Mixing it Up: 5 Must-Try Latino Cocktails

a group of friends clinking cocktail glasses and smiling

Latin America, a region teeming with rich and diverse cultural traditions, is well-known for its music, vibrant festivities, and delicious cuisine. One facet that often goes unnoticed, however, is its unique beverages. From the cool heights of Mexico to the balmy coasts of Brazil, this spirited journey will introduce you to some distinctive beverages that mirror the soul of Latin America.

Whether you are Latina by birth, by association, or by admiration, these drinks are a beautiful means of cultural exploration that are sure to bring more zest to your taste buds and gatherings!

Tequila Sunrise from Mexico

Photo by Spencer Bergen on Unsplash

Let's start our journey with an internationally recognized cocktail from Mexico: the Tequila Sunrise. This drink is made with tequila, orange juice, and grenadine. Its name originates from the way the grenadine settles at the bottom, creating a sunrise effect. While it has become a global sensation, its origins are deeply rooted in Mexico's tequila culture. This drink is a tribute to the beautiful sunrises you'd witness in the agave fields of Jalisco, where some of the best tequilas are distilled.

Pisco Sour from Peru and Chile

Photo by Lorena Samponi on Unsplash

Next, we travel to Peru and Chile for the illustrious Pisco Sour. While both nations claim ownership of this delicious cocktail, the spirit of camaraderie remains, with both versions being delightful. This is a concoction of pisco (grape brandy), lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites, and a dash of Angostura bitters. It’s a smooth, tangy cocktail that pairs beautifully with traditional dishes like ceviche or empanadas.

Caipirinha from Brazil

Photo by Maria das Dores on Unsplash

Heading eastward, we find ourselves in Brazil, the home of the Caipirinha. This refreshing drink is made with cachaça (a spirit derived from sugarcane juice), lime, and sugar. It's the national cocktail of Brazil and an essential part of any celebration, especially during the vibrant Carnival season. The Caipirinha is also versatile, allowing for a variety of fruits to be used instead of lime, such as kiwi, passion fruit, or strawberries.

Michelada from Mexico

Photo by Ahtziri Lagarde on Unsplash

Returning to Mexico, we have the Michelada. This is not your typical cocktail; it is a beer-based concoction, mixed with lime juice, assorted sauces, spices, and sometimes tomato juice. This drink is often enjoyed during hot summer days, and it’s a perfect accompaniment to a Sunday brunch or a beach picnic. It's spicy, tangy, and refreshingly cool.

Cuba Libre from Cuba

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Now, let's sail to the beautiful island of Cuba for our final stop. Here, we find the Cuba Libre, a simple yet iconic cocktail. The ingredients are rum, cola, and a squeeze of lime juice. Despite its simplicity, it's a drink that carries a sense of history and rebellion, famously associated with the phrase "¡Por Cuba libre!" ("For a free Cuba!") during the War of Independence.

As we conclude our journey through Latine mixology, it’s important to remember that these drinks not only quench our thirst but also embody the essence of their respective cultures. They carry stories of celebration, of community, and of life in their native countries. Embrace your Latina roots or show your appreciation for Latin American culture by exploring these traditional drinks. And remember, always enjoy responsibly. Salud!

In the realm of interior design, the touch of Latine artisans has added a vibrancy that's both timeless and refreshing. Let’s go on a journey through the works of some iconic Latina designers, each bringing her unique flair to the table:

Stephanie Watkins

www.instagram.com

The creative spirit behind Casa Watkins Living, Stephanie's platform has blossomed into an eclectic mix of design studios, décor blogs, and DIY sanctuaries. Stephanie's signature "glo-bo" style—a captivating dance of global influences with a modern farmhouse undertone—is something to behold. Dive into her universe through the Casa Watkins Living website and accompanying Instagram page.

Monica Benavidez

www.instagram.com

Monica’s mission is simple yet profound: empower others to realize the beauty within their own spaces. On her blog, Monica Wants It, she navigates the world of interiors, touching upon bold palettes, modern twists, and ethereal floral motifs. Her designs are but a click away on Instagram!

Maca Atencio

www.instagram.com

Maca Atencio, the vibrant soul behind the renowned Hey Maca, hails from Venezuela and now enriches Montreal with her interior design and DIY expertise. With her distinctive flair for blending pastel shades with chic designs, her spaces, be it a sophisticated sitting area or a functional yet artistic office, exude elegance.

Mary Liz

www.instagram.com

Mary, a Puerto Rican jewel in the design world, seamlessly merges contemporary aesthetics with heartfelt DIY endeavors via Casa Chic Designs. Her spaces evoke a calmness intertwined with rustic whispers and coastal tales. A special nod to her children’s rooms—a serene blend of comfort and style. Find inspiration and more on the Casa Chic Pinterest board.

These Latine mavens offer more than just design—they share stories, histories, and cultures. Their diverse backgrounds and unique design sensibilities make them not just artists but storytellers, deserving of a prominent bookmark in your design journey.

Leading Latina astrologist Jasmin Alejandrez-Prasad, better known as Esoteric Esa, is dropping a new affirmation deck, and her efforts to decolonize brujería are more focused than ever. The goal of the “Malas Palabras” affirmation deck is to empower Latinas to embrace taboo thoughts and all those “bad words” that we’re discouraged from saying or have been downright shamed for speaking.


Affirmation decks are cards that feature an uplighting or empowering sentence to encourage meditation and reflection. For many brujas and spiritual Latinas, affirmation decks are an important daily ritual and meditation practice.

Many people report that working with affirmation decks offers a quick boost of motivation, allowing you to tap into that chingona energy within. They encourage reflection and also offer a message that resonates within you, allowing you to integrate it into your thoughts and actions. More often than not, affirmation decks are focused on self-love, personal growth, emotional well-being, and more.

Esoteric Esa is taking a different approach, providing intentional affirmations that reframe dirty language into expressions of empowerment and anti-colonial resistance. The “Malas Palabras” affirmation deck contains 30 cards that explore themes like ancestral healing, sexual liberation, shadow work, and abundance mindset.

Luz got in touch with Esoteric Esa via email about her motivation behind the deck, and she shared, “I created this deck to remind those who are on their decolonial spiritual and healing journey that the process can be lighthearted. Oftentimes, we look at decolonial work and healing as very serious or intensive, which it is at times. However, it's also okay to own your darkness because those sides of our identities serve a purpose as well. I want us to understand the power of our words, and how even bad words or phrases with negative stigma can be used for a high vibrational purpose when manifesting.”

The fact is that when you have been silenced or told to watch your words enough times, censoring yourself becomes second nature. This affirmation deck says “To hell with that!” and it invites you to hold space for yourself, speak your truth without filter, and manifest in a way that’s authentic to you. Enough of bending yourself into shapes you’re not meant to be in.

With the “Malas Palabras” affirmation deck, Esoteric Esa reminds you of a simple truth: your words are your power, and they are self-induced spells, so you should be using them to craft your own empowering narrative. This deck is a guide to do exactly that while transforming language for decolonial power.

If you’ve been hesitant to step into your bruja self, know that that’s colonization at work. To break from that, it’s important to honor ancestral traditions and practice your spirituality to connect with the universal consciousness, which is a distinct source of power. Embracing brujería with this perspective can guide you with greater purpose and help you dismantle the internalized biases that keep you away from beneficial practices.

The “Malas Palabras” affirmation deck is a great way to either dip your toes into or further your spiritual practice. Instead of denying taboo thoughts and shying away from bad words, this deck will help you embrace them and their power to become the baddie you know you should be.

Moreover, supporting a spiritual creator of color that truly represents your cultural background and identity is an additional important aspect. New Age decks made by white creators, whether that’s tarot or affirmations, completely ignore the nuances of our experiences as Latinos.

As Esoteric Esa puts it, “I wanted to create a place of intersectionality for the mixed Latines and those who have a lot of shame for not being ‘enough’ when it comes to the approval of Latinidad. This deck is rooted in smearing perfectionism, which is something I find often in New Age and White spiritual spaces.” She went on to emphasize that she intentionally incorporated Spanglish as an acknowledgment that not all Latinos are completely bilingual.

By prioritizing decks created by people of color, we not only support diverse voices within the spiritual community but also affirm the validity of our own cultural narratives. We reclaim our agency in shaping the spiritual landscape, ensuring that our stories, words, symbols, and traditions are honored and celebrated in their truest form.

When asked what she wants people to gain from this deck, she said, “Those who work with them will learn how to embody their energy from an authentically unapologetic mindset even further. That's a very powerful place to manifest from, and incorporating these cards will help many rework through guilt and shame from Patriarchal colonial harm by exploring taboo topics from religious sexual oppression to mental health. The community can expect a fun and quirky introspective approach when integrating these into their spiritual practice. Especially since each card offers a tip as a journal prompt exercise to work with the power of the phrases more intimately.”

In the space of spiritualism and brujería, Esoteric Esa is one of the most respected voices in our community. She publishes in and contributes to major national outlets, including Cosmopolitan, PopSugar, Refinery29, and Bustle, among others. This new product reflects her values and core mission, which is to decolonize brujería and help Latinas shift their mindset for unapologetic, authentic transformation.

“Malas Palabras” Affirmation Deck

Esoteric Esa

If you’re ready to speak the unthinkable, you can find the “Malas Palabras” affirmation deck here, ready for pre-order.

Esoteric Esa “Malas Palabras” Affirmation Deck
$44.44
Luz Media

Ready to step up your game night with some Latino creativity? If you're tired of the same old games and looking to add a little cultura to your gathering, we've got you covered. We put together the best board games created by Latinos that are sure to bring laughter and competition to your party.

Grab your amigos, your favorite snacks, and dive into the world of Latino-inspired board games.

Get Loud: A Bilingual Guessing Game That Gets the Party Pumping

https://tragosgame.com/products/get-loud-english-spanish-word-game

If you're looking to turn up the volume and get everyone involved, Get Loud is the game for you. This competitive bilingual guessing game is a blend of Taboo and charades, pero with a Latino twist. It's available in both English and Spanish, making it perfect for sharing la cultura with friends of all backgrounds.

From national dishes to celebrities, this game covers it all. Whether you're acting out words or describing them, you'll be laughing and cheering as you race against the clock. So, gather your crew, get those vocal cords ready, and let the guessing game begin.

Get Loud: Bilingual Guessing Word Game
$39.99
$30.00

Millennial Lotería: Revamped Traditions for a New Generation

https://millennialloteria.com/

First up, we've got a game that's like Lotería's cool younger cousin – Millennial Lotería. This modern twist on the classic "Mexican Bingo" brings the nostalgia of Lotería but with a millennial twist. Say goodbye to boring numbers, and say hello to images and words like "la student debt" and "el brunch." It's a party game that pays homage to Latino culture while keeping it fresh for the new generation.

Created by the talented Mike Alfaro, this game is a celebration of both tradition and modernity. And let's be real, who wouldn't want to yell "Yaaaaasssssssssss, Millennial Lotería!" when they win? So, order it online, porque, you know, millennials and their online shopping.
Millennial Lotería
$24.95
$24.95

Tragos: Cheers to Shared Traditions and Unforgettable Nights

https://tragosgame.com/

Now, let's raise our glasses to Tragos, the ultimate party game that's made for Latinos, by Latinos. This game taps into the cultural bonds that unite us and turns them into a night of laughter and camaraderie. Think of it as a drinking game that's packed with Latino references, dares, trivia, and more. The rules are simple – pick a card, follow the instructions, and let the fun flow

Whether you're challenging your amigos to a drinking duel or sharing some puro fun with a trivia round, Tragos guarantees a night to remember. Created by Carolina Acosta and John Lim, this game is all about celebrating our roots while making new memories. Order it now!

Tragos: The Party Game para Latinos
$18.99
$18.99

Amigas Circle: Real Talk with Your Girl Squad

https://weallgrowlatina.com/

Let's switch gears to something a bit more chill but equally amazing – Amigas Circles. Think of it as your perfect excuse to gather the squad, whether it’s for a cozy night in or a lazy afternoon hangout. These cards are packed with questions that touch on everything from your wildest dreams to those oh-so-relatable Latina experiences, all courtesy of We All Grow Latina.

So, next time you and your amigas are looking for something to do, forget the usual Netflix binge and dive into Amigas Circles instead. It’s about getting real, laughing till your stomach hurts, and maybe even shedding a tear or two. Because at the end of the day, it’s those moments of genuine connection that you’ll remember the most. Get yours here.

Amigas Circle: Conversation Cards
$44.00
$44.00

Latino Card Revoked: A Hilarious Tribute to Latino Culture

https://cardsforallpeople.com/collections/latino-card-revoked

Last but not least, we've got Latino Card Revoked, a trivia game that's as hilarious as it is informative. Created by comedians Glorelys Mora and Tori Pool, this game is a test of your Latino knowledge. If you can't answer the questions, you might just need your Latino card revoked!

It's a light-hearted way to learn more about our diverse culture while sharing plenty of laughs. With questions that cover everything from Latino history to pop culture, this game is a reminder that our stories and experiences are worth celebrating. Get yours here!

Latino Card Revoked
$21.99
$21.99

Preguntas Bilingual Conversation: Heartfelt Convos, Bilingual Style.

https://hijadetumadre.com/

Alright, amigas, get ready for Preguntas, the card game that’s like the heart-to-heart you didn’t know you needed, mixed with all the flavor of our bilingual lives.

Crafted with love by the brains at Hijas De Tu Madre, Preguntas offers a mix of questions that’ll have you sharing stories, debating dilemmas, and laughing over memories in both English and Spanish. It’s the perfect way to bridge generations, cultures, and amigos who might not share the same first language but definitely share the same sense of humor.

Preguntas is your go-to for a night filled with laughter and a few "I can’t believe you just said that" moments. Pick up your deck and let the questions lead the way to deeper connections.

Preguntas: A Bilingual Conversation Game
$39.00
$39.00

These board games are more than just a way to pass the time – they're a celebration of our cultura, our traditions, and the joy of coming together. Let the games begin!

Leonard Nadel, 1956, National Museum of American History.
[Illustrated portion of design imagined with AI by Luz Media editorial staff]

The United States is a country built on immigration, and for generations, people from all over the world have come to its shores in search of a better life. However, the journey was riddled with danger and humiliation for Mexicans entering the U.S. in the early 20th century to work under federal work programs.

One demeaning and dangerous process required by the U.S. health authorities used highly flammable and toxic chemicals including kerosene to "delouse" Mexican workers entering the United States, subjecting them to degrading strip searches and dangerous procedures on a daily basis.

Tensions started when El Paso mayor Thomas Calloway Lea Jr. requested a quarantine be put in place to prevent the spread of typhus allegedly by "dirty, lousey, destitute Mexicans" coming into El Paso from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. This led to U.S. authorities implementing a process for sanitizing Mexican immigrants at a “disinfecting station” in El Paso, a practice that would eventually extend throughout the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

According to reports, men and women were placed in separate disinfecting facilities where they were stripped of all their clothing and valuables. Their possessions were then steamed and treated with toxic cyanogen gas, while the people themselves were scrutinized for lice.

Mexican male workers in the Bracero Program undergoing a routine health inspection while nude.Carlos Marentes, Proyecto Bracero Archives, Centro de Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos, El Paso

If a man were found to have lice, his hair would be shaved close to his scalp. Women's hair would be immersed in a blend of vinegar and highly flammable kerosene, covered with a towel, and allowed to sit for at least 30 minutes. After the lice inspection, people were gathered in a shower area and sprayed with a liquid made from soap chips and kerosene oil. After collecting their disinfected garments, they received a vaccination and were issued a certificate indicating their completion of the process.

Keep in mind that these were workers employed in El Paso, meaning they had to undergo this procedure almost every day, potentially leading to a buildup of highly toxic chemicals in their bodies. Furthermore, rumors that the border patrol officers supervising the searches took nude photos of women and shared them at local bars quickly began to spread.

State border plant inspection maintained by the USDA between Mexico and the United States. Shoppers returning from Mexico (Juarez) to the United States (El Paso) over the bridge which carries all the traffic are required to open their packages for inspection, June 1937. Library of Congress

One January morning in 1917, a brave 17-year-old Mexican woman named Carmelita Torres would lead what is now known as the 1917 Bath Riots. Working as a maid in the United States, Carmelita had heard that nude women were being photographed while in the baths, and that bathers were at risk of catching fire due to the flammable substances used in the baths.

Concerned for her health and safety and outraged by the inhumane treatment, she refused to comply with demands by inspectors to disembark from the trolley she was riding to work and submit to the humiliating disinfection process.

Upon her arrival, she asked to be granted entrance without undergoing bathing. After her request was denied, she proceeded to shout at the authorities and persuaded other women to support her in her demonstration.

Within an hour, more than 200 women had blocked the entrance to El Paso, throwing rocks at officers as they attempted to break up the protest. Most of the early protesters were young women employed as domestic workers in homes in El Paso. But soon, the crowd grew to several thousand people demanding to be treated with dignity.

The Bath Riots headline an El Paso newspaper on January 29, 1917. The report describes Carmelita as an “auburn-haired amazon.” https://texashistory.unt.edu/

Within three days, the agitation had eventually subsided, but the sterilization of Mexicans at the United States border would persist for decades to come.

Carmelita's story, deemed as the "Latina Rosa Parks" by some, seemed to be forgotten by history once she was detained and subsequently went missing. Her destiny remains shrouded in mystery to this day, with no concrete knowledge of what really happened to her.

Nevertheless, her legacy endures. The migrant residence located on the other side of the Stanton Street Bridge in El Paso, known as “Casa Carmelita,” was named in her honor. In his book “A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son,” Sergio Troncoso composed a short story titled "Carmelita Torres," part of a sequence of interrelated short stories about immigration.

The narrative explores hypothetical scenarios in her life and underscores the reasons why she should be remembered by scholars and readers for generations. David Dorado Romo's impactful book, "Ringside Seat to a Revolution," was published in 2006, reigniting public interest in the Bath Riots story.

Mexican male workers in the Bracero Program being doused with chemicals while undergoing a routine sanitization.Photography by Leonard Nadel, 1956, National Museum of American History.

Still, the fight for equality was far from over. Dangerous and humiliating policies, like the fumigation process, continued to be enforced until the late 1950s. Even the Bracero Program, which brought Mexican workers to the U.S. to work in agriculture and other industries, was plagued by countless abuses and violations of workers' rights.

The history of mistreatment and discrimination against Mexican guest workers at the U.S. border left a lasting impact on their health and well-being. Yet, the 1917 Bath Riots unveiled the appalling mistreatment of Mexican laborers at the United States border and the unjust practices of American officials.

The protests prompted a movement for workers' rights and kindled future activism in the Mexican-American community.

But in the face of such adversity, one individual stood out. Carmelita's courage and determination in the face of oppression serve as a testament to the resilience of marginalized communities and the power of collective action. Her legacy is a reminder of the importance of fighting for justice and human rights and the ongoing struggle for equality in our society.

Luz Media

Maria Sabina Magdalena García, a native Mazatec healer and shaman from Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca, Mexico, was a remarkable woman whose life and teachings left an indelible mark on the Western world. Her practices centered on the use of Psilocybin mushrooms, a genus of psychedelic mushrooms, for spiritual and healing rituals, which have had a profound influence on the modern study and perception of psychedelic substances in Western medicine and culture.

Maria Sabina was born into a poor family in the Mazatec region of Mexico, where indigenous customs and traditions were central to life. Growing up in a family of healers, Sabina and her sister were introduced to the ritual use of psilocybin mushrooms (known locally as "little saints") when they were only six or seven years old. The sisters would collect these mushrooms and use them as a form of spiritual communication and healing. Sabina, who felt a special connection with these "holy children," went on to become a curandera.

The term “curandera” refers to a traditional Latin American healer who practices curanderismo, a holistic healing approach that blends elements of indigenous belief systems, herbalism, and spirituality. Curanderos or curanderas, depending on gender, are recognized in their communities as having the ability to diagnose and treat a range of conditions, both physical and spiritual. Their practices often involve prayer, rituals, herbal remedies, and energy work.

They act as intermediaries, accessing supernatural elements to aid in the healing process. The role of a curandera, like Maria Sabina, often goes beyond physical healing, as they are also revered as spiritual counselors and community leaders.

Image of a curandera performing a cleansing ritual in Huautla de Jiménez


How did Maria Sabina become well known? 

Maria Sabina came to international prominence when R. Gordon Wasson, a vice president of J.P. Morgan & Co. and amateur mycologist, along with his wife Valentina Pavlovna, visited her in the 1950s. Wasson and his wife participated in a velada, an all-night healing ceremony, where Sabina used psilocybin mushrooms as part of her rituals. This experience had a profound effect on Wasson, leading him to write an article about it in "Life" magazine in 1957 titled "Seeking the Magic Mushroom."

This article drew widespread attention and put both Maria Sabina and the ritual use of psychedelic mushrooms on the map for Western audiences. It is often credited as the spark that ignited the psychedelic movement of the 1960s. People began to flock to Huautla de Jiménez to experience the psychedelic rituals firsthand.

Timothy Leary, an American psychologist and author recognized for his fervent endorsement of psychedelic drugs, was among the notable figures who sought out Maria Sabina's healing rituals. Richard Alpert, another American psychologist, and writer, better known as Ram Dass, was equally intrigued by Wasson's accounts and made the journey to experience Sabina's ceremonies firsthand.

Legendary musician John Lennon is also reported to have visited Sabina during the Beatles' psychedelic phase. Bob Dylan, a renowned icon in folk and rock music, is believed to have made a similar pilgrimage to Huautla de Jiménez.

These famous visitors underscore Sabina's widespread influence, reaching beyond the realm of science and medicine and extending into the arts and popular culture. However, this influx of notable personalities and the attention they drew both elevated Sabina's status and contributed to the social and cultural disturbances she later faced.

While Maria Sabina was initially vilified and ostracized by her own community for sharing sacred rituals with "outsiders," her influence and teachings eventually permeated Western culture. Her spiritual application of psilocybin mushrooms instigated a paradigm shift, fostering the birth of a broader psychedelic movement in the West.

Perhaps her most significant contribution, however, lies in the impact she had on Western medicine. Prompted by the curiosity ignited by Wasson's article, rigorous scientific research commenced into psilocybin and other psychedelic substances, marking a pivotal shift in their perception and potential therapeutic applications.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/

In the years since, Western medicine has slowly been reintegrating psychedelics into its fold. Institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, Imperial College London, and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) have conducted and published a range of studies investigating the therapeutic potential of psilocybin and other psychedelics for conditions such as depression, PTSD, and end-of-life anxiety. Maria Sabina, perhaps unknowingly, created a bridge between the traditional use of psychedelics and modern medicine's recognition of their potential therapeutic value.

Yet, despite her invaluable contributions to the world, Maria Sabina's life came to an end on November 23, 1985, at the age of 91, in her hometown of Huautla de Jiménez, where she died in poverty and suffering from malnutrition. Years later, her great-grandson would request the exhumation of her remains from the town’s municipal cemetery to give her a proper burial worthy of one of the most famous healers in the world. As reported by The Yucatan Times, Sabina’s great grand-son Bernardino García requested:

"That the name of my great-grandmother be given the attention it deserves, a true museum worthy of her; the paving of the road that leads to her house, which is now completely abandoned.”

Through the years, her fame brought a wave of Westerners, including celebrities and hippies, to her humble town, leading to a disruption of local life and an erosion of sacred traditions. This, at the time, led to resentment among her own community, which, coupled with the Mexican government's crackdown on the use of psychedelic substances, led to hardship and persecution for Sabina.

In her later years, she reportedly expressed regret for having shared the sacred rituals with outsiders. Nowadays, she is regarded as a legend, leaving behind a legacy of profound influence on the global perception and study of psychedelic substances. Despite the trials she faced, Maria Sabina is remembered today as a pioneering figure in the world of spiritual healing and psychedelic research.

Her legacy serves as a reminder of the profound wisdom indigenous cultures can offer the world.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/

This reporting was produced in partnership with the Northeast Valley Health Corporation.

The Latino community is dealing with a mountain of healthcare issues and has been for a long time. Sexual health has been an ongoing issue of concern for the Latino population, especially Latinas, who have historically experienced high incidence rates related to STDs.

The Latino community is the largest community of color in the United States, with 62.1 million people, according to the last 2020 U.S. census. It comes as no surprise that Latinos’ quality of overall health, just like every community, is impacted by social determinants of health. This is the holistic understanding that health is impacted by the environments in which people live, directly affecting their access to health care, green spaces, healthy air and clean water, health and sex education, and quality living conditions.

We can see these disparities in our communities, which are reflected in our health statistics. For example, the study “HIV Susceptibility Among Hispanic Women in South Florida,” published in 2010, found that HIV/AIDS rates were 3.5 times higher for Latinos than for whites. The entire Latino community is at greater risk of contracting STDs, and Latinas are particularly impacted due to a lack of access to healthcare and sexual education, but also because of the stigmas surrounding sexual health.

Latino machista and marianista culture often adds an additional layer of stigma to women’s sexual behavior. One of the best ways to destigmatize sexual health within the Latino community is through education.

Contrary to what is often implied or taught, STDs are not only preventable, but they are also easily cured more often than not. Ignoring the reality of sexual prevention and health won’t make them go away, but taking charge of your sexual life will very likely keep them away.

What Are STDs?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are infections that get passed from one person to another during sex. The terms are used interchangeably, but we’ll stick with “STDs” throughout for the sake of clarity. STDs are usually contracted during unprotected vaginal, anal, or even oral sex.

However, STDs can also be contracted through other kinds of contact involving the mouth, vagina, penis, or anus that doesn’t necessarily involve what one considers the “act of sex.” For example, that’s the case for infections such as herpes or Human Papillomavirus (HPV) because they spread through contact alone, which means any transfer of bodily fluids such as saliva can spread the infection.

It’s also possible to get STDs through sharing needles or blood transfusions. Some STDs can even be passed down to babies during pregnancy, at the moment of birth, or through breastfeeding. In fact, from 2016 to 2020, syphilis passed on to newborns increased by 235%.

The truth is that STDs are common, but they’re preventable. They’re also treatable, especially if caught early, which is where STD testing comes in. This is particularly important for Latinas because they have a much higher risk of contracting STDs. Sexually transmitted diseases are an epidemic in the Latino community, and most of the newly infected are female.


Latinas at High Risk for STDs. Why?

One thing about STDs is that not all of them have symptoms. As a result, they often go unnoticed. This is precisely why regular STD testing is such an essential part of practicing sexual health.

Every sexually active person must prioritize regular testing, even if safe sex practices are followed. It’s the best way to protect yourself and your partner or partners against the risk of potential STDs.

The reality for Latinos is that regular STD testing is often easier said than done. Many factors contribute to that and pose obstacles, but there are also ways to overcome these obstacles.

1. Lack of Accessibility to Healthcare

According to a survey published in the “Journal of Vincentian Social Action,” most participants (Latinas between 18 and 45 years old who lived in their native country for at least 14 years) got tested for STDs after their primary care doctor suggested it. This indicates that regular access to a doctor is essential.

Unfortunately, many Latinos don’t have health insurance. According to the Office of Health Policy, Latinos are less likely than whites to get insurance through their job. In 2022, Statista reported that 21% of the Latino population didn’t have health insurance.

Medicaid expansions have benefited the community, but not all states have adopted them, including Texas, where 40.2% of the population is Latino, and at least 19.4% of them live below the poverty line. But other states, like California, did the opposite and have continuously expanded access to Medicaid. Anyone between the ages of 26 and 65 can access Medicaid regardless of immigration status and receive medical care at community health centers like Northeast Valley Health Corporation.

These community health centers also see patients regardless of income, which is a huge help. Affordability is often an issue, and many Latinos don’t know that their healthcare could be low-cost or even no-cost. Given that too many Latinas who are sexually active are without health insurance, options like these health centers could be easily discoverable with an internet search.


2. Lack of Sexual Health Education

Just as the Latino community lacks access to healthcare services, they also lack access to sexual health education. Primary care doctors play an important role in that education, so having little to no access to them is already a factor. While 95% of participants in the aforementioned survey claimed to have some knowledge about STDs, their sources of information regarding sexual health were often not very reliable, informative, or educational.

Most participants obtained knowledge at school by talking to teachers and other students or through sexual education classes, which were often inadequate. They also received information from their mothers and family members, who often lacked sexual health education in their home countries.

The lack of educational resources leads to sometimes very severe misunderstanding of sexual health among most Latinas. According to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Latino youths are less likely than white youths to get educated about STD prevention or safe sex before becoming sexually active.


3. Stigma Around STDs

The stigma around STDs runs deep in society, so it affects every community. However, the Latino community is disproportionately affected for other reasons discussed above. The same survey we’ve been discussing showed that fear of what people may think is another factor that keeps Latinas from getting tested. The stigma is often tied to a lack of education about STDs, the terminology used around them, and common misconceptions. It’s also often linked to religious beliefs, politics, and family dynamics.

For example, a lot of people don’t know that STDs are treatable and that most require very simple treatment, especially if they’re diagnosed early. When it comes to misconceptions, a lot of people believe promiscuity is the main factor. In truth, it only takes one sexual partner.

Marital status or being in a committed monogamous relationship also has nothing to do with it. Discovering an STD doesn’t necessarily mean someone cheated in the relationship. This could be due to a long-standing infection that was never diagnosed or was symptom-free.

It’s also possible for an STD treatment to fail, erasing the symptoms but not the infection itself. The point is that whether single, married, or in a committed relationship, regular STD testing should be part of maintaining good sexual health. Getting tested while married or in a relationship is just a part of proper health care.

The stigma around STDs is also tightly linked to the language. People who contract them are labeled as “dirty,” and people who don’t are considered “clean.” Not to mention the jokes people often make about “damaged goods” and other shaming insinuations.

If you’re feeling empowered about it, talk about safe sex, prevention, and testing in everyday regular conversations because it is, indeed, very normal. But if not, it’s helpful to know that getting access to preventative support like condoms and PrEP or STD testing and treatment is often a private click away.

Community health centers, like Northeast Valley Health Corporation, often allow easy scheduling right from the privacy of your computer or mobile screen. For example, Los Angeles County residents can easily make an appointment online, and no one has to know about it.


Latinas Can Take Charge of Their Health

While STDs affect individuals regardless of ethnicity or background, Latinas bear a disproportionate burden.

From HIV to chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, STDs present a significant public health challenge made worse by the silent nature of many infections, the lack of accessible testing and treatment options, the stigma and shame, and the misunderstanding of sexual health.

However, it's important to note that STDs can be prevented and treated and that Latinas have the power to change the conversation around STDs in the Latino community. More and more research shows that Latinas are known influencers for their family, friends, and community. They can take charge and spread awareness about STDs, prioritize sexual health, as well as share information on resources like free STD testing.