Días Importantes for Latinos in 2014

important holidays latin america

Feliz Año Nuevo! If you’re anything like Carlos, then you already have your 2014 calendar on display – If you’re anything like me, then you’re still waiting for Amazon to deliver your 2014 agenda which you ordered at the last minute. Either way, here are some dates to make note of which may not already be marked in your calendar or agenda. You don’t want to miss National Taco Day, now do you?

Latin American and Latino-American Holidays 2014

January

New Year’s Day/ Año Nuevo – 1st
Desfile de las Rosas – 1st
Independence Day, Cuba – 1st
Día de los Reyes – 6th

February

Día de la Candelaria – 2nd
Día de San Valentín/ Día del Amor y la Amistad, USA – 14th
National Margarita Day, USA – 22nd
Independence Day, Dominican Republic – 27th

March

Ash Wednesday/ El Miércoles de Ceniza – 5th

April

April Fools’ Day, USA – 1st
National Empanada Day, USA – 8th
Domingo de Ramos – 13th
Jueves Santo – 17th
Viernes Santo – 18th
Domingo de Resurrección – 20th
Día de los Niños, US and Mexico – 30th

May

Cinco de Mayo, USA and part of Mexico – 5th
Mother’s Day – 11th for US and most of Latin America, 10th for El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico
Independence Day, Paraguay – 15th

June

The beginning of FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil – 13th
Father’s Day – 15th for US and most of Latin America, 17th for El Salvador and Guatemala
El Día E (Spanish language appreciation day) – 22nd

July

Independence Day, USA and Puerto Rico – 4th
Independence Day, Venezuela – 5th
Independence Day, Argentina – 9th
Independence Day, Colombia – 20th
Día del Amigo, Argentina – 20th
Día Internacional del Perro Callejero – 27th
Independence Day, Peru -28th

August

Fiestas Agostinas, El Salvador – 5th to 11th
Salvadoran American Day, USA – 6th
Independence Day, Bolivia – 6th
Independence Day, Ecuador – 10th
Independence Day, Uruguay – 25th

September

Independence Day, Brazil – 7th
Independence Day, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua – 15th
Hispanic Heritage Month – 15th (to October 15th)
Independence Day, Mexico – 15th & 16th
Independence Day, Chile – 18th

October

National Taco Day, USA – 4th
Halloween, USA – 31st

November

Día de Todos los Santos – 1st
Día de los Muertos/Difuntos – 2nd
Independence Day, Panama – 3rd
National Pupusa Day, El Salvador – 9th
Universal Children’s Day – 20th (Countries throughout Latin America celebrate it different days)
Thanksgiving, USA – 27th

December

Giving Tuesday (donate to charity) – 2nd
Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe – 12th
Las Posadas (to Nochebuenda) – 16th
Nochebuena – 24th
Navidad – 25th
Día de los Inocentes, Latin America – 28th

Did I miss an awesome holiday celebrated in Latin America or by Latinos in other parts of the world? Leave a comment so we can celebrate, too!

Biscochitos

biscochitos

Today we’re getting ready for the annual “galletada” with my mother, sisters and all the kids (my sons, my nephew and my niece.) We always make decorated sugar cookies but sometimes we each bring already prepared cookies of other varieties to share. This morning I decided to make biscochitos.

Biscochitos (often misspelled “bizcochitos”) are a holiday tradition passed generation to generation for many families in New Mexico where my older sister lived for a few years. One of the souvenirs she sent me back while living there were these anise seed cookies with a unique licorice-like flavor I really liked, so I looked up recipes and made them myself many times over the years even though Carlos isn’t that fond of them. (He says that anise is used as a home remedy in El Salvador so they taste medicinal to him.)

Anyway, if you want to give them a try, my recipe is below. Unlike traditional biscochitos, I use butter, even though New Mexicans will insist that to be authentic, you must use lard. My older sister is vegetarian which is why I usually use butter, but please feel free to sub lard for butter in the recipe. It will give it a slightly different texture, (which many much prefer!)

biscochitos3

Biscochitos (New Mexican Anise Seed Cookies

You need:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (you can use lard)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seed
2 tablespoons vanilla extract (you can use rum)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

For topping:

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method:

1. Cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl. Next beat in the egg, anise seed and vanilla extract.

2. In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture little by little until combined. Do not over mix.

3. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Once chilled, roll out on a floured surface. The thinner you make them, the crunchier they’ll be, so if you’d like them to be a little softer, roll them out thicker. Use a drinking glass dusted with flour or a cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles or desired shape. Carefully move the cookies to a foil-lined greased cookie sheet.

4. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ½ cup sugar with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Set aside.

5. Bake the cookies at 350 F until they’re starting to brown at the edges. Sprinkle the cookies with the cinnamon sugar mixture while still hot. Allow to cool and serve.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

biscochitos2

Salvadoran Tamales de Gallina

tamales salvadoreños de gallina / Salvadoran chicken tamales - Latinaish.com

My first attempt at tamales salvadoreños de gallina (pollo) was a delicious success! (For that I am very thankful, because it would have been a huge disappointment after all that work to have them not turn out.) I kept detailed notes during the entire process and documented everything I did so that I could share it here with you. I hope this recipe and the instructions below help you make perfect tamales this holiday season. You’ll need an entire day to make these from start to finish, so plan accordingly. Buena suerte!

Salvadoran Tamales de Gallina

The filling

5 lbs. chicken pieces (I used 12 chicken thighs)
2 small tomatoes, quartered
1 small onion, quartered
1/2 small green pepper
1 large carrot, peeled
1 stalk celery
1 handful cilantro
4 cloves garlic, slightly crushed
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt, plus salt to taste
1 tablespoon achiote (ground annatto)
1 tablespoon dry oregano
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

3 large Russet potatoes, cut into sticks, raw
2 cups garbanzo beans, already cooked

1. Simmer the chicken with all ingredients listed (besides the potatoes and garbanzo beans) with enough water to cover well. All of these vegetables and herbs are to flavor the broth which you’ll later use in the recaudo and the masa. This broth/chicken stock needs to be really flavorful. Some people use chicken bouillon to achieve this, and you can feel free to add some, but I avoid using bouillon.

2. Simmer the chicken until it is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a large dish to cool.

3. Remove the vegetables from the chicken stock and discard them. When cool enough, taste the chicken stock and determine whether you’d like to add a little additional salt. (I added a little more at this point.) Set this aside. You will be using it soon for the racaudo and masa!

4. When the chicken is cool, discard the skin and bone. Shred the meat into large pieces by hand and season with a little more salt if needed. (I added a little salt at this point.) Set aside.

5. If you haven’t already, wash and peel 3 large potatoes. Cut each potato into french fry-sized “sticks.”

6. If cooking your own garbanzo beans, you should have done this a day before. If using canned, just have them ready to open and drain when you assemble the tamales. I like the tamales with minimal filling ingredients but other people may put any of the following in their tamales: slices of hard-boiled egg, capers, green olives, green beans, sliced green and red bell pepper. Use any of these if you wish!

7. Set all these ingredients aside. These will be used, along with the recaudo, as the filling for your tamales. Next, we make the racaudo.

The recaudo (sauce)

8 small tomatoes
1 small green pepper
1/2 medium white onion
3 cloves garlic
1 dried guajillo chile, stem removed

1/8 cup pumpkin seeds, roasted
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup sesame seeds, roasted
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon dry oregano
1 teaspoon achiote (ground annatto)

2 pieces French bread, each about the size of a small fist
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt

1. Roast the tomatoes, green pepper, onion, garlic and guajillo chile on a comal/griddle (or large frying pan) over medium heat. (Be careful not to burn the guajillo chile – it doesn’t need much time on there.) Once slightly roasted on each side, put everything into a blender. You can use a large wooden spoon to smash the tomatoes inside the blender to make room if it gets too full. Don’t run the blender just yet.

2. Some use a pre-made “relajo” spice packet for the recaudo, but I wanted to create my own homemade “relajo” spice mixture with measurements of each spice for those who don’t have these packets locally available. (This also gives you greater control over the flavor and gives the recipe better accuracy since relajo spice mixtures vary by brand.) The spices you need to make your own relajo are: pumpkin seeds, bay leaves, sesame seeds, whole cloves, whole cumin seeds, black peppercorns, dry oregano and achoite (ground annatto.) If your pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds aren’t already roasted, slightly dry roast them (no oil) in a small pan or on the comal, stirring and being careful not to burn them.

relajo salvadoreño - Latinaish.com

3. Add all the “relajo” spices on top of the vegetables in the blender. Add the chicken stock, french bread and salt. If your blender is a standard size, it’s a very tight fit! Be careful and make sure your lid is secure! Blend until smooth. (Your blender might not blend all the spices perfectly smooth – that’s okay!)

4. Pour the recaudo into a medium pot and heat to simmering, stirring occasionally for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

recaudo - Latinaish.com

The masa

8 cups instant corn masa flour (I used MASECA. There’s no need to buy the one that is especially for tamales.)
9 cups chicken stock
8 cups warm water
1 lb. lard
1 cup recaudo

1. In a very large bowl or large stock pot, mix the chicken stock little by little into the corn masa flour by hand. (If you run out of the homemade chicken stock, you can use store bought in its place, but I had enough.) Make sure there isn’t any dry flour in the bowl and that it’s all been worked in.

2. Add the lard and work into the masa by hand. Make sure it’s completely distributed throughout – this will take a few minutes and you will notice the masa get fluffier.

3. Add the recaudo and work in by hand.

4. If you’re working with the masa in a bowl, transfer it now to the stock pot. Add the water, little by little, and work it in by hand. Make sure there are no lumps.

5. This is the most difficult part of this process. Make sure you have at least one other person with you in the kitchen who is willing to switch off with you. You’re going to cook the masa in the pot over medium heat, but YOU MUST STIR CONTINUOUSLY! Do not stop stirring for more than a second or two or the masa will stick/cook to the bottom of the pot and it will be ruined. Before you start, make sure you’re using a very strong, sturdy wooden spoon. Make sure you have oven mitts (especially if the handles of your pot are metal and get hot.) Make sure you have a timer you can set to keep track of the time. You will need to cook and stir the masa for at least 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove from heat and stir for another minute before allowing to cool.

One thing to note: I prefer my tamales on the firmer side so I’m really happy with how they turned out, but Salvadoran tamales are famously gelatinous. I think that if you wanted to achieve that “squishier” texture, you could add more chicken stock before cooking the masa, and possibly sub cooking oil for lard.

The wrapping

2 packs plantain/banana leaves
Aluminum foil (1 roll of 75 feet is plenty)

1. Plantain/banana leaves come frozen in the United States. About 1 hour before you’re ready to assemble tamales, disinfect your kitchen sink then fill it with warm water. Submerge the packets of plantain/banana leaves in the water, (placing a pot on top if they float too much.) This will defrost them and make them more pliable. Some people later warm the plantain/banana leaves over heat but I didn’t find it necessary at all.

2. After 1 hour, remove the packets from the water, cut open and drain. Rinse the leaves in warm, clean running water and shake dry before transferring to a large clean counter surface.

3. Cut the plantain leaves to about 12 inches x 7 inches, (rectangles.) They won’t be exactly the same measurements – that’s okay. Set aside any pieces that are too small or ripped or oddly shaped, (don’t discard them – you will use them later.)

4. Cut pieces of aluminum foil to about 18 inches x 12 inches.

5. Put down a piece of foil, and on top, a plantain/banana leaf, (lighter side of the leaf facing up.) Repeat the process so you have an alternating stack of foil and plantain/banana leaves. (This makes the tamal-making process easier later.)

6. Assemble all your ingredients. You’re ready to start making the tamales!

7. Place a large spoonful of the masa as shown in the video, in the middle of the plantain/banana leaf. In the middle of the massa place a spoonful of the racuado. Add chicken, a few pieces of potato, a few garbanzos and/or whichever other fillings you prefer.

8. Fold closed as shown in the video, rolling and folding tightly to seal. Repeat process for each tamal.

9. Put the tamales in a steamer pot with slightly salted water in the bottom. (Some people cover the tamales with water but I always make sure the water doesn’t touch the tamales so they can properly steam.)

10. Cover the tamales with the leftover plantain/banana leaf scraps and then the lid. Simmer on low heat, adding salted water if necessary to the bottom of the pot until cooked through, making sure you don’t allow the pot to cook dry/burn.

11. It can be difficult to tell when the tamal is ready because while hot, the masa will be very soft. You must remove a tamal and allow it to cool a little while the other tamales continue to cook. Once it’s cooled, you can open it and check for doneness. It’s a good sign if the potato inside is cooked. Mine took about 2 hours.

12. Allow tamales to cool before refrigerating. They will taste better re-heated the next day. Whatever isn’t eaten within a few days should be frozen.

Makes 30 to 40 large tamales.

tamal salvadoreño de gallina - Latinaish.com

Feliz Thanksgiving!

teagradezco

Hola! I’m sure all of you will soon be busy cooking, eating, and spending time with your familia if you aren’t already, but I wanted to give you these printables I made to keep the niños busy while the chumpe (pavo!) is in the oven.

Have the kids fill out these little notes of thankfulness to practice their Spanish and express their gratitude for loved ones, then cut them out and give them to family!

Instructions:

1. Choose the thankful notes you would like to use – (Either “te agradezco” or “le agradezco” depending on the intended recipient.)

2. Click on the image below to be taken to the download page.

3. Download by clicking “Download” on the top right hand side where you see the blue arrow. Open the PDF in Adobe Reader then click “print.”

Have fun and Feliz Thanksgiving!

Click here to go download!

Click here to go download!

Click here to go download!

Click here to go download!

All You – Celebraciones!

AYCover1213_HispanicBooklet_lr[1]

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!

¿Has visto esta revista en tu tienda WalMart? En esta edición de diciembre 2013, “All You” empezó a publicar un folleto dentro de la revista que se llama “All You Celebraciones” que oferece contenido especialmente para latinas en inglés. Tengo el honor de ser incluida en la primera edición de “Celebraciones” con otras blogueras latinas, compartiendo como celebramos y mantenemos nuestras tradiciones vivas. Chécalo!

celebraciones_allyou

allyou_december2013

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Have you seen this magazine at your WalMart store? In this December 2013 issue, “All You” began publishing an insert within the magazine called “All You Celebraciones” which offers content especially for Latinas in English. I have the honor of being included in the first issue of “Celebraciones” with other Latina bloggers, sharing how we celebrate and keep our traditions alive. Check it out!

Feliz National Pupusa Day 2013!

pupusas

It’s that time of year again – Día Nacional de la Pupusa! I hope that you’re all celebrating by eating some delicious pupusas either from your favorite pupusería or homemade.

While you’re waiting to eat, here’s a National Pupusa Day crossword to keep you busy. How much of a pupusa expert are you? You can download the crossword as a PDF or Word document to print and share as you like, or you can even play it online! Click the image below to be taken to the National Pupusa Day crossword puzzle!

Click here!

Click here!

(If you get stumped, “Latinaish” is the answer key password.)

If you want more pupusa fun, here’s an easy index to my favorite pupusa blog posts here on Latinaish. (Quite frankly, I was a little shocked by how many there are. If El Salvador’s Tourism Department is looking for an Official Pupusa Blog Ambassador, I’m your gringa.)

Humorous Pupusa Blog Posts:

You down with O.P.P? (Yeah, you know me!) (A suegra story.)

Feliz Día Nacional de la Pupusa [2010] (This post includes “ORACIÓN A LA PUPUSA SALVADOREÑA.”)

El Salvador: The Mariachi Story (The time we ate pupusas in Planes de Renderos and my acting like a tourist cost Carlos a lot of money!)

Pupusa Day 2011 (My son’s funny answer to how Salvadorans celebrate National Pupusa Day.)

How to eat a pupusa (video)

Recipes:

How to make Pupusas de Queso (video & post)
Mini-Pupusas de Queso y Frijol
Pupusas Revueltas with Salsa and Curtido (videos & post)

Ofrendas and Changing Beliefs

ofrenda2013

Today has been a busy day since Día de los Muertos is also my youngest son’s birthday. We’ve been celebrating with him and preparing to celebrate again with family tomorrow, but I also took time to set up our ofrenda over the past couple days.

This year marks a turning point for me culturally because I included many of my own loved ones on our ofrenda. Last year I actually added my paternal grandfather, but I did so hesitantly.

I say “hesitantly” because as much as I admire the holiday and feel it’s a good way to remember Carlos’s loved ones, I hadn’t felt comfortable remembering my own loved ones. Originally I thought, well, this is a Catholic holiday and being that my father’s side of the family is Jewish and my mother’s side of the family is Protestant, it just doesn’t make sense to include my family. However, with each passing year I realized that my hesitance was not truly about the mixing of religions – my hesitance was actually an Anglo-American belief so deeply ingrained that it was difficult for me to recognize – and that belief is that remembering loved ones is something painful, sad, fearful and unpleasant.

When I added my paternal grandfather to the ofrenda last year, it wasn’t an easy thing. I chose my favorite photo of him, one I took myself when I was probably no older than eight. I still remember the moment I took it. He gave me the camera, a Kodak Instamatic, I think it was. He showed me how to load the film, snap a photo, and he set me free. I ran around my grandparents’ house in New York photographing everything. At one point I followed my grandpa out to the driveway. He was wearing one of his signature newsboy caps. “Hey Grandpa,” I said, “Let me take your picture.” He smiled down at me – that is the photo I put on the altar. I added Corn Flakes, the cereal he used to eat every morning, a little trumpet to represent his love of big band music, and a dreidel because he was Jewish.

While I experienced sadness at first, that sadness lifted and I began to experience the holiday as it’s meant to be celebrated. My boys asked me questions about the altar, and I had the opportunity to share stories with them about my grandfather which felt really good.

This year as I set up the altar, I realized that my attitude toward remembering loved ones had changed and I now felt comfortable including my great-grandmothers. As they did last year, the boys asked questions about photos and items on the altar. I was more than happy to tell them stories, the good memories of so many people I was blessed to have known.

ofrenda2013b

Related Links:

Altar 2010
Altar 2011
Altar 2012

A Trip to: Mexico

atriptologo

Editor’s note: Welcome to the Hispanic Heritage Month “A Trip to” series here on Latinaish. This series has been so popular that we’re going to continue it beyond Hispanic Heritage Month! Join us as we virtually visit different Latin American countries through the photos and words of people who live there, have lived there, or have visited and have a lot of love for that particular place. Today F.J. of Bilinguish shows us around Mexico!

Mexico is a fascinating country to visit because it is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the Americas and, with more than 116 million people, the most populous. Besides having great physical diversity, from volcanoes to deserts to jungles, Mexico also boasts a variety of indigenous languages and cultures.

The gorgeous view from atop a pyramid at the archeological site of Teotihuacán is one of the most iconic images of Mexico, but it is just one of many beautiful places to see.

Teotihuacan Avenida de los Muertes y P del Sol desde P de la Luna

Mexico City is a great place to start exploring; It is one of the largest urban centers in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Sao Paulo, Brazil. The center of the urban area is called México D.F. (Distrito Federal), and it’s surrounded by the state of Mexico. There were about 19 million people living there as of 2009.

Mexico DF gris

The center of the city has a large paved plaza called the Zócalo. There you can find some of the city’s most important buildings, including the city and state government buildings, as well as a Catholic cathedral. Public celebrations, including the country’s Independence Day observance, are held here, too. The enormous Mexican flag is raised and lowered each day. In this picture you can also see some of Mexico City’s famous smog, caused by the city’s geography and vehicles for all those millions of people. There are now many environmental programs in place to cut pollution and clear the air, so to speak. Imagine how impressive a view of the endless city surrounded by volcanoes would look then… ojalá.

Orientation DF museo templo mayor 1

Mexico City has been an important place since pre-Hispanic times. When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519, this city was called Tenochtitlán and it was the center of the Mexica (Aztec) empire. The Templo Mayor (principal temple) was destroyed by the Spanish and covered by the modern city. In 1978, some electrical workers digging near the Zócalo stumbled upon a buried artifact from the temple, which renewed public interest in excavating the area. Now you can visit the Templo Mayor archeological site and museum near one corner of the Zócalo. This large statue is one of the many pre-Hispanic objects you can see in the temple.

Puebla from the 7th floor of the Holiday Inn rooftops and church spires

Just a few hours south of the capital, Puebla is a beautiful colonial city. Although it’s the fourth-largest city in the country, the centro histórico has an old-fashioned feel. Besides the beautiful architecture, Puebla is also famous for its food and traditional talavera pottery.

Oaxaca Tamayo ofrenda

If there’s one city that captures the essence of Southern Mexico, it’s Oaxaca City. With a more rural feel, more visible indigenous culture, and its own beautiful archeological site, Monte Albán, full of pyramids and ancient ball courts, just outside the city, Oaxaca is worth spending days in. The name of the city and the state are pronounced “wa-HA-ca.” You can buy chapulines (fried grasshoppers) from a sidewalk vendor or walk down a “chocolate road” whose shops and chocolate factory smell delicious. One of the best times to visit Oaxaca is November 1st and 2nd for Día de los Muertos. The city is full of ofrendas (offerings) to the dead, like the one above for Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo.

IMG_6053

The Mexican countryside is beautiful too. This picture was taken from the window of a train en route from Guadalajara to the town of Tequila. Visitors tour a tequila factory and see the whole process of tequila-making, from agave cactus (above) to finished product. And they give you “all you can eat” food and drink on the tour- yum!

Feria de Puebla - chapulines y  cerveza- alimentacion del futuro

No trip to Mexico would be complete without tasting some delicious Mexican food. You can sample the previously-mentioned chapulines at many places in Southern Mexico, like the Puebla state fair (above.) Other interesting dishes include escamoles (ant eggs), sesos (cow brains, usually in a taco), gusanos de maguey (caterpillars, usually fried), menudo (tripe soup), and huitlacoche (corn smut, usually in a quesadilla.)

Exquisitas Gringas

Not all Mexican food has the “yuck” factor, though. There are plenty of dishes that you might recognize from your local Mexican restaurant. Chalupas, cemitas, tamales, atole, pozole, and sopa azteca are some of my favorites, although, to be honest, the “real” versions of these foods that I eat in Mexico are often very different from what you get in Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants in other countries. There are tacos and tostadas, too, as well as gringas, which are like a combination of a taco and a quesadilla. I took a picture of this sign because, of course, a gringa is also a way to refer to an American woman. (Cue music by The Guess Who.)

Chamizal arcos y tejedores 7

No trip to Mexico would be complete without watching some folkloric dance. Each state has its own traditional costume and dance. The most famous of these is el Jarabe Tapatío, from Guadalajara, Jalisco, known to the wider world as the Mexican Hat Dance. Here is another, called Arcos y Tejedores (“Arches and Weavers”), performed by children at a public school celebration on Mother’s Day.

Ritual a Quetzalcoatl las gringas 3

Many traditional dances have roots in indigenous cultures. These dancers are part of Ritual a Quetzalcoatl, a yearly event performed at the spring equinox on the pyramid in Cholula, Puebla. This dance group was from the Program for Mexican Culture and Society in Puebla, a study abroad program at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, who learned about Mexican culture and music firsthand through dance.

Editor’s note: Did you enjoy this guest post? If you have some nice photos of a Latin American country you’d like to share as we did here with some short descriptions, please email me to be a part of this special travel series!

Día de los Muertos Pet Portraits (Giveaway!)

robiniart-maggie-and-brutus

Robin Arthur is an artist out of San Antonio, Texas who creates amazing pet portraits inspired by Día de los Muertos themes and colors. When I stumbled upon her art last week, I contacted her to find out more because I knew you guys would love her work as much as I do. Below is my interview with Robin and a giveaway you can enter for a chance to win a print of her art!

Tell us about these pet portraits you do.

Robin: The portraits are based on photos that my customers send to me via email. I use pencil, pen and acrylic paint to create them. They are painted on wooden, box-like canvases. Sometimes I texture them by building up the paint into 3D textures or by sanding them with sandpaper. Many customers ask me to inject certain design elements into the paintings. For example: one recent customer’s dog takes Prozac, so I was asked to insert a little Prozac pill into the final piece. I love that!

Who/what influences/inspires your art?

Robin: I’ve always been drawn to the bright, warm colors in Mexican folk art. I love the hyper stylistic imagery of the Día de los Muertos holiday, Talavera tiles, Mexican interior design elements, Tex Mex kitsch, and so on. I am also inspired by the love people have for their furry family members and all other animals. I’m inspired by the animal kingdom in general and want to honor the world’s creatures by elevating them to an art form. I love making people happy by painting their beloved companions in my whimsical, silly style. People have been brought to (happy) tears by my paintings. There is so much pain in this world. It’s nice to be a bright spot for someone!

robiniart-kayla-cat-850

Although you were born and raised in Texas, surrounded by Mexican culture, you yourself are not of Mexican descent – Can you talk a little bit about that? How did Mexican culture become part of you?

Robin: The Mexican culture, while not my own culture, has always been the “wallpaper” of my life. Growing up in Texas means that you are surrounded by Mexican art, music, food, beautiful faces and, of course, the Spanish language. I lived in Arkansas for about 8 months in 2012 and didn’t realize, until I’d left Texas, how much I missed being around the Mexican culture. I’m so glad to be back in Texas!

If someone wanted to hire you to paint one of these portraits of their pet, how does it work?

Robin: The process is explained on my website, but basically, all people do is email me photos of their pets, pay the invoice I send them, and then I paint. It’s super easy!

RobiniArt portraits make great gifts and are a wonderful way to honor a furry family member, past or present. The portraits are completely original, a bright spot for any interior design, and a much better investment than something you can buy in a mall or big box store.

robiniart-reagan-8501

Want to learn more about Robin Arthur’s art? Interested in ordering a custom portrait? Visit RobiniArt.com or “like” her Facebook page here.

===GIVEAWAY CLOSED. CONGRATS TO FREDDA!===

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize description: Robin is giving away one 8×10 print to one lucky random winner, to be picked out by the winner from RobiniArt.com!

How to Enter: To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below sharing a favorite pet memory or telling us what you like best about Robin’s art. (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. Winner will be selected at random. Winner has 48 hours to respond. After 48 hours, a new winner will be selected at random. Giveaway entries are being accepted between October 2nd, 2013 through October 6th, 2013. Entries received after October 6th, 2013 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: No compensation, monetary or otherwise, was given for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

How to Make a Día de los Muertos Nicho

Do-it-Yourself Frida Kahlo Nicho

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.

October is my favorite time of year, not just because it’s autumn, (which is my favorite season), but because this is the time of year when all kinds of creative Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) crafts and products start to pop up all over the place in preparation for the November holiday.

For Día de los Muertos, many people in Latin America create an ofrenda, or altar, to honor their deceased loved ones, so I knew I wanted to create something along those lines.

While walking around Lowe’s to brainstorm ideas, I walked past the wood moulding and noticed how the crown corners looked like little houses when turned the wrong way and this reminded me of the nichos I used to make. Nichos are a beautiful Latin American folk art which incorporate mixed media in the style of a shadow box and often serve as a religious altar. Because I already keep photos of our deceased loved ones on a permanent altar of sorts, I decided to make a nicho to honor the iconic Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.

How to make a Frida Kahlo nicho

mini-papel picado,  Frida Kahlo nicho

Frida Kahlo nicho for Día de los Muertos

If you want to make a Día de los Muertos nicho, follow the directions below to get started now!

Día de los Muertos Nicho

You need:

1 large crown corner (wood moulding)
wood glue
3/8 x 4 x 24 inch pine craft board
3/4 in. x 1 in. brass hinges
2 cabinet knobs
craft paints and brushes
hand saw
small hammer
1/16 drill bit
3/16 drill bit
drill
miniature screwdrivers
measuring tape
pencil
safety glasses
sandpaper
decorations of your choosing
small photo of deceased person you’re honoring
battery operated candles

Directions:

1. Remove stickers from the wood. Lightly sand to remove stickiness if needed.

2. Carefully knock out triangular corner supports inside the corner crown.

Frida Kahlo nicho how-to

3. Sand the corner crown to remove glue and rough edges.

4. Cut the craft board so you have two 7 1/2 inch pieces. The third piece set aside for another project.

nicho_howto2

5. One 7 1/2 inch piece will be the bottom of the nicho. The other 7 1/2 inch piece should be cut into two equal pieces measuring 3 3/4 inch – These will be the doors of the nicho. Sand these pieces.

6. Measure and pre-drill holes on doors and sides of nicho for the tiny screws that came with the hinges. (I pre-drilled these with a 1/16 bit and used my Rockwell 3RILL, which is my new favorite tool. Full disclosure: Rockwell gave the drill to me to use on my Lowe’s projects.)

Also drill holes to attach the cabinet knobs – I used a 3/16 drill bit for those.

rockwell_3rill

7. Paint pieces desired colors. Allow to dry. (Sand lightly for a slightly weathered look.)

8. Screw the knobs on the doors through the 3/16 holes you drilled. (Depending on the knobs you bought, you may prefer to find shorter bolts than the ones that came with the knob due to the width of the wood.)

nicho_howto3

9. Use a mini-screwdriver to attach the hinges to doors and then doors to nicho where you have pre-drilled holes.

10. Use wood glue to attach the bottom piece to the bottom of the nicho. Allow to dry.

11. Place photo, battery operated candles (real candles absolutely not advised!) and other decorations inside. Display on a shelf or attach a picture hanger to the back for wall display.

Do-it-Yourself Frida Kahlo Nicho

Check out more from Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network by subscribing to their Creative Ideas Magazine and E-Newsletter, following them on Pinterest, and by seeing what the other Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network members are up to.