Cabalito: An interview with aspiring Salvadoran restaurant owner, Randy Rodriguez

Randy-Rodriguez

I receive at least one request per week from random strangers to support their Kickstarter campaigns but recently I was contacted by a guy named Randy Rodriguez who said he wanted to open a Salvadoran restaurant. For obvious reasons this interested me much more than any other Kickstarter campaign sent to me before, so I got to chatting with Randy, and I ended up deciding to not only give his Kickstarter a shoutout, but because I found his personal story interesting as a Salvadoran American born in L.A., raised in Vermont, and now living in New York, I interviewed him as well. Meet Randy, and his project – a Salvadoran restaurant in Lower Manhattan called “Cabalito.”

Interview with Randy Rodriguez of “Cabalito”

Latinaish: Tell us a bit about your family. Your parents were born and raised in El Salvador, right? Did your mother and tías cook much Salvadoran food when you were growing up?

Randy: Yes, both my parents were born and raised in El Salvador. I am 100% My mom came in her late teenage years and my dad when he was around 13 years old. My parents both have very interesting stories coming to the U.S., (which is a whole other story!) Neither my mom or dad know how to make pupusas but a few of my tías know how to do it up. My grandma makes a mean panes con pavo (which will be on the menu.) My mom can also make the plato típico, but for the most part, I ate most Salvadorian food at the best restaurants in L.A.

Latinaish: You mentioned to me that when you were about 10 years old, your family picked up and moved to Vermont. Why did your parents move there? Was it difficult to adjust? Were there unique challenges as a Salvadoran American growing up in an area of the country that doesn’t have a strong Salvadoran or Latino community?

Randy: Yes, I was around 10 years old when my parents moved to Vermont. They wanted us to have a better childhood. Living in a peaceful countryside was the plan. The L.A. neighborhood I was living in was getting dangerous. They did research and heard that Vermont was one of the best places to raise a family. My dad told us that if he was going to move he would do a big move. So we went for a big change, west coast to east coast.

I think it was a very difficult adjustment. I have an older brother and a younger sister. We had to make new friends and start over which can be hard at that age. I look back now and I don’t know how we did it! I went from being just another latino to the only kid in my school with color! I stood out like a sore thumb. I was different. The kids in my school were nice. I didn’t have any problems which I am thankful for. It was more about how uneducated they were about my culture. They didn’t know anything about Latin American food, dance, culture, or language. They thought I was Mexican! Not because they were mean but because they didn’t know better.

Latinaish: Now this question is definitely out of personal curiosity as a mother raising 2 Salvadoran American sons who are bilingual, but not quite as fluently bilingual as I had hoped. You learned Spanish as an adult – Did your parents attempt to raise you bilingually or did they speak to you in English? Did you grow up with Spanish around you (when your parents spoke to each other or on the phone, or the TV programs they watched)?

Randy: I heard the language a lot when I was young in California. Once I moved to Vermont I stopped hearing it. There was no Spanish television shows, music, or anything around like that. My parents did not make the effort to make us learn. I think it was mainly because my brother and sister didn’t really want to learn. They tried but never fully committed. I think it was hard for my parents because they came to the USA very young. My dad has told me he feels more comfortable in English. They told us that if we wanted to learn it we would have to take the initiative. That’s exactly what I did. Obviously my Spanish is not perfect and I am still learning but I am doing the best I can because I realize it’s important as an adult to be bilingual.

Latinaish: At some point you moved to NYC and began working at Mexican restaurants, right? What was that like? Was a career in the restaurant business something you’d always wanted or something you fell into?

Randy: I moved to NYC in 2010 and I simply needed to find a job. The only job I could find was at an Indian restaurant. It was terrible – it didn’t pay well – but I needed the money. The restaurant was next door to a Mexican place. I met the manager and he eventually called me in to start working. I was happy to be working there. It paid well and I needed to make friends. I worked my way up to be the general manager. That’s when I really grew to love the industry. I started to work a lot and I felt I was running the place myself. I eventually told the staff to stop speaking to me in English. I learned a lot of Spanish from my friends there. I believed in the place and put my time and energy into it. They eventually opened a new location and they wanted to hire someone else with more experience to take my job. I realize now that I was young and someone with more experience could run the place better. I left and started to work at a wine bar and the owner there inspired me to open my own place. That’s when I wrote my business plan.

To answer the question simply. I fell into the business with no regrets.

Latinaish: When was it that you decided you wanted to have your own restaurant? Why a Salvadoran restaurant?

Randy: At the Mexican restaurant my co-workers would tell me that I should open up my own taqueria since I know how to run one. I felt that there is a lot more competition in Mexican food. People have a strong opinion about Mexican food. So many types from tex mex, taco trucks, west coast Mexican, Chipotle, and the list goes on. I did not want to get involved. When I left and started working for a wine bar, the owner motivated me to do something big. A lot of self reflection and thought went into the idea for my own place. The fact that almost no one in NYC has had pupusas made all the pieces come together.

cabalito

Latinaish: How did you come up with the name “Cabalito”? Who designed that awesome bird logo? (I love it! It’s very Fernando Llort-esque.)

Randy: The original name was “El Colón” after the currency of El Salvador from 1892 to 2001. I wanted “El Colón” because it would represent how El Salvador is becoming more and more Americanized. I wanted people to know and remember how El Salvador use to be when it had it’s own currency and to embrace that. However, I did not want to glorify Cristóbal Colón. I also considered that people might mispronounce it and call it colon from human anatomy or colon from punctuation.

After days of brainstorming I was looking over all the slangs from El Salvador. I was also hanging about with a friend born in El Salvador and she was using the word “Cabal” a lot. I liked it. I felt that you could use it for many things. However, I did not click with it because cabal in English is a secret political clique or faction. I read an article with someone using “Cabalito.” That was it! It sounded more Spanish, more official, more on point. “Cabalito!”

My logo was designed by my roommate who is a very talented graphic designer. I showed him art work by Fernando Llort and told him how much I liked his birds. I obviously wanted the logo to be very clear on representing art work in El Salvador. He did some sketches and surprisingly that was the first one he drew of many. We didn’t need to play around with it. That was it! Cabal!

Latinaish: Are you hiring Salvadoran chefs or did you learn to make the food? What’s going to be on the menu?

Randy: I want to hire authentic chefs I can work with to create traditional dishes with a twist. I care a lot about being authentic, however, I want to evolve the traditional recipes to the New York tongue. I am very aware of people being more careful of what they put into their bodies. I want to adapt to the new way of eating without damaging the original recipes.

I have a lot of traditional dishes that I would like to put on the menu but for now I’ve limited it to a few that I think would be diverse enough and affordable. The menu I have ready for Kickstarter is not going to be exactly the same as the menu that will be used for the restaurant. I made a mock up menu to give people an idea of my vision and to understand the brand I want to create. I will later work with a chef to discuss my menu and his/her recipes that will work for the official menu.

Randy-Rodriguez-pupusas

Latinaish: Okay – the big moment! Sell us on contributing to your Kickstarter campaign. Why should we support this project?

Randy: I want people to know that this is my dream. I hope this becomes a story that people will read and feel inspired. I believe that if you can shape it in your mind you will find it in your life. The restaurant represents so much to me. It’s a reflection of myself. It’s more than amazing food. It’s culture, it’s music, it’s art, it’s style, it’s social, it’s Latin American, it’s flavor, it’s affordable, it’s friendship, it’s different, it’s – more importantly – for everyone to enjoy. I hope anyone who comes from little corners of the world will have the courage to share their culture if they want to. This restaurant is for all the hidden recipes all over the world that are not exposed to us because the people who open restaurants don’t typically know how to. The people who should open restaurants don’t have the money to. Unfortunately money is the only thing holding me back from sharing this cuisine with New York City. So anything helps or share this info with everyone! This restaurant is also for El Salvador – a small country with a big heart.

(Visit the Kickstarter campaign here!)

Latinaish: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Wishing you suerte!

Randy: Special thanks to you, Tracy. I wish you and your family the best. May you continue to give El Salvador a good name. It would be an honor to someday see you in NYC with your family at Cabalito.

You can follow Randy and his restaurant, Cabalito, on: Twitter, Facebook, and at CabalitoNYC.com.

An Interview with Alfredo Genovese, Fileteador

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I love art in general, but the diverse art of Latin America is my favorite to explore. It was during one of these internet explorations that I stumbled upon the traditional Argentinian art called “fileteado” and one of its most respected modern day masters, artist Alfredo Genovese.

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If the style looks familiar to you, it’s possible that you recognize it as the type of art historically found on the sides of wagons, particularly those used by circuses. The art seems to have originated in Italy and was brought to Argentina by immigrants where it has become its own unique style known as the “Fileteado Porteño” of Buenos Aires.

When Alfredo Genovese studied art, he was surprised to find that Fileteado was not part of the school’s curriculum, and so he went to study under masters of the art, traveling around the world, before returning to Buenos Aires where he makes a living as an artist and a teacher of Fileteado.

cocacola-fileteado

I emailed Mr. Genovese to ask if I could feature him and some of his art here, and to my surprise, he even agreed to an interview (below!)

Interview with Alfredo Genovese, Fileteador

Latinaish: For those who aren’t from Argentina and don’t know what “Fileteado” is, can you explain?

Alfredo Genovese: Fileteado is a popular decorative art form originating from the horse cart factories of Buenos Aires in the early 20th Century. It is a hand-painted, brightly coloured style, which has a real life of its own. Vibrant contrasting colours, with highlights and lowlights, often incorporating symbols such as the acanthus leaf, dragons, flowers, birds, cornucopias, ribbons and scrolls etc. Recently inspiring the work of graphic designers and Tattoo artists also.

Latinaish: What attracted you to working as a fileteador, more so than other types of art?

Alfredo Genovese: My interest in Fileteado began when I was an art student at the school of Bellas Artes, and was disappointed to see that this traditional Argentinian art form was not taught in schools. I began to study the basics with an old master Fileteado painter called Leon Untriob. Any information regarding this old art form was very limited at the time, so I decided to investigate as much as possible about the technique and later began teaching Fileteado workshops and have also published 3 books about it.

Latinaish: You’ve traveled all over the world! What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from other cultures that you’ve applied to your life and/or art?

Alfredo Genovese: I learned a lot about the value of elaborate and meticulous art work from different cultures all over the world. How to be methodical and patient like all those artisans who create their work daily.

Latinaish: What has been your favorite project so far? Why?

Alfredo Genovese: Three years ago I painted a live Bull. It was a challenge and the first time I had painted an animal weighing more than 1000kg.

Latinaish: What would your advice be to a young person who is thinking about studying to become a fileteador? Is there anything you wish you knew when you were a student first starting out?

Alfredo Genovese: I think its important for an artist to find their own style, different to what is commonly seen. To keep investigating and practice a lot. To be patient and self critical to achieve work of good content and quality. Actually Fileteado is not only a pictorial skill, but also a way of representing conceptual ideas.

I want to thank Mr. Genovese for his time and for sharing his art with us. You can learn more at his website, which is in both English and Spanish. On his website you will find more examples of his art, history and information about Fileteado, dates for workshops, and books about Fileteado which are available for purchase, (PDF summaries of the books can also be downloaded.) Love Fileteado? Follow Alfredo Genovese on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

(Images are copyright Alfredo Genovese and have been used with permission.)

Día de los Muertos Pet Portraits (Giveaway!)

robiniart-maggie-and-brutus

Robin Arthur is an artist out of San Antonio, Texas who creates amazing pet portraits inspired by Día de los Muertos themes and colors. When I stumbled upon her art last week, I contacted her to find out more because I knew you guys would love her work as much as I do. Below is my interview with Robin and a giveaway you can enter for a chance to win a print of her art!

Tell us about these pet portraits you do.

Robin: The portraits are based on photos that my customers send to me via email. I use pencil, pen and acrylic paint to create them. They are painted on wooden, box-like canvases. Sometimes I texture them by building up the paint into 3D textures or by sanding them with sandpaper. Many customers ask me to inject certain design elements into the paintings. For example: one recent customer’s dog takes Prozac, so I was asked to insert a little Prozac pill into the final piece. I love that!

Who/what influences/inspires your art?

Robin: I’ve always been drawn to the bright, warm colors in Mexican folk art. I love the hyper stylistic imagery of the Día de los Muertos holiday, Talavera tiles, Mexican interior design elements, Tex Mex kitsch, and so on. I am also inspired by the love people have for their furry family members and all other animals. I’m inspired by the animal kingdom in general and want to honor the world’s creatures by elevating them to an art form. I love making people happy by painting their beloved companions in my whimsical, silly style. People have been brought to (happy) tears by my paintings. There is so much pain in this world. It’s nice to be a bright spot for someone!

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Although you were born and raised in Texas, surrounded by Mexican culture, you yourself are not of Mexican descent – Can you talk a little bit about that? How did Mexican culture become part of you?

Robin: The Mexican culture, while not my own culture, has always been the “wallpaper” of my life. Growing up in Texas means that you are surrounded by Mexican art, music, food, beautiful faces and, of course, the Spanish language. I lived in Arkansas for about 8 months in 2012 and didn’t realize, until I’d left Texas, how much I missed being around the Mexican culture. I’m so glad to be back in Texas!

If someone wanted to hire you to paint one of these portraits of their pet, how does it work?

Robin: The process is explained on my website, but basically, all people do is email me photos of their pets, pay the invoice I send them, and then I paint. It’s super easy!

RobiniArt portraits make great gifts and are a wonderful way to honor a furry family member, past or present. The portraits are completely original, a bright spot for any interior design, and a much better investment than something you can buy in a mall or big box store.

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Want to learn more about Robin Arthur’s art? Interested in ordering a custom portrait? Visit RobiniArt.com or “like” her Facebook page here.

===GIVEAWAY CLOSED. CONGRATS TO FREDDA!===

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize description: Robin is giving away one 8×10 print to one lucky random winner, to be picked out by the winner from RobiniArt.com!

How to Enter: To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below sharing a favorite pet memory or telling us what you like best about Robin’s art. (Please read official rules below before entering.)

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age or older to enter. You must be able to provide a U.S. address for prize shipment. Your name and address will only be shared with the company/person in charge of prize fulfillment. Please no P.O. Boxes. One entry per household. Make sure that you enter a valid email address in the email address field so you can be contacted if you win. Winner will be selected at random. Winner has 48 hours to respond. After 48 hours, a new winner will be selected at random. Giveaway entries are being accepted between October 2nd, 2013 through October 6th, 2013. Entries received after October 6th, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST, will not be considered. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. If you win, by accepting the prize, you are agreeing that Latinaish.com assumes no liability for damages of any kind. By entering your name below you are agreeing to these Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

Buena suerte / Good luck!

Disclosure: No compensation, monetary or otherwise, was given for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

Finding My Heroes – a guest post

Today I’m honored to share a guest post from children’s author and Salvadoran, René Colato Laínez, as part of a “blog hop” and giveaway by Latinas for Latino Literature (L4LL).

Twenty Latino/a authors and illustrators plus 20 Latina bloggers, (well, 19 Latina bloggers and this gringa), have joined up with L4LL for this event. From April 10th to April 30th a different Latino/a author/illustrator will be hosted on a different blog. (Click here for all the posts!) Today you can read René’s touching article right here on Latinaish.com and then see the details to enter the giveaway below.

Without further ado, I present, René Colato Laínez.

Rene_Colato_Lainez

Finding My Heroes

by René Colato Laínez

I learned to read and write in El Salvador. As a child, I loved to read the comic books of my heroes: El Chavo del ocho, El Chapulin Colorado, Mafalda, Cri Cri, and Topo Gigo. My favorite book was Don Quijote de La Mancha.

When I arrived to the United States, I tried to find these heroes in the school library or in my reading books, but I didn’t have any luck. I asked myself, are my heroes only important in Spanish? I knew that the children from Latin America knew about my heroes but the rest of the children and my teachers did not have any clue.

One day, I was writing about my super hero and my teacher asked me, who is this CHA-PO-WHAT? COLORADO and then, she suggested, “It would be better for you to write about Superman or Batman.” On another occasion, a teacher crossed out with her red pen all the instances of “Ratón Pérez” in my essay and told me, “A mouse collecting teeth! What a crazy idea! You need to write about the Tooth Fairy.”

I started to read and enjoy other books but I missed my heroes. In my senior year of high school, my English teacher said that our next reading book would be The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I will never forget that day when I was holding the book. It was written by a Latina writer and I could relate to everything that she was describing in the book. The House On Mango Street became my favorite book. I said to myself, “Yes, we are also important in English.”

I write multicultural children books because I want to tell all my readers that our Latino voices are important, too, and that they deserve to be heard all over the world.

My goal as a writer is to produce good multicultural children’s literature; stories where minority children are portrayed in a positive way, where they can see themselves as heroes, and where they can dream and have hope for the future. I want to write authentic stories of Latin American children living in the United States.

My new book is Juguemos al Fútbol/ Let’s Play Football (Santillana USA). This is a summary of the book: Carlos is not sure that football can be played with an oval-shaped ball. Chris is not sure that it can be played with a round ball. It may not be a good idea to play with a kid who is so different… He doesn’t even know how to play this game! Wait. It looks kind of fun… Let’s give it a try! Enjoy and celebrate the coming together of two cultures through their favorite sports.

To conclude, I want to share this letter in English and Spanish. Everyone, let’s read!

______________________________________________________________________________________

Dear readers:

When I was a child, my favorite place in the house was a corner where I always found a rocking chair. I rocked myself back and forth while I read a book. Soon the rocking chair became a magic flying carpet that took me to many different places. I met new friends. I lived great adventures. In many occasions, I was able to touch the stars. All the books I read transported me to the entire universe.

Books inspired me! I also wanted to write about the wonderful world that I visited in my readings. I started to write my own stories, poems and adventures in my diary. Every time I read and revised my stories, I found new adventures to tell about. Now, I write children’s books and it is an honor to share my books with children around the world.

I invite you to travel with me. Pick up a book and you will find wonders. Books are full of adventures, friends and fantastic places. Read and reach for the stars.

Saludos,
René Colato Laínez

En español:

Querido lectores,

Cuando era niño, el lugar favorito de mi casa era una esquina donde estaba una mecedora. Me mecía de adelante hacia atrás mientras leía un libro. Enseguida la mecedora se convertía en una alfombra mágica y volaba por el cielo. Conocía a nuevos amigos. Vivía nuevas aventuras. En muchas ocasiones, hasta llegaba a tocar las estrellas. Los libros que leía, me podían llevar a cualquier parte del universo.

¡Los libros me inspiraban tanto! Yo también quería escribir sobre ese mundo maravilloso que visitaba. Así que comencé a escribir mis cuentos, poemas y aventuras en un diario. Cada vez que releía y volvía a escribir un cuento, este se llenaba de nuevas grandes aventuras. Hoy en día escribo libros para niños y es un honor compartirlos con muchos niños alrededor del mundo.

Los invito a viajar conmigo. Tomen un libro y descubrirán maravillas. Los libros están llenos de aventuras, amigos, y lugares hermosos. Lean y toquen las estrellas.

Saludos,
René Colato Laínez

René Colato Laínez is a Salvadoran award-winning author of many multicultural children’s books, including Playing Lotería, The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez, From North to South, René Has Two Last Names and My Shoes and I. He is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults. René lives in Los Angeles and  he is a teacher in an elementary school, where he is known as “the teacher full of stories.” Visit him at renecolatolainez.com.

The Giveaway

L4LL has put together a wonderful collection of Latino children’s literature to be given to a school or public library. Many of the books were donated by the authors and illustrators participating in this blog hop. You can read a complete list of titles here on the L4LL website.

To enter your school library or local library in the giveaway, simply leave a comment below.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Monday, April 29th, 2013. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and announced on the L4LL website on April 30th, Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros, and will be contacted via email – so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment! (If we have no way to contact you, we’ll have to choose someone else!)

By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

¡Buena suerte!

The Girl

thegirl

When I first saw the trailer for The Girl, I knew immediately that I wanted to see the film – and then I found out that it opens on March 8th in New York and on March 15th in Los Angeles, (two locations I’m nowhere near.) Thankfully I not only got the opportunity to screen the film online, but to interview the director, David Riker.

I think you’ll be able to sense how much I loved this film from my interview questions (below), but if it isn’t clear enough, I’ll tell you – I loved it and recommend that anyone who is able to see it – go see it. I’ve watched a lot of films with immigration and border themes – this one is different thanks to the fact that it’s told through the eyes of a gringa who is already struggling with her own issues. The Girl will make you think, and then think twice about border issues and what defines a good life.

Description:

From David Riker, the director of La Ciudad, and Paul Mezey, the producer of Oscar-nominated films Maria Full of Grace and Beasts of the Southern Wild, comes a new film The Girl.

Abbie Cornish plays Ashley, a young single mom struggling with the loss of her child to Social Services, unwilling to accept the consequences of her actions and trapped in the quicksand of her south Texas life.

When Ashley’s path collides with Rosa (Maritza Santiago Hernandez), a strong-minded girl who has lost her mother while crossing the Rio Grande, she unwittingly begins a journey that will change her life forever.

Starting in a big box store in Texas and ending in a small village in southern Mexico, The Girl turns the immigrant story upside down, questioning the myth of the American Dream and asks that we consider the possibility of a better life – south of the border.

Interview with Director, David Riker

Latinaish: I understand you also wrote the script for this film? What was your inspiration?

DR: My inspiration to write the script has its roots in my debut feature, called ‘La Ciudad’ which was filmed over the course of five years in New York’s Latin American immigrant community. Listening to so many stories of sacrifice in crossing the border, I decided to travel there and see with my own eyes. What I saw was deeply upsetting, but also surprising, and after traveling back and forth through the borderlands I came to realize that my own preconceptions of the border were false — as is the central myth that hope is in the north. That realization led me to consider a story in which the logic of the border were turned upside down — and to ask the question, what might happen if an Anglo crossed the border — south.

Latinaish: The cinematography of this film was really breathtaking, particularly scenes that took place in Oaxaca, Mexico. Was this shot on location? Can you tell us about that?

DR: Yes, almost all of the film was shot in Mexico, but due to the violence in Tamaulipas (including Nuevo Laredo) we were not able to film along the border. This was a major creative setback as I had spent several years developing close relationships with people in the border city and had every location scouted. In the end we filmed all of the Mexico portion of the story in the state of Oaxaca — much of it in the Istmo, though some in the capital, in addition to the village at the end which is in the Sierra Norte. ‘Re-creating the border’ became the central creative challenge we faced, affecting every department from production design, casting, and wardrobe. The cinematographer is one of the stars of Mexico’s new generation, known for his lyrical work in El Violin.

Latinaish: Which scene was most difficult to capture, either emotionally or physically, and why? What challenges did you face on set?

DR: The most difficult scene… An interesting question. From an emotional standpoint, without a doubt the scene when Rosa realizes her mother has died. From a logistical standpoint, perhaps the nighttime river crossing which I intentionally wanted to film as a baptismal event. Every scene is a challenge, and every challenge is different. More than anything you are battling the lack of time and limited resources, and desperately fighting against compromise. But the Mexican crew and the actors were like a family and we all fought the battle each day together.

Latinaish: I love that the “gringa” in this film, “Ashley”, played by actress Abbie Cornish, spoke Spanish so much of the time, but there was no explanation in the plot as to how the character learned to speak it so well – Can we assume she learned it just by living in southern Texas or from her co-workers? Did the actress, Abbie, already speak Spanish before the film?

DR: You are right, Ashley’s character was a composite of many people I’ve known, and a number of characters I met along the borderlands. Ashley speaks spanish because she has grown up in a Spanish-speaking world in South Texas. But Abbie Cornish didn’t speak a word. I think it’s a great testament to Abbie’s talent and force of character that she was undaunted by the challenge and threw herself into it with total commitment. As she said the first day we met to talk about the project, she didn’t simply want to learn her Spanish dialogues by heart, she wanted to understand the language.

Latinaish: The character “Rosa” played by Maritza Santiago Hernández had a fantastically stubborn personality in the film and I really fell in love with her. Was this her first film? Are there any other projects we can look for her in any time soon?

DR: I too fell in love with Maritza. She is an amazing girl, and yes, this is her first film role. I spent a great deal of time ‘searching for Rosa’ and saw thousands of young girls in communities all over Oaxaca. The casting took more than a year of full time work. I was not looking for a girl who could ‘play’ Rosa — I was looking for Rosa. And when I finally found Maritza I knew I had found her. She needed to be small but very strong, or tough or as you put it ‘stubborn.’ She needed to be full of life and light, but also depth. She needed to be naughty but also thoughtful. And of course she needed to have the indigenous features of the zapotec people in Oaxaca. After the film’s Mexico premiere at the Morelia Film Festival many journalists asked if she wanted to have an acting career. Her answer: ‘first she’ll finish school and become a teacher.’

Latinaish: What do you hope to accomplish with this film? What do you want the audience to take away?

I appreciate the question, as hope is the thing that sustains every storyteller. I hope that the film helps to generate dialogue about what it means to be an American, what it means to be an immigrant today, uprooted and far from home. I hope it helps to re-frame these questions in such a way that real understanding can begin — not through the limited lens of political debate – but in the broadest sense — what is our common humanity? What is it that divides us, and what do we share in common? Of course I know that it is after all only a film, so the goal must be modest. If people enjoy the story, are happy to meet young Maritza and to travel the journey with Ashley, I’m already a happy man.

Links:

DavidRikersTheGirl.com
The Girl on Facebook
The Girl on Twitter

La Música de Dawin y Una Canción Justin Bieber Estilo Bachata!

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation in italics!

dawin

Dawin Polanco es un joven músico dominicano-americano con mucho talento. Él no sólo canta, sino que también toca la guitarra y el piano. Vean por ustedes mismos – aquí es su versión de As Long As You Love Me por Justin Bieber, pero estilo bachata. Me encanta!

(Dawin Polanco is a young Dominican-American musician with a lot of talent. Not only does he sing, but he also plays guitar and piano. Look for yourself – here is his version of As Long As You Love Me by Justin Bieber, but bachata style. I love it!)

Claro que Dawin tiene sus propias canciones también, como esta canción, Light of Day (Let ‘Em Go). ¡Qué bella la canción!(Of course Dawin has his own songs too, like this one, Light of Day (Let ‘Em Go).) It’s so beautiful!

Quieren aprender más sobre Dawin? Aquí les traigo una mini-entrevista con él. Chécalo! (Want to learn more about Dawin? Here I bring you a mini-interview with him. Check it out!)

Latinaish habla con cantante, Dawin

(Latinaish speaks with singer, Dawin)

Latinaish: Eres dominicano-americano, ¿Cómo han contribuido las dos culturas en tu vida? (You’re Dominican-American – How have those two cultures contributed to your life?)

Dawin: Sí soy dominicano – estas culturas me han dado el lujo de poder disfrutar plenamente o comprender lo que sucede en el mundo inglés y español. (Yes, I’m Dominican – these cultures have given me the luxury of being able to fully enjoy or understand what is happening in the English and Spanish world.)

Latinaish: ¿Por qué haces música? Parece una pregunta simple, pero no siempre tiene una respuesta fácil! Lo sé porque la gente me ha preguntado por qué escribo.(Why do you make music? It seems like a simple question, but it doesn’t always have an easy answer! I know because people have asked me before why I write.)

Dawin: Es cierto. Por suerte siempre he tenido mi respuesta [se ríe.] Hago música porque es mi manera de vaciar mi mente de cosas negativas y crear música es mi forma de rejuvenecer. (It’s true. Luckily I’ve always had my answer [laughs.] I make music because it’s my way to empty my mind of negative things and making music is my way of rejuvenating.)

Latinaish: ¿Dónde podemos encontrar/comprar tu música? ¿Crees que un día vamos a escuchar una canción en español o spanglish de ti? (Where can we find/buy your music? Do you think we’ll ever hear a song from you in Spanish or Spanglish?)

Dawin: Mi música se puede encontrar en sitios como YouTube donde me gusta hacer mis estrenos. Tengo música gratis y disponible para descarga aquí: www.soundcloud.com/dawin y en iTunes. Te prometo que voy a hacer una canción en español o spanglish y como continuar con mi éxito, me gustaría hacerlo con artistas conocidos. (My music can be found on sites like YouTube where I like to make my premieres. I have free music and it’s available for download here: www.soundcloud.com/dawin and on iTunes. I promise I’ll do a song in Spanish or Spanglish and to continue with my success, I would like to do it with well-known artists.)

Enlaces/Links:

DawinMusic.com
Dawin on Twitter
Dawin on Facebook
Dawin on iTunes

Naco? Pocho?

What is a Naco? What is a Pocho? Have you ever been called one of these words? Do you readily identify yourself as a naco or a pocho? Do you find them offensive?

Mun2 discusses these words with some famous faces including: Lalo Alcaraz, Xavier El Eléctrico, Gustavo Arellano, Penelope Menchaca, Alacranes Musical, Alex Rivera, Luis de Alba, Edoardo Chavarin, La Bronca, Larry Hernandez, 3ball MTY (pictured above), Gloria Trevi, Daniel Hernandez, Gerardo Ortiz, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Edward James Olmos, Montez de Durango, Jenni Rivera, and Duelo.

Check out the video over on mun2!

For English version with Spanish subtitles [CLICK HERE]
For Spanish version with English subtitles: [CLICK HERE]