I’ve Spent My Whole Life Coming To Terms With The Fact That My Father’s Military Service Caused My Disability

The months of October and November bring a lot of emotions for me. October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month and November is my father and mine’s birth month along with Veterans Day. All these important celebrations may seem like they don’t connect but they all explain who I am and why during this time of the year, I tend to struggle with my identities. 

To understand it all, we need to start with my father and Veteran’s Day.

Photo Courtesy of Andrea Lausell

My dad was born November 1, 1945, in Bayamón, Puerto Rico and grew up in Lower East Side Manhattan. He was a funloving Bori in New York who loved his family and island but also got into a lot of trouble from time to time. The trouble led him to the United States Marines Corps and a few years later he was being deployed to Vietnam like many Puerto Rican men of the era. For many people who have family members that have served, they feel a sense of pride but for myself, I’m torn. I’m proud of my dad but as I got older I found myself not agreeing with the war and more specifically hating the Vietnam War because it caused my Spina Bifida. 

Like many of the men who served in the Vietnam war, my father was exposed to a chemical known as Agent Orange that would affect his health for the rest of his life.

Photo Courtesy of Andrea Lausell

The chemical used to clear out vegetation in the country but it also was known for having horrible side effects for those that came in contact with it. My dad, who was one of the many soldiers to do so,  began to suffer various complications from it soon after the war. In 1992 (the year I was born) it was proven that Agent Orange could cause Spina Bifida in the offspring of soldiers who’d been infected by it. That year, I became one of those babies.

When I was born, it was a complete surprise to my family that I had Spina Bifida.

Photo Courtesy of Andrea Lausell

All the tests parents get to tell if a child was going to have a disability came out negative, so you can imagine how surprised my parents were when I came out. While my Abuelos were praying at misa to understand why this happened, my parents turned to the Veterans Association for answers. It took ten years of my life for the VA to accept with all the medical evidence that my Spina Bifida was caused by that horrible chemical. But in those ten years, I watched my parents struggle to pay hospital bills out of pocket for my already expensive twelve back surgeries. I watched my dad as he grappled with the realization that his military service was the cause of the pain I was enduring in the hospital, and I felt my anger boil over as a child as I blamed and told my dad this was his fault as doctors held me down for procedures. 

Still, in between the hardships of our very medical life, my dad, family and I had moments of joy.

Photo Courtesy of Andrea Lausell

We decided to embrace my Spina Bifida and learn as much as we could. My parents became of my voice when I couldn’t stand up for myself, at making sure I was treated fairly and got the accessibility needs that I needed. We also celebrated my Latinidad, that me being a CubaRican is what makes me strong because I have to powerful islands running through my veins. We used our cultural pride as a way to help me get through tough hospital trips. Even though the Vietnam War was the direct cause for my Spina Bifida, we also learned to celebrate my dad for making it out alive. Still, every year, when October and November came around, the negative emotions about all of this came creeping back.

When October came, as my family and Spina Bifida Community celebrated our lives with Spina Bifida Awareness Month, I couldn’t help but think that if my dad never went to war, this month would just be about Halloween for me. Not about the memories of long hospital trips, hearing my mom cry in the cot next to my hospital bed when she thought I couldn’t hear her, or the times I yearned to go to school to be with my friends. Spina Bifida Awareness Month is supposed to make people aware of the disability, and specifically to celebrate the strides we’ve made as a community.

Photo Courtesy of Andrea Lausell

For a long time, it made me angry because October reminded me of the trauma I’ve endured. Right after the emotions I faced during the month of October, November came and with that came even more stress. I’ve always felt November should be an exciting month for me. My dad’s birthday is on the first, and the thirteenth is my own. Still, tucked right in between those two days worthy of celebration is Veterans Day which has always served as another reminder of my dad’s service and how it caused my disability.

Veterans Day used to anger me because my dad’s service is a reminder that the scars on my body were because of his involvement in the war.   For most of my childhood to my early twenties, I’ve loved and hated these two months. I’ve kept in a lot of resentment and anger over them that I never really worked through until most recently. A few years ago I decided that instead of sitting with my anger, I came to accept it. Accept who I am, accept that my dad’s life and military service was his path that I had no control over and that’s okay. I’ve made October enjoyable for me by creating #SpinaBifida, a series on my YouTube channel where I’ve built a supportive Spina Bifida community that learns from each other about our disability. More specifically, it is a place for Disabled Latinx to feel safe to express their emotions about their disability and how it plays a role in our culture.

These days, November is still a little difficult for me as I still don’t engage much with Veterans Day, nor do I think I ever want to. But instead, I focus on celebrating my dad and his life and celebrating the wonderful disabled life I was given. My dad and I couldn’t control the circumstances that defined our lives, but we can embrace them and accept them for what they are. For me, that means embracing October and November head on, even if I still stumble from time to time.

Read: Little Latina’s Generosity Inspires a Movement With Her Cozy Collection

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

There’s no denying that the world looks a lot different now than it did in 1947. And while the list of all of the positive changes that the decades stretching between now and then have done for the world and minorities, a recent campaign is also highlighting the ways in which our current president could take some notes on certain values the United States held dear during this time. Particularly ones that had been pressed for by one of our former presidents.

As part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” effort, he worked to promote positive and healthy relations between the United States in Latin American countries.

At the time Rooseveltaimed to ensure that the North, Central and South American countries avoided breaking under the influence of Axis countries during World War II. As part of this campaign, Roosevelt comissioned a Spanish and a Portuguese version of the U.S. national anthem. According to Time Magazine he also “recruited Hollywood to participate in this Good Neighbor Policy; Walt Disney went on goodwill tour of South America, hoping to find a new market for his films, and ended up producing two movies inspired by the trip: Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944). The Brazilian star Carmen Miranda also got a boost, and her role in The Gang’s All Here made her even more famous in the U.S. And alongside these cross-cultural exchanges, the U.S. government decided it needed an anthem that could reach Spanish speakers.”

According to NPR, Clotilde Arias, wrote wrote the translation at the end of World War II, was born in the small Peruvian city, Iquitos in 1901 and moved to New York City to become a composer when she was 22-years-old. Her version of the anthem is now part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Now in an effort to support Latino communities affected by the coronavirus, the non-profit We Are All Human Foundation’s Hispanic Star campaign commissioned the a remake of the song.

Hoping to raise awareness of its Hispanic Recovery Plan and efforts to help to connect Hispanic small businesses and workers with resources during the pandemic, the campaign brought the old recording from obscurity.

For the song, the 2019 winner of the singing competition La Voz,  Jeidimar Rijos, performed “El Pendón Estrellado.” Or, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

The song has already received quite a bit of comments and support on Youtube.

Hang in there, fam. We can only get through this together.

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A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

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A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

“If you’re having sex, you’ll likely contract HPV at some point in your life.” That is how one gynecologist explained the sexually transmitted diseases to me, which completely freaked me out. Even though human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus contracted through sexual intercourse, it doesn’t make it less scary when you realize that it’s related to 150 viruses and can lead to cancer for both men and women. While there are vaccines available to prevent the spread of HPV to a broader age group than in previous years, we are finally closer to finding a cure.

A group of primarily female Mexican scientists at the National Polytechnic Institute cured their patients of HPV.


The team of researchers, led by Dr. Eva Ramos Gallegos (pictured above), treated 420 patients from Veracruz and Oaxaca, and 29 from Mexico City. They used “photodynamic therapy” which “is a treatment that involves using a drug, called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, and a particular type of light to treat different areas of the body” according to their report.

The doctors found extraordinary results through their method of treatment that led to cure 100 percent of the people that had HPV. They also cured 64.3 percent of people infected with HPV that had cancerous cells, and 57.2 percent of people that had cancerous cells without the HPV virus. That last result could mean that a cure for cancer is not far behind.

“Unlike other treatments, it only eliminates damaged cells and does not affect healthy structures. Therefore, it has great potential to decrease the death rate from cervical cancer,” Dr. Gallegos told Radio Guama.

People on social media ecstatically hailed the finding by the Mexicana researchers.

We highly doubt President Trump will ever mention this achievement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to comment on this remarkable finding.

While there’s more testing that will inevitably take place, we will have to wait and see how long it takes for other researchers and scientists to catch on to their method of treatment.

The fact that a woman-led team discovered this cure is something we should all be applauding.

Hopefully, their research will get more funding so they can further test patients and help educate others about their process.

According to the CDC,  79 million Americans, primarily teens and people in the early 20s, are infected with HPV. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. The way to prevent contracting HPV is by getting the vaccine — available for males and females — and by using condoms. However, you can still contract HPV because HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom – so condoms may not adequately protect against getting HPV.

READ: Here Are A Handful Of Reasons Why We Need To Talk To Latinx Kids About S-E-X

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