“For me it is a form of spiritual healing,” she says. “A way to connect with my indigenous roots as well as preserve ancient traditions. It’s a form of prayer and ceremony that really helps me cope with all of the things that I face in my life.”
Author Claudia Kolker took a closer look at such cultural practices for her 2011 book, The Immigrant Advantage. Her book examines why immigrants are often healthier than native-born Americans—a question that continues to be explored. Some credit this perplexing phenomenon to the idea that immigrants must be healthy to migrate. Kolker’s research shows its connection to customs like Danza Azteca: close community bonds, traditional foods, and la cuarentena, a Latin American tradition in which a new mother rests for the first 40 days after giving birth, not lifting a finger except to breastfeed and bond with her child. Kolker also has a hunch that a lack of smoking is a factor, and other researchers agree.
But these findings not only show an immigrant advantage; they present a paradox, too.
Recently arrived immigrants, especially Hispanics, experience nearly double the poverty rate of the U.S.-born population. Despite their economic situation and lack of health insurance, Hispanics tend to live longer than both black and white males and females: about three years more than whites and six years more than blacks. However, they still have higher death rates when it comes to diabetes, cirrhosis, and hypertension.