Over the weekend I heard a new bachata song by Prince Royce called “Corazón Sin Cara”. I immediately loved the lyrics, noting how different they are from a lot of the music I listen to. In this song, Royce sings:

Y si eres gorda o flaca
Todo eso no me importa a mí
Tampoco soy perfecto
Sólo sé que yo te quiero así.

This flies in the face of the dominant message directed at women in today’s popular music, which is that your physical beauty is the most important thing about you. I’ll admit to listening to and loving Reggaeton – but I hate how degrading it is to women. It’s all about “sexiness” and defining a woman by her beauty, specifically her body. Reggaetoneros are lacking creativity. There are so many things in this world that they could sing about, and yet we get lyrics like this:

Tú eres una Barbie
muñeca princesa
y no es de Mattel
Tú eres perfecta
Tu cara tu cuerpo
tus ojos también tu piel
te quiero completa
baila sensual así te quiero ver
juntitos, solitos nos vamos a complacer.

– “Es Un Secreto” by Plan B

Being bombarded with messages like this on a daily basis can have a brainwashing sort of effect on one’s self-esteem, so here are some songs to help you detox.

“Corazón sin Cara” by Royce

“Ella” by Bebe

“Ella Es Bonita” by Natalia Lafourcade

“Baja Autoestima” – Los Cipotes

¿Quieres Más?

Dra. Eréndira López-García talks about how to fix self-esteem issues en español (Very much worth 10 minutes of your time.) [link]

Spoken word poetry, “Pretty” by Katie Makkai. (English – strong language) [link]

Rosie O’Donnell – Beautiful Girls (English – strong language)

Fútbol, no sólo para los hombres

My love of fútbol was made well-known during this year’s World Cup. Since then I have had to find other ways to entertain myself, from playing fútbol with the kids, to watching Javier Hernández play for Manchester United, (I like him better with El Tri, but I’ll take my “Chicharito” any way I can get him.)

I also spent some time encouraging people to sign a petition in support of our bid to bring the World Cup to the United States in 2022, which we ended up losing to Qatar. ¡Qué desilusión! … I have to say though, their proposed stadiums are absolutely breathtaking.

Still don’t feel better about losing our bid for the World Cup? Okay, here are some events to look forward to: The 2011 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, the 2011 Copa América and the Women’s World Cup 2011!

Speaking of women, I just saw a report this evening about a Salvadoran woman named Eva Linares. Ms. Linares is newsworthy because she is the only female fútbol commentator in El Salvador, most likely the only one in Central America, and possibly even the only one in all of Latin America. I think she is super chévere.

Latinos & Gringas Gorditas

White guy #1: You know who likes to go with Mexicans? Fat white girls! It’s always the fat ones who-
Carlos: Hey.
White guy #1: What?
Carlos: Do me a favor.
White guy #1: Yeah?
Carlos: Shut the fuck up. {walks away}
White guy #1: Damn, what the hell’s his problem?
White guy #2: You’re a dumbass. His wife is white.
{awkward silence}
White guy #1: But I wasn’t sayin’ nothin – I just meant it’s like… a stereotype.

A stereotype – and like any stereotype, it’s mostly hurtful bigotry, but with a little truth mixed in – (Sort of like Fruit Punch with 10% real juice.)

“Gringas Gorditas” (Fat white girls), do not disproportionately pair up with Latino men. I can say anecdotally that among the gringas I know who are with Latino men, it’s an even split 50/50 with half being flacas (thin) and the other half being gorditas (chubby or fat.)

I’m one of the gorditas, and I’ve come up against a lot of ignorant assumptions about my marriage. First of all, I did not “settle” for my husband because I couldn’t “get a white guy”. I dated boys/men from many different backgrounds (including Caucasian) before I met Carlos.

Second of all, my husband did not choose me just to get a Greencard, and nor am I a “status symbol” for him.

This stereotype about Latinos and gringas gorditas is doubly damaging because not only does it literally weigh my worth as a woman in pounds, it casts an ugly light on interracial marriage – as if our marriage is somehow less valid.

Here’s some breaking news: Interracial couples fall in love for all the complicated and simple reasons “same race” couples fall in love. In the end, it comes down to attraction – not just physical, (though biologically that can’t much be helped), but spiritual connection, emotional attachment, and shared experiences all play a role.

Now for the 10% juice: Culturally speaking, Latino men are typically more accepting, and even desiring, of a thicker figure on a woman, than are Anglo men. (Source: Study on Race/Ethnicity Body Type Preferences)

(Necessary Disclaimer: That, of course, is a generality that does not apply to all Latino men or all Anglo men. Individual results may vary.)

The real question in my mind is what is the fascination with this stereotype? Why all the scrutiny over my curves and his color? Yes, I’m a gringa gordita and yes, he is Latino – ¿Y qué? (So what?)

“It is not that love is blind. It is that love sees with a painter’s eye, finding the essence that renders all else background.” – Robert Brault

The Lucky Plant

So much has changed. See this plantita here? Many years ago this little plant caused an American-Salvadoran war in our household.

Suegra says this is considered a “lucky” plant back in El Salvador, but it was unlucky for me because Suegra planted it in our yard without permission. For reasons which aren’t clear to me today, I got mad – really mad. I guess it was a boundaries thing. I resented Suegra living with us to begin with, and on top of that, she often redecorated without asking me. I’d go out on an errand and come back to see something incredibly feo she bought at a yard sale, sitting as the new centerpiece on our table. I guess at some point I had enough.

The lucky plant, which at the time looked like a wilted weed in my eyes, had been planted in a prominent spot in the landscaping and it stuck out like a sore thumb. She had even stolen rocks from elsewhere in the yard and made a circle around the pathetic little plant. It looked like a juvenile goldfish burial plot.

“It needs to be moved to the backyard – somewhere I can’t see it – near the air conditioner unit would be good. Some place where it might die,” I said to my husband.

He pleaded with me not to make a big deal. It was a difficult time in our marriage. His mother living with us turned into a sick love triangle – my husband always caught between his mother and me, both of us demanding his loyalty.

In the end, my husband asked his mother to move the lucky plant. I had not fully anticipated the war that erupted. Suegra didn’t speak to me for many days. She told my husband he didn’t wear the pants – started with that familiar refrain, “There are many women in the world, pero madre sólo hay una.”

Suegra moved the plant but she continued to take care of it, watering it in the summer, moving it indoors in the winter – and over the years it survived … and somehow we have, too.

All these years later, I remember that day and wonder why I cared so much. Why I couldn’t just let it go, but it’s past now, I can’t change what happened. I can only learn a lesson from it to carry with me.

Yesterday I noticed the chill in the evening air, whispering that autumn is upon us. We’ll soon have our first frost. I reminded Suegra that it was time to bring the plant indoors. I told her she could put it on the table, as a centerpiece… a daily reminder for me that life is imperfect but given time and a little luck, we can adapt.

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”?)

Flequillos y Selena

Suegra has returned early.

Long story short, she went to visit her other hijo and was supposed to stay until mid-August, but a family situation in El Salvador made her decide to return to our casita so she could get her things together and arrange to leave. Well, by some milagro, the family situation in El Salvador has been resolved … and now she won’t be leaving until October.

I probably sound a little suspicious, because truthfully, I am. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that Suegra just wanted to come back to our house because she wasn’t enjoying her other hijo’s house as much as she says. (Of course, I’ll never know the truth because Suegra only tells me good things about her visit there.)

Ni modo, while Suegra was still on her trip, I got a hair cut. I read that mujeres of a certain age should have flequillos (bangs) to look more youthful. Well, thankfully I had the wisdom that comes with this certain age to know not to attempt cutting the bangs myself. There are no 3 words worse than hearing an amiga or hermana tell you, “I cut bangs” – it rarely turns out well, yet some sort of mania causes us to forget and do it again a few years later. Cutting bangs is sort of like childbirth that way.

So, this time, thankfully, I decided to go to a professional to have my bangs cut but I’m still experimenting with styling them. Today I have them sort of side-swept, but the day we went to pick Suegra up from the airport I had them styled like Selena. (Like I said, I’m still figuring these things out, okay?)

As we walked towards Suegra at the baggage claim she looked at my husband y los niños and smiled, but she looked at me as if she didn’t know me. She didn’t realize it was me until I was right in front of her face. She said she was confused because she wondered who the Mexican girl was walking behind her son. (I’m choosing to take that as a compliment, but I’m not sure how she intended it.)

Last night, coincidentally, the Selena movie was on T.V. so I was watching it with my husband, snuggled on the couch together. Then Suegra comes in, sits down and immediately starts talking.

“What’s this?”
“A movie about Selena, the singer.”
“…But whose that little girl?”
“That’s Selena when she was little.”
“How did they get video of her when she was little?”
“It’s not really her, Mamá. It’s a movie about her life.”
“Whose that man?”
“Her father.”
“Her father for real?”
“No, madre, they’re all actors!”

Yes, Suegra has returned and she’s just as much fun as she was before.

I <3 Miami

Maybe I’m romanticizing it since I was only there for a couple days, but I really fell in love with Miami. I don’t know if it’s the kind of place I could live in year round. I’m an East Coast girl at heart. I need my change of seasons, my autumn leaves. I need the smell of fresh cut grass in the summer time… but going tropical felt good at least for a little while.

I loved the art deco architecture, the rustle of palm trees, the turquoise blue of the ocean, hearing Spanish everywhere we went, the adorable casitas, the couples dancing to the salsa version of Coldplay’s song, “Clocks“, the taxi drivers hanging out their windows and calling out piropos to pretty girls, mojitos, learning how to run in tacones, guava cupcakes, and most of all, the diverse group of amazing women who I now call mis amigas.

Going to Miami was life changing in ways I never expected, and probably in ways I have yet to see.

Those who were there with me may know that I argued on and off with my husband via text message almost the entire two days. This made me feel vergüenza, because I know what it looks like from the outside looking in. Most people like to keep up the appearance that their marriage is perfect, but sometimes there is no hiding the truth.

I felt lucky that despite my shyness, I bonded so quickly to all of the girls and that I was able to open up to them. Many of them gave me good advice, some simply a listening ear and a knowing smile. Marriage isn’t easy and mine is no exception. In fact, bi-cultural marriages tend to be even more difficult.

In the end, my husband and I came to a major turning point as individuals and as a couple. My husband was forced to realize that his celos is a result of his own insecurity and I was able to fly free long enough to realize that living like a pajarito in a cage of gold, is not how I want to live. Changing won’t be easy, but we had a very difficult heart-to-heart and our marriage has weathered another storm.

Lights go out and I can’t be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
You’ve put me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead, singing…

Confusion never stops,
Closing walls and ticking clocks,
Gonna come back and take you home,
I could not stop, that you now know, singing,
Come out upon my seas,
Curse missed opportunities…

And nothing else compares
Oh no nothing else compares
And nothing else compares

You are, Home, home,
Where I wanted to go…


Disclosure: General Mills paid for my trip to Miami for their Qué Rica Vida media event. I received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, for writing about the event. All opinions expressed are my own.