I am lucky to come from a very diverse background. I do not identify solely with any one group. My parents were both born in their respective countries and were not exposed to other cultures until late adulthood; however, they do not conform to many of their cultural norms. I understand the cultures but have also been Americanized. My background, perspective, and choice have all placed me in a position to be more culturally competent.
Overview and Heritage
I currently reside in Miami, Florida. My ancestry is mixed. My father is Haitian, his ancestry is African, Hispanic, and European. My mother is Guyanese her ancestry is Indian. I was born in Miami and have lived here since then. My parents were not born here, they emigrated in the 1980s due to turmoil in their respective countries and for professional growth.
I currently live in Pembroke Pines, which is a suburban area of Broward County. The land is flat with areas of greenery. I have lived in other cities in Florida, but have not lived elsewhere. I have no military background and am single. I decline to discuss my income level but affords me all the essentials I need in life. I have health insurance through my job and can afford it that way.
My educational level is post-graduate. I have two bachelor’s degrees, one in psychology and one in nursing. My education has been formal and mostly private. I am currently a registered nurse working in a medical-surgical unit in a local hospital. My prior background is in sales and teaching. My job exposes me to various diseases and blood-borne pathogens. The job is stressful and emotionally taxing. It can also be physically demanding.
My full and legal name is Isha Louise Gutierrez. Haitians typically have three names; first, middle, and last. I like to be called by my first name and do not like nicknames. My primary language is English. My father speaks English, French, Creole, and Spanish and my mother speaks English, however, it is common in Guyana to speak a form of broken English. Unfortunately, I speak no other language.
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I easily share my thoughts and feeling with my friends and family. I feel I can be open with people I am close to. I would feel more reluctant to share my feelings with a healthcare provider. I do not mind being touched by friends and family, but I dislike being touched by strangers and will tolerate being touched by healthcare workers.
I prefer to be acknowledged verbally by those I am not close with and more intimately by those I am close with. My family is very physical, and we show care through physical touch. I like to maintain a normal amount of personal space when speaking with healthcare providers and minimal with my family. My speech pattern is low-context, and long amounts of silence are awkward. My family is very verbal. I maintain eye contact when speaking and this is congruent for most in my culture.
I typically am on time for appointments. This is not true for those in Haitian culture. It is normal to be late and often punctuality is not valued. People in my culture are usually late one to two hours for social engagements.
Family Roles and Organization
Similarly, both the Haitian culture and Indian culture play the highest value on family. In my family, I make my own decisions as an adult but consult my parents for advice. My parents are divorced which is common in Haitian society. However, when they were married, they made decisions together. This was abnormal for both of their cultures. Typically, the male is the head of the household and makes many of the decisions. In my family, males and females make decisions mutually. But culturally the female makes small decisions, like home décor, whiles the male makes large decisions like a home purchase.
Expected duties for the women are more home related which is fitting for both the Haitian and Guyanese cultures. The men have considered the breadwinner’s Duties for the women to be more home related which is fitting for both the Haitian and Guyanese cultures. Children are valued in both Haitian and Guyanese cultures. Children should be well-behaved and excel academically.
My family is very close, and the priority is family. We spend a great deal of time together and have a very strong bond. The older adults on both sides of my family are revered and are sought for their advice because they have a wealth of knowledge. Caribbean culture has a long history of using oral history to pass down family information. This is true for my family. Whenever there is a question about family history, the elders are sought out. No extended family members live in my household, but it is normal for extended family members to live together.
My family achieves its status through academic achievement. The greatest importance is education. It is not frowned upon to have children out of wedlock in the Haitian culture but for Guyanese Muslims, this is unacceptable, and living together before marriage is also unacceptable. I consider myself to be straight. I am accepting of the LGBT community. In Caribbean culture, there is not much acceptance of the LGBT community, and stigma and discrimination have contributed to the desire to migrate. My parents were not always open to the LGBT community; however, I feel that my siblings and I have opened them up to our friends who are part of the community and this has helped change their perspectives.
I am always early to work. I take it very seriously and attendance and timeliness are very important to Guyanese people in the professional setting. I do not consider myself a loyal employee. I feel that employers and employees have less loyalty to each other than in prior generations and I would leave any job that offered better pay. However, my parents have been loyal to their respective employers and have been employees for over 20 years.
I seek help and advice from my coworkers or a manager. They guide me when I am unable to do something on the job. Culturally, this is expected in the workplace. I do not consider myself to be assertive and while my job does require me to be assertive at times, I prefer not to be. Assertiveness is sometimes taken as being flippant in my culture. In my workplace, I have difficulty because I only speak English and a large part of my patient population speaks Spanish.
I have no allergies to medications, foods, or environmental factors. I do not typically take over-the-counter medications. My culture and family do not typically use over-the-counter medications. It is common to use other methods like teas and supplements. I also avoid these remedies.
The major illness that runs in my family is diabetes, hypertension, and breast cancer. Hypertension and diabetes are common in both the Haitian and Guyanese populations. My family has no genetic diseases that I am aware of. Being from the United States, the major health concern is heart disease. I do not identify with any race because I am multi-racial. I have tan skin which is typically for both Haitians and Guyanese.
High-Risk Health Behaviors
I have never smoked in my life and do not use any type of tobacco product. Smoking is not common in my culture. I do not regularly drink alcohol and typically consume it once or twice a month. Social drinking is very common in Guyanese culture by restricted to Muslims. My mother and father both do not drink. I do not drink caffeine regularly. I do not use and have no interest in recreational drugs. In both the Haitian and Guyanese cultures, drug usage is highly looked down upon. In my family, this is compounded because all my immediate family members work in health care.
Although I should, I do not exercise every day. I do try to exercise 3-4 times per week for 45-60 minutes. I lift weights and do high-intensity cardio. Haitians and Guyanese prefer alternative means of exercise like walking and gardening. I place importance on physical safety. I use a seat belt and helmet when needed. This is not common practice in my culture. In both countries, people rarely wear seatbelts or wear helmets. I personally abstain from sex. STI prevention is not readily discussed in either culture.
While I am of normal weight, I would like to be more physically fit. I attempt to maintain a well-balanced diet. I eat fish, lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. This is not congruent with my culture. Both sides of my family tend to consume a lot of simple carbohydrates and cook with saturated fats. I avoid fried foods, high-fat meats, dairy, and processed meats, and limit my intake of sweets. I also limit how much of my culture’s food I eat because it tends to be highly carbohydrate focused. I avoid dairy because I am lactose intolerant like most of my father’s side of the family. When I am sick, I consume soups that are traditional in both cultures. In the Guyanese culture in sickness, a bread roll with cheese and fruit juice is consumed. I avoid heavy foods like curry and legumes so as to not aggravate my body. Every week I try to consume a variety of vegetables and fruits. I consume red meat once a week because I am anemic.
For Haitians, foods are heavy, fried, and rice centered. There consumed a variety of meats and fish and eat avocado with meals. Guyanese eat a diet that is carbohydrate-based, and they consume various curries and heavily spiced foods. There are no high-status foods in my family but there are low-status foods in my culture. For Haitians, a low-status food would be “mayi moulen”, a form of cornmeal, which is actually very delicious.
Depending on how much time I have, I may eat nothing, one meal, or 3-5 small meals. I eat whenever I am hungry and have no set time. Traditionally, three square meals are the norm. I snack in between meals and this is common. I snack on fruits, vegetables, popcorn, and cheese straws. In my culture fruits, crackers, cheese, and fried chickpeas are common snacks. Usually, I buy the food or my mother; men do not do grocery shopping. Women do the cooking and it is a way of bonding. I grew up cooking with my mother and she taught me how to make some of her native dishes. However, those foods are usually fried or made with saturated fats. We deviate away from this towards healthier methods of cooking. My family celebrates the American holidays of Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year, Halloween, and the Fourth of July. Culturally, Christmas is the biggest holiday. In Guyana and in Haiti, it is very celebrated.
Pregnancy and Childbearing Practices
I have a desire to have children. This is very taboo considering both cultures place high importance on family, children, and passing on the legacy. I have never had an abortion. While abortion is however acceptable in my family but not culturally. Catholicism strictly forbids it. I use no form of birth control. My family and culture view pregnancy as a welcome gift and it is a time of celebrating the new addition. In the Guyanese culture, it’s common to eat things like liver during pregnancy in order to promote healthy iron levels. Spicy foods are not avoided. Foods like raw seafood, fried foods, and low-quality meats are avoided. Women usually avoid strenuous activities and long travels. In Guyana, the American tradition of a baby shower has been adopted.
Western medical practices and norms have been adopted. Typically, the father of the baby and the mother of the pregnant woman are present for the birth, and birth is given in the dorsal recumbent position. After delivery, there are no specific post-pregnancy foods. Women are encouraged to breastfeed and maintain a healthy diet. I’m not familiar with any cultural post-pregnancy foods. It is common for the entire family to come to see the new baby and welcome the new addition into the family. Some Haitians do keep the placenta for alternative practices; however, my family does not practice these traditions. I’m unfamiliar with any Haitian traditions for the umbilical cord. My mother kept her children and buried the umbilical cord in a sacred place.
Haitian perform Catholic rituals and Muslims prepare by making sure burial needs are in place. It can be considered traumatic for them. I would like to know if my death was imminent and have no preferences towards burial practices. This is because I no longer am a practicing Catholic. For Catholics, burial timing after death does not matter. For Muslims, the body must be buried before sundown on the day of death. Men grieve by holding in their emotions while women are very vocal, cry and outwardly show their grief. To me, death simply means an end to human existence. I do not believe in the afterlife and this is incongruent with both Catholicism and Islam. Both Abrahamic religions hold a belief in the afterlife,
I am agnostic but am a baptized Catholic and attended twelve years of Catholic school. My mother is Muslim, and my father is Catholic. Catholicism is the primary religion in Haiti. I am not religious at all and neither are my parents. This is a stark contrast to Haitian culture where most tend to be very devout. My mother loosely follows Islamic practices like fasting for Ramadan. I do not pray or go to church, sometimes I will meditate for mental clarity. Meditation is not a recognized practice in Catholicism or Islam. I have an atheistic existential approach toward life. Essential is believing that we as humans can create meaning and value in a world with no intrinsic meaning. Therefore, I do not engage in spiritual practices.
To maintain good health, I exercise and eat a wholesome diet. Most in my culture are not concerned about living a healthy lifestyle and this tends to lead to common problems like type 2 diabetes. Typically, the women in the family take responsibility for maintaining health, but I am responsible for my own health and wellbeing. I try not to regularly use over-the-counter medicines and only typically use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief. I tend to not express my pain, and this is common in my culture; suffering in silence is the norm. When ill, staying in the best and resting is not common. Normal activities and responsibilities should be maintained. I believe that rehabilitation is necessary to regain strength and is a time when much support will be needed. In my family, people with chronic illnesses are cared for by family and looked after.
Mental illness is ignored in both the Guyanese and Haitian cultures. Often conditions like depression are thought to be fake. Psychological issues are accepted and family members with mental illness are looked at as shameful. People with physical disabilities are sometimes considered less than and while they are not a source of shame, they are pitied. These views come from misinformation and stigmas.
Organ donation and blood transfusion are culturally acceptable to both Guyanese and Haitian. I will become an organ donor when I renew my license. I would have no qualms about accepting a donation.
My family follows western medical practices which are culturally congruent with Caribbean culture. However, in Haitian and Guyanese cultures it is more common to try home remedies. I have no preference for health care providers for routine health problems or intimate care. Muslim women may prefer a female provider for modesty reasons. I do not use healers. This is not common practice for Guyanese. Haitian may practice voodoo and see a practitioner; however, my father’s family does not practice voodoo.