Mi Quinceañera Chapina

Photo courtesy from http://quinceanera.com.

Photo courtesy from http://quinceanera.com.

At first, I didn’t want a fiesta, but my mom would not allow it. “My mama had a Quince, I had a Quince, y tu mijita, you will have one too! Trust me, you will thank me later,” she said to me. And so I boarded a plane to Guatemala and took a crash course in all things Catholic; three months later, I was kneeling in front of a padre receiving my blessing. There was a big party, lots of food, and so much dancing! While my quinceañera was probably the best day of my life, I didn’t think it was anything too extravagant. It was inexpensive and simple in comparison to the fiestas celebrated aqui en los Estados. Or so I thought…

My cousin, whom I had grown very close to in my few months while visiting, confided in me: “This has got to be the biggest party we will see around here for a while. No one has ever done something like this here before. Or had a doll like that,” she said pointing to my ultima muñeca. That day, I gave my cousin the doll, but she gave me a wake-up call.

La Tradicion Chapina

In Guatemala, traditional Quinceañeras are a bit different than the ones here, take a look at the schedule:

  • The day starts at 5am. Imagine waking up to what sounds like a million gun shots. Don’t worry, those are just the fire crackers your family has ignited right outside your porch.
  • They are immediately followed by a much more pleasant, less-frightening, sound. A serenata! A serenade during which mariachis, a marimba group, or family alone will sing Las Mañanitas to the birthday girl.
  • There is a long day up ahead, so the familia and the musicos enjoy a big breakfast consisting of café con pan, tamales, etc.
  • The cooking and getting ready begins after breakfast, which lasts almost all day.
  • It’s not until 7pm when the church rings the bells and the entire town starts heading over to mass. During the mass the girl receives her blessing and reconfirms her faith.
  • She is presented as a woman at the reception, where there is a toast and the familiar food and dance celebration happens! The night comes to an end when the guest can eat and dance no more.

Some of the significant differences between a traditional Guatemalan Quinceañera and those in the U.S. are:

  • There are no chambelanes. The Quinceañera has 14 damas, preferably ages 1-14, to symbolize the different stages of her life.
  • Dresses are pastel pink, baby blue, or Pastel yellow.
  • Padrinos are not customary.
  • The presentation usually does not consist of the crowning of the birthday girl, the changing of the Zapatillas, or the presentation of the last doll.

Guatemalan Quinceañeras have a traditional structure, they vary depending on many factors – money, heritage, religion, social preferences and, ultimately, the girl.

It is Really About You

In the United States, Quinceañeras, for the most part, seem to have lost their meaning. The more expensive the better, the more scandalous the more memorable. In “Sweet 15” Pamela Colloff of the Texas Monthly  writes, “…there has been a cultural shift over the past few decades; in previous generations, families of modest means threw simple quinceañeras or just declined to have them. Now it is common for middle-class and working-class families to throw extravaganzas, relying on a network of relatives and friends to help them foot the bill.”

“I didn’t have one. Mainly because my parents couldn’t afford one. My mom felt so bad because she couldn’t give me a regular one,” says Angela Bonilla, 20.

“I still remember what my father would say when I was 14, ‘Para que? You know people will only gossip about how the food was bad, and the party will end when the borrachos start fighting,'” shares Betty Arreola, 25.

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate your coming of age, chica. Whether you have a “traditional” quince, small party, or a large gathering, the most important part is YOU. Quinceańeras are not a competition; your quince is a day to celebrate you. When the day gets here, enjoy the party, give thanks to your family and friends, but most importantly celebrate it according to your values and your wants. If you do so, it is guaranteed to be a night that you will never forget.

A Corrido

You may have heard a corrido on the radio, on your father’s cds, or even from your grandfather whistling. These narrative songs, extremely popular amongst the Latino population, are widely known and recognized by many due to their universal themes and poetic lyrics. While these corridos all vary in popularity, they have served as an outlet, both presently and historically, for the Latino population to express themselves in a creative way about their history, culture and current events.

First of all, what exactly is a corrido? A corrido is a song genre found in many parts of Latin America such as: Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Mexico. This song genre describes a social, political and religious event shared by the Latino community and in many ways offers an outlet for people to celebrate, understand and share these events in an artistic way. A corrido is typically very structured and can usually be divided into five parts. It first begins with an introduction from the singer announcing that he will be singing a corrido. Secondly, the singer shares information and describes the main character of the song. Thirdly, an action presents the character, followed by an introductory farewell and lastly, the final farewell, also known as la despedida. Following this specific structure, these songs serve as a way to tell a story or a legend about an important person, historical event or religious occurrence in the form of poetry in a way that is easily identifiable and very comprehensible.

Escobedo_CorridoDeLaPersecusionDePanchoVilla_1938_M_MTRThe more popular and widespread corridos are those from Mexico, particularly those dealing with Mexican history. These songs can be dated back to the 1800’s and are most often associated with the Mexican Revolution. For example, the popular singsong for young children called  “La Cucaracha” at one time was used by the revolutionary hero, Fransico “Pancho” Villa, and his soldiers to rally against President Victoriano Huerta. Today, the song can be compared to a nursery rhyme or a fun sing-a-long but its traditional lyrics are loaded with political symbolism that reflect the social and political events of that time in history. Interesting, huh?

While there are many traditional folk songs that tell about Mexico’s history, today, corridos describe very important aspects of Mexican culture. They are important in sharing and dealing with issues such as: border-town life, special events, drug-related problems and religious stories. Recently, it has become a popular way for people to share a very dark story about the state of Mexico.  What has resulted is a genre that follows the same structure as a traditional corrido but deals with contemporary issues such as drugs and topics related to the drug war called narcocorridos. While the style and sound are drastically different from a traditional corrido, the song describes events that many people in border towns and in Mexico experience on a daily basis. This way, they not only tell a tragic story but they also express hardships in order to connect with an audience that is able sympathize.

In this way, corridos have served as a way of expressing oneself about an event, a person, or religious event in the form of music. While the musical part is important, the words are the ones to convey the real message of the song. The lyrics, many times, tell about hardships and people overcoming adversity. In many ways, these songs serve as a way of therapy, not only for the composer but also for the listener. Corridos serve as a way for people to find an outlet to connect with others and share experiences that directly affect people like them. So the next time you sing a song or listen to a song that you think may be a corrido, look for the clues and try to understand the REAL message.

Police Brutality and Coverage in the Latin@ Community

On February 15, 2016 Antonio Zambrano-Montes was shot in Pasco, Washington. Zambrano-Montes was shot and killed by three Pasco Police Officers. Some might recall the video of Zambrano-Montes’s encounter with the police circulating through the media, which followed the height of the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by the death of another individual shot by the police, Michael Brown.

The Black Lives Matter movement made significant strides to garner attention towards the injustice committed. But, for the Latino community, how does police brutality affect us?  While the shooting in Pasco is not an isolated incident for the Latino community, the impact of this incident shares similarities with the systemic racism and racial tensions of Ferguson. Ferguson is sixty-seven percent black but its police force and government officials majority white, similarly Pasco is fifty-six percent Latino yet the majority of government and law enforcement officials are white. Even though both communities differ, the racial tension for both is worth considering. Including the reaction from both communities after each event. When Brown was shot and killed at the hands of police officers, many citizens from all over the country took to the streets in protest. Soon the hashtags #ferguson #blm and #justiceformikebrown were trending globally. The reaction to the Pasco shooting wasn’t nearly as significant to the one in Ferguson, but, for some, the lack of coverage and significant protests against police brutality in the Latino community poses an issue.

“Is it that we didn’t hear about it or that Latinos didn’t care about it?” added Georgina Perez.

“Why can’t we get the same type of coverage or help?” Kris Ramirez said, echoing the same sentiments when her brother was shot by LAPD in 2014.

A study from Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, showed that Latinos comprise less than one percent of total news media coverage, the small coverage that feature Latinos are often portrayed as criminals.

“Violence or discrimination against Latinos does not tend to resonate among most Americans because Latinos are generally not perceived as Americans but recent immigrants or foreigners with no deep roots and histories in the U.S.,” Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the center’s director, said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

The lack of coverage of Latinos shot and killed by police is not an indicator that this isn’t happening. Statistics on the killings committed by police officers are not only hard to find but are also inconsistent. Even so people have crowdsourced information to keep some form of record of police killings. According to research done by Al Dia news, at least 714 people were killed by law enforcement in 2015. 105 of those killed were identified as Latino. 16 of those Latinos were unarmed while 19 showed signs of mental illness.  In fact, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Latinos are 30 percent more likely to be killed by police than average (right after Native Americans and African Americans).

The reason behind so much coverage of any shooting or incident with the police lies in the hands of the people. People’s involvement can become so significant the the general news media cannot ignore their voices. The issues we face today can receive more coverage if we use social media to voice our concerns of crimes against our own community. But, we shouldn’t just be outspoken of the crimes against us. Sharing positive news of our own community, of working alongside others, also helps empower our narrative as Latin@s.

Celebrating Culture in Music

Mexican culture itself is unique, colorful, vibrant and expressive. Singers often share their cultural background through music. Through their music, these artists tell new generations about the history, daily life, and/or  his/her dreams  and/or culture.

Ana Lila Downs Sánchez, best known as Lila Downs, blends Mexican and American cultures together in her music.  She is a talented American–Mexican singer-songwriter and actress, and her talent is to mix Mexican traditional and popular music. Her unique touch is to incorporate indigenous Mexican influences, such as Mixtec, Zapotec, Mayan, Nahuatland Purépecha.

Her use of language showcases the landscape of Mexico.According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Mexico is the 14th largest country in the world, with an approximate  population of 122.3. Spanish is the predominant language among Mexicans and is spoken by 92.7 percent of the Mexican population. An estimated 6 percent of the population speaks Spanish and indigenous languages, such as Mayan, Nahuatl and other regional languages.

Lila was born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico where she studied at the Institute of Arts by Oaxaca. Later, she briefly attended the University of Minnesota. However, her passion for music was bigger, therefore, she decided to focus on her musical career. Wherever Lila goes deja bocas abiertas with her innovating style that captures traditional Mexican music and new musical trends. She has performed at well known venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, both located in New York City. Lila was invited to sing at the White House to perform on the 75th Annual Academy Awards and Latin Grammy Awards in 2012.

Lila Downs is a real life example of how to success in the music industry can happen without sacrificing your cultural background. Always remember and be proud of where you come from, always aim high, and do not let stereotypes or negative comments about your culture bring you down.

Rosca de Reyes

Photo Credit: http://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/2011/01/rosca-de-reyesthree-kings-bread-recipe.html

Photo Credit: http://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/2011/01/rosca-de-reyesthree-kings-bread-recipe.html

On January 6, families and friends gathered around the continent to take part of a 300 year-old tradition.

Día de los Reyes is traditionally celebrated twelve days after Christmas. Similar to Christmas, children expect to receive presents from los Reyes Magos (the three wise men) who brought the presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to newborn Jesus. In preparation for los Reyes Magos, children leave their shoes outside filled with hay and water for the animals that los Reyes ride on.

La Rosca de Reyes (king’s bread/cake) is usually served for merienda along with chocolate caliente or atole. The round shape of the bread evokes the crowns worn by los Reyes Magos while the colorful dried fruit signifies the crown jewels. Others extend the metaphor of the circular shape to the symbolism of the eternal love for God, which has no beginning nor end.

Arguably the most significant part of la rosca is the appearance of a plastic infant Jesus. If the plastic doll appears when cutting a slice from the bread, then the person who found the plastic doll must host a feast on February 2, otherwise known as Candlemas Day. On February 2, the people who were sharing the rosca rejoin again to eat tamales and drink atole. Sometimes there will be more than one plastic figurine hidden in la rosca, which helps reduce the cost and work of the festivities on February 2nd.

While some families prefer to avoid getting the plastic doll, it is actually considered good luck to find the baby Jesus — it is believed that finding the plastic doll is a sign of prosperity.

Other traditions include hiding a ring and a thimble. It is said that the person who finds the ring will be the next to get married, and the person who finds the thimble will spend the rest of the year single.

Dealing with Siblings

Have you ever been so mad with one of your siblings that without even thinking you wish for that brief moment to be an only child? Sharing a space with someone else isn’t always easy and problems are bound to arise for a variety of reasons! You may be upset because you have to share clothes, the TV, the car or even your room. You might dislike the fact they might get “special treatment” because they are older or younger than you. Whatever the issue may be, fighting with siblings is actually a very common thing and learning how to deal with the problems that you face can help you have a better relationship with them.

Challenges – Same Roots, Different Personalities
One of the reasons that most siblings fight is the fact that even thought they are related, with the same parents and same upbringing, they are in fact completely different people. People with different ideas, different tastes and different personalities, and these will end up crashing at times.

Problems between siblings can be a million. You may get mad because they take your things, because they don’t help with chores, or because they don’t treat you fairly. Yet siblings don’t have to be enemies, in fact, they can be great life long friends. Remember that they know what it’s like to grow up the same way you did, and that they have shared many experiences with you, and they can be of great support because of this, even when having completely different personalities.

Many times problems arise because of the difference between the ages of each sibling. Some siblings may take sides with each other for particular reasons or simply because they are closer in age.

One of the things that Isabel Medina, 24, dislikes about her siblings, both male and females, is the way they treat her because she is the youngest of four. ” They feel that because I am the youngest, I can’t give my opinion or I am not wise enough or have enough experience to give an opinion,” said Isabel. Being the youngest child is tough and Isabel shares that sometimes conversations get heated and they speak to each other in a loud voice. This is where their father interferes.

Joys of Having Siblings

They Will Always Be There
We get happy with each other by apologizing when it is necessary or simply acting like if nothing happened,” said Isabel. “I love knowing that, whatever happens, whatever things we tell each or how many times we argue with each other, they will always be there.”

The Good Outweighs the Bad
Elii Lozano, 22, explains that one of the reasons why her sister, now 25, and her used to fight was the fact that she tended to be a bit disorganized, and sharing a bedroom, this often caused problems with her sister who would get stressed because it. Yet even thought this would create fights between them, they never stayed mad at each other for more than two hours and would soon be like if nothing ever happened. ” Most of the time she would take the initiative,” said Elii. “Even though sometimes we fight for dumb reason, the good things weight more than the bad, we help each other and support each other.”

Take Care of Each Other
Like Isabel mentioned earlier, the love they all have for their father is perhaps their strongest bond, and when their mother passed away when she was only 4, she says her older siblings took the job of taking care of her and their home on top of going to school, and for this she admires them.

Best Friends
Not only can brothers and sisters be great role models but also best friends.  Mabel, 22, says she can’t imagine her life without her sister. “Our relationship is ideal, she is like my best friend, we are very close,” she shared. Mabel and her sister even have a day called “Sister Time” where they go out to concerts, to the movies or simply just enjoy movies at home. One rule…no one else is allowed.

Someone To Talk To
Marely Vega, 9, also enjoys having a 12 year old brother. She believes that having a brother is like having a friend at home that keeps you company and someone you can talk to. She advises siblings who do fight with each other to try to understand them. Right now they might fight but once they grow up they will understand them better, just like she read in a book about siblings. “If they were to ask me what a brother is I would tell them, it is a friend…they are like your friends, you can trust them aside from your mom and family. It feels nice to have a brother, to have company and if you have siblings, appreciate them, “said Marely.

Unique Bond
In the end, it doesn’t really matter how different you are from your siblings or how far apart in age. Understanding that these differences don’t have to keep you apart can even give you a best friend or  role model that you will always have no matter what. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have any problems with them. When this is the case, spending a few hours apart or apologizing can solve those small problems that may occur. Yet that bond and understanding that exists between you, is irreplaceable. Remember, not everyone gets to have siblings and it is truly a gift from life. It is an unconditional love.

Breaking Stereotypes

As Latinas, many of us have experienced hearing and possibly experiencing Latina stereotype. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a stereotype is to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same. Stereotypes can come from what people see based on TV or simply because what others have seen a few Latino people doing. With stereotypes, Latinos can be unfairly judged based on their accent or how they look. Listen to some Latinas speak out against common stereotypes.

Not All of Us Love (or know how) To Dance
Latino music and dancing has been recognized all over the world, and it’s an honor that many value and appreciate that. But that doesn’t mean that we all are experts and love to dance!

“To be honest, I’ve only been to one dance my whole life, and I hated it,” shared Paola Lopez, age 16. Many feel like this. Just because we are Latinas it doesn’t mean that as soon as the music starts, you can find us on the dance floor making everyone else look like fools.

We are not spicy hot girls
Just because you see some really beautiful and curvy Latinas in videos or TV shows, doesn’t mean that all of us are like that. A common image is of Latinas having a curvy body and tanned skin. The reality is that most of us are not that way. This stereotype needs to stop because many of us feel forced to meet those expectations and go through serious issues because of them. We all are beautiful, it doesn’t matter what type of body or skin we have. We are equally beautiful and amazing.

We are not all maids
This stereotype has been here for a really long time. Many immigrants come here to the US and spend their days working as maids to support their families and a place to live. Now it has become something “characteristic” of Latinas. It’s just a job and it shouldn’t be used to mock people, no matter their race. Just because we’re Latinas and many work as maids, doesn’t mean that we are destined to be one. Thanks to many opportunities, many Latinas everywhere are getting more chances to study to get a career and better jobs. Hopefully in a few years, this job won’t be stereotypical of us and people will realize that Latinas can excel in many fields.

“I don’t want to be a maid. I want to continue studying so someday I’ll get my degree on English,” said Alejandra Perez, age 18.

We are not all parties
We see music videos everyday and when it comes to Latinos, we’re supposed to party hard. People assume that we are like that most of our time, but the reality is that we’re not. We like parties and to have fun just like everyone else, but our lives are not always parties. We also care about other things and have many responsibilities.

We are not all Cholas
Another stereotype you see in the movies is of a chola, gangster or trouble maker. Latians are seen as rude and as queens of the barrio wearing big earrings and drawn eyebrows. Of course, not all of us are like this. Every culture has groups people who are mean, violent girls, but this is not true for most Latinas. We are not all cholas, most of us are not part of a gang or show pride in belonging in one. This is just part of something that exists in some areas around the US.

“I used to live in California and when I moved out, everyone thought I used to live in East LA and be a chola or some thing like that. To be honest, I never went there,” said Ana Diaz, age 16 shared.

No matter the stereotype, it is important to remember that not everyone from our community is the same. We are regular amazing people just like everyone else.

My Culture is Not a Costume!

My Culture is Not a Costume! The Deal on Cultural Appropriation

The leaves are changing hues, pumpkins are being sold on the side of the roads, children are preparing for their annual sugar high; this can only mean one thing: Halloween is creeping around the corner! And while the spooks of goblins, ghosts, and (fake) gore are traditionally expected this time of year, there is another horrid — and unfortunately, quite real — monster we most definitely rather shoo away.

Yes, chicas. This monster is called *cue the scream* cultural appropriation.

Dun, dun, dun, dun.

But have no fear! In this article, you will learn about this problematic trend, and you all will soon be anti-culture vulture queens.

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What is cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is when elements of a culture is adopted, worn, or mainstreamed by another culture. It’s extremely (and ignorantly) sought-after in pop culture, but more and more people, especially those who identifies as intersectional feminists, are understanding the negative concept of this “trend.”

Why is it bad?

Intentional or not, cultural appropriation is a form of racism. Not too long ago, teen actress Amandla Sandberg, who is African-American, called out white television personality Kylie Jenner for wear cornrows which she displayed in an Instagram selfie.

In Amandla’s words: “When you appropriate black features and culture but fail to use your position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards your wigs instead of police brutality or racism…”

Her mature and insightful comment gained national notice. While a lot of people applaud Amandla, many labeled her as the offensive “angry black woman” stereotype. This is a perfect example of how cultural appropriation belittles the members of the culture being appropriated. Kylie is easily allowed to wear cornrows (she did again), while Amandla and other black women are discriminated for simply being themselves.

How does it affect the Latin@ community?
I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen a Halloween costume resembling the uniform of a Mariachi performer, a department store dress with indigenous patterns, or a white celebrity playing dress up and imitating Chola fashion.

But, what happens when a Latina identifies as and embraces Chola culture? What’s happens when an indigenous man or woman wear their customs in public? What happens when a Mexican musician is caught in their performance suit? Most likely, they will be mocked.

The issue is: our culture is not accepted in society until a mainstream brand declares it as vogue. And it’s only certain parts of our culture, like the pretty Aztec-inspired patterns or the colorful Dia de Los Muertos sugar skulls, but the people and history that formed these cultural customs are treated without dignity and respect.

Remember: You can appropriate, too.

In 2013 during the MTV Movie Awards, the beloved Mexican American cantante Selena Gomez staged her pop hit Come and Get It in a Bollywood-inspired performance which included accessorizing herself with a bindi, a sacred forehead decoration worn by Hindus. Although many of our readers and writers adore Selena, her actions were inexcusable, and she continues to be problematic (a year ago, she posted a picture on Instagram wearing a bindi and a traditional Indian sari, captioning “sari not sari”) despite members of the Hindu and Indian community asking for an apology, and most importantly, to stop.

Before you decide to wear a bindi, to decorate your hands with henna, to buy a kimono, to ask your stylist for dreadlocks, think: Is this my culture? How does this affect my friends in different communities than mine? How would I feel if someone from a different culture was wearing or using [insert your culture’s customs]? Chicas, your culture, as is everyone else’s, is unique and celebratory. Be you!

What do I do when I see cultural appropriation happening?
Speak out. Whether someone is a appropriating your culture or another’s, it’s important to educate society on the effects of cultural appropriation. Do not get discourage if someone chooses to ignore or disagree with your views because, sadly, it will happen. Instead, be glad if someone acknowledges your thoughts and recognizes their wrongdoings. You, your intelligence, and your words can make a difference.

Machismo Culture

feminismopunhoMachismo, or macho, can usually be described as a number of presumably masculine traits, such as aggressiveness, strength, and dominance, that a man identifies with and which form his personality. This personality can dictate his behavior and ultimately affect everyone around him. Although this “manly man” can surely be found in almost any culture, we can take a look at it from a Latino perspective and see how it has influenced women over the generations and see if it has evolved with the changing times.

For a lot of Latinas, their fathers are the first macho people that they encounter and are affected by regularly. “I recall, in high school, telling [my dad] I wanted to leave home to attend college and he wasn’t supportive; if anything, he discouraged me and told me I was a girl [and] I needed to stay close to home,” reflects 32 year-old Linda Flores. Linda also acknowledges that her father was the one to help her with her homework and encourage her to finish high school, which she is thankful for. However, she still felt stifled by the limitations that he placed on her while growing up.

It is not uncommon for a girl who grows up in an environment fueled by machismo to feel limited, to be told that she is not capable of certain things, such as leaving home for college or going to college at all. It is not necessarily the case that this girl is unloved, but rather, is expected to meet different standards than her brothers, for example.

“I grew up with four brothers,” shares 20-year-old Latinitas volunteer Polet Espinoza.

“When our dad would ground us our punishments would be different. I would have to clean the house and the boys would get their phones taken away,” adds Polet.

Although Polet recognizes the machismo nature of her father and how this affects the way the household is run, she also acknowledges that her mother has been the one to teach her that women are capable of leading independent lives. Polet compares her own world-view to that of her grandmother’s, whom she declares has the understanding that a woman cannot be independent, and decides that, in her family, the way women deal with machismo has definitely changed over the generations.

“I grew up in an all girl household. It’s more of my school life…it’s like guys are good at math and science, but I want to be also,” states 17-year-old Alliris Lopez. While she doesn’t necessarily feel the effects of machismo culture in her home, she has definitely noticed the macho tendencies of her classmates and teachers. Alliris is in the Math club at her school and expresses that she and the other few girls in the club have to try especially hard to be acknowledged as much as the boys.

This is the reality that many Latinas over the years have had to deal with in their own ways, whether it has been domestically or socially. Some choose obedience, some choose to rebel, but it is also safe to say that in recent decades many girls have taken the negative influences of Machismo and used that to help themselves grow as strong women.

“I believe…it’s made me stronger, it’s made me want to excel, and show myself it is possible for women to be independent and successful,” asserts Linda.

Above all else, perhaps what we can be sure of is that girls and women will continue to set goals and continue to strive. Machismo influences may have evolved and become less impactful to a great many American Latinas, but is still a factor in certain domestic environments and even in the media. However, what we can also see is that so many girls and women have changed their ideas about their own roles in the world too. “[Since I began college], I’ve started to think I can do anything, “declares Polet. “I have my own voice.”

Celebrating Hanal Pixán

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“You’ve probably heard of the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.” Since my ancestors were Mayans who originated from Yucatan, Mexico, we sometimes celebrate the holiday with a different name: Hanal Pixán.

Hanal Pixán and Dia de Los Muertos are practically identical, except Dia de Los Muertos was inspired by Aztec festivals and Hanal Pixán was created by Mayan culture. Whether one was inspired by the other is unknown, but, in modern days, the holidays are interchangeable due to their similarities.

For Hanal Pixán, my family goes to an annual “Day of the Dead” festival in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to celebrate with other Mexicans and Latin Americans. We decorate our faces as sugar skulls, and my mother and I wear traditional Mayan dresses. We usually parade the streets with enormous puppets and posters while other members hold candles and pictures of their passed loved ones.

At home, we make sure our house is clean the day before. The reason for this is because we want the ghost of our ancestors to feel welcome. We tie red ribbons on the children, so our ancestors won’t accidentally take them when they leave. We also set their favorite foods on the table, which often includes traditional Mayan cuisine, like chimole, tamales, tortillas, arroz con frijoles, and spicy hot chocolate, next to beautiful altars dedicated to them.

Hanal Pixán has become more important recently since my Maya great-grandmother, who raised my father, passed away two years ago. She was an important part of my family and one of the reasons I am passionate about embracing my indigenous background. During this day, we also honor my mother’s brother who died at the age of 16 during a house fire, and my pet bird Kiwi who passed away a few months after my great-grandmother.

Hanal Pixán and Dia de Los Muertos are my favorite traditions