On a routine flight to Los Angeles, flight attendant Venus Ginés slipped and fell on the airplane prompting an immediate need for medical attention. At the ER, the doctor casually asked if she had her mammogram yet. Upon hearing a “No, I’m Latina, we Latinas don’t get breast cancer,” he explained that cancer did not discriminate and offered to do a clinical breast exam. To her shock, he found a lump.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, Venus decided to focus her graduate research on cancer in Latinas. She discovered both a paucity of statistical data as well as limited ethnic-specific cancer health education material. In 1996, Venus developed a culturally specific video/picture book on breast cancer (Una Nueva Esperanza) and later, Hombre Sin Limite, on prostate cancer for American Cancer Society (ACS). A health fiesta was the only way to determine if the picture books adequately addressed some of the mistrust and barriers of this vulnerable population.
Dia de la Mujer Latina became a reality when Venus together with the Mexican Consulate’s office, assessed, planned, coordinated, collaborated and implemented the first non-traditional culturally relevant Latino family health fiesta. This cultural intervention involved a community-wide collaboration of Latino clubs, private and non-profit organizations, state and county health departments, community merchants, media, volunteers and other healthcare providers to provide early detection and screening for breast/cervical/prostate cancer, HIV, Diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Since May 10, 1997, more than 96,000 Latinas have registered at our 1-day health fiesta with over 80% receiving patient navigation. This health fiesta model is currently recognized as a “best practice” and celebrated in 40 cities, as well as Latin America. Día de la Mujer Latina is a non-profit (501c3) organization in the state of Texas and globally acknowledged for its successful outreach strategies within the Latino Community.