Raised As One Of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Nina Santillan

Photo Credit: Nina Santillan

My mom began studying the Bible with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was two years old. My dad was not very inclined to it, but my mom was interested in the amount of knowledge they had in the Bible. She would teach me what she would learn—the basics, of course. As I grew older and into my toddler years, she would not expect me to apply everything she would teach me, but I knew she would be disappointed if I did not. I remember at first it seemed difficult, since my dad was not studying and was a Catholic, to please both of my parents. I loved what I was learning from my mom, though, because it made perfect sense to me even as young as I was.

As I grew into my elementary school years, the peer pressure to do what everyone else was doing, as far as holidays and misbehaving, were things that I was afraid to face. However, as I began to make friends and let them know about my religious beliefs and where I stand, they really came to respect it. They supported me even to the point of standing up for me when teachers or others would question why I would choose not to participate in holidays and saluting the flag. They would do all the work for me without even asking them to.

As high school came around, my dad finally started to gain interested in attending our theocratic meetings with my mom, my little sister, and me. He began to study with another brother on his own time and his interest began to grow. He began to apply what he learned to his own life and made it something that he really wanted to have a share in and make part of his life. He strongly holds the knowledge he has gained from the Bible and even enjoys sharing it with others no matter how difficult it may be sometimes — since many can be religious-sensitive.

Even to this day, my friends from elementary and also from middle school and high school still remember that I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They tell me that they have always admired my conduct and the strong stance I have kept throughout all these years. Maybe one day, someone will knock at their door and begin studying the Bible with them because of the witness I gave throughout the time I was in their lives.

Mi Barrio: Del Rio, TX

map_of_del_rio_txI moved to Del Rio when I was six years old. It is located on the border of Acuna, Coahuila, Mexico. I have so much family in this city, and, since I grew up here, I have so many memories here. It has a special place in my heart no matter how small of a city it is.

Since Del Rio is a border town, the majority of the population is Hispanic. It is not too small to where it is considered a town, but it is also not too appropriate to be considered a city as if it were a larger city like San Antonio. It is a city that is not very close to larger cities. The largest cities close to Del Rio are San Angelo and San Antonio which are about two and a half hours away. Upon arriving to Del Rio, there is basically only one main road which is Veterans Boulevard. From this road, one can access all the other important streets. It has most of the restaurants and other businesses that can be easily accessed. Pretty much everyone in Del Rio knows or is related to someone you know. It can be convenient sometimes, but other times it can get pretty annoying, especially when all you want to do is go to Wal-Mart in peace. There are also a lot of Mexican restaurants, as one would imagine. Oddly enough, there are a lot of banks here, too.

There are not too many places to shop here, though. Teenagers have more fun at Wal-Mart than at the Mall. But then this gives everyone an excuse to make a special trip to San Antonio to do some shopping. There is also only one high school and one middles school but several elementary schools. There is also an air force base on the outskirts of Del Rio, so there are quite a few of military people in town.

Del Rio is growing slowly, but surely. Just recently, the speed limit on Veterans was raised from 30 to 35 and 35 to 40 in their respected areas. Although some people still drive at the previous speed limits, many are beginning to adapt. They are also bringing a Starbucks in the Fall of 2014 and possibly other chain restaurants and stores in the near future. The growth is exciting and there is always something to look forward to in this city.

The “F” Word

Photo Credit: AAUW

Photo Credit: AAUW

Here’s what Latinitas writers had to say about their experience with feminism:

During my teen years, I remember reading articles and following groups who would protest against the injustice in the work force, or the repression on women having to stay at home rather than work, and I considered that I myself was a victim of it. I really disliked the differences between my brothers and I- like the curfews, the permission to date, the restrictions on what to wear, amongst other things. It humiliated me that someone would consider me weak, when I knew in my heart that I wasn’t. I spoke up, and never gave up a battle when talking about the differences between men and women at home.

Truth be told, what worked the most for me, was to separate my own thoughts and beliefs from that of my family. I began to understand that my concern over the misconceptions on women didn’t have to do much with me, as it had to about others. As I traveled to different places around the world, I came across with women who had gruesome and very difficult hardships. They were in desperate need for change. My heart began to soften, and I became grateful for the fortunes I had in life. I treated the issue of feminism with more desire to unify than to protest.” – Giselle Rosas

I’ve never really considered myself a feminist. But after really thinking about this question and examining my personal experiences growing up, I realized I kind of have had feminist ideals for a really long time.

Something that always angered me as a kid and still continues to do so now is the way my mother does EVERYTHING for my father. Sure, I should mention that my dad because handicapped last year restricting him to a wheelchair, but, even then, my mother does TOO MUCH for my father.  And to my father that is ok because my mother is the “woman” and should be “serving” her husband. 

I constantly get angry that my father asks my mother for EVERYTHING and she does it without thinking twice. I will never forget an occasion soon after where I told my mother how I felt.  We ended up having a heated argument and in the end she told me that by doing all she does, she is doing what she is SUPPOSED TO DO. And years later, I still don’t understand what she meant. Who is the person who sets up these guidelines? Why are women led to believe that they have to SERVE their husbands, boyfriends, brothers, cousins, ect. These stereotypes are NOT ok and they are sadly my experience with feminism. – Ingrid Vasquez

“Feminism has influenced my every day life and has changed the way I view everything. I’m more critical of the shows and movies I watch, the music I listen to, and the literature I read. Identifying as a feminist has given me a new outlook on life and I have to admit that it’s really a much happier one. 

Knowing that I’m a feminist and that I believe in equality for women has made me feel empowered. I really feel that I can do anything I set my mind to it and isn’t that just what everyone should feel? The media often portrays women as weak, defenseless victims who need someone to save them, but feminism has shown me that we can defend ourselves at all times. Feminism has also taught me to reject the other view of women that media portrays: the catty woman. Women don’t hate each other and they really shouldn’t. We’re up against men who think we’re not capable of everything men can do, and we should be supporting one another rather than turning our backs to each other.” – Cynthia Amaya

Through my adolescent experience, I paid no attention to feminism or identifying myself as a feminist. I had moments here and there where I’d talk with friends about double standards about sexuality, not nothing too in depth… It wasn’t until I was around 17/18 that I began to realize how wrong this was and that I shouldn’t let these misogynistic ideas control what I think. I started getting into riotgrrl bands and would think about girl empowerment. You would think that at an all girls school, I would gain a sense of sisterhood but most of the time I felt the opposite. I would think I was better than other girls because of the bands I liked or movies I watched. I realized that this was all wrong. The more articles and blogs I read, I began to finally identify as a feminist because I believed in their ideology. I began to notice all the casual misogyny in every day conversation and try my best to keep my cool.

Now that I’ve researched all the sub-types of feminism, I’ve realized there’s a lot of bad sides to feminism that I do not agree with. More than anything, I identify as an intersectional feminist. I believe we shouldn’t look at women as all one big sisterhood, but we need to realize the struggles of every women in every ethnicity.On a daily basis, I find it hard not to fight for feminism.” – Claudia Delfina

Mi Familia

Latina Girl Writing - LatinitasLatinitas hosted a blog-a-thon to celebrate Women’s History Month. Here’s what some of our writers had to say about the mujeres in their familia.

“[My mom is the person] I love the most in my life! She’s such an amazing woman; I’ve never seen anyone work harder than her. She’s the founder and director of a Spanish immersion preschool, and when I watch her work there I can’t help but get inspired to work hard as well. It makes me proud to be a Latina who takes part in teaching others about the colorful and amazing Hispanic culture. Working with her at the preschool is what made me realize how much I love working with others, especially children. And because of this I now want to become a child therapist. Gracias, mamá!” – Vanessa Aguirre, 14

“ Looking up into my abuela’s eyes, I saw her passion for cooking and serving her family, and keeping their house nice and tidy. She loves staying at home and performing her duties as a housewife. But, my abuela is apart of the last generation of Hispanic women who are having this role. Hispanic women today are businesswomen, lawyers, doctors, spokeswomen, and so much more. We are evolving to be the biggest and powerful women out there, Latinitas!

I used to think when I was younger, all Hispanic women knew how to do was cook, clean, and take care of the kids and the husband. But not anymore, Latinitas. We have an education now and we’re learning more and more and we will not stop! I am the first person (and female) in my family to go to college- receiving the highest education any of my family has ever gotten. I see how proud I make my family and how much I will be able to help them. But, the greatest thing of all, many young Latinas (like YOU) are receiving a wonderful education!

I am seeing us Hispanic women become stronger than ever. We want to make a difference in this world! We do not need to stick to the same stereotype that everyone believes: all that Latina women know how to do is cook and clean. Of course, we will always love to take care of our familias, but, that doesn’t mean we can’t contribute more to our world and make ourselves better women.

One thing I have learned as a Hispanic woman, Latinitas, is we are capable of doing more than we have ever imagined.  Let us prosperinto the beautiful Latina women that we are! Change is not a bad thing, Latinitas, including the change we are experiencing as Latina women. We have come such a far way, so lets continue to make our familias proud!” – Megan Garcia, 19

“I got my first job during my second year of college. Scared, I really didn’t know what I was getting into working at a call center. No one in my family had previous call center experience and that really intimidated me at first since I was really struggling. But my sister however, has always been an incredibly hard worker, working all the way through college. She worked as a hostess for 4 years and a lot of times had to study on the job. So when I would complain about speaking with someone who was rude or mean to me, I always pictured my sister in the back of my head. She was and continues to be one of my biggest family influences.” – Ingrid Vasquez, 19

 

The Changing Face of the Quinceañera

Photo Credit: Adriana Candelaria

Photo Credit: Adriana Candelaria

For non-Spanish speakers, quinceañera is a mouthful. For young Latina women, a quinceañera is a chance to publicly step into womanhood and reconnect to Latino culture.  For event planners, florist, bakers, and dress makers, quinceañeras translate into booming business.

“For as long as I can remember quinceañeras were something that I was infatuated with,” says 19-year-old Karla Estrada.  “I would dream of the perfect dress, the music, having all eyes on me.”

The growing industry in the United States around the quinceañera, or quince for short, shows the growing influence of the Latino population in the United States. But just like there is not one kind of Latino, there is not just one type of quinceañera.

Quintessential quinces

Popular quinceañera planning websites like quinceanera.com and quincehelp.com provide overviews of what a typical quinceañera ceremony looks like to help young girls and families plan the event.

According to quincehelp.com, the ceremony usually has two parts – the mass and the reception.  The mass is often called the Mass of Thanking and allows the young girl, also called the Quinceañera, to thank her family and demonstrate the role faith will play in her transition into maturity.

The reception takes place in a venue complete with themed decorations and a dance floor.  The reception begins with a grand entrance by the court which includes the Quinceañera, her chambelán or male date, 7 girls, and 7 boys.  The Quinceañera then dances with her father followed by court-performed choreographed dances.

Symbolic traditions that take place at the reception include the lighting of 15 candles, the slipper-high-heel-shoe-exchange, and the presentation of the last doll.  The slipper-shoe exchange and the presentation of the doll mark the end of the Quinceañera’s childhood.

Though these might be the more common quince traditions, as Estrada says “Every household and family is different, we all have our traditions that have been passed down for centuries.”

Tracing roots: quinceañera origins

Important to quinceañera traditions we see today is the history connecting the ceremony across nationalities.

“My sense is that rituals tell a people who they are,” says Nicole Guidotti-Hernández, Professor of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.  “Scholars focus on both to historicize the how, the where, and the why of the quinceañera ritual.”

According to a 1997 article by scholar Karen Mary Dávalos, the quince is said to have originated as an indigenous practice, and more specifically, as an Aztec and Mayan tradition.  The ceremony is also said to have been a Spanish tradition passed onto present-day Latin America through colonialism.

Though some scholars place the creation of the quince in pre-colonial Mexico, Guidotti-Hernández, notes that “the coming of age ceremony be it the sweet 16 or the quinceañera for 15 year olds is not restricted to one ethnic group.”  She points out that “Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Central Americans also hold quinceñeras.”

Mapping traditions

Estrada, whose father is from Guatemala and mother is from Colombia, said she changed up a few traditions in her ceremony.

“Guatemalan tradition is that the Quinceañera wears white to show purity and honor,” says Estrada.  “I wore a light lilac color dress.”  Estrada also says that Guatemalan Quinceañeras are “expected to have a mass or church service 6 hours before the party to get approval of the transformation.”  Instead, Estrada had the service during her party.

Estrada also notes that her mother’s quinceañera in Colombia was less a ceremony and more a “small get together with family.”

Not only do traditions change, however slightly, from country to country.  Traditions also change through generation.

Rubi Reed, 14-years-old, said that she is still deciding on whether she will take a trip to celebrate her quinceañera or whether she will hold a typical ceremony.  Likewise, 18-year-old Gissel Ivanna decided not to have a quince because “I realized my stress level was going to increase and so was my mom’s.”

As Dávalos writes in her article, the Latinas she interviewed in the early 1990s were reluctant to rank quinceañera  ceremonies as “more-or-less traditional.” She attributes this discomfort with Latinas acknowledging the financial cost of extravagant quinces and their willingness to accept acceptance diversity in quinceañera ceremonies.

At the crossroads of time and place

“There is something about the U.S. context of the quinceañera that has made it distinct” says Guidotti-Hernández.  “What I am most interested in as a scholar is how the ritual has become more pan-ethnic and more embedded in consumption and excess in the last 30 years.”

Though the quinceañera ritual changes from Spanish-speaking country to Spanish-speaking country, it is perhaps making its biggest transformation in its U.S. context.  The accepted diversity within the centuries-old quince traditions signals an increasingly dynamic and multicultural U.S. Latina and Latino identity.

The Beauty Pageant Debate

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Many little girls dream of being princesses. Their games often consist of dressing up in their favorite Disney princess dress. For a few this beautiful dream becomes a reality. Since 1952, 63 women have become Miss Universe titleholders and over a third are Latinas.

Pretty gowns and bathing suits, a beauty pageant is much more than these elements. Miss Universe candidates are judged in multiple areas, which include: proper poise, body proportions, body mass index, parade, and interview responses. Many often forget the last element, affirming that beauty pageants degrade women by creating false images of average women. Believing a flawless face, beautiful hair and a toned body are necessary elements to be happy.

True, some beauty pageants are superficial. It appears in many cases that women are chosen based on their looks and figure instead of prizing intellectuality. An example of this case is former Miss Universe 1996, Alicia Machado. She made headlines when she gained too much weight during reign. In January of 1997, Donald Trump publicly humiliated her by forcing her to lose weight and to work out in front of hundreds of reporters and photographers. Had Machado not completed those requirements, she would have lost her crown.

Former Miss California competitor, Shanay Thompson mentions in her blog, “That night I didn’t place, but it did change me. I got obsessed with exercising and counting calories and dropped down to 118-122 pounds. I remember my sister showing a picture of what I looked like and I was disgusted. I looked sick. I knew as a public figure, I didn’t want young girls to follow this pattern and this wasn’t how I wanted to live my life.” Thompson believed she lost the crown due to her weight, but she realized that barely eating and obsessing over workouts was unhealthy.

Enough with the negativity; girls need to be inspired in a good way: eat right, do non-harmful exercises and have a drive for knowledge. Former Miss Universe 1997, Brooke Lee stated in an interview, “Miss Universe opened doors, windows, sunroofs, and chimneys! For a hula dancer / college student from Pearl City, Hawaii, winning completely changed my scope of the world. I traveled the world, met dignitaries, heads of states. I got to see things and go to places I would have never been able to dream of on my own in Hawaii.”

All in all, beauty pageants seem to ask women to match certain external attributes, but they also go beyond just looks. Women learn about different cultures, competition and many other aspects that prepare them for the professional field. Child beauty pageants; however, push young girls away from princess games. No young child should wear excessive make-up, fake lashes, provocative clothing, heels and inject botox. Every girl needs to live each stage of her life at an adequate pace while parents serve as a guide.

Hispanic Christmas Traditions

Feliz Navidad! It’s the most wonderful time of the year again, and that means it’s time for the family to get together once again.

Latinos celebrate Christmas with an array of wonderful customs and traditions. These practices may differ by country, but there are always three things that are present during the holiday: delicious food, joyful music, and good times with family and friends.

El Niño Jesus

The fun starts early in December (or late November, for those eager kids) when Latino children write letters to El Niño Jesus instead of Santa Claus. They place the letters somewhere on the Christmas tree. Moreover,  the nativity scene plays a prominent role during Christmas. It is usually placed below the Christmas tree and it can get quite intricate.

Posadas

Many Hispanics celebrate the nine days leading up to Christmas with posadas, which means “inns.” This celebration entails recreating the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph trying to find posada or lodging  on their way to Bethlehem. People will go from house to house singing carols and inviting those inside to join the procession. This tradition is primarily popular in Mexico.

Nochebuena

Hispanics celebrate Nochebuena or Christmas Eve  by dancing, eating and  going to mass with their families to honor the birth of baby Jesus. The Christmas Eve dinner can take place before or after attending mass. The dinner varies in terms of main course, side dishes and desserts depending on the country’s traditions. Pork, chicken and beef as well as tamales are common entrees in  many regions of Latin America.  In the Caribbean and Central America, tamales are wrapped in plantain leaves instead of cornhusks and are known by other names such as hallacas or bollos.

Evidently, food plays an indispensable role during Navidad (or Las Pascuas). Each country has its own unique dish. If you are in Mexico, the Pavo (turkey) and the Russian potato salad are bound to be at the dinner table. What’s more, the adoption of the turkey is modeled after the American Christmas and is nowadays adopted as a common dish throughout Latin American Christmas celebrations. In countries like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, one will find lechón asado,  a barbecued pig, as part of the dinner menu. As far as beverage go, egg-based drinks are frequent throughout Latin America during Christmas time. For instance, Venezuela’s ponche crema  is popular throughout Mexico, El Salvador  and Costa Rica.  

Once dinner has ended and you are stuffed with food,  that’s your cue to go outside and have some fun. Fireworks of every kind are very popular during this time of year. Kids play with sparklers called chispitas or estrellitas.  In Mexico, star-shaped piñatas made out of clay pots are filled with peanuts, candies and fruit for kids (and young-at-heart adults) to enjoy.

Each country has their own villancitos de Navidad, which are basically the Spanish version of Christmas carols. In Maracaibo, Venezuela,  they have the traditional folk music, called  Gaitas. They are only heard around Christmas time in many regional festivals. In Puerto Rico such Christmas songs are called aguinaldos.

On a different note, one of the many things Hispanics have adapted from the American culture is the practice of playing “Secret Santa” or just giving a present to the person whose name you draw from a hat.  This is becoming fairly common amongst big families.Furthermore, Hispanic holiday celebrations continue on to the New Year with Día de Reyes on January 6th, or Three Kings Day. Interestingly enough, even though the Western concept of Santa Claus has gained popularity among Hispanics, traditionally, presents are given on Día de Reyes, not Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas in Venezuela

hallacasI still recall my Christmas celebrations back  in Venezuela, when my parents used to give the children estrellitas,  a little stick that sparks when it is lit, and when all the family, from the oldest to the youngest, came together to make hallacas. However, my all-time favorite traditions occur during New Year’s Eve. In Venezuela, we have very peculiar customs during the last night of the year. One of them is eating 12 grapes as a countdown to the New Year. The fun part is that one must make a wish for the New Year as as one eats each grape.  Moreover, there are also plenty of customs for the more superstitious folk.  For example, do you wish to travel more in the upcoming year? No problem!  Grab a suitcase and walk around with it for a minute or two. Or are you looking for love?  Get a chair and stand on it for a few minutes.  And finally,  are you looking for a prosperous new year, full of lots of riches and money? Easy! Place a $1 bill under your shoe!  As silly as these sound, when you’ve become accustomed to these customs, they eventually turn into an indispensable  aspect of the holidays. Soon, one starts to realize that Christmas is not quite the same without these crazy traditions!

Disclaimer: These practices must be done at (or after) the strike of the New Year, not before. Hey, don’t ask me, I don’t make the rules.   

Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans,  Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Argentineans, etc. don’t celebrate  Christmas the same way. However, as mentioned earlier, celebrating with family, music and food is what makes up a typical Hispanic Christmas tradition.

Latinos Love Dios but Not Their Religion

Many individuals have the preconcieved idea that all Latinas/os are of Catholic faith. Regardless of these studies, more and more Latinas are saying religion is for followers. However, that is not to say that God is not near.

In fact, Maria Torres, 16, a devout Pentecostal, and her sisters Melinda, 13, and Jennifer, 9, are as committed as ever to their religion. She says, “I have full faith that God is real. When I was about five, I could remember my mom taking us to a Catholic church. We gave money whenever possible, but that church made us feel that all they cared about was money. I spoke to my mom about this and together we prayed over this.”

“One day a Pentecostal sister came to our house and it was great. She was a great speaker and I was hooked. I love my faith, my god, and all good things that have come to pass because of him,” Torres says.

Not all Latinas have their soul stapled to religion, meaning that believing in Dios is as good as anything. According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center, about 68% of Hispanics trust that the bible is from God, yet, through further investigation, over 69% put more faith into praying as a means of guidance in a relationship with God. This is to say that nine out of ten identify with a religion, but studies show that Hispanic Catholics are more adament o attending weekly services as opposed to Hispanics in other religions.

Anna Vasquezz, 15, says, “I believe in [God], but I haven’t been [to church] in the longest!”

She says, “Since I was a baby, my mother told me about [God]. To be honest, I didn’t believe it until my mom got cancer and the year my dad almost got deported. Believing in God, has helped me have more faith.”

Vasquez adds, “It’s been a blessing to me to know him.”

Like Torres, Vasquez’ method of keeping a strong relationship with her God is with prayer. She says, “I pray night and day.”

“Without others to guide you along the way, like other church members, how are you to draw close to God? You can go seeking, but finding him will be tougher,” she adds.

Amy Ann Davila, 23, a Mission Coordinator (La Divinia Providencia) at Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, says, “I see so much religion and politics getting intermingled, but I know that with my faith, I can say that the most powerful weapon known to mankind is God.”

Davila says her faith is built on life lessons. Her father died in 2010, but she is not in a hurry to blame God. Instead she says, “As I got older, being Catholic has helped me in everything. When I was younger my family was in all sorts of religions. I always felt lost. About three years before my dada died, I started praying to God. Not religion, but prayer saved me. I got involved with my Catholic church at college. Since then, the Catholic church and God have become a part of my life.”

Vasquez is adamant when she says, “Having faith and believing in God plays a bigger role than religion ever did. It describes you as a person.”

Adding still, “My belief in God is bigger because miracles happened to me. I kept my mom and my dad was not reported.I have a better life now than I did then.”

Whether you believe in God, the church, or religion, let your choices reflect what is best for you. Though religion can get a little rough to speak about, you should always feel confident about your spirituality.

A Taste of Home

According to the PEW Center, the Latino population is expected to be one of the leading minority groups in the United States in the upcoming years. With growth rates like that, it probably isn’t too surprising to see many Latino restaurants and bakeries popping up left and right. To a person who has never tried a Latin cuisine, it may seem odd over witnessing the excitement of squeezing extra lime juice on a taco or adding just a pinch more of cinnamon to perfect the sweet taste of Horchata.

For many Latinos however, the authentic food signifies much more than just flavor, it is a constant reminder of ancestral roots. During the Spanish inquisition many indigenous traditions were forcefully lost and a new fusion of food was born, that still can be found today.

The traditional foods not only bring the Latin culture to life but the preparation of it allows families to come together says San Jose State University Social Work major, Stephanny Ledezma.

“I have a big family and we all get to catch up with one another and bond while cooking and eating our favorite Mexican meals,” shares Ledezma.

For some Latino families, whipping up a meal not only means spending quality time together but also represents the strength of the Latin culture. Human Resources manager, Angelica Quintero says with every ingredient that is added to a dish, Latinos are reminded of where they came from.

“Latin food represents a strong part of our mother land and where our ancestors originated that is filled with love and closeness,” shared Quintero.

With over hundreds of thousands of Latinos living in the United States, food allows one to keep the taste of their home country unforgotten so it’s probably no surprise that you have heard a friend say their Abuelita makes the sweetest tamales or crunchiest platanos fritos. Secret family recipes and special ingredients are cherished amongst the Latino community and when they are later passed down to younger generations, a certain satisfaction is achieved says Intervention Specialist, Elizabeth Ramos.

“Being able to feed your family with great tasting food is an honor because to teach the children in your family allows the elders an opportunity to pass something on…and that itself is priceless,” says Ramos.

Whether your family has lived in American territory since the late 1800s or has recently arrived to the United States, one thing that all Latinos can surely agree on is there isn’t anything better than a well-prepped meal. So if you’re determined to keep your Latin roots alive through your taste buds, grab a cookbook and start experimenting with your inner chef. Don’t be scared to try new things or ask for your family’s help but be sure to open some windows because we all know when a woman is dealing with spices and determination, she sure is about to bring the Latin heat!

Quinceañera on a Budget

Gracie Maldonado created a quinceañera for her then 15 year old daughter, Gabby, with a year’s worth of savings. Despite some negative complaints of neighbors, says Maldonado, she was able to create a quinceañera with little expense and a strong support system.

Gabby Maldonado, 18, says, “I actually never knew how much money my mom spent, but one day I heard her talking to one of her cousins. She said, ‘You can make the cake. I’ll make the decorations with Cousin Crystal.’ She was talking to her friend Michelle.”

“Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to know. Whatever I heard didn’t disappoint the rest of my night. Once I stepped into the dance hall it was so much fun. Everything was like magic,” adds Gabby.

Gabby says, “Even if my mom spent less money back then, than other girls, I know she did it because she wanted me to have a quinceañera. She wanted me to experience this chapter in my life. She never had one and she didn’t want me to be shy anymore. I didn’t want to either.”

Ayuda from the familia

You too can save money on a creative quinceañera by approaching this festivity with detailed attention to what your cousin, sister, daughter or friend would like to contribute — a family celebration! Get as many people involved that way you could cut down on material costs. Gracie says, “I do not have sisters, but I do have friends and cousins. They helped me set up the location. Quinceañeras are expensive, but when we work together, we get it done!”

Anayeli Martinez, 16, agrees. She says, “Just don’t [ask] for too much expensive stuff [and] you can do it at your house or a family’s house.”

If your quince is one that would take place in a relative’s home, splitting who does the food can help with limiting the amount of food one may eat. Making plates with Hispanic staples, such as frijoles, rice and chicken guarantees that every person deciding to eat has their fair share of protein and starch and iron. This method guarantees others from comparing their plates and wanting more of what they can no longer fit.

Maldonado says, “[My friends] Josh and Liz sponsored some of the food.”

Gabby says, “I loved it all.”

Personal Hairstylists

Avoid the expensive hair dos and makeup styles by asking your certified Tia or amiga to do your hair. The hairstyle may be better than what a certified saloon can do. Amie Ann, 18, says, “My mother happens to be a hairdresser. She did both my sisters’ and my hair for our quinceañeras. Plus, it was easier to express what we wanted because our mother knows us so well.” However, if you or your family do not have that someone to make fabulous hair, do not be afraid to go with the natural style your hair is accustomed to. Hair shine makes dull locks look glossy and kept up. Curling your hair while spritzing hair spray can help keep that hairstyle in place. Besides, because it is your day, you are more than welcome to take as many rest breaks as you want. This is the moment to spray more hairspray if need be.

DIY Centerpieces

Ready made centerpieces can often come at a high cost. Instead, Anayeli suggests looking at online stores like Etsy which have original styles that caught her and her friends interest. “I even look at Facebook. Sometimes girls have these photos of themselves and behind them are their rooms. Their rooms often inspire me,” shares Anayeli.

Another example to cut back on buying state of the art material is to make diy centerpieces. Maldonado states that all the centerpieces at her daughter’s and her friend’s daughter’s quinceañera were handmade. “Our daughter’s table center pieces were very inexpensive, but our family time became decorating time,” she says.

She says, “My family helped out a lot. We did all the center pieces. My aunt sowed all the overlays for the tables. I couldn’t have done it without them. My cousin Michelle and Aunt Mary did most of my leg work.”

Like Maldonado, you too can suggest your tastes to family members in hopes of someone knowing how to sew, cut or even draw in order to save money!

Sponsors

Having sponsors to support such a big occassion is often a ready made deal. Family is almost indebted to participate.“We paid for most of it, but we also had sponsors. My aunts and uncles sponsored and chipped in for the hall, cake, and limo. Everyone helped out in some way. My grandpa paid for Gabby’s dress. We had an inexpensive hall.”

Though not all family members are required to participate, like paying the limo ride for one night, they can instead ask their very own quinceañera to have her and her friends get together a month in advance to make T-shirts commemorating this event. Selling the T-shirts for five dollars will help the quinceanera fill her college donations.

Usually calling on Fridays to any hall leads to cheaper rent deals. So what are you waiting for? You have one year to prepare and starting now is defenitely easier. Think of the thousands of $1 balloon packages you and your friends will blow up (all the while burtsting into giggles) and the amount of tamales, tacos con queso being prepared by our abuelitas, mamás and hermanas as the day gets nearer!

Have fun, chicas!

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