezuela, the day is a national holiday and it is known as El Dia Del Trabajador. In Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru the day is also a public holiday, and it is known as El Dia Del Trabajo.  Regardless of what is called, however, the holiday has been recognized all throughout Latin America and the Caribbean for over a century. 

In, Argentina, for example, workers have been celebrating since 1890.  The holiday specially gained momentum in the late 1940’s under the presidency of Juan Domingo Peron, who as a big proponent of the working class endorsed celebrations of the holiday throughout the country.   Bolivians have been celebrating since 1906 and in Chile, then President Carlos Ibanez Del Campo made it an official holiday in 1931. 

In Costa Rica, celebrations commenced in 1913, however the 8 hour work day was not passed to law until 1920.  In Cuba, El Dia del Trabajo was celebrated for the first time in 1890, and ever since then, it has been a huge event characterized by big marches throughout the country. 

In Mexico, Worker’s Day has been celebrated since 1913.  The date is also used to remember la Huelga de Cananea (Cananea strike) of Sonora in 1906.  In 1906, workers at the Cananea Consolidated Copper Company in Sonora, Mexico tired of earning 3.5 pesos a day, while their American counterparts earned 5 pesos a day for the same job, went on strike.  The protest quickly became violent, and although the company rejected the demands of the workers, the event remains a key fixture of Mexican History, recognized by many as a precursor to the Mexican Revolution of 1910. 

In Uruguay, the holiday has been celebrated since 1890 and since 1997, laborers have made it a tradition to gather at the main plaza in Montevideo.  Venezuelans began celebrating in 1936.  Between 1938 and 1945, the country celebrated on July 24th, however in 1945, under the presidency of Isaías Medina Angarita, the date was changed back to May 1st.

Like many other Latino holidays, the day also has religious undertones.  For many in the catholic religion, May 1st also marks the Feast of St. Joseph the worker, or San José el Obrero.  As per the scripture, Joseph was not wealthy and worked as a carpenter.  Many in the faith look to him as the patron saint of the working class.

Today, people all over the world use the first of May to honor the working class and their contribution to society. Keeping true to its roots, however the day is also utilized to bring attention to the worker rights issues and concerns currently plaguing modern day workers.  In 2006, for example, Latino immigrants in the US took to the streets to march for immigration rights.  The rally was nicknamed “A day without Immigrants” and many were encouraged to leave their jobs for a day in order to draw attention to their significant, and often undermined, contributions to the American workforce. 

Originally published in LatinTrends Magazine, May 2016

Around the World for Mother's Day

Image Source:
Mother's Day has always been a big deal in my house, primarily because my mom is a pretty big deal herself.  The woman is literally a superhero, and although we celebrate her every day, as Latinos in the US, we officially get to celebrate her twice!

From festivals held to honor goddess Iris in ancient Egypt to those held in honor of goddesses Rhea and Cybele in Ancient Greece and Rome, motherhood has been esteemed for centuries.  Mother’s Day, however did not become an official thing until 1914, some years after American social activist Anna Jarvis first campaigned for it to become a recognized holiday in 1908.  Today, over seventy countries observe Mother's Day worldwide. 

In most Latino households, Mother’s Day celebrations are widespread.  Latino culture is matriarchal in nature, and so perhaps it's no surprise that Mother’s Day is the largest card-sending occasion for Latinos in the U.S., more so than Valentine's Day and even Christmas.  However, there is not one standard day for Mother’s Day worldwide and as it has become the custom, many Latino families living in the US celebrate both American Mother’s Day as well as their countries’ own.

Listed are some of the dates devoted to moms throughout the world.  When do you celebrate?
  •  First Sunday in May:  Up until 1965, Spain celebrated mothers on December 8th, the festivity has since been moved to the 1st Sunday of May.  This year, Mother’s Day falls on May 1st.
  • Second Sunday of May:  In the United States Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May.  This year it will fall on May 8th.  Several other countries: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela, for example, honor motherhood on this traditional day as well.
  • May 10th:  In El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico mothers are celebrated on May 10th.  In Mexico, it is customary to visit one’s Mom on the eve of the holiday (May 9th).
  • May 15th:  Paraguay celebrates Mother's Day on May 15th, the same day as it celebrates its 'Día de la Patria’.  It is said that the date is marked as such in honor of Juana María de Lara whose brave actions led to the country’s independence.
  • May 27th:   Bolivia celebrates on May 27th. This date also commemorates the battle of “La Coronilla” in which many women fought for Bolivian Independence.
  • May 30th:  In Nicaragua, mothers are celebrated on May 30th.  It is said that then President Anastasio Somoza García chose this date to memorialize his mother-in-law’s birthday.
  • Last Sunday of May:  The Dominican Republic celebrates Mother’s Day on the last Sunday of May.  This year it will fall on May 29th, 2016.
  • August 15th:  Costa Rica celebrates on August 15th.  This date was chosen as it also symbolizes the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
  • Third Sunday of October:  In Argentina, Mother’s Day takes place on the third Sunday of October.  This year, the holiday will fall on October 16th, 2016.
  • December 8th:  Panama celebrates Mother’s Day on December 8th, on the same day as it celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Originally published in LatinTrends Magazine, May 2016

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ban the Ads: Why Doctors are Calling to Make Drug Advertisements a Thing of the Past

Image Source:
These days you cannot turn on your television or browse through a magazine without seeing at least one advertisement for prescription medication.  You know the ones, a beautiful woman smiling as she hits the sheets because thanks to “Medication A” she is now able to get a good night’s sleep, an attractive middle-aged man catching a football because “Medication B” has him feeling younger than ever, or a little kid happily holding a pencil because “Medication C” allows him to finally be able to concentrate in school.

We have been seeing these ads for so long, hearing them quietly spiel what seems to be a never-ending list of side effects then subsequently prompt us to talk to our doctor today, that we have become accustomed to them.  However, in many countries this is NOT the norm.   The U.S. and New Zealand are the only countries in the world that allow direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription medications.  Here in the U.S, however, this trend may soon be coming to an end.

The American Medical Association (AMA), a professional organization of Doctors, has proposed a ban to DTC advertising of prescription drugs.  In a statement released on November 17th 2015, AMA’s Board Chair-elect Dr. Patrice A. Harris stated that the ban “…reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices”.  DTC advertising, he continued, also “… inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”
The AMA argues that prescription drug advertisements often lead patients to choose brand name medication over generic alternatives which are more economically efficient and just as clinically effective.  In addition, they cite data released by health research company Altarum Institute to demonstrate the high cost of medications.  In 2015, for example, prices for generic and brand name prescription drugs increased by 4.7 percent. 
Although, it is no secret that the cost of medications has been raising over the years, the problems with DTC may not be just about cost.  Many physicians identify patient misinformation as a problem as well.  One study found that 57 percent, or roughly 6 out of ten prescription drug advertisements contain misleading information.  Many ads have been found to exaggerate positive outcomes or leave out important information.
As you may imagine, pharmaceutical companies are NOT happy about the proposal. Considering that pharmaceutical ads are a major source of their revenue, neither are print magazines nor television companies.  Pharmaceutical companies have spent a reported $4.5 billion in prescription drug advertisement in 2014, up 18 percent from the previous year.  In a statement released on November 19th, 2015, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), which is also not pleased with the motion, stated that the ban is not only a bad idea, but also one that “…raises very serious First Amendment concerns”. 

For the time being, however, all of those opposed can rest easy.  The AMA has no actual power to ban DTC ads; only congress can make that decision.  So far, no such determination by congress has been made.
Originally published in LatinTrends Magazine, Mar 2016

International Students on the Rise

Image Source:
The United States may be number one in many things, but education is not one of them. According to global learning company, Pearson, when it comes to education, the United States does not even make the top 10, ranking 14 out of 40 countries considered in the category.  But don’t tell that to the rest of the world, because regardless of this ranking, international students are flocking to our colleges and universities more than ever before. As of 2015, there are 974,926 (almost 1 million!) foreign students in the United States.  

Most of the students, grossly 31%, come from China.  This is due primarily to the expansion of China’s middle class, which because of the increase in household wealth makes it possible for many Chinese families to afford the high costs associated with American education. The second largest number of students, 102,673 to be exact, comes from India, followed by South Korea, with over 68,000 students.  

Once here, the foreign students are making the most out of their education.  As per the Pew Research Center, International students make up more than half of the advanced degrees earned in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.  After graduation, however, most of these students go back to their country of origin, either as a result of their own choosing or because immigration laws do not allow them to stay here. 

Why then, would they come to the U.S to study at all?  In many areas of the world, the American education system is perceived as being more prestigious, and of higher value and quality.  In many countries, collegiate students are limited to what careers they may pursue as their area of study is often determined by rigorous exams.  As a result, many foreign students are attracted to the prospect of an American education that allows them the freedom to study whatever they please.

For American colleges and universities, several of which due to lack of funding and low enrollment have been struggling financially, the influx is welcomed.  There are currently 245 colleges and universities in the United States hosting 1,000 or more international students.  When compared to local students, most international students pay higher tuition fees.  Some schools even charge additional fees, such as foreign-student-specific academic and administrative service fees. The Institute of International Education reports that as per the Department of Commerce, international students contributed nearly $31 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2014-2015 academic school year.   In 63.6% of the cases, the international student and/or his or her family funded the cost of tuition themselves

In addition to financial profit, however, international students bring about diversity.  It seems fit, then, that one of the most diverse cities in the world, New York City, leads the country in terms of the amount of foreign students it hosts. Most of these students can be found in New YorkUniversity and Columbia University, which rank number one and number three in the country, respectively, in international student enrollment.  For our local students, this is a good thing.  A recent study found that students that interact with international students have significantly higher skill development than students that do not.  It seems to be a system in which everybody can benefit.

Originally published in LatinTrends Magazine, March 2016