Category Archives: nostalgia
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.
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!
Este tiempo del año los días son pesados con nostalgia, no sé por qué. Tal vez es el cambio obvio de las estaciones – noches calurosas de verano que han cambiado a ser frillitas, el verde claro de las cosas vivas se han convertido en tonos suaves de anaranjado, amarillo y marrón – que me recuerdan de los cambios en mi vida durante los años que han pasado.
La foto arriba es de Carlos sosteniendo nuestro hijo primero en su primer Día de Halloween. Lo vestí como un dragón o dinosaurio, no recuerdo bien. Carlos se ve tan lindo en esta foto. Él tenía sólo 20 años y nosotros habíamos estado casados por menos de un año. A veces no puedo creer como pasa de rapido el tiempo.
This time of year the days are heavy with nostalgia, I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s the obvious change of seasons, hot summer nights that have become chilly, the bright green of living things having turned mellow shades of orange, yellow and brown – which remind me of the changes in my life over the years.
That photo above is of Carlos holding our first born son on his first Halloween. I dressed him as a dragon or dinosaur, not sure exactly. Carlos looks so cute in this photo. He was only 20 years old and we’d been married less than a year at that point. Sometimes I can’t believe how quickly time passes.
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!
¿Cómo afecta tu cultura a tu sentido del olfato y las cosas que crees que huelen bien y las cosas que crees que huelen mal?
En un artículo que leí, hacen el argumento que aprendemos nuestras preferencias olfativas. ¿Qué interesante, no?
Unos ejemplos puedo dar de mi vida: A mi, me gusta el olor de zorrillo y también el olor de gasolina. Yo sé que son olores muy ofensivos para mucha gente, pero estos olores están ligados a buenos recuerdos de mi niñez.
También, olores que normalmente se consideran agradable en una cultura, pueden convertir en ser ofensivos para otros. Por ejemplo, el olor que llamamos “cherry” (cereza, pero cereza artificial como usan en paletas y chapstick), me encanta. Tengo bastantes buenos recuerdos con el olor “cherry” – pero mi suegra odia el olor y el sabor de “cherry” americano. (Digo “cherry americano” porque ella le gusta cerezas naturales.)
Siempre cuando hice una jarra de jugo sabor “cherry”, mi suegra empezó a quejarse de “el tufo.”
“Hiede a sapuyulo!” ella me decía.
Yo no sabía lo que era sapuyulo pero es una fruta, también conocido por el nombre “zapote” o “mamey” en algunos países. Mi suegra me explicó que cuando era niña, tuvo que tomar sapuyulo por un remedio casero o usar lo en forma de jabón, no recuerdo exactamente pero de cualquier manera no le gustó – y por eso el olor de “cherry” le molestaba mucho.
¿Y tú? Cuáles son tus experiencias entre olores y cultura? Cuáles olores te gustan? Cuáles olores no te gustan? Y cómo afectan tus buenos o malos recuerdos a los olores que te gustan o no te gustan?
Nota: Mil gracias a mi amiga Claudia quién me dijo como deletrear “sapuyulo.”
How does your culture affect your sense of smell and the things you think smell good and the things you think smell bad?
In an article I read, the argument is made that our olfactory preferences are learned. Interesting, right?
Some examples I can give from my life: I like the smell of skunk and the smell of gasoline. I know these are very offensive odors for many people, but these scents are tied to fond memories from my childhood.
Also, scents normally considered to be nice in one culture may be offensive in others. For example, the scent we call “cherry” (cherry, as in the artificial cherry scent used in popsicles and chapstick), I love very much. I have many fond memories of the “cherry” scent – but my mother-in-law hates the smell and taste of American “cherry.” (I say “American cherry” because she likes natural cherries.)
Whenever I used to make a pitcher of cherry-flavored juice, my mother-in-law would start complaining of “the bad smell.”
“That stinks like sapuyulo!” she’d say.
I didn’t know what sapuyulo was but it turns out it’s a fruit, also known by the name “sapote” or “mamey” in some countries. My mother-in-law explained to me that when she was a child she had to take a home remedy made of sapuyulo or that she had to use it as a soap, I can’t remember exactly how it was, but either way she hated it – and that’s why the smell of “cherry” bothered her so much.
And you? What are your experiences with smells and culture? Which scents do you like? Which scents do you dislike? How do your good or bad memories affect the scents you like or dislike?
Note: Many thanks to my friend Claudia who told me how to spell “sapuyulo.”
Today I’m honored to share a guest post from children’s author and Salvadoran, René Colato Laínez, as part of a “blog hop” and giveaway by Latinas for Latino Literature (L4LL).
Twenty Latino/a authors and illustrators plus 20 Latina bloggers, (well, 19 Latina bloggers and this gringa), have joined up with L4LL for this event. From April 10th to April 30th a different Latino/a author/illustrator will be hosted on a different blog. (Click here for all the posts!) Today you can read René’s touching article right here on Latinaish.com and then see the details to enter the giveaway below.
Without further ado, I present, René Colato Laínez.
Finding My Heroes
by René Colato Laínez
I learned to read and write in El Salvador. As a child, I loved to read the comic books of my heroes: El Chavo del ocho, El Chapulin Colorado, Mafalda, Cri Cri, and Topo Gigo. My favorite book was Don Quijote de La Mancha.
When I arrived to the United States, I tried to find these heroes in the school library or in my reading books, but I didn’t have any luck. I asked myself, are my heroes only important in Spanish? I knew that the children from Latin America knew about my heroes but the rest of the children and my teachers did not have any clue.
One day, I was writing about my super hero and my teacher asked me, who is this CHA-PO-WHAT? COLORADO and then, she suggested, “It would be better for you to write about Superman or Batman.” On another occasion, a teacher crossed out with her red pen all the instances of “Ratón Pérez” in my essay and told me, “A mouse collecting teeth! What a crazy idea! You need to write about the Tooth Fairy.”
I started to read and enjoy other books but I missed my heroes. In my senior year of high school, my English teacher said that our next reading book would be The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I will never forget that day when I was holding the book. It was written by a Latina writer and I could relate to everything that she was describing in the book. The House On Mango Street became my favorite book. I said to myself, “Yes, we are also important in English.”
I write multicultural children books because I want to tell all my readers that our Latino voices are important, too, and that they deserve to be heard all over the world.
My goal as a writer is to produce good multicultural children’s literature; stories where minority children are portrayed in a positive way, where they can see themselves as heroes, and where they can dream and have hope for the future. I want to write authentic stories of Latin American children living in the United States.
My new book is Juguemos al Fútbol/ Let’s Play Football (Santillana USA). This is a summary of the book: Carlos is not sure that football can be played with an oval-shaped ball. Chris is not sure that it can be played with a round ball. It may not be a good idea to play with a kid who is so different… He doesn’t even know how to play this game! Wait. It looks kind of fun… Let’s give it a try! Enjoy and celebrate the coming together of two cultures through their favorite sports.
To conclude, I want to share this letter in English and Spanish. Everyone, let’s read!
When I was a child, my favorite place in the house was a corner where I always found a rocking chair. I rocked myself back and forth while I read a book. Soon the rocking chair became a magic flying carpet that took me to many different places. I met new friends. I lived great adventures. In many occasions, I was able to touch the stars. All the books I read transported me to the entire universe.
Books inspired me! I also wanted to write about the wonderful world that I visited in my readings. I started to write my own stories, poems and adventures in my diary. Every time I read and revised my stories, I found new adventures to tell about. Now, I write children’s books and it is an honor to share my books with children around the world.
I invite you to travel with me. Pick up a book and you will find wonders. Books are full of adventures, friends and fantastic places. Read and reach for the stars.
René Colato Laínez
Cuando era niño, el lugar favorito de mi casa era una esquina donde estaba una mecedora. Me mecía de adelante hacia atrás mientras leía un libro. Enseguida la mecedora se convertía en una alfombra mágica y volaba por el cielo. Conocía a nuevos amigos. Vivía nuevas aventuras. En muchas ocasiones, hasta llegaba a tocar las estrellas. Los libros que leía, me podían llevar a cualquier parte del universo.
¡Los libros me inspiraban tanto! Yo también quería escribir sobre ese mundo maravilloso que visitaba. Así que comencé a escribir mis cuentos, poemas y aventuras en un diario. Cada vez que releía y volvía a escribir un cuento, este se llenaba de nuevas grandes aventuras. Hoy en día escribo libros para niños y es un honor compartirlos con muchos niños alrededor del mundo.
Los invito a viajar conmigo. Tomen un libro y descubrirán maravillas. Los libros están llenos de aventuras, amigos, y lugares hermosos. Lean y toquen las estrellas.
René Colato Laínez
L4LL has put together a wonderful collection of Latino children’s literature to be given to a school or public library. Many of the books were donated by the authors and illustrators participating in this blog hop. You can read a complete list of titles here on the L4LL website.
To enter your school library or local library in the giveaway, simply leave a comment below.
The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Monday, April 29th, 2013. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and announced on the L4LL website on April 30th, Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros, and will be contacted via email – so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment! (If we have no way to contact you, we’ll have to choose someone else!)
By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.
For the most part I’m not the kind of person to be easily offended by stereotypes. Life is too short and there are way too many ways to be offended by things that aren’t politically correct. It’s difficult to say why one thing doesn’t bother me, but something else gets under my skin.
For example, the whole Mexican Barbie thing? If I were a little girl, I’d love to have that Barbie, and if I had a daughter, I’d buy it for her. I think it’s awesome that she has a passport, and all the dolls in the collection do. Her dark wavy hair is so pretty and being a brunette myself, I always favored dark-haired Barbies over the blondes. The ballet folklorico dress is nice although it could be more detailed, and the Chihuahua, well, I think that may have been a lazy decision, (isn’t the Xoloitzcuintli the national dog of Mexico?) – but all that being said, I’m not offended by the doll.
Really, my only major problem with Mattel’s Dolls of the World collection, (besides my usual complaints about Barbies contributing to unrealistic body ideals), is that they stuck with many of the same countries that are already represented in these types of toy lines. When will we teach kids about lesser known countries? Ask any kid in the United States to name a country that speaks Spanish and you’re almost guaranteed they’ll say “Mexico.” … In other words, when will we see a Salvadoran Barbie? (Or Honduran, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican, Panamanian… you get the idea.)
If Mattel needs help designing the Salvadoran Barbie, I’m available. Imagine the colorful dress, the leather chancletas, maybe a cántaro or a bouquet of Flor de Izote. You could have a cachiporra version with a bastón, and a vendedora version in a delantal that comes with a comal full of pupusas. How about a Salvadoran version of the Ken doll? He could wear traditional dress with a scapular and a cowboy hat – he could carry a capirucho or maybe a modern version sporting una camiseta de La Selecta and holding a Pilsener. (Okay, maybe not.)
Speaking of beer, Cinco de Mayo is fast upon us which means every Mexican beer, tortilla chip, and salsa company is gearing up to bring in the pesos. Here is a display for Corona which I spotted at a Wal-Mart.
As I was saying, for the most part I’m not the kind of person to be easily offended by stereotypes, (they’re somewhat necessary to understanding the world we live in), and this doesn’t really offend me as much as it makes me roll my eyes. However, this stereotype of Mexicans – sombrero, sarape or poncho, and burro, (although I guess Corona decided to get “creative” and use a horse?) is getting a little old, isn’t it? Besides, they totally forgot the big mustache and the cactus for nap time after the fiesta is over.
Some of you reading this are probably very excited and some of you a probably very confused – so let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Chow Mein, (also sometimes spelled Chao Mein, and often pronounced by some native Spanish speakers as “Chow Ming”), is best known as a noodle dish from China. Many people don’t realize that just as we have our Americanized versions of Chow Mein in the United States, there are well-loved versions of the dish all around the world, including in Central America.
Guatemala in particular has a great love of Chow Mein. This do-it-yourself box of “Chao Mein” (pictured below) is a brand commonly found in Latino Markets here in the U.S., and it’s made in Guatemala.
Chow Mein is also a favorite in neighboring El Salvador, and ever since I’ve known Carlos, he has loved Chow Mein, and Chinese food in general.
On our first date we spent the entire day together. For lunch we ate at a hamburger place but for dinner, (yes two meals together in one day!) Carlos wanted to go out for Chinese food. As we were waiting to be served at the Chinese restaurant, two waiters were standing nearby having a conversation in Chinese. Carlos jutted his chin in their direction, “Entiendes lo que dicen?” [Do you know what they're saying?] he asked me.
“No, no hablo Chino,” I responded perplexed.
“Yo sí,” he said, smiling, and then he proceeded to invent a translation of the waiters’ conversation.
I wasn’t convinced, but as you know, we soon married anyway. Years later Suegra moved in. When Suegra lived with us and we would go out to eat, we often ended up at Chinese buffets because it was the one cuisine she wouldn’t complain about. I never ate so much Chinese food in my life until I married a Salvadoran!
So, with that being said, here is my version of Salvadoran Chow Mein, which is basically the same as Guatemalan Chow Mein, although families each have their own unique way of making it.
Chow Mein (Central American style!)
1 package of “Chao Mein” noodles, or any brand Chow Mein Stir Fry Noodles
1 cup raw mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chayote (also known as güisquil), julienned
1 cup carrot, julienned
1 cup celery, julienned
1/2 cup green onion, (sliced lengthwise and then cut in 1 inch pieces)
5 chicken thighs, cooked and shredded (see notes below)
oil for frying (sesame oil and/or canola oil)
1/3 cup soy sauce (low sodium soy sauce can be used)
Notes Before We Get Started:
• It’s not necessary to buy the box of “Chao Mein” noodles pictured above. The box contains the noodles, a little packet of soy sauce (not nearly enough for my recipe), and 2 seasoning packets which I discarded because they contain MSG which I avoid. You can buy any Chow Mein Stir Fry Noodles. You may need to buy 2 packets of Chow Mein noodles depending on the size of the packages. You’ll want about 12 ounces to feed a hungry family of six people.
• This recipe is very flexible, feel free to try different vegetables and to increase the vegetables to make it healthier. You can also replace the dark meat chicken with chicken breast meat, steak or shrimp. I used green onions because that’s what I had on hand, but any type of onion you like can be used.
• If using chicken, you can cook it however you like. I cook it like this: Boil the chicken thighs in water with a little annatto (also known as “achiote”), a little salt, a little pepper, 1/2 an onion and a tablespoon of minced fresh garlic. After the chicken has cooked through, remove to cool. Once cool, discard the skin and bones. Shred the meat by hand and set aside. (The leftover broth can be used in another recipe.)
• For those who aren’t familiar, chayote (“güisquil” to Central Americans), is a type of squash, usually light green in color and about the size of a fist with one puckered side. The flavor is very mild and pleasant. To use chayote in this recipe, wash it and then julienne it, (i.e. cut it approximately into the size and shape of matchsticks or shoestring-style french fries.) You do not need to peel it but there is a small white seed in the middle you should discard.
• You can use sesame oil or canola oil for frying. I like to use equal amounts of both. The sesame oil gives it a nice flavor which helps make up for the fact that I discard the “condiment/flavoring” packets.
1. Prepare all vegetables while the chicken cooks. Put the vegetables in a large bowl together and set aside.
2. Prepare chicken (see notes above), and then set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put the noodles into the water and cook about 5 minutes until al dente, being careful not to overcook them.
4. Remove the noodles to a colander to drain. Set aside.
5. In a large skillet over high heat add a few tablespoons of oil. Use either canola oil or sesame oil, or use equal amounts of both, (which is what I do.)
6. When the oil is very hot, add the vegetables, and stir them continuously for one to two minutes.
7. Add the chicken and continue stirring for another minute.
8. Add the noodles and continue stirring for another minute.
9. Add 1/3 cup soy sauce, stir and remove from heat.
10. Serve and enjoy!
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. English translation is in italics!
¿Te gustan las películas clasicas mexicanas? Aquí están algunas de mis escenas favoritas. ¿Cuáles son tus favoritas?
Do you like classic Mexican movies? Here are some of my favorite scenes. Which are your favorites?
Poker de Reinas – Corazón de Melón
Pedro Infante – Escuela de Vagabundos – Cucurrucucú Paloma
Pedro Infante – Carta a Eufemia
A Toda Máquina – Gringuita – Pedro Infante y Luis Aguilar
Los Tres Garcias – Pedro Infante
Los Tres Garcias – Pedro Infante, Abel Salazar, Víctor Manuel Mendoza, Sara García & Marga López
Jorge Negrete – Huapango Ranchero
Cantinflas – Por Mis Pistolas
Being married to Carlos over these past 15 years, one thing I’ve learned is that American birthday cake and Salvadoran birthday cake are very different.
Carlos will eat American birthday cake, but he doesn’t really like it.
Today was Carlos’s birthday and for the past few weeks, all he’s been talking about is Salvadoran birthday cake. I got the hint and asked him plenty of questions about it so I could make him one. Carlos says that growing up in El Salvador he always got a cake from a bakery called Flor de Trigo on his birthday. The cake part was moist but didn’t have a strong flavor, the frosting was only very slightly sweet. The cakes were usually layer cakes with fruit decorating the top.
I did some research, (even found the Flor de Trigo website!) and this is what I came up with.
The cake is a white cake (from a box mix just to save some time), and the “frosting” is a homemade whipped cream. Sliced almonds decorate the sides, and the fruits I chose were strawberries and apricot. Carlos gave me muchos besos and said it’s just like a Salvadoran birthday cake. Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try!
Salvadoran-style Birthday Cake
1 box white cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Classic White)
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1/2 to 3/4 cup white sugar (more if you prefer sweeter)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 cups sliced almonds
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
1 can apricot halves, drained and sliced
1 can (12 oz.) “apricot cake & pastry filling” (I used “Solo” brand)
1. Make cake according to package directions. If you have two round pans, use those. If not, you can do what I did – Put it all in a well greased 13 x 9 glass baking dish. Once baked and cooled, carefully turn onto a clean surface and slice in half to create 2 square layers. (Since the edges get browned while baking, slice those off so it’s uniform on all sides.)
2. This is how you make homemade whipped cream. (I recommend making this and assembling the cake the same day you plan to eat it.) First, it’s best if you have a large stainless steel bowl, but a plastic mixing bowl will work. Metal is better because you can get it nice and cold. Cold is your friend when making whipped cream! … Whichever bowl you’re using, stick it in the freezer along with the metal beater(s) from your electric mixer. The heavy whipping cream should be kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. To make the whipped cream – pour the quart of whipping cream into the bowl. Turn your mixer on high and beat until stiff peaks form. Add a 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and sugar according to your tastes, (1/2 cup to 3/4 cups makes it just barely sweet by American standards.)
3. Put one cake layer on a base – this will be the bottom layer. (Ideally your base would be the bottom of a cake container which you can cover with a dome lid.) Spread the can of “apricot cake & pastry filling” on the top of the bottom cake layer. On top of the “apricot cake & pastry filling”, spread a layer of whipped cream. Top with the top cake layer.
4. Frost the entire outside of the cake with the whipped cream. Carefully toss the sliced almonds onto the sides of the cake.
5. Decorate the top of the cake with the sliced apricots and strawberries. (This recipe will work great if you decide to use different fruits or a different “cake & pastry filling” – so get creative! Other options include fresh or canned pineapple, fresh kiwi, canned fruit cocktail, and other kinds of berries.)
6. Cover cake and refrigerate for a couple hours then serve!
¡Feliz Cumpleaños! (or as I like to say, “Sapo Verde!“)
Most of you know that I write for several websites each month. I usually share those links on the Latinaish Facebook Page, but I wanted to link this one up here for those who might not be on Facebook since this particular post is so relevant to my usual content on Latinaish. I also took the opportunity to make a bicultural/bilingual gift tag for your Christmas gifts (see above!) Feel free to print it out and use it!
Now for the post:
Mixing Traditions for a Bicultural Christmas
Fifteen years ago I married Carlos, a Salvadoran immigrant who spoke little English. Because we were young, pregnant, and poor at the time—instead of moving to our own place—I moved Carlos into my parents’ house where I was still living. From the outside it didn’t seem like the most ideal situation, but living with my English-speaking Anglo parents turned out to be a unique opportunity for Carlos to get a crash course in English and American culture.
Of course, living in such a situation made our diverse backgrounds that much more apparent—especially during holidays, and especially during Christmas…[READ MORE HERE]
One of the first places I brought Carlos when he was my boyfriend was to a pumpkin patch, and one of the first things I showed him was how to to carve a jack-o-lantern. I’ve always been interested in other cultures and traditions, but there was also something exciting about showing Carlos my own.
Fifteen years later, going to the pumpkin patch as a family each October is one of our favorite things.
The pumpkin patch we usually go to has goats and you can buy food pellets for them from a bubble gum style machine for a quarter. Over the years, Carlos has come to be more of an animal lover. He looks so happy petting the goat here.
After feeding the goats we considered giving the corn maze a try but it takes 45 minutes to go through, (maybe an hour given my sense of direction) – so we decided we’ll come back another day to do it.
Into the pumpkin patch.
My boys are getting bigger, (The oldest is taller than Carlos), but they haven’t outgrown the pumpkin patch.
There’s a type of squash in El Salvador called Pipián. We aren’t sure if this squash here is related but when you’re accustomed to their palm-sized Latin American cousins, these are kind of hilarious.
Now that we’ve picked our pumpkins and brought them home, we’ll soon carve them into jack-o-lanterns. When we clean out the inside of the pumpkin we always reserve the seeds for roasting and eating. Roasted pumpkin seeds, funnily enough, remind Carlos of El Salvador.