Happy Independence Day, Central America!

I always wish El Salvador a Happy Independence Day, but yesterday I received a sweet email from un hermanito guatemalteco who wondered if I’d show a little love for neighboring countries, so here I am. Feel free to right click and save any of these five images below to your computer and then send them via email and social media to your amigos from all over Central America!

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Image used Creative Commons. Original image source: HERE.

ElSalvador_Independence
Image used Creative Commons. Original image source: HERE.

Guatemala_Independence
Image used Creative Commons. Original image source: HERE.

honduras_independence
Image used Creative Commons. Original image source: HERE.

Nicaragua_independence
Image used Creative Commons. Original image source: HERE.

El Festival Salvadoreño Americano

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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!

Me di cuenta de que no he compartido mis fotos del Festival Salvadoreño Americano que fuimos el mes pasado en Wheaton, Maryland y hoy es un buen día para compartirlas, ya que viene el Día de la Independencia de El Salvador este fin de semana.

I realized that I haven’t shared my photos from the Salvadoran American Festival we went to last month in Wheaton, Maryland and today is a good day to share them since El Salvador’s Independence Day is this weekend.

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El Festival fue muy bien organizado por Salvadoran-American Transnational Communities y el Condado de Montgomery. Había suficiente estacionamiento a poca distancia y estaba cerca de la estación de METRO si uno no viene en carro.

Salvadoreños caminaban en grupos grandes por las aceras hacia el sonido de la cumbia y el olor de las pupusas. Cruzamos las calles juntos, esquivamos el tráfico, intercambiamos miradas y nos reímos. “Todos vamos a ser atropellados”, alguien bromeó. Éramos como niños tras el flautista de Hamelín.

The Festival was very well organized by Salvadoran-American Transnational Communities and Montgomery County. There was sufficient parking nearby and it was close to a METRO station for those that did not come by car.

Salvadorans walked down the sidewalks in large groups toward the sound of cumbia and the smell of pupusas. We crossed streets together, dodged traffic, exchanged looks and laughed. “We’re all going to get run over,” someone joked. We were like children following the Pied Piper.

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Por supuesto, la primera cosa que hicimos fue caminar alrededor para ver qué comidas queríamos comer.

Of course, the first thing we did was walk around to see which foods we wanted to eat.

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(La camisa de este hombre me hizo reír: “La salsa que te hara llorar puro bichito.”)

(This guy’s shirt made me laugh: “The salsa will make you cry like a little kid.”)

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Decidimos empezar con agua de coco. No sé por qué mi hijito siempre lo prueba cuando bien sabe que no le gusta. Después de que nos bebimos el agua de coco el hombre lo abrió y nosotros comimos la carne.

We decided to start with coconut water. I don’t know why my younger son always tries it when he knows very well that he doesn’t like it. After we drank the coconut water, the man cut it open and we ate the coconut meat.

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El hombre que cortó los cocos con un machete fue muy gracioso. Todo el mundo estaba tomando su foto y se reía diciendo: “Yo voy a ser famoso!”

The man who cut the coconuts with a machete was hilarious. Everyone was taking his photo and he laughed, saying “I’m going to be famous!”

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Siguiente compramos fruta fresca.

Next we bought fresh fruit.

mamones

Yo prefiero la piña pero quería probar algo nuevo, así que elegí mamones. Me encanta el sabor pero la textura de mamones es algo raro.

I prefer pineapple but I wanted to try something new so I chose mamones. I love the flavor but the texture of mamones is kind of yucky.

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Las tostadas de plátano preperadas con curtido y salsa fueron deliciosas.

The tostadas de platano prepared with curtido and salsa were delicious.

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¿Cómo podíamos resistir pupusas?

How could we resist pupusas?

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A pesar de que estabamos llenos, hacía mucho calor, así que necesitábamos minutas para refrescarnos. El cartel tenía los nombres de las minutas en diferentes países. Fue muy interesante!

Snowcones – Los Estados Unidos
Minutas – El Salvador
Granizadas – Guatemala
Nieves – Honduras
Raspados – México
Raspadillas – SurAmerica
Piraguas – Puerto Rico
Frío-Frío – Rep. Dominicana

Mi hijito y yo decidimos que el nombre “frio-frio” es lo mejor.

Even though we were full, it was hot, so we needed Salvadoran snowcones to cool off. The sign had the name of snowcones in different countries. It was really interesting!

Snowcones – USA
Minutas – El Salvador
Granizadas – Guatemala
Nieves – Honduras
Raspados – Mexico
Raspadillas – South America
Piraguas – Puerto Rico
Frío-Frío – Dominican Republic

My younger son and I decided that the name “frío-frío” was the best.

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Pedí leche condensada azucarada en mi minuta.

I asked for sweetened condensed milk on my snowcone.

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Carlos pidió tamarindo en su minuta.

Carlos asked for tamarind on his snowcone.

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Después de comer demasiado, nos fijamos en todo lo que tenían por venta.

After eating too much, we looked around at all the things they had for sale.

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Fue un excelente festival. Si vives en la zona, te recomiendo que vayas el próximo verano. (Y ven con hambre!)

It’s an excellent festival. If you live in the area, I recommend you go next summer. (And come hungry!)

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Feliz Día de la Independencia a El Salvador y a todos mis amigos de Centroamérica y México!

Happy Independence Day to El Salvador and to all of my Central American and Mexican friends!

The Quince

I am officially the mother of a quinceañero. The party was on Saturday and the house looked very festive. (Although I should say, “more festive than usual” because gringo neighbors have told me our decor looks festive at times when we weren’t celebrating anything at all.)

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Besides the paper flower garland, a few banners, and colorful balloons, I also made a large collage with photos of my son. There are 14 photos in all, one for each year of his life up until now. I had originally planned to leave a spot in the middle for a photo of him as a 15 year old, but there wasn’t space.

The collage was one of many things which didn’t come out quite the way I imagined. You know how quinceañeras trade their flats for high heels? I had planned for my son to trade his sneakers for a pair of formal shoes. While he liked the idea of new shoes, he thought doing any sort of ceremony with them in front of people was “too weird.” So we bought him a pair of shoes but we didn’t do anything special with them during the party.

I had also considered a “brindis” but my family is not really the toasting type. Instead I came up with a creative way for us to “toast” the birthday boy without making a big show of things. I put a stack of index cards and pens on a table with a sign encouraging guests to write down birthday wishes, advice, or a favorite memory from his childhood. The things people wrote were really heartwarming and the cards make a great keepsake for my son.

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As for the food, I had planned to make everything myself but by the time I finished making the tamales, I was so exhausted that we decided to order the pupusas from one of our favorite pupuserías, Santa Rosa in Frederick, Maryland. We were so pleased with the care they took in preparing them and packaging them that I wrote them a “thank you” card today.

Everyone enjoyed the pupusas, tamales and snacking on yucca and plantain chips.

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To drink we served multiple flavors of Jarritos along with a few other choices. My older sister asked me if anyone mixes Jarritos. I told her I don’t know anyone who does but she decided to try mixing the orange and pineapple, (which she says is good.)

Although I had planned to serve the traditional tres leches, my mother offered to make the cake so I let that idea go and told her to make whatever she wanted. She wanted to make the cake look like footballer Lionel Messi’s jersey but decided the amount of dye it would take to achieve the dark red and blue of Barça was not something we should all be eating. Instead she made a chocolate and vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. (The quinceañero didn’t really care what the cake looked like as long as he got to eat it.) We sang “Happy Birthday” in English but before he could blow out the candles, I started up “Feliz Cumpleaños” in Spanish – my family didn’t miss a beat and joined right in.

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After cake we opened presents. The main gift was a much needed laptop which everyone chipped in on. He’ll be taking several Advanced Placement classes this coming school year so the new computer will be put to good use for sure.

That’s pretty much it. It wasn’t the biggest or fanciest quince, I didn’t have fifty primos to invite, no one danced to the salsa and cumbia music that played… While planning the quince I lamented that my family is so small, but when it comes to family it’s quality, not quantity, that matters. My family came and celebrated the life of my now fifteen year old, and he knows he is loved mucho.

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Can You Help Six Quinceañeras in Mexico?

Quinceañeras in colorful dresses parade past Mexico City's Palacio Nacional 2012 / Image source: Javier Hidalgo

Quinceañeras in colorful dresses parade past Mexico City’s Palacio Nacional 2012 / Image source: Javier Hidalgo

At 15 years old many girls in Mexico and throughout Latin America look forward to their quinceañera, the traditional celebration that recognizes a girl’s coming of age, but what about girls who live at an orphanage?

Denisse Montalvan, founder of The Orphaned Earring, wants to make sure six deserving girls at an orphanage in Mexico have their special day, and she needs our help.

The quinceañera celebration for these girls is planned for September 28th, 2013 at Calvary Chapel of Rosarito, Mexico and a reception will be held at Grace Children’s Home, but there’s much to do to prepare. The girls need dresses, heels, tiaras, cake. We want to have their makeup and hair done, too. Denisse is taking donations of all kinds to make this happen – You can make a cash donation or send her a dress for one of the girls, for example, if you happen to have an appropriate one in your closet.

Quincedonate

Other causes/ways you can donate: Denisse will be traveling to Nicaragua at the end of August to give the kids at an orphanage there a summer party. You can donate money for their activities by clicking the “donate” button on The Orphaned Earring. The most creative way you can help is by donating earrings for which you’ve lost the mate. Denisse and her team recycle them into bracelets and sell them to raise funds. You can also purchase these bracelets here.

How To Make Paper Fiesta Flowers For Hanging

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Ready to make a festive paper flower garland for your next fiesta? Here are step-by-step directions with photos to help you make decorative paper flower pom-poms which can be hung on a string, from the ceiling, on tree branches or wherever you like! (It’s a great craft to do with your niños!)

How To Make Paper Fiesta Flowers

What you need:

flores_step1_latinaish

Crepe paper (Tissue paper will probably work but that isn’t what I used.)
Wire (Small children may feel more comfortable working with pipe cleaners.)
String
Scissors

Directions:

1. Cut 4 sheets of crepe paper to the same length. (Mine were about 9 1/2 inches by 22 inches.) As I mentioned above, this will probably work with tissue paper but I use crepe paper because it’s stronger, doesn’t tear as easily, and has a little added texture compared to tissue paper.

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2. With the sheets of paper lined up on top of each other, fold width-wise in 1 1/2 inch fan/accordion style folds.

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3. Secure in the middle with a length of wire about 7 inches long. Don’t secure it so tightly that you crush the paper too much. (It should now look like a bow tie.)

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4. Spread out the fan folds.

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5. Carefully separate each layer. Fluff and adjust as needed on each side so it is round in shape.

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6. Secure the wire to a long length of string. Repeat until you have the garland as long as you want it.

7. Hang up your garland of pretty pom-pom flowers and throw a fiesta!

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8 Free Papel Picado Clipart and 2 Fiesta Invites

All this available free to download below!

All this available free to download below!

I’ve begun to work on actual preparations for my son’s quince (15th birthday party.) Yesterday I created some tissue paper decorations, (fun tutorial coming soon!), bought paper plates, and designed an invitation.

This is an example of what your invitation could look like once you add text!

This is an example of what your invitation could look like once you add text!

For the invitation I wanted a colorful Latin American fiesta theme with papel picado but I wasn’t finding any free templates online that fit what I needed. I decided to design my own fiesta-style invite and papel picado clipart from scratch. I wish I could invite all of you to the party, but since I can’t, here’s the template I created – free for you to use and adapt to your own personal needs. Just click the image for the larger version, right click and download to your computer. You can print it out and hand letter the invite, or upload and edit it in a program like Picmonkey. Have fun!

Free Papel Picado Clipart and Fiesta Invites

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

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Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Click for large version.

Note: The images within this blog post are free to use and adapt for personal, non-commercial use. Please do not add these images to clipart collections on other websites or use them for commercial purposes. Other images on this website outside of this post remain protected under copyright and may not be used without prior written consent.

Folklife Festival 2013

We decided to picnic on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. this past Sunday. We went last minute without much of a plan. Everyone showered in a rush and Carlos helped me pack homemade tortas de jamón, bottles of water, apples and potato chips. When we arrived, we saw that some sort of event was going on but by the time we found a parking spot, (gracias a San Antonio who we always call on when searching for parking in D.C.) we were all starving and sat down beneath the trees to eat before investigating.

Soon our picnic attracted a number of uninvited guests and although I don’t think we’re supposed to encourage the wildlife, we couldn’t help but share.

Señor Ardilla accepted a piece of apple core in return for sharing the shade beneath his tree.

Señor Ardilla accepted a piece of apple core in return for sharing the shade beneath his tree.

After we finished eating and cleaned up the picnic, we walked over to the big tents to see what was going on. Sometimes I can’t believe my luck.

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Out of all the events to stumble upon, we arrived in time to enjoy the Smithsonian Folklife Festival which features different languages and cultures each year.

“The [Smithsonian Folklife] Festival is an exercise in cultural democracy, in which cultural practitioners speak for themselves, with each other, and to the public. The Festival encourages visitors to participate—to learn, sing, dance, eat traditional foods, and converse with people presented in the Festival program.” – Smithsonian Institute website

Many interesting cultures are represented this year but of course I was drawn most to the Latin American groups in the “One World, Many Voices” section. (The other two main events feature Hungarian culture and African American culture.)

I first went to the Isthmus Zapotec tent where I watched a demonstration on how totopos are made by the Zapotecs who live in Juchitán de Zaragoza in Oaxaca, Mexico. Totopos, which are not the same as tortillas despite appearances, are made in an oven called a comixcal and are meant to be crunchy.

There are different kinds of totopos – for example, there are little totopos called “memalitas” and there are oval-shaped ones called “lengua de vaca.” Holes are poked in the totopos with a finger to prevent them from sticking to the inside of the oven. The oven is not used only for totopos but for cooking other foods such as pescado, pollo, tamales de elote and quesadilla de elote. The Juchitecas are famous for their totopos though and most women will make 15 kilos of masa per day through a labor intensive process which involves grinding the corn by hand using a “metate.” One of the women on a panel said they also make “totopos de calabaza con canela” and “totopos de coco” – (which sound delicious to me!)

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“The name, totopo, comes from the Aztec (or Nahuatl) tlaxcaltotopochtl. This name is a compound of the word for a tortilla, tlaxcalli, plus the word for thunder. The combination means approximately tortillas that are noisy to chew.” – Wikipedia

The women shared with us how young brides are “kidnapped” by their novios, (it’s a tradition but the “kidnapping” is agreed upon beforehand.) We were also shown the different types of decorative clothing that the bride would wear for her wedding, (the young woman in the middle of the photograph is getting married soon.) I asked what the groom wears and she explained that his clothing would be much simpler – a plain guayabera and black pants. The grooms used to wear sandals but they now usually use black shoes.

I wanted to stick around and listen to more but the boys were getting restless so we wandered over to other tents to explore. Various groups from Colombia were represented.

Woven bags made by the Wayuu people of Colombia.

Woven bags made by the Wayuu people of Colombia.

At one tent visitors could write down their native language, their second language, and a heritage language spoken by a grandparent or great-grandparent, then pin it to the map. (The boys and I wrote “English, Spanish, German.”)

Look at all the languages spoken in the DC area.

Look at all the languages spoken in the DC area.

And the reading material throughout the festival was right up my alley.

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However the sound of Andean flutes lured me away from looking at this interesting map. We watched a music group from either Bolivia or Ecuador play. (I tried to video tape with my phone but the recording doesn’t do them justice.)

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Then I wandered away to look at beautiful textiles in the Kallawaya tent.

Kallawaya textiles (Bolivia)

Kallawaya textiles (Bolivia)

When I looked up I saw a lovely woman, one of the weavers and traditional medicine practitioners, taking a photo with a festival visitor. When they finished, the woman caught my eye and returned my friendly smiled. I indicated my camera and she nodded so I went over to her. She pointed to her hat and then at my head. I nodded and as she set it on my head, I thanked her in Spanish, which I decided she might speak in addition to Quechua and/or Kallawaya, but I’m still not quite sure if we shared any language in common.

Before Carlos could snap the photo, she bent over and picked up a colorful shawl from the ground and wrapped it around her shoulders. Carlos took the photo and I gave the hat back to her. Pointing at the shawl, I asked, “¿Cómo se llama? Es un rebozo?” – She pointed at it and said a word in Quechua which I unfortunately can’t remember. (After a little research, I think it may be called a “Lliklla.” Anyone can feel free to correct me!) I told her it was really pretty in Spanish and she smiled. I thanked her for the photo in Spanish and she nodded.

I wish I could have “spoken” with her longer. I would have loved to know her name, hear about her daily life, learn something about the traditional medicines she uses and the language(s) she speaks. It’s a part of life I still haven’t accepted, that I’ll meet people in passing and then never cross paths with them again.

With my new friend from Bolivia who generously shared her hat.

With my new friend from Bolivia who generously shared her hat.

Although I wanted to stay and explore more, we had planned to go museum-hopping and the boys were really wanting to move on. As we were leaving we stopped to watch a little Zapotec parade go by. (I would like to note that the woman at the back of the procession tried to throw a piece of candy to us and it hit me in the head, but I forgive her.)

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If you live in the D.C. area, don’t despair that you missed this event. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival goes on daily from July 3rd to July 7th – so you still have time to go check it out!

If you don’t live in the D.C. area, the event website is really worth exploring. There are dozens of pages full of information, photos, videos, and, my favorite – an interactive map where you can listen to the featured languages.

A Quince Party… (for my boy)

Image source: Flickr user Kaptain Kobold

Image source: Flickr user Kaptain Kobold

I briefly mentioned in a previous post that I’m planning a quinceañero party for my son, and I promised to give details at a later date – so today I’ll tell you how this all came about. Below is an excerpt of the story as I wrote it for latinamom.me, with a link to read the rest over there.

When I first suggested the possibility of a quince to my husband, whispered one night in the dark as we fell asleep, Carlos waved me off like a lost and confused moth that had mistaken a porch light for the moon. I wasn’t surprised that it took awhile for Carlos to open his mind and warm up to the idea—after all, quinceañeras are traditionally coming-of-age celebrations only for girls and Carlos is a very traditional-minded person. However, over time I explained my intentions and little by little, Carlos came to support the idea of throwing a quince for his son.

[Read the rest on latinamom.me HERE]

Would you ever consider a quince party for your son?

Quince Countdown!

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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.

It’s June which means we have only two months to prepare for my 14 year old son’s quince.

Yes, that’s right – I said “son’s quince.” We have decided to have a quince party for our son’s 15th birthday with some traditional elements re-imagined, (since the celebration is usually reserved for girls in Latin America) – More on all of that another day.

For now I want to show you some of our preparations, (besides making a list of all the foods I want to serve which so far includes tamales, yuca frita, pupusas with curtido and tres leches – an already exhausting menu considering it’s just me cooking.)

Since our son’s birthday is in August, an outdoor party seems to be the way to go. We want to have the quince in our backyard in case it’s too hot or rainy, that way we can always take it inside – (besides, we don’t plan to go crazy and rent a location, hire entertainment or have catering. This is going to be a modest celebration compared to most quinces.)

The problem with having the party in our backyard is that our backyard isn’t very conducive to entertaining. We have two “mini-patios” – if you can even call them that – at each rear door, and it’s not inviting at all. A large patio would work much better for a quince and any other little backyard party we want to have in the future, but on our budget that means doing it ourselves with very affordable materials.

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The first stage was brainstorming and daydreaming. I had a million ideas for a new patio, from the types of pavers I wanted to use, to the design, to the furniture and everything in between. In my mind, it’s a sunken backyard oasis, shaded by tropical plants, (nevermind the fact that palm trees wouldn’t survive a Mid-Atlantic winter.) Okay, time to get realistic about not only our skill level, but our budget.

The first step was to pick the pavers and measure the area we wanted to cover so that we knew how much materials to buy. We chose red square pavers, which weren’t my first choice, but they worked for our budget and in the end, I liked how they look. (Not to mention, working with squares made things less complicated.) In addition to the pavers, we purchased gravel and sand.

Once we removed the old patios and outlined the entire area with mason’s string tied around stakes, we began the very boring task of digging out the grass. Next we added gravel which we tried to distribute and tamp down in such a way that it was level. To be honest, I’m really impatient when it comes to this sort of thing but this is one step you really need to do right or it throws off everything else.

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(For more detailed steps, two helpful articles on Lowes.com include: Design a Paver Patio and Build a Brick Paver Patio.)

Next you can lay down the pavers, making sure they’re level as you go along. After all pavers are in place, sweep sand into the cracks and then mist lightly with water from the hose.

Add some furniture and landscaping – maybe some pretty hanging lights, (which will be my next step!) and you’re ready to party.

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Remember the beat up dark green chairs from the "before" photo? A neighbor gave those to us a few years ago. With a coat of Valspar spray paint for plastic, they look brand new and I chose a much happier color!

Remember the beat up dark green chairs from the “before” photo? A neighbor gave those to us a few years ago. With a coat of Valspar spray paint for plastic, they look brand new and I chose a much happier color!

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What else do you think we need to do to prepare the space for the party?

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.

Tu mamá

Día de la Madre (Mother’s Day) – is fast approaching in the United States. (In Latin America, as many of you know. it’s on a different day.) Are you ready to show your love to your mami on Sunday, May 12th? If you need a little help brainstorming gift ideas, here are some great guides, crafts, and recipes other blogueras have put together.

Image source: craftingeek.me

Image source: craftingeek.me

Craftingeek has dozens of crafts you can make para tu mamá. My favorite is the album scrapbook pictured above.

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Check out latinamom.me for their Mother’s Day Gift Guide and their gallery of Stylish Accessories Para Mamá.

Coffeecake con Frambuesas - Almuerzo con Mamá // Image source: Ericka Sanchez

Coffeecake con Frambuesas – Almuerzo con Mamá // Image source: Ericka Sanchez

Almuerzo con Mamá is a beautiful, bilingual collaboration of free recipes to make for Mother’s Day from several of my favorite foodie blogueras, like the Coffeecake con Frambuesas pictured above.

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The “3 Amigas” strike again with another gift guide bien bella just in time for Día de la Madre. Check it out HERE.

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These Tissue Paper Flowers by guest contributor Lisa Renata on ModernMami.com almost look like the real thing. So pretty!

picmonkey

Online photo/image editor, PicMonkey, has some really creative ideas for gifts you can make with the help of a good printer. Check those out here on the PicMonkey blog.

How are you remembering your mami this Mother’s Day?