Latina Beat: Speaking Kriol

Butterfly logoA brief explanation of my culture background: My Spanish-speaking paternal grandparents are originally from Mexico. My maternal grandmother, also originally from Mexico, spoke Yucatec Mayan and Spanish. My maternal grandfather was born in China and spoke Cantonese. My paternal grandparents gave birth to my father in Belize, and my father and his brothers were raised in Belize by my great-grandmother who was also Mayan, but spoke Spanish to my father and uncles. My mother was raised in Belize as well and grew up speaking English, Spanish, Mayan, Cantonese and Kriol. Kriol is the most popular language in Belize. It’s sort of a broken English dialect spoken with a thick Caribbean accent. My father used to speak Kriol, but he is now only fluent in Spanish and English.

Whew. I hope you got that.

Growing up in a multicultural family, I celebrated a lot of holidays, including traditional American holidays like Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. I celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Good Friday every year because my mother is Catholic. I also celebrate Mexican holidays like Cinco de Maya and Dia De Los Muertos, and I visit Belize every couple of years to celebrate the country’s Independence Day on September 21. And of course, I celebrate Chinese New Years, too!

However, there were some downsides. I was picked on in school for speaking odd. I spoke mostly Kriol at home, but I also spoke English and Spanish, and the languages sort of got mixed up in me. Instead of saying “three” I would say “tree” or instead of saying “thumb” I would say “tum” and I never knew native English speakers can distinguish simple mistakes. It didn’t help that my Asian features are most prominent. And the problem wasn’t just with my friends at school. When I went to Belize, my Belizean family made fun of me for speaking too “American.”  And my Spanish-speaking family always complain about how I cannot roll my r’s properly and that I speak Spanish like a gringa, but my accent was definitely not “white,” it was Caribbean. For a long time, I felt like I wasn’t fluent in any language.

As you can see, it’s a mess.

However, now I’ve learned that the different cultures that are a part of me is what makes me uniquely beautiful. ‘Til this day, Kriol is still the language I’m most comfortable speaking. I do not care what people think about my accent because I know I can speak English, Spanish, and Kriol – just in my own way. And that’s okay.

Diary: Discovering My Faith


Photo Credit: Claudia Mendoza

What religion are you? Non-denominational Christian

How often do you go to church? I go every other Friday for the young adult ministry and then every Sunday. I try to go to the youth ministries also.

What type of events do you go to at your church?
We are having a young adult conference and taking a trip to a very prestigious church in Dallas, Texas.  They also had a retreat in New Mexico and it was really nice in the middle of the forest in a really cabin. For Easter, we went to a big theater and they had famous Christian signers.

What do you like most about your church?
I really like the way they praise and worship they do it with such enthusiasm. When they preach, they try to relate it to their life. They don’t judge you for sinning, they want to make everyone welcome. When you are new, they really reach out to you to make you feel at home and they are my second home. We hangout outside of church with the friends I’ve met there. Some of those friends are life-long friends. We text daily with some of those friends. They really do outreach to get the youth involved, and they do a lot of events for them.  They also give scholarships to high school seniors based on an essay describing what they’ve accomplished.

I have an app for the bible. You pick a theme and then it gives you a bible verse related to that theme each day, like a devotional.  What I like about my church is that they live stream on the computer. They have a media team that does all the announcements, makes flyers, control lights, sound and the projector.  They have a Twitter and Instagram for each ministry and then they have a main Facebook.

How did you get introduced to the church?
It has been a year since I went to Destiny Church because of my ex-boyfriend. He introduced me to the church. He grew up in that church. My family was Catholic, but not very religious. My faith is stronger than my family, and I always wanted to be involved in a church. I really understand the word. Even after we broke up, everyone reached out to me to persuade me to stay. My mom gets upset when she hears I want to get baptized in a Christian church. Now, I am even more involved.  It would get to my heart and make me cry. It really hits you. I go every weekend.

What does your faith mean to you?
Growing up, I wish I would have had a stronger faith. It would have kept me away from making some mistakes and being as reckless as I was. Being a part of a church home and being around good people can really keep you away from bad things; you learn to value yourself. Growing up, I had so much anger and doubt. They teach you how to be kind to others. It humbles you. It helps you with any kind of relationship family, friends or boyfriends. They try to prevent a broken heart. Having something to believe in really gives you hope. You can have a bad day and loss your happiness, but you will never loss your joy. They show you people who help you grow.

How involved are you in your church?
Every church gathering has a different topic and they relate it to contemporary issues. They will talk relationships, how to get over a break-up, school, not giving up, they talk about dealing with non-believers, and they talk about your purpose in life.  They bring out stories of the bible and talk about the metaphors. Everybody understands the stories differently.

What service/ministries have you done?
We’ve collected supplies and food for kids in need, immigrants, and for the Child Crisis Center. We’ve collected baby outfits for babies at the Child Crisis Center. Whoever gets the most donations gets a gift card. We had a basketball tournament to raise money to support the troops. For Thanksgiving, we try to get a lot of donations of food – last year we filled 3 18-wheelers with boxes of food to give them everything they needed for Thanksgiving.

What values or teachings are the most important to you?
I love how they preach and praise. Everyone speaks up and they yell out Yes, Preach or Amen. They like to make service fun. They always say that we are here to celebrate. The choir sings beautifully. It is very entertaining. They have a dance team, a pianist and bass guitar. They try to relate the message to something we have experienced. They stress that they want us to be a part of the community. Sometimes you really need people there to support you. They create that sense of a welcoming community. You do not leave church without meeting someone new.

What is your favorite church teaching or bible verse?
My favorite message from the bible is  Proverbs 31. My favorite part is: “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.”

¿Hablas Español?

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

During the 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

Stepparent: Friend or Foe?

Latinitas, Mother Daughter Workshop

Latinitas, Mother Daughter Workshop

When some people are born they are conceived into a world with two wonderful people as parents. You grow up thinking they love each other, are role models, and believe they will stay together and live happily every after while helping you through  every big moment in life. What do you do when you find out their love for each other has faded? Even bigger, what do you do when you find out they now love someone else? How is that even possible?

Some people refer to their parent’s newfound love as  a stepparent. “When I first found out that I was going to have a stepmom I felt so confused and disappointed. I thought that my new stepmom took my real mom away from my dad, and for that I didn’t like her at all. I love my mom and no one can ever replace her,” said Celeste, 14.

She didn’t take the divorce well. She considers her real mom like her sister, which made the whole idea of having a stepmom a little harder. It is common for marriages to separate and find a new love with someone else. Celeste isn’t the only one going through tough times dealing with divorce or a stepparent. found that over 50% of U.S families are remarried or re-coupled. In addition, 50% of the 60 million children under the age of 13 are currently living with one biological parent and that parent’s current significant other.

According to, dealing with a stepparent is challenging, but is more challenging for teens. Feeling like your world is crashing because your family is being split apart is common, but what makes the situation more difficult is because of “of all the other changes that take place during the teenage years — everything from the emotional growth involved in becoming an adult to the hormonal changes triggered by puberty.”

Bringing in a new adult to the family isn’t always bad, but teenagers, especially pre-teen girls, are more affected by a divorce because they tend to be more emotional and more attached with their real parents.

“Girls have a tendency to act emotional and are considered to be more attached to their parents because girls are often treated differently and sometimes better than boys, and when a new adult comes into their lives to become their new parent, some girls often feel threatened or angry towards them,” said Dr. Estela Rodriguez, Psychologist.

“My dad never really paid attention to me when I was little, or even now. So no, I don’t mind if I’m getting a stepdad because he treats me good; he asks how I am and he cares. I don’t hate my real dad, but it’s nice to feel like someone cares about me again,” said Samantha,15.

Some teenagers might think having a stepparent is the end of the world, while others think it’s the beginning of a new one. A new adult joining your family does not mean they are a replacement of a new parent; sometimes marriages do not work. A new parent joining your family is an opportunity for you to learn something new, give you advice, and treat you differently or make your life better; you just have to give them a chance.

Speaking Spanish at Home

3573-2-english-spanish-language-translatorSenator Ralph Yarborough filed the Bilingual Education Act in 1968, which was aimed to remove the language barrier to an equal education. This was later approved by Congress.  Prior to that, Mexican Americans in Texas, like my mother, were 10 years old at the time.  My mother  had grown up speaking Spanish as her primary language.  When Senator Yarborough attempted to demolish the language barrier to create a community between Anglo American and Spanish speaking people he also stripped young children, like my mother, of their association to their heritage and culture for generations to come. I, for example, don’t  know any Spanish.  I did not grow up hearing it in the household and have very little connection to it except for a phone application called “duolingo” that I downloaded on my phone that helps me learn Spanish.

I asked my mother one day why she hadn’t spoken Spanish to me as a child, and she told me a thought provoking tale.

“We would get punished at school for speaking Spanish,” she explained.

After the bill was passed in 1968, Texas schools decided to make  schools speak only English.  Even in a community like my mother’s, a ranch town of 4000 people made up of mostly Spanish land grant families with very little whites, kids were prohibited from speaking their native language in order to make them learn proper English.

Mexican Americans were often forced to spend two to three years in the first grade to learn English. Mexican schools often had to use run down facilities and second hand teaching materials.  As a child my mother did not want to be spanked or suffer serious consequences for speaking Spanish. She came to understand that speaking Spanish was bad, period.  Her mother’s mother (my great-grandma) only spoke Spanish.   She would feel ashamed at home to hear her parents speaking the forbidden language. What was a child to do?

Over the years my mother’s Spanish drifted away.  She lost the fluency, she lost the correct pronunciation and she basically stopped speaking it all together.

“I regret not speaking to you in Spanish,” explained my mother to me. “Had there been another adult in the house speaking it, so that you, too, could have learned in conversation, it might have helped both of us to become more natural speakers.”

I desire to speak Spanish but I am coming into it as a fluent English speaker.  I have to retrace my steps and relearn a part of my heritage from an application instead of learning it naturally from the words of my mother and how her mother’s mother spoke to each other while going about the daily life.  Learning it from a book or an application is harder and colder.  There is no connection or reference point.   It just becomes a bunch of words or a name game instead of a meaningful conversation. As Latinitas’ writer Lucia Benavides  says so eloquently in her article the  “Mind the Gap,” “Unfortunately, the work of our great-grandmothers, grandmothers, and mothers is not yet finished. It is up to the women of our generation to keep the momentum going and continue to change the country in hopes of a better life.”

My Mamá is My Hero

Mothers come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. Some go through a rough childhood, only to overcome terrible obstacles and raise their daughters in a harmonious household. Their daughter’s childhood is not affected by what these mothers went through. These mothers are the women that young girls call mamí. In this sense, young girls consider these women as the most inspirational person they hope to become.

Pastora Martinez of Los Angeles, California says, “I would describe my mom as a strong woman, no matter what she goes through.”

Martinez explains, “She is always there for me always. She tells me to keep away from trouble … and always talks to me.”

“Now that I am older she gives me more advice and I continue to show her my [gratitude] by showing her how good of a person I am.”

Martinez’s mother, Claudia Eva Martinez, says, “My daughter is someone special. While some girls would like to be out on the streets, she waits until I am home to preguntar me about leaving the house with her friends.”

One of the similarities between Pastora’s mother and countless other girls is the fact that these mothers’ always have the best intentions for their daughters.

Priscilla Marie Gonzales of California explains her relationship with her mamí because her mother, like her, understood empathy. She says, “My mom lost her mother as a young child. She was beaten every day by her step-mom. My dad always turned his cheek to what she went through.” One thing is certain, a mother does not need a man to complete her.

“My dad would beat my mom, while she was pregnant with me,” shares Marie Gonzalez.

Gonzalez refuses to term her mother as a victim, instead she says, “My mom is an inspiration. My mom graduated from high school even while she was pregnant with me. Lots of family troubles also surrounded her, but like her, I take education very seriously. She completed her [high school degree] and got a medical degree later.”

“If she did it, so could I.”

According to the US Labor Statistics, between 1980 and 2008, an increase of single parent households due to a divorce rate, grew by a 2.7 fold. The estimated numbers for one parent households in 2013 is expected to increase by triple. A one parent home is nothing new to Marie-Gonzalez. She says, “My mom is the only one I have. She’s become a mother and father to me. She supports me on all of my decisions.”

“She’s taught me so much. Because of her I see life from a different perspective. I love my mom. She is my life,” says Marie Gonzalez.

Michelle Nerio from Palmdel, CA says, “I am very close to my mother. I could tell her anything.”

You too can become close to your mother by keeping three simple rules for a rewarding relationship.

1. A mami cares for you unconditionally. She will scold you because she cares. She will do it with the best intentions on her part.
2. She will discipline you according to her expectations. For example, a mother often takes a child’s recreational time from bad acquaintances in order to steer her child away from potential harm. These sometimes include social networking sites. This is in part to keep a girl safe from the dangers of internet pedophiles or malicious students.
3.  Last of all, “a mother is a hero if there is a possibility to tell each other everything,” Nerio says.

She shares,“If you are able to agree on things and trust each other and each other’s secrets, then your mother is second to none. My mom is a strong woman, she is encouraging. She gives me positive affirmations and she tells me to keep my head up high. So I never give up and I dream big.

Mothers often inspire young girls by instilling confidence in them. Nerio says, “I love my mother so much. I give her so many thanks for everything. I am proud to call her my mamí.”

Latinitas Dia de Las Madres Contest Winners

We were especially touched this year by the quality of entries to Latinitas’ 2012 Dia de las Madres writing contest.   Our writers were as young as 9 years old and as old as high school.  Girls presented “great mothers” in their lives through writing.

My Mom by Celie Contreras

My mom is special to me because she cares about me in every way. My mom supports me in everything I do, like sports and school. I love my mom in lots of many ways. My mom is a hard working woman that a lot of people like. My mom tells me that she loves me and when she tells me that… I cherish those moments and say, “I love you too mom!” Sometimes my mom and I fight and argue but right after that minute we love each other again.  My mom adores me and I adore my mom more.  My mom buys me a lot of clothes, food to eat and water to drink and most of all she loves me! My mom spends a lot of time with me, so in the future when my sibling leave my mom and I can spend even more time together when I’m an only child.  Every day I wake up she says, “I love you little one,” and when she says that I smile big, so my mom knows I’m happy! When my mom looks at me I always think she’s going to say something about my eyes, but she says, “Celie you need to clean your glasses again,” after she says that I give her my glasses to clean. When I put on my glasses … now she says, Celie your eyes are beautiful!”  Then night time comes, she tucks me in and puts the blankets over me and gives me a goodnight kiss. In the morning she wakes me up and turns the light on and says, “Get dressed for school…” all I think about is ahh I love when my mom says those words! When it comes to the dinner table she always tells Carlie, Daniel, my dad and I to use our manners properly! She always says, “Are you saving that for later?” That is only if we have food on our face or clothes that we didn’t know about! While we eat dinner we always talk about how our day was and what we did today. When we talk we laugh and giggle about the one funny thing that happened. Even though you think parents can be embarrassing my mom is actually kind of cool to be around when my friends are over. That’s why I love my mother with all of my heart!!!!

My Mother by Marisa Flores

My mom has been an influence in my life by …Teaching me and telling me I’m good at sports, school, and art. She tells me to go to college in order to get a good job. My mom supports me in school and sports .My mom cares about me, and tells me that she loves me .My mom helps me with everything . My mom helps me practice, takes me to practice, and goes to all of my games. My mom takes me shopping and buys stuff for my bed room, and school, summer and outdoor clothes.

My mom tells me I’m pretty.  My mom tells me never to do any drugs that it will mess your whole life up. Sometimes my mom and I may argue but I know she still loves me.  My mom tells me to listen to my teachers and my elders.  My mom tells me I should never give up or quit something I’ve already started.  My mom always encourages me to save my money. My mom tells me don’t change for anyone .My mom tells me don’t ever quit dreaming .My mom tells me that I am beautiful no matter what anyone says. My mom says everything is possible. I have the best mom ever even though we fight.  My mom tells me goodnight every night. My mom buys mom buys me everything I want for Christmas.  My mom understands all my problems.  My mom takes me to the dentist, pays my phone bill, and bought me a DS.  My mom let’s me have my own room.  My mom can trust me.  My mom is nice to all my friends. My mom loves all my ideas. My mom helps me through everything.  My mom always takes me out for dinner. My mom always cares for me if I’m sick. My mom always agrees with me.  Even though my mom and I have been through a lot of ups and downs … I still love her.

My Amazing Sister by Emerald Espino

My sister, Vanessa Marie Espino, is my role model.  Why? She is the strongest, prettiest, bravest, caring, person that I know.  She is strong because she has bills to pay, food to buy and cook, clean the house, and she has to care my brothers and me and her own kids.  She is very strong and I don’t know how she does it. She’s amazing!  She always tells me that we have our ups and downs and that we just have to be strong and wish for the best. She is like so strong and I love her and I feel like she doesn’t know that and I feel like I don’t do enough. She is also pretty. She is pretty with or without  makeup or dressing up and doing her hair. She is herself. She is also the bravest person I know because she is not afraid of making sacrifices to make our lives better. All she wants is for us to behappy. And last but not least she is caring. She is caring because right away when she knows that we have received our child support check, she takes care of our needs first.  She doesn’t say, “Well no let me go do this first for myself or her family.” No she goes right ahead and puts us first and let’s us get what we need.  When we don’t have our child support she gives us money so we can have what we need.  She gave my brother and me money for my fieldtrip when we didn’t have any money.  And another thing is that she is taking care of my brothers and me because nobody else wants to.   She lets us live in her house for free.  She is taking care of us when my mom and dad should be doing this.  She is like a mom to me.  She takes care of me, my brothers, her kids, her boyfriend, and herself. That is a lot and I don’t know how she does it.  I really appreciate what she has done for us.  I hope that when I grow up I will be just like her.  These are all the reasons why my sister is my role model and a great mom.

Mi Madre by Maria Isabel Gonzalez-Segura

Yo   tengo a  alguien  que siempre  estará  en mi  corazón  y ella  es  mi hermana  Elizabeth.  Ella es  fuerte  y lucha  por  mí. Es la  mejor  hermana que  he  querido. Es fuerte  hace  un esfuerzo  por  sus  4 hijos  y mas a mi. También le ayudo con  sus  niño pero  yo  estoy chiquita y  dice  que no  me preocupe. también mi  hermana es  inteligente  porque me  ayuda  con mi  tarea  y con  mis  problemas. Me hace  pensar  porque si  hace  mucho por  mi  yo la  quiero  mucho y  se  siente como   que  ella era mi  mama. Gracias  a ella  mi  vida es  feliz.  Mi hermana  es  valiente porque cuando  yo  estoy enferma  ella  me dice  hermanita  ponte los zapatos  vamos  ir al  hospital  y en  esos  momentos me  hace  llorar porque si  me  quiere y quiere que yo este  sana. Para que siempre  este  feliz. Lo mejor  de  mi hermana  es  que ES  LA  MEJOR  EN  EL  MUNDO. Ella era  la primera  en  bañarme  yo  la  amo y  siempre  la  voy a  querer   mi hermana es  mi  mejor  hermana  y  mejor amiga  Te quiero mi  hermanita chula.
*Winners of this regional contest were awarded free passes to Fiesta Texas (San Antonio, TX) and Schlitterbahn water park.A marketing team from Texas State University’s communications department created the contest parameters, reached out to schools for submissions and vetted entries for the following winners.

Honoring Our Loved Ones

Our Latinitas share their memories about loved ones who have passed away.

My Tio Obie passed away a few months ago due to an illness. He was always in a party mood. They always had coca cola at parties because it was his favorite drink. Once when we were playing rock band, he started to pretend to play the guitar. -Mia

I remember that my grandpa used to tell me to dance with him, and he used to take me to a park named Julio Park before he passed away. I miss him because he was my papa. -Selena

I remember that my grandpa was always at our home on Saturdays. He would always come over and just stay. He would tell me to be good and listen to my parents. I remember he would always wear a blue cap and would drink and smoke. He died because he was drunk, but I know that he is with Jesus and the angels. I think now he protects me and my family. I still miss him, but I know he’s in a better place now. -Jenny

I remember when my grandmother passed away. She was 87 years old. I remember we gave her a lot of presents for her birthday. She was very happy. I love my grandmother. -Jennifer

My grandpa is one of my biggest role models. He took care of my four uncles and grandma by working day and night at the post office. My grandpa was in the Navy. He helped transport the soldiers to go fight. My grandpa was AMAZING at playing his guitar. I really loved him. He was so nice, and he disciplined me very well. He died when I was six-years-old. He will always be in my memories forever. -Danielle

My great grandpa Frank Serria was in World War 2. He got shot quite a lot of times, but still survived. Five years later, he passed away from a heart attack. My grandma was only fifteen when that happened. My great grandma had to raise eleven kids on her own. -Jasmin

Three Generations

One of my favorite memories growing up was when I was a little girl sitting at the kitchen table looking up at my mom and grandmother as they made tamale. I remember the masa leaving globs of off-white goo on the table, while everyone around the table shared their stories, memories and happy tales. Now, I take place in the tamale making process with at least three generation of Hispanic women in one of the longest traditions taking place in my family.

My mom and grandma would tell me how they made the tamales when they were younger and how their mother would teach them how to make them just right. Now, I am starting to learn how to make them just right as well. “When I was your age and helped my mom make tamales, we went a whole different route” said my mom, Maria, right before she started explaining the differences. They had to make their own masa, chile, and any other ingredients needed from scratch. They did not buy anything already pre-made for them. When I found this out, I suddenly became grateful to know that we take the “short cut” in the making process. I cherish these moments the most.

My grandma Julie as well shared the traditions with with her own mother and now we spend time on the holidays with her. She says “having my sons and their families come over every year to continue a tradition that was started by your great grandma is one of the best parts of the year that I truly look forward to.”

My grandma also speaks of Dia de los Muertos. She would take all her daughters across the border to Mexico, and they would clean up the tombstone and burial area for her mom, my great grandma. “Even if they had school that day, I would call then in sick so that they can continue and experience the tradition,” said my grandma Grace. They would then celebrate, make altars, listen to mariachi and enjoy the great celebration. This tradition was great but over the years and generations the tradition has changed. I learned how it was celebrated and how the process takes place, but I have not really taken part in the tradition.

Another tradition that my family celebrates is el Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, or Three Kings’ Day. This tradition usually takes place at my grandma’s house with the whole family there. We would buy a rosca. For several years, I would be one of the family members to find the little toy baby in the pastry. The tradition goes as follows: the kids in the family would leave their shoes out and in the morning they would find small gifts in them. That part of the tradition we never did in my family. The important part of this tradition is spending time with the family.

The Hispanic culture is rich and thriving, having many traditions taking place all year long. Family togetherness and happy memories make the simple traditions in the culture continue living from one generation to next.

February 2010