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La Gente Unida: Latinx Immigrant and Indigenous Health and Advocacy on California’s Central Coast


Anti-immigrant policies undermine the health and wellbeing of Latinx communities, who also face white supremacy and xenophobic violence. For many Latinx immigrants who are also Indigenous, these risk factors overlap with exposure to colonial trauma. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing health disparities and structural vulnerabilities. This study documents health disparities facing heterogenous Latinx Immigrant and Indigenous groups and analyzes immigrant health advocacy strategies. For this project, I developed a decolonial-inspired framework that prioritizes questions directly useful to community members, deconstructs settler-colonial norms in research, and centers Indigenous ways of knowing. Multiple methods provide a holistic understanding of the health needs/assets and advocacy resources for Latinx immigrants in California's Central Coast: two years of participant-observation (2018-2020), collection of news data (n = 148), interviews with community members and advocates (n = 31), regional focus groups (n = 12), and a survey of health needs and assets (n = 260). The patterns in this data demonstrate a crisis in the social determinants of health for Latinx Immigrant and Indigenous groups, in which both resources and access are severely lacking.The systematic effects of unequal access, lack of insurance, and discrimination on the wellbeing of Latinx immigrants include heightened anxiety, lowered overall health, and a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 impacts. Despite negative conditions, Latinx immigrants and Indigenous groups demonstrate a high level of resiliency. Advocates have mobilized California’s political elites to expand public health insurance programs to include undocumented minors and young adults up to age 26. Demonstrating what I call “movement pandemic adaptability,” community organizations share resources and translate public health directives into Mixteco and other Indigenous languages to address exclusions from care. By centering those directly affected by health disparities, this study shows critical gaps in healthcare systems and spotlights the capacity for communities to demand equity and health opportunities for all.

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