continued Weinstein says that is especially so in Roberto's village in Oaxaca. "They don't have electricity there, they don't have movies, they don't have theater, they don't have TV. So what you do for fun and entertainment is-- sex. And if you can't do that, that too cuts into your ability to enjoy life, especially in a macho society."
All this was relevant because late last year, when Roberto sued the U.S. government, the argument was over how much post-trauma suffering Roberto has endured and how much that is worth in monetary compensation. Weinstein says in this situation in San Diego, it doesn't pay to be an illegal Mexican immigrant.
"I don't know how racist you think this is, but if you are an undocumented Mexican immigrant, your damages [likely] will be based on what you'd be able to make in Mexico. So this young man's damages have to be based on his income that he would have in Oaxaca, which is basically something like $1000, $1200 a year. Whereas if he was here, minimum wage is $12,000 a year. But that's how they calculate damages."
"Plaintiff [Roberto Alvarado] Galindo suffered a past earning loss of $4997 based on a pay of 40 pesos [$4] a day for six days a week [over three years]," wrote Judge Jones. "The government provided evidence that the present value of Plaintiff's future earnings until April 2000 is $2033."
Then there's the problem of plumbing the psychological damage of someone with a completely different cultural foundation. Anglo psychiatrists wouldn't be able to understand the way Roberto expressed things, says Weinstein. "Roberto was extraordinarily depressed," he says. "But that's something that is difficult for him to explain. He would tell you he felt sad, or he's got -- not even headaches. They talk about the nuca, which is the base of the skull, the nape. That's where they get the pain, which is very physical."
Weinstein says with Mexicans who have little education, there is a tendency to somatize -- to make all your ailments physical. "For instance, they won't say, 'I'm nervous.' They'll say, 'I'm sick to my nerves.' They physically believe that there's some illness in their nerves. It's a way of making symptoms concrete. He would say things like, 'I can't go there anymore, because I don't know where I am.' The untrained professional would conclude that he's just making it up. Malingering. What he would mean was 'I don't remember what I'm supposed to do. I get lost. I go to places I used to go, and now I don't know where I am.' But of course, he doesn't have the language to communicate the symptoms adequately."
"Can you imagine what happens when you [have to] communicate in a language you don't speak with a physician who doesn't understand your culture? When you're talking of emotional problems, brain injuries, it is almost impossible [for him] to come up with a proper diagnosis."
That, says Weinstein, who grew up in Mexico City, is a major problem for San Diego: the shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists who speak Spanish and understand the many facets of Mexican-Hispanic culture.
"Roberto also had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, but again, because they are not able to tell you about recurrent intrusive flashbacks, or memories, they talk about 'visions.' This young man would talk to me about walking by the river and getting the vision of his brother [Celerino], whom he often used to walk with by the river. He'd just appear before him. That's cultural. We would call them a flashback.
"So the bottom line was that eventually we did do a full neuro-psychological evaluation, and the test that I utilized, which I have to adjust to the cultural upbringing and background, certainly showed a post-traumatic brain injury, or a mild TBI."
Judge Jones was not convinced. "Insufficient evidence was provided to show that plaintiff had brain damage caused by the accident, or amnesia," Jones wrote in his judgment.
Nevertheless, Weinstein says Roberto was lucky to get this judge. "I think Judge Jones is a very decent man," he says. Indeed, although the judge only awarded Roberto $2033 for future loss of earnings, he added $57,000 for "past and future pain and suffering," as well as paying $16,000 for past medical expenses and $5000 for future medical expenses. He awarded his brother Celerino's widow and three children $345,105, most for "past and future noneconomic damages."
The last time Weinstein saw Roberto, things had improved, significantly. "He still wasn't able to go out into the fields and work, but he was able to help his wife a little bit more. He now felt comfortable because he understood his limitations based on his brain-injury, being [more] the caretaker of the children than his wife. He valued that. He valued the fact that if he took care of the kids, his wife could go out and sell the fruit, and he could help the wife. And the good news is they had another child, so their sexual life has improved too."