There's a super hilarious video on Facebook that shows a typical Latina mom cooking in the kitchen just doing her own thing, when all of a sudden a Selena song comes on and she cannot help but begin to dance and sing as if she's the star onstage. This moment perfectly exemplifies the notion that no matter what we're doing, regardless of our mood or current situation, if a Spanish song comes on we'll be dancing, with a smile on our face, in no time. So clearly it makes perfect sense that we, Latinos, are pegged "The Happiest People in the World." But is this notion true?
Latin Americans, plagued with violence and unstable economies in their home countries, and Latinos right here in the United States who've been subjected to insults and discrimination for decades are still generally happier than non-Latinos, according to several polls.
WIN/Gallup International, a market research and polling, published a survey in December 2015 that explored "the outlook, expectations, views, and beliefs" of 66,040 people from 68 countries around the world, and the results were extraordinary. Among the happiest and most optimistic people were Colombians (85 percent), Argentines (79 percent), Panamanians (79 percent), Mexicans (76 percent), and Ecuadorians (75 percent).
In 2012 the results were similar: 150,000 people surveyed found that seven of the world's 10 countries with the most upbeat attitudes were in Latin America. The results were based on the Human Development Index which was created "to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone."
"In Guatemala, it's a culture of friendly people who are always smiling," Luz Castillo, a surfing instructor, told CBS News. "Despite all the problems that we're facing, we're surrounded by natural beauty that lets us get away from it all."
The World Happiness Report (yes, that's a real thing, there's also an annual conference), gathered more evidence behind the claim that Latinos are the happiest in the world and found that assumption to be mixed. They actually found the happiest countries to be Switzerland, then Iceland, Denmark, and Norway. Mexico, the first Latin country, came in 14th, and the United States came in 15th, which speaks volumes about Mexicans alone, especially if you consider that the country is one of the most dangerous in the world.
Writer Daniel Cubias says that it can all be traced back to actual DNA. He links his
gatherings to a study conducted at Varna University of Management in
Bulgaria that shows "citizens of nations which rate themselves happiest
display a specific genetic feature: their DNA is more likely to contain a specific 'allele' involved in sensory pleasure and pain reduction." Cubias notes:
"My mom, in particular, is the most upbeat and optimistic person I've ever met. It's a little odd, in that nobody in my family is a millionaire, and we've all had our fair share of traumas. And yet, here we are, apparently happier than your average stressed-out American."
Due to this specific DNA structure, "Latin Americans and Scandinavians are more likely to be chipper than, say, the Chinese or the Iraqis," says Cubias.
Furthermore, the study found that people with the highest level of this specific allele in their DNA are from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Ghana, and Nigeria.
“The correlation between happiness and safety seems to be inverse," Michael Minkov, co-author of the study, said. "The highest murder and robbery rates in the world are in northern Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa and that is precisely where the happiest and most relaxed people are.”
If science proves that we are genetically happier people than most, even in the face of extreme adversity, it makes sense! But there also seems to be something about the way most Latinos tend to look at life that keeps us from getting too down.
"Yes we are happier because we make the choice to enjoy the small things in life," Adriana Pavon told Vivala on the Wise Latinas Linked Facebook page.
"I think Latinos in general are just very laid-back, happy-go-lucky, don't-sweat-the-small-stuff kind of people," Vanessa Pronge added. "So yeah, no stress attitudes equal a happier existence."
It's not as if Latinos are in denial about their situation, as dismal as it may be, our outlook on life is simply about looking on the bright side. Most Latinos appreciate this optimism and carry it with them. It makes sense that us younger ladies feel the same way: A study conducted by CafeMedia recently found that 80 percent of millennial Latinas say their cultural/ethnic heritage is a big part of who they are (versus 52 percent of non-Hispanics).
What can we say? We love our food, our music, and our cultura. Whether your family is from Mexico, Colombia, or any of the other beautiful Latin countries, happiness really is in our blood.