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Thankful Thanksgiving is no big deal

28 Nov

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Growing up in a traditional Mexican home, we didn’t tune into the whole Thanksgiving tradition until we got into grade school and then realized we were supposed to be having turkey, not tamales.  My dad, being a chef by trade, and having made countless turkey diners with all the trimmings for work made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for us. It looked just like the picture I had seen in school – only our house was very tiny, we didn’t have a dining room and my mom wasn’t wearing a fancy apron or pearls, but we had a turkey!  Reaction? Meh. Let’s just say we didn’t see what the big fuss about, we can go back to our pozole or tamales. So from that point on, only once in while did we do a turkey and even then we didn’t do the cranberries or yams but instead used salsa. Yep, I came to the realization that our Thanksgiving would never be that Norman Rockwell painting, but on the flip side, I didn’t have to worry about learning to cook or buying pearls.

This year, my husband was away from home, working on a project so it was going to be a quiet dinner with my parents, my brother and sister-in-law. Not a big deal. And as I walked over to my parent’s tonight, it hit me: Thanksgiving is NOT a big deal. Not a big deal because my parents live just four houses down, and I don’t have to wait to see them once or twice a year. Not a big deal because my dad always puts 100% into every meal he makes for us, and I don’t have to pretend to try and make something. And we’ll do what we always do when we get together: have a great meal, catch up, watch the news and call it day. And I realize that is it a wonderful blessing not be missing my parents, because they are here for us everyday. Better than any painting or stuffed turkey, I have a lot to be thankful for everyday.

So yeah, today is really not a big deal, and I’m so grateful for that.

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So I’m Bi Now

20 Nov

Bicultural that is, which means of or relating to two distinct cultures in one nation. Growing up, my household was 100% Mexican and everything outside the door was American. I wish I had known there existed this invisible line when I was younger. Someone should have pulled me aside and said “SO YEAH, totally cool you guys have tamales at Christmas and speak Spanish at home, but don’t ask your friends at school to come over and look at where the goat was killed for birria, they won’t understand.”  And that would have helped; understanding that I lived in two worlds, with different customs and rules and that there would be some explaining on both sides.

I remember in Jr. High, some girls arranged a kidnapping. Back in my day, friends would show up at your house, “kidnap” you and you’d go to breakfast in your pajamas and bed hair. Part of the planning was calling up the parents to let them in on the secret, but as my mom was not as comfortable in English back then, she asked me to pick up the other line. So not only was I in on the plan, I had to calm my mom down and explain they are not REALLY kidnapping me. I explained it was just girlfriends picking me up for breakfast and that I was supposed to act surprised at being kidnapped and be in pajamas.  My mom could not understand the idea of being out in public in pajamas; both my parents grew up working their butts off on farms, from early in the morning till dusk – the idea of just lounging in pajamas, let alone going outside in them was crazy. If you’re up, you’re working. Well if I was going to be picked up, you better believe my mother would not allow me out of the house with bed hair and I also had to wear a full-length robe. When my friends showed up to find me practically pose-lounging in pajamas, slippers, a robe and perfectly groomed hair they asked, “Did you know we were coming?” What?? Nooooooo.

On the flip side, my friends could not understand why I was not allowed to go to school dances, have a boyfriend, or go away on camping trips. My parents grew up in very communal towns, if one person had to go somewhere; everyone usually went or knew exactly where you were. Working was the norm, and there were definite rules of conduct that seemed so restrictive compared to my American friends. Our meals, our customs, and vacations were different from what I would hear my friends talk about. Our vacations were always trips to Mexico to visit family and I never shared that my Grandmother would kill a chicken with her bare hands for dinner or that there was really no shower in her house – you would heat up water in a big pot and sit on a stool freezing , as you’d wash your hair and then scoop out water from the pot to rinse. And there was NO DIET COKE! As a teenager, traveling to Mexico sometimes felt like leaving civilization, but to our family in Mexico, we were these odd Americanized kids that did not speak proper Spanish and could not drink milk directly from the cow.

So there I was, two worlds meeting in the middle. Once I got to high school I admit, I sort of hid more of my home life. I was an American teenager and I knew the path that many of my cousins took in Mexico, which was marrying young and starting families, would not be for me. I wanted to go to college and have a career, which was not the plan my dad had for me. It was a struggle. Then on top of wanting a career, I wanted to go into advertising, which I did not even have the vocabulary for in Spanish – how DO you say Art Director? It sounded like I wanted to direct a painting if I translated it. But I persisted, and rebelled against this image of what I was supposed to be as a Mexican girl. There I was, spiked hair, spider webs painted on my face, 13 ear piercings, but I still lived at home, went to church on Sundays, (my parents would sit on the OTHER side of the church) and worked a job in college while keeping a 3.8 GPA. As much as thought I was bucking the trend, certain things were already ingrained in me.

It all seemed perfectly normal to me; I had a benefit of taking from each culture what fit me and creating my own sense of self but I think some things still puzzled my parents.  My mom told me that someone asked her what I did, and she replied that I designed things like boxes, and her friend commented that I must be really busy at Christmas time. They could not understand why I wanted to live on my own if I wasn’t married – it was not safe for a single woman! In fact, I waited until they were traveling in Mexico to move out – they came home and I explained that it was time I move out, and that I sort of already had. I got married at the age of 32, pretty much a spinster in Mexico, and my mom confessed she had been burning candles to the Virgin Mary praying that I would find a man.

My wedding was definitely a combo deal.  I explained to my friends why I was going to have a rope draped across our shoulders and that the majority of the mass would be in Spanish, and to my parents I had to explain why I was not allowing children and why I was not serving goat. Good thing about getting married “so late in life” I never had to have the conversation about not having kids. My guess is that my parents probably knew a while back, but having that conversation in Mexico with my husband’s family…well, let’s just say my husband put it on himself and it convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt I married the right guy. My husband ran into a family friend that asked if we had kids yet and when he said no, she insinuated that one of her daughters could give him a  baby –  and that was on THIS side of the border!

So there I am – two cultures, two sets of norms and expectations to navigate and be judged by,  but I have done what works for me and I am secure in who that is.  I am just as comfortable in an office meeting as I am building an altar for Day of the Dead.  You can call it bi-cultural but I call it just being myself.

No thanks Cosmo!

5 Nov

As someone who works my company’s social media and PR, I sign up for a few alerts on press inquiries to see if there is a good fit between the work we do and a story coming up. Today on one of my lists I got this:

49) Summary: Latina women who have sugar daddies
Name: Cosmopolitan
Category: Lifestyle and Fitness
Email: query-3h91@helpareporter.net
Deadline: 7:00 PM EST – 8 November
Query: I am looking for women who have sugar daddies who would be open to talking to Cosmo (anonymously or not). This is a hot trend the readers would love to hear about.

As a Latina, this offended me to the core.  Here is my community of women working hard to overcome workplace barriers, balancing work and family, and even having to deal with our own cultural expectations of what we are supposed to be and I read how this publication wants to hear from Latinas that decided their way to success is just getting a sugar daddy as this is a HOT TREND.

I realize I am not the Cosmo demographic. Looking at a recent issue online the “buzzing story” is “Kanye West Wants Miley Cyrus to Twerk More”.  I see a link to Cosmo for Latinas and “Hot Right Now”: “14 Things You Should Never Say to a Latina” (oh let me add a few more) and  “Mexican Strippers in Sugar Skull Makeup Take Revenge On Abusive Clients.”

So I get it. I am not interested in your content, and you are not interested in reaching Latina readers over 40 who are more concerned with real life matters. There was one article that caught me eye: “5 Career Skills Every Woman Needs to Succeed” which was FLUFF! So not only are you going to put time and effort to write a piece on sugar daddies, the content for those that have a professional career is just fluff; I guess this is not a HOT TREND. It is too bad that sometimes the influence of our growing community is just to push worse images/perceptions of us or to just slap “Latina” on something to get more sales. I hope if anyone writes, it is to tell this reporter that this is NOT OK, how we have created our own success through hard work and education; so much so, that we are too smart for your publication.

Update Got this reply from the reporter when I sent an email saying this was offensive: Sugar babies are a trend regardless of whether you would like to acknowledge it or not. Seeing as this is about Latinas for a Latina magazine with Latina editors, if it bothers you by all means don’t read it.

SOOOOO I wrote back:  Well you never said sugar babies! Obviously I am dealing with a high-caliber publication that knows Latinas better than myself. But thanks for getting back to me. Being that I am a Latina, with many Latina friends I updated the inquiry in case any of my Latina friends have a sugar baby I did not know about.

Day of the Dead, the altar is made!

2 Nov

I had been wanting to this for my father-in-law and this year I was determined to make it happen. Certain things would be a given; photos, a bottle of MGD, coffee and my husband said there should be tacos. I went out and got my flowers, and started the altar on Halloween. Of course, being me, I had an idea of what I thought I wanted, but then ended up changing things around once I finally had all my elements together. I did not have time to buy papel picado, so I made my own, which on a side note, I probably shouldn’t have. For certain, I should not have Googled it to see all the intricate, beautiful designs, and then thought I could do this myself with a dull xacto knife and pair of scissors. By the time I was done hacking up paper, I could have easily gone to Olvera Street and bought it!

Last night, I picked up  “pan de los muertos” (bread of the dead), which was being offered free with a coupon –what a deal- and got some regular sweet bread, donuts and tacos. I admit, I did eat one of the doughnuts, but I know Ray’s dad would always share and I only ate it because it got a bit smashed, and just didn’t look right. I finally got my basic elements in place and got into filling it in. This was quite therapeutic for me, looking at the photos of this wonderful man, remembering all the trips, laughs and just him. I decided to add a fresh cup of coffee as he always said I made a great cup of coffee (probably because this is ALL I could make). When he would visit us, he was always up early, and I would find him sitting quietly on the couch. I’d make us coffee and we’d just sit and talk until my husband got up. As I made that cup for the altar, it struck me how long it had been since I had made a cup of coffee for him, and that’s when the tears started. As sad as that moment was, it was also great to feel connected to him again. I poured his cup and one for me too, and I just sat across the altar and thought of him. I can finally really appreciate what this day is, beyond just the beautiful images and I am so glad I did his alter and I hope he finds his way here.

My starting point:

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My version of papel picado!

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Pan de los muertos  and regular sweet bread minus the one doughnut I ate. You can’t see it too well, but I have my water here, and also have the salt.

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Candles, tacos, his MGD! He loved music so that is the little guitar, and I put coffee grounds in the box.

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And my finished alter!

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The most wonderful time of the year – Day of the Dead, Part 1

24 Oct

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Day of the Dead is almost here! And while it sounds a bit morbid, it’s actually the opposite – it is a Mexican holiday where we remember and honor our deceased loved ones (many Latin American countries celebrate it too). November 1st is the Day of the Angels (for children) and the 2nd is the Day of the Dead and on that day, our loved ones come back to visit us–isn’t that awesome?  I have always loved this holiday, it’s so colorful and festive; the beautiful sugar skulls, papel picado (decoratively cut paper),  flowers and alters adorning the cemeteries. The closest I got was to go to Olvera Street to see the alters and buy a sugar skull.

Last year, I traveled with my parents to my dad’s home town in Mexico and we were going to be there during Day of the Dead-HAPPY DANCE! The cemetery in my dad’s town is OLD – some of the headstones are not even legible from being worn down by the elements. There is no clear path, headstones are all over the place, and I was probably walking over a grave as there is no map or record of who is here–it’s perfect!  We got there as mass was being held, and the place was wall to wall (or should I say tomb to tomb?) with people, decorating or visiting with their deceased as the priest called out the names of the those passed. We went to my grandparent’s crypt, added flowers, cleaned it up a bit, and prayed.  No one had built an alter for them, but as we sat having dinner we had the mariachi play my grandmother’s favorite song, and I had tequila as she loved that. Later that night, we went to the fair and there were alters, sugar skulls, bread of the dead and performances – my kind of vacation!

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This year I decided to learn more about the creating an alter and make one for my father-in-law. It takes certain items to make it a true alter as it is meant to guide our loved one back: water (for them to drink), earth (in the form of bread), wind (papel picado) and fire (candles).  You also need to add a picture of your loved one, things they liked such as their favorite beverage, mementos, saints, and use incense and flowers (marigolds), as the fragrances help guide them back. This website has a great outline if anyone wants to do one on their own. http://www.celebrate-day-of-the-dead.com/day-of-the-dead-altars.html

Will post the results!