The 7 deadly sins holding Latinos back
Growing up, I heard the numbers and statistics, it’s no secret that Latinos struggle financially when compared to other races, particularly whites and Asians. There have been many books written about it, and many more could be written. This could be looked at from a sociological, economical, political and anthropological perspective in an INFINITE NUMBER OF ANGLES.
I will focus on discussing individual choices in relationship to culture. I will do this for one simple reason: THIS IS THE AREA THAT YOU CAN CHANGE IMMEDIATELY.
Unlike fixing an economy, clearing corruption or changing an entire culture, which can take generations, changing your mentality and rejecting self-defeating beliefs from the bottom up can happen as quickly or as slow as you want to.
The following are the some of the main societal constructs and cultural shortcomings that I see (and had to escape.) which are keeping the Latino community from reaching its true potential.
1. Poor money management culture
Income inequality and poverty are EXTREMELY prevalent in most Latin American countries. For those of you who talk about income inequality in the US, imagine that multiplied 10X along with significantly less technology and resources we take for granted.
As a result, wealth and social status carry even more weight than in the US. THIS PROMPTS MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT RICH TO PRETEND THEY ARE. This begins a debt cycle that keeps many from getting out.
It is not common to see people take out 60-month+ loans for a brand-new iPhone (not kidding.) when they can’t even afford to get out of the “barrio bravo”.
(I will do a longer post on this soon.)
2. Satanizing success
It’s common for some working-class Latinos here in America and in their home countries (based on my experience in Mexico.) to hold a weird “us vs. them” contempt with Americans, particularly more affluent American whites.
Some even create stories in their head about a battle between the “poor, working-class people like us” and the “greedy rich Gringos.” This results in people mentally boxing themselves into that role: The role of a poor, working-class person living from paycheck to paycheck.
When someone in the tribe breaks out of that box, there is resistance (it can go from subtle teases to absolute rejection.)
-When I ditched the cargo shorts and AF graphic tees for a classier look sprinkled with some designer items, I was told I “dress white”.
-When I learned the language and began using more advanced vocabulary instead of my initial Spanglish, some mentioned I “sounded white”.
-When I went from minimum-wage and broke in college and HS to making significantly more than many of my peers, I was told: “I am becoming white”.
To be fair, I have known many of the mentioned friends for years and they have been supportive overall, it was said “jokingly”.
Having said that, it highlights a deeper issue regarding a flawed thought process:
Dressing well= white
Speaking eloquent English= white
Making good money= white
This mentality implies that success as a whole is for whites and not Latinos. It discourages them from chasing success because deep down they feel “success is not for me.” As a result, many never even try to improve their situation and make moves, remaining in a never-ending hamster wheel.
3. Lack of role models
Ties closely with the previous point. As mentioned in the previous point, this is significantly more prevalent in working-class circles.
(I used to go to a private school in Mexico with many kids coming from affluent families, financial success was all that was known in those circles. it was assumed.)
Latin media glorifies soccer stars, music stars, etc.
As a result, many kids grow up wanting to be a superstar like Messi or a rapper like Daddy Yankee. Not surprisingly, few make it. When they come to reality, their world seems cloud. A very similar phenomenon to the way many blacks in poverty see sports or rapping as their only hope of getting out of the hood.
All they know is poverty and labor. Not even mentioning that many lack a positive male or female figure in their life, making them feel defenseless initially.
Even in cases where both parents are present, the parents are typically stuck in a rut themselves. They have no advice to offer to their children since they are stuck themselves.
There are typically 2 paths:
1. Some see the BS and WORK DESPERATELY TO GET OUT, whether it be through putting their head down and landing an academic scholarship, working a trade, starting a business, etc. (The path my family took to escape poverty.)
2. They simply get used to their surroundings and “ACCEPT IT”, giving up any dreams of success, just hoping to hang on in the case of any illness, economic crisis, etc.
Sadly many choose option 2.
4. Poor family planning
(DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT ADVOCATING AGAINST HAVING A FAMILY OR PROMOTING NEGLECTING FAMILY.)
It is a well-known stereotype that Latinos are VERY family oriented. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE:
-It is very common for parents to sacrifice everything for their children
-It is very common for adults to take care of their elders, allowing them to move in as needed.
THOSE ARE GOOD THINGS!
The problem is that it is common for people to NEGLECT THEIR CAREER AND FINANCES IN THE PROCESS. One of the main issues being teenage pregnancy.
The global teen pregnancy rate (girls aged 15-19) is 46/1000. Latin American has the second-highest rate worldwide at 66.5/1000, second only to Sub-Saharan Africa (Source at bottom) Often, the girls becoming pregnant come from working-class backgrounds, adding another mouth to feed to an already struggling household.
Having children is a beautiful thing, however, having them when you are not financially prepared, will create more stress. Not to mention that you won’t be able to provide resources for your children to face the world. Fix your finances, set goals with your spouse and once you get to the point where you have some surplus money to feed extra mouths, bring children into the picture.
5. Choosing entertainment over education
I will say this is a common theme in America too. However, when you considering the harsher realities of the Latin American job markets and poverty, the consequences are direr.
People are gradually getting more access to technology, which has yielded a lot of benefits. When I was in primary school, having a cell phone was RARE, it was like having a Mercedez in HS, even in private schools. Now even the poor find ways to buy old computers or smartphones (ex. hand-me-down androids.) However, 99% of their use consists of hitting on girls through WhatsApp, sharing memes on FB, watching Telenovelas on Netflix or streaming soccer.
Imagine If they exploited the Terabytes of FREE knowledge out there to improve their conditions. For instance, during my Junior summer internship, I hit a lull and worked on a free Google Analytics certification, which got the attention of the recruiter that gave me my 1st job offer out of college.
SILVER LINING: This is the one sin I see people catching on slowly but surely.
6. Lack of “killer instinct”
I have met many people who were TALENTED. They had nothing to envy from people in the magazines of their respective fields. However, their bank account didn’t reflect it. I have family members who do a GREAT job in their field, however, they lack the vision to find the dollars.
They escaped poverty, got settled in a cushy upper-middle class job where they were VERY GOOD PERFORMERS, but they never took that extra step to create real wealth (Creating a side business, creating a wealthy network, etc.) This kind of ties back to the lack of role models. They never saw the possibilities to grow even more, so they decided to “cash out” so to speak instead of pushing more.
Think of the talented lawyer who pulls in $150k in a tier 2 city (Dallas, Jacksonville, etc.) who managed to escape poverty, but doesn’t have the hunger to push for partner or to start his own law firm.
Generally speaking, their risk of falling into poverty is not high, but they will be SWEATING every time there is a crisis because they are RELATIVELY exposed.
7. Confusing lack of confidence for “humility”
Humility is not a bad trait to have, in fact, it’s great. The problem is that being confident is often perceived by unsuccessful people as lacking humility.
Sadly, we see this a lot in Latino culture. Many families grow up used to poverty and the environment that comes with it. Unfortunately, some people create an erroneous sense of righteousness around poverty.
(DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT SAYING POOR PEOPLE ARE WORTH ANY LESS. I AM SAYING THERE IS NOTHING TO BE PROUD OF ABOUT THE HABITS THAT LEAD TO POVERTY AND POVERTY ITSELF.)
The problem becomes apparent when someone is on the rise. There are a lot of talented people born into poverty who seize opportunities daily to move up. As they go from success to success, it’s natural for their confidence to soar and for them to realize their potential.
This is where resistance comes in. The people I describe will want a paycheck that goes with their talent, a lifestyle that goes with their talent, and will not settle for anything less. It’s not uncommon for family or coworkers to “recommend” them to “just be thankful for what they have” and “don’t let greed blind them”.
This is problematic.
Yes, we should be thankful for what we have, but at the same time, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF.
You are not robbing or abusing anyone by demanding to be paid according to your performance.
You are not “out of touch” If you refuse to frequent that sketchy bar you went when you were broke and go to upscale lounges instead.
You are merely living life on your own terms.
As long as you don’t forget those who helped get to where you are, and you treat others with respect, carry on confidently.
Those are big-picture concepts. Obviously, books could be written about these issues, analyzed from angles that are beyond the scope of this blog.
If there is a takeaway I want you to get out of it is this:
-They involve deeply-rooted mental constructs. The sooner you break them down, the better off you will be.
-Unlike change that takes years to happen, these ideas can be applied TODAY If you want to.
-The repeating theme here is the lack of ownership over your life, allowing your decisions to be dictated by what the norm is. This won’t cut it. A champion, by definition, has to go beyond the norm.
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