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.

3amigasguide

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?

Goodbye Vuvuzela, Hello Caxirola

Image source: SecultBA

Image source: SecultBA

If the sound of buzzing vuvuzelas drove you to distraction, (or up the wall), during South Africa’s World Cup, then the sound of Brazil’s caxirola may be a welcome change.

The hand-held instrument made of recycled plastic which sounds a bit like a rainstick, is based on the caxixi, a woven instrument filled with dried beans that can be found in various regions including Brazil. The caxirola can be played in a number of ways as demonstrated by its Brazilian inventor, musician, Carlinhos Brown. Chécalo!

Unfortunately this story doesn’t end with a “happily ever after” just yet. The caxirola is not being embraced as perhaps Brazil and FIFA had hoped. Just last week, hundreds of the caxirolas which were given out at a game, were chucked onto the pitch. (Now that I think about it, they are a great size, shape and weight to be tossed a considerable distance… they even kind of resemble grenades.)

Still others complain that the sound of the caxirola simply isn’t characteristic of a traditional Brazilian football game – that it’s being forced on them when they much rather prefer the usual chants.

What do you think? Is this better than the vuvuzelas or should we just enjoy the game sans musical instruments?

Read more about the caxirola on CNN.com.

Mi Bolsa Salvadoreña de Frijoles de Café

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!

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Mi cumpleaños fue el mes pasado y mi madre me sorprendió con el regalo de una bolsa hecha de arpillera que una vez llevó frijoles de café de El Salvador. Mi mami fue varias veces para Mayorga Coffee y preguntó si tenían bolsas de El Salvador. Significa mucho para mí que mi mamá pensó en un regalo creativo que se ajuste a mis intereses y estilo, y también que ella fue a tantas molestias para conseguirlo.

Si tuviera que adivinar, (y estoy totalmente adivinando), yo diría que esta bolsa es El Porvenir Cup of Excellence de San Miguel. Este café es descrito como “Aroma/Sabor: Aroma picante, mango, mora, cítricos, florales, miel, chocolate, arándano, melaza.” Yo no soy una gran bebedora de café y por lo general mezclo crema y el azúcar tanto que yo nunca sería capaz de probar todas esas sabores, pero es delicioso imaginarlo.

Mi madre dijo que ella iba a tener la bolsa enmarcada pero es bastante grande y ella no quería cargarme con un objeto enmarcado tan grande. Esta fue probablemente una decisión inteligente, porque el espacio es limitado en las paredes de mi casa.

Eso deja la pregunta de qué hacer con la bolsa. He visto a algunas personas que reciclan estas bolsas de café en almohadas, bolsos, y alfombras – pero me decidí a poner la mía en el sofá hasta que decida qué hacer con ella.

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Parece bien así, ¿verdad? ¿O crees que debería hacer algo diferente con ella?

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

My birthday was last month and my mother surprised me with the gift of a burlap bag which once held coffee beans from El Salvador. She went multiple times to Mayorga Coffee and asked if they had any bags from El Salvador. It means a lot to me that she thought of such a creative gift that fits my interests and style, and also that she went to so much trouble to get it.

If I had to guess, (and I’m totally guessing), I’d say this bag is the El Porvenir Cup of Excellence variety from San Miguel. This coffee is described as “Aroma/flavor: spicy aroma, mango, berry, floral, citrus, honey, chocolate, cranberry, molasses.” I am not a big coffee drinker and I usually mix in so much creamer and sugar that I’d never be able to taste all those notes, but it’s delicious to imagine.

My mother said she was going to have the bag framed but it’s pretty big and she didn’t want to burden me with a large framed object. This was probably a smart move because wall space is limited at my house at this point.

That leaves the question of what to do with the bag. I’ve seen some people recycle these coffee bags into pillows, purses, and rugs – but I decided to just lay mine on the back of the sofa until I figure out what to do with it.

It looks kind of good just like that, doesn’t it? Or do you think I should make something with it?

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Update: After posting this, a friend (from Mexico), asked if “frijoles de café” is how you say “coffee beans” in El Salvador, because she knows them only as “granos de café.” It turns out that “frijoles de café” is just my very literal and incorrect translation from English. I have always called coffee beans “frijoles” and Carlos, for whatever reason, has never corrected me. Maybe this is his payback for me laughing at his English.

Another interesting note, after I posted this, Carlos kept referring to the bag as a “costal” (a new word for me.) “Costal” is the word for “sack” and is more accurate than calling it a “bolsa” or “bag.”

Conversation Hearts en español! (Giveaway!)

ConversationHearts_Latinaish

Over the weekend I shared on Facebook that I discovered these Spanish-language Conversation Hearts at Target and I asked if I should give away a bag here on Latinaish. As expected, the answer was an overwhelming “¡Claro que sí!” so here is your chance to win a bag of Spanish candy hearts for Valentine’s Day! See the rules (below) for how to enter.

(Random fact: The brand name is Brach’s, a company started by a German immigrant in the United States but the package says these particular candies were made in Argentina. Interesting!)

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—GIVEAWAY CLOSED. CONGRATS TO: JEN E!—

GIVEAWAY RULES

Prize description: One lucky winner will receive a 1 lb. bag of Brach’s Spanish Sayings Conversation Hearts in Classic Flavors.

Approximate value: $2.50

How to Enter:

Just leave a comment below telling me what Spanish word or short phrase you would want on the candy heart someone gives to you, or what you would put on the one to give to your valentine. (Please read official rules below.)

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age or older to enter. You must be able to provide a U.S. address for prize shipment. Your name and address will not be shared with any third parties. This prize was purchased by Latinaish.com and will be shipped by Latinaish.com. Please no P.O. Boxes. One entry per household. Make sure that you enter a valid E-mail address in the E-mail address field so you can be contacted if you win. Winner will be selected at random. Winner has 48 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, a new winner will be selected at random. Giveaway entries are being accepted between February 4th, 2013 through February 7th, 2013. Entries received after February 7th, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST, will not be considered. I will try to have the prize shipped so it arrives before Valentine’s Day but I do not make any guarantees that it will arrive on time. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. If you win, by accepting the prize, you are agreeing that Latinaish.com assumes no liability for damages of any kind. By entering your name below you are agreeing to these Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

Buena suerte!

Disclosure: This is not a paid or sponsored post. Brach’s was not contacted by Latinaish.com and Brach’s does not necessarily endorse Latinaish.com. All opinions are my own.