DIY Gift Ideas

If you want to give a thoughtful gift on a budget, a do-it-yourself project is a great way to show you care. Here are some tips on making your own gifts at a lower price:
“I Love You a Latte” (Decorated Coffee Mug)


You’ll need: A plain colored mug of your choice and oil based sharpie markers of any color
Steps: Decorate the mug any way you’d like with the markers, you can write your name, a silly joke, draw flowers, dinosaurs, hearts, or even write your name on them. Use your imagination, go wild! After you’ve finished your masterpiece, place your mug in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Make sure to have an adult supervision when using the oven. After the 45 minutes have passed, you can carefully take them out and there you go, a creative gift that will last forever!

Letter Photography

You’ll need: Big wooden Letter, mod podge, brushes, scissors, and photographs
Steps: First cut out the pictures you want to use in the letter in the exact shape of the letter, and find the spot you want to place them in. Then put mod podge all over the letter, make sure to fill it all in, then place the pictures carefully accordingly to where you want them placed. After you have placed the pictures, put mod podge all over the pictures once more, wait 10 minutes while they dry and then put a second layer of mod podge. Put a third layer, just to make sure everything is glued on right. Afterwards, wait about 20 minutes to make sure everything is perfect and then you have a beautiful photographed letter.

Tips to a Festive Holiday

Make this holiday season a blast and create memories that will last with these helpful tips from Latinitas for a festive holiday.

Do Holiday Activities Together
“To have fun this holiday, do holiday activities that involve your whole family. For example, one of my favorite things to do during the holidays is bake. It has turned into a tradition. Every year we pick one thing to bake together as a family. Like cookies, brownies, of course adding holiday decorations to go along with the festive days. It is fun to do something different together plus the house gets all warm and smells delicious! Then we share what we did with a cup of hot chocolate,” adds Itzel Barraza.

Play Fun Games Together
“If you’re gonna spend it with your family, play fun games with them! I go to visit my grandparents every year, and after every dinner every day we spend it playing Loteria until 1 am,” shares Fandi Zapien.

Have a Good Attitude
“Start the holiday season with the right foot. Forgive all the things that made you sad or angry. If a person close to you, did something that you didn’t like…forgive them. Why would you focus on things that already passed instead of happiness?” adds Ariadne Venegas.

“Try to smile. I know that is hard to be happy all day, but at least on these special days. Start by sharing your smile on this holiday,” shares Ariadne Venegas.

Unplug & Focus on Loved Ones
“Try putting your phone down or turning off your computer at least for a little while and spend time together. We spend so much time on computers, cell phones and working. Instead of technology, you can spend time together playing board games, going ice skating, or baking, and talking to each other and spending time together,” says Itzel Barraza.

Plan a Family Outing
“Another good thing to do is plan a family day, go to the mall, downtown, to visit other relatives, but do it together,” shares Fandi Zapien.

Poetry: Senses of Thanksgiving

5 Senses Thanksgiving Poem

Using their 5 senses, these Latinitas created awesome poems about Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving smells like an abundance of food
Thanksgiving sounds like lots of people talking
Thanksgiving looks like the colors of brown, yellow, orange and red
Thanksgiving feels like prayers and blessings
Thanksgiving tastes like turkey

On Thanksgiving, I tastes like turkey
Thanksgiving looks like fall colors
Thanksgiving feels like hugs
Thanksgiving sounds like singing

Thanksgiving tastes like turkey and bacon
Thanksgiving looks like the brown and orange
Thanksgiving smells like a turkey in the oven
Thanksgiving sounds like neighbors
Thanksgiving feels like love and happiness

Thanksgiving smells and tastes like turkey
Thanksgiving sounds like laughter
Thanksgiving looks like a family reunion
Thanksgiving feels like love

In Thanksgiving it smells like the fresh turkey on the dinner.
Thanksgiving looks like the beautiful fall with pine cones with the colorful colors.
Thanksgiving feels like warm comfy pajamas.
Thanksgiving sound like the “mmm” of my family.
Thanksgiving tastes like sweet mashed potato.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving smells like turkey.
Thanksgiving looks like family having fun.
Thanksgiving feels like warm hugs.
Thanksgiving sounds like family laughing.
Thanksgiving tastes like good food in a good night and happy day.

On Thanksgiving, the family unites and we make ensalada de fruta y bombomes
It smells like fruit and marshmallow salad
I hear my family talking
The colors are orange, yellow and brown
We watch movis
We eat turkey and ham and salad

Thanksgiving smells like pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving tastes like turkey.
Thanksgiving feels like family united.
Thanksgiving sounds like parrots talking.
Thanksgiving looks like colorful.

In Thanksgiving I smell turkey and pie.
I look at the turkey on the table.
I touch the turkey.
I hear people talking.
I taste the delicious turkey.

Thanksgiving smells like apple pies and turkey baking
Thanksgiving sounds like laughter and conversations
Thanksgiving looks like falling leaves and tables full of family
Thanksgiving feels like family, love, gratitude and blessings
Thanksgiving tastes like turkey, yams, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes

Friendship Advice

Advice by Elizabeth Enriquez

Dear Latinitas, I’m having problems with my friends. How do we talk about our issues to find the best solution? ~A Hurt Friend
Having friends doesn’t always mean agreeing on everything.  It is healthy to have your differences, as long as those differences do not make you compromise your values.  I think you answered your own question, talking about the problems is the key.  Keep the lines of communication open.  A strong friendship is based on mutual respect and the right to express yourself for how you feel.~Elizabeth
Dear Latinitas, I feel like I don’t fit in. People dislike me because of the things I like. Basically I am different and people hate it. I don’t want to change the things that make me happy, but I would like to not be judged. ~Feeling Different
If you have to compromise who you are to make friends, you will never be able to be yourself.  It comes down to who you want to be and what role you want in life.  Would you like to be someone that isn’t genuine to be friends with others or rather be yourself and have those around you who respect and like the true you?  If you love who you are, why would you ever change that?~Elizabeth

Career Spotlight: Engineer Libby Howell

Position & Title: Electrical Engineer/ Computer Network Assessor Auditor
Employer: US Army Research Laboratory
City & State: El Paso, Texas

What are some of your job responsibilities?
“We do certifications and accreditation of army systems for the risk management framework. Normally, I am a team lead so we go and access the army systems to make sure that they meet the minimum requirements as far as security poster […] so they don’t get hacked into. The requirements are part of the NISTA: National Institute of Standards of Technology. That’s one area, the other area is that I work for a directorate under the Army Research Laboratory that’s called Survivability Lethality Analysis. So we perform all types of survivability analysis and again, in support of the Army to make sure that they are survivable when they are being built. My area has to do more with information assurance. We test army systems as they are going through a developmental cycle to make sure that they could survive a cyber attack. So we run tests, we do penetration tests, and also […] evaluate the soldiers on how well they can detect, react, and restore their systems if there is a cyber attack.”

What is your educational background?
“I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering. When I first started working for the Department of Defense, I used to work the modernizing the radars that were used as instruments for testing out in White Sands Missile Range. That was my first job so […] I couldn’t have done that if I didn’t have an engineering degree.”

How did you find your current job?
“I was looking for a job locally […] and really there weren’t a lot of technical jobs. Most people either went to work for Fort Bliss or White Sands [for those who were engineers.] So I applied to White Sands and I got the job. Another interesting thing though, is that back then, I was the first female engineer they ever had. A year later another [woman] got hired. I mean they had females, but as secretaries and they had two female technicians, but was the first female engineer [at that one organization]….It was an organization that was called the Instrumentation Directorate. We basically were involved in modernizing or providing new instruments that were used to collect data.”

What did you do to prepare for this career?
“I studied hard. You know the reason I got into engineer is kind of weird. Math came easy to me and I liked it, but I didn’t know what to do with math [in the beginning]. I didn’t want to be a teacher, that didn’t interest me so I figured that engineering is the application of math. So that’s why I picked it. I didn’t know anything about EE (Electrical Engineering) when I was in high school. When I was in high school, it was very different from your guys went. There wasn’t any AP classes and all these special programs, you just did the basics. I was never really exposed to it.”

What is your favorite part of your job?
“It’s really the people, my coworkers. Nothing that we do is ever one person. We do a lot of test events so we do things as a group.”

What is the most challenging part of your job?
“What’s challenging is keeping up with the changes, especially for computers. Things are changing so rapidly, it’s a lot of stuff you have to know. You need to know the ins and outs because you need to know that in order to try to exploit the weaknesses.

What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?
“It’s a great career…and there are so many applications in the engineering field. You can apply it to so many different things. As a EE you can work with car manufactures, aero-space industry, electronics, there are so many different applications that I think is a very good field.”

What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?
“I take art classes, I’ve always liked art. I read a lot. I like doing things with my hands so I take a lot, what they call continued education classes at the community college, that have to with crafts. I love crafts so I’ve taken mosaic, stained glass, metal embossing…I used to love art in high school. I at one point considered, doing something in that field. At the end of the year [next year], I would’ve retired. I would have had 32 years. I want to take a lot more classes, I want to do faces and people, but that’s a lot harder. I want to do wood working and learn to play the piano again. I also want to volunteer. I haven’t decided if I want to do a nursing home or a shelter for battered women.”

First Latino Thanksgiving

On September 1620, a ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, with 102 passengers. In 1620, some of the pilgrims left in search of a new home where they could practice their faith and others left to a New World where they were promised land ownership. Once they crossed the Massachusetts Bay, the civilians, or Pilgrims, as we know them now, began to establish a village at Plymouth. In November 1621, a year later, the Pilgrims proved their first corn harvest successful and their Governor organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the colony’s Native American allies. And that is now known as Americans “First Thanksgiving”… Or so we think.

These settlers were thought to have been the original group to celebrate Thanksgiving, but some historians have discovered another Thanksgiving celebration that happened decades earlier. Even though the United States celebrates Thanksgiving in November, a new Thanksgiving tradition has grown in Texas. El Paso residents have now claimed the first Thanksgiving in North America. The event, first celebrated in April 1989, commemorates a day of thanksgiving celebrated by the Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate and his expedition on April 30th, 1598.

Oñate’s expedition consisted of 500 people crossing the Chihuahuan Desert from Zacatecas, Mexico. After going through many consecutive rainy days, then changing to an incredibly dry weather where the sight of water was far from their reach, they arrived to the Rio Grande, their salvation. And finally after ten days trying to get back on their feet, Oñate ordered a day of Thanksgiving for the survival of the expedition.

Proving that the official First Thanksgiving was actually discovered by Hispanics.

“I didn’t know that, I am incredibly proud of roots. This goes to prove that we, as Hispanics, are much more than we are given credit  for and that we are constantly learning something new,” says Ariadne, age 23.

“During Thanksgiving week, in November, I get to go home with my family and spend time with them. It’s a tradition to make turkey and pumpkin pie. I’m thankful for the times I get to spend with my family” says Danielle, 18.

While many Latinos celebrate the traditional Thanksgiving of the pilgrims, it is also important to remember the long heritage of Hispanics in America. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving in November with the Pilgrims or in April with the survivors. It is always good to be proud of where you come from, of your roots, and of the history.  These ancestors paved the way in order for you to be where you are right now. And let’s not forget to be thankful for the things that make us.


Boosting Your Self-esteem

Hola Chicas, you can believe that you are special in every way. Sometimes school, friends and changes as you grow can make you feel uncertain of that. highlights the many developmental changes that occur between 8 to 13 years old such as physical, emotional, social and cognitive or how you think. You are not alone, there are ways to get through these changes while keeping your self esteem high. 100_2720
Connect With Your Emotions
Are you feeling more sensitive  or even self conscious? This is normal. Get familiar with your own emotions and even insecurities. Once you have figured out what type of emotion you have, turn it around! If it’s a disappointment or failure, boost your self esteem and recognize that you trying is still important and that you do have the opportunity to do better next time. Having a mindset of knowing that there is always an answer, can keep you motivated with solving almost any challenge you may have.
Remember What Makes You Unique
It’s very common to compare yourself to your friends, but it’s healthier to keep in mind that everyone has differences. You may figure out immediately just how different you are, but really take the time to learn your talents and all the great things you have to offer. These are ways to think positive about yourself and your own accomplishments.
Join a Group
Child states that self esteem really starts to play a major role at the age of 9. It also suggests that joining a sports team or a club is a wonderful idea. Being part of a team can help you find value, it may help accelerate your grades, and keep you physically fit. Whether you are on or off a team, finding helpful solutions to an issue can help keep your emotions and social life in check.
Do Something Fun
Keeping yourself in a good mood is a must! Even if things don’t work out in your favor. If you ever feel down, do something fun. Ride your bike, take a walk, play video games, listen to music, get into a special hobby of yours. Staying focused on negative emotions won’t help you feel better about yourself. Take your mind off of what may be causing stress.
Surround Yourself With Supportive Family & Friends
Having support is something that is so important. expresses that the people who believe in you, care for you. Those people include your parents, teachers, and great friends that can provide comfort. Please remember that it’s okay to talk to someone and find that understanding in those people that care. We all  have had to focus on boosting our self esteem, you are encouraged to practice these steps whenever you feel you need a boost.

Discover Your Talents

Growing into being your own individual is a precious time. As you get older, your interests and capabilities will shift. It’s most important to take some time and get to know who you are and what brings you joy.

Explore Your Interests
Finding out what brings you joy may not be as hard as you think.Have you ever wished upon a star or hoped for something spectacular before blowing out the candles on your birthday cake? Ask yourself what makes you excited?

Create a List
Remember everyone is different. You may find that something others really enjoy may not be as rewarding for you. Don’t be discouraged use your list, give it time, and keep practicing.  Try brainstorming on things you like to do.

Explore New Hobbies
Find out what activities you really enjoy learning about. You may find a hidden talent you didn’t realize before. If there is just one or even numerous hobbies you enjoy, make a list and explore your options by getting involved in each one. Usually practicing a hobby often is the best way to figure out if it’s also a talent. Being talented at something means that you are skilled or perform very well at something. Keep in mind that most people aren’t experts when they first try a new hobby. Give yourself time to practice and build your talents.

Tune Into Your Musical Talents
If you have been wishful about a new guitar, maybe your talent is music based. Look into joining a music class or start a band and practice on the weekend with friends.

Get Active in Sports
Some other ideas would include if you like to be active in sports. Being talented in sports would mean that you’re a team player, and have the skills to help them win. There are so many types of sports so if you find that you’re more flexible then most, your talent could turn you into being part of the ballet.

Get Creative
Another idea would be if you’re creative with building, doing crafts or even painting projects. Your art could be a one of a kind piece, which could result in earning a special place in a gallery or showing. Even the most opinionated person could explore their options in becoming a talented debater. Believe in your talent and know that it’s just another special part about you.

Share Your Talent
Once your talent is discovered, you can figure out if you’d like to keep it to yourself or share it with the world! explains more about how your interests change over time. So as you grow, you may find that your talents and how many you have will do the same. Make sure your talents are something you enjoy sharing. People will want to watch you show off your skill so make sure you are comfortable with that. It’s ultimately your choice if you decide to expose it by joining a team or competing with others. Keeping these tips in mind will help you learn more about yourself and what you have to offer.

Dia de los Muertos

In Latin America, November 1st and 2nd are dedicated to honor those who have passed away. This tradition dates back to pre-Hispanic times before the arrival of the Europeans to the Americas and comes from the views and beliefs the indigenous had of death. The indigenous people of Mesoamerica believed that the passing away of someone was the start of a journey to Mictlán, the underworld. During the burials, the family of the deceased, would include the tools or objects they had used during their life as well as other objects that would help them during their journey to Mictlán. 1

Upon the arrival of the Europeans, these indigenous traditions mixed with their own belief of All Saints Day on November 1st. The synchronization of cultures brought what we know today as Día de los Muertos.

One of the main characteristics used now during the Day of the Dead is that of the altars made for our loved ones who have passed away. Those who form part of this tradition believe that their loved ones return during these days and the altars provide them with personal items as well as items that will aid them in their journey.

The altars are beautifully decorated, full of color, flowers and candles as well as other objects, all with very specific meanings and purpose.

They are traditionally of 3 specific levels: Those with 7 levels represent the 7 steps the soul has to go through in order to reach spiritual peace.The Aztecs believed there were 7 different destinies a soul could have. Those altars with 3 levels represent heaven, earth and the underworld, and two levels represent heaven and earth.

Each altar is also decorated with other typical items:

  • A photograph of the person who’s altar is made for is usually presented in the center.
  • Water is included to quench the thirst of the souls who visit after their long journey. It also represents pureness of the soul.
  • Candles are used to guide the souls to the altar.
  • Incense is used to purify the energy around the altar and many believe it keeps the bad spirits away.
  • Salt is also added to bring purity.
  • Flor de cempazuchitl or flor de muerto (marigold flower) is highly symbolic of this tradition and is used to decorate the altars, many times in the shape of an arc, a pathway or even a cross. These flowers are used to guide the spirits into our world. They were also used by the Aztecs who they believed their smell would bring back the spirits.
  • Papel Picado also decorates altars. These often have intricate designs of Calaveras or other shapes and symbols. They add color to the altar and some believe it is the connection between life and death.
  • Food and drinks, specially those who the deceased enjoyed during life are also part of the altar and of course all made for the spirit to enjoy. These dishes can also be the traditional meals of that time and place.
  • Pan de muerto, typical of these traditions is also present as well as a cross, many times made out of cempazuchitl flowers. These two elements represent the incorporation of the Catholic religion into these indigenous practices.
  • Altars also include sugar skulls which are decorated very colorful and are one of the most popular traditions during these celebrations.
  • Toys are often seen on altars as well if the spirit who is visiting is that of a child.
  • And many times little dog figurines are added to altars, which the indigenous people believed they served as companions to the souls who were on their journey.

During these days public places such as schools are filled with altars made for loved ones who have passed away, or even famous individuals who represent a culture or a cause. Many people make their altars at home or decorate cemeteries with some of these items. These altars form a connection not only to an ancestral past but also to those who are no longer with us. It is a way to remember them, remember our indigenous culture and a very distinct way of thinking about death.


Whether we grew up watching “Dora the Explorer” or “El Chavo del Ocho,” there are certain traditions that have shaped who we are today. However, because of all the countries that belong in the Hispanic community, it may seem like each heritage has a different culture. Nevertheless, our cultures have influenced our upbringing and, despite the many countries, Latinas have a lot in common.

Name: Vanessa Barajas

Age: 17

Heritage: Mexican

How has your culture influenced your life as you grow up Latina?

“I grew up with Catholic laws that somewhat shaped who I am. Things like don’t steal, respect your parents, and forgiveness. Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays that show this. For Thanksgiving we say a prayer for what we are thankful for then eat. For Christmas we go crazy. Each child much sing to baby Jesus (a little statue of him) while each of us take turns and swing him side to side in a blanket. We all have maracas and tanneries. Then pray some more.”


Name: Stephanie Argote

Age: 18

Heritage: Peruvian

How has your culture influenced your life as you grow up Latina?

“The greatest thing about my Peruvian culture is the music because I love to dance. Even though I love my cultures food, my favorite is ceviche, dancing is the main focus when there are get togethers or reunions. The music could be salsa, merengue, or my favorite artist Group Niche which represents and reminds us of who we are and where we’re from.”

Name: Sarah Thomas

Age: 19

Heritage: Guatemalan and Mexican

How has your culture influenced your life as you grow up Latina?

“Growing up Latina has made me proud to be who I am. Growing up Latina, I grew up Catholic and so being religious kind of gives me something to lean on when I’m having a rough time. I also grew up with having family as my #1. We always went to family parties and get togethers. Even now, my family and I still try to find a time to sit down and eat out on Sundays together. Since my parents are from outside the United States, I know the struggle they had to go through to come here and start from scratch. Thankfully my dad, through hard work and more than a decade without a vacation, now owns his own business. So we’re pretty fortunate to have better luck than others.”

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