Hispanic Heritage Month 2015 Photo Challenge: Day #7

I’ll be participating in the “15 Days of Hispanic Heritage” photo challenge over on Instagram hosted by ¿Qué Means What? and The Nueva Latina. If you want to participate, just use the hashtag #HHM15Foto and take a photo for the given theme on each day! Here’s my photo and caption from Instagram for Day #7: Tiempo / Time


#HHM15FOTO challenge day 7, theme: #tiempo / time… The first thing that comes to mind, and the clearest indicator of time passing, is how fast our boys have grown up. I imagine this is one of those universal experiences shared across cultures and ironically, unchanged by time – that bittersweet feeling of seeing one’s children are growing up, or have grown up. The two baby boys who used to fill our days with equal measures of joy and chaos, are now very nearly young men, ready to go out into the world.

My mother and grandmother used to remind me to “enjoy them while they’re young, because they grow up quick.” It seemed like they must be joking on some days, but I remembered and tried to heed their advice as much as possible. Our oldest filled out his first college application yesterday. Gone are the days of first word, first smile, first steps; soon it will be first acceptance letter, first loan, first night away from home as he starts the next phase of his life.


On Fictional Immigrants, Accents & Why We Like What We Like

I’ve mentioned my love for Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) and his accent, on more than one occasion, but yesterday a thought occurred to me – a sort of, “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?” sort of question. I wondered, was it already pre-programmed within me to like accents and Ricky Ricardo just happened to be the first to ignite it? – Or was there something about Ricky Ricardo that created a preference for that specific quality?

Whether it’s accents or ice cream flavors, who can really say why we like what we like? Maybe a psychologist or brain specialist of some sort would be able to explain this better – I’m not really prepared to delve into that today, or probably ever.

What I do want to talk about are fictional immigrants in film and television, as well as actors putting on an accent which is not native to them, because these are stories and characters I’m very often drawn to. There’s a fine line between creating an authentic character and one that reinforces stereotypes, but I’ve had some favorites over the years. Here they are in no particular order.

Actor Bronson Pinchot played the very loveable Balki Bartokomous on the sitcom Perfect Strangers. Balki was supposed to be from a fictional island in the Mediterranean Sea called Mypos. Pinchot is an American actor born in New York.

Actor Tom Hanks played Viktor Navorski of the fictional country Krakozhia in the movie, The Terminal. Tom Hanks was originally born in California, and you probably already know what his regular speaking voice sounds like.

Actor Adhir Kalyan played Raja Musharaff, a Pakistani exchange student sent to live with a family in Wisconsin on the TV show Aliens in America. In real life, Adhir Kalyan was born in South Africa and speaks with a lovely South African accent.

Actor Naveen Andrews played Sayid Jarrah, an Iraqi character on the TV show LOST. Andrews was actually born in London, England and is of Indian heritage. His regular speaking voice is with a British accent.

Can you think of other actors who played characters from fictional countries or who put on an accent that wasn’t their own?

Ofrendas and Changing Beliefs


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.


Related Links:

Altar 2010
Altar 2011
Altar 2012

Halloween 1998


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.

Olores y Cultura

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!

Image source: Marie Hale

Image source: Marie Hale

¿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.”

Finding My Heroes – a guest post

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!


Dear readers:

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

En español:

Querido lectores,

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

René Colato Laínez is a Salvadoran award-winning author of many multicultural children’s books, including Playing Lotería, The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez, From North to South, René Has Two Last Names and My Shoes and I. He is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults. René lives in Los Angeles and  he is a teacher in an elementary school, where he is known as “the teacher full of stories.” Visit him at renecolatolainez.com.

The Giveaway

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.

¡Buena suerte!

Cinco de Mayo Means Bring on the Stereotypes

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.)

Image source: LShave

Image source: LShave

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.