Book Review: Rogelia’s House of Magic

Rogelia's House of MagicRogelia’s House of Magic follows the journey of three girls into the world of curanderismo magic and the world of friendship, love, and family it opens up along the way. What begins as three girls trying to learn magic becomes a story of friends finding the family and love they didn’t know they were looking for.

Rogelia’s House of Magic is the story of Xochitl, Marina, and Fern—three fifteen-year-old girls with three different problems in their lives. Xochitl was excited to move to the United States from Mexico, but her twin sister died in an accident along the way and she can’t stop mourning her death. Now she is afraid to open up and enjoy the friendship of others. Fern lives in the barrio and her mom is never around. She has a big heart for nature though and is trying to save sacred wetlands from being developed by a housing company. Marina was Fern’s old neighbor in the barrio until her mom make a ton of money and moved them into a big house and shunned their old life. Marina can’t seem to make her mother proud and she hates that she has no connection to her Mexican heritage.

Things seem tough for the girls, until they meet Rogelia. Rogelia is Marina’s new maid and Xochitl’s grandma. Rogelia is a curandera, or a wise healer, who was well-known in her village for using nature and magic to heal people and save lives. Marina and Fern ask Rogelia to teach them magic and this leads to their friendship with Xochitl. The girls gain powers through their training, but don’t realize they are gaining a lot more than that. Rogelia comes to fill a void in each of their lives. For Marina, Rogelia is a connection to her heritage and a stand-in for the grandmother she never had. Rogelia teaches Fern that she is capable of forming relationships with people and she doesn’t have to take care of herself. In Xochitl’s case, Rogelia is a connection to her past and her sister, and she inspires Xochitl to take a step forward in life and move past her loss.

The most important bond though, is between the three girls. Rogelia’s House of Magic is a story about friendship at its core. Anyone with a bestfriend will understand how powerful their connection is. Fern and Marina have been friends for years and have supported each other through ups and downs. Xochitl is wary of the girls’ friendship and worries they are only using her for her grandmother’s lessons. Together they help each other open up about their problems and a dreams and push each other to go out and change their own lives. In the end, they learn that magic is nothing without their friendship. Magic is fueled by their love for each other and leads them to do some of their greatest magic yet.

Of course, the magic is rooted in reality. Curanderismo is a practice of folk healing in Latin American culture. Don’t expect any magic wands like in Harry Potter. The girls learn power like clairvoyance, invisibility, and psychic mediumship. Rogelia teaches them that the magic really lies in nature and their connection to the world and to each other. The only way to perform the most difficult of spells is to do it with the purest hearts and best intentions. Magic is driven by love and their combined love is all the more powerful.

While we may not all be curanderas, the book is a great read with something everyone can relate to—friendship, crushes, or family drama. This book inspires the reader to appreciate the family and heritage that we sometimes forget about in our busy lives. Rogelia’s House of Magic is a reminder that the true magic in the world is that of the love we show to others.

Latinas in Music

Latinas are making their voice heard in the music industry. Selena - LatinitasFrom Tejano music to salsa and pop to folk music, Latina musicians are gaining acclaim and taking the reigns as Latina musical superstars.  Meet some mujeres who broke ground in the music charts.

Selena Quintanilla- (1971-1995) – Tejano Music

The “Queen of Tejano Music” born in Lake Jackson, Texas, Selena Quintanilla began her career with the family band Selena y Los Dinos. She started singing at the age of 10 along with her brother Abraham and Suzette who played bass and drums. Spanish wasn’t her first language, but was taught by her father and she soon spoke Spanish fluently. Her  success began in the ‘80s with albums Selena Live and Amor Prohhibido. Known for Tejano Music she won Tejano Music Awards for “Best Female Vocalist of the Year” and “Performer of the Year.” Soon falling in love with the band’s lead guitarist Chris Perez they ran off and got married in secret. Sadly her story ends in 1995 being shot and killed by Yolanda Saldivar who worked with her as the founder of Selena’s fan club. After her death, her story and music were kept alive by the film Selena starring Jennifer Lopez.

Celia Cruz – (1925-2003) – Salsa

The Cuban-American vibrant salsa singer was born in Havana, Cuba on October 21, 1925. She was one of 14 children. She already had success in her teen years winning various talent shows and competitions in Cuba.  Although her father encouraged her to go to school and become a teacher, her true passion was to sing. Her career began in the ‘50s when she joined the orchestra Sonara Matancera which toured around Latin America. Once Fidel Castro assumed control of Cuba in 1959, Cruz and her husband Pedro Knight immigrated to the United States and became United States citizens. Associating with Tito Puente, she went on to create eight albums with Tico Records. Recording 23 gold albums, she won Grammys and Latin Grammys making her the first female salsa superstar.  She was renowned internationally as the “Queen of Salsa.” Not limiting herself to music, she appeared in several movies and even earned a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. She was also awarded the American National Medal of the Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts. She died in 2003 of brain cancer in her New Jersey home.

Joan Baez –(1941- )   – Folk Music

The famous activist known for her unique voice was born in 1941 in Staten Island, New York. Joan Baez born from a Scottish mother involved in social causes and Mexican physicist father committed to pacifism she became a performer. Singing and playing the ukulele at age 14, she found her niche as a folk singer. The pacifist singer is also a songwriter and activists for women’s rights, children, civil rights and anti-war activist. She sang “We Shall Overcome” at the march organized by Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr.in Washington in 1963. From supporting civil rights, she was also involved in the antiwar movement to end the conflict in Vietnam. Being the last act on Friday, she wished everyone a good morning at Woodstock and perform at 1:00am. Her latest album was released in 2003 called Dark Chords on a Big Guitar.  Married to David Harris, she had a son and now lives in California where she continues to be the voice for causes important to her.

Gloria Estefan- (1957- ) – Latin Pop

Gloria María Milagrosa Fajardo García de Estefan, best known as Gloria Estefan was born on 1957 in Havana, Cuba. Fleeing Cuba as a toddler, she took care of her sister and father who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while her mother worked to support the family. She met her husband Emilio Estefan at a wedding and became part of the band he was in which was later renamed the Miami Sound Machine. The band’s first English album Eyes of Innocence had a single which rose in the European dance charts called “Dr.Beat.” The song “Conga” became the first single to hit Billboard’s pop, dance black, and Latin American charts at the same time. Out of 15 nominations, she has won seven Grammy Awards in her career. While on tour the band’s bus was involved in an accident where Gloria suffered a broken vertebra in her back which she bounced back from after a long recovery. She has also written children’s books, collaborated with musician Carlos Santana, and appeared in films.

Quiz: What Song Are You?

Music2Music is one of the many creative outlets. It’s used to tell a story, spark emotion, and, most importantly, is used to express yourself! From carefully crafted lyrics, rhythmic beats, and sweet melodies, songs embody an essence that carries personality. Take this quiz to find out which Latina’s iconic song represents you!

1. What adjective would your friends use to describe you?

A) Shy

B) Independent

C) Fun

D) Dramatic

 

2. Your friend asked you for help to plan her birthday party, what is your role?

A)   Helping hand – everything & anything she needs, I got it!

B)   Constructive criticism – Hey! She’ll thank me later, when she has the best party ever.

C)   Tunes Whiz – Don’t care what’s going on, so long as I get to get my groove on.

D)   Bouncer – That guest list is exclusive! She can’t just have anyone there.

 

3. What color do you like to paint your nails?

A)   Black

B)   Red

C)   Neon pink

D)   Purple

 

4. You find out your crush isn’t into you, how do you react?

A)   Sad, of course! But it happens, it’s not like I told anyone that I was crushing, anyways.

B)   His loss! If he doesn’t see how amazing I am, then totally not worth it.

C)   What crush?! I’m just trying to have fun with my friends. Boys shmoys.

D)   END OF THE WORLD!!

 

5. What school organization/activity are you more than likely to take part in?

A)   Tutoring

B)   Sports team

C)   Dance

D)   School Newspaper

 

6. What is your greatest strength?

A) Your reliability

B) Your honesty

C) Your loyalty

D) Your wit

 

7. What does your dream job involve?

A) Helping people

B) Traveling

C) Flexibility

D) The red carpet

 

Mostly A’s – Skyscraper by Demi Lovato
Like this gentle and emotional tune, you tend to be a little more on the shy side. You’re very compassionate and care a lot for others. You find yourself always saying yes and putting what other people feel in front of your own feelings. You don’t like to be the center of attention and it takes a while for you to break out of your shell. But once you open up to people, they get to see how warm-hearted you are, so don’t be afraid to be noticed, you deserve it!

Mostly B’s – Come & Get It by Selena Gomez
That’s right, “come & get it” because you’re too independent and strong-willed to succumb to anyone’s games. You’re very head strong and honest. You have your own thoughts and opinions and are not afraid to share them. Sometimes you come off a little too strong and a little stubborn, but that’s okay! You have a mind of your own and you don’t let what anyone thinks affect you. You are a natural leader.

Mostly C’s – On the Floor by Jennifer Lopez
Just like this song, you have this effect on people that just wants to make them get up and dance! You are the life of the party and always want to have fun. You live for enjoying the little moments in life. You are carefree and bubbly. You are full of personality and you can’t always stay still. You hate having a routine and like to be spontaneous. Sometimes you can be a little impulsive, but that’s because you want to live life to the fullest. You make happiness your priority.

Mostly D’s – Can’t Remember to Forget You by Shakira
This tune that tells of a girl forgetting to move on from her ex embodies your love for the drama! Boring is overrated and you enjoy having something entertaining going on in life. You’re in-tune with the latest news, gossip, and are always onto the new fashion trends. You love the limelight and your friends enjoy your larger than life view on things. However, sometimes the drama can get a little stressful for you. Don’t forget to sit back and relax!

Review: East Los High

EastLosHighKey

Hulu released its first and only original series in 2013, East Los High. This short series is one of a kind, an English-language show with an all Latino cast. With only two seasons under its belt, it is making an impression. East Los High is produced and directed by Carlos Portugal, who’s worked on other Latino projects such as East Side Story and Pop Star. Portugal called for help from Advocates of Youth, Voto Latino, and the California Healthy Family Council to create a series that is informative, educational, and realistic to its audience.

East Los High is a teen drama based in East Los Angeles, an area with a reputation of being tough and dangerous – a stereotype the show wants to discourage. The show follows a group of students at the local high school and focuses on many common situations that occur in a high school setting: friendships, love, sexual encounters, and peer pressure. However, even though many of these matters can be found in other teen drama series, the difference with East Los High is their focus on Latinos and their way of addressing the issue in an honest and upfront manner.

In Season 1, a student finds that she is pregnant and viewers get to see her discuss her options with a counselor. The information provided to the character is not limited to her and can be information useful to any adolescent outside the TV screen. This situation repeats in season 2 when a student is discussing her encounter with an abusive relationship to a counselor. These scenarios, which are rather serious in nature, are seen in today’s society and are able to be addressed to a young audience watching the series.

“The wholesome kid show, the polished teen drama isn’t real life,” said Danielle Vega, East Los High’s Ceci, in an interview with LA Times. “‘East Los High is gritty, it’s in your face because the world out there is in your face. But it’s also teaching something, which is incredibly important because you look at kids these days and they don’t look up from their screens. So at least this show gives them something to think about when their eyes are glued to their devices.”

Telanovelas are known for its popularity in Latin American cultures and East Los High reflects this in their Latino-focused show. With a telanovela-esque plot and character dynamics, the series does not have a shortage of entertainment and drama. There are love triangles, revenge, mean girls, and the classic, good girl losing her way in the face of popularity. Each of these situations touches on a realistic aspect found in a teenager’s journey through high school – and there is no sugar coating.

The team of writers reflects the demographics in cast: predominately Latina. Only two men grace the writers’ desk and one African American woman. Portugal, Director and Producer, has stated that he wanted to write what he knew and encourages his writing staff to do the same. The storyline is to reflect daily lives and connect to its audience through authenticity. Admittedly, some characters and the vernacular do seem to embody a stereotype found in Latinos. However, it is fleeting and is cancelled out by the wide range of perspectives, personalities, and conduct presented by the characters.

“Since we are the culture, it never feels like, ‘Oh, we’re creating stereotypes,’” Portugal said in an interview with LA Times. “Stereotypes exist. I think one of the reasons why we are doing this is we present them, and then we start exploring them. My hope is that the people from East L.A. see themselves being portrayed as diverse individuals.”

East Los High succeeds in its uniqueness in teen dramas that are dominated by Caucasian actors and actresses. Hulu’s original series brings in a handful of new faces to the screen – freshness amongst the overdone big names. And it excels in bringing real life situations and addressing them in an educational way that takes the viewer outside the classroom. This show can be seen as a teaching method, which is a goal achieved through the help of the numerous organizations that have played a role in its creation. However, some incidents and character portrayals do seem exaggerated and it can distract from the purpose of the show. Even though the series’ main characters are the youthful faces, it has been overlooked that the counselors, doctors, teachers, and other professional in the series are Latino.

This teen drama does illustrate genuineness to American-Latino culture, a nice change to shows like George Lopez and Cristella that relies on comedic scripts. It is serious, honest, and mysterious.

East Los High has been renewed for a third season; bringing in a new set of characters as each season focuses on a new group of students. The series airs weekdays on Hulu and entire seasons are available for Hulu Plus members.

TV Review: The Fosters

the-fosters-290x400I remember sitting in the small theater in my neighborhood, large drink in one hand, while shoving handfuls of popcorn in my mouth with the other, the ad for “The Fosters.” ABC Family was presenting a new series, “The Fosters,” and among the many teenage faces on screen, I saw the familiar faces of Cierra Ramirez (“Girl In Progress”) and Jake T. Austin (“Wizards of Waverly Place”). I was a former Wizards fan, so, yes, my interest was sparked.

That was the exact memory from the summer of 2013 that played in my head when I was scrolling for something to watch on Netflix. “The Fosters” appeared before me. I clicked. And boy, I do not regret it.

“The Fosters” is a show that entangles drama, addresses social issues, and gives life lessons through background stories and character development – just like the classic ABC Family TV-show should. However, the story follows a multi-ethnic family composed of biological, adoptive and foster children. A lesbian couple heads the home full of teenagers. The show, whose executive producer is Jennifer Lopez, is rich with love, trust, and family. Think of ‘The Fosters’ as a more modern ‘7thHeaven’.

The show follows 16-year-old Callie, as she enters the new foster home. Her and her 12-year-old brother, Jude, have had multiple fosters homes during their six years in the system – all terrible and full of problems. But this foster home is different. Vice Principal Lena Adams (Sherri Saum) and police officer Stef Foster (Teri Polo) are in a domestic partnership and built a home through honesty and compassion. Brandon Foster (David Lambert) is the 16-year-old son of Stef, from her previous marriage, and is the “golden boy” with his good looks and musical talent. The adoptive 15-year-old twins are Mariana (Cierra Ramirez), who embodies the classic teenage girl just wanting to fit in, and Jesus Foster (Jake T. Austin), the more rebellious out of the teens with ADHD.

The ethnic diversity in the cast makes the show much more unique than most. From the multi-racial Lena to the Latin descendent twins, the diversity is acknowledged and embraced. Most shows with minorities in the cast always resort to having an incident with racism and bigotry to produce a discussion. However, this has not been seen. Instead, the show introduces situations that subtly express their diversity, such as a quinceañera episode, the twins carrying conversations in Spanish, and Lena sharing how she was called an ‘Oreo’ in high school. The variety of races in the family is not something that is blatantly said – which by now, it really doesn’t need to be – but is displayed on screen beautifully to the audience.

Another hit for this tv-screen family is Lena and Stef’s relationship. The two mothers face some obstacles in a world still adjusting to the LGBT community. But despite a father failing to accept a daughter’s lifestyle, the couple is seen immersed with the love from friends and family members. The success of the couple parallels the success of ‘Modern Family’s’ Mitchell and Cameron – just minus the constant comedic quips. The couple demonstrates kindness and selflessness as the raise their children.

This television series thrives with its breaking of boundaries with the “non-traditional” family.  The show relies on realistic problems that can occur rather focusing heavily on the apparent uniqueness of the family. The classic ‘let me show you rather than tell you’ applies greatly to the storyline.

It’s a show for all ages – adults and children alike can watch and learn from the Foster family. It powerfully confronts serious issues such as child abuse, drug abuse/dealing, and teenage sexuality. While most can criticize these instances, in this day-and-age, the realities of the events have proven to occur. ‘The Fosters’ deal with these issue that is suitable for any age – no need to cover a child’s eyes. Even though you may not be able to relate to every occurrence in the show, the character’s actions and emotions allow an understanding of the dilemmas they face and the morals they abide by.

“The Fosters” is an excellent TV show that leaves you hooked. Its ingenuity and one-of-a-kind storyline brings a freshness to the television realm, full of bad reality TV shows and the over-played teenage love triangles.

Seasons 1 and 2 are currently on Netflix.

Book Review: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Sisterhood of the Traveling PantsWritten by Andrea Barreto

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares is an amazing start to a series based on four very different young girls as they navigate young adulthood. The all too familiar feeling of being caught in a moment where everything is on the brink of changing sets the tone for what is meant to be a transformative summer. Aptly nicknamed the Septembers because of their birthdays, Carmen, Tibby, Lena and Bridget have grown up spending all their time together. Yet this is the first summer they spend apart and for Carmen especially, this is becomes more difficult to understand.

Though they are the oldest sibling in their own families, each of the Septembers holds a different role in their circle: Tibby is the anti-conformist; Lena, the introverted painter; Bridget, the fearless athlete; and Carmen, the creative writer. Perhaps because Carmen is the youngest in her group of friends, she feels the most impacted by the different routes this summer is taking them. It was her desire that they take a pair of pants that magically fit each girl on their trips in hopes of keeping a piece of one another even in their time apart. Her summer journey takes her to South Carolina for some quality time with her mostly absent father. After her parents separated when she was a child, Carmen tried her hardest to be a daughter that her father would be proud of. The desire to be the best in the eyes of a parent is something I’m sure many young children can understand, and this summer was supposed to be Carmen’s biggest opportunity to show her father what he was missing.

Of course, things don’t go according to plan when Carmen realizes her father has become engaged to a woman with two seemingly perfect children of her own. Soon her father is breaking tennis dates with Carmen to deal with wedding details crises and cheering on his future son at soccer games. All of these appear to be normal family problems, which is why the books are so meaningful. These stories sound like my friends in high school, even my own family situation to an extent. It is profoundly beautiful in its simplicity. From this moment on we see Carmen at an uncomfortable bridesmaid dress fitting, made even more awkward because her full figure comes from her mother’s Puerto Rican heritage.  Rewind a little and we see at the beginning of the novel that even within her own group of friends, Carmen feels isolated; she fears the pants won’t fit over her thighs and she didn’t want to be “the big fatso”. Like many of us when faced with a difficult situation, Carmen literally runs away from the bridal store, expecting her father to notice her absence and being painfully disappointed when he fails to do so.

In her explanations to her mother and even Tibby, Carmen cannot understand why they would assume she’s mad at her father when she actually blames his new family. In her anger, she pushes Tibby away but ends up coming to the conclusion that she cannot admit any negative feelings towards her father. When I was a high school student reading this, this particular moment struck a nerve inside me. The difference was, however, that I could not stand up to my friends. I never had a problem speaking up for myself among my family, because I knew they would always be there for me regardless. The nervous heartbeats and trembling hands came whenever I had to assert myself to someone else, someone I didn’t know wouldn’t stay mad at me forever. This is exactly what Tibby reveals to Carmen when Carmen says she has no problem being mad at her friends – “Maybe, sometimes, it’s easier to be mad at the people you trust because you know they’ll always love you, no matter what.” This trust is something that, try as she might, Carmen was never able to develop with her father. The more she thought about it, the more Carmen realized there was so much she was holding back in an effort to have a happy relationship with her father. Being somewhat passive aggressive myself, I had to really reflect on what I personally was scared of when confronting other people.

Carmen took the time to consider that maybe there was something she herself was doing wrong, and in this way she managed to exude a quieter strength than what she expected. Sometimes there is this idea of how we expect courage to manifest, that it should be in your face and glaringly obvious as a feat of bravery. Occasionally, it is. But more often than not, it’s that quiet shift we feel within ourselves when something significant happens. Carmen felt that shift, and finally decided to act on it. She called her father and finally told him that she resented him for finding a family he preferred over her. Her father apologized but Carmen knew that the words would only matter if they both changed their behavior. So along with the help of her friends, she drove up for her father’s wedding and stood by his side in those traveling pants. While the pants themselves did not change Carmen as a person, it helped for all of the girls to believe that a force greater than they could imagine was a witness to their transformative journeys. This belief is told in many different ways and in all kinds of stories. The beauty of this narrative in particular comes from how deeply rooted it is in our daily reality while never forgetting the existence of that special magic they feel lives in a pair of blue jeans.

The Music You (Latinitas) and I (Child of the 80s) Love

Music2Every October tens of thousands gather in America’s new city sweetheart, Austin, TX for a music festival that lasts two-straight weekends: Austin City Limits Festival.  Emerging and established bands convene for an eclectic expression of new and old music and Latinitas was there to cover as much as possible – exploring new and old loves:

Nightbox – this Irish quartet was, to me, what would have happened if the 80s band New Order could have had a baby – really if any band of that time could have reproduced its DNA -Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode- even the Pet Shop-Boys.  What I loved the most about this performance was how Irish folk threads are married with danceable techno.  The bands lead is a new generation of dreamy and though this is a new, little heard band in the U.S., it’s roots to British new age made me feel like a “Latinita” again. (I’m a little over the age limit.)

Dawn and Hawkes – swinging the pendulum from club sound to Austin’s own folk duo that suceeded as finalists on “The Voice” and  touched, yes touched Adam Levine - the team took stage at the festival on my favorite stage, located centrally and smaller, the show is truly intimate and melodic and graceful songwriting gets its due.  Dawn is Miranda Dawn, half-Mexican American, half White – her voice is as beautiful as she.  She and Chris Hawkes, so young, so fresh – sing, though, like they have been writing folk songs for centuries.

Spanish Gold – A Latina publication has to check out anything that says  ”Spanish” of course. This collaboration of Band of Horses members and Austin and Laredo native son Adrian Quesada, founder of numerous other musical projects including Grupo Fantasma, Brownout and the newly formed Brown Sabbath, a commemorative, but Latin perspective on Ozzy’s Black Sabbath hits, Spanish Gold is its own brand of authentic new sound.  The entirety stays lyrically true to themes of rural meandering and Southwest origins, but as with many of the bands at ACL fest this year – they entreated audience members with something unexpected: their version of  the 90s hit “Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe.  It was refreshingly refreshing.

Tuneyards – They are not Latinas, they are not even women of color though they sound like they are and I wouldn’t stop Henry Louis Gates from doing some DNA history on this band to find out if I’m wrong about their cultural origins.  They may have some Mahalia Jackson in that lineage somewhere.  Experimenting in percussion, throaty vocals and opera-like expressions of music intention, Tuneyards get you pumped up, active – seeking purpose.  Does anyone remember Sweet Honey from the Rock?  This band loved Sweet Honey from the Rock, but also loves Red Bull and other caffeinated products, I think.  Love the energy of the Tuneyards. It’s the type of the music that slips between performance art and revolution – easily.

Zoé – if you are 30ish and Mexican, you know Zoe. If you are a Latinita living in Southwest, United States or Los Angeles, well you too are familiar with this Spanglish/ Mexican rock band that has been around for a while, but just peeking it’s head into American mainstream with the minor onslaught of more pop en Español radio stations emerging in popularity.  Zoé epitomizes what is becoming “American” music. It is no longer rockabilly folks. It’s electric guitar with cumbia undertones.

I left reviews of Juanes and Eminem to our younger Latinitas dying to see these icons, but when Pearl Jam was poised as the headliner as a Sunday headliner, well I was immediately transported to sophomore year of college.   For some of you Latinitas that was last semester – for me – that was another decade.  I couldn’t have enjoyed Pearl Jam more.  Eddie Vedder, my middle age peer is as adamant about injustice as he ever was in the early 90s grunge era. His hair is neater, but he, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and the Pearl Jam band restored faith in history, rock that comes from the heart and from pain.  Izzy Azalea played earlier and her act, to me, looked like the boring cheerleading practice from my high school – while Pearl Jam reeled off “State of Love and Trust,” “Alive,” and other classics like they were plugged into a whole other musical universe.  I thank ACL fest for bringing worlds such as these together because music is music – manufactured or primal.  It’s all worth a chance.

Discovering the Benefits of Yoga

988693_312767932201750_669936676_nYoga is a great form of exercise, both in the physical and mental realm. According to the American Yoga Association, yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years; there are ancient stone carvings found in the Indus Valley of figures doing traditional yoga positions. It grew in popularity in the United States around the 1960s, and is widely used to improve physical health. Yoga is used to help alleviate back pain, reduce depression, and the risk of heart disease. It is also used as a way to help in managing stress and can serve as a form of meditation. It is composed of exercise of the body, careful breathing techniques, and meditation of the mind.

This form of exercise can help you get active and improve your elasticity, while also helping to keep your heart healthy, and by helping you achieve patience and relaxation. Yoga can help you to let go of negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. It is known to be a great way to find inner peace, and to center oneself. Taking the lessons learned through practice of yoga and translating them into your life can be a great way of improving the way you deal with situations in your everyday life.

Cassandra Salas-Porras has been a student of Yoga for 13 years, and been a Yoga instructor for 2 years, earning her yoga teaching certification in Bali, Indonesia. In giving a class to girls at the Latinitas Healthy Chica camp this past summer, she went through various poses, and instructed the girls to “inhale courage, exhale fear.” She shared the following about her experience with yoga, and how she thinks it can be helpful in one’s life.

“Yoga can help with confidence, in trust with oneself and towards others, with physical health and with body image, with quality of sleep, in relationships towards others, with anxiety, stress, maybe a little depression, sadness, and patience. Really, it helps with anything life throws at you. You learn how to manage these things in the best way possible,” Cassandra shared.

“I started when I was 18 or 19 years old, but the younger you start, you grow up surfing through life in an easier way. I see my life as before and after. It has helped me be truer to myself and to have congruence and coherence in my life, and to be healthy in mind, body, and soul,” she added.

Cassandra shared that yoga is tough, but rewarding, and has brought an inner strength to her life. Finding a way to get active that is enjoyable and fun is the perfect way to stay healthy. Yoga may be that outlet for you! If you’re interested in what yoga can bring to your life, don’t be afraid to try out a class for the first time or search for more information about it. It could turn out to be life-changing for you, too!

Latin Beats: Raul y Mexia

Photo credit: Latinousa.org

Photo credit: Latinousa.org

Have you ever noticed just how much Latinos are surrounded by music? Think about it, whether you’re listening to your parents’ favorite rancheras on a Sunday afternoon or dancing the night away at your quinceañera, Spanish music is almost always playing wherever Latinos are gathered. For most music-loving kids, a desire to be a famous Rock Star seems like nothing but a dream, but for Spanish pop duo, Raul y Mexia, they’ve made their dreams a living reality.

Raul y Mexia say their passion for music runs in their blood because they’re the sons of artist Hernan Hernandez from the legendary Mexican group, Los Tigres del Norte. “Our father would take us on tour with him and introduced us to various instruments, like the accordion,” says the eldest brother, Mexia.

While famous Latino artists would often visit their house to have “jam sessions” with Señor Hernandez, the brothers say they got the best of both music worlds as their mother also played popular American music. Raul y Mexia say growing up in a bilingual environment has helped shape their career. “We definitely are proud of our roots and want to showcase that but we were born in the U.S. and have our own musical tastes so I think that makes it easy to relate to a younger audience, ni de aqui, ni de alla,” says Mexia.

The San Francisco Bay Area native group defines their music as Urban Cumbia and says they want to use their songs to shine light upon their beliefs and passions, like immigration reform. Their song, “Somos Arizona,” Raul says, may be considered political and controversial but plays a crucial role in giving Latinos a voice. He knows his lyrics and band mates need “to be smart and educated about the topic they are fighting against.”

Karen Gonzalez, a Political Science major graduate from San Jose State University, says she enjoys listening to Raul y Mexia because they use their talents as a platform to positively speak out to Latinos. “Latinos in media is essential for growth of our community. If Latinos can be an influence, we can essentially share our culture our style and every other aspect of our roots.”

To date, Raul y Mexia feel their proudest moment as a group was when they were featured in both Billboard Magazine and The New York Times. They say there’s definitely more to come, but the best part of these experiences is sharing them with family. “We travel together so life on the road doesn’t seem lonely. We are able to share successes and failures and lean on each other when one is down.”

Los Tigres del Norte offspring say they credit much of their success to the work ethic and determination their father instilled in them and say they want to help spread that message to those looking to go into the music industry. “If you love to rap, sing or just play instruments, practice daily. The most important thing, though, is having love for what you want to do,” says Raul.

To learn more and hear Raul y Mexia’s music please visit their YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/raulymexia/videos

Review: “I am Malala”

80ba698508f76288e82c306520908022In “I am Malala” by Mala Yousafzai, we journey through the story of Malala.  Malala, a young girl born in Pakistan where educated women are rare, grows up with an understanding of how the power of raising our voices, words and education can change the world.

The book is inspirational right from the beginning with the story of Malala’s father,  Ziauddin. Her father, despite his upbringing in poverty, manages to become an educated man. Through the story of Ziuaddin, we first gain a glimpses to the environment and ideas that will later influence Malala. Unlike many other Pakastani men who are upset when a daughter is born, Ziauddin is proud of having a daughter. He makes sure that she receives the same  treatment as her brothers. He proceeds by refusing to allow the Woma (the celebration of a child’s life in the Pashtun culture) be paid by Baba (Malala’s grandfather) when her brothers are born. Ziauddin knows that an education that promotes independent thinking is nonexistent  in Pakistan, he decides to open a school.  Opening a school is not easy in Pakistan since principals are expected to bribe school officials for registration. This ignites Ziuaddin to speak out on the importance of children being educated and created an organization for principals to gather and fight the restrictions. Despite the adversities to education that are imposed, the Khusal school managed to flourish.

Malala grows up in her father’s school, develops a love for knowledge and, even though she’s a girl, is allowed to listen to politics. When she encounters children ridden in the dumps squandering for food, she realizes that not every child — especially girls– have an opportunity to be educated. Her own mother and aunts are unable to read, write, and share the same view that many Pakastani women share about school: Not seeing the point of going to school since they will end up being mothers and wives. This makes her even more appreciative to have an education, and she promotes a new way to view education as a gateway to change and opportunity.

During this time, Islam was gaining even more importance in the Pakastani society. False interpretations began to emerge, and the bearers of false interpretations of the Qu’ran were the Taliban terrorists who had moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Unknowingly, people began to support these terrors. This made Malala and her father realize the necessity of literacy more evident. If more people were literate, they would know about the misinterpretations of the Qu’ran the Taliban were giving. Schools began to be attacked and death threats began to spread with restrictions on how women and men should dress by the Taliban. The first to speak up was Ziauddin, encouraging  more people to speak up, reminding the reader how powerful our voices can be and how they can inspire others to stand up against injustices. During those dark days, students like Malala and her friends took refugee in school; for them, school became a getaway from the darkness the Taliban brought.

Under a pen name, Malala kept an online diary in a blog about living under the Taliban rule enhancing awareness to the problems Pakistan was facing. It is here where she realizes, “that the pen and words that come from it can be much more powerful than machine guns, tanks or helicopters. We were learning how to struggle. And we were learning how powerful we are when we speak.” Ultimately, this awareness is what saved her life in the end. “I am Malala” is a book worth reading to gain a greater understanding of world affairs and is a powerful reminder of how we can make a difference.

buy cialis without prescription

cialis price

cialis dosage

Viagra online