Lo Mejor de 2010

Here are the most chévere things I discovered in 2010.


Bubu Lubus
• Valentina (salsa)
• Chipotle Mayonnaise (via Maura)


• My go-to drink used to be the Shirley Temple, but after drinking about a dozen virgin Mojitos in Miami, I have a new favorite.

• As for “real” drinks, Tecate & Corona are still numero uno for me.

• My cipote-friendly choice is still horchata (Salvadoran, not Mexican.)


• Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
• My Name is Pablo by Aimee Sommerfelt

(Non-Latino Fiction picks):

• Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya
• The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins
• The Help by Kathryn Stockett


• Quinceñera
The Other Side of Immigration (documentary)
• The Karate Kid (Jackie Chan)


• World Cup in South Africa (U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!)
• Mexico’s Bicentennial (¡Viva México!)
• Chilean Miners (¡Chi-chi-chi! ¡Le-le-le!)


(Really too many to mention, but these are the first three that came to mind)…

Espinoza Paz
Natalia Lafourcade
Crooked Stilo

(I like this video of Espinoza performing on Mun2, because it looks like the host, Yarel, has a crush on him as much as I do.)

I considered listing favorite blogs, but you can already check those out on the Link Love page, (and there’s no güey I’m choosing only three!) …That being said, I want to thank all of you who visit me here at Latinaish.com.

The very best thing about 2010 is the community I’m blessed to be a part of and all the people around the world that I consider amigos para siempre. Gracias por tu amistad – it has more value to me than an entire box of Bubu Lubus.

How about you? What do you consider lo mejor de 2010?

Salvadoran Folktales

On a recent trip to El Salvador, a friend brought me back a souvenir. Thankfully it wasn’t another painting of The Last Supper, but a book called “Mitología Cuzcatleca: Los Cuentos de mi Infancia y Otros” by Efrain Melara Méndez. (Thank you, Ángel!)

The book contains all of the Salvadoran stories I’m not able to tell the niños since I wasn’t raised on them and don’t know them well enough. My husband Carlos has also been fairly useless in the story-telling department. Most Salvadorans are good storytellers, but somehow this skill escaped my husband. He also only remembers these stories in the vaguest of ways… And Suegra, well, the only reason I know of La Sihuanaba, is because Suegra called me that as an insult during a particularly heated argument a few years ago. (And after I Googled it, my feelings were so incredibly hurt on multiple levels. Needless to say, I don’t ask her about any of these Salvadoran Folktales because I don’t want to dredge up that day.)

So, this book is much needed. It has all the traditional stories from El Salvador, (some of which are known in other parts of Central America as well.) Some of those characters include, El Cipitio, El Duende, El Padre Sin Cabeza, El Griton de Medianoche and some others I had never even heard of before.

by Flickr user jayokossa
My favorite folktale is about Los Cadejos. The Cadejos are dog-like spirit animals. One is white and one is black. The white one follows people to protect them and the black one follows people to kill them.

Which Latin American folktale is your favorite?

(Image source)

El Perro y El Gato (books!)

I mentioned before how much I love the children’s bilingual show “El Perro y El Gato” on HBO Latino. Well, the show has now been made into something else I love – books!

There are four so far in the series: La Granja (farm), La Nieve (snow), El Cumpleaños (birthday), and El doctor (doctor). I read all four books with my younger son last night and he was smiling the whole time. At one point he even asked to read them to me and I was so pleased to hear him pronounce most of the Spanish correctly without help.

The books are true to the show in that they are fully bilingual and easy to understand. The characters maintain the personalities we already know and love, and the images are brightly colored and funny.

I like that there isn’t a lot of text. With bilingual books, paragraphs of text can become tedious and boring. These books are short and simple, and in the back of each book is a pronunciation guide for those who are new to either English or Spanish.

When we finished reading the books, my son asked, “Do we get to keep these or are they from the library?” – When I told him we get to keep them, he was super feliz.

I have a feeling I know what we’re reading at bedtime again tonight.

Disclosure: The “El Perro y El Gato” series of books were provided for review and are available at HBO shop. All opinions are totally my own.

Race & Reality

I just finished reading Race and Reality: What Everyone Should Know About Our Biological Diversity by Guy P. Harrison.

This was definitely not light, relaxing reading but I’m happy that I pushed through and read it.

Book Description:

“Drawing on a wide variety of evidence – the hard data from fossils and DNA, interviews with the victims of racism, and personal experiences – Harrison dismantles the ‘race’ concept, bolt by bolt. Exposing race as a social illusion and political tool – rather than a biological reality – Harrison forces the reader to consider how they think about ‘other folk.’ Anthropologists have no use for the race concept, and neither should educated citizens.” -Cameron M. Smith, PhD, Department of Anthropology, Portland State University

Even if you already consider yourself educated and enlightened, reading this book will open your eyes in new ways. You won’t be able to look at people, race or society the same ever again. (Remember, we’re talking about race here – not culture. Very different. The craziness I observe in my own household on a daily basis is proof enough to me that cultural differences exist!)

The author argues that we all came out of Africa and we are one human race – that any categories based on hair type, skin color, facial features, etc – are simply man-made… By the time I finished reading this book I felt simultaneously freed…and trapped. I see myself as raceless, but this just isn’t practical in the society we live in.

Imagine renewing my driver’s license at the DMV. I fill out the form, I come to the race boxes – decide to leave them blank because they seem silly and irrelevant. I turn in my form.

“Ma’am, you didn’t check a box for race.”
“I know. I don’t want to. I don’t believe in races.”
“Yes ma’am, that’s real cute, but you have to choose one. I can’t process an incomplete form…”
I sigh, take my pen in hand, and check off a race.
“Hmm… I suppose this one is most accurate…”
I hand the form back to the DMV clerk who looks it over. Her satisfied smile at my compliance soon turns to a frown.

So, I don’t think race will be disappearing any time soon – and maybe it would be irresponsible of me to pretend our world doesn’t see these man-made boxes, regardless of what I personally feel. I have two sons who are struggling with their identity, and answering their questions with a cheerful, “Race doesn’t exist”, is not going to help them sort things out.

Just yesterday a classmate approached my older son and said, “Are you Mexican?” … My son, (having picked up on his father’s annoyance at constantly being incorrectly labeled Mexican instead of Latino or Salvadoran), replied with a simple, curt, “No.”

I told him that he should have used the opportunity to educate his classmate, but I wonder if that was fair of me. As a “white” girl amongst other “white” kids, I never had to explain myself. It must get annoying having to patiently tell people “what you are”. It must make one feel very “other”… and that’s never a good feeling, no matter how old you are – but especially in middle school.

The book, Race and Reality, re-printed a “Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage” which I think is empowering, not just for people who are traditionally considered “multi-racial” by today’s society – but for all of us. In the end, there is no pure race. We are all mixed and we are all human.


Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage:

Not to justify my existence in this world.
Not to keep the races separate within me.
Not to justify my ethnic legitimacy.
Not to be responsible for people’s discomfort with my physical or ethnic ambiguity.

To identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify.
To identify myself differently than how my parents identify me.
To identify myself differently than my brothers and sisters.
To identify myself differently in different situations.

To create a vocabulary to communicate about being multiracial or multi-ethnic.
To change my identity over my lifetime -and more than once.
To have loyalties and identification with more than one group of people.
To freely choose whom I befriend and love.

© Maria P. P. Root, PhD

Sisters, Strangers & Starting Over

Book Review: What happens when a niece you’ve never met before shows up on your doorstep needing to be taken in, and the ensuing turmoil of painful memories of a lost sister and a life disrupted threatens to destroy your marriage?

Sisters, Strangers and Starting Over, is the second book I’ve read by Belinda Acosta. Like her first book, (Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz), Acosta’s talent is in drawing out each character’s deepest thoughts to show the motives behind their behavior, so that the reader feels immense empathy. Also, when it comes to writing about marriage, I rarely see myself and my husband in fictional characters but Acosta completely nails it.

The unapologetic Spanglish writing style she uses is a treat for English/Spanish bilinguals and the other thing I absolutely loved about this book was that the couple reflects the changing face of families today in the United States. (The husband in the story is Anglo and the wife is Latina. How many of you who married gringos can relate to having a name like “Beatriz Sanchez-Milligan”?)

Raising Bilingual Niños: Tip #3

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges

Reading is a big deal at my house. Everywhere you look are stacks of books and it gives me so much happiness to see them there waiting for me. Likewise, my boys have hundreds of books for themselves. I’ve read to my niños every night since they were babies and taught them to read before they stepped a foot into school.

Left: My favorite Spanish alphabet book, “F is for Fiesta” by Susan Middleton Elya / Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Without going into too much terminology, the method I used to teach my boys how to read employed the use of flash cards and what are referred to as “High Frequency Words” or “Sight Words“. These are the most commonly used words in a language. By practicing with the flash cards, (showing the child the card and saying the word), they soon memorize it and learn to read it on “sight”. (This is in addition to teaching them the alphabet and phonics first.)

This worked well for my kids and so, after practicing with them in the Silabarios, (Spanish phonics books), over the summer, I am now teaching them to read “High Frequency Words” in Spanish.


I made the flash cards and you can use them too. To download the PDF of the 175 most common words in Spanish for your niño go HERE. Once you’ve downloaded it, open the PDF in Adobe, print (I recommend using card stock, but regular printer paper works just fine.) – Cut them into individual cards and then they’re ready to use!

“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!” – Betty Smith/A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Amigas: Fifteen Candles

Amigas: Fifteen Candles, created by Jane Startz, but written by Veronica Chambers, is the first book of a new series in juvenile fiction for girls. I don’t know how the author pitched her book, but I would call it, “The new Baby Sitter’s Club for young Latinas.”

The story revolves around a group of friends in Miami who create a party planning business to help one of their friends throw the quinceñera of her dreams, (on her parent’s limited budget, of course.)

At times the main character, Alicia Cruz, comes off as a spoiled brat but despite the mansion and personal chef, girls will relate to her very normal teenage troubles, (though possibly fantasize about such an idealized life.)

Refreshingly, Alicia is properly contrasted by a cast of diverse Latina characters from all types of financial and ethnic backgrounds. One thing I especially liked was the fact that the characters also range in Spanish-speaking ability – from completely fluent, to not speaking a word – I think that is something most U.S. Latinas can relate to.

Over all, the book is fun, though somewhat silly from an adult perspective, (it wasn’t written for us anyway!) The Amigas series will give young Latinas drowning in a world of Anglo everything, a little dose of cultura and characters they can identify with. Though these books would never replace more substantial classics such as Sandra Cisnero’s The House on Mango Street, or How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez, the series succeeds at providing a positive message for young Latinas with themes ranging from the benefits of teamwork, to inspiring an entrepreneurial spirit.