A Trip to: Bolivia

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Editor’s note: Welcome to the Hispanic Heritage Month “A Trip to” series here on Latinaish. 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 Susan of Medina Adventures shows us around Bolivia!

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One of my favorite parts of visiting La Paz, Bolivia, is the descent along the highway, from the airport into the heart of the city. I get butterflies every single time and not just because I’m afraid of heights – It’s anticipating the breathtaking views, like this one of the snowy Illimani mountain watching over the city, that makes my heart leap into my throat.

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I’ve never been a city girl, but La Paz is definitely a big time city with amazing architecture and brilliant colors, even on an overcast day. Each building is different; there are no cookie-cutter houses here. And some buildings are so close to the edge of the cliffs, that they look like giant Jenga towers – I’m amazed at how they don’t topple over.

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On my first visit to La Paz, I didn’t know what these green things were. Any guesses? – They’re trash cans! So then I couldn’t figure out why they’d be up on those poles. It’s brilliant, really, it’s so the street dogs can’t dig through it and scatter the trash all over the place. I also find it interesting how little trash is in there. Reusable bags are brought to markets, and most things are sold by the kilo, so there is little packaging to be thrown away.

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La Paz is also famous for its street parades. Dancers swish to the music of marching bands and leaders signal with whistles. That is my daughter and her cousins dancing in those beautiful green costumes. Along the path of the parade, you can see locals dressed in traditional clothing – polleras (ruffled skirts), shawls, and bowler hats. There’s also a mom carrying her daughter on her back in an aguayo, the brightly colored woven cloth. Rain or shine, vendors will be selling on the streets of La Paz, anything from fruits to jeans.

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I remember telling my camera, “Take, take, take!” as we were leaving this picturesque street in Coroico. I loved the colors of the buildings, the cobblestones, and the little market set up right in the middle of it all. Coroico is often a vacation destination for people in La Paz, since it is only a two hour drive from the city and is in a subtropical part of the country.

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This is my husband after a four hour trek down the mountain which started at La Cumbre, 14000 feet above sea level. He’s ready to hitch a ride back up. The row of buildings with corrugated metal roofs is a typical sight on the roadsides and will usually offer lunch or sell little snacks.

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And finally, this is my son enjoying the Sunday tradition of chicharrón, mote and limonada (fried pork, corn, and limeade). See that giant plate of food? That’s for one person! I can never finish all the food they give me at one sitting, and I usually discreetly pass it to my husband (which is why he always gains weight when we go back!) And those red plastic chairs? Coca-Cola propaganda is everywhere in Bolivia. Toma lo bueno!

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 Hispanic Heritage Month series!

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.

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Image used Creative Commons. Original image source: HERE.

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Image used Creative Commons. Original image source: HERE.

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Image used Creative Commons. Original image source: HERE.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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

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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.