What it Means to be a Latina

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Written By Jasmin Flores

An American Latina is defined as a woman who grew up with American advantages and identifies with her Hispanic roots. However, this is not the only case. With the changing of times come the altering of “labels” and terms. A Latina can be anyone or anything nowadays. Fifty-years ago when my grandmothers were youths, a Latina’s dreams were expected to be to get married and have children. That’s it. Not of getting a college education or traveling and experiencing different things. This mindset didn’t end fifty-years ago, and this continued on and on until my generation came along and people realized that this design was flawed.

Many Latinas are now realizing that there is more to life than being homemakers and mothers. Sociologists attribute this newfound interest to schools pushing kids that belong to minority groups to go to college. However, I disagree. I think the words of our grandmothers and mothers are what push us to realize our potential. Learning from their hardships, heartache, and life lessons, we become aware that we carry the weight of their dreams on our shoulders. Therefore, we must do what we can to make them proud of us.

We are at the fork in the road that these women were once not given the opportunity to face. They were scuttled along the path of homemaker and mother. Now, we have choices. Do we want the take the road paved with the bricks of education, of success, of a future? Or do we want to take the dusty old road that many women were forced to travel?

Because of women like Dolores Huerta and Sonia Sotomayor, that golden brick road has become easy and accessible for the younger generations to travel on. We embrace “white America,” in a way that was not seen before. In fact, many and most Latinas, including myself, identify with white America more than our Hispanic roots. For example, I do not speak Spanish. I never learned how to speak it fluently. I can understand when my grandma yells at me “cierra la puerta” or “dame la bolsa,” because I’ve lived with her the majority of my life and I know her quirks. However, when I am with my mom or anyone else for that matter, we only speak English. There is a barrier between me and my Hispanic roots.

There are so many misconceptions people have of Mexican and Hispanic culture. Just like the changing of fads, people and ethnic groups change as well. We don’t ride stage coaches anymore, we drive cars. We don’t speak Spanish, but we’re still Mexican. One of my favorite quotes that describes what it’s like to be a modern Latina comes from the movie Selena:“You have to be more Mexican that the Mexicans and you have to be more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It’s exhausting!” I don’t think you can get more accurate than that.

We are in a purgatory stage where we don’t belong on one side more than the other. We are directly in the middle. I’ve been too white-washed to be a Mexican and I am too dark to be an American. I like Starbucks but I also like watching 12 Corazones. We tread a fine line, and, if we lean too far to one side, the other will call us a traitor. It really is hard to be a Latina, but it is unlike anything else in the world.

We as women are naturally strong, but to be a Latina woman is to be as strong as Atlas. We are lovers, we love our family, we love the people we meet, and we love ourselves. We are givers, we give our compassion, we give advice, and we give ourselves. We are role models, we inspire the younger generations, we inspire our peers, and we inspire ourselves. We are Latinas, we are Hispanic, we are American, we are women. I’d like to conclude with a mini poem that I wrote.

 

I am a puzzle 

Hecho en Mexico

I am a riddle

Made in America

Loving Your Body

561541_167302600081618_1634527473_nWatch out thin and slender body types, the curvy look is in this year. The popular hits from Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ and Meghan Trainor’s ‘All About the Bass’ have made it known that having a big booty is beautiful and that curves are to be celebrated. The media has joined the cause with its input with whose body is rocking’ and what workouts these women do to keep their figure. But, why does it matter? A woman’s body has become a public forum for opinion. Their shape and size have become an important factor in determining their beauty in society’s standards. Such views can be seen in the new popular dance fad – twerking.

This dance focuses on the sensual booty shaking (the bigger the better) and has been prevalent in many performers’ dance routines. In the 2014 VMAS, Chelsea Handler came onto the stage to present and made a joke about being surrounded by all these shapely women and being thankful that her entrance followed a Taylor Swift performance. “They asked me if I wanted to perform at the VMAs and I said there are going to be a lot of big fat [butts] at that awards show,” Chelsea said. “So I will present, but you have to put me up after someone who’s white. So thank you, Taylor Swift, for being so white!” Taylor Swift has also received media attention for her body – rather unfavorable attention because of her lanky stature. With memes popping up all over the Internet, mocking her for her minimal curves, it has become clear that this mindset has seeped into those watching at home.

17-year-old high school senior, Vanessa Andrada, says she notices the female-physique emphasis in the media and feels it is worrisome for her generation that consumes it. “I think the media focus primarily on how skinny a girl is or even now how curvy a girl is. Even curvy girls must have a ‘coca-cola’ type body to look attractive,” she says. “They focus on this way too much and it makes girls seem as if they have to live up to this standard to be considered beautiful.”

This body-centered attention, unfortunately, is fairly prevalent in Latina celebrities. A study shows that Latina actresses are unrepresented on screen, but are most likely to be sexualized in their roles, according to a TIME article. Out of all women on screen, 37.5% of Hispanic actresses were most likely to be partially or fully naked on screen in 2013. The curvaceous bodies of Eva Mendes, Sofía Vergara, Penelope Cruz, and Jennifer Lopez have all been the main attraction to their media coverage.

The hype of the “curvy Latina” is accentuated and preserves a stereotype that isn’t really apparent in most Spanish women. “Not all Latinas are curvy and it makes the less curvy women feel like they are not as beautiful as a curvy Latina,” Andrada says. “In some sense, if you don’t have the ‘curviness’ of a Latina you may consider yourself less beautiful than what you really are.”

Although statistics of eating disorders in minority women are unavailable – because of a historical bias that they only affect white women – one study found that of the leanest 25% of 6th and 7th grade girls, the Hispanic and Asian girls found the most dissatisfaction with their bodies, according to the National Eating Disorder Association.

“These factors do really impact the way girls see themselves! They hold themselves to what the media or even stereotypes consider as beautiful,” Andrada says.”That’s why many girls have low self-esteem now-a-days because we focus on trying to be the girl with flawless skin, a coca-cola body type, with no stretch marks and have no extra body fat.”

15-year-old Hannah Leija agrees that women shouldn’t have to face criticism for their body image. She shares that it is unfair that they are held to certain standards in the media and that it affects her peers. However, she refuses to succumb to these pressures with a positive outlook and confidence. “The way I see myself is good,” she says. “I don’t care what the media has to say or what people think. I’m happy with the way I am.”

Women. Ladies. Girls. Latinas. Or non-Latinas. They all come in different shapes or sizes. Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor are right. You should celebrate your curves, but you should, also, celebrate whatever body type you may be. So if you are a curvy Latina or a slender one, it doesn’t matter. Beauty is found with actions and not appearance.

Choosing the Right College

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College Chica 2013

With so many different colleges out there to choose from, it can be a big task trying to determine which one is the best pick. Many times,the  popularity of a college or its placement on the annual U.S. News & Ranking can make a college seem like a great choice, but there are a lot of different factors about a college that, based on your own interests and personal preferences, can make it a great or bad choice for you. Finding out what you want in a college can help you decide on one that best suits YOU!

Academic Programs that Spark Your Interest

Taking time to think about what you want to study can help guide you in the college selection process.  Gladys, 16, shared that “the one important thing for me is that they have my major, that’s the deal breaker,” and is looking specifically for programs in political communications or broadcast journalism.  Cristina, 16, says she looks for “Programs with something having to do with medicine, because there are a lot of colleges that don’t have that.” Finding a college that has programs for what interests you is a great way to start finding stand-out colleges to apply to. It is normal to change majors or interests during college, too, so looking for colleges that fit a range of your interests is also a smart move.

 

Affordability

We hear so many stories about how expensive college is, but this doesn’t have to discourage you. When looking at cost, Joella, 14, says she looks at “price, and if I can get scholarships there.” Many times, colleges themselves have a wide range of scholarships to offer their students. Financial aid from the school themselves, in addition to aid given by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), can also make a college more affordable. Looking into the specific financial aid programs at each school can be helpful, since some colleges even have no-loan policies in their financial aid and offer work-study and grants to cover the cost of attending.

 

Location and Setting

Looking at the environment of the college is important; this is the place you will be spending 4+ years of your time, so finding an environment that suits you will make being there a happier experience.  This can include location, like what part of the country it is in, and setting, like urban, rural or suburban areas. Cristina, 16, says she “would like the college to be in a small area,” and is currently looking at a school in Colorado, while Justine, 15, has her eye on a more urban setting of California for the Fashion Institute of Design & Marketing. Based on personal preference, you might find yourself comfortable at a school in a quiet or small area, or might be more attracted to one in a busier, city setting.

School Size and Student Population

Schools can range from having a few thousand to tens of thousands of students, depending on the school’s size. The size of the school can affect things like student diversity and student-teacher ratio. Cristina,16, says she “would like a big one, because usually when at a big one there’s a lot more things offered to you,” saying she is interested in the wider range of people and clubs she will find at a big school. On the other hand, a smaller school can offer smaller class sizes, more personalized professor attention, and a more inclusive campus setting.

 

Preparation for the Future

Many colleges offer help to get you started on your career or find a job after you graduate. Justine, 15, is interested in studying fashion design, and says the most important thing she looks for in a college is “how it will help you in the future, after you graduate”. If this is something you look for, finding colleges with strong career service programs may be something to look into. Some colleges even offer special Co-op or internship opportunities available to students with different companies or alumni.

According to the Questbridge program’s website, other things to consider when choosing a college are, “your learning style, non-academic opportunities, social life considerations, distance from home, and opportunities to engage in things you personally enjoy,” and note that beyond just academics, “there are also considerations of personality and lifestyle.” Doing your research and outlining the things you are looking for in a college will help you to decide on a good fit for you. Finding a place that will help you achieve your academic and career goals, while also providing a happy and healthy environment for you can make your college experience much more enjoyable, and help you achieve the success you’re aiming for!

Breaking the Mold

Written by Stephanie Hernandez

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Latinos grow up with all sorts of beautiful traditions. From the dancing, to the food, to Piñatas, these cultural traditions are known to be lively and unique. However, there are two sides to traditions. Cultures can define the character of an individual, they bring out the history of the people, they unite people, but they can also limit people. When do traditions become more than just displays of cultural pride, and instead become restrictions in the Mexican-American culture? Latinitas sat down with several young Latinas and asked what they thought about their culture. Here is what they had to share:

Daisy Hernandez, 13, says she loves being a Latina because she has the best food and parties. “My favorite moments are always with my family, and my mom makes the best menudo,” says Daisy.  Even though she loves her culture, she also shares how her culture has influenced her to act a certain way. “I always have to be nice when I talk, I can’t say bad words, but my little brothers say it all the time.” She also states that as a Latina you have to be nice to boys and cook and clean, or else you won’t get married,” she says.

Mia Goodman, 11,  shares her favorite traditions in being a Mexican-American. “I love Chile, Mexican colors and parties,” she says. One tradition that she is looking forward to the most is her Quinceañera, and cannot wait to buy her dress. The Quinceañera is something most Latinitas look forward to celebrating, but the cultural expectations Mia faces is something all third or second generation Mexican-Americans can also relate to. “People say that if I’m Mexican I need to know Spanish, but I do not know Spanish,” she says. The language barrier has led to feeling left out. “Sometimes they sing Spanish songs and tell me too put my headphones on, since I don’t know them,” she says.

Mara Rivas, 24, enjoys the restrictions provided by her Mexican culture. “I like having limitations, I think it’s important for a human being to have them; if not you just go around doing whatever you want and that’s never good,” she says. When asked if she was expected to act and be a certain way as a Mexican woman she didn’t hesitate to respond with a resounding yes. “I’m supposed to be classy, polite and respectable because that’s the way my mom raised me to be,” she says. Mara says that, unlike the Mexican culture, American culture does not put their family first.  “Tú no eyes tu, tú eyes la esposa o la hija de alguien,” she says. As a Latina there is no such thing as in betweenness, meaning women go from a Man’s daughter to a Man’s wife and there in no in between. According to Mara, ” everyone knows everyone, so everybody is like gossiping, oh look that’s the girl, don’t hang out with her she’s [not a good influence].  

Marilyn Medina, 22, says she is proud of her culture but she also dismisses certain expectations, such as marriage and religion. She says that in family parties, her aunts and cousins never ask about her educational progress but instead ask the inevitable, “¿Y el Novio?” 

 

Life of a Teen Model

10003311_828865390463183_752459193_n (5)Currently in her senior year of high school, Kiersten Anderson shares a passion for life, family, and friends. Originally from New York, Kiersten currently resides in Miami where she is pursing her dream of being a teen model.

Who is your biggest role model?
My biggest role model is my beautiful mother, who I adore with all my heart.  She is my mother and father, as my parents are divorced and I rarely see my father.

You shared that you had been bullied in the past, can you tell us more about the experience?
I consider myself pretty popular in school and have a lot of friends.  When I was around 7 or 8 years old, I wasn’t popular and I can honestly say food was my friend. I enjoyed eating snacks and donuts late at night food, and, due to my night snacks, I was a little on the chunky/chubby side and was picked on by many children in school. Often I would tell my mother that I wasn’t feeling good or that I had a fever just to stay home and not have to deal with the bullying in school.  Kids would not want to eat or sit with me or even want to be my friend.  I was always very quiet and reserved, and was kind of a loner. My best friend was my mother, who, at the time, was a single mom because we had moved from New York to Miami and my father decided not to follow us.  My mother would always reassure me that eventually things would change and that I would make friends.  Things got so bad that my mother had to change my school because the teachers and principal would not do anything about the bullying happening to me in school.

As I started getting older, my mother stopped allowing me to eat the late night snacks and donuts. Her and I started doing lots of activities and she put me in dance class.  All the exercise made me lose a lot of weight, so, when I was like 10 or 11 years old, I saw myself becoming thin and getting tall. I had no problems making friends and the kids weren’t being mean to me anymore.  I have to be honest, when I was being bullied I hated the world and everything in it. But, because of my wonderful mother, I was able to overcome all the bullying and see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Fast-forward to now, I am 5’7, beautiful, tall, model who had overcome a lot of turmoil as a child. I am blessed to have a wonderful family, mother who loved me and taught me that we can overcome any obstacles as long as we don’t give up or give in to the behavior of others.

What advice do you have for those who are being bullied?
The bullies were the ones with the problem, not me.  I believe that by sharing my story I can help a child overcome bullying, because if I can make it, anyone can.  Bullying is a huge problem in this day and age, with a lot of children killing themselves because they feel they don’t have any solution.  Well, my solution is speak to your parents; don’t think you’re alone, seek help, and don’t allow the bully to win the war.

intru (6)What does being a teen Latina model entail?
Being a Latina teen model can be very challenging at times, because racism still exists in the world. Sometimes the casting designers will by pass the Hispanic and Black beautiful models and instead pick the white/faired skin, blue eyes blonde haired girls.  I am very confident, so when I am not picked by a designer I don’t let that bother me. I am friendly with all models, but I do see the favoritism.

How did you begin modeling?
I started modeling at the age of 13 and have modeled ever since.  On the streets people would tell me, “You are so pretty, why don’t you model?” My mom took me to an agency, they took photos, and soon after that I was modeling.

Do you have other interests, what are they?
I love to read books, love to go shopping and love to be in front of the camera. I like to play volleyball and go bike ridding. I also volunteer at the Animal shelter by taking care of animals that people don’t want.  We help find loving homes for those pets in need.

How are girls following you?
I have a following of young girls and teens through social media.  Also, I work as a volunteer in the Children’s cancer ward and every time I have a fashion event or show they always want to see my photos or videos, so the nurses will put on my videos for them to watch.

What advice do you have for young Latinas pursuing their dreams?
My advice to young Latina’s trying to pursue their dreams is shoot for the stars and to not believe anyone that says you can’t do it.  You can do anything you put your mind and heart to do.  With hard work eventually come rewards.  LATINAS, let’s stand up and be heard!  As we do have a powerful voice!

Spotlight: Pamela Silva Conde

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From former Miami Dolphin’s cheerleader to full-time anchor on Univision’s Primer Impacto, Pamela Silva Conde is a woman of ambition and determination.

This Peru native has worked her way up the media ladder and has covered national and international news, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Boston marathon bombings. Her TV presence and journalistic work has made her a six-time Emmy award-winning journalist, one of PEOPLE’s 50 most beautiful, and one of the 25 most powerful Hispanic women in the world.

Pamela’s fame, however, has not swayed her from her humble roots. She’s a passionate philanthropist, who has devoted her time to numerous organizations and charities, as well as creating a scholarship for 1st generation college students.  Her upbringing has played a major role in all her achievements.

How was your home-life? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Peru – Lima, Peru – and I migrated to the United States when I was about 10 years old. My mother came first and we were apart for about three years before I finally moved to the States. I was brought up in Miami, so Florida has been my home ever since. I went to undergrad here, I went to grad school here, so I’ve been in Florida for the rest of my adult life.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a journalist? How did you get into the field?

I always knew that I wanted to. As soon as I got to college, I always wanted to do journalism. But I think when I was very very young, when I came to the States, I had a chance to do some TV work and that’s when I realized how powerful and universal media was. So from a very young age, I always new that I wanted to do something with media and influence people and just motivate people. Especially when you come from a humble background – and a Hispanic home – you want to be something that makes your community very proud. So growing up in the States, I knew that I wanted to do something with Hispanic media – that’s why Univision was my dream job. As soon as I started college, I got an internship and decided to come back to Miami to finish college there because Univision was the main Spanish network based out of Miami. I, also, grew up watching Univision and it all just came full circle when I finally got a chance to get a job there. I’ve been with them for almost eleven years. It really has been a win-win situation because it’s more than just a job for me. It is very personal for me to be able to do something with my Hispanic community.

From cheerleading to being a weather girl to an anchor, were there any obstacles you faced while working your way up?

There are always obstacles, especially in this industry because it is so competitive. There will always be obstacles with whatever job you take, but I think I take a lot of pride in whatever job I got or whatever opportunity I got. I know in that moment you feel like, “oh my god, should I be doing this? Do I really want to do news?” But it all comes together, retrospectively. All the dots connect. And I know it may not make sense at that moment, but take it and do it with a lot of pride. Be the best at whatever you may be doing, whether is be a small job – there’s never a job too small – and just give it a 100%. In the end, and once you look back, you realize that all the experience and all the things you ended up doing contributed to what you’re doing currently. But for me, everything that I did from when I was a producer, when I was a reporter, when I did weather, and when I cheered for the Dolphins – everything added and contributed to who I am today. I have been able to do well at work because I have all these skills that I have picked up along the way

What’s your favorite part about your job? What is the hardest?

My favorite part is that every day is different. That’s the most exciting thing about my job. I wake up every morning and obviously with news, you cannot really control it. You never know if it’s going to be a fast day or a slow day. And I think that’s the most amazing part about it. Every day I get to interview someone different or share a story that I’ve never heard about. The unpredictable part of it all is what I enjoy the most.

 The hardest part is, well, the schedule. You have to manage your time and sacrifice a lot of your personal time to do it. But once you’re so passionate about it, you love it so much. It’s hard for me to even pick a hard part because I do enjoy it so much.

You give a lot back to the community, what inspired you to do so and is there a specific cause you are passionate about?

I definitely do think, from a very young age, that I have to thank my mom for instilling that in me, even when we didn’t have a lot. But it’s about doing whatever you can and just giving a little bit back. Since I was very young, I’ve always had that in me. I’ve been very blessed. The more blessings I get, the more I just want to give back and be very involved. I always say it’s not about ‘quantity’ but ‘quality’.  I’m involved with three organizations. I started a scholarship for undergrad students at my alma mater and I’m very involved with that. I’m very active with St. Jude’s Pediatric Hospital, so I’m one of their Hispanic spokesperson. I’ve been very involved and I’ve been to the hospital – I try to go once a year. And there’s another nonprofit, Amigos For Kids, that’s mission is to address and prevent child abuse and neglect. I’m on the board for that organization. I always try to help out other nonprofits that ask for help, but I am definitely more hands on with those three.

Do you have any advice for any aspiring journalists?

Work hard and stay humble. To not give up and stay focused. It is a very competitive world and it is a constantly changing industry, also, with media and technology constantly changing. But I think it is definitely worth the sacrifice, if you stay focused and find the right mentor that can really help you get where you want to be. Once you get there, it is such a fun ride. It’s all worth it.

Do you have any advice for young Latinas?

For young Latinas, I feel the most important advice is not to forget your heritage. I think instead of thinking ‘am I Latina’ or ‘am I more Mexican,’ I think it’s best just to take it in as an advantage. I always tell people that I don’t believe – in regards to myself – oh I’m just Latina or anything special. You really are 100% Latina and 100% American and really take that as an advantage as something that is going to compliment you more than anything. Be proud of being Latina.

You can watch Pamela on Univision’s Primer Impacto on weekdays at 5p/4c.

Latina Spotlight: Raquel Reichard

Journalism, like many career fields, are glamorized by the media. If you’re aspiring to live like Carrie Bradshaw, then you’ll be disappointed. It’s a tough, cut throat world in which thick skin is a necessity. With more insight on what it’s like to be a freelance journalist in New York City is Raquel Reichard, who is currently pursing her MA at New York University’s Gallatin School.

Photo Credit: Dcspotlight.com

Photo Credit: Dcspotlight.com

Raquel Reichard’s résumé is nothing short of impressive. Apart from attending the prestigious Gallatin School at NYU, the former Latinitas intern has had her work published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Latina and Elle, just to name a few. She is Puerto Rican and was born in Queens, but grew up in Orlando and is currently living in the Bronx.

LATINITAS: Why did you choose to be a journalist?

RAQUEL: I had no guidance and no idea what I wanted to do in college, but I knew I wanted to go. No one in my family had gone to college before me. I had to choose something and my English teachers always said I was good at writing, so I took Intro to Journalism at St. John’s and fell in love.

LATINITASYour parents must have been proud of you for being the first in the family to attend college, right?

RAQUELMy parents didn’t read newspapers or magazines, so they didn’t have any at home. No one understood too well about this world of going to college and journalism. They were happy (I was going college), but it would have been okay not to go to school because no one else had.

LATINITASThere’s a huge misconception on what it’s actually like to be a journalist in New York City, most people think they’re going to live like Carrie Bradshaw and work for Vogue.

RAQUEL: I’m not Carrie Bradshaw (laughs). I go to graduate school at NYU and do a lot of freelance writing and various jobs to support myself. I rarely see my girlfriends because I have to pay my bills. You’re likely not going to work at a magazine you love right after you graduate, you have to take what you can.

LATINITASNew York is tough, especially when you don’t have help.

RAQUELIt takes a lot of effort living in this city and being alone. I don’t have help from my parents, they both work to support themselves. I don’t have much of a personal life, but if I was living in Orlando I wouldn’t have the same opportunities that I do now that come with being in a big city.

LATINITAS: What keeps you motivated?

RAQUELThis is what I love to do… It’s challenging but I love what I do. Those who do it are passionate about it. If you weren’t, you couldn’t survive in this field because it’s so demanding. Latinas are under represented in this field. I don’t have the same privileges as others do of knowing people and having connections (already established). There’s still racism and sexism in this country and if I want to make it in a renounced publication I have to do twice the work. I have to have more internships than most people. I have to have more editorial assistant jobs on my résumé.

LATINITAS: Speaking of that, how often do you come across racism and sexism?

RAQUELIt’s definitely happened more than once. There are many times where I’ve been the only Latina, and sometimes only woman, in the newsroom discussing Latina related subjects and I know I’m just there filling a quota. It’s happened in big and small newspapers and magazines. Sometimes people don’t realize what they’re saying is belittling, racist, sexist or classist.

LATINITASWhat is your advice when coming across things like that?

RAQUELMy advice would be to learn how to hold your ground, but to remain professional. Be respectful, but let them know that you won’t tolerate it.

LATINITASWhat is your advice for Latinas who want to pursue this career field?

RR: It can be discouraging for many and it’s a hard time for all journalists right now, but as a woman of color you feel it more, especially if you don’t have the class privilege like others who have a lot of connections and climb up the latter easier because they know someone. My advice would be to make connections with people you admire. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to reach out and message a writer or editor to tell them you love their work. Even if it’s discouraging, your voice and perspective are needed and Latino communities need to be covered. We need writers, editors and even producers to be a voice for the Latino community. It’s not to say every Latino journalist needs to cover social issues, but the perspective of journalist with a Latino background is necessary. Whether they realize it or not they could be inspiring a future journalist out there. It’s absolutely worth it if it’s something you enjoy.

LATINITASWhat are your short term and long term goals?

RAQUEL: I’m still thinking about this. I’m thinking about pursuing a PhD and expanding my research even further, but it’s expensive and time consuming. I wouldn’t be able to have five different jobs like I do now, I’d need a full-time position and it would be hard to have a full-time position at a magazine or publication while getting a PhD.

LATINITASLastly, how did the Latinitas internship help you?

RAQUEL: Latinitas was great because I got to cover what I wanted, you don’t have that opportunity elsewhere. At Latinitas I was able to get more specific and write about what I wanted to write about and was able to build off of what I wrote there. What they’re doing is so great and I’m so grateful, organizations like Latinitas are needed.

If you’re interested in more about Raquel Reichard and her work you can visit her website at Raquelreichard.com.

Día De los Muertos

groovy-sugar-skulls-1Are you afraid of spirits?

If you are, don’t be! Día De los Muertos proves that one doesn’t have to scared of spirits. It’s a day of joy and love.  Most importantly,it is a holiday for remembering and honoring those who have passed. It is celebrated in Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador and other areas in South and Central America.

Día De los Muertos is also celebrated in areas of the United States (such as California, Texas) and others in which the Mexican/American heritage exists. Many other countries around the world celebrate similar versions of Day of the Dead as well.  In Europe and Asia they celebrate the holiday according to their beliefs.

The celebrations occur between October 31st and November 2nd. It is said that the spirits of children who have died arrive on October 31st at midnight, and spend an entire day with their families. Adults come the following day, November 2nd, which is the official date for Day of the Dead.

Día De los Muertos is usually celebrated in homes and graveyards. In family homes, people prepare an altar (ofrendas) to honor the spirits with special foods and things that the person enjoyed most in life. In cemeteries, people decorate the graves of their loved ones with flowers, food, picture, drinks and candles. Traditionally, people spend the whole night in the cemetery and make a party out of it: they play music, have a picnic, and talk and drink through the night.

In Mexico, Día De los Muertos is considered to be the most important holiday of the year! Celebrations vary from state to state in Mexico, but they mostly consist of all-night parties to honor their dead.

Here are five top destinations in Mexico that are well-known for their Día de los Muertos observances.

1.  Oaxaca

During Day of the Dead, people can visit colorful marketplaces in nearby villages and witness vigils in a variety of cemeteries and take part in night-time carnival-like parades called comparsas. There are also sand-tapestry competitions and Day of the Dead altars set up throughout town

2. Mixquic

 The streets of this rural town are vibrantly decorated for Día De los Muertos for a march through town. In the parade, a cardboard coffin leads the way to the cemetery where a candle-light vigil takes place.  At the cemetery, the men, women, and children sweep and wash the graves, then cover them with petals of the flowers they carry. Then, they light their candles and they pray.  In midst of the silent night, a spiritual link is created between those alive and their loved ones who have passed away.

3. Merida, Yucatan

Here, families gather to prepare a pibipollo—a special chicken tamale wrapped in banana leaves.  This dish is cooked underground in a pit.  A shared belief in Día De los Muertos is that the spirits consume the food’s essence, and whatever the spirits leave, the families get to eat. There are also festivities in the streets and cemeteries, similar to the ones on Mizquic. Another common belief is that during the Day of the Dead festivities, kids   use a red or black ribbon on their wrist in order to stop spirits from taking them.  Pets are also kept inside the house (and sometimes, tied down) since they are most likely to scare the spirits away.

4. Aguascalientes 

This town celebrates Day of the Dead by holding an annual Festival de las Calaveras (Festival of Skulls) from October 28 to November 2. The festival offers exhibitions of handicrafts, concerts, traditional food and various theater productions. The grand parade of Calaveras along Aguascalientes’ Avenida Madero is a highlight of the festival.  Festival de Las Calaveras originated as a way to preserve the traditions of Day of the Dead. Moreover, it is meant to pay tribute to an Aguascalientes native and painter—Jose Guadalupe Posada.

 

 5. Chiapa de Corzo

This quiet colonial town is between Tuxtla Gutiérrez and San Cristóbal de las Casas, is renowned for its Día de los Muertos celebration the cemetery is decorated in a lively manner with colorful ribbons, flowers and candles. There is also live music in the cemetery as families sing to their loved ones.

Although this celebration is associated with the dead, it is not portrayed as a gloomy or fearful time, but rather a period of happiness, full of life and fun. It is portrayed as a time to reflect upon one’s life and the meaning and purpose of human existence.

Con Voz Fuerte: Chicana Lit

Mexican-American literature takes on a different voice than other literary genres. Through the Latina author’s points of view, many readers have developed a different view on revolutionary topics, feminism, and what it means to be a Latina. The following five books were written by Chicana feminists, who paved the way and influence many Latina authors, and are highly recommended to read!

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1. In the Time Of The Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies is based on a true story about the woes the Dominican Republic faced during the time of the unjust rule of dictator Rafael Trujillo (ruled 1930-1938; 1942-1961). It is a work of fiction that captures the story of 4 young sisters and their journey to free the Dominical Republic and spearhead the revolution.   This group of women is willing to put their lives on the line for a better cause. This is a great read that shows what it means to be a Latina feminist and how stand up for a cause despite being a woman; Alvarez explores the idea of what it means to be a martyr.

 

2)   What Night Brings by Carla Trujillo

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What Night Brings tells the story of an 11-year-old girl living with her family in California during the 1960′s, What Night Brings is a book about a young girl and her battle against her family (particularly her father) and her religion as she struggles to find her identity and her own sense of freedom. Told by the protagonist, this novel shows the life of a young Chicana living in a household of domestic abuse and her struggle to find her freedom despite living with an abusive father and a mother who lives for her husband. The content for this book may be mature for younger readers, but

 

3) The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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The House On Mango Street is a narrative of short stories told by tween Esperanza Cordero, a young girl living in the barrio of Chicago. As a shy teen with a love of reading and writing, Esperanza is raised in a traditional, male-dominated society.  Described by many as “a voice for the voiceless,” it teaches its readers about some of the struggles facing Chicanas today (identity, gender roles, sexuality, and physical appearance, to name a few). Through Esperanza’s point of view, the stories focus on Esperanza’s life and the women she meets as she struggles to find a role model.

 

 

770924) Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia

Set in the 1930′s to the 1980′s, Garcia’s Dreaming In Cuban  is the story of three generations of women,Celia (grandmother), Lourdes (daughter) and Pilar (granddaughter). The women communicate telephonically, which is a known talent of women in their family, and share the obstacles they face with one another. Celia lives in Cuba during a tough time, while Pilar, having moved to the U.S. from Cuba at two years old, struggles with her cultural identity due to her Cuban roots and her Americanized lifestyle and interests. This is one of Pilar’s main struggles, as well as her less-than-cordial relationship with her mother. By communicating with Celia, Pilar receives help. Dreaming in Cubcan  is a great novel that shows the identity struggles Cuban-American and Cuban women face everyday, while also telling the tale of a family struggling to communicate and be located in different sides of the globe. A novel that discusses family, identity is surely a must-read.

198905) So Far From God by Ana Castillo

So Far from God is a novel with the perfect balance of comedy and tragedy. Reviewed positively by authors like Sandra Cisneros and Gloria Anzaldua as true to the experience of being Chicana, So Far From God is a humorous tragedy about family, love and hardships a mother faces in light of her husband Domingo’s disappearance in a town that believes in the supernatural. This novel is about Sofi and the struggles she faces.  The book is definitely a page-turner, as it shows the sad but strengthening Chicana experience of one woman and her four daughters.

 

Connecting with Your Culture

With additional contributions from Latinitas Staff

In a country as diverse as the U.S., it can be hard to be comfortable and establish one’s identity or connect with your culture. According to the PEW Research Center, about four decades since the label “Hispanic” was deemed official, 51 percent of Latinos prefer to identify themselves by their or their family’s country of origin, while 24 percent prefer what is called a “pan-ethnic” label in 2012.

Hispanic, Latino/a, Chican@, etc. everyone identifies and struggles with culture differently.

During the 2014 Latinitas Blog-a-thon for Hispanic Heritage Month, Claudia Mendoza shared her experience about identity.

“Throughout my life I have been at a constant limbo between my roots (Mexican) and my birthplace (American).  Struggling to identify myself was never fun and even more so now that I am attending a university.  I grew up speaking Spanglish and when I do so at school I am looked at funny because of it.  People either enjoy it or get annoyed by it.  Now that I am a 20 year old, I now understand what it is to be a Latina.  I have the best of both worlds: the modern American world mixed with the rich Mexican culture… I am extremely proud to be a Latina and I am honored to be a good representation of a Latina breaking barriers,” Medonza said.

When there’s a large presence of different cultures, standards and expectations can be created — both from inner and outer influences. However, there are many ways to connect to one’s own culture, without changing who you are at all.

“I’m overwhelmingly proud to be a part of the Hispanic community. If it weren’t for my culture who would I be? If it weren’t for my mother’s constant mantra of “back in my country we would say…,” I would be a completely different person. My fondest memories are of being in Panama eating my Abuelita’s arroz con leche as she would tell me stories of her childhood. Or dressing up in my Pollera during Festival and walking down the Panamanian streets as everyone would laugh and dance to the music blasting from the surrounding houses.

Memories that are so full of life and happiness are what make me so proud to be a Latina. American festivals just don’t have the same sort of life emanating from the very core of them. An intoxicating pride coming from my relatives and their friends just for being a member of their country. There aren’t any words to describe how amazing it feels to be surrounded by so many people who are celebrating just being alive … Hispanic pride, in my opinion, comes from our victories as a people and our unity,” shared Isabel Meza in her MyLatinitas.com blog.

Showing off your culture can be as easy as blogging about it during Hispanic Heritage Month or talking about it with your friends.

“The most important thing about connecting to your culture is by exposing other people to your culture and making sure the youth in your communities are exposed to it as well,” Rossie Lopez, a recent UTEP (University of Texas-El Paso) graduate said. ”

“[I] connect with my culture by showing pride in my heritage,” Lopez said.

Not sure how to connect with your culture like the ladies in the article? You can start by:

1073060_634345163243344_272352745_o1)  Doing research!

Hit the books outside of class and find out about your roots, traditions, holidays, etc. Learn a little bit more about your ancestors and find out where your culture really comes from and what makes it unique. You don’t need to connect with it right away, but the more you learn the more you can see your family history.

2) Talking to your family!

Culture tends to spread across older generations, so talk to your parents, grandparents and maybe even great grandparents! Chances are they know a lot. Not only will you learn a lot about your culture but you can also gain a better understanding on what kind of cultural/social backgrounds your older family members are coming from. Even if you don’t learn much about your culture, there’s no harm in getting to know your family better. 

2) Joining cultural clubs and organizations!

You’ve done your research and talked to your family. Still want to know more? Join a cultural club or organization at your school. There are after school clubs and organizations that are towards a specific culture group, and are even geared towards a culture group with a specific interest. Check your school’s website or talk to a teacher in order to see what’s available. You might even have the opportunity to start your own, how cool is that? Some middle and high-schools have Ballet Folklorico, Origami and other after-school programs that often involve an activity that comes from a specific culture. There is also usually a historical lesson about that specific culture in relation to the activity as well. If you live in Austin or El Paso, TX, check out Club Latinitas at your nearest public library or, if you’re lucky, there might even be one at your school!

 

1)  Sharing what you know with others!

When you are ready to connect with your culture,  put up posters of your favorite band, lyric or anything that signifies your culture. If you like it, and it celebrates your culture, don’t be afraid to show it! Wear that t-shirt or hang that poster. Show others you come from a different culture. Most will even embrace it or want to know more if you live in area where your cultural background is not common. You’ll be surprised at the positive feedback you’ll get.

Whether you identify with your culture 100 percent or not at all, ancestry is good historical knowledge, but diversity comes from culture. So even if you don’t identify strongly, that is okay, too. You can be who you want and diversity the culture you identify with and change others perceptions about it.

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