Review: Juanes Concert

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Written by Lucero Estrella

As a kid growing up in a border city, I was constantly exposed to Spanish music from different Latin American artists on the local and Mexican radio stations.  Among the mix of songs and artists on the radio was one amazing superstar from Medellín, Columbia, Juan Esteban Vásquez, more commonly known as Juanes.  With his mixtures of Latin rock and pop, Juanes has conquered the hearts of many people around the world with his music– and the 16 million of copies CDs sold, two Grammys, and 19 Latin Grammys are there to prove it.

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Being at the first weekend Austin City Limits (ACL) festival on Saturday, October 4, took me back to my childhood.  Juanes shared the stage with his group and constantly changed guitars to perform both old and new music. He played his new hits, “Loco de Amor,” “Mil Pedazos,” and “La Luz,” as well as older songs like “La Paga” and “Me Enamora,” and the popular hit “A Dios le Pido.” The moment that Juanes stepped on stage and began signing “Nada Valgo Sin Tu Amor,” I felt goose bumps all over my body.   Standing in the front rows next to people singing and dancing along to Juanes’ songs was an unforgettable experience.

Juanes finished his performance with a surprising cover of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ “Could You Be Loved,” and then closed the night with one of his most popular hits, “La Camisa Negra. ” This left the crowd begging for an encore — me included.  After the performance, I waited with a crowd of fans to catch a glimpse of Juanes backstage, and I was lucky enough to stand less than a foot away from him and snap a few pictures.

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Being able to see Juanes live was a million times better than listening to him on my CD player — for the younger readers, an old-school device before the iPod.  His voice, appearance, and presence made me feel like a child once again. I can’t wait for Juanes to return to Austin so I can watch him once more.

Aspiring Journalist

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Journalism is a good career for those who are tech savvy and likes to write. Many journalists find themselves writing for newspapers, magazines, and internet sites, or  producing, editing and taking pictures. Time management and being organized are important for succeeding as a journalist, which means you don’t have to wait until college to start preparing for a career in journalism

Middle School and High School Preparation

It is always good to be prepared, so start being active at your school! Most high schools happen to have their own newspaper, yearbooks, and even morning video announcements. Since journalism has many platforms, you can chose one program or even become involved in all of them. Your school’s newspaper is perfect if you love to write, but, if you’re interested in multimedia and graphic design, then yearbook might be a better fit. For the future journalists who prefer to be in front of the camera, try out your school’s morning announcement team. If you’re one of the lucky few, your school might even offer journalism classes! Talk to your counselor to see what is available at your school, you might be surprised of what clubs or programs your school has!

Internships
Internships offer opportunities for you to get experience as a journalist.  Journalism is a popular field, which means finding a job can become competitive. Internships help you stand out from the rest, so the more experience you have the higher your chances of landing a job. Part of the application process as a journalist is showcasing your work, so the more publications and internships you have, the better. Some internships are volunteer based, but, if you work hard, you can land a paid internship.

College Preparation
College is the perfect place to find out what part of journalism you are passionate about. Some people choose to major in journalism because they receive more training, but you don’t need a degree in journalism to succeed. If you are serious about studying journalism in college, you will learn about the history and foundation of the field, new skills and strategies to apply in your career, and will also be able to network with professors who worked in the field!

Journalism is a demanding and hectic career, but it is also fun and worth it. If you have any desire to work in the media industry, journalism is something worth considering.

Fashion Designer: Carolina Herrera

Don’t you ever wish that you could have the power to draw an outfit and make it come to life? Especially when it comes to designing beautiful dresses that will be worn at the grammy’s by a celebrity? Carolina Herrera, a fashion icon, is a true example of a hard working Latina and fashionista.

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Personal Life

Carolina Herrera was born on January 8, 1939 in Caracas, Venezuela. She was introduced into the fashion world at a young age by her grandmother, taking her to local shows. Her grandmother also taught young Carolina that dressing up mattered by buying her outfits from Lanvin and Dior. During her career, Carolina Herrera has given birth to four children and has been married twice.

Career Launch

Once Herrera grew older, she was known for having an elegant fashion style. She was convinced by one of her friends in New York who worked for Vogue to create a few items and send them to her. Still in Caracas, Carolina took up her offer and created a few fashion items and brought them to New York. A fashion boutique in New York offered to showcase her items and it became a success. She was able to raise enough money to fund an official launch and runway show in 1980, and her successful career skyrocketed in New York.

Carolina Herrera’s Line

Carolina Herrera is best known for her evening wear designs. She has won many awards and she has had success with having her fashion be worn by several household names, like Renee Zelweger, Oprah Winfrey and even Michelle Obama. Her line is mainly based in New York, but she has been successfully expanding worldwide. She has opened stores in London, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and Japan. She currently has 18 stores under her name worldwide! Her clothing line has been positively written about from famous publications, like The New York TimesWomen’s Daily Wear and Tatler. Carolina has also been inducted into the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame. Not only did Carolina try to branch out in the fashion industry, but in the beauty industry as well with the creation of a new perfume.

Awards and Achievement

Throughout her lifetime, Carolina Herrera has been recognized multiple times because of her elegant and beautiful designs. She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and has been awarded “Womenswear Designer of the Year.” Herrera is a recipient of The International Center in New York’s Award of Excellence as well as Spain’s Gold Medal for Merit in the Fine Arts, which was presented to her by King Don Juan Carlos I. She received the Fashion Group International Superstar Award, the Style Awards Designer of the Year in 2012 and the “Mercedes-Benz Presents” title for her 2011 collection.

Carolina Herrera is an example of an inspirational and hard-working Latina. She is an icon for many chicas out there who want to succeed in the fashion world. If she can do it, then you fashionistas can as well!

Aguas Frescas

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Whether you go to a local stand or enjoy the ones your abuelita makes, aguas frescas are simple, refreshing beverages that are also rich in nutritional value. The aguas are either made from sweet fruits, sour fruits, seeds or flowers, mixed with water and sugar. These drinks can be prepared for any occasion in which you crave a healthy alternative but want a little twist of flavor.

Main equipment you will use to prepare and serve the agues:

Blender

Pitcher

Colander

Saucepan

Measuring cups

Bowl

Plastic wrap

 

Agua de Sandia (Watermelon Water)

A classic summer time beverage that can be enjoyed year round for a sweet treat. If the melon is a very sweet one, taste before adding sugar; it may not need much, if any. Watermelon juice is a natural thirst quencher and is very effective in keeping your immune system healthy while removing harmful toxins from the body.

Ingredients:

4 cups cubed, seeded watermelon

6 cups water

1/4 cup white sugar, or to taste

Ice

Preparation:

(About 1 hour and 20 minutes)

1. Puree watermelon and water in a blender until smooth.

2. Add 1/4 cup of sugar.

3. Wait 1 hour for the agua to chill.

4. Stir before serving and pour over ice.

 

Agua de Melon (Melon Water)

Another traditional flavor that is sold in vitroleros, which are large glass or plastic containers of aguas frescas, most notably seen at Mexican street stands or markets. This resulting agua de melon may contain small bits of fruit pulp, which is rich in nutrients and fiber and can boost your metabolism and energy.

Ingredients:

1/2 cantaloupe, seeds and rind removed and diced (about 1½ – 2 cups diced melon)

1 quart water

1/4 cup sugar, or to taste

Ice

Preparation:

(About 1 hour and 20 minutes)

1. Put the diced melon in the blender with enough of the water to cover.

2. Blend just long enough to make a pulp that has small bits of fruit.

3. Transfer to a pitcher and add the rest of the water and the sugar.

4. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

5. Wait 1 hour for agua to chill and pour over ice.

 

Agua de Horchata (Rice-Cinnamon)

Horchata (pronounced or-CHA-tah) is a popular flavor that resembles the taste of arroz con leche, a traditional Latin dessert made with cinnamon, rice and milk. Horchata, like fruity aguas frescas, contains minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin C and E. In addition, it is used for digestive problems and gives you a boost of energy.

Ingredients:

2 cups long-grained white rice
2 cups water
2 quarts low or non-fat milk
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation:

(About 8 hours and 20 minutes)

1. Place the rice in a bowl with hot water to cover it completely. Seal bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for 8 hours (overnight).

2. The next day, strain rice through a colander, discarding water. Place one cup of water and two cups of milk in blender with one cup of rice.

3. Blend until liquified. Pour into a pitcher. Repeat with other half of milk, water and rice. Pour through a strainer to remove extra rice pulp.

4. Mix in sugar, vanilla and cinnamon and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

5. Wait 1 hour for agua to chill and pour over ice.

Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Flower)

This refreshing drink (pronounced hah-MIKE-ah) is made from dried hibiscus flowers, which are slightly tart, flavorful red flowers. They are high in Vitamin C, which alleviates cramps and pains and is a natural remedy for people who experience cold or flu-like symptoms.

Ingredients:

2 cups dried hibiscus flowers (2 packages)

8 cups water

3/4 cup sugar or equivalent amount of sugar substitute

Preparation:

(About 1 hour and 30 minutes)

1. Rinse and drain the hibiscus flowers in a colander.

2. Put them in a saucepan with 4 cups of the water and the sugar.

3. Stir and bring to a slow boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover for 15 minutes.

4. The flowers will have lost their color into the water, which will be a deep red color. Let the liquid cool, then strain it into a pitcher. Discard the flowers.

5. Add the rest of the water and stir. Wait 1 hour for agua to chill and pour over ice.

 

Agua de Tamarind (Tamarind-flavored Water)

Tamarinds are pods that grow on the tamarind tree, which are used in Mexican, Thai and Indian cooking. These pods contain large seeds surrounded by a sticky brown pulp. The most popular use for the pods in Latino communities is to make dulces de tamarindo or tamarind candies. Tamarind has been used to reduce fevers, relieve some types of sore throat conditions and can tend to improve digestion and appetite.

Ingredients:

10 tamarind pods (About 2 packages)

1 quart water

3/4 cups sugar, or to taste

Preparation:

(About 1 hour and 30 minutes)

1. Peel the tamarind pods, removing the veins that run along the sides. Don’t worry if bits of the pod stick to the pulp; they will come off easily after cooking. Do not attempt to remove the seeds at this point.

2. Bring half the water to a boil and add the peeled tamarind pods. Boil until the pulp is soft (About 15 minutes).

3. Let the tamarind water sit until the pulp is cool enough to handle.

4. Using your hands, remove the seeds from the pulp; they will slide out easily. Discard the seeds and any bits of outside peel that may have stuck before cooking.

5. Put the pulp, cooking water and sugar in the blender and liquify. Strain this mixture into a pitcher and add the remaining water.

6. Wait 1 hour for agua to chill and pour over ice.

A healthy lifestyle comes from making good choices about your physical, mental and emotional health. Every system in your body is connected and aware of what you consume, which directly affects your mood. Aguas frescas are not only a delicious way to keep yourself energized but a small step towards making better choices that will motivate you to take on the day.

Fun Ways to Be Fit

While it may not be the thing that many of us look forward to doing, exercise is very important for living healthily. Being fit has countless benefits that assist in living well. Beyond getting some endorphins flowing and toning your body, exercise gives your muscles and bones better longevity when it comes to bodily wear and tear. Exercising regularly also helps with relieving stress and lifting a bad mood. The following are some ways to make fitness a fun and enjoyable habit:

1. Zumba

The hype surrounding this is here for a reason. These latin-dance inspired fitness classes offer fun and invigorating ways to be fit. Check your local dance studios and/or gyms to see if they offer classes. If you like dancing, these are the fitness classes for you.

2. At Home Workouts

For a workout without leaving the comfort of your home, look into YouTube for everything from yoga tutorials to weight training, and more. Find a fitness video for whatever you seek to do whether it be toning your core, or simply a new cardio workout. You can search for videos to work with equipment of your own, or find videos on tutorials for equipment-free workouts. Best of all, this is free!

3. Exercise With Friends

Pair up with a friend who will pledge to workout with you. Knowing that someone else expects you to take time to exercise with them is an incentive to keep doing it. It also helps if you share your goals with others. When you know that someone expect you to be held accountable for progress, it is more motivating than doing it alone.

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4. FitSugar

FitSugar is a site dedicated to keeping up with the best trends in fashion, cooking, lifestyle and fitness, of course. Find a variety of fitness videos for any kind of workout you wish. This is a fun site for a quick and easy selection of fun workout tutorials. The tutorials range from ten to forty-five minutes, and the routines are exciting and challenging. Within each video there are modified instructions for beginners, as well as more challenging routine instructions for those with more advanced fitness levels. If you have a pinterest account, you can find pins with links to the variety of fitness tutorials, or you can follow the board for constant updates.

Essentially, you can be fit on any budget and with any schedule. No matter how busy you get with school and other stressors, make sure you make time to be fit. You will find that it is one of the best things you can do for your body, it will help you stay healthy and happy and it is never too late to start.

DIY: Día De los Muertos Accessories

Photo Credit: Jennifer Janviere

Photo Credit: Jennifer Janviere

Día De los Muertos is a day when we celebrate the wonderful people who have crossed to the other side, not to cry about them. It is a three day celebration in Mexico and it is filled with many parties and events. Well, why not accessorize to get into the Día De los Muertos festivities? It doesn’t always have to be expensive, especially if you do it yourself! Here are tips to help you create the perfect Día De los Muertos accessories.

Before you start creating your own accessories, do some research on the colors and common themes in Día De los Muertos

Día De los Muertos Colors

When it comes to accessorizing for the perfect events, colors do matter. Whether you wear red for Christmas or green on St. Patricks Day; those are examples of color scheming with a holiday. That is why knowing what colors are important on Día De los Muertos can help as a guide to make your Día De los Muertos accessories! The first color is black. Black is mainly used to accessorize the backgrounds of pictures and altars. Black is used as the foundation to help emphasize the other Día De los Muertos colors. The second color used is purple because it represents pain, suffering, grief and mourning. Pink is symbolic because it signifies celebration and the celebration of life. White is also a good color to consider when it comes to making accessories because it signifies purity and renewal for Día De los Muertos. Red and orange are also commonly used since they signify the sun and light. The last important color to consider when making accessories is red because it signifies blood.

Common Items in Día De los Muertos

There are many common items used when it comes to Día De los Muertos. When making your accessories, remember these items because they can help make your accessories more authentic and traditional. Skulls are everywhere on Día De los Muertos! You’ll see skulls in pictures, clay painted skulls, and even skulls on candles. Flowers are also equally important.

Flowers, vibrant colors, and skulls are common Día De los Muertos themes, but it doesn’t mean your accessory has to be like everyone else’s! Add your own unique personality to these super cute accessories:

Skeleton Hat

A cute accessory you can make is a skeleton hat. Buy any hat with one of the suggested colors and decorate it with handmade skeleton heads. Glue the handmade skeleton heads and glue them on the rim of your hat. You can also accessorize the hat with flowers and feathers!

 

 

Flower Crown

A simple accessory that you can make, and still be stylish, is a flower crown! During Día De los Muertos you will see colorful flowers everywhere. So, why not bring the flowers with you everywhere by making a crown? You can use fake or real flowers and you can make the crown have one solid color or several different colors!

Día De los Muertos Necklace

Another accessory idea is a Día De los Muertos necklace! You can go to any craft store and buy a necklace chain. Plus, you can create your own charms and hang them on your necklace. Add flowers, charms, or even trinkets your loved one loved.

 

 

Have other DIY ideas for Día De los Muertos? Contact editor@latinitasmagazine.org.

Girl Talk: Loving Those Who are in Love

JD-art-teenlove-20121229175333558035-300x0Valentine’s Day is far away, yes, but let’s take some time to talk about couples and the growing habit of people’s negativity against couples. Some people will groan, gag, or poke fun when a gooey-eyed girl talks about how her boyfriend gave her flowers, or at other romantic stories like that. Admit it, we all know someone who does this, or maybe we are one of them ourselves — someone who can’t sit through a romantic movie without making a snide comment or who maybe makes comments like how wrapped people get when they’re in a relationship.

The Negative Approach

Though, granted, these cynics (“cynic” is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a person who has negative opinions about other people and about the things people do”) have their reasons. Maybe they just went through a hard relationship, maybe they got their heart broken, and maybe they’re scared. Maybe they’ve just never gotten to experience true love for themselves. And while these are valid reasons, there should still be more open-mindedness and encouragement of love.When did we stop celebrating love? When did we stop realizing how gorgeous and how sweet it is to see a girl swoon over flowers, an elderly couple walking hand-in-hand, or a man singing with a goofy smile on his face because he got engaged. This may sound cheesy and cliché, but love really is great.

Mackenzie Henson, 16, talks about love, saying, “Every time you think about that person, you smile and always want to hang out with them, you want what’s best for them and it just feels…wonderful.”

Loving those who are in love can give you hope, not jealousy

Even if you’ve never been in love, you should still feel happy for those who are. Love those who are in love, don’t be cynical towards them. Of course, as stated earlier, there are reasons for being cynical. We tend to make fun of others as a sort of self-defense against maybe feeling hurt, feeling lonely, or against showing vulnerability — after all, it is easier to look down on others than to feel down yourself.

As Lydia Strickland, 16, says, “Watching people in love is like sitting outside a pen of puppies. They frolic and play, have fun and love, while you watch on the outside of the iron bars thinking to yourself.”

For those who share the same thoughts as Lydia, keep in mind that watching others in love is not cause for jealousy, for self-pity, or for loneliness. Shouldn’t it be something of hope? Your time will come; one day you’ll stumble upon that kind of happy, glowing love, so there is no need to rush or torture yourself with self-pity.

Tai Goodwin, a speaker, coach, and brilliant catalyst, writes in an article in the Huffington Post,“When you see another person’s win as a loss for you, you pave the way for discouragement and resentment to set in. Instead allow other people’s success to ignite hope for the success coming in your time of harvest.”

Sharing is caring—and loving

Rather than ride the negativity train, share in your friends’ happiness! Realize the importance of love—the visible, engulfing kind of love that leaves people grinning goofily for days, the kind of love that makes others glow.

Hannah Young, 15, says she “realized that it’s actually cute and nice to see people in love.”

“I don’t feel bad for myself anymore. I try not to let myself get jealous either, because I know that love make you happy and everyone deserves that,” says Hannah.

When your friend talks happily about her date for the 100th time, you should listen just as attentively as you did the first time. When you see a couple kiss (though it might be overdone), smile! Because it really is sweet.

“When I first went out with my boyfriend, I wouldn’t stop talking about it with my friends,” says Mariana de Caro, 18.

“I bet it must have gotten annoying, but I needed to tell someone and I really appreciated it when my friends (I’m thinking of one specific friend, but I won’t say her name!) took the time to listen to my ramblings. They were attentive and supporting, and it made me all the happier,” adds Mariana.

You should remember that while you certainly don’t need to be in a relationship to be happy, you should still strive to smile for the happiness of those who are in one. It may not always be easy, but love shouldn’t be underestimated—enjoy it!

An Aspiring Star

Photo Credit: Sara-ramirez.org

Photo Credit: Sara-ramirez.org

During our annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, we invite Latinitas volunteers, writers, and interns to share their thoughts on Latina entertainment, role models, and what culture means to them . Here’s what Kenia Guerrero had to say about her favorite actress, Sara Ramirez. 

I’m not interested in medicine, but about 6 years ago I found a great show, Grey’s Anatomy… I love everything about it. Especially Dr. Callie Torres, portrayed by the beautiful Sara Ramirez.

Sara Ramirez is way more than just the attending orthopedic surgeon at Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital. I’ve always found her character really interesting because of how much her story line changed in just a couple seasons. She was introduced in the second season of Grey’s Anatomy as George O’Malley’s love interest. She later become a regular and had the most adorable relationship with Dr. Arizona Robbins. You have to watch the show to understand everything because I’m not going to tell you!
But, I’m not going to talk only about Grey’s Anatomy because Sara Ramirez success started long before Grey’s. Born in She Sinaloa, Mexico, she later moved to San Diego, California where she found her true love: acting. She went to San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts and later to Juilliard. She had the best start! Just in time for graduation, she got her Broadway debut role in Paul Simon’s The Capeman, a year later she appeared in The Gershwins’ Fascinating Rhythm which earned her an Outer Critics Circle Award. She later appeared in several movies and even lent her voice to a video game. It was in 2004 when she was cast as the Lady of the Lake in the musical, Spamalot, and her performance was so good that won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
In fact, she was SOOOOO GOOD that the executives from ABC offered her a role on any series she wanted and she choose….. GREY’S ANATOMY ! She is AMAZING! In 2011, she released on iTunes three original songs performed by her. The real reason I’m talking about her is because she is everything I’ve wanted to be since I was 15. I’ve  always been a huge fan of Chicago, the Broadway musical, so when I found out Sara Ramirez had a role in the musical…. I wanted so bad to be her!
I wanted to be a Mexican actress who performs in musicals, wins a Tony, a role in a TV series , and wins a SAG! It’s interesting how much of an impact an actress can have on your life!  I don’t dance or sing, so it didn’t turn out well. As I grew up, I noticed that, although I love musicals, I want to write. Here I am, Kenia Guerrero, an aspiring journalist.
Want to join in on the fun? Check out the rest of our Hispanic Heritage topics:
http://mylatinitas.com/events/hispanic-heritage-month-2014

Q&A with Gaby Moreno

Gaby_Moreno_en_Acceso_Total_3_CroppedWritten by Sylvia Butanda and Sara Eunice Martinez

With a soulful sound and incredible vocals, Gaby Moreno has received three Latin Grammy nominations in the Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist categories. In 2013, Gaby nabbed a Latin Grammy for Best New Artist. Latinitas sat down with Gaby Moreno, Guatemala singer-songwriter and guitarist.

Can you recall your most memorable performance?
My most memorable performance would have to be performing in Paris. It was a dream come true. As an artist, your dream is to bring your music to the world. Being able to perform in Paris gave me the opportunity to do that.

Who would you say your biggest musical influences are?
I went to visit New York City for the first time when I was 13 or so, and that’s the first time I heard the blues… My music is influenced by blues singing and also has a lot of Spanish sounds. I get a lot of inspiration from old school blues artists that were popular before the 1960s.

Gaby+Moreno+14th+Annual+Latin+GRAMMY+Awards+QasuOEdm417lWhat made you get into music?
It was actually my mother who had gotten me into it. At the age of five, she thought that I had a good singing voice. I started singing lessons and at age thirteen, my family went on a vacation to New York That was when we passed by a lady in the street singing to Jazz. I thought that it was so different and beautiful. So that was what inspired me to contribute some jazz into my work.

For those Latinitas who want to pursue their dreams, what advice do you have to them when they’re trying to express their identity in what they love to do?
You know, when you’re little, you can only dream of going to these far away places and one day, there you are. Find what makes you happy and stick to it, no matter how cliché it sounds, just do what you love and be proud of who you are and the rest will follow.

¿Hablas Español?

Photo Credit: blog.unispain.com

Photo Credit: blog.unispain.com

During the 2014 Latinitas Blog-a-thon for Hispanic Heritage Month, Cynthia Amaya and Rebecca Salazar shared their thoughts on how language has influenced their upbringing.

Do me a favor. Take a second and think about the complexity of language. There are so many languages in this world that I think we sometimes forget that not everyone speaks English. Growing up, I thought English was the one and only language. My grandparents spoke this very strange sounding language to me, which I later learned was called Spanish. English is my first language. I grew up with Spanish speaking parents and grandparents, yet I don’t consider myself a fluent Spanish speaker. I understand mostly everything said in Spanish, but when I’m asked to join in conversation, I freeze up.

I never fully committed to this part of my heritage. Conversations with my family sometimes consisted of my parents speaking to me in Spanish and me replying in English. This sounds absurd, I know. Now that I am older and have experienced many things, I realize that I had a chance to gain such a valuable skill. I deeply regret not taking advantage of this beautiful language as a child, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late for me. Who says your identity has a beginning and an ending? Embracing your culture is such a beautiful thing, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without all those conversations I had with my parents and grandparents growing up. So I’m here to tell you that it’s never too late to embrace your heritage. Don’t be afraid cause you can only grow from here.
— Rebecca Salazar 

 

My first language was Spanish. Neither of my parents spoke English and basically no one in my life spoke English, so I grew up around Spanish and Spanish only. I didn’t start learning English until I was in headstart, a school aimed at children of lower incomes so we won’t be behind when ‘actual’ school starts, and then continued learning when I was enrolled in pre-kinder. By the time I was in kindergarten, I was fluent in both English and Spanish, but I stayed in bilingual classes until third grade, when I took my first monolingual class. Although I was in monolingual classes, I would still have friends with whom I’d only speak in Spanish and, of course, I spoke Spanish with my family. It was just natural for me to be bilingual and switching between both languages. There was nothing weird, offensive, or foreign about that to me.

When I got to high school, I suddenly had teachers who were so offended that I would speak Spanish in my classes. They would get angry and say we were in America and thus, should only speak English. To this day, I still believe that that statement has no foundation or logic. The United States does not have a national language, so I can speak whatever I want. I never knew that speaking Spanish was something that was part of my identity or something that would make me different from my peers. It’s just what my friends, family, and I did. We spoke Spanish and we spoke English and it was fine. Freshman year and on, it was all about the, “GO BACK TO MEXICO” comments coming from peers who had Latino last names. They’re as Mexican as I am and, really, none of us came directly from Mexico. We are all Americans, so how does sending me “back” to Mexico even make sense? I didn’t understand. What’s so threatening about speaking Spanish? Although my teachers never made comments like that, I got threats about behavioral discipline if I kept speaking Spanish. I was perfectly fluent in English and my grades were fine, so why couldn’t I speak Spanish if I chose to do so? WHY IS IT SO THREATENING?!

When I got to Texas A&M, a predominantly white school, Spanish became foreign to me. The first few weeks I was there, I literally (LITERALLY) would never hear Spanish unless I’d call my mom, spoke with my brother who also attended A&M, or spoke to one of my friends from El Paso. It eventually became something that I’d be on the lookout for. If I heard someone speaking Spanish at the store, my ears would prick up and I’d immediately turn around and crane my neck trying to find the source of my beautiful language. I reacted the same way on campus and on the bus. I never even knew Spanish was such a rare language! So many people in El Paso speak Spanish that I just figured it was kind of like that everywhere else. Suddenly I, with my fluency in both languages, was a high commodity. No one was sending me back to Mexico now that they could use my foreign language skills to their advantage.

I truly never realized that speaking Spanish has been and will continue to be a huge part of who I am. I form my sentences differently because Spanish was my first language; I think and learn differently because of it, too. (I still count in Spanish when I’m counting in my head!) Although I’m more comfortable with speaking and writing in English since my Spanish isn’t in use as much, I still love and adore Spanish. It is part of my culture and part of myself. I wouldn’t be me without that language ingrained in my heart.” — Cynthia Amaya

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