Divided by Two Cultures

A major part of our identity is shaped by how culture shapes lives. Growing up we learn about cultura through our family and incorporate them into our own identity; our cultura brings us orgullo. People learn about the amazing and vibrant multicultural aspects of the country, whether it is through daily interaction or media exposure. One topic connected with culture is assimilation. 

What is Assimilation?

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In 2004, the Pew Hispanic Center found assimilation is “now broadly accepted as a way to describe the ways that immigrants and their off spring change as they come in contact with their host society.”

While mamá y papá may seem traditional and old school, assimilation is used to describe the changes the second, third, etc. generation Hispanics experience when we start to re-think nuestra cultura.

On the topic of assimilation and different generations, Kayleig Wade, a Chicano Studies major at Santa Monica College, says ”I am pretty assimilated, my sister is pretty assimilated, and that sucks. I wish [my mom] didn’t have to do that to feel that she’s successful in this country. Our generation’s parents’ decision to assimilate is affecting our generation in more negative ways they intended to.”

Kayleigh shares her mother’s experience with assimilation and how it has caused her to seek out and learn about her roots.

“[My mother] hates the fact that she still has an accent. She [says] ‘I don’t feel like I am taken seriously.’ She goes through a lot. She has a huge internal conflict because of the whole assimilation thing, because she’s here–she’s a successful teacher, she has a white name, she looks white,” Kayleigh says about her mother. “I don’t wanna be like that at all. I don’t wanna feel like they do,” she says.

What happens when our cultura is shunned and turns into negative stereotypes? Some tension and confusion may arise if people from different cultures are unable to understand each other. Think about a situation that includes people from two different cultural groups. People from the first group may only see people from the second group through the narrow lens of a stereotype or a set of stereotypes.

Effects of Stereotypes

This causes another confusing conflict, one that consists of a person carefully trying not to fit the definition of the negative stereotype. Claude Steele, dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education, states that “to remedy the situation, you cannot have homogeneity*; you must have diversity to create excellence.” Discrimination happens when people are labeled as the “Other.”

In some cases, the younger generation becomes self-conscious of the stereotypes assigned to their culture through the process of assimilation.

Internal Struggle

Natalia Toscano, saw a clear connection between a quote from the Zapatista movement and cultural dilemmas.

“‘Vivir en mundo donde quepan muchos mundos.’ One world in which many worlds fit–that’s what we should strive for. We’re all the same, yet we are all different. As individuals, we have our experiences that shape and mold us. Multiple cultures make up someone. That’s why I have a hard time figuring out what assimilation is. I think that’s why we have a hard time defining what [assimilation] is because what is it really? What culture are we really assimilating to? Is it that we are assimilating because we are not accepting a culture that we are supposed to be coming from? Is it because of skin color? My skin color is supposed to define [how] I’m supposed to act or how I should act and what I should believe in?”

Americans can learn to live in a positive and healthy environment that fosters equality and a complex national identity. As intelligent beings, we do not have to put aside our differences and instead celebrate the vibrant culturas that are present in the U.S. We are unique human beings and our identities cannot be completely reshaped to fit a one-size fits all perspective.

*Homogeneity: Sameness throughout, and therefore lacking variety.

The Evolution of The “Selfie”

411_DS6567214Through the evolution of the internet, the self-portrait became the fixed photo worth taking.  The photographic images change so much on social-networking sites that one photo of you is never enough for new eyes to rate.

An increasing number of posts on social networking ask other girls to “like their status” and get “rated.” To some, the higher the number means being physically beautiful. As intense as that sounds, social networking sites push many young people, namely girls, to post photos that mimic Andy Warhol’s representation of “Monroe.”

It is great to see young people trying the style of a contemporary artist, but when does it begin to cross the line of being obsessed with their looks?

The Self-Portrait and Social Networks: Just Like Marilyn?

The fact that girls mimic Andy Warhol’s representation of “Monroe” is not because that they’ve all become narcissistic, vain young people, but they want to feel like they too have symbolically interpreted their physical features with the same self-worth as Monroe did during her time.

Marisela Lariz, 20, says, “Girls put photos of themselves and their bodies because they see other prettier girls. They may feel insecure, when really they should feel confident to know that no one is better than anyone else. Everyone is different and beautiful in their own way.”

Girl’s photo representations are a form of Monroe’s continued living because she is remembered for loving herself as a full figured woman.

Yasmine Gonzalez, 17, says, “Some girls may think they’re ugly when they’re not. Every girl is beautiful. And I think they just say negative things about themselves because what others have said about them.”

Girls try to attain that same value Monroe achieved as a full figured woman, by creating multiple images of themselves in different poses in an effort to become like the iconic piece. Self-photos are normative. They place their heads, almost like a magazine advertisement does when trying to sell a product. These young girls begin to resemble their clothes, their half short shorts and their hair styles. Long gone are the images to show real life.

The Costs of Getting  ”Likes”

Does seeing so many young girls with the need to show their figure while they talk to, hang with, or even ignore someone else in the photo, make it sociologically corrupt?

Paola Hernandez, 13, exclaims, “Some people judge you on your clothes. The internet is sort of to blame. Some people are cyber bullies!”

For example, a piece created by Melissa Ventura, 15, shows her in colored images using ½ of the screen unlike that of Warhol’s piece, which uses the entire canvas.Ventura, says, “We had to do that for an Art Project.”

Gonzalez adds, “There [are] a lot of creepers on here who be trying to talk to people and say sweet stuff and pretend to be someone else and [eventually] meet up with the girl. Next thing you, know, that girl could be missing since she posted photos of herself. I see a lot of girls do that, I don’t like it. They want attention and are desperate for Facebook likes and that way can comment on how “sexy, hot, cute, pretty, etc.”

Joselin Garcia, 13 agrees. She says, “People on Facebook like or comment on their photos. It could be a reason why girls would be obsessed with their appearance.”

Gonzalez is quick to add, “Well I blame the Internet and the people. The Internet, because they don’t delete anything inappropriate that people post, they leave it there. And people, they shouldn’t even be posting stuff like that in the Internet.”
Still whether you agree or not, girls only become confident if the ability to become educated is instilled at a young age. Lariz says it best, “True confidence leaves no room for jealousy when you know you are great. There is no need to hate [on each other.]”

Latinas Battling Cancer

Photo from http://alas-wings.org.

At  Milpitas High School, the American Cancer Society Club is promoting cancer awareness to the student body. “We offered additional information such as ‘Words to Know’, where we defined words and phrases like ‘Quality of Life’ and ‘Malignant’. We also offer free booklets and pamphlets to people who were interested in learning more. People should know the facts to reduce their risk and fear of developing cancer,” said Ariel B., Junior and Vice President of Milpitas High School’s American Cancer Society.

The cancer awareness project was created when the “American Cancer Society submitted an informative project to Milpitas High’s Science Fair. The tri-fold poster was filled with information on the three most common cancers among teens: blood cancer, brain cancer, and bone cancer,” explained Ariel.

Latinas and Cancer

One in three Hispanic women will be diagnosed with some type of cancer while they live. 1 out of 6 of these Hispanic women will die because of cancer (American Cancer Society).

“Cancer grows when a cell’s DNA is damaged. How or why the cell becomes damaged is still unknown,”  explained Ariel.

Hispanics are often diagnosed in the late stages of cancer. At these stages, the disease is more likely to have spread to organs which surround the initial point where the cancer developed. Hispanic women are also more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors because of the late diagnosis. According the the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the most common cancer among Hispanic women.

Reasons for a late diagnosis

Two thirds of Hispanic women will discover they have breast cancer during a self-exam. Less than a third will find out they have breast cancer through the usual detection method, a mammogram, according to Science Weekly.

Hispanics are more likely to be unable to afford health insurance. As a result, Hispanics have limited access to healthcare, likely influencing the low screening numbers among Hispanics. Hispanics also have less help from professionals and less guidance from doctors to help them take actions to prevent cancer. According the U.S Census Bureau, in 2007, 33 % of Hispanics were uninsured.

Hispanics often lack an understanding of cancer. Having a limited understanding of English doesn’t help.

“My parents don’t go to the doctor as often because they have trouble speaking to their doctor. They don’t feel helped. And they don’t want to be billed for that,” explains Orizema Cruz, Junior at Milpitas High School and daughter of Mexican immigrants.

She, like many Hispanics, has parents who are limited to services and information due to language barriers.


The National Breast Cancer Foundation found that genetics, the environment, or most likely a combination of the both, are linked to the origins of cancer. Promoting cancer education to the Hispanic community could encourage earlier detection and healthier lifestyles among Hispanics.

Myths discouraging the Hispanic community to learn about cancer can be stopped through educating the public. Such actions can end the belief that cancer is caused by sleeping with a bra on or using an antiperspirant, or  even the belief that one’s risk of breast cancer increases as the size of your breasts increase. Additionally, this will help end the misinformation passed down from adults to the youth.

Two main established risks factors increasing the risk of developing cancer is obesity and family history.  The National Cancer Institute found that an educational program can promote a healthy lifestyle to Hispanics, who have one of the highest number of obesity. Even if cancer has not affected your family, according to the National Cancer Institute, 70 % of women without a family history of cancer will still develop breast cancer. One’s risk factor can also be reduced by losing some weight if obese, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking or drinking excessively.


Citlali Cabrera, a 10 year old from Milpitas, CA , is aware of her family history of cancer. She explains, “My aunts have had breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I know I need to start taking care of myself so I don’t get ill, too. I drink water, eat healthy food, take care of myself, and I don’t eat that much junk food.”

“I want to help people with cancer. Last month, I asked family and friends if  they wanted to donate to the American Cancer Society’s Discovery Shop.  I feel happy helping out,” explained Citlali, who helps out the American Cancer Society on the weekends.

Like Citlali, take the steps to reducing your risk of cancer. It’s simple: know the facts and the risks. The more you know about cancer, the less you fear cancer. Your efforts towards awareness can save lives.


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!

Thinking Ahead: Investing

Many of us have been taught to save our money from a young age. We are told to put it away for the unexpected and costly incidents life throws at us, or for the foreseeable future ventures, like college that we hope to pursue. However, did you know that there is a way to grow your savings without having to work for it? The process is called investing, and while there are many ways to invest, some far more complicated than others, I will share a few of the basic investing techniques my father taught me.

First, let’s explore investing a little further. According to Investopedia.com, investing is the process of “putting your money to work for you.” When you put your money (i.e. invest it) towards something with the expectation of making a profit in return, this is investing.  There are many things a person can invest in such as a company, real estate, a project, a car, or the stock market, etc.

Unlike a job, investing does not require your physical presence and labor to produce profits. All that is required is some research to make sure your investments are secure. In other words, it’s like making any other purchase. Let’s say I want to buy an HD TV that will last me for 10 years. I will have to do research to find out which TVs are the most durable, while still providing the quality I desire. It’s the same with investing. You should research a potential investment to make sure that its prospects are good. Without doing research, I may buy a TV that doesn’t deliver the HD quality I seek, or the 10 year longevity I hope for, which would make it a bad investment for me. Research, research, research!

Investing is a way to earn money, however, the income made by investing is not a substitute for a job but a supplement. Despite the research involved, no investment is a guarantee. There is always a risk that comes with investing, but the more research you do, the more certainty you have that something with produce a positive outcome. For instance, the TV I ultimately choose to buy has a 95% approval rating, an exceptionally good rate with much promise. However, it leaves a 5% margin of error in which my TV has the potential to fail, and I have to keep this in mind as I invest money into this new TV.

As the expression goes, “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” When investing, you don’t want to put all of you money in one place. This reason is simple: because there is risk involved in every investment, it is possible that you will lose the money you have invested. The solution is to diversify. Put a little of your money into one thing, a little into another, etc. and always make sure to have enough savings on hand.

There are many ways to invest your money. I will list two simple ways below.

Certificate of Deposit (CD)
Putting your money in a Certificate of Deposit is a way to earn interest greater than that of a traditional savings account. A CD functions much in the same way as a savings account, however, it comes with restrictions that a traditional savings account does not, because it is not an account where you can make transactions (withdrawals, transfers, etc). For example, you must agree to put your money in a CD for a set period of time. During this time you may not withdraw your money, or you will incur a penalty. Also important, the interest rate on a CD remains set, regardless of the market changes throughout the year. Typical time periods for a CD are anywhere between 1 month to 5 years. To illustrate how a CD works, let’s use this example from Investopedia.com:
Let’s say you purchase a $1,000 dollar, year-long CD with an interest rate of 5%. At the end of the year you will have earned ($1,000 x 1.05) $50 for a total of $1,050. This may not seems like much, but here is the trick to investing, though you could withdraw the $50, you may also choose to reinvest it. This process of reinvestment is called compounding and will help your money grow even more. Now, you reinvest the $1,050 in another CD at a 5% interest rate. At the end of the year you will have earned ($1,050 x 1.05) or $52.5 for a total of $1,102.5.

Money Market

A money market functions essentially the same way as a certificate of deposit. However, different restrictions apply. With a money market, the rules are much more flexible. Unlike a CD, a money market allows you to withdraw money at any time, but only so many times in a set period. For instance, your bank may only allow you to withdraw money 6 times in 3 months. Additionally, you may withdraw as much money as you want, but you have to maintain a minimum balance at all times. Just say you put $1,000 into a money market, but your bank requires a minimum balance of $100. You may withdraw as much money as you want and up to 6 times in 3 months, but you cannot let your money market balance go below the $100 limit. Though the interest rate in a money market is greater than a traditional savings account, unlike a CD the rate is not set. For instance, if the market takes an upturn or a downturn, the interest rate may fluctuate to accommodate the market changes. With a money market, time commitments are also more flexible, allowing you to determine their longevity. The same rules apply in terms of earning interest, but remember that if you withdraw certain amounts of money, your interest earnings will be lower, and also more difficult to calculate, just as the changing interest rate makes determining your earnings difficult.
These are only two, of many different ways to invest your money. If you’re interested in learning more ways to manage and grow your money, consider doing more research, or taking a class. Talk to your parents and a banker about opening a CD or Money Market account. Happy saving!

Investing: To put (money) to use… in something offering potential profitable returns

Profit: Gain (In this case monetary) derived from a successful investment

Prospects: An apparent probability, future outlook

Supplement: An addition made to reinforce, or complete something

Interest: A sum paid or charged for the use of money or for borrowing money, usually expressed as a percentage of money to be paid over a given period.

Transaction: a negotiation carried out to its conclusion (Ex: the withdrawal, deposit, or transfer of money)

Compound Interest: Interest earned and calculated based on the previous interest gained.

Definitions provided by Dictionary.com

Advice: Boyfriend Edition

Dear Latinitas,

Why do guys say if we date more than one guy we’re easy.  But if they do it, they’re a player?

Dear Friend,

There are many views on this topic.  Both girls and guys have their own opinion.  Some say that guys like to have the satisfaction of being the only guy in a girl’s life and that they don’t want to share their girl with anyone else.  Some girls think that there seems to be some sort of competition to see who can get the most girls.  The same thing can be said by girls.  They don’t want to have to share their guy with anyone else.  I believe that it all has to do with the way we were brought up.  It’s a complicated issue and perhaps we will never find the proper answer.  Everyone has different views on it even though it isn’t correct to call someone easy or a player.

Dear Latinitas,

What do I say or do if my boyfriend isn’t matching his clothes, looking all ugly, and we’re going out on a date?

Dear Friend,

I believe that if he thinks what he is wearing looks good, then you shouldn’t have a say in it.  Maybe he’s starting a new trend!  If it bothers you though, you can always ask him if it’s okay to pick out a nice shirt for him every once in a while.  You can say, “you should wear this instead, I love how it looks on you!”  With this you will not sound like you’re trying to change his style and he will be happy that you think he looks well while wearing what you have suggested.  Don’t sweat the clothes, it doesn’t matter what he wears as long as you have a good time on your date!

Dear Latinitas,

How do you ask your boyfriend if he’s cheating on you?  How do you know they are saying the truth?  What do you do if they say yes?

Dear Friend,

First of all, you should have a very good reason to think he’s cheating on you.  If there aren’t any signs then I don’t think you should ask.  If you must ask though, just be straight out, simply ask, “Are you cheating on me?”  Be sure that you have a reason for asking.  When he answers, there is no certainty that he is telling the truth, you have to trust your instincts and most of all, you have to trust him.  If he says yes, I would advice you to end the relationship.  It isn’t worth being with someone who is not being honest.  I hope this helps, buena suerte, chica!

Documentary: The Battle for Land

The Battle for Land, the fourth installment in a documentary series directed by Juan Mejia, aims to expand on the complexities of Afro-Colombian displacement. Told through a hybrid of documentary and animation styles, it tells the heartbreaking, but inspiring stories of Afro-Colombians from the Pacific coast of Colombia who have been displaced, as they foster community and organize to fight for their land.

Internal displacement, or the forced removal of peoples from their land to other parts of their respective country, is a growing global concern. While many activist organizations discuss displacement as a result of civil war, genocide, and ethnic cleansing—all absolutely real occurrences—this analysis fails to capture the complex nature of the displacement process. Mejia’s film aims to reveal that behind the  progress, lie the economic interests that see the land Afro-Colombian communities live in as opportunity for profit-making. Mejia works to uncover the darker underside of progress by showing how large corporations exploit the conditions of civil unrest, and how Afro-Colombians have organized and resisted.

At the center of this exploitation is FEDEPALMA, a national palm oil producer featured in the film that uses local farmers, many of whom are Afro-Colombian, to grow its oil palms. Oil palms have a devastating effect on the natural environment. Despite this, palm oil is seen as a symbol of progress by the Colombian government, and is touted for producing jobs and products that will supposedly boost Colombia’s economy. Palm oil is also hailed for its “eco-friendly” biofuel capability.

The film is still undergoing edits, and has only been officially screened twice. This explains why it felt a bit disorganized in parts. Afro-Colombian displacement is an extremely complex issue, and The Battle For Land needs more editing in order to more efficiently narrate this story. Mejia sheds light on an important and tragically overlooked issue. At the end of the screening, an audience member tearfully thanked Mejia for giving Afro-Colombians a voice. The Battle For Land is definitely worth a watch, but its rawness is not suitable for the lighthearted. An official release date for the film has not yet been set.Using infographics, animation, and interviews, Mejia takes us through the lives of several Afro-Colombian community activists, as they battle systematic racism, nurture each other’s empowerment and fight to gain back their land. They have seen cruel and senseless violence destroy their people, and threaten to do the same to their culture. The testimonio-style narrative allows the viewer to become immersed with their struggle, and does an excellent job of bringing light to the strong resistance movement that has taken shape in Colombia over the last several years. Although the subject matter is tragic and difficult to watch in many parts, especially the violent animated scenes, this film is no sob story. The activists are strong and resilient despite the heavy obstacles they have yet to overcome.

For more information on this film, visit the film’s site: http://www.battleforland.org/BFL/language.html

Artsy Latinas Doing It Big

When your role model tells you that anything can happen, follow your dreams, work hard and they will come true, you begin to get the motivation to actually do something about your life. These women have found ways to follow their passions and make a business, living, and doing what they love. Three women, Dina Eden, Nancy Contreras, and Sandra Arlette, have made a business out of their craft, art and hard work. They are combining their abilities to create an awesome fashion trifecta. I had the pleasure of interviewing these ladies to find out who they are, what they do, and how they achieved it.

Dina Eden is the owner/ designer of Tree of Eden, an accessory boutique online and in Arlette, which is located in downtown El Paso. Dina has always had a thing for art and dabbled in a couple classes, but when she took ceramics, she knew it was a perfect fit. Dina states, “ I always wanted to do something with art, jewelry is a really good medium.” Dina was a supervisor for an accounting company but then had a car accident that caused her to have total amnesia.  She went back to basics and started using art, ceramic sculpture and jewelry making as therapy. Dina decided to sell some of her creations on ETSY this past November and was asked to sell some articles in the downtown boutique, Arlette. She began to show her jewelry at many private events around El Paso. She is currently in Hidalgo Mexico to expand her creative abilities. For example, pottery Dina States, “There are a bunch of clay deposits on the Ranch (in Mexico) to work on pottery.” Her greatest success is doing what she really loves with her small business. Dina states, “I would rather struggle with a small business then with something I don’t like.”  Her success ties into her struggle, while growing up in Juarez entrepreneurship wasn’t’ really advised. Dina’s advice was to try and self teach, “start early to get a feel for it; it’s all about confidence. There’s nothing to be scared of. It could turn into a really good business.” Dina also suggests to research small businesses and learn bookkeeping, or how to finance. There are many outlets to learn how to manage money, and it’s a very important part of the process.

Another contributor to Arlette boutique is Nancy’s online store, Ragazza Bazaar. Nancy grew up watching hermother make quinceañera dresses, homecoming mums and other formal attire, and later immersed herself in the fashion industry by becoming retail managers at various stores. She started surfing the web and realized she could gain endless possibilities by owning her own online store inspired by celebrity style. Her first business was started sola, then got some help from her sister who lives in San Diego. Nancy explained how she gained hands on experience in the fashion world by going to events and showing her work in fashion shows. Some obstacles Nancy overcame was through marketing, getting the word out, but networking worked for her. Nancy is very big on supporting her local community and wants to extend more opportunities for girls in El Paso. She is currently undergoing a social media promotion website that deals with supporting local businesses online, El Paso Style. Nancy advises, “continue to work hard to promote your talent and skill and create a portfolio. Never give up, even if you think you’re failing. It takes time, work and a lot of commitment.” She also advises to research resources of the craft, your audience and learn from other who are also successful.

Sandra Arlette is the owner of Arlette, a local boutique mainly housing jewelry, but also sells many other things by herself and other artists. A craftswoman from a very young age, Sandra had always wanted to delve into fashion design, but because her educational art options were somewhat slim she studied International business. Starting in 2005, Sandra kept her creativity on the side, she had an epiphany one afternoon when her accessory choices were not very promising. She began creating articles for herself and then began crafting more for others. Arlette’s businessbegan to pick up in 2009, she states, “It really was my passion, I could stay home for days doing nothing but designing!!” Finally, Sandra opened her own shop in 2012 with the help of her family and supporting boyfriend, after dedicating her post graduation to her home accessory business. Sandra hopes to keep doing what she loves forever and helping local artists, designers around El Paso be heard. Sandra’s advice to young Latinitasis to keep your head up, do your research, and don’t be discouraged by negative people. She says, “Keep doing what you love, do it right and better yourself, always share your talent and appreciate other’s too.” Sandra also advises to surround yourself with supportive and passionate companions, get an education, and if you’re set on your artistic career, start your investigation and research now!  Sandra has made a living out of her passion through heart and hard work, young girls/Latinas can also do the same with any talent.

All three women have recently begun their business journeys, and they’re going strong. These women have accomplished and learned so many things, and a common obstacle standing in their way is the overwhelming skepticism towards going local. Sandra Arlette says, “I think the greatest obstacle has been the lack of interest of the society in “handmade” products. I think we don’t appreciate it enough and we still think that handmade is cheap or has poor quality.” Arlette’s boutique has been going strong for a year now and hopefully El Paso can support their crafts and keep their dream alive.

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!


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!

Latinas Leading the Fight Against Human Trafficking

While Blockbuster films and news media portray human trafficking as a problem that takes place across our oceans, many Latinas are working to shatter that myth and inform Americans that this criminal act exists near their schools and on their playgrounds.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 300 thousand children – of various ages, genders, classes, races and ethnicities – are trafficked for sex in the United States every year. This figure doesn’t reflect those trafficked for labor or the number of adults also being trafficked within the U.S.

Recognizing this exploitation, Latinas – young and old – are taking a stand against this modern form of slavery.  They are joining forces with other people and organizations to spread awareness, instill programs and laws that prevent trafficking and consul victims of sex slavery.

In Washington D.C., Dr. Carolina De Los Rios is serving as the Director of Client Services for the Polaris Project, a non-profit anti-trafficking organization.

She supervises case managers, social workers and fellows who work directly with victims of human trafficking. Her team provides survivors with counseling, emergency housing and more specialized assistance all intended to help and to rebuild their lives.

“Seeing survivors after you have helped them in an emergency situation is so rewarding,” De Los Rios said. “You’ve seen one of the worst moments of their lives, and then you see them after you and the team worked so hard – smiling, getting their GED, going to college. You see them thriving with their life, and then I know it makes sense what I’m doing.”

Del Los Rios, a Colombian, believes that being a Latina has given her a unique lens in her fight against trafficking.

“Being Latina makes me more aware about the challenges that you experience as a Latina, and it makes me more sensitive to the different challenges that women and girls experience,” Del Los Rios said.

She also said that although all young people are vulnerable to being recruited, Latinas who just immigrated to the U.S., who don’t speak the language and who don’t know how the system works here, may be in an even more vulnerable position.

Public interest attorney Norma Ramos understands that vulnerability firsthand.

The now executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) was once a child in New York’s foster care system.

“I always felt a strong sensitivity about human beings who are being commercially and sexually exploited,” said Ramos. “I felt that that could have so easily been me – I still feel that way.”

At CATW, the world’s first organization to fight human trafficking internationally, Ramos raises awareness about human trafficking and promotes the Nordic model – laws that penalize the demand for commercial sex and decriminalize victims of the commercial sex industry – as an approach to combat human trafficking.

“When a country passes the Nordic model, I’m very happy,” said Ramos. “Norway passed the Nordic model, then Iceland followed. These were ‘break out the champagne’ moments for me.”

Ramos, who is Puerto Rican, also hopes to encourage young people and Latinas to take a stand against injustice.

“The world has too little political courage; it’s the No. 1 disappointment for me when I see people not risk something in order to change and end a social injustice.”

A few hundred miles east of Ramos is a young Latina in Connecticut whose political courage would make Ramos very proud.

Ana Alarcon is a high school senior and anti-human trafficking advocate.

The 17-year-old Colombian recently traveled to Washington D.C. for the National Youth Summit on Abolition, where she was a panelist alongside human trafficking experts like Wesleyan University professor Lois A. Brown, founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation Kenneth Morris Jr., and U.S. Ambassador in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking Luis CdeBaca.

As a young Latina, Alarcon’s voice and perspective was very unique at the event.

“It feels very empowering as a young person and as a female and as a Latina. There are generally a lot of men in this field,” Alarcon said. “I feel like I could give a voice to different groups, I feel honored, and I feel like I could give other people a sense of ‘you can do this, too.’”

The young Latina hopes to continue her advocacy beyond high school. She was recently accepted into Fordham University, where she will be studying international relations.

“Human trafficking is just a link to so many world issues – poverty, drugs, abuse – it’s all interconnected. If I can stop one thing, it will be a chain reaction to cause peace somewhere else,” Alarcon said.

Like Ramos, Alarcon also wants girls her age to be courageous.

“If you want to do anything, you could absolutely do it. Just because you’re a girl, a minority or you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t do something important or be someone important,” Alarcon said.

If interested in connecting with anti-human trafficking services near you or to obtain free training materials to help you with your advocacy, visit: http://www.polarisproject.org/what-we-do/national-human-trafficking-hotline/the-nhtrc/overview.


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