Decolonize Your Diet: Latin American Superfoods

Raw Organic Quinoa Seeds

Raw Organic Quinoa Seeds

In recent years there has been a movement towards healthy living, which includes eating a healthier diet. As more and more Latinos face health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and different forms of cancer, it is extremely important to take care of our bodies. The easiest way to accomplish this is by changing our diet. Food blog Decolonize Your Diet teaches people the importance of eating natural food: “it is time to reclaim our cultural inheritance and wean our bodies from sugary drinks, fast food, and donuts. Cooking a pot of beans from scratch is a micro-revolutionary act that honors our ancestors and the generations to come.” So maybe we ought to think twice before we pass on the beans.

Here are 10 foods you can introduce to your diet that are not only super healthy, but can help you connect back to your ancestral roots:

Quinoa:
Quinoa has been all the craze lately, this grain is a popular substitute for rice. It is rich in nutrients and acts as a complete source of protein (something that can’t be said about other grains). Quinoa is rooted in Andes region of South America. It was one of the two significant sources of food for the Incas, the other being maiz.

Bell Peppers:
Bell peppers are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, which provides potential anti-cancer benefits. Bell peppers have also been found to provide 7 percent of total vitamin C intake. Bell peppers have been cultivated for over 9000 years in South and Central America. It was first “discovered” by European colonizers in the 1500-1600’s.

Chia Seeds:
Chia seeds used to be available in certain health stores, the superfood seeds have become so popular that they are now common place in restaurant menus, and grocery store isles. There are about 140 calories per two tablespoons along with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein. These seeds are popular as additives in fruit smoothies and shakes since they contain all nine essential amino acids, which are essential for muscle-building. Other popular ways to eat them include sprinkling into yogurt, oatmeal, or in a salad.

Chayote:
The chayote, native to Mexico, is a member of the squash family. In fact the word chayote derives from the Nahuatl word chayotli. Chayote comes in two forms, prickly and smooth. It can be eaten raw in salads or stuffed and baked. Other preparations include mashing, pickling, frying, or boiling. The chayote contains fiber and is high on potassium and low on sodium which makes it good for supporting healthy blood pressure.

Sweet Potatoes:
Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and have been consumed since prehistoric times. Sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants and minerals, such as manganese, iron, and vitamins C,E, and D. Their high potassium content is great for lowering blood pressure because it removes excess sodium and regulates fluid balance in the body. They also help in reducing stress since they can help relax muscles and steady nerves. Sweet potatoes should be steamed or boiled when cooked to get the most nutritional benefit.

Sunflower Seeds:
Sunflower seeds make a great go-to snack and are readily available almost everywhere. These seeds are the actual seeds of the sunflower plant and have been eaten by Native Americans for over 5,000 years. They not only help get you through until your next meal but they contain high amounts vitamin E, magnesium, and  selenium which helps in preventing cardiovascular disease, maintaining healthy bone production and reducing cholesterol.

Papaya:
It is no small secret that papayas are native to Latin America. This delicious fruit was once called the “fruit of the angels” by Christopher columbus. It contains high levels of vitamin E as well as the digestive enzyme, papain, which  has been shown to help with inflammation and to improve healing from burns.

Blueberries:
Blueberries are often included in health lists for their high antioxidant values and associated health value. However, what many don’t know is that this superberry is native to North America and Native Americans used different parts of the plant for medicinal purposes.

Peanuts:
Peanuts are not actually nuts, they’re legumes (similar to peas, lentils, and other beans) and are believed to have originated in South America.  Peanuts grew as far north as Mexico when the Spanish began their exploration of the “New World.” Peanuts are rich in fat, the kind of fat you want in your body. The monounsaturated fats in peanuts are important for a healthy heart. In fact they have higher levels of antioxidants than apples or carrots, which helps reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Cashews:
The cashew nuts, as you know them, are actually the seeds stuck at the bottom of the cashew apple. They belong to the same family as the mango and pistachio and are native to Brazil.The fruit is actually considered a delicacy in Brazil, and the juice of the cashew apple is considered a popular beverage. The nut itself contains many of the same benefits as peanuts, and it contains essential unsaturated fatty acids as well as monounsaturated fats that are good for your heart.

Police Brutality and Coverage in the Latin@ Community

On February 15, 2016 Antonio Zambrano-Montes was shot in Pasco, Washington. Zambrano-Montes was shot and killed by three Pasco Police Officers. Some might recall the video of Zambrano-Montes’s encounter with the police circulating through the media, which followed the height of the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by the death of another individual shot by the police, Michael Brown.

The Black Lives Matter movement made significant strides to garner attention towards the injustice committed. But, for the Latino community, how does police brutality affect us?  While the shooting in Pasco is not an isolated incident for the Latino community, the impact of this incident shares similarities with the systemic racism and racial tensions of Ferguson. Ferguson is sixty-seven percent black but its police force and government officials majority white, similarly Pasco is fifty-six percent Latino yet the majority of government and law enforcement officials are white. Even though both communities differ, the racial tension for both is worth considering. Including the reaction from both communities after each event. When Brown was shot and killed at the hands of police officers, many citizens from all over the country took to the streets in protest. Soon the hashtags #ferguson #blm and #justiceformikebrown were trending globally. The reaction to the Pasco shooting wasn’t nearly as significant to the one in Ferguson, but, for some, the lack of coverage and significant protests against police brutality in the Latino community poses an issue.

“Is it that we didn’t hear about it or that Latinos didn’t care about it?” added Georgina Perez.

“Why can’t we get the same type of coverage or help?” Kris Ramirez said, echoing the same sentiments when her brother was shot by LAPD in 2014.

A study from Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, showed that Latinos comprise less than one percent of total news media coverage, the small coverage that feature Latinos are often portrayed as criminals.

“Violence or discrimination against Latinos does not tend to resonate among most Americans because Latinos are generally not perceived as Americans but recent immigrants or foreigners with no deep roots and histories in the U.S.,” Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the center’s director, said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

The lack of coverage of Latinos shot and killed by police is not an indicator that this isn’t happening. Statistics on the killings committed by police officers are not only hard to find but are also inconsistent. Even so people have crowdsourced information to keep some form of record of police killings. According to research done by Al Dia news, at least 714 people were killed by law enforcement in 2015. 105 of those killed were identified as Latino. 16 of those Latinos were unarmed while 19 showed signs of mental illness.  In fact, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Latinos are 30 percent more likely to be killed by police than average (right after Native Americans and African Americans).

The reason behind so much coverage of any shooting or incident with the police lies in the hands of the people. People’s involvement can become so significant the the general news media cannot ignore their voices. The issues we face today can receive more coverage if we use social media to voice our concerns of crimes against our own community. But, we shouldn’t just be outspoken of the crimes against us. Sharing positive news of our own community, of working alongside others, also helps empower our narrative as Latin@s.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens-1As of January 2016, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the fourth highest-grossing film at the worldwide box office; raking in $1.54 billion and is projected to overtake “Avatar” at $2.89 billion, “Titanic” at $2.19 billion and “Jurassic World” at $1.67 billion. The big-screen often lacks diversity and representation of women, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens enhances both the strength of women and representation of minorities.

Guatemalan-American actor Oscar Isaac and British-Nigerian actor John Boyega as Finn have received wide acclaim for their roles in the film. Isaac received recognition for his role in the 2013 black comedy-drama Inside Llewyn Davis.  Isaac is often noted as part of the next generation of great actors, garnering comparisons to Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Jon Voight. Isaac’s rise to fame and increasing importance in Hollywood is a step towards equal representation of people of color in film, since he subverserses Hollywood’s expectations for Latino actors by avoiding being typecast.

“The people that cast films and TV shows, hopefully they will able to see past their limited ideas of what ethnicity is,” Isaac said in a backstage interview after his Golden Globe win. “There’s not a lot of us and it’s difficult for people that look not like the status quo in this country to get great roles, and it’s happening a little bit more and I feel humbled and honored and blessed to have the opportunity to do that.”

Although not a Latina, actress Daisy Ridley deserves recognition for her role as Rey. Ridley provides much needed female recognition in big budget blockbuster action films. Unlike other females in actions films, Rey is not meant to be a supporting character to a male lead, but rather she is her own character: steadfast, strong, resilient, self-sufficient, and smart. While her character could use further development, it is important to note that this is only the beginning of Rey’s journey, the audience expects to see her character grow and mature as the trilogy goes on.

Nonetheless, it is Nigerian-Mexican Lupita Nyong’o who also deserves recognition in her role of Maz Kanata. Nyong’o lends her voice to the thousand-year-old sage pirate that has a mysterious connection with the force and helps our heroine, Rey, through her journey.

Nyong’o was born in Mexico City to Nigerian parents. Although raised in Kenya, Nyong’o spent time living in Guerrero and studied at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico at the Learning Center for Foreigners. Nyong’o lays claim to her Latinidad through her Mexican nationality and brings much needed recognition to the 1.38 million Afro-Mexicans who were just officially recognized by the Mexican government this past December.

Nyong’o’s breakthrough performance was in 2013 in the critically acclaimed historical drama Twelve Years a Slave. Her role as Patsey earned her an academy award for best supporting actress; she is the first Kenyan and the first Mexican actress to receive an academy award.

“I’ve seen the quarrels over my nationality, but I’m Kenyan and Mexican at the same time,” Nyong’o said in an interview with El Mañana. Furthermore, Nyong’o talks about the difficulty and racism she faced while living in Mexico. People are quick to disregard Nyong’o’s Latinidad by claiming that just because she was born in Mexico City that does not mean she can be considered Latina. It is time for Nyong’o’s complex and hybrid Latina identity to be embraced by Latinos just as Latinos should embrace the large community of Afro-Latinos who have been subjugated, underrepresented, and oppressed for too long.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Wars fan or not, seeing strong female characters (who can forget Leia) and the inclusion of minorities in the big-screen is noteworthy.

DIY Lip Balm

Keeping track of little tubes of lip balm can prove to be difficult for many during these cold and dry winter months — in reality, keeping a lip balm for a year can be a challenge. If you’re tired of buying a new lip balm every so often, or even want to try something new, you can make your own. Making a batch of this easy-to-make lip balm can save money and can be a fun way to spend an afternoon or make cute personal gifts for your friends.

Ingredients and Materials:

  • 4 tbs coconut oil (this can be purchased at any grocery store)
  • 3 tbs shae butter, or petroleum jelly (available at craft stores or health food stores)
  • 1 tbs shaved beeswax (available at craft stores)
  • Microwave safe bowl and stirring utensil
  • Container to hold lip balm (bottle caps, old containers, or even the travel size small container from your local store)

Instructions:
1. Mix these ingredients in a microwave safe bowl

2. Microwave mixture in 30 second intervals until completely melted. This will give you the base for your lip balm.

After this you can basically play and experiment with different ingredients depending on what kind of lip balm you want. You can add a drop of peppermint extract if you want a minty lip balm (or any kind of extract oil), or some powdered make-up for color (kool-aid will sometimes work).

Once you are done mixing in any additional ingredients in your lip balm mixture, pour the mixture into a small container (or several if you are gifting it). Once the mixture is in a small container, place it in the fridge for a couple of hours until it hardens.

Rosca de Reyes

Photo Credit: http://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/2011/01/rosca-de-reyesthree-kings-bread-recipe.html

Photo Credit: http://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/2011/01/rosca-de-reyesthree-kings-bread-recipe.html

On January 6, families and friends gathered around the continent to take part of a 300 year-old tradition.

Día de los Reyes is traditionally celebrated twelve days after Christmas. Similar to Christmas, children expect to receive presents from los Reyes Magos (the three wise men) who brought the presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to newborn Jesus. In preparation for los Reyes Magos, children leave their shoes outside filled with hay and water for the animals that los Reyes ride on.

La Rosca de Reyes (king’s bread/cake) is usually served for merienda along with chocolate caliente or atole. The round shape of the bread evokes the crowns worn by los Reyes Magos while the colorful dried fruit signifies the crown jewels. Others extend the metaphor of the circular shape to the symbolism of the eternal love for God, which has no beginning nor end.

Arguably the most significant part of la rosca is the appearance of a plastic infant Jesus. If the plastic doll appears when cutting a slice from the bread, then the person who found the plastic doll must host a feast on February 2, otherwise known as Candlemas Day. On February 2, the people who were sharing the rosca rejoin again to eat tamales and drink atole. Sometimes there will be more than one plastic figurine hidden in la rosca, which helps reduce the cost and work of the festivities on February 2nd.

While some families prefer to avoid getting the plastic doll, it is actually considered good luck to find the baby Jesus — it is believed that finding the plastic doll is a sign of prosperity.

Other traditions include hiding a ring and a thimble. It is said that the person who finds the ring will be the next to get married, and the person who finds the thimble will spend the rest of the year single.