All posts by Destiny Arroyo

Plus Size

“I use the word ‘fat’ a lot,” says former San Francisco State University communications student, 26-year-old Natalie Meany. She is now a communications professor at Fresno State University and focuses on Fat Studies.

Fat Studies is an academic area of research about fat human bodies. It focuses on the social, political, cultural, and historical aspects of how “fat individuals” are portrayed and treated.

“The world isn’t kind or built for fat bodies, why is that?” asks Natalie.

In 2012, Natalie wanted to write a speech on plus-size issues and she was told by her coach, who was also a plus-sized woman, that the topic “wasn’t important enough.” That is the problem: we (plus-sized women) are constantly told, in many ways, that we are not important enough to care about. That no one will love us because we are not pretty and we are not pretty because we are larger in size than other women.

Natalie hates the term “plus-size.”

“I am not an excess size. I’m just my size. I don’t want to think of myself as an extra person.”

Growing up, she was able to be comfortable in her skin at a young age. Natalie’s mother and sister were both thin and she found it hard to fit in with them at first.

Estrella Y, a political science grad student at SF State, grew up being told not to eat certain things or not to wear certain patterns and colors because it would make her look fat. In the fourth grade, she noticed she was “the big one” in her group of friends. She was constantly thinking about weight because her mom was always on a diet and she had an aunt that was bulimic. She felt “huge” but looks at pictures now and wishes she knew then what she knows now.

Now 33-years-old, Estrella sometimes still faces her insecurities, but she is more accepting of her body now than when she was a child. One could say she is more “woke” now: instead of blaming herself for having the body she has, she blames marketing strategies, globalization, and societal beauty standards for trying to make her feel bad about her body. When it comes to the term “plus size,” she stated she doesn’t know “where people are putting this threshold… if you’re a size 5 and I’m an 18, then you’re a 5 and I’m an 18.” She doesn’t understand why there is the need to have a certain size that declares if you are a “straight” size or a “plus” size.

As for many women, Estrella fails to understand why every article of clothing in the store is not always available in bigger sizes.

“Why can’t one rack have sizes from small to 4X? Why do they have to be separated?”

She explains how creating a section specifically for the larger sizes is a way to make people feel shameful about having to shop in those sections. However, in the stores that have larger sizes, they use a type of “psychological marketing,” as Estrella calls it. Psychological in the sense that they carry sizes 14 and above but Torrid, for example, uses a sizing system ranging from 00 to 6 – size 00 being a size 12/Large to a 30/6XL – to make the consumer feel smaller by not adding the “X” to the end of the number. In this way, the consumer may feel like they are a size 2 rather than a 2XL.

Another struggle that women of all sizes face is the chaotic mismatching of size labels with actual body measurements. This often leads to women not being able to fit in the same label size because one blouse might say 3XL but when you put it up to look at it, it looks like a medium. According to the study “Exploring apparel purchase issues with plus-size female teens” published in the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, the authors Laurel Dawn Romeo and Young-A Lee realized one reason for this mishap. “There are no relegations surrounding how a brand must label its sizes or if the size must relate to actual body measurements” in the United States. Meaning that brands are allowed to label their clothing however they want, even though the labels might not coincide with the actual measurements of the clothing.

Globalization also plays a role in this structure. When large companies have their brands clothing made in a different country, those countries might have a different idea of what each size is. For example, an XL in China is relatively different than the XL in the United States. Some brands might not be doing this intentionally, but they don’t bother to try to fix this either.  

This is why I, a plus-size woman, have shirt sizes in my closet that range from a medium all the way up to a 3X and pant sizes that range from a 14 to a size 18. When it comes to shopping, I have become accustomed to not necessarily looking at the size, but instead looking at how wide and long the article of clothing is. It took me a while to accept the fact that I had to size up not because of my own fault, but because all the clothing brands don’t label their clothes the correct way.

There has said to be what people call a “fat tax” on plus size clothing, meaning anything above an XL costs more than an XL and below. It is not a secret that several brands do this. Why? Basically because they can. Of course they’re not going to admit that this is true, so they’ll say something along the lines of “it costs us more to make it, hence the extra fabric, hence the extra charge.” But if this is the case, why don’t they charge for the difference between a small and an XL? They know women in the larger sizes will pay those extra bucks because we need to clothe our bodies so we have no other choice than to make our own clothes, which not many people do in the 21 century.

Natalie lived in leggings, knock-off UGG boots and a sweatshirt when she was a student at SFSU because it was the outfit she could afford to wear often.

Though there are stores that claim to sell plus-size clothing, they fail to realize that just like the thin women, plus-size babes might be on a budget as well. These chain stores and sections of these chain stores include Torrid, Lane Bryant, Forever 21+, Charlotte Russe Plus, H&M, Target, Old Navy, and more. Torrid and Lane Bryant probably have the better quality of all the ones listed above, but they are exceedingly expensive. The average cost for jeans run from $50 to $120, a screen t-shirt ranges from $30 to $50 and dresses range from $60 to $130.

You bet I’m taking my ass to Ross or TJ Maxx.

“It’s a struggle to find something that hides my fat,” said 24-year-old Stephanie Ortiz.


Stephanie Ortiz and Estrella Y who are San Francisco State University students that take part in a fashion organization on campus and featured in press magazine in a segment called Struggles of Being Plus sized.

After having her daughter over a year ago, the SFSU student found it harder to accept her body. Although she doesn’t blame her daughter for her body change, she admits to the fact that her shopping habits for clothes has definitely changed, in fact, most times she doesn’t even want to go shopping (but who could blame her?). When she finds herself looking for clothes, though, she looks for long, flowy shirts with sleeves, leggings, and high-waisted jeans. These are the articles of clothing that Stephanie feels she can hide her least favorite parts of her body, but why must us plus-size women feel the need to hide ourselves?

Stephanie Ortiz and Estrella Y who are San Francisco State University students that take part in a fashion organization on campus and featured in press magazine in a segment called Struggles of Being Plus sized.

The problem here is that people make the plus-size community, especially women, feel like they cannot wear what they want. Stores will have a small, sectioned-off corner for plus-size clothing but the options are limited. They do not make the same exact article of clothing that is sold in the straight-size section in the plus-size section, and if they do, it usually costs more, as previously stated. We are forced to wear what the industry wants us to wear because it might be “appropriate for them.” They want us to hide behind all black clothing, because it “makes us look thinner” or they don’t want us to wear short skirts and crop tops because “it’ll be too much skin.”

A few years back, Natalie wore a crop-top and high-waisted pants, only showing about an inch and a half of skin. Her aunt told her that she was dressed inappropriately for her size. She shook it off and eventually ended up buying a handful more of crop tops.

“It feels like companies are like, ‘Here’s what we’ve deemed appropriate for your body,” said Natalie.

This is how she feels about plus-size companies not making clothes that make us feel sexy because society believes curvy women can’t or shouldn’t be seen as sexy. The clothes made are very conservative at times and that’s not what all women in their 20s and 30s want to wear.

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t wear. I’ll decide,” added Estrella.

Stephanie sees people in Spanish-speaking soap operas, commercials, and television shows and realizes that the people are all thin.

“I don’t fall into that category,” she says.

“So it makes me feel like I have to cover it up.”

Recently, there have been more ads and campaigns that encourage body positivity and plus-size advocacy, but it’s still not enough. For example, Sports Illustrated Magazine released their 2016 swimsuit edition with the first “plus-size model” to ever be featured on the front of the magazine. However, their definition of plus-size is a size 12, which is the size that Robyn Lawley, a “plus-size” model, is.

“My head will turn when they have a size 20 model,” Natalie said, “but they won’t do that because it’s not deemed as traditionally attractive.”

For Natalie, it wasn’t enough because she considered how the new average U.S. size for women is a size 16. “More realistic standards would be nice.”  

“I need more than just people telling me to “love my body,” said Stephanie. Stephanie emphasized that although they label Robyn as plus-size, her body size and shape is not realistic compared to millions of women who are also plus-size.

“There is a difference between curvy and chubby and that woman is curvy,” Stephanie.

She wants a model that accurately represents what an average plus-size woman actually looks like.

“Plus-size models have big boobs and a nice butt but I don’t have that, I have a big stomach.”

She also pointed out that it’s not realistic to have that body when one has no time to maintain a good diet and work-out while going to school, working and being a mother. “My daughter is more important than my figure.”  

Stephanie thought that in order to be considered “pretty,” she had to be skinny. Throughout the years, she’s been able to learn to love herself more and more and she is currently in a state where she is not fully confident but she is better than ever. However, when she was in high school, boys would mistreat her because of her body size. She was also bullied by other girls and her self-esteem sunk.

“Kids are cruel,” Natalie said about the same topic, “we’re STILL in a time where it’s socially acceptable to bully someone because of their weight.” There are plus-size women who don’t get bothered by what others say and there are plus-size women that only care about what people say.

There have been several cases where I’ve seen when plus-size Instagram gurus who will post a photo of herself, such as Jessica Torres, or founder of @EffYourBeautyStandards, Tess Holliday, and people post rude comments. Some comments are filled with disgust because “they are embracing and encouraging living an unhealthy lifestyle.”

People tend to automatically correlate fat with lazy. There are several diseases and illnesses that cause weight gain such as hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, and depression. Medicines and birth control often can be the reason for rapid weight gain as well. Of course, a poor diet and a lack of exercise can be a main cause for obesity but it’s not the only reason. Obesity is the result of depending on environmental and genetic factors. However, people fail to realize what a person’s life might be like when they are constantly comparing others to themselves. Not everybody has time to go for a 5-mile walk and not everybody has the money to buy healthy, organic foods.

In conclusion, the plus-size community wants people and clothing lines to be mindful of them because the truth is, 67 percent of the women in the U.S. is considered to be plus-size, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. With such a large population in this country, it is hard to believe why it is so hard for companies to realize this. Not all plus size women are conservative and rich so it’s important to be diverse when considering the cost and styles when catering to the plus sized community.

Day of the Dead

The sight of white painted faces and indigenous attire. The smell of freshly-picked marigolds and burning incense. The taste of freshly-baked pan de muerto and the favorite foods of our loved ones. The touch of the warm, melting candles and cold, paper maché calacas. The sound of the Aztec drums and modern mariachi music. These are the things that ignite the five senses of the living as they celebrate the dead on every November 2nd in the Mission District in San Francisco.


When a family member passes away, their loved ones usually grieve in sorrow. However, in Mexico and some parts in the United States, the death of a loved one is seen as a cause for celebration. Dia de los Muertos, commonly known as Day of the Dead, is a celebration that occurs the first and second of the month of November every year. Originating in Mexico, the tradition has spread all over the Americas, including north and central, throughout the years. It is a celebration that combines indigenous Aztec rituals with Catholicism.

“[The Aztecs] had advanced belief systems that were eventually imposed by eurocentric beliefs,” said Juan Pablo.

To the Aztecs, death was not seen as a negative part of life, but instead, death was an opportunity for the soul to be reborn. The Mesoamerican religion was divided into three parts: world making, world centering and world renewal. They believed the human body contained three different forces in three different body parts: the head, the heart and the liver. The head was filled with tonalli, a “Shadow Soul” that was associated with the heavens which provided energy for growth and development. The heart was deposited with teyolia, a soul associated with earth that gives life to people and provided emotion, memory, knowledge and a sense of identity. The liver received ihoyotl, a luminous gas that was associated with the underworld and provided humans with bravery, desire, hatred, love, and happiness.

Every year for the last 35 years, Colectivo del Rescate Cultural, also known as The Rescue Culture Collective, has hosted its annual San Francisco Day of the Dead Ritual Procession. The Colectivo, which includes the processions’ Founding Director Juan Pablo Gutierrez, has a group of organizers, artists, cooks, publicists, and more that come together as a community to create what is necessary for the procession to be successful. Juan Pablo came up with the idea of creating a procession when he was a part of the League of United Chicano Artists (LUCHA) while in Austin, Texas.

During the procession, a wide spectrum of the dead are celebrated; from their old ancestors to the victims of recent events such as natural disasters and terror attacks. The Marigold Project is a collective that organizes and creates the colorful altars that are seen during the procession. They ask the community to participate by making their own altars. They ask that the altars are made according to the direction/element that is associated with each deceased person. The directions are North, East, South, West, and the center. The North is associated with earth and the elders. The East is associated with air and children. The South with fire and young adults. The West with water and adults. Lastly, the center is associated with the ether and ancestors.

Aside from making an actual altar, people are also encouraged to take a framed photo, an article of clothing, or anything else that was previously owned by a deceased, loved one in order to carry them alongside as they walk through the Mission.


Though originally born in Mexico, Juan Pablo was brought to Texas when he was just eight years old. He grew up in the 60s and 70s within the Chicano environment and has embraced it ever since. After attending the University of Texas, he wrote in San Antonio, worked with Catholic Charities of San Antonio, worked with the Mexican American Cultural Center, and more. In 1982, he came to San Francisco and eventually started working with El Tecolote.


When Juan Pablo came to the Bay Area, there was already a procession that was organized by a different organization but he knew his would be different. Juan Pablo wanted the new procession to focus on the Aztec calendar. Every year, the theme of the procession follows the topic that is depicted on the calendar.

According to Juan Pablo, the San Francisco Day of the Dead Ritual Procession is the largest in the nation. The procession brought in a total of half a million people in total last year, according to the SFPD. However, the large crowd eventually led to people wanting to make a profit off the free event. Juan Pablo never fails to shut down offers of company’s selling beer or shops setting up a pop-up store on the side of the street. As he stated, the commercial-free zone is open to the community and it creates a “safe zone” therefore it is a “good time to come and experience the Mission.”


“Our dead are not for sale,” Juan Pablo said without any hesitation.


Along the lines of commercialism, Dia de los Muertos has also faced other problems and misrepresentations. In 2013, Disney had requested to copyright the term “Day of the Dead,” however, it wasn’t long until they received backlash. People also often refer to Dia de los Muertos as the “Mexican Halloween” (which should be noted at this very moment, that it is not).

“If you want to be respected,” said Juan Pablo, “you have to respond to these kinds of things with consistency, not aggression.” Consistency in the sense that despite what people think or say, one must stay true to one’s culture. “People have to be educated,” Juan Pablo concluded.

Dia de los Muertos is about celebrating those that have passed away by remembering the life they once lived. It’s a time to look at their photos, remember what their voice sounded like, cook their favorite foods and listen to their favorite songs, and to think about all the memories they created whether they be good or bad. As my grandfather once told me before passing away, “Death is not a ‘goodbye’ but instead a ‘see you later.’”

Dreaming, Still.

“This is why I think this is bullshit,” 19-year-old Vanessa R. Cuevas exclaims. “How can they threaten to deport people when this is the only country we’ve ever known?”

After President Trump’s recent order on September 5, 2017 to end DACA within six months, hundreds of thousands of DREAMers are scrambling to see what they can do to prevent deportation.

DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era program which allows undocumented, young adults – who originally came to the U.S. as kids – to receive benefits such as safety from deportation and work permits. However, the fee that these DREAMers pay is roughly five hundred dollars out of pocket for every two years when their renewal is due. With that being said, there is a large misconception that U.S. taxpayers are paying for this program, but little do people know that DACA is actually a self-sustaining program, hence the large fee that they must pay.

In order to qualify for DACA, one must have/do the following: be younger than 31-years-old, came to the United States before your sixteenth birthday, lived continuously in the U.S. from June 2007 to the present, were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and at the time of applying, came to the U.S. without documents or their lawful status expired as of June 15, 2012, are currently studying or graduated from high school, and have not been convicted of a felony or any misdemeanors.

San Francisco State University students and sisters Vanessa R. Cuevas and Jessica D. Cuevas came to the United States from Mexico alone when they were only three- and four-years-old. Since they are originally from Michoacán, they were put on an airplane to get closer to the border. There they were picked up by two ladies that would eventually take them across the border in their car. They reunited with their dad somewhere in Los Angeles and he brought them to the Bay Area. About a week later, their mom was brought over and they were all together. They settled in a home in Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and have been there ever since. They both currently work at a Cheesecake Factory near their home.

Vanessa is a third-year student with an undeclared major but plans to declare as a Political Science major. Jessica is a fourth-year Latina/o Studies major with minors in Education and Philosophy.

It was decided that Jessica, now 21-years-old, would wait for Vanessa so they could apply for DACA together. The process took around four to five months – they needed to have various documents on hand. Luckily, their mother saved all their childhood award certificates so that they were able to prove that they have been here since they were very young. When it was time for Jessica to start applying for college, she realized her options were very limited. Since she isn’t allowed to apply for FAFSA, she could not accept going to Sonoma State University. Instead, she waited until the very last day to accept her state-issued financial aid (CA Dream Act) because she didn’t get her acceptance to San Francisco State University earlier.

The two recently noticed that the program is taking longer than usual to send them their paperwork to renew everything.

“It’s making us nervous,” Vanessa explains.

“Usually they send us the letter by now.”

They explained their frustration with not knowing what will happen in the near future.

“We don’t know if we’ll we be working for four more months or two more years,” Jessica says. “My only options would be to not work or to work illegally.”

The girl’s’ parents have told them that no matter what happens they will just have to move forward.

Jesus Peraza, 20, Psychology Student at SFSU

“I hope ICE gets us,” 20-year-old Jesus Peraza says. “I don’t like living here.”

This is what Jesus once told his parents after living in the U.S. for a short while. He was originally born in Sonora, Mexico and came to the U.S. about twelve years ago. He lived alone with his mother and aunt until he was about five-years-old, when his mother married his now stepfather. They traveled to the U.S. with a tourist visa.

Jesus was told by his mother and stepfather that they were coming to the U.S. for about three months,and would eventually return to Mexico. However, once they got there, he realized that wasn’t true because his mother enrolled him in an elementary school in Paramount, California. It was there that he was able to learn English; his teachers took extra time to help him which made it easier for him to pick it up.

“Kids would bully me and call me names,” Jesus laughed, “but I didn’t know what they meant.”

Though the name-calling didn’t phase him, he still felt like an outcast therefore he devoted himself to school. The language barrier was just one reason for Jesus’ culture shock, along with food and the way people communicated. Christmas in the U.S. wasn’t the same and even until this day, Jesus despises Christmas because in Mexico he was able to celebrate with his large family.

Jesus, now 20-years-old and a third-year psychology major at SF State University, is currently a DACA recipient. He hopes to continue school after his bachelors degree in order to receive his masters degree.

After hearing about Trump’s decision, Jesus did not go to school that day because he realized that this decision not only affects him and others just like him, but also his parents. Luckily, he just recently renewed his DACA paperwork.

Since Jesus is undocumented and is under DACA, he is prohibited from leaving the country at any time. This has prevented him from studying abroad and traveling the world.  

“Even though I have this program that somewhat protects me, I still feel restricted. I feel chained up to a system that doesn’t allow me to be completely free.”

He has friends that travel and it makes him feel stuck, or as he says “frozen.”

“I stopped picturing my life in Mexico a long time ago… so it’s scary to think that I may not have the ability to work, get married, have kids,” Jesus continues.

“It’s daunting.”

Now when walking around campus, he starts to worry if he’ll even be able to continue studying at SF State. He also describes that his immigrant and queer identities have been attacked since now President Trump began campaigning. “They might take DACA away from me, but they will never take away my education,” Jesus says confidently.

Although there are several ways to get approved for citizenship here in the U.S., marriage was not an option for 18-year-old, Maya F. Ochoa. Soon after President Trump announced the want to repeal the DACA program, Maya’s lawyer emailed her with the recommendation of getting married soon so she can apply for citizenship.

“I couldn’t believe she told me that because I’m only 18… I shouldn’t be having to think about that,” she says, still stunned.

Maya, a first-year Chinese language major at SF State University, came to the U.S. when she was only five-years-old. Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, Maya, her brother, and mother also came with a visa on an airplane. They first established themselves in Whittier, California and her family continues to live there.

She is the first in her family to go to college.

In a non-marital attempt to get her U.S. citizenship, her father’s sister and her husband have offered to adopt her. However, she refuses because she would then have to change her last name and live with her new legal guardians.

Maya F. Ochoa, 18, Chinese Language Major, SFSU

At times, Maya questions if it is worth it to stay here and she sometimes considers going back but resents the idea of having to start her life over.

“I appreciate that my parents brought us here to have a better life,” Maya says slowly.

“And I’m not going to lie, we are more financially stable here than if we were to stay in Guadalajara, but I still feel trapped.”

Maya, just like Jesus, wishes she could travel and study abroad. With pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language, one part of learning a foreign language is the ability to use it in its country of origin, but Maya cannot leave the country.

Maya explains the reasons why people from all over the world, not just Latin America, come to the U.S. to escape horrible conditions in their own countries, such as war in the Middle East, government corruption in Venezuela, gangs in El Salvador, and drug cartels in Mexico.

“The government does not understand [these situations],” she said firmly.

“But if the script was flipped, they wouldn’t like to be treated the way they are treating us.”

One idea that Vanessa, Jessica, Jesus, and Maya came up with was the idea of not continuing school. This consideration did not come to their heads because they simply do not want to continue fulfilling the “American Dream,” but because they are not sure that they will be able to. Sure, they can continue and finish school but the same questions these four ask themselves is similar to “what will I be able to do with my degree?” and “will I even be able to find a job because I am an immigrant?”

Though the future of these young dreamers is currently in the state of unknown, they continue to study with the hopes of prospering and growing in this country because the U.S. is the country they call home.

Robert Arriaga, 26, Sociology Major SFSU