Author Archives: Tracy López

#VidaConCricket and Muve Music

muvemusic

Disclosure: Latinaish.com has partnered with Cricket Wireless as a 2014 Blog Ambassador. All opinions are my own.

For those who don’t yet know, my whole family has become 2014 blog ambassadors for Cricket Wireless. I’m really excited about this partnership because this is the first time I’ve owned a smartphone. Figuring out how to do everything on a Samsung Galaxy s4 after years of using the most basic of phones wasn’t easy at first, but after a day or two, I became much more comfortable with it. The first week with a smartphone is learning how to use it and the second week is learning how to put it down and leave it alone for a little while!

One of thing that has surprised me the most with my Cricket Wireless service is the Muve Music feature. I was told that I would have unlimited song downloads from Muve Music with my phone but to be honest, I thought that if they’re being so generous with unlimited downloads, then the music available would be by completely unknown artists, or that there would only be poor quality covers of famous songs. I also expected there to be little music in Spanish – I soon discovered I had been really wrong with my assumptions!

The Muve Music store (which is accessed on my phone through an app that comes pre-installed), has had most songs I have wanted so far. I have downloaded almost every Espinoza Paz song I love, Juanes, Voz de Mando, Shakira, Pitbull, Celso Piña, Calle 13, 3BallMTY, and even Crooked Stilo, Los Hermanos Flores and Pedro Infante. Overall I’m really satisfied with the selection, (and my two teenage sons have also found almost all the songs they wanted in English!) … Carlos is less thrilled about my full Espinoza Paz playlist, but that’s a story for another day.

You can learn more about Muve Music and Cricket Wireless in Spanish here, or in English here. You can also follow the #VidaConCricket hashtag and @MiCricket on Twitter.

Cicatrices (Scars)

vaccination-scar

I love scars because behind each scar there is often a story that when told, reveals something about the bearer of that scar; for that reason, Carlos’s scars were one of the things I asked him about early in our relationship when we were still getting to know each other. The differences in our scar stories and the number of scars we each had was pretty representative of the different lives we had led up to that point.

Scars on Carlos’ shin and thigh, the result of a careless delivery man dropping a crate of beer bottles onto him as he slept in a hammock in his mother’s liquor store. The scars on my knees? From the time I checked out too many library books and crashed my bicycle trying to ride home with them in my arms. The scar on his forehead is from the time his brother threw a rock at his face. Thin, lightly raised scars mark the outside of my wrists from the time I tried to hug my grandmother’s short-tempered cat, Charlie.

There is one scar on Carlos’s upper left arm; a roundish mark, pinker than the surrounding skin, and about the size of a small coin.

“What’s that one?” I asked, expecting him to say someone had burned him with a lit cigar because of its appearance.

“From a vaccination. Everyone has them,” he said.

In Carlos’s experience, everyone did have them, but that wasn’t the case in my experience. I don’t have one, my sisters don’t have one and none of my friends growing up had such a scar.

For years I just accepted that Salvadorans, (and many Latin Americans I met), have such a scar, without knowing why. Recently I did some research to satisfy my curiosity about which vaccination caused the mark and why I don’t have one.

Various sources, (websites as well as anecdotal stories from friends) have narrowed it down to various possibilities. Some say they’re certain which vaccination it was, others say they have no idea, and still others think it was a combination of shots they received. The vaccinations most frequently blamed for the scar include tuberculosis (also known as “TB”), polio, and smallpox.

The countries of the people I spoke with who have the scar include:
El Salvador, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Argentina, Japan, and The Dominican Republic.

Interestingly enough though, there were also a handful of people born in the United States who have the scar, but all of them were born before my birth year (1979), so it seems to me it’s a vaccine that wasn’t given after a certain year in the U.S. My mother says that both she and my father received the smallpox vaccine but that neither of them scarred and that they had stopped giving that by the time my sisters and I were born.

I managed to dig up my vaccination record and it says that when I was 3 months old I was vaccinated against polio, so, being that I don’t have a scar, perhaps we’ve narrowed it down to “TB” and/or smallpox – or it’s possible that like my parents, my skin doesn’t scar when it comes to vaccinations. A friend from Mexico further convinced me to eliminate polio as a possible source of the scar when she told me that the vaccination for polio, at least in her experience, is not a shot, but given orally along with sugar water. Obviously an oral vaccination wouldn’t cause a scar on the arm.

This website, Descubre Aprende (hat tip to my friend, Eliana!) says that these scars are caused by the TB vaccination which is called “BBG” – One of my Salvadoran friends stated that he was 100% certain that this was correct.

What do you think? Do you have a vaccination scar either on your upper arm or upper outer thigh? Do you know what it was from, in which country you received it and what year? Leave a comment!

Caminar (review & giveaway)

caminar

Book description:

Title: Caminar
Author: Skila Brown
Release Date: March 25, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6516-6

Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.

Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her… Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

My review: When I agreed to receive a copy for review of Caminar by Skila Brown, I didn’t realize the story is told in poems, although it’s clearly stated in the description. It’s a quick read, partly because the book is made up of poems and partly because there’s excellent suspense that propels you through the story, making you want to read “one more” poem to see what happens. The book’s target audience is middle grade and the book is fiction based on real historical events. I like that it’s told in first person, so kids can really identify with Carlos and feel a little bit of what it must have felt like to live through such an experience, and I like the little bit of Spanish throughout.

My 12 year old asked what I was reading and asked me to read some to him but after awhile he stopped me and said, “No offense, but I prefer funny poems.” (He was raised on Shel Silverstein.) That being said, I enjoyed it and think it would work best in a classroom setting, read as a class with discussion and related assignments, but if you have a child who likes poetry (the non-funny kind), and is interested in Guatemala and can handle serious subject matter, then they might enjoy this book as much as I did.

===GIVEAWAY CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO FJKINGSBURY, SANDRA RIVAS, and EZZY!===

The Giveaway

Prize description: Three lucky random winners will each be receiving an advanced copy of Caminar by Skila Brown.

How to Enter: To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below sharing who you’d like to win this book for – If for yourself, why do you want to read it? (Please read official rules below before entering.)

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age or older to enter. You must be able to provide a U.S. address for prize shipment. Your name and address will only be shared with the company/person in charge of prize fulfillment. Please no P.O. Boxes. One entry per household. Make sure that you enter a valid email address in the email address field so you can be contacted if you win. Winners will be selected at random. Winner has 48 hours to respond. If no response is received after 48 hours, a new winner will be selected at random. Giveaway entries are being accepted between February 17, 2014 through February 23, 2014. Entries received after February 23, 2014 at 11:59 pm EST, will not be considered. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. If you win, by accepting the prize, you are agreeing that Latinaish.com assumes no liability for damages of any kind. By entering your name below you are agreeing to these Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

Buena suerte / Good luck!

Disclosure: A book was received for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza (Copycat Recipe)

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza Copycat - Latinaish.com

I have a confession to make… I love Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizzas – they’re probably my favorite thing on the menu. Sometimes when I need my fix, I just make my own version at home since they’re so easy to recreate, (and it also saves Carlos from frustration at the drive thru! See the image I created below if you’re not sure what I mean.)

spanishspeakerproblem

Okay, enough funny business! Here’s the recipe, and some step-by-step photos!

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza (Copycat Recipe)

You need:

medium-sized thin flour tortillas
refried beans (canned or fresh, regular or fat free)
Mexican-style shredded cheese
taco sauce (Taco Bell brand, or other brand – your choice!)
green onions, diced
Roma tomatoes, diced

Optional: salt to taste

Method:

1. Toast the tortillas on both sides on a comal/griddle to the point that they are slightly crunchy. You will need two tortillas per Mexican pizza.

2. Place one tortilla on a baking sheet. Use the back of a spoon to spread refried beans on the top, almost to the edges.

3. Place the second tortilla on top of the beans. Use the back of a spoon to spread taco sauce on top, almost to the edges.

4. Sprinkle the taco sauce with cheese. Top with diced tomato and green onions. (Repeat steps 1 through 4 for each Mexican pizza you want to make.)

5. Place Mexican pizza(s) under a broiler for a couple minutes until cheese is melted. Optional: Add salt to taste. Serve!

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza Copycat Recipe step-by-step, from Latinaish.com

Shania Twain, Mexican-style

rogelio-martinez

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

En mi carro tenemos una suscripción gratuita de 3 meses de radio por satélite. Honestamente, la mayoría de las estaciones no me gustan pero hay una que sí me gusta mucho, especialmente porque el tipo de música que tocan, (regional mexicano) no está disponible aquí en las estaciones de radio regulares.

En la estación hay muchas canciones que ya conozco, y también estoy descubriendo nuevas canciones que me encantan. El otro día ellos tocaban una canción que no conocía, pero sí concocía. Pero, ¿cómo es posible no conocer y conocer a una canción?

Bueno, te digo que fue. La canción empezó y sin pensar, empecé a cantar:

Looks like we made it,
Look how far we’ve come my baby,
We might have took the long way,
We knew we’d get there someday…

Pronto me di cuenta de que yo estaba cantando en inglés y la canción estaba en español. Es que este artista mexicano, Rogelio Martínez, hizo una traducción en español de una canción vieja de Shania Twain. Oigan:

Así que, ahora tengo esta canción bien metida y bien mezclada en mi mente.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

In my car we have a 3-month free subscription to a satellite radio service. Honestly, I don’t like most of the stations but there is one that I do like, especially because the type of music they play (Regional Mexican) isn’t available on the regular radio stations.

On the station there are a lot of songs I know, and I’m also discovering new songs that I love. The other day they played a song that I didn’t know, but I knew. But, how is it possible to not know yet know a song?

Well, I’ll tell you what happened. The song started and without thinking, I began to sing:

Looks like we made it,
Look how far we’ve come my baby,
We might have took the long way,
We knew we’d get there someday…

Soon I realized I was singing in English and the song was in Spanish. It’s that the Mexican singer, Rogelio Martínez, had made a Spanish translation of an old Shania Twain song.

So now I have the song really stuck and really mixed up in my head.

¿Cómo se dice SPORK?

spork

Over the weekend we got some takeout food for dinner. At home, I dumped the bag of sauce packets, napkins and plastic utensils onto the table.

“Hand me one of those forks, please,” Carlos said.
“It’s not a fork,” I said, holding it up.
“Hand me… one of those thingies,” he said.

(Carlos’s English includes the word “thingies” since apparently I say that a lot.)

“It’s called a ‘spork’ – It’s a spoon-fork, see?” I handed the plastic utensil to him.
“Spork, okay,” he said, taking it from me, more eager to eat than to get a vocabulary lesson.

I took a bite of my food and chewed thoughtfully.

“How do you say ‘spork’ in Spanish?” I asked.
“You don’t,” Carlos answered.
“There’s no word for ‘spork’?”
“No.”
“Oh!” I became excited. “Hold on, okay, let’s see… In Spanish, ‘spoon’ is ‘cuchara’ and ‘fork’ is ‘tenedor’ so a spork could be… CUCHADOR!”

I fell in love with the new word immediately.

“You can’t do that,” Carlos said.
“What?”
“You can’t just make words up.”
“I just did! This is a cuchador! And I’m going to go tell the whole internet!”

After dinner I went online and typed “How do you say ‘spork’ in Spanish?” just to make sure Carlos was right, that there wasn’t already a word that existed. To my amusement, Carlos was wrong and there is actually already a word… and it’s ‘cuchador.’ I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t invent a new word, but I’m impressed that my bilingual brain came up with the correct word by putting together what it already knows. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try!

Té de Miel y Limón

honey-lemon-tea

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Últimamente parece que cada día una amiga diferente me dice que está enferma. Creo que es un buen momento para compartir mi secreto para combatir el virus del resfriado. Hace muchos años Carlos insistió que tomará un “té” de miel y limón cuando tuviera un dolor de garganta; mucha gente en El Salvador beben esto cuando están enfermos. Yo era escéptica, pero con los años descubrí que ayuda y ahora, cada vez que siento los primeros síntomas de un resfriado, empiezo a beber este té varias veces al día hasta sentirme mejor. El limón proporciona Vitamina C y la miel es un antibiótico natural, además de que sabe bien y se siente bien beberlo. Salud!

Té de Miel y Limón

Necesitas:

una rodaja de limón
una taza de agua muy caliente
miel

Instrucciones:

Exprimir el limón en el agua caliente. Añadir una o dos cucharadas de miel y revuelva. Servir.

Opcional: Últimamente también he ido añadiendo una pizca de jengibre molido que añade sabor y también tiene beneficios médicos.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Lately it seems that each day a different friend tells me she’s sick. I think it’s a good time to share my secret for combating the cold virus. Many years ago Carlos insisted I drink a “tea” made ​​from honey and lemon when I had a sore throat; many people in El Salvador drink this when they’re sick. I was skeptical, but over the years I found that it helps and now, whenever I feel the first symptoms of a cold, I start drinking this tea several times a day until I feel better. The lemon provides Vitamin C and honey is a natural antibiotic, plus it tastes good and feels good drink. To your health!

Honey Lemon Tea

You need:

a slice of lemon
a cup of very hot water
honey

Directions:

Squeeze the lemon into the hot water. Add one or two tablespoons of honey and stir. Serve.

Optional: Lately I’ve also been adding a pinch of ground ginger which adds flavor and also has medical benefits.

Tattoos in Latin American Culture

bird tattoo - Latinaish.com

Carlos’s second tattoo

I don’t have a single tattoo, and while I have nothing against them, it’s a good thing I never got one. Impulsive as I tend to be, and with passions that change over time, the tattoo I would have wanted at 18 years old is not one I would have been happy with today. At times I have drawn a design on myself with permanent marker (usually on my wrist) to see how it would look, and even if I love it, by the end of the day, I’m ready to wash it off. If I ever get one, maybe it would be something functional, like a “to do” list, or a Harry Potter reference, perhaps a favorite Lotería card, but for now I’m happy being ink-free.

Carlos on the other hand has two tattoos and has been planning on a third. The first one he got was my name on his back – his mother still doesn’t know about it, (unless she discovered this blog.) … She lived with us at the time Carlos got it and it was awkward to see him as a grown man, making sure he didn’t have his shirt off around his mother lest she find out. Apparently his older brother got a tattoo years ago and it earned him a good slap in the face when he showed her.

I’ve asked Carlos before, “Why do you get tattoos?” – because each individual has different reasons. Aside from liking the way they look, he’s realized that part of it is a sort of rebellion for him. His mother always had strict expectations for Carlos that dictated everything about how he live his life – some of those expectations being illogical, unfair, impossible, and burdensome. Getting tattoos is one way he began to claim his independence – more so an internal message to himself than an outward message to her, since, like I said, she still doesn’t even know about the tattoos.

The second tattoo Carlos got is of a pre-Columbian bird symbol, a reminder of his roots.

I love both his tattoos, and more importantly, he does too, but they haven’t been without problems.

When we traveled back to El Salvador, at one point Carlos wanted to renew his DUI, (which is a form of Salvadoran identification, not a “Driving Under the Influence.”) At DUI Centro (which is sort of like the Department of Motor Vehicles) you have to state whether you have tattoos as part of the process to get your ID. If they don’t believe you, they have you remove your shirt for inspection.

Having a tattoo in El Salvador can carry a heavy stigma and cause suspicion from law enforcement due to the history of gangs and their love of ink. Gang members themselves may also target you if they suspect you’re from a different gang.

Apparently, not only is there a stigma in Latin America because of gangs, but this has caused problems for Latino immigrants to the United States who have been denied visas, permanent residency and citizenship just because of their tattoos.

Here are some quotes from people on having tattoos in El Salvador:

“My friend’s first time going to El Salvador, he had tattoos on his arms and some gang members on the streets saw him and even followed him to his abuela’s house. Although the tattoos weren’t gang related, the gang members associated the tats with some other gang they didn’t know. They threatened him and said he had to pay “rent” and not to try and do anything funny. Every 20 minutes, the same red car came by and stop in front of the house which obviously meant someone was keeping an eye on him. He had to sneak out of the house that night and stay at another relatives house.”Amanda F., Trip Advisor

“If you’re of Salvadoran descent…you should definitely take care to cover them. There’s a huge difference between a white girl with tattoos and a Latino in ES. Many companies won’t even hire someone with even one tattoo here, that’s how deep the preconceived notion of tats are.”travel82bug, Trip Advisor

“I have one that I can conceal which I got when I was 18. When my mother saw it ten years later she stormed out and I had to chase after her to then hear a one hour lecture on how I have ruined my body, made my self look like a criminal, only gang members have tattoos in El Salvador, blah blah blah… She’s more accepting now that both her daughters have small hidden tattoos and both of her Australian son-in-laws have them too. As respect for her, and because of the stigma I would probably not get another one though. And when I took my husband to El Salvador last year I made him cover the tattoos on his arms and chest. Now I am a mother I think I might get upset too when/if my baby boy gets one, even if it is a beautiful one… I made him so perfectly beautiful. I understand my own mother now.”Lamden, Facebook

“My husband got his mother’s middle name instead of her first name on his arm because her first name has an ‘M’ in it. He won’t get our daughters name either because of the ‘M.’ The cantón where he’s from has a lot of 18 [18th street] gang members so to put an ‘M’ on himself would be a death wish.”Josie Iraheta, Facebook

“I have 3 tattoos that I got latter in my life, and when I went back to ES to visit my parents, my dad asked me to cover them, because his co-workers and friends would be put off by them. I got upset but honored his request out of respect. I wasn’t treated different by anyone else because of my ink, and I look like your normal average middle age woman when I cover them. But I want to get one by a Salvadorian artist if I go back to ES.”LadyAmalthea, Facebook

The good news is that in recent years, there has been a strong, organized movement to change perceptions of tattoos in El Salvador and in other parts of Latin America. At the time of this writing, almost a dozen tattoo parlors are listed for San Salvador in the Páginas Amarillas.

Do you have a tattoo? Have you experienced discrimination from strangers, friends or family in El Salvador or elsewhere? Share in comments!

Do-it-Yourself Love Song Pillow for Día de San Valentín

love-song-lyric-pillow-1

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

Text on pillows and other home décor is hot right now, but as someone who loves language and typography, it will always be in style at my house.

Here’s how you can make your own custom pillow featuring the lyrics of “your song” to gift to your valentine on Valentine’s Day. (I gave Carlos this pillow featuring lyrics from Ricardo Arjona’s “Te Encontraré” which is our song.)

Do-it-Yourself Love Song Pillow

You need:

4 x 5 ft. Blue Hawk canvas drop cloth, cut into two squares slightly larger than 19 x 19 in. each
(For cutting the drop cloth: pencil, ruler, scissors)
allen + roth 19 x 19 in. white square decorative pillow
1 clear, plastic, rectangular storage container with lid
LED lights with batteries
a large sewing needle (not available at Lowe’s)
size 10 crochet thread in desired color (not available at Lowe’s)
permanent marker
clear package tape
printer with ink and paper

Directions:

Before you begin: If you’re not fond of the scent of the drop cloth, you can launder it just as you do with your clothes in the washer and dryer with whichever detergent you have on hand.

1. Cut two squares of the drop cloth to slightly larger than 19 x 19 inches.

2. Choose a few lines of lyrics from your love song, and then print them in a large font of your choosing on a regular piece of white 8.5 x 11 inch printer paper. (You may find that this works best in “landscape” rather than “portrait.”)

3.. Build your lightbox: Put the lid of the storage container on the floor or table surface with the LED lights on top of it. Turn the LED lights on and place the storage container on top so that the LED lights are sealed inside and the storage container is upside down.

lightbox

4. On the bottom of the closed storage container, tape down the paper with your printed song lyrics, then position one square of the drop cloth fabric over the paper. You should be able to see the lyrics through the fabric. Make sure the lyrics are aligned as you like and then tape down the fabric. (You may be tempted to skip the taping part but if you want a neat result, I recommend doing it so nothing gets shifted while you work.)

5. Use a permanent marker to trace the letters through the fabric.

trace-letters

traced-letters-closeup

6. Remove the fabric from the “lightbox.” Optional: Lightly iron the fabric with a hot iron. This will help “set” the ink and help prevent it from bleeding later should it get wet or need washing.

7. Now, you have several options for sewing your pillow. The traditional way with a hidden seam would require a sewing machine to sew the two squares together, closing three sides, (with the traced letters flipped to the wrong side as you use the sewing machine.) You would then reach inside and turn the pillow case inside-out so now the text looks correct, stuff the pillow inside and sew the fourth side closed by hand using small stitches and a thread that matches the fabric color.

In my case, I can’t use a sewing machine to save my life and I wasn’t even going to attempt to hide my stitches. I decided to use my poor sewing skills to my benefit and make the stitches a visible part of the design. The crochet thread I chose was burgundy so it stood out nicely against the cream color of the drop cloth. The stitch I used is called a “blanket stitch” – Instructions can be found HERE, but here are step-by-step photos to help you.

blanket-stitch-howto

7. Once all four sides are stitched closed, your pillow is finished and ready for giving to your cariño!

love-song-text-pillow-2

Want more creative ideas?

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America’s Secret Slang

Image source: screen capture of TV program "America's Secret Slang" on H2

Image source: screen capture of TV program “America’s Secret Slang” on H2

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

“Cuándo hablas inglés estadounidense, en realidad estás hablando todo tipo de lenguas extranjeras que vinieron de todo tipo de inmigrantes.” - Zach Selwyn, presentador del programa, “America’s Secret Slang”

¿Has visto el programa de televisión “America’s Secret Slang” en H2 – History Channel? Amantes de idiomas – es uno que debes ver!

Este episodio llamado “Coming to America” es mi favorito.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

“When you’re speaking American [English], you’re actually speaking all sorts of foreign languages that came from all sorts of immigrants.” – Zach Selwyn, host of TV program, America’s Secret Slang

Have you seen the show “America’s Secret Slang” on H2 – History Channel? Language lovers – it’s a must watch!

This episode called “Coming to America” is my favorite.

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