The statistics reporting the destructive effects of alcohol and tobacco in the Latino community are one part of the story, but individuals like Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa fill in the painful, and personal, details.
"We felt everyday the experience of living with an alcoholic--the violence, the bloodshed," said Villaraigosa, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles. "They're images that never leave you."
At the second day of a conference at Cal State Northridge, participants discussed how the Latino community can battle excessive alcohol and tobacco use. The event was sponsored by the California Latino Leadership United for Healthy Communities, a statewide coalition of researchers, practitioners, community and civic groups.
Many of the statistics are startling. For example, Latinos account for 75% of felony drunk driving arrests in Los Angeles County, said Raymond A. Chavira, a member of the county Commission on Alcoholism.
Other troubling findings: Alcohol dependence is the leading cause of disability in the county among Latinos; and smoking rates among Latino adolescents have been increasing.
On a personal level, those numbers often translate into crumbling family lives.
Villaraigosa, for example, has said that when he was 5, he watched his dad, an alcoholic, beat his mom.
Beer companies have targeted Latinos because they are a growing segment of the population, said Eduardo Hernandez, director of the Calpartners Coalition, a substance abuse prevention group and an event sponsor.
The symposium also addressed the need for more culturally attuned and well-funded service organizations in minority communities.
State Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sylmar) said he will work to increase the state's role in getting more money to minority advocacy and service groups. "The money has to go to organizations there that are culturally sensitive and can do the work," Alarcon said. Many Latinos rely on nonprofits for their health-care needs because a large number are uninsured, officials said. Out of more than 7 million uninsured people in California, half of them are Latino, Villaraigosa said.