Members of the panel (from left) Tony Vargas, Griselda Reyes, Jer Soriano and Dr. Guadalupe Arreola answer questions from attendees after the screening of “El Susto” on March 29. (Michael Ramirez)

GONZALES — Blue Zones Project, along with other agencies from Monterey County, recently hosted a public screening of the documentary “El Susto” inside the Gonzales High School cafeteria.

“El Susto,” which translates to “the scare” in English, uncovers the soda industry’s influence in Mexico and how pre-diabetes and diabetes are issues that affect almost half of Monterey County adults.

The “El Susto” story was directed by Karen Atkins, who — during her volunteer work in Quintana Roo, Mexico, in 2008-09 — saw the high rates of diabetes among remote communities. Adkins explained how soda affects the Mexican-American community.

“When I made ‘El Susto,’ I always hoped it would be seen by members of the Mexican-American community in the U.S., whose families are being affected by type 2 diabetes related to sugary beverage consumption,” she said. “So often this community is targeted by soda company ads campaigns, and they suffer disproportionately because of that. We show soda company strategies in our film so that consumers can be aware and combat marketing designed to undermine their health for soda company profits.”

Dalila Alvarado, the Food Environment Lead for the Blue Zones Project, spearheaded the “El Susto” presentation on March 29 for the Gonzales community and was excited to have the film presented at a local community and school environment.

“The screening in Gonzales is the first to be showed for members of the community and the first in a school setting,” Alvarado said. “I first saw the film when I was completing my degree in public health in Berkeley in 2021. Most of the screenings so far have been in university settings and public health related conferences. As of now, we don’t have any future screenings planned, but it’s definitely in discussion.”

After the screening, a panel answered questions from the attendees regarding the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in its relationship to type 2 diabetes.

The panel included Dr. Guadalupe Arreola of Taylor Farms Family and Wellness Clinic; Gonzales High School Principal Jer Soriano; and Griselda Reyes and Tony Vargas of the Blue Zones Project of Monterey County.

The other agencies that sponsored the “El Susto” screening were: Salinas Valley Health, Taylor Farms, Montage Health, Aspire Health, Ecology Action, Taylor Farms Family and Wellness Clinic, Gonzales High School, Braga Fresh, the City of Gonzales and the Gonzales Fire Department.

Salinas Valley Health also provided its Mobile Health Clinic at the event and provided free glucose screening in the Gonzales High School parking lot.

A mobile clinic from Salinas Valley Health provides free glucose in the Gonzales High School parking lot. (Michael Ramirez)
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