September: An Opportunity to Explore the Intersections of Hispanic and Recovery Communities

September 13, 2019

September is National Recovery Month, during which we take the time to celebrate the lives of people in recovery from Substance Use Disorder.  September also begins Hispanic Heritage month, a month dedicated to honoring the contributions of the Hispanic/Latinx communities to the United States of America. Despite the shared timeline in which these groups are celebrated, Hispanic/Latinx communities are almost invisible in the recovery movement.  This is not surprising when we look at American history which all but erases the contributions of the people from marginalized communities, while simultaneously scapegoating them for many of society’s ills, as evidenced by the overrepresentation of Brown and Black people involved in the prison industrial complex.

Hispanic/Latinx people have been part of US history since the Spaniards “found” “America”.  Malcolm X said of American descendants of slaves (ADOS), “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, the rock was landed on us.” The history of Hispanic/Latinx people in the USA is much the same.  Whether it be the inhabitants of what is now known as Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, or California or those from Puerto Rico, Hispanic/Latinx people have always been inhabitants of the continent of North America.  While Hispanic/Latinx communities have an the ancestral connection to the land of North America, Europeanization  have displaced and marginalized Hispanic/Latinx people as well as their contributions to “American” culture.

Hispanic/Latinx people have helped build America as we know it.  We work the farms that feed our nation, we labor in the kitchens of restaurants across the country, we toil in factories to create goods to sell in the international market, and we serve and protect in the Armed Services (at a significantly higher rate than Euro-Americans).  People who identify as Hispanic/Latinx create art that change and inspire change like singer/songwriter/activist Joan Baez, poet Miguel Pinero, writer Piri Thomas, and playwright/actor Lin Manuel Miranda. We serve as teachers, scientists, judges, and astronauts, yet our contributions to America are erased and replaced with “Hispanophobic” laws and policies that date back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Policies like 1954 “Operation Wetback”, the eugenics inspired forced sterilization of Hispanic/Latinx women like “La Operacion”, the Rockefeller Drug Laws of the 1970’s (that inspired the mass incarceration movement), or the 2010 Arizona Law SB-1070 which gave law enforcement unprecedented power to harass anyone suspected of not being a US citizen. Biased laws and policies have pushed Hispanic/Latinx people to the margins of American culture.

American policy has long been anti-Hispanic and our inability to access resources is proof.  Hispanics are less likely to seek medical attention, more likely to be incarcerated, less likely to get a college education, and experience health disparities that make them more likely to die related to chronic health conditions (like diabetes, high blood pressure and Substance Use Disorder).  Disparities in healthcare services that are geared towards Hispanic/Latinx people are underfunded, unavailable in Spanish, and not culturally appropriate in design. Yet when Hispanic/Latinx people do not access healthcare services they are met with blame for not using the services, rather than looking at what about the services being offered might be problematic (or inaccessible).  The recovery modern recovery movement has recreated these health disparities despite recognizing the harm done with policies like the “War on Drugs” which continues to harm to the Hispanic/Latinx communities.

There is an opportunity to reduce health disparities, improve quality of life and promote recovery to Hispanic/Latinx communities across the United States.  It requires a resolution to do better, to ask questions, and to commit resources. The mainstream recovery community and its allies can create change, but it demands self-reflection.  To be truly inclusive it is essential to understand how the colonization of North America has impacted Hispanic/Latinx communities.  It is essential to reflect on how laws and policies that have caused harm and how access to recovery resources have been restricted/denied (when what would be helpful it unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or not abstinence-based).  Recovery is possible, if it is made accessible.

To make recovery accessible it is crucial to include the celebration of the traditions, values, and resilience of Hispanic/Latinx communities, Recovery oriented systems of care must be a safe haven to access treatment by removing the stigma involved with talking about mental health, and challenge the notions of machismo and marianismo that limit the ability of Hispanic/Latinx people to engage in the self-care necessary to heal and sustain recovery.

Let’s join together to reduce health disparities, create solutions, and recover.


Dr. Kristine De Jesus is a coach and consultant specializing recovery and social justice advocate.  She is the Founder of The Wellness Cooperative, a wellness center dedicated to serving people from marginalized populations.

Angelo Lagares is the Founder and Director of Latino Recovery Advocates (LARA), which is a non-profit organization that promotes recovery services in Spanish and advocates to change policies in an effort to promote cultural competency and provide culturally appropriate services.

The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our Ammon Recovery Scholars Program. Our program goals include: removing financial barriers through financial scholarships; providing strategic support for recipients through offering personal, professional and academic support; and creating a supportive peer community committed to combating the stigma associated with addiction by promoting that recovery is possible. We are committed to giving away at least $100,000 in scholarships annually and are looking to fund education as a stepping stone to stable employment, safe housing and adequate healthcare. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here or email