Latina Spotlight: Leading Latinas

Photo Credit: AAUW

Photo Credit: AAUW

Latinitas celebrated Women’s History Month by hosting a blog-a-thon. Members of the MyLatinitas.com community shared who they admired and why:

I will be honest. I am not a big sports fan. But if there is one revolutionary Latina that just has to be mentioned in sports, that has to be Rebecca Lobo. If you are a basketball fan, you might now that Rebecca was part of the 1996 Olympic women’s “Dream Team,” but let me tell you a little more about her.

Born in Hartford, CT, Rebecca was around basketball at a young age. Her career highlights include awards such as the NCAA Women’s Basketball Player of the Year (1995) and the ESPY Award for Outstanding Female Athlete in 1995. She won these awards and many more at a time where women in sports was something taboo, and extremely unheard of.

While she is currently playing for the Houston Comets, her career as a professional basketball player began after her graduation from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 1995.

Rebecca’s star status grew when she started playing college basketball and was one of the women who showed America and the world that WOMEN PLAY SPORTS!” – Ingrid

Selena Quintanilla is my inspiration because she was an amazing Latina singer. She set a good reputation for herself also, she inspired so many young Latina girl.” – Alizae

Today I met Josefina Vazquez Mota, one of Mexico’s first female presidential candidates. She ran for the 2012 presidential elections. I remember I was in Thailand at the time and wasn’t able to vote for her but was hugely concerned over whether she would win. In the end, she wasn’t elected, but was still hugely recognized. Today, in New York City, she presented her book on the success stories of Mexicans in the US, titled “El sueño que unió la frontera.

Josefina is a Latina like you and I. She was born in Mexico but believes in the power of Latinos, not only in the US, but in Latin America as well. Here or there we’re all bound to fight for a cause, she expressed.

 I grew up believing I needed to belong somewhere. One place, only one. I was born in Brownsville, Texas (as I have probably mentioned a million times) and would drive to Mexico every other weekend. With time, I realized that I loved both places, but I also knew they weren’t very similar, and this caused a feeling of contradiction within me” – Giselle

 

Do You Wanna Buy a Snowman?

Do you wanna buy a snowman? Now you can with the new DVD release of Frozen. Disney’s new animated feature has captured audiences internationally. Overall, Frozen earned more than 368.6 million dollars in the box office and re-released a sing-along version in theaters. Now the time has come to bring Frozen into your home.

Frozen_castposter

For those who have not seen Frozen, the movie follows the story of Princess Anna of Arendalle and her sister, Queen Elsa. Elsa was born with magical icy powers. One day Elsa’s powers accidentally set off a winter storm leading Anna to brave the icy weather to save the kingdom from an eternal winter. Along the way, Anna meets Kristoff, a mountain man, and his reindeer, Sven, and an adorably hilarious snowman named Olaf. Together, they set off for a very cool adventure that you’ll be sure to enjoy.

Frozen stars Idina Menzel as Elsa and Kristen Bell as Anna. It is co-directed by Jennifer Lee who also helped write the story of Frozen. In an interview, Jennifer Lee said her perspective of being a woman at the screenwriting table helped her male co-writers see some stereotypes they were writing. Because of that, her presence at the table helped shaped two of the most independent princesses (who do not need a prince to rescue them) Disney has ever had.

If that hasn’t convinced you yet, here are five reasons why Frozen is awesome.

  1. The Princess: Anna is a fearless optimist who believes in the power of true love. Anna is a strong protagonist in the movie whose bravery is quite admirable.
  2. The Queen: Elsa is also a strong protagonist who was taught most of her life to conceal her powers out of the fear of being “too dangerous.” This twist on the cliché villain makes you think twice on why people may do certain things.
  3. The sidekick characters: As mentioned before, Kristoff and his reindeer, Sven, are great characters that provide comedic relief to the dangerous adventure. Olaf, the snowman, is also a comedy relief for the audience and has the capability of melting your heart, even if you are snowman.
  4. The Songs: Okay, the songs are awesome. You’ve probably heard the covers of “Let It Go” and “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman” over and over, but don’t be fooled. These songs are very catchy and very well-written. All the songs were written by the dynamic husband and wife duo, Bobby Lopez, three-time Tony Award Winner, and Kristen-Anderson Lopez.
  5. The Animation: The animation of Frozen is really quite remarkable if you are movie buff and know all the camera angles. Even if you are not, the animation is appealing to the eye. Some may dare to say it embodies the same essence as other famous Disney classics. The animation is listed here on the top five reasons to see Frozen because Walt Disney’s start in animation was a magical experience for audiences.

Add this new Disney classic to your collection on Tuesday March 18th, 2014.

Planning For Your Future

College Chica, 2013

College Chica, 2013

Do you know what you want to study or what you want to be when you grow up? If you don’t, that’s okay. Your parents or friends have probably encouraged you to start thinking about what you want to be when you grow up so you can pick the best college for you. From financial aid to finding the perfect university, they might have shared some advice because they are concerned about your future.

You might know what you want to be when you grow up or maybe you’re just barely thinking about it. Knowing what you want to be when you grow up increases the opportunities that you can take advantage of in middle school and high school. Even if you are torn between two dream jobs, knowing what type of career you are interested in helps in knowing what type of scholarships you can apply to , and you can start early in your career by picking classes in high school that will give you a head-start in your dream job.

“I want to be an FBI agent, I was so ready for college and ready to have fun, but I never thought it was going to be this hard. I should’ve listened to everyone; college is really expensive, I can barely afford it, and I have to take out a lot of loans just to get by. I should’ve applied for scholarships and applied to more colleges. I procrastinated too much,” said Jocelyn, 20.

Even though she knew what she wanted to study, she didn’t plan for her future. Unlike Jocelyn, girls like Xochitl whom needed extra time to figure things out had a back up plan in high school.

“I didn’t quite know exactly what I wanted to be or what to study, but when I was a senior in high school I applied to all of the scholarships available, even if I thought I wouldn’t get it. I applied everywhere no matter how hard it was,” said Xochitl, 23.

She started early, even if she didn’t know what to study she kept applying everywhere. Some were a miss, but in the end she did wind up receiving enough money to pay for everything and still had some leftover money.

Even if you already know what college or university you want to go to, it is recommended for you to apply to more than one school and multiple scholarships because it is always better to have a plan B, just in case.

“Of course, I didn’t win all the scholarships, but the more you apply the more chances you have of winning one. I got two scholarships; I paid my tuition, my books, and everything I needed for school. I still had $2,000 left all for myself, but I bet if I knew what I wanted to study like I do now I would’ve gotten more scholarships,” said Xochitl.

Preparation may not be easy, might take awhile, or you might think you still have a long way to go, or that you will do it later, but take advantage of the time where you have nothing to do and start brainstorming. It’s never too early to start.

If you start planning your future now who knows, you might get more money than you ever expected. If you don’t you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket or with loans. Loans are often the last resort, and it’s not the best financial decision because you’ll be in debt. The worst thing you can do is to not apply at all. Planning ahead will not only help you financially, it will reduce the stress. Start planning, little by little, it might be stressful having so many options thinking of your life, what you want to do with it, but it will all be worth it in the end.

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. Stepfamily.org 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 Teenshealth.org, 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.

Leading Latina: Christina Garcia

Photo Credit: http://las-americas.org/

Photo Credit: http://las-americas.org/

Written by Rebecca Jackson

Immigration reform is a pressing political issue in the United States as people from around the world cross borders to find better opportunities for themselves and their families.  A Latina making an impact to help immigrants is Christina Garica. Christina Garcia is the Program Coordinator for the Battered Immigrant Women department at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas. That’s a long title for a crucial job.

Garcia’s Contribution to Her Community

In her own words, Garcia “takes care of people who are victims of crimes and domestic abuse.” She does this by connecting clients to the visas they need to stay safe.

The first is a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Visa which protects women who are married to United States citizens and suffer from domestic violence. The Violence Against Women Act, which was first passed in 1994, created a number of laws that politicians hoped would help prevent violence against women and provide better support for women who had experienced violence. Legislators at the time realized that many non-citizen and undocumented people, mostly women, experiencing domestic violence were not reporting the abuse to the police for fear of losing their immigration status and being deported. The VAWA Visa encourages immigrant women to report domestic abuse by giving them access to legal residence that doesn’t depend on their relationship to an abusive partner.

The second type of visa is a U-Visa. A U-Visa allows undocumented people who are the victims of crimes and have cooperated with the authorities to attain legal permanent residence. The U-Visa encourages people to report crimes without fear of deportation. “These issue are right at the center of human rights,” says Garcia.

When asked what she wanted young Latinas to know about domestic violence and the immigrant community she had a lot of wisdom to share.

“I think people tend to view immigration as an isolated issue that only a few people experience, when in reality immigration is this universal issue that happens all over the world. If you sit 10 people down in a room at least half of those people know an immigrant,” she said.

For Garcia, acknowledging that immigrants make up an important portion of our communities means that “when we confront violence against women we can’t focus only on women who are citizens or who have papers.”

She wants Latinas to be aware that, “it doesn’t matter what immigration status you have, if you are the victim of a crime or the victim of domestic violence, or if someone is pushing you to do something that you don’t want to, than it’s important to know that this isn’t right and that there is something that you can do about it. If it isn’t happening to you, it might be happening to someone you know, or it might happen to someone you’ll meet in the future.”

She took a breath before leaning forward and emphasizing that, “it is important to know that there are people who can help and you don’t need to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the assistance that you need.”

Garcia’s last comment points to the importance of organizations like Las Americas. Immigration law is complicated. Cases take a long time and require lots of complex paperwork to be filled out correctly, efficiently, and then sent to the right government office. Very few people could get all of that done without legal assistance from an attorney or someone professionally trained in immigration law. Unfortunately, hiring a lawyer can be extremely expensive (not to mention the money the government charges you just to turn in you paperwork!) and many of the people who qualify for VAWA or U-visas are low income. So Garcia and the other wonderful ladies of Las Americas work to provide immigrants with quality legal care at low cost. For Garcia it all comes down to giving back.

“As a Latina and a low-income person who had the opportunity to be educated, I think it’s kind of an obligation to give back to your community at some point in your career. I think I’ve been blessed to be able to do that here. It would be so cool if everybody thought like that,” she said.

Pharr Away

Photo Credit: Flickr, mylitocupcake

Photo Credit: Flickr, mylitocupcake

By Sara Cabrera

I eat menudo and barbacoa
with a fresh warm packet
of Guerrero tortillas
on Sunday mornings after mass.
After, I drive at 3 mph down the
bumpy Raul Longoria Road
to go to La Pulga de Alamo
and to beat
the Rio Grande Valley heat.
There I buy verduras y frutas frescas
and of course some Mexican candy.

I explored my granny’s backyard,
which reached the chin of Africa
to the most northern part of Canada.
My brother and I
were evil scientists and made our secret lair
in the luscious shrubs farthest from mom and dad;
making poisonous potions from water de la mangera
and crushed exotic flowers that danced in the yard
with names too fancy to remember at seven.

I chased lizards
up and down the old mesquite tree,
that met its final battle in ’08
against hurricane Dolly.
The tree used to serve as a clubhouse,
now Dad just uses it to make BBQ.

I celebrate Christmas
on December 24th, not the 25th.
Celebrations with tamales, pozole,
buñuelos, and who can forget the
posadas. I have two birthdays,
the day I was born, y el día de mi santo.

Valentine’s Day: Friends Forever

The typical way to celebrate ‘V-Day’ is getting together with that one boy and watching a classic “chick flick” like The Notebook or The Vow, and buying an expensive dinner for the two of you that you secretly know you don’t like. What about when you don’t have a special boy and just want to celebrate with your friends? Or when you just really don’t want to go through another typical date and eat food you don’t like?

“This year my best friend and I don’t have boyfriends or a special someone and we’re pretty bummed out because everywhere we go there are cute couples all over the place making us feel bad,” said Sammy, 15.

The wild pink and red environment of people running around buying presents was making them feel blue and they decided to get together and throw something completely different for the occasion making everyone’s day a better one.

“We decided we weren’t going to let it ruin our day so we decided we are going to have a party with single friends; kind of like an Anti-Valentine’s thing. I’m just trying to make it a good day for my friends, no more crying over dumb reasons,” said Sammy.

There is nothing like hanging out with your girls sharing laughs and having fun, even when you already have that special someone.

“I have a boyfriend and he wanted to do something special, but I told him no because I wanted to do something with my friends,” said Carla, 17.

“I wanted to have a movie night, perhaps a sleepover, eat a lot of junk food, maybe do some pranks, and just have fun because I love my friends and I know that hanging out with my boyfriend isn’t going to be as fun as being with my girls,” she adds.

For Danielle, 20, she celebrates Valentines Day differently.

“I go to school in Lubbock, my boyfriend goes to school in Austin and other friends or family members are back home in El Paso, I have no one to celebrate Valentine’s day with,” said Danielle.

She adds she has made friends since moving out, but prefers to staining in with her roommate.

“I just don’t feel like going out, I’m just going to stay in with my roommate buy some food and off course, lots and lots of chocolate! This day makes me feel so sad and makes me miss everyone back home, but I don’t mind spending it with my roommate because we’re both girls, we can have fun and share stories together,” said Danielle.

Even though she is miles away from her loved ones she found a way to spend this red day with someone that will give her some company and share this day with even if it isn’t her special someone.

Whether you are celebrating with your significant other or friends, did you know that an average of 15% of the U.S women buy themselves flowers? A little self-love in the form of flowers is nothing to be ashamed about. We deserve something special now and then, and when we have no one to buy us any why not buy them ourselves?

BFF: Dominique & Bethany

BFF: Dominique & Bethany

Spending Valentine’s Day can be a nightmare for some people, but even though they know they don’t have a special someone to share it with there is always going to be your friends you can count on to cheer you up and be with you through the tough times. Go out with your friends, plan a movie night, eat junk food, stay in and share stories, have a party! Good friends will always be there, and if they spend this day with you, you know they’re keepers, you’ll be friends forever.

Parents in the Military

Photo credit: theeap.com

Photo credit: theeap.com

More and more children are missing out on the get togethers with loved ones due to the increasing amount of individuals leaving to the military.

Angie Vasquez, 5, sits alone during the lunch hour due to her definition of feeling “left out.”

She says, “I feel like so many other girls have so much. They have their toys, but most of all they have their dads and moms with them. I have my pictures of them, but I don’t think they can feel me wrap my arms around them when I go to bed.”

According to a survey done by Blue Star Families, 67% of parents leaving oversees and leaving their children behind sought to search for mental health rehabilitation due to anxiety from being away from their children.

Vasquez says, “I like that my mom and dad are taking care of America, now America doesn’t have to worry about bombs or guns, but sometimes I want them [parents] to come home.”

Like her, there is a 68% increase of indepence in the child, but is it adaptability or a sense that they too have to become young adults earlier in life?

Tomasa Flores, Angie’s caretaker for the next year or so, says, “I have nothing bad to say about the military. My son Jose was in the Mexican army, but I do say that it is different for someone as young as Angie. She is a baby. I reminder her daily that I love her. If I don’t, who will?”

At this moment, Angie Vasquez interrupts and says, “My mom and dad love me! They call each night before I go to bed and wish the bugs don’t come in and bite. I love you too, Toma!”

Flores hugs her close and repeats the words to young Vasquez and says, “I do not think I could of gone to great lengths to try to save the US and my child’s future all by herself.”

Angie says, ” When my mom and dad come home I’ll be this much old,” while sticking her right hand flat and one finger up on the left hand.

Dosomething.org claims “more than 900,000 children experienced the deployment of one or both parents multiple times.”

Cards, letters and gift packages once dominated the mail waves soon after 9/11, but increased mail restrictions make it all the harder to do so. For a family member overseas, communication helps bring them closer. Talking to them everyday or as consistently as possible helps in coping with their deployment.

Vasquez is proof that staying optimistic is the only way she will stay confident. She said, “Even if I can’t send my mom or dad a real hug. I sent a photo of me, when both my top teeth were out. I asked Santa to give me my teeth for Christmas and I’ll be waiting.”

She smiles and it becomes evident that her upper teeth are coming in by a fraction of an inch.

If your loved one is oversees, send them a care package to bring a smile to their life the same way they make you smile when you have a chance to speak with them.

DIY Valentine’s Day Gifts

Candy-Hearts-for-Valentines-DayThat time of the year is coming again, the time where you walk in to the stores and you see pink, red, and white all over the place, stuffed animals of all sizes and chocolates, but everything is the same; it’s time to create something special and unique!

The Scavenger Hunt:

You’ll need balloons, paper and markers, sticky notes, and helium. Write tiny clues in a piece of paper, fold it in very small and put it inside the balloon before you fill it up with helium, you can write anything that lead to the big prize, for example “It’s in something you use daily.” Then, place these clues in different locations you know that person is on a daily basis so that they get surprised when they see it. Once you fill up the balloon with helium write on the balloon with a marker “Pop for clue” and they would have to pop the balloon to see your clue. It’s a fun, playful gift! Once they get all of the balloons popped (you can make as many as you want), lead them to where the big prize is, for example: you can fill their car or bedroom with sticky notes with memories and inside jokes of you guys, make it colorful, make it original, make it unique!

If you want to go with a simple, but cheesy gift, go with this one:

The Candy vase:

All you need is a small glass vase of any size, a sharpie marker, m&m’s and skittles. It’s a candy fun activity! Pour half of the chocolates into the jar, open the skittles and only put one. Then, pour the rest of the chocolates into the jar and you can enjoy eating  the rest of the left-over skittles! Once you’re done pouring the candy, write “You’re one in a million” on the vase. If the person likes skittles more than chocolate, you can do the same but vice versa!

The Scratch off:

All you need is a nice piece of paper, white Crayola crayon, paint (any kind), a pen, and a quarter. First, you fold the paper in half so you can make two “scratch-offs,” write “scratch to reveal,” draw three hearts, and write what you would like to give them inside of the hearts.  For example, you can write “pay for the movies,” “make you dinner,” a hug, etc. Be creative! Once you write on all of them, color the heart with the white crayon.

Tip: You will need color it in over and over.

After you finish coloring it in, you paint the hearts and let it dry. Finally, when you give it to them you can tell them only to scratch only one or, if you’re feeling generous, have them scratch off all of them. You can make your own rules for the scratch-off game.  Next, give them the quarter to use to scratch off the pain, and voila!

Similar to the cheesy, but cute, vase gift is the “Open When….” Envelopes

“Open When….”  Envelopes:

This is a smart and sweet idea to make someone’s day. To make it work you will need to get as many envelopes as possible. On each envelope put “Open when…”  to indicate when the person should open the envelope. For example “Open when you feel sad,” or “Open when you want to laugh” and inside you put something that will cheer them up or make them laugh, pictures of you guys, funny/inside jokes, anything that will make them not feel sad anymore or laugh like crazy. The point to these envelopes is to make the connection with the person stronger, whether it is a friend, family, or your special someone. When you’re done making the envelopes, put them in a pretty hardcover box and label it “Open when…” You can make an envelope out of any occasion or situation. Have fun with the envelopes; make the other person feel loved on this special day!

DIY gifts are cute and fun ways to show off your creativity. Most importantly have fun doing these gifts; picture their face when you give them your home-made present. It’s going to be even more important and valuable because you didn’t buy it at a store and no one else has the exact same thing, it’s unique.

Mi Barrio: Houston, TX

Written by: April
Age: 24
City: Houston, TX US

Houston_HDR

Photo credit: Houstonsvoice.com

What do you like to do for fun there?
I love Houston, TX. It is not only a big city, but there is always that opportunity to grow. There are many opportunities to grow academically. Even if you begin small you’ll soon realize many Latina girls are striving to create someone better for themselves. I see many young women starting at Houston Community College, which is a beginning, a start to a future as a teacher, a license practitioner, or even to become a better person. I’ve met so many women who started school because they weren’t sure what they were going to do with their lives. This feeling of uncertainty changes the first semester when they complete one class. They have a renowned sense of confidence and killer able -bodied attitude that shines.

What makes your hometown special?
Houston is special because it is home. It is where my family resides. It is where I can count on my girls to spend a day sans social media and hang out. We go and relax at the Houston Zoo (on not so hot days) and take a picnic out to any local park. My girls and I walk to the local “panaderia” for some hot and sweet bread!

What is the weather like?
Houston is humid and hot, but I love it.

What type of hometown do you live in?
I live in an urban neighborhood.

Why do you like it?
In Houston, there is something to do everyday.

What can visitors do in your hometown?
If you’ve never ridden on a train, the metrorail is a fun experience. Even better, you can sit on the metro rail backwards!

What special landmarks or attractions do you find in your community?
I love the museums!

What is the history behind your hometown?
Houston used to be considered the fourth fattest city, but our city became fitness buffs. In doing so, we managed to put that title away.

Describe cultural events in your community.
Free Press Houston Fest is getting its name out there. Each year it gets bigger and better. FPH gets bigger artists to be featured, which in turn causes people from outside of Texas to come and visit.

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