Category Archives: Familia
Actually, despite the title, this turkey is for tomorrow, Christmas Day. Tonight (Noche Buena), we’re going to have tamales, Mexican queso fundido, and Cuban tostones with mojo. (Not a traditional Salvadoran spread, but somehow, those are the diverse recipes I ended up choosing – and that’s after Carlos discouraged me from making a Venezuelan Pan de Jamón on top of it all.)
I don’t cook poultry that looks like poultry very often. It kind of grosses me out and I prefer to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts. (Suegra always told me I’d have never survived in El Salvador since she had to wring the chicken’s neck and then pluck it.)
Anyway, when making Panes con Pavo I end up having to handle a whole turkey, which happens maybe once a year. Right now I was just putting the “Salsa Perrins” and mustard on the pavo to marinate and my 11 year old came into the kitchen. He looked at the turkey for a minute, checking it out from both ends and all directions. Then he asked, “Which side is the culito?”
In response to the New York Times article regarding the lack of Latino authors and books for children, Latina bloggers have launched the “Latinas for Latino Literature” campaign which works to identify the problems in today’s publishing world that contribute to this lack of diversity so that we can provide ideas for changing the situation to the benefit of not only Latino readers and writers, but to the benefit of the industry itself as they tap into this growing demographic. Look out for forthcoming Google hangouts, Twitter parties, and follow-up posts as this coordinated effort to bring quality books to an emerging group of readers continues.
I kneeled on the coarse, crimson carpet at the library, the third library I had visited that week, trying to find something, anything, on the shelves about El Salvador – the native country of my new husband. I often left libraries and bookstores defeated, with a stack of novels about Mexico, Mexicans, migrant workers – stories that I ended up loving, and still love – but what I really wanted was a book with Salvadoran characters, and I couldn’t find any. Any book I did manage to find about El Salvador would be non-fiction, and usually about the civil war.
When I became a mother of two boys, two Salvadoran-American boys, I wanted desperately to buy them books and read them stories with characters they could relate to. Again, visits to the library and bookstore turned up books featuring Mexican and Mexican-American characters, when we were lucky.
These days, the library selection has gotten better, and the online selection is a dream come true compared to what I faced when my boys were younger. I’ve read books about Cubans and Puerto Ricans, Argentinians, Venezuelans, Guatemalans and Paraguayans, and thanks to Sandra Benitez, an amazing book called “Bitter Grounds” with a diverse Salvadoran cast. I stayed up late turning the pages, almost not believing that after so many years, I was finally reading a book with Salvadoran characters.
Why am I writing this? – Because I want the publishing industry to know that I am here – an avid reader, hungry for these books for myself, for my husband, for our boys, and for the children out there whose parents won’t go to the trouble I’ve gone to – the children who are at the mercy of whatever their school librarian decides to put on the shelves.
I want it to be known that I hunger for even more diversity, for Latin American characters and characters of Latin American descent from all walks of life. Don’t stop telling the story of the migrant worker, the immigrant, of Mexicans – but let us hear other voices too. We want to hear from characters who are rich, who are poor, and everything in between. We want characters who are white collar workers, and blue collar workers. We want characters who are beautiful, ugly, inspirational, relatable, flawed, ordinary, outrageous, wise, hilarious, serious, complex – in other words, we want all the diversity of voices that are available in the general market. Please, keep seeking out fresh authors and publishing their stories – We are here waiting for them, (and in some cases, some of us are here writing them, too.)
Do you feel there’s enough diversity in the books commonly available in bookstores and libraries? Which Latino/a author or book most influenced you and why?
Chécalo: Other “Latinas for Latino Literature“
Most of you know that I write for several websites each month. I usually share those links on the Latinaish Facebook Page, but I wanted to link this one up here for those who might not be on Facebook since this particular post is so relevant to my usual content on Latinaish. I also took the opportunity to make a bicultural/bilingual gift tag for your Christmas gifts (see above!) Feel free to print it out and use it!
Now for the post:
Mixing Traditions for a Bicultural Christmas
Fifteen years ago I married Carlos, a Salvadoran immigrant who spoke little English. Because we were young, pregnant, and poor at the time—instead of moving to our own place—I moved Carlos into my parents’ house where I was still living. From the outside it didn’t seem like the most ideal situation, but living with my English-speaking Anglo parents turned out to be a unique opportunity for Carlos to get a crash course in English and American culture.
Of course, living in such a situation made our diverse backgrounds that much more apparent—especially during holidays, and especially during Christmas…[READ MORE HERE]
Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!
Hace cuatro meses Carlos cambió su trabajo. Fue una decisión grande y un gran riesgo. ¿Quedarse con lo cierto o tomar un chance? Carlos decidió ir por ello y, gracias a Dios, ha sido tan feliz. Conduce un camión en una cantera, moviendo rocas. Le encanta conducir el camión grande. Es el sueño de todos los niños chiquitos que alguna vez jugaban con un camión de juguete en una caja de arena!
Four months ago Carlos changed jobs. It was a big decision and a big risk. Stay with the sure thing, or take a chance? Carlos decided to go for it, and thank God, he’s been really happy. He drives a truck at a quarry, moving rocks. He loves driving the big truck. It’s the dream of every little boy who once played with a toy truck in a sand box!
Sometimes I think I have the bilingual parenting thing down. We get into a groove and I’m speaking Spanish to my kids and they, more and more, are responding to me in Spanish – but it’s inevitable that just when we’ve hit our stride and are on the road to fluency, we will have a setback.
One big problem for me is that I don’t speak Spanish when I’m stressed or tired or very busy. The other day I woke up and realized, “My God, I’ve been stressed and tired and very busy the past few weeks! I’ve had so much on my mind and so many deadlines. I’ve barely spoken Spanish to my kids at all!”
This is when I kick myself in the nalgas and promise to start all over again.
Yesterday morning before my younger son left for school, I warned him not to run to the bus as he usually does, because a slick layer of frost covered the ground.
“Cuando venga el bus, no vayas corriendo, okay? El suelo está bien liso, entiendes?”
My son tilted his head not unlike a dog when you speak to it. I could almost see the words enter his ear, twist themselves inside his brain and translate one-by-one into English. He spoke aloud as he decoded the message.
“When the bus comes… don’t run… because…the ground is slippery?”
He still understands me, but there is more lag time. Then when he speaks, he doesn’t even realize he’s mixing English and Spanish in ways I’ve never even heard before.
After school he asked me what day we’re going to his grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving.
“El viente dos,” I said.
“Oh, el twenty dos,” he answered.
There’s no point in lamenting wasted time and stalled progress. I’m human, I was tired, I spent weeks speaking very little Spanish to my kids who I desperately want to be fully bilingual. It happens. Seguimos adelante.
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 is below!
Este año no pensé que ibamos a tener una ofrenda por Día de los Muertos. Dos años pasados, sin realizar que los salvadoreños no celebran Día de los Muertos igual que los mexicanos, hice una ofrenda para el papá de Carlos. Carlos agradeció el gesto pero ponía algo triste y esto no fue mi intención. El problema fue que Carlos no estaba acostumbrado tener una ofrenda porque en El Salvador no se hace eso.
Mientras que los mexicanos llaman el día “Día de los Muertos” y celebran la muerte, abrazan la muerte, aún se ríen de ella – los salvadoreños llaman el día “Día de los Difuntos” y lo consideran un día de recordar sus queridos fallecidos en una manera mucho más sombría.
El año pasado, no queriendo repetir mi error, no tenía previsto hacer una ofrenda, pero mis hijos me dijeron que les gustó la tradición y querian tener una. Entonces, hicimos una ofrenda por nuestro perro que se murió.
Este año no tenía planes por hacer una ofrenda otra vez, pero Carlos me dijo que ya se siente comodo en tener una ofrenda con sus queridos fallecidos. Entonces, nuestra ofrenda incluye el papá de Carlos, la abuela de Carlos, el abuelo de Carlos, (que se murió sólo una mes atrás), mi abuelo y dos perros.
Hay demasiados detalles en la ofrenda por explicar, pero les voy a explicar un poco. Tal vez ustedes pueden buscar los artículos en la foto que menciono.
El papá de Carlos, (“Don Max”) le gustó mucho el casamiento – un plato hecho de arroz y frijoles. Por eso, hay arroz y frijoles. También tuvo un camión pick-up, y estaba muy orgulloso de él. El papá de Carlos era un entrenador de fútbol y le gustaba echar chile en su comida, (algo raro por un salvadoreño, pero algo que le gusta a Carlos también.) Don Max no era muy religoso pero era super dedicado a San Antonio.
Mi abuelo tampoco era muy religoso, pero identificó como judío. Le gustó la música “Big Band” y se comió Corn Flakes cada mañana.
Hay una historia sobre el abuelo de Carlos. “Papá Milo” era muy bueno por nadar y a veces cruzó el Río Lempa nadando para traer grandes bolsas de maíz para su familia. El abuelo de Carlos también fue el alcalde de un pueblo de Chalatenango, y casi siempre andaba con sombrero de vaquero.
La abuela de Carlos se llamaba “Mamá Juana” y era una mujer muy dulce. Ella tuvo diez hijos, y le encantaban las flores. Yo recuerdo que a veces Mamá Juana, en la manera de muchas salvadoreñas del pueblo, usaba un delantal encima de su vestido, aunque no estaba cocinando.
¿Hiciste una ofrenda tú? Quién estás recordando?
This year I didn’t think we’d have an altar for Day of the Dead. Two years ago, without realizing that Salvadorans don’t celebrate Day of the Dead the same way Mexicans do, I made an altar for Carlos’s father. Carlos appreciated the gesture but it made him kind of sad, which was not my intention. The problem was that Carlos wasn’t used to having an altar because Salvadorans don’t make them.
While Mexicans call the day “Día de los Muertos” and celebrate death, embrace death, and even laugh at death – Salvadorans call the day “Día de los Difuntos” and consider it a day to remember your passed loved ones in a much more somber way.
Last year, not wanting to repeat my mistake, I didn’t have plans to make an altar, but my boys told me they liked the tradition and wanted to have one. So, we made an altar to one of our dogs which had died.
This year, again I didn’t have plans to make an altar, but Carlos told me he feels more comfortable now to have an altar with his passed loved ones. So, this year we have an altar which includes Carlos’s father, Carlos’s grandmother, Carlos’s grandfather, (who died only a month ago), my grandfather, and two dogs.
There are too many details to explain them all, but I will explain the altar to you a little. Maybe you can find the items I’ll mention in the photo.
The father of Carlos, (“Don Max”) really liked casamiento – a dish made from rice and beans. For that reason, there are rice and beans. He also had a pick-up truck which he was very proud of. Carlos’s father was a football coach and he liked to put chile pepper on his food, (kind of rare for a Salvadoran, but something Carlos also likes to do.) Don Max wasn’t very religious but he was super dedicated to Saint Anthony.
My grandfather wasn’t very religious either, but he identified as Jewish. He liked Big Band music and ate Corn Flakes every morning.
There’s a story about Carlos’s grandfather. “Papá Milo” was really good at swimming and sometimes he would swim across the Lempa River to bring big bags of corn to his family. Carlos’s grandfather was also the mayor of a town in Chalatenango and almost always wore a cowboy hat.
Carlos’s grandmother was called “Mamá Juana” and was a really sweet woman. She had ten children and she loved flowers. I remember that sometimes Mamá Juana, in the way of many Salvadoran women from the countryside, used to wear an apron over her dress, even though she wasn’t cooking.
Did you make an ofrenda? Who are you remembering?
There is usually at least one funny conversation in our household each day. I often share these conversations with friends and family on my Facebook page, but I decided to share the fun with all of you. Here are a few from the past few months.
Carlos: Opossum is same as a “tacuazin”, right?
Me: I think so. Check Google Images.
Carlos: How do you spell it?
[I was talking to Carlos about something I can't remember and I said, "even though I'm not Latina"]
10 year old [interrupts]: You are too!
Me: No, honey, I’m not.
10 year old: You are Latina! You’re half like me!
Me: No, baby, I’m not Latina.
10 year old: Mommy, you are, cause you married Daddy.
Me: If you marry someone from China, are you going to be half Chinese?
10 year old: Yeah, of course!
Me: Oh. I didn’t know it worked that way.
Me: How do you say “listeners” in Spanish?
Carlos: What kind of listeners?
Me: Like listeners to a radio show… Would it be “escuchantes?”
Me: It’s in Kansas.
Carlos: Which Kansas?
Me: What do you mean which one? Kansas, the state.
Carlos: But is it in Kansas or Ar-Kansas?
Gringo co-worker: Hey you see those two German Shepherds over there?
Gringo co-worker: You better watch out. They don’t like Mexicans.
Carlos: Well, good thing I’m not Mexican.
13 year old: I’m supposed to make tabs to divide my notebook for Spanish class.
13 year old: The teacher wants us to label one of the tabs “RECURSOS.”
13 year old: What does it mean?
Me: Can you take a guess?
13 year old: …Um… Repeat diarrhea?
Hey, at least he broke the word down and made a logical guess based on what he knows. (“Curso” is slang for “diarrhea” in El Salvador – not sure if that’s the case for anywhere else.)
[Me reading bedtime story to my 10 year old]
Me: “¿Puedes encontrar la araña?”
10 year old: Mommy, I’m not stupid. The spider is right there.
“You have to give me the credit of the doubt.” – Carlos
(He mixed up “Give me credit” and “benefit of the doubt.”)
“Do you know what time Obama is supposed to start speaking? … I want to watch but I don’t want to miss Chavito.” – Carlos
“You’re just adding more wood to the fire.” – Carlos
(He meant “fuel to the fire.”)
“I want to rent that movie Chale Homes.” – Carlos unsuccessfully trying to say “Sherlock Holmes” but sounding like a Chicano instead.
What is the funniest conversation you’ve had lately?
One of the first places I brought Carlos when he was my boyfriend was to a pumpkin patch, and one of the first things I showed him was how to to carve a jack-o-lantern. I’ve always been interested in other cultures and traditions, but there was also something exciting about showing Carlos my own.
Fifteen years later, going to the pumpkin patch as a family each October is one of our favorite things.
The pumpkin patch we usually go to has goats and you can buy food pellets for them from a bubble gum style machine for a quarter. Over the years, Carlos has come to be more of an animal lover. He looks so happy petting the goat here.
After feeding the goats we considered giving the corn maze a try but it takes 45 minutes to go through, (maybe an hour given my sense of direction) – so we decided we’ll come back another day to do it.
Into the pumpkin patch.
My boys are getting bigger, (The oldest is taller than Carlos), but they haven’t outgrown the pumpkin patch.
There’s a type of squash in El Salvador called Pipián. We aren’t sure if this squash here is related but when you’re accustomed to their palm-sized Latin American cousins, these are kind of hilarious.
Now that we’ve picked our pumpkins and brought them home, we’ll soon carve them into jack-o-lanterns. When we clean out the inside of the pumpkin we always reserve the seeds for roasting and eating. Roasted pumpkin seeds, funnily enough, remind Carlos of El Salvador.
Taking photos at Fiesta DC this past Sunday was a challenge for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons was the sheer number of other people trying to photograph and video tape the event. At times I felt like I was in a group of paparazzi fighting for position – and then when I would finally frame the perfect shot, someone would inevitably ruin it by running across with a video camera or sticking their iPhone in front of me.
Some of the people were amateur or hobbyist photographers like me, some were obviously freelance professionals or working for media – And then there were young males, usually equipped with cellphone cameras, who were just trying to photograph the nalgas of the cachiporras to share on their Facebook.
Anyway, here are my favorite shots which I had some fun editing and a video of the general atmosphere.
By the way, speaking of nalgas, at one point during the parade a woman with a very generous backside stood in front of us. Carlos, to his credit, didn’t even seem to notice despite the fact that her “pants” were actually leggings and you could see her thong through the fabric.
“¡Qué bárbara!” a little old man said. The old man, not content to enjoy the view by himself and feeling the need to share, elbowed Carlos. Jutting his chin towards the woman in front of them he said, with a lascivious expression on his face, “Ella es Santa Bárbara, ¿vá?”
Carlos looked confused, “Oh, ¿sí?” he replied.
“Ssssíííííí,” the viejo hissed appraising the woman’s behind, practically licking his lips. Noting the fact that Carlos didn’t understand what he meant, the viejo then asked, “¿No sabes?”
“¿No?” Carlos said, the question on his face.
I rolled my eyes at the predictable dirty old man.
“¡Es santa por delante y bárbara por atrás!” the viejo said, erupting in laughter as if he had said the most clever and original thing in the world.
Carlos laughed politely and I pinched him.
“What?” Carlos said.
“Stand back here, away from the viejo chuco,” I said.
After the parade we had lunch. I wanted pupusas but Carlos made a good point that we eat pupusas all the time and that we should eat something different, so we ended up buying delicious Mexican tortas. (The boys and I had the torta milanesa de pollo with horchata. Carlos had the torta de carnitas with agua fresca de tamarindo.)
Just as we finished eating and were deciding what to do next, I heard “Los Hermanos Lovo” announced on a nearby stage.
“No way!” I said out loud, “Hermanos Lovo!”
Carlos looked at me like I had lost my mind as I pulled his hand in the direction of the stage.
“It’s the Chanchona music I blogged about. Remember?… Hermanos Lovo!”
For three songs I tapped my hand against my side, tapped my feet, and moved my hips, waiting for people to dance, but only a few people were dancing, and they were getting stared at. Everyone else just pretty much stood there and watched the performance. I found this a little strange given that at most Latino dominant events I’ve been too, there’s usually not a lack of dancing. I wonder if most of the people there have become too Americanized in this respect? Too self-conscious?
I couldn’t take it anymore. I leaned toward Carlos and he leaned toward me so he could hear me.
“Want to dance?” I asked, eyes brimming with hope like a child asking for a puppy.
Carlos said nothing, just turned toward me and took me in his arms, and we danced.
Within seconds much of the crowd had turned to look at us and stood gaping. Carlos whispered in my ear, “We’re being photographed and video taped.” I felt a flood of gringa self-consciousness wash through me but we kept dancing, and soon, the people around us, were just a blur of colors.
“Los americanos no bailan” – it was something my suegra always said, usually with arms crossed over her chest while sitting at my Anglo parents’ house on a holiday. My parents were always kind enough to invite my suegra to dinner even though she never seemed to like anything about being there. She complained about the American food, complained about the overly-friendly Golden Retrievers, complained that my family spoke English and that she couldn’t understand, complained about the lack of music, complained that no one was dancing.
Because we never danced, Suegra then assumed that it was because we couldn’t dance – that we were incapable of dancing. “Los americanos no saben bailar” – she would say.
When it was discovered at a very early age that my younger son was a natural dancer with an amazing sense of rhythm, she took all the credit. “Puro salvadoreño,” she’d say, or “Este talento viene de parte de mi familia.”
Likewise, when we discovered that my older son lacked rhythm, that no matter how hard he tried, (and that the harder he tried, the worse it was), Suegra blamed it on me. “Ay, pobrecito,” she’d say, “no puede bailar, igual a su mamá.”
The truth is that Suegra has never even seen me dance – and despite what she might think, I don’t dance like Elaine on Seinfeld. Neither will I claim to be as good as Napoleon Dynamite, but I think I do alright.
It’s a common stereotype that white people can’t dance. I guess humans like stereotypes because it gives us a false sense of security that we better understand ourselves, our world and the people in it. The problem is that stereotypes attempt to group people together based on a common trait, but humans, even those that share many things in common, are much too diverse to be categorized in that way.
That being said, in my experience, and without doing scientific research, my hypothesis is that if you walk up to your average gringo on the street and compared his dancing skills with your average Latino on the street, the average Latino would more often be the better dancer. But, why?
I don’t think that this is a result of race or skin color but rather a result of culture. Gringos, as my suegra noticed, don’t tend to dance as often as Latinos. Dance, for many Anglos, just isn’t a part of daily life, perhaps due to our Puritanical roots.
Now, if we all know that “practice makes perfect”, wouldn’t it make sense that the group who practices less, (regardless of any man-made category we could put them in), would quite simply be less skilled than the group that practices more?
Again, this is my unscientific guess as to why “gringos can’t dance” – (and to be clear, this doesn’t apply to all gringos. Some are born with natural talent and some learn to dance very well, even on a professional level.)
If you don’t like my theory, Dave Chappelle has another one.