For the past five years, the Echavarria family has worked to increase breast cancer awareness in the Paso Robles and Atascadero’s Latino community. Under the name of Mujeres de Éxito (Women of Success), the family and volunteers host an annual celebration honoring women who survived breast cancer and those currently fighting it. The event also serves as a venue to promote cancer awareness for the Hispanic populace. Held this year on Oct. 19, the celebration showcased authentic Mexican food and performances from mariachis and traditional dancers.
“We had a wonderful celebration honoring survivors and women who are going through breast cancer and it was also an event for resources,” said Yessenia Echavarria.
Yessenia said that Mujeres de Éxito was inspired by her mother Maria’s battle and survival of cancer seven years ago. The Echavarria family decided to create the event not only to recognize survivors but to also to make that Latino community aware of all the medical resources available to them. Yessenia also said that teaching women to take care of themselves and get check out is a big push for Mujeres de Éxito.
“We decided as a family that we were going to do an event to educate women on the importance of early detection of breast cancer. We know that early detection saves lives,” said Yessenia.
Yessenia said part of the hurdle the group works to overcome is the nature of the Latino Culture. Hard-working and conservative, Hispanics tend to forego medical attention and brush off early warning signs. She recounted how her mother told her once that she was so busy taking care of everyone else, she did not take the time to take care of herself.
Local oncologists are invited to speak at the event and answer questions. Herself a survivor and previous keynote speaker, Dr. Erin Bouquin of the Community Health Center advocates the extreme importance of Latina women getting check early. Bouquin said that Latinas sometimes experience a more virulent form of the disease thus making early detection a matter of life and death.
Another vital part of the cultural education is overcoming the stigma involved with being sick and the results of cancer treatment such as hair loss. Bouquin said that stigmas often lead to isolation which is detrimental to the well-being and recovery of the patient. Therefore, Mujeres de Éxitos’ work to bring the discussion out into the open, works to dissuade embarrassment illness can generate and encourages the community to embrace the individual.
“It’s very important that the Latina community and the resources that serve the Latina community understand the special stresses that are involved for Latinas in regards to breast cancer prevention and breast cancer screening,” said Bouquin.
Bouquin pointed out there are those who believe one of the most effective ways to address damaging cultural norms is through the native tongue of the culture. With the mindset, ´ Mujeres de Exitostrives to make the entire event in Spanish, not as a way to exclude outsiders by as a tool to steer hearts and minds to better practices.