2004 Special Issue on Hispanics

The great melting pot that is the United States took on a distinctly Latin flavor in 2003, when the Census Bureau released new figures that showed that Hispanics had become the nation’s largest minority group. Although the announcement marked a historic moment for the country, the U.S. Latino population had been growing substantially for decades—and with it, so had the attention of social scientists interested in the sexual and reproductive health of this important demographic group. To highlight some of the current research on the subject, Perspectives published a special issue on Hispanics in 2004, which included four articles that together covered a diverse range of topics.

For example, Stephen Russell and colleagues interviewed practitioners working with California-based pregnancy prevention programs for Hispanic teenagers to examine their views regarding cultural sensitivity recommendations for such programs. The researchers found that according to the practitioners, cultural sensitivity goes beyond just having Spanish-speaking staff, to also include “understanding youth culture and language, sharing experiences, being a role model and having an awareness of Hispanic cultures and acculturation.” However, they also found that to a certain extent, pregnancy prevention programs seemed to be at odds with the high value that traditional Latino culture puts on motherhood.

And Emilio Parrado et al. surveyed a sample of male, foreign-born Hispanic migrants in Durham, North Carolina, and found that more than a quarter had used the services of a commercial sex worker in the previous year. Compared with single men, married men living apart from their spouse were just as likely to have recently visited a sex worker, but married men living with their spouse were less likely to have done so. In addition, the longer men lived in Durham, the lower their odds of having visited a sex worker in the past year. Together, the findings suggest that HIV prevention programs for Latino migrants may need to consider the social context—e.g., isolation and loneliness—in which such men live.

Cover illustrations of Margaret Sanger © Matthew and Eve Levine