Category Archives: celebration
Making real, authentic papel picado takes patience and dexterity. If you want to make a quick, fun mini-version with the niños, here’s a fun craft to do.
Mini Faux Papel Picado
What you need:
• colored construction paper
• clear tape
• floss, string or yarn
• an imagination
Cut out small rectangles of colored construction paper, equal in size.
Fold the paper in quarters. (You can fold it more or less – whatever you like.)
Cut little snips and shapes out of the paper at different angles. (Remember making paper snowflakes as a child? Same technique.) … Also, it looks best if you scallop the edges in some way.
Repeat this process with rectangles of different colors. When finished, line them up on the table and tape them to a piece of floss, string or yarn before hanging up.
(Today is Spanish Friday so the following post is en español. Don’t speak Spanish? No problema! Just scroll down to the English translation below.)
Me cuesta mucho buscar las palabras por explicar cómo me siento yo ahorita – (¡aún en inglés!) … Es casi el mismo sentido que uno siente cuándo está enamorado. No puedo pensar en nada salvo los Billboard Latin Music Awards. No tengo nada de hambre, no tengo sueño – sólo tengo mis ensueños de caminar en la carpeta roja con un vestidito super lindo, la playa que me recuerda mucho, la música, mis amigas, y estar rodeada de hispanohablantes y la cultura Latina – Miami y este evento son nada menos que el paraíso!
¿Y sabes qué? Espinoza Paz está nominado en varias categorías! Ay mi madre! Sí está mi Espinoza, y sí tengo el chance de conocerlo cara a cara – me muero! (Pero me muero feliz!)
La unica cosa es que quiero llevar Carlos conmigo. Él tiene muchos años trabajando fuerte sin irse en vacaciónes y lo merece mucho. Carlos no conoce Miami y ya sé que va a enamorar de la ciudad como yo lo hice el año pasado. Entonces, estoy buscando más trabajo, (escribiendo), y Carlos buscando trabajo en cortar grama o cualquier cosa que puede encontrar fuera de su trabajo regular, para que ahorramos un poco extra por comprar el boleto que necesita.
Así que, a trabajar voy, mis amigos! … Y Miami, mi amor, regresaré muy pronto!
Te dejo con un video: Armada Latina – Cypress Hill featuring Pitbull and Marc Anthony.
Pitbull está tan lindo y chistoso en este video. Chécalo!
It’s difficult for me to find the words to explain how I feel right now – (even in English!) … It’s almost the same feeling one feels when they’re in love. I can’t think of anything except the Billboard Latin Music Awards. I’m not hungry, I’m not tired – I just have my daydreams about walking on the red carpet dressed in a super cute gown, the beautiful beach I often think of, the music, my friends, and being surrounded by Spanish speakers and the Latin culture – Miami and this event are nothing less than paradise!
And guess what? Espinoza Paz is nominated in various categories! If my Espinoza is there, and if I have the chance to meet him face-to-face – I will die! (But I’ll die happy!)
The only thing is that I want to bring Carlos with me. He has spent a lot of years working hard without going on a single vacation and he really deserves it. Carlos has never been to Miami and I know he’ll fall in love with the city like I did last year. So, I’m looking for more work, (writing), and Carlos is looking for more work, cutting grass or whatever he can find outside his regular work, so we can save a little extra that we need to buy his ticket.
So then, back to work I go, my friends! … And Miami, my love, I’m coming back real soon!
I leave you with a video: Armada Latina – Cypress Hill featuring Pitbull and Marc Anthony.
Pitbull is so cute and funny in this video. Check it out!
(English translation in comments.)
Ayer venía los resultados en el correo. Mi hijo que está en grado siete ha tomado un examen para deducir en cuáles clases lo van a poner en el siguiente año. Ya está en clases avanzadas, pero la escuela quieren ver si está listo por algo aún más dificíl. El examen que me interesa más de todo, fue el examen de español.
Desde que eran chiquitos, yo quería poner mis niños en una escuela bilingüe, pero, como es el caso con muchas cosas en la vida, simplemente no tenemos el dinero de hacerlo. Por eso los niños están en la escuela publica – y no tiene nada de malo. Nuestra experiencia con las escuelas publicas ha sido buena. Mis dos hijos han hecho muy bien y casi siempre tuvieron suficiente desafios y buenos maestros. La unica cosa que me falta es que no tienen una clase de español, y me daba mucha tristeza que los niños, (todos los niños, no sólo mis hijos), están perdiendo una gran oportunidad de aprender una idioma con fluidez. Cada año que pasa sin enseñarles, es un gasto y yo creo que nuestro gobierno está cometiendo un gran error de no darle las clases de “lengua extranjera” más importancía.
Bueno, y es por eso, (y porque son sus raíces), que yo quería que mi hijo comienze clases de español lo más pronto posible. El problema fue que al entrar a el grado ocho, todavía tenía que endurar otro año más de “Honors Reading.” Lo crees? No están comenzando clases de “lengua extranjera” hasta grado nueve! No – no lo acepto. Ya mucho esperamos.
Gracias a Dios, mi hijo tuvo la oportunidad de tomar un examen, a ver si es capaz de saltarse un grado respecto a ciertas clases. Vinieron los resultados y mira!
Va a saltar “Honors Reading” por grado ocho – y va a comenzar high school Spanish I!
¡Qué orgullo y felicidad siento yo! … Ojalá mi hijo puede escribir un blog post por el “Spanish Friday” un día muy pronto.
My cumple is at the end of the month, but Carlos wanted to give me his gift un poco temprano.
This is Carlos’s first and only tattoo… y lo amo!
Suegra still doesn’t know about it. When she finds out, she will probably threaten to disown him, (otra vez.) She believes tattoos are a pecado and that only “mala gente” like pandilleros get them. When Carlos told me this I said, “Wait, doesn’t your older brother have tattoos?”
“Yeah,” Carlos said, “but when my mother found out, she slapped him.”
So Carlos’s birthday present to me? A permanent reminder of his love, and the promise of mucho drama to blog about in the coming days.
Today Carlos and I have been married 13 years. As usual, we don’t have enough chirilicas to buy anything for each other – but that’s okay. No amount of money in the world can buy what we have together and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
This isn’t to say our marriage is perfect – far from it! Truth be told, we can be downright dysfunctional. There is passion – passion that leads to some of the hottest fights you’d never want to see, (though the passion is good for other things, too.) …One thing is for sure, it’s never boring y ojalá our love for each other will always win out in the end.
Ya tú sabes, te quiero un chingo, Carlos.
El Guanaco + La Güera
(a poem for Carlos)
What more can I say,
que ya no te dijé,
me gusta como dices
“pata” en vez de “pie.”
Tu Caliche makes me crazy
y tu familia de otra manera
aunque me llamen “Traisy”
I’m proud to be tu güera.
Sabes que te agradezco
for all the things you do
Tú trabajas muy fuerte
To buy mis Bubu Lubus.
The truth is that without you,
(and our two cipotes)
Yo ando bien perdida
igual a Don Quixote.
Ahora voy a decirte,
In front of all these gente,
Eres mi guanaco,
Today is my husband’s birthday and having no pisto in my pocket to buy a gift, I decided to bake him a cake. He loves my banana bread, so last night I got started on baking him a banana cake.
While I was busy baking, Suegra called on the phone. Carlos went off to talk to her for awhile and then, following the scent of banana, returned to the kitchen after he’d hung up.
“I told her you’re baking me a cake from scratches,” he said, hugging me around the waist as I cleaned up.
“What?” he said.
I didn’t correct him because it was too cute. Jijiji.
Anyway, I layered and frosted the cake with homemade chocolate butter cream frosting. The cake tastes delicious, but it looked feísimo. It’s completely lopsided and crooked from every possible angle. I showed it to my older son for a second opinion. ‘Maybe I’m just being too hard on myself’, I thought. My older son confirmed that the cake wasn’t exactly pretty and noted that it looked “kind of like a log.” With that in mind, I did some quick thinking. In my younger son’s toy box I found the perfect cake topper.
“Sapo Verde” to you, Carlos.
(“Sapo Verde” [sah-poh bear-day] – which means “green toad”, is a fun way to say “Happy Birthday” in some parts of Latin America. It’s a Spanglish version of the greeting, since saying it aloud sounds similar to the way a native Spanish speaker would pronounce “Happy Birthday” with an accent.)
Mañana es Navidad, pero hoy es “Spanish Friday.”
No tengo grandes planes para la Navidad, y gracias a la ecónomia, no ha comprado muchos regalos para los niños. Por lo mejor. Tal vez ellos pueden crecer más agradecidos que la mayoria de niños en Los Estados Unidos.
Yo recibí jugetes al montón cuando era niña. Habia una Navidad bien recuerdo que mis hermanas y yo recibimos jugetes para fregar, y cuando fuimos a la casa de mis abuelos maternos, recibimos tantos regalos más que tuvimos que hacer dos vueltas en el carro para llevarlas a casa. (Esto encima de regalos recibidos por correo de otra familia.)
Pero Carlos estaba al otro extremo. Me contaba que habia años cuando él recibido un par de zapatos y nada más. Lo peor es que nunca quedaban bien. Siempre los padres los compraron grandes para que duren más tiempo y parecía más a lanchas que un par de zapatos.
Hay que buscar un equilibrio, y creo que nuestros hijos están creciendo en buenas condiciones. No son pobres-pobres, que sienten que están sufriendo, pero no son ricos-ricos que tienen la expectacion que la vida es fácil. Creo que está bien.
Lo más importante es que estamos juntos. La alegría derivada de todos los jugetes del mundo se queda corta al lado de la felicidad uno se siente de estar amado entre familia.
Last night I went out and bought all the things I need to make tamales. Carlos has gone to work, and the niños to school. The house is quiet and empty, unlike a traditional tamalada.
I mentioned in my last post, Galletada, how I don’t have family to make tamales with. Some of you recommended inviting friends, regardless of whether they’re Latina or not. I think that idea is bien chévere. The only problem? My friends are spread across the world.
So, here is what I’m going to do – I’m going to “live blog” my tamal making with you! You’re all invited to my tamalada. Visit throughout the day as I update. Chat with me here in comments, or over on Twitter!
8:20 am – I boiled the chicken last night so it would be ready. I’m going to go shred that first.
9:35 am – The chicken is nicely shredded. Unlike Suegra, I didn’t include bones in my mixture. Chomping into a hueso while trying to eat a tamal, I find very disconcerting.
What do you think of my apron? Do I look like I’m ready to make tamales or sell them at the mercado? ;)
10:36 am – The filling mixture is almost finished. I’m tasting it with Hoja Santa to see if I like it. I heard that Hoja Santa is used for tamales in regions of México and that it gives a distinct flavor. It smells like root beer or licorice. Qué rico! …
While researching the herb, I found out some interesting things. First, the FDA isn’t a fan of Hoja Santa because it was found to be carcinogenic in animals. Carlos thinks I’m loca for trying it just based on that, but cigarettes are carcinogenic to HUMANS and yet the FDA doesn’t have a problem with them, so I put my faith in the Mexican people on this one. They’ve been using this herb since the times of the Mayans and Aztecs, and they have less incidence of cancer than those of us in the U.S.
The story behind its name – Hoja Santa, (Holy Leaf), is that the Virgin Mary used to dry the diapers of baby Jesus on the wide leaves of the Hoja Santa plant. (Providing a place for them to dry, as well as leaving a nice scent.) … Qué cute, right?
Okay – going to upload a video for those who are asking!
12:36 pm – Getting tired and I haven’t even assembled the things! … I finished the filling quite awhile ago, (video below!), and just now I finished making the masa. This is the first year I used manteca (lard) in the masa. The idea gave me the heebie jeebies but I tried tamales last year which I liked, which had algocito that my tamales didn’t have – and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Well, it was manteca, of course. I had Carlos call his co-worker, Armando, last night – to ask what his wife put in her tamales. Te juro, I tasted queso in the masa, but they insist that it’s just manteca.
So, anyway, I made the masa with manteca and the smell made me a little queasy. The masa is resting and so am I for a few minutes, but I really need to get a move on. The day is half over!
Here is the video of me making the filling earlier:
2:26 pm – All the tamales have been made and are on the stove. Very tired and ate so much of the filling que no tengo ganas de comer tamales. Bleh. Ojalá, Carlos and the boys will like them.
I’ve posted my recipe in comments before, but I will post my recipe here according to how I made them this year.
Latina-ish Tamales Recipe
What you need:
Dry corn husks
MASECA (instant corn masa flour for tortillas)
1 whole chicken – boiled, (remove skin and bones and shred into small pieces)
Chicken broth – (use the broth from the chicken you cooked. Seems to be more flavorful than canned/boxed broth.)
1 can chick peas/garbanzo beans
1 medium onion (minced if you have the patience, otherwise, chopped is okay)
3 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
2 cans of uncut green beans
2 cans of diced potatoes
1 can of chiles in adobo sauce
achiote molido (annatto powder)
achiote entero (whole annatto)
1 cup of lard
1/2 cup cooking oil
1. The filling: In a large pan, heat a few tablespoons of cooking oil. Add 1 tablespoon of achiote entero. Cook briefly until oil turns orange-red. Remove from heat. Remove the achiote with a spoon and discard so that all that is left in the pan is the oil. If you don’t have achiote entero, just heat some regular oil.
2. Put the pan back on the medium heat, saute onion and garlic until tender. Remove from heat. Add the drained cans of potatoes, chick peas and green beans as well as the chicken. Combine. Add salt, adobo sauce from the can of “chiles en adobo”, and hoja santa to taste.
3. For the masa, I used this recipe. Only changes – I added a tablespoon of achiote molido along with the salt to the dry MASECA. Then, after completing the recipe, I added a 1/2 cup of cooking oil.
4. Fill a big bowl with hot water in your sink. Submerge the corn husks in the water to soften.
5. Rip off 40 squares of aluminum foil, (about 1 foot by 1 foot each.) … This will be used to secure the tamales while cooking if you have trouble folding them securely closed. (Some people tie them closed. Look up methods online, but I’m telling you, foil makes it way easier.)
6. If you don’t have a large steamer pot, you will need to loosely crumple foil balls enough to cover the bottom of your largest pot with a tight fitting lid, (or an upside down metal pie plate works.) Once the bottom of the pot is covered in foil balls, fill it with water – BUT the water should not be higher than the foil balls. The foil balls keep the water off the tamales since the tamales are not boiled – they are steamed. If you have a steamer pot and know how to use it, all the better!
7. Now for assembly. Take a corn husk from the water, making sure it isn’t too small or ripped, and shake it dry a bit. Put it on a square of foil. Spread a big spoonful of masa (dough), onto the husk in the middle, spreading it out in a sort of rectangle shape, but don’t go too close to the edges. (There are tamal tutorials online, so look around for them. Video would be the best way to learn this.)
On top of the masa, place a spoonful of the chicken mixture.
Now fold the corn husk closed, (again, hard to explain, so look online for a tutorial if you don’t know how.) … Then I take the extra step of enclosing each one in foil so they don’t open up.
Repeat this until you run out of either corn husks, masa, mixture, or energy — This made about 40 tamales when I ran out of masa, but I had enough filling mixture for at least 2 dozen more.
Stack them all in your steamer pot on medium to low heat with the lid closed. They take between one and two hours to cook. Check once in awhile, (though not too often as you’ll lose your steam), to make sure there’s enough water in there – if not, add a little.
To be sure the tamal is done – best to take one out, unwrap the foil, and let it cool for a little bit to give the masa a chance to become the right texture. Then you can unwrap the corn husk and check to see if the masa is properly cooked, (it shouldn’t be too mushy – it should be firm…difficult to explain exactly. I know you’ve eaten tamales so just judge the doneness based on personal experience of what it should look/feel/taste like when cooked.)
5:46 pm – Tamales were taken out of the pots over an hour ago and have cooled. Carlos loves how they turned out. Now for a nap. Thanks to all of you who chatted with me here in comments and on Twitter! This one is for you…
Today our church celebrates Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, but the forecast is calling for freezing rain so it may be postponed or canceled since the Spanish-speaking priest comes in from out of the city. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t attend the service, because it’s the one I look most forward to each year.
Raised Protestant, the Catholic relationship with the Virgin Mary was something that I had difficulty understanding at first. Protestants do not adore her the way Catholics do. I also found it confusing that there seemed to be a lot of Virgins in the Catholic faith. There is the Virgin Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, the Blessed Virgin, etc. I later learned that these are not different virgins – they are all the same Virgin Mary, (mother of Jesus). Some of the names are just describing her attributes, (such as Our Lady of Peace), and others are for locations where she appeared to people.
Years ago, during the course of writing one of my manuscripts, I needed to do research on the Catholic faith. While researching, I discovered the Virgin of Guadalupe, and fell in love. There is something about the Virgin of Guadalupe that intrigues me more than I can really put into words.
Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes once said, “…one may no longer consider himself a Christian, but you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe.” And Nobel Literature laureate, Octavio Paz, wrote, “The Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery.”
If you don’t know the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe, allow me to share it with you.
There once was an indigenous Mexican man named Juan Diego. (His birth name was Cuauhtlatoatzin, but Juan Diego was the name he took when Spanish bishops converted him to Christianity.)
Juan Diego was a widower who walked every Saturday and Sunday to church. When it was cold out he wore a cloak-like covering called a “tilma”, a common type of clothing for the people of his tribe. On one particular Saturday morning (December 9, 1531), on his way to church, Juan Diego claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin.
As he passed the hill at Tepeyac just outside of Mexico City he heard music and saw a light. A woman’s voice called him by name from the top of the hill, so he climbed up to see. Near the top he saw a beautiful young dark skinned woman dressed like an Aztec princess. She spoke to him in his native language (Nahuatl) and told Juan that she was the Virgin Mary.
The Virgin instructed Juan Diego to seek permission for a church to be built on that site and in return she would always care for the people there. Juan Diego did as he was told but the bishop asked for a sign to verify that what Juan Diego claimed had really happened.
Juan Diego returned to the hill and told the Virgin what the bishop had said. The Virgin then directed Juan Diego to go further up the hill and there he would find roses. He was instructed to gather the roses into his tilma. Juan Diego did as the Virgin instructed. (Remember it is winter time and roses would not have been blooming.) The Virgin then told Juan Diego to bring the roses to the bishop.
Not only was the bishop surprised by the roses because they were not in season but these particular roses were also not native to Mexico. These roses were native to his homeland (Spain). And then as Juan Diego emptied the roses from his tilma, it revealed an amazing image of the Virgin.
Juan Diego’s tilma with the image still exists today. It is on display at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. This is considered yet another miracle because Juan Diego’s tilma is made from the coarse fibers of the maguey cactus. A fabric of this type should have deteriorated after 20 years. (It has been in good condition for almost 500 years and examined by many scientists who can find no explanation.)
For those who take a more cynical view, there are theories that the Catholic church made all this up just to convert the native peoples of Mexico.
Today, many of those faithful to the Virgin of Guadalupe pray to her and ask miracles. Many claim she has healed them or loved ones from incurable illnesses. Some make promises to the Virgin in return for answered prayer. On the day of celebration for the Virgin of Guadalupe, some will walk on their knees, (some for miles), to her altar in gratitude and devotion.
Our church usually assembles in the street with mariachi at sunrise to sing “Las Mañanitas” to La Virgen. After misa, there is a procession and a traditional desayuno of pozole, tamales and champurrado.
I hope we will be able to go, but here are photos from last year.
“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.” – Jon Stewart
The history of Thanksgiving we’ve come to know growing up in American public schools is little more than a fairy tale. The true history is muddled in uncertainty, contradiction, controversy and outright lies.
While I’m certainly not a historian and therefore not qualified to delve into this with any voice of authority, I can say one thing for certain – If it weren’t for the kindness and generosity of the Native Americans to the new immigrants to this land, they would not have survived.
Many tribes reached out to these new people and taught them how to fertilize, grow, harvest and preserve crops. They showed them which foods were safe to eat, instructed them on methods of hunting and fishing, and gave them many gifts.
What did they receive in return? Lies. Broken promises. Treaties that could never be trusted. Being forced into small parcels of land. Loss of their freedom, culture, language, way of life… Death.
Even today the indigenous people who cared for this land, in a way we do not today, are suffering the consequences of past generations.
This isn’t a guilt trip for white people, or others who were born here in the United States. Is it your fault? Did you personally steal, rape and pillage? No. And I don’t think we can hold people accountable for the sins of their ancestors. We’re all individuals responsible for our own behavior. But there is a lesson to be learned.
What we can do, is to live in harmony with those around us and teach our children to do the same – To be thankful for what we have and to share with others, including new immigrants from all over the world that come here to the U.S. – To live the example of those tribes who reached out to a people from an entirely different culture, race and language – To be thankful for what we have, and when we have an abundance, give to those who are not as fortunate.
After all, today’s “undocumented immigrants” are just modern day Pilgrims.
“Great spirit, grant me vision
that I may not go wrong
and find myself in prison
of things I have not done
Teach me the secret
that I might see
fill my heart with compassion
to love my enemy.”
-Robby Romero/Prayer Song