El Escarabajo Dorado (a guest post)

Image source: José Luis Celada Euba

Image source: José Luis Celada Euba

Today’s guest post about a humorous turned enlightening moment had while living in Peru, comes to us from Fabianne, a high school Spanish teacher, world traveler, and the blogger behind “Blogging Is Narcissistic But…

Last year I shared an apartment in the noisy city of Trujillo, Peru with two Spanish roommates. One night, I found myself in the kitchen when a big, scary something started frantically buzzing around the room, smacking its chunky body against the walls, seemingly desperate to escape. Meanwhile, the window was, as always, wide open to cleanse the space of my roommates’ tobacco habit. I let out a little yelp and waved my hands in the air, which only seemed to offer the opposite of my intended message as it zoomed toward me in a state of panic.

I heard one of my roommates say, “She’s shouting in English again,” and the two of them came rushing to my rescue.

Cucaracha?” (Yes, that is actually how you say cockroach) asked one.

“No! I don’t know what this is!” I gasped as it propelled its seemingly light-brown body toward us. All three of us screamed simultaneously and ran for the kitchen door. Mar shut it behind us and we laughed at ourselves.

“What is that?” she shouted. “It’s enormous!”

At the time, I didn’t know the word for moth in Spanish. (Now I do. Polilla. I’ll never forget it. High stakes situations make for great learning experiences.) So I opted for the word for butterfly because once I read that most insects that appear to be butterflies are actually moths. I figured it was my best bet.

Una mariposa?” They asked, skeptical.

Algo como una mariposa pero con un cuerpo gordo,” (“Something like a butterfly but with a fat body,”) I explained. They both stared at me.

“Well we can’t just stand out here,” my other roommate Vanessa said, entering the kitchen and heroically grabbing the broom. She struck at the fat-bodied butterfly, which was still making circles around the kitchen, using two hands to wield her domestic weapon. Mar and I screamed and laughed from a safe distance, when suddenly, after one swift sweep of the broom, we watched it come spiraling down. She got it. It wasn’t dead, but injured beyond flight, rattling on the kitchen floor. Vanessa leaned over her kill to get a closer look, and let out a little gasp.

“It’s not a butterfly!” she shouted, almost angry. Yes, that much I knew, I just lacked the necessary vocabulary. “It’s an escarabajo!” A beetle, she said.

Escarabajo!” I shouted, not particularly out of concern but mostly because I love that word. So onomatopoeic. When I hear it, I picture a little black beetle scraping and digging through the dirt, making a whispery noise that sounds like, “escarabajo.” I actually only know the word because a little black one crawled into my backpack one time, and a Spaniard pointed and shouted, “Escarabajo!” I remember she told me not to kill it because “los escarabajos no son malos.” They’re not bad. Fair enough.

It turns out the escarabajo in our kitchen was a bit different than the one in my backpack. “It’s a golden beetle,” Vanessa explained. Escarabajo dorado.

I had never heard of a golden beetle and didn’t care too much until she said, “It’s a symbol of immortality.”

For some reason those words resonated with me. To be fair, this is a girl who lit the end of a small branch and waved it around our apartment to expel bad energy, and who charges her crystals by moonlight (though I know of no better way), and while I love her and admire her earthy spirit, I usually remain unaffected by her beliefs. This is not because I claim to possess superior spiritual ideology, just that I’m kind of lazy when it comes to these things. Afterlife? Can’t be bothered…But this time I felt bad. Was I an accomplice to the murder of a bug that only wanted to offer us immortality?

“It’s suffering,” Vanessa said looking at me seriously, “and you have to kill it. I did my part.”

“I don’t like to kill things!” I protested. She shot me a look of death. I get it. OK.

Both of my roommates returned to their respective rooms. The golden beetle squirmed on the floor, its gem-like shell glistening under the fluorescent kitchen lights. Not knowing what to do, I swept it into a dustpan and tipped it out our seven-story kitchen window, hoping maybe it would catch flight.

“It committed suicide,” I announced loud enough for Vanessa to hear, though she didn’t respond.

Later that night, I Google searched “golden beetle.” I found various articles about the insect, my favorite from a gardener saying she is both frustrated and delighted when she finds these beautiful pests among her plants. Another funny bug-nerd article said something like, “Everyone keeps talking about golden beetles.” Oh yeah. People just won’t shut up about them! Nowhere did I find anything about immortality, though the words that affected me most came from an article about insect collections. It recommends that you not add the golden beetle to your collection as it loses its golden color once it dries out, saying, “these bugs are most beautiful kept alive.” Ouch.

Traveling With Your Young Child to Middle-of-Nowhere Latin America

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Okay, “middle-of-nowhere” is an exaggeration, but that’s what it feels like when you’re so far away from everything that represents normalcy to you – And if you have a baby with you, multiply that times a hundred.

A friend of mine will soon experience this first hand as she’s traveling to a small pueblo in Mexico, so this post is for her. Although my experience traveling with babies is limited, I did learn a few things the hard way. Those hard learned lessons will have to suffice as advice – or as the Catherine Aird quote goes, “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.”

So, here we go. Ten pieces of advice for anyone traveling with a baby and staying at a location which may not have the modern amenities you’re accustomed to.

Disclaimer: This advice may or may not apply to you depending on where exactly you’re coming from and where exactly you’re going, but this is the advice I’m giving based on my own experiences. Just because this post focuses on the difficulties and less desirable circumstances I encountered does not mean one should assume all of Latin America is represented. Latin America is extremely diverse and just like the United States and anywhere else in the world, there are areas of great wealth, areas of great poverty and everything in between. This advice is meant for individuals coming from a lifestyle of modern conveniences who are visiting and staying in a place that does not have those same modern conveniences.

Traveling With Your Young Child to Middle-of-Nowhere Latin America

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#1. Get yourself and your baby up to date on any necessary shots. Besides getting your passport and traveling documents in order, you should go to the doctor and pediatrician, tell them where you’re going and when, and ask their advice about any recommended vaccinations as they may advise you to get shots that aren’t on the regular schedule. Do your own research ahead of time too on the CDC website so you can ask your doctor any questions you might have. (Also make use of the advice on the State Department website regarding your passport, closest U.S. consulate and embassy locations to where you’ll be staying, and how to handle emergencies while abroad.)

By the way, it’s somewhat controversial but some doctors will recommend “sedating” your baby or young child for a long flight using a medicine such as Benadryl. If you decide to go this route, make sure you get the proper dosing for your child’s weight and give it a trial run before the flight as some children actually become hyper on the medicine instead of sleepy, which is obviously the exact opposite of what you want when you’re 30,000 feet in the air in a cramped space with a hundred irritable strangers.

#2. Don’t let the doctor freak you out. I almost starved in El Salvador the first time we went because my doctor told me about all the diseases I would get if I ate unwashed fruit or vegetables, or if I drank the water. And I was constantly stressed and vigilant in preventing well-meaning relatives from slipping my baby a bite of food from their plates. I’m not saying it isn’t possible to get sick from contaminated food, but don’t let this be something you’re constantly paranoid about to the point that it ruins your trip. On our second trip to El Salvador I ate with reckless abandon. I ate a torta from a market stall that didn’t even have a proper sink for the owner to wash their hands. I survived.

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Instead of worrying about food poisoning and other food borne illnesses, focus on trying to prevent more likely and dangerous possibilities – such as your child wandering off. This may be overboard, but I had dog tags made with our local address in El Salvador in case they became lost. If your child doesn’t know the language well or the address of where you’re staying, knowing they have the address on them at all times will ease some of your anxiety.

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#3. Packaged foods are a lifesaver. Even if you and your child happily eat from vendors, markets, and the kitchens of your in-laws, it’s possible that at some point your child is going to want the comfort that only familiar packaged food can provide. If you can find the room in your luggage, pack a few favorites – a jar of peanut butter, a box of Cheerios, granola bars, etc. For a baby, consider packing baby food (avoid glass jars) and their formula in case you can’t find them at your destination.

Local authentically prepared meals are sure to be delicious, but don’t be ashamed if you feel the need to visit a local fast food place once in awhile. (Thank you Pollo Campero and Biggest for keeping me sane.)

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#4. It’s okay to be over-prepared. It’s better to be a little over-prepared than under-prepared. Think of all the things you use at home for your baby throughout the day, realize that some of them may not be easy to find at your destination, and pack accordingly. (Bottles, extra nipples, bottle liners, a specific brand of lotion or baby shampoo, diaper or wipe that you prefer, etc.) … If your child has a favorite blanket or toy, see if you can buy a duplicate to keep stowed away in case one gets lost during your travels.

Keep a sufficient amount of these items in your carry-on luggage in case of unexpected delays. (Wipes are especially useful for all kinds of messes so keep tons on you at all times.)

Don’t forget any prescriptions and all your preferred medicines for everything from pain/headaches, cramps, stomachache, itchiness, diarrhea, and allergies to motion sickness, (for yourself and for your child.)

If there’s any possibility of menstruating on your trip, bring your preferred feminine products as well.

Oh, and sunscreen. Bring the sunscreen and use it. If you think you stick out like a sore thumb, you’ll stick out even more if your skin is lobster red.

#5. Prepare for takeoff. For babies and young children, the worst part of the flight is takeoff and landing because of the pressure changes in their little ears. If your child is old enough, give them gum to chew. If the child is too young for gum, have them suck on a pacifier or bottle.

There’s no shame in using electronics to keep little ones quiet and occupied at the airport and on the airplane. Let them play apps on your smartphone the entire flight if it helps.

If you have an older child who has been wanting a specific toy for awhile, buy it and let him know he’s going to receive it on the flight. (Don’t let him play with it before then or it will lose its charm.) Keep a “fun bag” of random things to entertain your child – preferably new things they’ve never played with before. Cracker Barrel’s store is a great place to buy things like that. Some suggestions: Sticker books, coloring and activity books with crayons, a mini Etch-a-sketch, Rubick’s cube, Wooly Willy, slide puzzles – (The classics work best!)

#6. Mosquitoes are nothing to play with. Depending on where exactly you’re going and the time of year, chances are you and your baby or small child will come into contact with more mosquitoes than you knew ever existed on this planet. Not only will they make you itch, but some transmit diseases such as Chikungunya in El Salvador. Before you travel, ask your relatives if they have mosquito netting to cover the area you’ll be sleeping – if not, bring some. Also bring along mosquito repellent to put on your bodies as well. If your hosts offer to burn a mosquito coil (it looks like a green spiral), ask them not to. These coils are popular in some parts of Latin America but research has shown that they’re extremely toxic to breathe.

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(By the way, I’m convinced mosquitoes prefer gringa blood because no one was ever getting bit up as much as I was.)

#7. The hammock is your friend. Most babies love to be rocked but you most likely won’t have access to any fancy contraptions like you have back home. Make use of any available hammocks to rock babies to sleep, (but don’t leave them unattended.)

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#8. Stay hydrated. This seems like a no-brainer but when you’re busy, overwhelmed, stressed, in hot weather, and have to seek out bottled water since the tap water is off limits (or turned off completely), you’d be surprised how quickly you and your child could become dehydrated. Avoid caffeine the day you travel and drink water on your flight and at the airport as soon as you get off the plane. Grab some bottles to take with you to your destination and find out as soon as possible where you’ll be able to buy more when needed.

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(You can tell by his eyes, my younger son was getting a little dehydrated on an outing during our most recent trip to El Salvador so we stopped at the first place we found selling water.)

#9. Expect the unexpected no matter how much you prepare. Ask others who have visited the area what it’s like and have them tell you in as much detail as possible. Even after the most thorough research though, you may find that you were woefully unprepared to face such a different lifestyle even for a short period of time. Take some deep breaths (Inhala…Exhala…), and try to go with the flow.

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#10. Take plenty of photos. This is an incredibly special moment in your child’s life, and if they’re very young, they may not remember it well or at all. Take photos of your child with all their relatives and keep a little journal of what you do each day while there. These will make a cherished keepsake for your child later. Before you know it your return flight will be departing to take you home, and while half of you will be relieved that you can come back to familiar food, hot showers, drinkable tap water, modern appliances, child-safe locks, and air conditioning – the other half of you is going to wish you could have stayed a little longer now that you were finally getting the hang of things.

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Hotel-style Bathroom Makeover

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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.

One of the things I look forward to the most when traveling, is staying in a hotel room. I love hotels! Everything is (usually) so new and perfect, and knowing that I don’t have to clean up anything is instantly relaxing. Not that I party like a rockstar in my room and trash it, I actually keep things very tidy, but it’s nice to look around and not be reminded of all the repairs that should be made, bills that need to be paid, or chores that must be done. I wanted to carry this same sense of luxury and relaxation into my bedroom, but that would be a much bigger project than I’m ready to tackle right now, and overall, I’m happy with the way my bedroom looks. Instead, we took this challenge into our master bathroom where it was seriously needed.

I hated our bathroom. I hated the dated faucet, the flat wall mirror, and that we had to keep the counter cluttered with all our random personal items because there was nowhere else to put them. I hated the boring beige color of the walls, I hated the broken cabinets which were falling apart and had been glued back together on at least one occasion, and I hated the shower curtain which Carlos chose. (One day he complained that I never let him make any of the decorating decisions and the hideous shower curtain was the result of that argument – I have loathed it ever since.)

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So, it was decided – the master bathroom needed to be updated and I wanted to do it “hotel-style” but on a budget – always on a budget! Here are the instructions for what we did in case you want to do something similar. The project will take less than the weekend and you get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s really worth doing!

Hotel-style Bathroom Makeover

1. Using “FrogTape”, tape off anything you don’t want to get paint on. (i.e. floor and ceiling trim, around windows, around door frames, etc.) Remove the switch plates on light switches, too.

2. Remove the wall mirror – sounds easy, but this was a new experience for us. First, the mirror should be taped, (we used the “FrogTape” since it was handy.) We did a criss-cross pattern and then to be extra cautious, we taped it completely over with vertical pieces as well. The reason for doing this is in case the mirror cracks, this helps prevent it from shattering into a million pieces. You should also be wearing eye protection. Once you have removed any screws and brackets, you may find that the mirror is attached to the wall by some sort of adhesive. Use a length of wire and run it behind the mirror. Use a sawing motion to loosen the mirror up for removal. You should have at least two people for this procedure, as one person should be holding the mirror so it doesn’t abruptly fall when it becomes loose.

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3. Patch any holes in the wall with caulk and then sand down any unevenness when the caulk is dry.

4. Paint the walls the color of your choice. For this project I used Valspar Silver Leaf 4006-1A in semi-gloss, (and I love it!)

5. We replaced the flat wall mirror with a medicine cabinet, which maybe isn’t in keeping with the “hotel-style” theme, but it was necessary to eliminate counter-top clutter. (Instructions are included with it.)

6. Following the instructions that come with it, install a metal hotel-style towel rack/shelf, (which we later stocked with some new white towels.)

7. Remove the old cabinet doors on your under the sink cabinet by unscrewing them from the hinges. Measure the doors and purchase 1/2 inch thick lumber cut to your specifications. (Lowe’s will do it for you free!) You can also buy new hinges (or use the old ones, if you want), new knobs, desired paint color (we used some black we already had on hand), paint supplies, and self-adhering felt pads.

8. Use sandpaper to rough up the surface of your cabinets so that the paint will better adhere. Paint the cabinet and the new doors. It may take a couple coats depending on what your cabinets are made of, the color it was before painting, and the color you are painting it.

9. Pre-drill holes for the knobs, then attach the knobs. Carefully measure and mark the doors and the cabinet for the hinges. Pre-drill holes for the hinges being careful not to go all the way through. Also, be very sure that the screws for your hinges are not so long that they’ll go through the other side. Attach the doors to the hinges and then the hinges to the cabinet. (If you prefer, you can first attach the hinges to the cabinet and then attach the doors – whichever is more comfortable for you.) Place a self-adhering felt pad on the inside of each door in the upper corner where it comes into contact with the cabinet – this will soften the noise of them closing and prevent the doors from getting banged up. Your cabinet should look brand new, and for a fraction of the cost and work involved in replacing the whole thing!

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10. Update the sink by replacing dated faucet handles. Don’t forget to turn the water off first and follow the instructions that come with them. (We bought this chrome faucet and are very happy with it.)

11. Replace switch plates and electrical outlet covers. We just bought new plastic ones in a basic white color and they look nice and clean, but if you want to splurge, there are plenty of fancier ones to choose from.

12. Add accessories sparingly! Now that your bathroom is clean and uncluttered, don’t junk it back up with too much stuff. We put up a simple white wall clock, (Carlos likes to keep track of the time while getting ready for work), and I stuck a small plant in a hurricane glass. I decided not to hang up any wall art for now because I like how it feels without it.

That’s it! Now run yourself a bath, turn on Shakira’s new album, and tell everyone to leave you alone while you pretend you’re on vacation in a hotel bathroom for an hour or two!

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A Trip to: Colombia

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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 Diana of Speaking Latino shows us around Colombia!

Bogota is the capital city of Colombia where cachacos, the name given to the people from Bogota, are extremely kind and love both salsa and their traditional music. Bogota is at 8,612 ft. above sea level and, for those that aren’t used to those heights, that will make you literally “feel” the city.

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The historical center of Bogota is located in La Candelaria. Among the government buildings and plazas you will find a busy Plaza de Bolivar where on one side the Palacio Liévano or Lievano Palace is located. This is the seat of the mayor of Bogota. Passing by the Plaza de Bolivar is the Carrera 7, a busy street that has undergone the process of becoming a pedestrian walkway in some segments.

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One of the obligatory stops while in Bogota is the Gold Museum or Museo del Oro that is located in the historical center of the city. It displays a pre-Hispanic collection of gold artifacts made by the indigenous cultures in Colombia before the colonization period.

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Monserrate is a mountain that has become a symbol of Bogota. After a short funicular or cable car ride you will get to the top which is at 10,341 ft. above sea level. While there you will be able to eat at one of the restaurants or kiosks and visit the church.

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An amazing view of Bogota can be seen from Monserrate. There you will notice how big the city is. In fact, it is the largest city in Colombia and one of the most populated in Latin America.

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The T Zone or Zona T is a pedestrian intersection in the form of a T located in the Zona Rosa. In this area are dining options, fashion designer stores, and malls. It is a lively place to hang out.

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One of the most impressive things that I’ve seen in my life is the Salt Cathedral or Catedral de Sal constructed inside of an active salt mine in Zipaquirá. It includes all the elements to be labeled as a Catholic cathedral with regular religious activities and a mass celebrated every Sunday. They have enhanced the experience with color changing LED lights and even a retail area where you can find Colombian crafts. The Salt Cathedral is about a one-hour drive from Bogota and, even if you are not Catholic, it’s worth the visit.

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Bandeja paisa is perhaps one the most emblematic dishes of Colombia, especially popular in the Paisa region. The traditional bandeja paisa is a generous plate (or literally a tray) that includes all of the following: beans, rice, ground meat, chicharrón (fried pork belly), chorizo (sausage), avocado, sweet plantain and a fried egg on top.

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A hot alcoholic drink called canelazo is traditional in the Andean highlands and can be found also in Peru and Ecuador. The Colombian version consists of aguardiente (alcohol from sugarcane), panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) or sugar, and water boiled with cinnamon.

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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 travel series!

A Trip to: Mexico

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Editor’s note: Welcome to the Hispanic Heritage Month “A Trip to” series here on Latinaish. This series has been so popular that we’re going to continue it beyond Hispanic Heritage Month! 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 F.J. of Bilinguish shows us around Mexico!

Mexico is a fascinating country to visit because it is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the Americas and, with more than 116 million people, the most populous. Besides having great physical diversity, from volcanoes to deserts to jungles, Mexico also boasts a variety of indigenous languages and cultures.

The gorgeous view from atop a pyramid at the archeological site of Teotihuacán is one of the most iconic images of Mexico, but it is just one of many beautiful places to see.

Teotihuacan Avenida de los Muertes y P del Sol desde P de la Luna

Mexico City is a great place to start exploring; It is one of the largest urban centers in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Sao Paulo, Brazil. The center of the urban area is called México D.F. (Distrito Federal), and it’s surrounded by the state of Mexico. There were about 19 million people living there as of 2009.

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The center of the city has a large paved plaza called the Zócalo. There you can find some of the city’s most important buildings, including the city and state government buildings, as well as a Catholic cathedral. Public celebrations, including the country’s Independence Day observance, are held here, too. The enormous Mexican flag is raised and lowered each day. In this picture you can also see some of Mexico City’s famous smog, caused by the city’s geography and vehicles for all those millions of people. There are now many environmental programs in place to cut pollution and clear the air, so to speak. Imagine how impressive a view of the endless city surrounded by volcanoes would look then… ojalá.

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Mexico City has been an important place since pre-Hispanic times. When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519, this city was called Tenochtitlán and it was the center of the Mexica (Aztec) empire. The Templo Mayor (principal temple) was destroyed by the Spanish and covered by the modern city. In 1978, some electrical workers digging near the Zócalo stumbled upon a buried artifact from the temple, which renewed public interest in excavating the area. Now you can visit the Templo Mayor archeological site and museum near one corner of the Zócalo. This large statue is one of the many pre-Hispanic objects you can see in the temple.

Puebla from the 7th floor of the Holiday Inn rooftops and church spires

Just a few hours south of the capital, Puebla is a beautiful colonial city. Although it’s the fourth-largest city in the country, the centro histórico has an old-fashioned feel. Besides the beautiful architecture, Puebla is also famous for its food and traditional talavera pottery.

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If there’s one city that captures the essence of Southern Mexico, it’s Oaxaca City. With a more rural feel, more visible indigenous culture, and its own beautiful archeological site, Monte Albán, full of pyramids and ancient ball courts, just outside the city, Oaxaca is worth spending days in. The name of the city and the state are pronounced “wa-HA-ca.” You can buy chapulines (fried grasshoppers) from a sidewalk vendor or walk down a “chocolate road” whose shops and chocolate factory smell delicious. One of the best times to visit Oaxaca is November 1st and 2nd for Día de los Muertos. The city is full of ofrendas (offerings) to the dead, like the one above for Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo.

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The Mexican countryside is beautiful too. This picture was taken from the window of a train en route from Guadalajara to the town of Tequila. Visitors tour a tequila factory and see the whole process of tequila-making, from agave cactus (above) to finished product. And they give you “all you can eat” food and drink on the tour- yum!

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No trip to Mexico would be complete without tasting some delicious Mexican food. You can sample the previously-mentioned chapulines at many places in Southern Mexico, like the Puebla state fair (above.) Other interesting dishes include escamoles (ant eggs), sesos (cow brains, usually in a taco), gusanos de maguey (caterpillars, usually fried), menudo (tripe soup), and huitlacoche (corn smut, usually in a quesadilla.)

Exquisitas Gringas

Not all Mexican food has the “yuck” factor, though. There are plenty of dishes that you might recognize from your local Mexican restaurant. Chalupas, cemitas, tamales, atole, pozole, and sopa azteca are some of my favorites, although, to be honest, the “real” versions of these foods that I eat in Mexico are often very different from what you get in Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants in other countries. There are tacos and tostadas, too, as well as gringas, which are like a combination of a taco and a quesadilla. I took a picture of this sign because, of course, a gringa is also a way to refer to an American woman. (Cue music by The Guess Who.)

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No trip to Mexico would be complete without watching some folkloric dance. Each state has its own traditional costume and dance. The most famous of these is el Jarabe Tapatío, from Guadalajara, Jalisco, known to the wider world as the Mexican Hat Dance. Here is another, called Arcos y Tejedores (“Arches and Weavers”), performed by children at a public school celebration on Mother’s Day.

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Many traditional dances have roots in indigenous cultures. These dancers are part of Ritual a Quetzalcoatl, a yearly event performed at the spring equinox on the pyramid in Cholula, Puebla. This dance group was from the Program for Mexican Culture and Society in Puebla, a study abroad program at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, who learned about Mexican culture and music firsthand through dance.

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 travel series!

A Trip to: Chile

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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 Diana Caballero of Speaking Latino shows us around Chile!

I had the opportunity to visit Chile during the best time of the year: Fiestas Patrias! My husband lived there for three years and he always talked to me about how wonderful Chile is especially when they celebrate their independence. At some point I became friends with a Chilean living in Miami and she introduced to me some of the Chilean food and culture that reinforced to me that Chile was a must-do trip. So a full year of “campaigning” to visit Chile began with Jared and finally attending this year’s Fiestas Patrias celebration became reality for me.

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Pio Nono street crosses from North to South in the Bellavista neighborhood in Santiago. It’s a street with a lot of restaurants, bars and galleries. The Bellavista neighborhood has a bohemian mood with colorful buildings. This street also takes you to the Metropolitan Park that includes a zoo and funicular that takes you to the top of the San Cristobal hill where you have an almost 360 degree view of Santiago.

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In 1962 the Chilean rodeo was declared a national sport and it is also commonly performed during the celebrations of Fiestas Patrias. This photo shows several Chilean rodeo national champions that met at the Padre Hurtado Park (ex Parque Intercomunal de la Reina) as part of the celebrations of the Semana de la Chilenidad. All participants wore the traditional Chilean Huaso attire.

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Almost all Latin American countries have their own version of an empanada. In Chile the most popular is the empanada de pino. Pino is the filling made from beef, onions, raisins, one black olive, and a portion of hard boiled egg. These empanadas also have a distinctive way of folding and sealing the dough.

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In addition to the fondas, the cueca dance and the barbeques, the Chilean Fiestas Patrias also include traditional games played by kids. Hopscotch is one of those. Chileans refer to it as luche, but its also known in other countries with many different names such as infernáculo, rayuela, peregrina and avión. Other traditional games played during this celebration are: the Chilean rayuela, la rana, palitroque and taca taca.

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The figure of the organ grinder or organillero in Latin America comes from Germany where the first instruments came from in 1880. Organilleros in Chile are usually seen in conjunction with the traditional chinchinero, a street performer who plays a bass drum strapped to his back with long drumsticks and a rope tied around to the performer’s foot to play the cymbals on top of the drum.

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I think you would like to experience a terremoto in Chile. Terremoto means earthquake, but I am not talking about a real one. This one is just a drink. The terremoto drink is made with pipeño, a sweet white wine, fernet or grenadine and a scoop of pineapple ice-cream that floats on the top of the drink. Depending on the size it can be named differently: cataclismo (cataclysm) for a big glass or réplica (aftershock) for a smaller size usually after you drink a terremoto. Warning, these drinks will make your legs shake!

valparaiso

About one and a half hours from Santiago you can arrive to Valparaíso, one of Chile’s main ports. Valparaiso was built on 41 hills and was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Get ready for a nice walk that includes some steps while looking at artistic expressions in graffiti on the walls of this old city. There are eight funiculars or ascensores that will take you to the top of the hills for a magnificent view. Within a short drive you can go to Viña del Mar, the principal beach town for Santiago residents.

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!

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!