Category Archives: niños

The Search For Salvadoran Characters

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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.)

A few of my favorite books for children. Click the image for more.

A few of my favorite books for children. Click the image for more.

These are some of my favorite Middle Grade and YA books. Click the image for more.

These are some of my favorite Middle Grade and YA books. Click the image for more.

These are some of my favorite books for adults. Click the image to check out more.

These are some of my favorite books for adults. Click the image to check out more.

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

Bilingual Parenting Takes Commitment… and Re-commitment

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.

____

Related: SpanglishBaby: Raising a Bilingual Child is Always a Work in Progress

Conversations at Casa López

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?
Me: O-P-
Carlos: O?!

[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?
Carlos: Yeah.
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.
Me: Okay.
13 year old: The teacher wants us to label one of the tabs “RECURSOS.”
Me: Mmhm.
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?

The Pumpkin Patch – An American Tradition

Click this image to see this post featured on Mamiverse.com

Carlos pulls the boys in a wagon through a pumpkin patch. 2009

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.

Heelys! (Zapatos con ruedas)

Heelys (the shoes with wheels), have a new line of shoes coming out this fall – and many of them are designed for women! I was offered a pair for review but, as much as I wanted to try them, I opted to get a pair for my 10 year old instead. (Honestamente, my roller skating and ice skating skills aren’t so bueno, so I don’t know if I’d be able to get the hang of Heelys.)

Heelys can be worn with or without the wheels, (we will have to take the wheels off if he wears them to school), but most people don’t know they come in adult sizes. In addition to the adult sizes, Heelys is introducing three brand new lines – an athletic shoe which will be lighter in weight, shoes made specifically for girls and women with more fashion forward colors and styles, and a street shoe with improved outsoles. (Ahora falta botas picudas con ruedas. Can you imagine? Now that would be chévere!)

For more information you can find Heelys on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, in addition to their regular website.

My 10 year old was super feliz to finally get a pair of Heelys. These are the “Element” style Heelys in Youth size 3. The wheels were easy to install and are easy to take out, too.

It took my son about 30 minutes to get the hang of them. The trick is positioning your feet just so.

Once he knew how to use the Heelys, he didn’t want to stop. Here’s a little video to give you a taste of the fun.

Now he wants to learn how to do tricks with the Heelys. I’m happy he’s found another activity to get him outside and away from the video games.

Disclosure: A pair of Heelys was provided for review. All opinions are my own.

Bilingual Siblings & Disparities in Fluency

Today I read a post called “Pocho studies” on Lotería Chicana. I started to leave a comment but by the time I finished it, I realized the comment was long enough to stand alone as a blog post, so here I am.

Cindy of Lotería Chicana writes about how her Spanish fluency is different from that of her siblings. (I encourage you to click through – it’s worth reading and the photos make it all the more special.) This is a really fascinating topic because most people would assume that bilingual children raised in the same household would be equally fluent, but most parents raising bilingual children know this isn’t true.

Just like children raised in the same household may end up with different eating habits, religious beliefs, or athletic abilities – the same goes for language. I imagine there are an endless number of possibilities in each family depending on all kinds of circumstances – many of which are only apparent in hindsight.

Here is the comment I started to leave but which I’m pasting here instead.

I was raised in an English only Anglo home but married a Salvadoran. It’s always been my goal to raise our children to be bilingual. This was something I had my heart set on before they were born, before I married my husband, Carlos. It was a desire borne out a love of language and the knowledge that I would want to share that with my future children because of all the beauty and opportunity the gift of bilingualism can bring.

At some point my idealism was hit with a major dose of reality.

Our older son will soon be 14 and his little brother is 10 – While I have tried to raise them to be bilingual, the journey has been long, inconsistent and not nearly as easy as I had imagined. Their language abilities are both so different that it sometimes feels like they weren’t raised in the same household — in some ways, they weren’t.

When we had our first son we were both really young. My Spanish was very basic and I lacked confidence. I never said more than a couple words here and there in Spanish to the baby. My hope had been that my husband would speak Spanish to the baby, but Carlos was struggling with English and our focus at the time was his fluency – not our child’s. During the first year of our first son’s life, we lived with my (English-speaking) family. This was good for Carlos’s English but meant a very English dominant environment for our son. Once we moved out, we still spoke English most of the time since Carlos needed the practice. Most of the Spanish our son heard the first couple years was when my husband was on the phone to El Salvador or when he watched TV, (mostly Spanish-language news.)

When I had my second son, life was very different. Our household had become a place where Spanish was very frequently spoken and heard throughout the day. (Our older son was 3 or 4 at this point.) My mother-in-law had moved in with us and she didn’t speak English. My new baby, myself and my older son were now immersed in an environment with 2 native Spanish-speakers, (one of whom we had no choice but to communicate with in Spanish.)

As my skills and confidence in the language grew, I tried to speak and read to the kids more in Spanish and encouraged my husband to do so as well. Still, I didn’t use Spanish with them much of the time because English had become my “code language” – a safe haven to speak to my husband and children in, a place where my mother-in-law couldn’t understand me, (and I desperately needed that privacy.)

In 2010, realizing that my kids weren’t on grade level with their Spanish from the limited interactions with their live-in grandmother, I decided to speak Spanish to them almost full time. Since then I’ve slacked off here and there but there has definitely been a much more concentrated effort on my part to ensure they’re bilingual. Seeing how much more comfortable the kids are in Spanish, my husband has joined the effort. It comes naturally now – not the awkward way it once was, but it took a long time to get here. (Coincidentally, their grandmother moved out a year ago, so speaking Spanish to them has become even more vital.)

At this point both boys understand spoken Spanish very well but prefer to answer in English or Spanglish. My older son, when he does speak Spanish, has a great vocabulary, but the accent is very “gringo.” His reading and writing was not very good but it’s grown by leaps and bounds the past year because he’s studying Spanish as his “foreign language” at school – having the basic foundation made it an easy “A” for him even though he started the class a year ahead of his peers and was given “native speaker” work.

Our younger son, perhaps because he heard native speakers since infancy, has a fantastic natural accent in Spanish. (He can pronounce the “rr” but his older brother can’t.) Our younger son’s vocabulary is probably not as big as his older brother’s though, and I think maybe it’s because he’s the “consentido” and his older brother always does things for him, including translating things he doesn’t understand. His ease at reading written Spanish aloud is probably better than his older brother though, because I read books in Spanish to him more than I did to my older son.

Another interesting development occurred this past week. Our older son is away at science camp and our younger son is home with me all day. Suddenly my younger son has begun to respond to me in Spanish when we’re alone together… Yesterday he came to me and completely unprompted, offered me half of his snack saying, “Mamá, ¿Quieres compartir?” (and “compartir” is a word I’ve never even heard him use before.)

I’ve come to accept that there will be disparities in their fluency – that one may be better at one skill than the other, just as they have their own unique talents when it comes to sports or art, but it’s harder to get over the feeling that I failed them. I couldn’t have spoken Spanish to them any earlier than I did, and I tried to convince my husband to do it but, like many immigrant parents, he worried more about their English fluency until it was “too late.”

I continue to speak Spanish to them, determined that they will be as bilingual as possible, but knowing that the ship has sailed as far as them being native speaker fluent, makes me incredibly sad sometimes.

____________

What are your experiences with your bilingual siblings or your bilingual children? How are their skills different?

Worldwide Culture Swap!

I was recently contacted by a French expat and mother living in Canada who told me about a free program she runs called Worldwide Culture Swap and I think you guys are going to love this!

The program’s purpose is to teach children about the diverse cultures and traditions around the world. The way this is done is by swapping packages which teach the recipients about the country you live in, (or the country you’re representing. So, as Salvadoran Americans, my family could choose to send a package with items from our area of the United States, or items that represent El Salvador.)

It is totally free to participate and already more than 2,000 packages have been exchanged around the world!

Worldwide Culture Swap is especially in need of Spanish-speaking countries right now, but everyone is welcome to sign up! Basically, once you sign up you’ll be put into a group with four other families in other countries. When you sign up, you’re agreeing to send each of those families a package containing items that teach about your culture, country and/or state, (check out some of the packages! – People are so creative with what they include!)

As much fun as it is to send packages, I’m sure kids get really excited to receive packages, too. That’s right – the other four families will each send YOU a package about their country/culture!

This is such a fun way to teach your kids about the world. I really can’t wait to sign up but I need to wait until I know for sure that we can afford to send 4 packages first. While the items inside don’t have to be fancy or expensive, international shipping isn’t cheap — so keep that in mind before signing up. (There is a Culture Swap between US States that is available as well which would cut down on shipping costs, but I want to do the worldwide one.)

Until we can do the Culture Swap, I’m planning on signing my kids up for their free Pen Pal Program. I had pen pals around the world and it was always exciting to get those special airmail envelopes in the mailbox.

Image source: Donovan Beeson

If you’re ready to sign up, or just want to check it out, visit the website for more information.

Special note to teachers – there is a Culture Swap for Schools as well!

Arriba con la Selección Salvadoreña!

On Friday, while watching the game (El Salvador vs. Costa Rica), the Salvadoran soccer team’s anthem came on during a commercial break. Our 10 year old son jumped up and started dancing; we all started laughing because this cipote has moves and I have no idea where he gets them from. He can dance to almost any kind of music, and he dances really well. (My Suegra used to say that he gets it from her side of the family but I’ve seen Suegra and her family dance – they aren’t any better than my family!)

Anyway, with the México vs. El Salvador game coming up on Tuesday June 12th, (9 pm ET on Telemundo), I asked my son if he’d be willing to give a repeat performance in front of the camera. He didn’t want to at first but a piece of chocolate, 50 cents, and my explanation that he would help pep everyone up for the game, convinced him.

Arriba con la Selección!

Fruit For All! Fruta Para Todos!

One of the great things about having a blog is that sometimes opportunities come along to use that blog to do good – this is one of those times. I have an amazing project to share with you today, and then after that, a really unique giveaway.

First, the project – Nestlé Juicy Juice and Feeding America are working together to literally put fresh fruit into the hands of children who otherwise wouldn’t have it, and there are a lot of ways you can help make that happen.

Ways to contribute to the Fruit For All Project

• Now through August 31st 2012, when you buy Juicy Juice products, Nestlé will donate fruit to Feeding America.

• Now through August 31st 2012, you can complete “challenges” such as sharing a photo on Juicy Juice’s Fruit for All website, in return Nestlé will donate fruit to Feeding America.

Ready to help out? Here are the websites in English and Spanish:

Juicy Juice – Fruit For All Project – English

Juicy Juice – Proyecto Fruta Para Todos – Español

The Giveaway

Okay, now for the giveaway – I hope you believed me when I said this is unique. The prize in this giveaway is a donation of 400 meals to a food bank in your community! What an amazing gift to be able to give!

How to Enter

All you need to do to enter is just leave a comment below telling me your favorite fruit!
(Please read official rules below.)

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age or older to enter. You must be living in the United States. Your information will only be shared with the company in charge of prize fulfillment. One entry per household. Make sure that you enter a valid E-mail address in the E-mail 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 June 8th, 2012 through August 1st, 2012. Entries received after August 1st, 2012 at 11:59 pm ET, 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.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored or paid post. The only compensation I received was the offer to donate 400 meals to my local food bank. All opinions are my own.

Los Muchachos de Koh Panyee

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 in italics!

¿Qué te inspira? Este video me ha inspirado esta semana. Un grupo de muchachos forman un equipo de fútbol, pero hay un problema … Ellos viven en una isla del sur de Tailandia que se llama Koh Panyee y no hay cancha ni espacio para practicar. ¿Qué hicieron? Se dieron por vencidos? … No! Ellos construyeron un campo en el agua. Chécalo.

What inspires you? This video inspired me this week. A group of young boys form a football team, but there’s a problem … They live on an island of southern Thailand called Koh Panyee, and there’s no field nor space to practice. What did they do? Give up? … No! They built a soccer pitch on the water. Check it out.

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