Hispanic Cultures & Beliefs

The Hispanic culture and their medical beliefs

Did you know?

Did you know that in the Hispanic culture, most hispanics live in extended families? This is the nuclear family and grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Territorial Space

Hispanics are a close contact culture, meaning they like to use hugs to greet and thank others.
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Spiritual Connections

Hispanic cultures believe that illness has a spiritual connection. They believe that health is a reward from God; health is a spiritual harmony. Also, most hispanics are Catholic.


Despite their common origin, Hispanics are also very individualistic. Regional differences often separate individuals, even those who are from the same country. Large groups of hispanics have been settled.


Most hispanics have 4 names. Even today, a patients chart may need to be changed later on because the patient might not have originally included her husband's last name as hers. With a signature, hispanics believe it does not represent ones name. They think it needs to stand out and be original, and it may not have any resemblance to ones name. When it comes to signing a document, check, or credit card reciept in this country, it may not be honored because the salesperson expects to see a clearly written name.

80% of Hispanics do not speak English.

Understanding each other

Another Hispanic peculiarity, perhaps due to the emphasis on the respect for authority, is the apparent acceptance of what the health worker (or any other person) is saying. Sometimes when one does not understand, it is easy to say "yes." However, the nodding and affirmative expressions among Hispanic patients are not necessarily associated with acceptance. They must be asked to repeat what they have understood. Even with a translator, communication can become distorted unintentionally due to the difficulty of both languages.

Becoming Sick

As becoming sick is considered a weakness, intimate thoughts and concerns are shared only with very close persons (such as mothers or spouses). Hispanics believe that home and family problems should not leave the environment. Health professionals must realize that they do not identify the same health risks as patients do. Some beliefs and attitudes may go un-noticed if open communication is not allowed.

The "Healer"

Some Hispanics believe that there are some diseases that can be handled only by the healer ("curandero") in certain specific rituals. This type of person tends to believe that physicians and their medicines would only do further harm-that "spells," "fright," or the "evil eye" could be fatal if not attended to in time.

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Because virginity and the ability to bear children still have outmost importance, most single women will not submit to pelvic examinations except in life threatening situations. Many myths and misinformation about family planning are apparent; but, in this respect, Hispanic beliefs are similar to those of the population in general.

Patriarchal households

Among Hispanic families, the father/husband usually makes final decisions, including those about health care matters. Also, younger family members in the household usually tend to listen and pay more attention to their parents advice more than the physicians.

Signs of Weakness

The presentation of alternatives for treatment, although required by law and common sense, may be considered evidence of weakness by Hispanic patients, as well as an indication of a physician's poor knowledge and poor performance. They may search for another physician who will tell them what to do, although younger people and patients who have been in this country longer are becoming more knowledgeable in their new country's ways, and often request participation in the decision making process concerning their health.


Older patients prefer to be addresses as señor or señorita. Using don or dona with the full name indicates even greater respect for elder patients. When you address the patients this way, it makes them feel at ease and comforted. If you are ever in doubt, always ask the patient how he/she would like to be addressed. A chaperone is often appreciated if the same sex physician is not available at the time.

Where are Hispanics from?

Hispanics are from a wide range of places on the map, not just Mexico. Hispanics may come from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South or Central America or even other places. You should never assume that a patient is from Mexico, just because they look Hispanic. If you are ever curious and it is an appropriate time, talk to your patient and ask where they are from. Interact and make them feel at home.

Spanish Dialect

"However, the Spanish language has different dialects, which means that there are regional varieties of the language. These differences are influenced by the history of the country. For example, the Spanish spoken in Mexico is somewhat different than the Spanish spoken in Cuba. This difference has to do, as aforementioned, with the different historical influences on the dialect spoken."