Category Archives: Latinidad

History of Spanglish + A Spanglish version of Little Red Riding Hood

Sometimes we think of Spanglish as a modern invention – something that the younger generation has created as the Latino population grows in the United States and American culture becomes increasingly popular in Latin America. The truth is, Spanglish has been around a long time. The term, “Spanglish” was first coined by a Puerto Rican linguist named Salvador Tió in the late 1940s. Tió also came up with the word “inglañol” – which is not nearly as popular, (my guess is because it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue the same way.)

While the term “Spanglish” first started being used in the late 1940′s, its roots go much further back to the 1800′s, The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the 100,000 Mexicans left on the new U.S. side of the border – Mexicans who later became known as “Chicanos.”

Honestly, while I suspected the origins of Spanglish to be something similar to what I found, I wasn’t prompted to research it until recently. Watching I Love Lucy with my little boy before he goes to school is one of my favorite parts of the day. An episode called “Ricky Minds the Baby” aired one morning and in this episode, Ricky tells the story of “Caperucita Roja” (Little Red Riding Hood), to Little Ricky – and he tells it entirely in very charming and amusing Spanglish.

1/18/54: “Ricky Minds the Baby”
I Love Lucy Episode 80 – Filmed 12/3/53
Story: Ricky decides that Lucy deserves a rest, so he offers to take care of Little Ricky.

Links:

Hispanicla.com – Spanglish I
Living in Spanglish: The Search for Latino Identity in America By Ed Morales
Wikipedia – Spanglish
Latinaish – Spanglish Songs
About.com: Caperucita Roja – Vocabulary

U.S. Latinos: Never Offsides When It Comes To Team Loyalty

BY TRACY LÓPEZ

(Originally published on CafeMagazine.com on June 17, 2010.)

During the World Cup, entire nations come together in collective celebration and hope, but for first and second generation Americans in the United States, the World Cup is a reminder of roots and identity.

For U.S. born Latinos, team loyalties are often split between the United States and the land of their parents, grandparents or even more distant ancestors. For naturalized U.S. Citizens and other immigrants, team loyalty to the land of their birth is often even stronger, but is this a source of pride or confusion?

In search of an answer, I put the question to my diverse group of friends on Twitter, “…1st & 2nd generation estadounidenses – Do you root for the country of your roots, the US or both?”

The answer was unanimous; there’s enough love in the hearts of fútbol fanatics to cheer on more than one team.

For Diana Estigarrbia, (@destigarribia), her love of fútbol is split three ways. “I root for Argentina [and] Chile (parents’ roots); [and] US (my birthplace) now that we have a decent team!” she told me via Twitter. Displaying equal love for traditional American past times, she added in E-mail, “I remember Argentina’s win in 1986. It was a big year for me – the New York Mets won the World Series later that fall, and I had a World Cup victory!”

Elianne Ramos, (@ergeekgoddess), also responding to my Twitter question regarding fútbol loyalties, said, “1st Argentina 2nd USA!”

Other answers proclaimed with just as much certainty that a dual citizenship in Fútbolandia is possible.

“The homeland of my kin first, then the U.S.A. My family is from Argentina. So, how can I not root for those soccer kings?” said Veronica Jarski. (@Veronica_Jarski)

Luis Tobon (@thelox714), also expressed a desire to root for both, saying, “I would [root] for both but the issue is that Colombia has not made it to the World Cup since France 98 and did not make it far.”

Ana H. Blackstad (@AnaBlackstad), said “Both Mexico & USA!”, elaborating, “My Dad was born in the US, raised in Mexico, my Mom was born & raised in Mexico. My loyalties are with both.”

Silvia answered via E-mail, “I’m from Mexico and of course my roots are with them, however the three people I love the most in this world, (my husband and two kids), are from the USA, and I’m also a US citizen, so I root for the USA as well.”

For my husband Carlos, a naturalized U.S. Citizen of Salvadoran birth, watching the World Cup and rooting for the United States doesn’t feel like a division of loyalties.

“El Salvador isn’t playing this time so it’s easy for me [to root for the United States], but if El Salvador makes it to the World Cup again some day, I would root for both.”

When I asked him how it feels to see his U.S. born children waving the red, white and blue, he shrugged and smiled. “I’d be happy to see them root for El Salvador, but it’s their choice and they were born here, so I understand.”

¡Que vivan las panzas!

Most people have at least heard of The Vagina Monologues, even if they haven’t seen it. The Vagina Monologues was a one-woman show which told stories about the vagina – with the intention of celebrating the vagina and empowering women.

Now we celebrate the panza with The Panza Monologues. (“Panza” is Spanish for “belly”.) Written by Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga, performed by Ms. Grise, these stories told in Spanglish, are not only diverse and at times hilarious – they are emotionally stirring and empowering.

It’s probably amazing to see Vicki (Virginia), perform live, but I was at least lucky enough to watch her powerful performance on The Panza Monologues DVD. I loved it so much that I wanted to share one of my favorite parts with you. Vicki gave me permission to post the written scene. If you love it as much as I did, please, check her out, buy her DVD, and if you’re able, go see her live.

Links:
Panza Power blog
About the show: The Panza Monologues
Buy the DVD

___

FROM CHA-CHA TO PANZA

[Lights rise.]

(seductively) I wasn’t always big. I use to be cha-cha thin, tall and skinny like my gringo daddy. I would wear tacones – black with straps that reached across my ankles, boots that stopped short of my knees, diamonds across my feet. Tacones – upper leather, suede, alligator, snake, all leather and in different colors- brown, red, cork, biege, gold, green, black, blue even. Tacones that matched the dresses I wore, dresses that always fit my body, showed shape, whether they were long with slit on the side, in the front, in the back / separating my piernas, or short, showing my thighs. Me and my tacones.

[Vicki stands, pulls the tacones [high heeled shoes]
out of the shopping bag.
Holds them up for the audience to admire.]

And they weren’t puta shoes / girl, they were classy. Tacones made me feel taller. Somehow tacones made me feel stronger, more sure of myself. Not submissive or anti-feminist but like the virgen in a Yolanda Lopez painting, karate kicking out of her blue veil with gold stars, stepping on the head of an angel with her tacones. Pues yo tambien. I throw punches for my raza and I can do it with my tacones on too just like the old school cholas use to do.

[Vicki places one foot on the stool
and begins to put her tacones on.]

And the men, the men were scared of me when I walked into the cantina made up / hair swept, red lipstick and tacones. You see, men like fuckin but they don’t like bein fucked and when I walked in I wuz the one doin the choosin. I didn’t sit back in dark corners waitin for someone to ask me to dance. I asked you. Locked eyes and said “You will dance this polka with me,” sometimes without even sayin nuthin.

Other times I’d say, “Fuck all of ya’ll” and take the dance floor at Daddy’Os all by myself

[Music erupts into full blown conjunto.
Vicki dances across the stage, swirls, turns.
Music lowers, Vicki remains standing.]

They all watched / old school vatos, young cholos, graduate students trying to remember their hometown barrios in a bar east of the freeway, forgetting in between too many beers. Hell even the cholas were lookin. Some worried I’d take away their man. Others, shit others just wanted to dance wid me. Be free. Be free like me.

They say a bar is a man’s space but I owned that motha fucker. I walked in with my own go-go juice in blue bottle cuz my dad once told me, “Beer makes you fat Virginia,” so I drank vodka on the rocks, learned how to play pool “Call your shots. I’m not fuckin around.” And I learned more about community politics/who owns who, who runs what than I could of ever learned workin at a cultural center.

I claimed power through my pussy, and I didn’t even have to let any one in. I just had to let em all know I knew I had one and that I controlled my own cho-cho. Ya, I owned that motha / fuckin bar / ‘till the city tore it down after li’l Danny got cut.

[Vicki sits.]

I use to be cha-cha thin. Proud of my calves, well-defined. Calves that did not look like my mother’s calves. My mom’s calves were more like tree trunks. Her whole body was like one huge bloque. My mother gave us everything, everything but I never remember her having anything. Instead of tacones, she wore chanclas. She use to threaten us with her chancla and it didn’t matter if she were big and old, she could still bend over, take off her chancla, grab us by the arm, and meternos un chingaso, real quick like/good ol’ fashion chancla discipline. My mother use to say that my father wanted boys. We were three girls. My mother never said what it was she wanted. That was her way I guess. I’m not sure if my mom ever loved my dad but I grew up thinkin that women that fell in love were weak.

I never thought my mom was pretty, even when she was younger and I never wanted to look like her but slowly the image of my mother crept into my own body. Slowly after too many two o’clock after closin time tacos, candy bars and coke for breakfast. They startin callin me dis—short for gordis—instead of la vicki. Cha-cha became panza and not little panzita even. The whole body grew and you know, it’s not easy balancin this much woman on an ity, bitty heel. I no longer walked real straight and tall. Hell, I looked more like a weeble, wobble. All my weight on a heel as wide as my pointing finger with my foot arched in the middle. I feel the weight of my panza all the way in the ball of my foot. When your panza gets bigger so do your feet and those thin sexy straps that use to hold your feet well they aint that sexy no more. You’ve got these little lonjitas hangin off the side of your shoe and it causes your feet to swell. It’s like they’re chokin, pulsatin, gaspin for air as they struggle to balance all of you on a tacon. And to tell you the truth, I don’t really feel so strong, so sure of myself anymore. Shit I’m scared I’ll fall when I’m dancin and the people that are lookin at me now are starin because they’re scared if I go too low I might not be able to get back up. They’re worried I’ll hurt someone out there.

There’s somethin classy about cha-cha/medias and tacones but when cha-cha becomes panza and you think you can still pull the same shit you could when you were 21, you just look kinda silly. You loose your tacon super powers and your magic slippers really are just puta shoes. Your dress clings tightly to lonjas and you can’t lock eyes with anyone anymore and talk to them without speaking cuz now they only look at your huge chi-chis and well chi-chis just aren’t as powerful as cho-cho. I don’t know why. Who makes these rules?

[Seductive music rises. Lights dim.]

[During the transition, Vicki sits on the edge of the altar, takes off her tacones and replaces them in the shopping bag on the altar. Vicki remains seated.]

© 2004 Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga
No part of this script may be reproduced, published, or performed without express written consent of the authors.

Disclosure: The Panza Monologues was provided to me for review at my request. All opinions are my own.

Los Americans

I really want to watch this new web show on PIC.tv. It starts tomorrow (May 26) … Check it out:

Show description:

Los Americans is the story of a modern, affluent, suburban Mexican-American family living in the United States. The Valenzuela family is totally assimilated in U.S. American culture, and that’s the way the patriarch, Leandro Valenzuela, or “Lee” as Leandro prefers to be called, likes it. He’s moved on from speaking Spanish and the ways of the old country. As he proudly says, “We’re not Mexicans. Mexicans live in Mexico. We’re Americans.”

Lee is right in that he and his family will face many of the problems and challenges all Americans face, that all human beings face – unemployment, homelessness, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, abortion, immigration, childhood obesity and others. But Lee will also face another problem in that he has forgotten his native language and moved away from his culture, ultimately losing part of who he is and where he comes from, and he will learn that maybe this is not such a good thing. Welcome to a story about real Americans… Los Americans.

The cast of Los Americans

What do you think?

Links:

Watch the show online and find out more at PIC.Tv/LosAmericans
Los Americans on Twitter

Come chat with me + Surropa!

Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile know how much I love Surropa.com. Aside from wearing their T-shirts, I’ve blogged about them and mention them on Twitter and Facebook once in awhile, too.

Short description of their company if you don’t know: Miami-based clothing company with shirts, (and other items), in English, Spanish and Spanglish – but always stylish and with a touch of Latin sabor. You can also design your own shirts through their store. I designed this one:

jijiji… like it?

Anyway, the guys at Surropa asked me if I’d moderate their first ever TuitCam Event. I was like, “Totally! … What’s a TuitCam Event?”

Well, as it turns out, TwitCam is a website that allows you to have a tweet chat while on webcam. So it will feel like we’re in our own little chat room but you use your Twitter account to tweet chat while watching and and listening to the live streaming video. We tested it out last week and it was so much fun.

Two of the guys at Surropa will be hosting (on camera): Marketing Director Esteban “El Chato” Montano and Creative Director Ernesto East… I know their professional titles sound all business-like, but these guys are hilarious. While we were testing out TwitCam they told me to ask a question so we could just get a feel of how it would be. Well, one of them was wearing a cowboy hat so I said, “I want to know if the one in the cowboy hat is wearing botas picudas!” … He held his foot up to the camera and he was wearing socks with chanclas!

So, I hope you’ll join us mañana, Wednesday May 25th, 2011 at 3 pm EST. Just follow me and/or Surropa on Twitter. Once the TwitCam Event begins, we will tweet the link so you can join us! Here are the details from Surropa.com’s blog:

“…ask any question you want, give us ideas for new designs and products or just tell us how our t-shirts have completely changed your lives. We’ll even take constructive criticism (please no hate tweets, we’re extremely sensitive).

By the way… We’ve asked our friend and blogger extraordinaire, Tracy Lopez from Latinaish.com to moderate…and to keep these two in line and entertaining. Come check it out, what do you have to lose? You might even get a special discount code for 25% off your next order.”

Disclosure: I have not been compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Barbara por Atras

I lack self-discipline, I’m a complete hedonist, I become intensely passionate about the things I love, and I’m impulsive. This spells trouble not just for my eating habits but it makes many aspects of my life challenging. Carlos, who is the complete opposite, has reformed me to some extent, and being a mother has forced me to change my ways, but it’s a daily fight.

Recently when I decided to get serious about my health, I reached out to mi amiga, Barbara to ask for guidance. She gave me a lot of encouragement and was also kind enough to send me a copy of her book, “…Barbara por Atras: A Latin Woman’s Guide to Fitness.”

I’ve read a lot of books about health but this one connected in a way that other books couldn’t. With mentions of Celia Cruz, nalgas, and piropos as well as healthful ways to prepare arroz con frijoles, tostones con mojo, and flan – I feel like finally someone “gets” me! This book is the jump start I needed. I’m taking steps in the right direction – poco a poco, I’ll make it. Gracias, Barbara.

Disclosure: The book was provided to me at no cost. I did not receive any compensation for talking about the book. All opinions are my own.

Being Social@Telemundo

As you know, I recently went down to Miami at the invitation of Telemundo. What you probably don’t know is that it wasn’t just to attend the Latin Billboard Awards or tour their studios.

Myself and nine other blogueros, were fortunate enough to participate in Telemundo’s very first Digital Influencers Summit. Telemundo’s new digital initiative is called Social@Telemundo.

From the Press Release:

Social@Telemundo will focus on delivering its fans across Facebook & Twitter interactive experiences tied to TV programming. With dedicated Social Media resources tied to each of Telemundo’s shows and novelas the Social@Telemundo aims to take the entire TV viewing process to a more engaging level. Building of the success of its Interactive Broadband Series “Telemundo Live” and Mobile social initiatives Telemundo plans to expand its focus on sharing more access to its Studios, Shows and Talent in Spanish and English.

Borja Perez, Vice President of Digital Media and Integrated Solutions

I wrote about this experience from a more business-minded perspective on LatinaBloggersConnect.com – but here I’ll share some of the more personal chisme.

As you might expect, the room where the meeting was held contained a long conference table surrounded by chairs and a screen on the opposite wall to give presentations. Large framed posters of Telemundo shows hung on the other walls. I knew that I wouldn’t be meeting the cast of my favorite telenovela, Los Herederos del Monte, since the show is filmed in Colombia, but I wanted my photo taken with the next best thing.

(For the record, I didn’t intentionally style my hair like Paula’s. It was a happy accident… Do you think Juan del Monte might mistake me for her? …Okay, maybe not.)

During the meeting, one of the executives asked which one of us was the novelera – I raised my hand and they asked what attracted me to Los Herederos del Monte. Now, to answer this professionally or honestly? I went with honesty, responding, “Okay, at first it was because the guys are hot…” But I did explain that I later came to appreciate the complexity of the storyline and the quality of filming.

Admitting that I began watching Herederos for the eye candy made it a little hypocritical of me to ask the question I asked later – which was if Telemundo was actively trying to step away from portraying women as sex objects in their programming. (Spanish language TV in general has a reputation for this and I know it’s something that bothers a lot of Latinas.)

The President, Don Browne, welcomed the question and answered that yes, they are producing programs that portray both real and fictional women as strong, intelligent and independent. (Examples – Kate del Castillo in Reina del Sur, Dra. Ana María Polo on Caso Cerrado, Jenni Rivera, and Maria Celeste of Rojo Vivo.) They really want to break a lot of the stereotypes about Spanish language television and consciously work social issues that affect, not just women, but other segments of the viewing audience, into their programming.

We got a lot of great insight into just what Telemundo, and mun2, are about from various executives who attended the meeting, and just as importantly, we had the opportunity to give them feedback, advice and ideas. Mutual respect flowed between Telemundo and the bloggers and the atmosphere was fun yet intellectually stimulating. Telemundo has a rare chemistry, passion, creativity and positivity there which has to be experienced to really be understood. I definitely felt like I was with mi gente. (Did you know that some of the Telemundo staff, including the President himself, are “Latinos de corazón” like me?)

For lunch, we were joined by Telemundo talent; Gaby Espino, Jorge Bernal, Vanessa Hauc, Enrique Acevedo, Karim Mendiburu, Sammy Sadovik, and Jessi Losada.

Left to right: Vanessa Hauc, Gaby Espino, Jorge Bernal, Karim Mendiburu, Sammy Sadovnik

We all introduced ourselves and explained a little about our background. This conversation centered around the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook. They had a few questions (such as “What is a good tweet?”) for the bloggers, and they shared with us how they use the websites to connect to fans, etc.

All of them were really down-to-earth. While we chatted in real life, we were also tweeting each other – and those tweets were being projected onto the wall for everyone in the room to see, which was a fun idea.

As you can see, I thought Jorge Bernal was especially funny. After lunch he gave me a big kiss on the cheek and said, “Adios, gringa!”

Me and Jorge Bernal of Al Rojo Vivo

Me and Karim Mendiburu, of Titulares y Más and Ritmo Deportivo

Disclosure: I was invited to the Digital Influencers Summit at the invitation of Telemundo. All opinions are my own.

Courtship, Latin American style

Reading a book called “The Hacienda: My Venezuelan Years,” and though I don’t think it’s intended to be a comedic book at all, this part made me laugh, perhaps because it’s vaguely familiar.

“He said he would die if I didn’t marry him. He said it was my destiny. I was sixteen and I didn’t know then that it was an old cliché, as though, somewhere, there is a little latino lexicon of courtship which is learnt by heart in adolescence and then regurgitated to girl after girl.”

- Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

__

What have you been reading? Which literary quote made you stop to think or laugh lately?

Latin Dance 101


(image source: Putumayo.com)

You hear Latin music and it makes you want to dance – but is it a Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, or something entirely different? The beat tempts you to the dance floor, but what do you do once you’re out there?

Today my friend and professional Latin dance instructor, Jennifer Gonzalez, guest posts and gives us the basics!

_________________________________________________________________

Lovin’ that Latin Dance!

by Jennifer Gonzalez

It is hard to believe that just 13-14 years ago I had no idea that merengue, salsa, bachata, or cha cha cha were dances. Ok, maybe in the ballroom world I had heard a bit about cha cha cha or salsa but definitely nothing else. The only type of Latin dance I had ever laid eyes on was whatever came out of Mexico or California. As much as I love the Mexican culture – the dance just didn’t do it for me.

Then one day, I met this man. He was (well, still is) Puerto Rican and he introduced me to ‘his’ music! I fell in love with the music instantly.  For one of our dates, we went to go to see the movie, “Dance With Me” staring Chayanne and Vanessa Williams. In the movie, Chayanne takes Williams’ character to a club where they dance ‘real’ salsa (not the ballroom kind.) My eyes probably popped out of my head at that moment as I watched and saw what I thought looked like the most fun you could have out at a club.

I told my then-boyfriend, “I must learn how to dance salsa!” So for my birthday we went to a tiny little club that we had found in the City Paper. After only one lesson I was hooked. I had no problem with the rhythm or the steps and wanted more. What I didn’t know was that these lessons were going to open up a whole new world to me full of music, dance, and culture. Little by little I started to learn other dances, where they came from, and how they fit into the culture of Latin America.

What intrigues me is that many times people have a hard time distinguishing Latin music. A merengue will be playing and someone will ask, “Is that salsa?” No. They sound nothing alike. To me.  How can you tell them apart? You learn about them!

Merengue
Merengue is the easiest of the Latin dances to learn. It involves just two beats and two steps. 1-2, 1-2. The man and women mirror each other’s feet as they dance and start in closed-position. As they step, there is a slight bend to the knee which will move the hips. They key is to not move your shoulders to the side or to bounce – that will give you away as a gringo (or non- Hispanic person) immediately!   The bend in the knee while dancing gives the hips the movement that everyone wants but works so hard to achieve. Because of the easy steps, the leader can move through series of turns without too many issues.  The dance originated in the Dominican Republic in the 19th century and is considered the ‘national dance’.  If you take a trip to the Dominican Republic and stay in a resort, you will most likely find merengue dance lessons each afternoon or evening (sometimes both).  You can see the basic movement in the videos below:

Bachata
One dance gaining in popularity right now is bachata.  Everyone and their mother and brother want to learn Bachata – especially here in the Washington DC area. Again, this dance comes to us from the Dominican Republic. Many call bachata the ‘country music’ of Latin music. The lyrics are often full of heartache, pain, and love and as a result, the dance itself can portray all of these things. Traditional bachata dancing requires partners hold each other very close in the closed position. Their legs will straddle so as to not step on each other’s feet (with the woman’s right-leg often between the men’s legs while dancing).  The dance involves 4 steps – 4 to the right, 4 to the left with the 4th step being a left-lift or hip pop (see the video).  Although many dance very close together, it isn’t necessary. It can be beautiful danced with space between the man and the woman.

Salsa
Salsa dancing is one of the most complex Latin dances. Not only are the steps harder to learn but there are variations within the dance itself which have caused controversy for years.  Salsa music first originated in Cuba (as mambo) before being brought to the United States by Cuban musicians. The origins date back to Cuban Son. When the Cubans brought their salsa to the states it wasn’t yet considered ‘salsa’.  Only after the United States shut the doors to Cuba and other artists took the music, added their own flavor (like Fania All Stars) was it given the name ‘salsa’.  The style became immensely popular in Puerto Rico due to singers like Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, Tito Puente, and others and slowly moved throughout the world. Today, you will find that styles of salsa vary from country to country. Cuba, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and more all have their own distinct style of moving.

What does salsa look like when danced? Excellent question! As people start to learn they may find themselves confused. The styles to pick from are: on1 (LA style), on2 (New York/Puerto Rican style), casino (Cuban style), or Colombian.  They each have their own way of relating to the music but one thing stays the same: the clave.  All salsa music is built upon the clave. If you dance up the clave or down the clave does not matter – just stay with the music. Salsa is danced in 6 beats: 1-2-3, 5-6-7 with on1 and on2 styles pausing for the 4 & the 8.  However, Cuban and Colombian salsa most often use every beat of the music.  Trying to decide which style to learn can be confusing but I suggest to just pick one, learn it well, and then move on to another.

Video 1 demonstration:

Cuban salsa:

New York Style:

Colombian Style:

Beyond Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata

Beyond the dances mentioned above there are numerous other Latin dances available. The most popular is probably the cha cha cha. Most people are familiar with the cha cha cha from ballroom dancing or tv shows like Dancing With the Stars. Again, cha cha cha was born in Cuba. It progressed from the Danzón and received the name ‘cha cha cha’ from the sound the footwork would make on the floor. And although many people call it just the cha cha – the proper name is cha cha cha. The footwork is most similar to salsa but with a syncopated step on the 4 and 8.  For a feel of the cha cha cha, I might recommend people break out their old Santana music and listen to “Oye Como Va.” This song was written by Tito Puente as a straight cha cha cha but Santana took it and created an incredible rock song. The cha cha cha is still there in the song. Although the cha cha cha can be danced to some popular music (as they show on tv) it is best danced to classic cha cha cha music for the proper feel.

 

Another popular dance is Afro-Cuban rumba. Again, ballroom took what they called rumba and created their own dance. When you say ‘rumba’ in Cuba or in Puerto Rico or other Latin American countries they will most often assume you are talking about the rhythm that originated in Cuba. Because rumba is so diverse and complex, I would suggest reading this article I wrote for Ritmo Bello which explains the types of rumba as well as gives examples.

 

Learning these dances not only gives people the opportunity to connect with a culture (Puerto Rican, Cuban, Colombian, Dominican, etc.) it provides an outlet for exercise and socializing. Some of my greatest friends have come through dancing salsa.  And for me, I know that I still have so much to learn. Watch the videos, pick up some music from Amazon or iTunes, and get in the groove!

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Jennifer Gonzalez has been dancing salsa for the past 12 years and salsa rueda/casino for the past 10. She danced and taught with SAOCO DC for 4 years before having to focus her interests elsewhere due to kids, work, and life in general. She has also taught at the San Francisco Salsa Rueda Festival for two years and independently throughout Northern Virginia. Jennifer dances LA Style on1 and salsa casino but prefers salsa casino. She has trained with Aramis Pazos in Washington DC in AfroCuban dance. She works full-time as a web content manager and in search engine optimization/social media marketing. In addition, Jennifer authors Salsa Casino in DC – a blog dedicated to sharing events, classes, and more that are happening in the Washington DC Metro area as well as teaching people about the Cuban history of dance. Additionally, she is a regular contributor to PlanetTimba.com and The Examiner. When she is not dancing, thinking about dancing, or writing about dancing she spends time with her two children and husband.

Pollo Campero & Lakeforest Mall

We went to Pollo Campero for the first time in El Salvador. Since then, my only taste of it has been from buckets of cold chicken smuggled on Taca flights brought by visiting family.

(Fun fact: Carlos’s sister used to work at a Pollo Campero in El Salvador.)

I knew that the fast food Guatemalan chicken restaurants had been popping up in the United States for quite awhile but I just didn’t get around to visiting one until last weekend. The Lakeforest Mall location in Gaithersburg, Maryland has been open for several years.

Now, I was born and raised in Montgomery County, (or MoCo as it’s called by unassuming non-Spanish speakers who think that sounds cool.)

Lakeforest Mall is where my mother took us for back-to-school shopping – It’s across the street from the townhouses I lived in for the first year of my life. It’s where I skipped class and went to watch Jackie Chan movies, (there used to be a theater where the food court is now.) … Lakeforest Mall is 5 minutes down the street from where I met Carlos and it’s where Carlos and I spent time walking around as novios… In other words, it’s a familiar place – so when I heard rumors that Lakeforest Mall had become “ghetto” – I wanted to check it out.

(“Ghetto” – not my word, by the way, in case anyone out there is offended – I’m quoting.)

Anyway, visiting Pollo Campero was a good enough excuse for me. Off to Lakeforest Mall, pues.

So first we eat. Honestly, I can’t even remember what Pollo Campero tasted like in El Salvador, so I can’t compare them. The chicken was spicy and really good. The horchata was good though slightly watered down. The platanos were okay, (A little too ripe for my personal tastes and I prefer mine cut differently – that’s just me being picky though.)

The yuca frita dipped in this spicy Campero sauce was awesome. I will definitely go back for that.

I also liked the decor of the restaurant. This Spanglish sign was the best. “Flavor you can’t CAMPERO” – get it? … Clever.

And a little educational Latino pride never hurt.

Now, as for Lakeforest Mall itself – is it “ghetto”? In my opinion, not at all. It was clean, and though some high-end stores have been replaced, the quality and selection are still good. Maybe it isn’t as beautiful as it once was, (I remember there being fountains but they were turned off), but it’s still a nice mall.

So, what has changed the most? … The demographics of the shoppers. It felt almost like being in Miami again – the shoppers at the mall were an obvious Latino majority. This is drastically different from just 10 years ago, and worlds different from 20 years ago.

I tried to look at this from a gringa point-of-view. My conclusion is that maybe “ghetto” is just a code word that some people use when they really mean “there are more brown people than white people and that scares me.”

So, here’s the deal. The gringos who are now uncomfortable shopping at Lakeforest Mall, you can drive on over to Montgomery Mall instead.

As for me – Yo me quedo aquí…Pass the yuca frita.

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