Temporary Love

child abuse 2

Credit: Dosomething.org

The victims in family abuse cases often involve children, and recent studies suggest children carry the emotional trauma for life.  It is here, in the United States, where the highest number of children reside in foster care. Teens who are sometimes completely forgotten when the system figures that they are of legal age, 18, and boots them out. According to the Children’s Bureau, Texas held 11,523 children in 2005 and reached an increase of 16,903 children in the fiscal year of 2011. The numbers continue to increase every 12 months (fiscal year).

Through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families report of 2013, noted that 21% of the children in foster care were Hispanic and the White population held the largest percentage at 45%.

In 1989, at age one, I became a number in the system. I survived, managing to graduate college and become stronger because of it. Many children become runaways or poverty-stricken adults. My five other sister’s case never saw light. We spent a total of two and a half years away from our biological mother. There is that present realization that there exists a more prosperous possibility from turning my life around after returning home.

This is my story.

In 1990, foster care administration took my sisters and I from our home. People love to tell me that I could not remember that far back because I was 2 at the time, but asking my sister every year if it was a black lady with a white car who gently pulled me by hand,  reinstates that I lived through the experience. My sister’s acknowledgement makes my experience more real.

My eldest sister, Liz, found the courage and capability to tell visitors that our father was sexually abusing all of us for the past 11 years. At the time, I could barely speak. For eight years my biological father abused all of us. I thank my sister for helping place a man in jail, but, more importantly, she eradicated future abuses.

It feels to me that our case received so little media attention; soon after we were taken out of our homes, it proved no better than when we left.  My sisters were placed in pairs, Liz with Christine. Yvette with Ivy and, tragically, I was left alone with one verbally and physically abuse foster-mother, named Christina, and a rat-infested room alongside older white “brothers”.

In our case it seemed as though personnel took us out of harm’s way, but in our case, our conditions were worse than home life. Alternatively, it seemed. Yes, children become those “cases of sexual abuse in foster care” in which abuse was “more than four times higher than the rate in general population”, yet, ironically, the same risk of being with uncaring abusive “caregivers” became peril to our safety.

In foster care, we continued to live among boys and suffered constant sexual harassment and mistreatments from staff. I roomed with a 12-year-old boy, who tried to will my body to sleep on the top bunk while “Chucky,” the movie, played loudly in the dark room.  It seems that personnel ignored family preservation and by chance took a horrific case, and made it unquestionably worse.

My experience was one of many that year.

Yes, parents are unprepared for the challenges of raising kids, but their parental obligations may soon become second nature. Protective services often offer counseling as a means to deal. Services offer the  parents a chance for weekly calls, weekly all the while they do their part of making “check up calls,” in hopes of keeping the family unit safe. Counseling may serve as a therapy to understand a parents’ need to beat a child as an outlet for their anger.

Counseling programs during my time in foster care helped my mother understand that the victims were her very own children. I can recall her eyes moist with anger and frustration over the allegations of abuse. Therapy helped her make the right choice to process that the grotesque events did occur. She made a mission to leave father by placing a restraining order against him. I feel that counseling influenced my mother into acknowledging that those traumatic events really occurred, and she could see that we truly endured so much.

The protective services took the time to know us as people. They closely worked with my mother on a deeper level than a case number. It truly felt that the care system treated us as individuals, closely working with us to ensure a better placement.  With years of counseling, my mental capacity to grasp the abuse serves as a reminder that I am finally where I belonged. The fights among other foster siblings would cease and the constraints of court orders and parental denials would cease. I returned to my own home with my real mother and sisters in 1993.

Compared to national statistics, reunification with parent(s) or Primary Caretaker(s) is at a high of 51%, with each case differing by situation. In fewer cases in the early 2000s, the young grew out of the system, age 18, and were thrown out to fend for themselves. In 2013, social services placed 3,717 children out of the system.

During the first year in my foster care stay, my physically abusive foster mother nearly came close to adopting me. This woman would slap me for not finishing a chile filled, hot bean tortilla in 3 bites. She would deny me water for days, resulting in me going to the hospital for liver damage. I was 2 years old. The “care” became worse, often resulting in lice filled heads, for my sisters and me. Though separated, my sisters let me know that they roomed with twelve other children, aged from 4 to 13, in one room. I grew terrified of large stuffed animals after the foster mother scared me daily with a big bear. I still hold that fear today, as silly as it may seem. It is no surprise that when one child got sick, another grew sicker!

Money to adopt a child elsewhere may help a child here more effectively. Lack of funding, care and hospitality failed us. My mother, sisters and I reunited when I was near death. To put it plainly, America may need to step back and adopt inside the U.S. By slowly focusing on the terrible cases, Americans may realize that there exists other means for family creations, here. Mandatory family preservation and therapy programs may help reduce a child’s erroneous placement in the system.

For more information on children living in foster care and how you can help, visit: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/statistics/childwelfare-foster/?hasBeenRedirected=1


Celebrating Carnival

This was it. This was my chance. They would never see it coming. I looked down and slightly shook the yellow and purple gun I was holding— just to make sure it was still loaded.  I stood up very carefully, trying not to give away my position (behind the bushes of the park) by accidentally stepping on—CRUNCH. A leaf. Dang it. Ok, it’s now or never. I pulled the trigger and fired at my oh-so-oblivious friends.

 Their faces were priceless. Soaking wet, one of my friends thrusts a pink water balloon at my direction. Luckily, I dodged it. But…while I was laughing and celebrating my triumph, another friend sneaked up behind me and finally got me wet. Sigh. 

Photo Credit:  Jorge Silva / Reuters / Corbis

Photo Credit:
Jorge Silva / Reuters / Corbis

It’s that time of the year again, so load up your water guns and put on your dancing shoes because the biggest parties around the world are about to kick off. Yes, I’m talking about Carnival and you don’t want to miss this!  Carnaval, or Carnival season, is mostly a Roman Catholic tradition that occurs the two weeks before Lent an involves parades, processions, lavish costumes, concerts, contests and more.

If you are a Latina/o who was born and raised here in the States, then you are probably not very familiar with Carnival. But don’t worry, here’s a quick run down of the festival’s background: The purpose of Carnival is merely to have a wild time and celebrate before the withdrawals of Lent.  The festival tradition was brought to Latin American by the Spanish conquistadors.

In the States, the closest thing we have to Carnival is Mardi Gras, but to be honest, it’s not exactly an accurate representation of Latin American festivities. In Latin American countries, they go all-out to celebrate Carnival by throwing endless parties, wearing colorful costumes and having lively music at every street corner. Needless to say, they take it very seriously: in some places, the Monday and Tuesday of Carnival also are designated as national holidays.

Of course, the traditions can vary throughout Latin American countries, yet all festivities will always embrace two very important things—dancing and music. Each country has its own culture, history, music and traditions built-into the festivities, which make each Carnival festival so exclusive. For instance, as a young girl in Venezuela, Carnival was my favorite season because of the water fight tradition with friends and family. The memories made there celebrating with friends and family will always be some of my most cherished childhood moments.

Without further a do, here is quick guide of some of the best places to celebrate Carnival in Latin America.

1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 
If you have ever seen or heard of the animated movie “Rio”, you have an pretty solid idea of how significant the Carnival season is to Brazilians. Well, let’s just duplicate the intensity and fixation with Samba depicted in the movie to accurate reflect real life Brazilians.  Tourists flock the city to watch dancers wear excessive costumes, while enjoying samba parades and dancing competitions Brazil hosts one of the world’s popular and largest carnivals. Also, during the night, each neighborhood hosts a street samba parties. How neat, right?

2.  Barranquilla, Colombia
There’s a legend behind the diverse disguises of the four-day Barranquilla festival.  Long ago, a local didn’t have enough money to buy an over-the-top costume, so he chose to go to the festival with a simple shirt and tie, and a pair of pants upside down. But that’s not all, he added one final touch to his outfit — a paper bag with holes in it over his head. Thus, ever since then, the marimonda  disguise became a well-loved  tradition, and one of the most popular disguises of the festival. As in most carnivals, groups of dancers compete to be designated as the best of their city and women participate in contests elected by the “Queen of Carnival”.

3.  Oruro, Bolivia
This festival has been celebrated for more than 2,000 years and lasts the 10 days. On  different note, it is known as the highest (literally) major carnival in the world since it sits at an altitude of 3,710 meters!  History and culture are definitely the main focus of the festival and this is visible through the expressive dances: especially La Diablada, the “Dance of the Devils.”

4.  Veracruz, Mexico
Not nearly as experienced as Oruro, Veracruz has its own Carnival celebration known as the most “joyful” in the world. Initially, partygoers would dance on the streets and form caravans in order to show off their outfits and traditional masks. Yet, pretty soon, they started involving costume and dancing competitions, with the caravan being the main focus of the celebration. A unique aspect of the festival is the large bonfire held on the first day of the carnival, where all “bad moods are burned away”.

5. El Callao, Venezuela
This festival can be described as a melting pot of history, rhythm and traditions from places like the West Indies, the French Antilles, and Trinidad. A key feature of this celebration is the Venezuelan calypso music, influenced by the Trinidad immigrants of the 1880s. Two distinctive costume styles are the Madamas and the Devils. The Madamas are dancers who wear elegant and colorful African headscarves and robes. They represent the principal figure of the Carnaval:  La Negra’ Isidora Agñes, the founder of the festival. Moreover, during Carnival, the Devils dress in red-and-black costumes with frightening masks.

As a final note, do not underestimate the power of these festivities. I cannot emphasize enough how meaningful Carnival can be to Latin American communities. It not only  functions as a prominent means of expression, but for years, even decades, Carnival has served as a way to review people’s lifestyle and history.  In other words, it paves the way for further understanding and interpretation of different cultures and traditions that are seemingly convoluted or absurd to an unknowing spectator.

And if you don’t make it to this year’s Carnival, there is always a next time!

It’s Not Just a Dress

Credit: http://www.couturesbylaura.com/

Credit: http://www.couturesbylaura.com/

Written by Arianna Gomez


The incoming First Lady of Texas visited Coutures by Laura on a rainy Friday afternoon for one of the final fittings for the gown and dress ensemble she is to wear for the inauguration and ball. Coming off the coattails of a hard-earned victory in the governor’s election this past fall, one might expect a- rightly- proud woman. The kind of woman whose demeanor implies power and importance.
Yet there is no air of superiority. To a passerby, she appears entirely ordinary- simply one of the many influential Texan women that frequent the boutique. She speaks kindly with the seamstresses, and often consults her assistant for advice in a manner that suggests a friend seeking the opinion of another friend; she greets everybody with a handshake or a polite nod and smile. And, amidst the busyness of a fitting, Mrs. Abbott converses with me as I look on as Laura Gonzalez, my grandmother, makes those final adjustments to ensure that just right fit.
The gown. Under the light of the crystal chandelier which hangs in the showroom, it is a deep, rich red, starkly contrasting the rainy and grey weather that can be seen outside the window. Like every aspect of the gown, the color was carefully chosen by Ms. Gonzalez & Mrs. Abbott. “(We chose) the color red to represent the Republican party, but especially because the color red was really capitalized upon in the campaign,” she says, turning in the mirror at Ms. Gonzalez’s request. They are attempting to decide upon the belt of the dress; there are two styles Ms. Gonzalez has crafted. Ultimately, Mrs. Abbott selects the band adorned with a unique flower, made of the same material as the dress, as she feels it truly ties together the classic yet simple style of the dress.
Indeed, the phrase classic yet simple truly sums up the First Lady of Texas’ style. “I like the style because, to me, it doesn’t change with time. I like it simple,” she says. Ms. Gonzalez nods in agreement as she alters the gown ever so slightly. Style is not the only thing that the two women see eye to eye on, though- the handful of shared values between them is one of the many reasons that Cecilia Abbott chose Coutures by Laura to create her attire for the big day. 
Values of family, education, service, perseverance in the face of adversity, and faith were all cited by Mrs. Abbott as common principles between the two Hispanic women, along with their drive and determination. In an era when the Hispanic people are often dubbed the silent minority, they are anything but silent, each working hard to achieve their goals and succeed, to leave a legacy for future generations.
It was their common bond in heritage that served as a large component in the decision of who was to design the attire for Mrs. Abbott’s appearances at the Inauguration and Ball. And it was this common bond that gave Laura Gonzalez the desire to create the inauguration attire, and reach out to Cecilia. 
I wanted to make the clothes she would wear on such an important day because I knew her and because she’s Hispanic. I knew her already from her previous visits to the boutique – so I wanted to help her to be dressed the best way she could be, the way that best complimented her, and the best way I could serve her within my abilities and capacities… I really wanted to be of assistance to the woman that is going to be the first Hispanic First Lady of Texas,” she says. 
Over the course of the weeks Ms. Gonzalez worked on this dress,  and I came to realize that it represented what Mrs. Abbott and Ms. Gonzalez stood for. This dress was created with hard work, with careful stitches, with meticulous attention to detail. 
And this drive came, in part, from her heritage and past. Ms. Gonzalez has been in the business for over thirty years; Coutures by Laura began as a small boutique in McAllen, Texas. Ms. Gonzalez says she was taught the art of designing, creating and sewing as a very young girl. 
“I strongly believe that this passion for sewing, designing and creating is in my genes,” Ms. Gonzalez says. 
Her drive to design is much like Cecilia’s drive to better education within Texas, which has come from her parents- dedicated educators who were the children of immigrants. 
Hispanic people are hard workers; I saw this in the care and time my grandmother, Ms. Gonzalez, put into the dress and gown. Despite the hours and considerable effort that went into the gown, however, not once did she complain, or take off, or wish to be doing something else. She worked hard. She worked quietly, late into the night and early in the morning. She persevered. She did her best- a value instilled in her at a young age, from her own family as she grew up in Mexico.
“My Uncle Rafael always said to be the best at what you do. If you’re going to be a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper there is. So if I’m going to make dresses, I’m going to be the best at making dresses,” she says.
And the dress certainly was the best. As Mrs. Abbott stood in the mirror at the final fitting, it was easy to see that it fit just right, moved smoothly, and complimented Cecilia well, but yet never commanded so much attention that the eyes were not focused on the wearer. The hard work that had gone into the gown was visible. After she had inspected it closely one last time, and guaranteed that it was truly perfect, there it was: that hint of quiet pride that the Hispanic people hold, reflected in Laura Gonzalez’s eyes. 
It did not linger for long. She was already thinking about what was coming next. 

Iconic Latina Actresses

film-reel-2Latinitas continue to be underrepresented in film and television, but these outstanding actresses have made a name for themselves.

Karla Souza is a 28-year old Mexican actress, mostly known for her role as Barbara “Barbie” Noble in the Mexican film “Nosotros Los Nobles”.  Her career started in the movie “Aspen Extreme” when she was 7 years old, and at the age of 14, her parents sent her to France, England and Russia to study acting. She later returned to Mexico to attend the Centro de Educacion Artistica de Televisa.  After her studies, she perfumed in “Terminales” and “Los Heroes del Norte and “Niño Santo”.  She pursued more movie roles and starred in Mexican movies like “Suave Patria”, “Me Late Chocolate”, “From Prada to nada”, “Nosotros los Nobles” and “No se Aceptan Devoluciones”.

Now, she is starring as Laurel Castillo as a series regular in the new Shonda Rhimes tv series,“How to get away with murder”.

Bella Thorne is best known as CeCe Jones from the Disney Channel  series Shake It Up. She is an American actress, dancer, singer and model with Cuban ancestry. She is the youngest of 4 children — who are also in the entertainment industry. She started her career as young as six weeks old! As a toddler, she shot her first pictorial for “Parents Magazine”. As she got older, she started doing commercials and movies. After moving to California when she was 9 years old, her father passed away. From 2006- 2009 she had appearances in various shows and films, but her stardom arrived in 2010 when she was selected to co-star Disney TV series “Shake it up”. In 2011 she released her first single “Watch me” followed by “TTYLXOX,” and in 2014 she released “Call it Whatever”. A woman of many talents, she recently co-starred in the comedy Blended, with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Thorne is also a sponsor for impoverished children in Africa and supports organizations such as Friends of El Faro and the TJ Martell Foundation.

Alexa Vega is an American actress of Colombian descent, born in Miami, Florida, on August 27, 1988. One of her iconic roles is from the Spy Kids Trilogy, but her career began at the tender age of 8 with her role as Jo Harding in Twister. She has made several guest appearances in  ER and Ghost Whisperer, and has performed in several films, including “Walkout,” “Remember the Daze,” and “Repo!”. She was cast as Penny on Broadway’s “Hairspray” in 2009, and in 2011  she returned to her Latina roots while filming “From Prada to Nada”.

Rita Moreno (Rosa Dolores Alverio) was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico on December 11, 1931. She was brought by her mother to New York City in 1936. She received her dance training from Paco Cansino, and would later earn her first role on Broadway, as Angelina in “Skydrift,” at the age of 13. She started in several films as her career grew in film, television, and theatre. She is one of twelve individuals to have accomplished the “EGOT” (received an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), and is the only Latina to have achieved such an accomplishment. She won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in “West Side Story,” Grammy for “Electrical Company” (a kids TV show),  two Emmy’s for jest appearances on “The Muppet Show” (1977) and “The Rockford Files” (1978), and a Tony for Best Featured Actress in “The Ritz”.

One of the most influential Latinas in the entertainment industry, Rita Moreno has left her mark on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  George W. Bush and Barack Obama have recognized Moreno’s work with a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a National Medal of Arts. Today, after 51 films, dozens of guest appearances on television, and numerous performances in theatrical productions, she keeps on working in the entertainment industry and as a key spokesperson in raising the awareness of osteoporosis.

Starting High School

Photo Credit: http://education-portal.com

Photo Credit: http://education-portal.com

Written by Imani Calaban

Hearing or thinking about the words “growing up” can be pretty nerve wrecking. When you hear “growing up” you think about: work, bills, work, independence, and, oh yeah, did I mention work? There are different phases of growing up: elementary school, intermediate school, middle school, high school, college, your life-long career, and retirement. Each one has its ways of making you feel scared or anxious. The first “growing phase” that probably freaks us out the most is high school. You feel like you’re finally growing up. You feel like it’s going to be the time of your life. You know that this is the beginning to the rest of your life, and you know that the decisions you make in high school will impact your future–  high school sounds pretty scary.

I started high school in the Fall of 2014, and I go to a school with over 90% of the people are Caucasian. Overall, everybody was very kind and welcoming, which is usually how your peers treat incoming freshmen. High school is definitely overwhelming at some points, but, at the same time, you have a lot more freedom at home and during school.It took me a few days to find all of my classes perfectly, but I had it down by the second week. There is a lot of homework, but it’s also pretty easy. The teachers aren’t as hard on you as they used to be. Now, it’s up to you to get your work done which makes you feel very mature.  During school the teachers let you work at your own pace. There are pep rallies, the sports are more competitive, and the school itself is bigger and better! You might not get along with everybody, but you are certainly not alone. There are plenty of other people in your school that are just like you– keep in mind high schools have hundreds and sometimes thousands of students that are attending!

If you enter high school with a good attitude and maintain that good attitude the whole time, you’ll do great! There’s a lot of people in high school that are just like you, you just have to find them. You can find people  with like-minded interests through after-school clubs or sports.  Yes, it’s okay to feel stressed or overwhelmed, but just remember that it’s a big part of growing up! You have to push yourself to get everything done and done on time. Anything you do in high school can/will affect your future. The way it affects your future is all up to you.

Immigration Executive Order

This past November, President Obama announced changes to the immigration system which could affect five million people out of the 11.2 millions immigrants living in this country undocumented. Immigration is a controversial issue that many Latinitas feel passionate about and that personally impacts the families of many young Latinas.


What is the Immigration Executive Order?
These new immigration orders will protect the parents of residents with legal status or citizens from being deported for three years. This immigration executive order is not a path for legal status nor citizenship; this is deferred action. In addition, the administration will also be issuing work permits for immigrants. This is a simple action because it is what the president can do when Congress fails to pass policy changes.

What is the debate about?
Many critics believe the problem with deferred action is that it is only temporary since it can be taken away by an executive order really easy. In 2016 when President Obama ends his term, the new president would be able to start deporting the immigrants covered by the Obama administration. There are many people who are opposed to this action because they misunderstand how it will work and have the wrong idea about immigrants.

Who Qualifies?
Not all undocumented immigrants will automatically get accepted; there are certain qualifications to fill. According to WhiteHouse.gov, eligible immigrants will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation if they come forward and pass criminal and national security background checks and pay a fee. They will also be eligible for work authorization and must start paying taxes. To qualify, individuals must show that they are: a parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident as of the date of the announcement (regardless of the age of the child), have been in the United States for at least five years (starting on January 1, 2010), are not an enforcement priority, and present no other factors that would make a grant of deferred action inappropriate. This temporary relief is also open to an individual who arrived in the U.S. before turning 16 years old and has been continuously present for at least five years (starting on January 1, 2010), regardless of how old they are today, and present no other factors that would make a grant of deferred action inappropriate.

How does this affect Latinitas?
Sophia’s Story – Finding Some Relief
For many Latinitas, this executive order brings some relief for their loved ones. Sophia Alarcon, 16, welcomes  the new immigration action. “I think it is a relief for everyone in here living with fear,” said Sophia. Although Sophia is a U.S. citizen and has lived here all her life, she has feared for her parents because they are both undocumented. She is thankful that the new order gives her parents some temporary relief. “It is awful thinking that at any time my parents could be deported and I would be here all alone,” she added.

Jacqueline’s Story – Hoping for her Friends
Even though not all Latinos are impacted directly by immigration policy, many can relate to the experience because they have friends or extended  family members who immigrated to this country for a better way of life. Jaqueline Magallanes, 15, has seen the struggles her parents have gone through to achieve their residency in a long and complicated immigration system. They immigrated here and went through a lengthy process to become legal residents. She is a Mexican-American with U.S. citizenship and has friends who are being impacted by immigration policies. She wants to see the government further extend its policies. “I think the government could do more, because three years is not enough,” said Jaqueline.

Liliana’s Story – Fearing for Her Parents
Liliana Rodriguez, 17, has benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She immigrated from Mexico in 2009, and first came to the U.S. without her parents when they sent her here to live with her aunt. Her family moved because they faced economical challenges and wanted to provide more opportunities for their children. Thanks to DACA, Liliana is able to pursue her education here.  Although she likes seeing some steps taken to help immigrants, she feels that more policy changes need to happen. “I would love if the date when families got here was extended. I got here in 2009 to live with my aunt, but my parents didn’t get here until August 2010, so they can’t apply,” shared Liliana. She continues to fear for her undocumented parents and hopes more changes will happen soon to help them.

Melissa’s Story – Living in the Shadows
For some Latinitas, the executive order is not comprehensive enough to help them and they continue to live in the shadows. Melissa Ochoa, 16, is an undocumented high school student. She is concerned that people have stereotypes about immigrants that prevents real immigration reform from happening. “It is horrible that many people are opposed to this. They think immigrants are bad people when in reality most of us are here to study and work,” said Melissa. She moved to the U.S. from Mexico in late 2010 during elementary school with her family. Her family came to escape the drug violence and because they were victims of extortion in Mexico. She came on a tourist visa and then remained in the country without documentation. Because of the timing of her arrival, she barely missed the qualifications to benefit from recent executive orders. She is still undocumented and fears being deported, but is hoping for more extensive immigration reform.

Latina Activists: !Sí Se Puede!

Photo Credit: Cnn.com

Photo Credit: Cnn.com

Written by Karen Lazcano

From “!Sí Se Puede!” to getting out the vote, Latinas are using activism to bring attention to deserving causes across the nation (and world!). They believe in what is right and continue to fight for it. Check out these Latinas and the causes they are advocating for!

Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson is an internationally known actress and activist. She has a successful filmography under her name that also extends to her charitable work. Rosario is the co-founder of Voto Latino, an organization that works to get out the Latino vote and promote a stronger America. Her work has helped to get other celebrities on board with Voto Latino. She also supports the Lower East Side Girls Club, V-Day, and Amnesty International.

Eva Longoria
Eva Longoria is a successful actress, scholar, and activist. In 2013, she graduated with a Masters in Chicano Studies from Cal State Northridge. The 39 year old is a force of talent to be reckoned with. Longoria has long been a supporter of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) and even serves on the board! In 2006, she founded Eva’s Heroes, a charity that helps developmentally disabled children. Eva is also a political activist, lending her name to causes like the Latino Victory Project, a movement dedicated to harnessing the power of the Latino community in elections.

Rosie Perez
Rosie Perez is a Puerto Rican-American actress. You can catch her weekday mornings as a co-host on ABC’s “The View.” Rosie is an activist for AIDS, Puerto Rican rights, and education access for youth. She was appointed to The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) in 2010 by President Barack Obama. Rosie also serves as the chair for the artistic board of Urban Arts partnership, an education nonprofit in New York City dedicated to breaching the achievement gap.

Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta has dedicated her life to advocating for migrant workers as a labor leader and activist. She co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez and then went on to form the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Her constant commitment to the Latino community and lobbying efforts have helped to pass legislation such as the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Plan. Dolores continues to advocate for causes important to the Latino community, such as immigration reform. She proves that even at the age of 84, si se puede!

Sonia Nazario

Sonia Nazario is an author and reporter, most famously known for writing Enrique’s Journey–for which she won a Pulitzer Prize. In Enrique’s Journey, she tells the story of  Honduran boy and his struggle to get to the United States to find his mother. She is  strong advocate for the rights of unaccompanied migrant minors, serving on the board of Kids In Need of Defense. She also shares her testament to the difficulties faced by Central American migrants throughout the country.


You know her from her wildly infectious hits like “Hips Don’t Lie” and “She Wolf,” but there’s more to Shakira than meets the eye. Shakira has long used her star power to shine a light on causes like education and child advocacy. In 1997, she founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation to ensure that impoverished children in Colombia have access to education. Shakira has also served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has been appointed as a member of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics by President Obama.

To learn more on how you can be involved, check out the volunteer opportunities available at your school and within your community. Volunteering and being involved are the first steps towards making a difference and making an impact in someone’s life.

Making the Best Out of a Quince

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 3.24.32 AMWritten by Yoriko Thomas

The celebration of your 15th birthday is one of the most important occasions in your life. While planning the event is bound to cause you and your family a bit of stress, there’s no reason you can’t feel completely present and over the moon during the ceremony and reception. While getting the dress, venue, cake, and more just right is essential to the event’s success in your eyes, how you prepare yourself is a vital part, too, and shouldn’t be ignored. Here is a look at the four key ingredients to ensuring you have the time of your life at your quinceañera.

1. Practice Gratitude

Being outwardly appreciative during your big day isn’t only for making those around you feel special, although that is a benefit. According to researchers, it can also help you manage stress better, while improving your mood, building stronger relationships, and boosting your health. During the planning stage of your quince and ahead of the big day, make sure you practice being appreciative towards those in attendance. Consider the lengths to which your parents and other family members have gone in order to celebrate your entry into womanhood. Whether you work with a caterer or you hunker down with the women in your family to make enough food the week before, be thankful for what you have and the effort others have put in for you.

2. Consider the Meaning

Another important aspect of enjoying your quinceañera is to try and keep in mind the meaning of the ritual and celebration. From the religious ceremony to the party that follows, a quince emphasizes you, your family, your faith tradition, and your social responsibilities. It’s much more than just a reason to get dressed up and be the center of attention for a day, because your transition from childhood into womanhood affects your family and community. As you ceremonially become a woman, remember that your quinceañera is designed to help prepare you for adulthood in the midst of your loving and supportive community.

3. Steer Clear of Drama

Whether you have friends who don’t get along or family members who can’t seem to ever quit bickering, it can sometimes be tough to steer clear of drama during the planning and execution of a quinceañera. That being said, it’s still worth the effort to try. Seat sworn enemies far from one another and ask your best friend or sister to run interference for you whenever anyone wants you to choose a side in an argument. Try to also anticipate potential trouble so you can solve it before it gets out of hand. Make sure your court is made up of people who are friendly and pleasant, so your heart and mind can stay free of worries on your big day. And remember: Any drama that pops up on your big day should be handled by someone else.


4. Get Plenty of Sleep the Night Before

As you count down the days before your quince, your excitement will continue to build. Between pouring over last-minute details to trying on your gown on one last time, getting a good night’s rest the night before your quince can feel like an afterthought. The truth of the matter is that your quinceañera is going to be a whirlwind of people and experiences, and the more rested you are for it, the better you’ll feel during it and after. In order to get the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, curl up in bed at your regular time, and if you can, skip the alarm and sleep in until you naturally wake up. A good night’s rest will help you feel and look your best, which is exactly what you want at your quince.

A quinceañera is something a young woman experiences only once in her life, which is why the preparation and actual event are so important.

Invest in Knowledge

College Chica, 2013

College Chica, 2013

Ben Franklin once said “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” In today’s competitive work environment, that is definitely true. It is a good idea to consider going to college, not only to help you stay on top of your game, but also to learn more about your passions and your chosen fields. If you are already thinking about college, awesome! But where do you start exactly? Here are some things to think about to help you take the next steps toward college and your dreams.
1. What do you want to be when you grow up?
If you’re thinking about college already, then you might be more grown up that you think. But this is still a good question to ask yourself. If you want to be a lawyer, for example, you would need to look for law schools, like Harvard or even Baylor in Texas. A scientist might shoot for MIT in Boston while an aspiring writer, like myself, would aim for a liberal arts college like Columbia in New York. Once you decide what your career path is, you can search for schools with programs that meet your needs. A meeting with your guidance counselor at school or even a Google search on your own will help you figure out what programs will suit you and which schools offer it. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a handy place to start. Make a list of 6-10 schools that look promising.

2. How far do you want to go?
Of course, you’re shooting for the stars as far as your goals and aspirations. This question is actually about where you’d like to go to school. Checking out programs and which schools offer them is a good start, but narrow down your options even more by considering how far from home you are willing and able to travel. I think it is good for all students to try to at least leave their hometowns to study, since it gives them a wider view of the world, but sometimes that is not affordable or even desirable. Which schools make it to the next round have to be in cities where you will be able to afford to live, as well as cities you really want to go to or you won’t be very happy with your decision. Many school websites have a student life section where you can learn more about the city in which the school is, so make sure to read up on that and see if the city is as good a fit for you as the school. Further narrow your list of schools by thinking about these things and even visiting these campuses, if you can. Take a tour and ask whatever questions you have.

3. What’s in your wallet? Or rather, how much? As I mentioned in question two, you need to consider places that you will be able to afford. This is where you go back to your guidance counselor and also talk to your parents to see what you all can afford. Your counselor can point you in the right direction for scholarships, grants and financial aid as well as loans, should you really need them. (Make sure you really do need them before reaching for loans, though. They are too easy to get and add up fast!) You also need to see if your parents will be able to help you or not so that you can make a good decision on schools and better navigate your application process. Also look into each school’s work study program, which will allow you to work part time while attending school. Even if a school you are looking at seems crazy expensive however, you might be surprised at the funding you can find, if you look hard enough and do the leg work. Check out websites such as Fastweb or CollegeProwler for scholarships of all sizes and even more tips on college.

4. What else is important?
While there seems like millions of things to consider when going to school, we’ve actually already covered the basics: what do you want to study, where do you want to go and how will you pay to get there? By now you should have about 6 schools that you have hopefully fallen in love with (two safety schools, two maybe schools and two top schools) and that you know you will apply to. If you don’t, take another look at that student life section of the schools’ websites. What else do they have to offer? Do they have extracurricular activities like sports, music, or other clubs you’d like to join? Just like in high school, college isn’t just about studying. You have to have to some down time too. Not only will some of these extras be something fun for you to do, it will look even better on your resume when you graduate. It’s a win-win. See if the school has a program that puts you in touch with someone who already goes to the school so you can talk with a real person going through what you will go through. You’ll get insight and maybe make a new friend.

While searching for schools, applying and waiting for acceptance letters to come in, it is so exciting to get one and start planning what you’ve been dreaming about for years. The work you put in will certainly pay off later. Keep that in mind both during your application process and when you’re actually in school. With a little hard work and a little faith in yourself, you can do it all!

Celebrating the New Year

It is a fact that Latinos know how to celebrate and we have all kinds of beautiful traditions to do it. When it comes to the start of a new year, we go big. Many Latino families gather together to eat turkey, ham or lentils and just minutes before 12 we start doing our good luck rituals. So, how many Latino traditions do you know?


Burning of the Dummy
In Ecuador and Panama, New Year’s eve is a huge deal in which entire families reunite to make large straw dolls of the people they dislike, or famous people during the year. They put signs of the sins committed by that person who inspired the straw man doll. Once midnight hits, they burn the straw man to symbolize forgetting the bad things of the past year.

Eating 12 Grapes
In Cuba as soon as the clock marks midnight, people start eating twelve grapes along with the sound of bells ringing. There are twelve grapes because each of them symbolizes one month of the year. This way they have good luck during the entire next year.

Walking with a Suitcase

In many Latin-American countries, especially in Chile on New Year’s Eve at midnight, it is common to see people walking around the block or walking in circle around their house with an empty suitcase. This means they’re hoping for travel opportunities the next year.

Colored Underwear
The use of colored underwear is not from only one country. In fact, this tradition is used in almost every Latin-American country. On New Year’s Eve, people who want love for the next year wear red underwear, people who want prosperity wear yellow, people wear green for health and others wear white for peace. Just remember not to wear black because many people think that it is bad luck.


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