Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Latinas - A Culture Identity Crisis

I recently read a policy brief by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy that came out last July. In it they state that for the first time, Latinas have the highest rates of teen pregnancies and births compared with all other racial groups. To be exact, 53% of Latinas will become pregnant at least once before the age of 20. And when you combine this with the fact that Latinos also have the highest high school dropout rates in the country (12%), then it is certainly no surprise that Latinas between the ages of 12 and 17 also have the highest rates of attempted suicide than any other ethnic group. It is a crisis.

What the heck is going on? An article in the Washington Post states that many Latinas feel trapped between two cultures that oftentimes demand the exact opposite of each other. Laura Sessions Stepp states in her article Crying Out for Help – Suicide Attempts Reveal Strains on Young Latinas, that these young women are "torn between an American popular culture that encourages them to be sexy and assertive, and family expectations that they be modest and submissive." She also quotes Edgardo Menvielle, a psychiatrist at Washington’s Children’s Hospital, who says that the key to a young Latina’s ability to overcome the cultural identity crisis is her relationship with her mother. A supportive mama who listens to her daughter (regardless of whether or not she agrees with her daughter’s choices) is most likely to help her daughter to avoid the depression that stems from feelings of isolation or abusive relationships. The article states that mamás (especially single mothers) are often swept away by the stress of trying to provide for their families, making them less communicative and understanding. Patience is lost somewhere between hitting the alarm clock and brushing our teeth.

If you have any daughters, take a moment to stop and think. After reading this article, I sat back and thought hard about my relationship with my daughter. Granted, she’s only 4, but what kind of groundwork am I laying down? Do I praise her accomplishments enough? Do I stop and listen? Do I take enough time to play with her like she wants me to? Am I really showing her that she is important to me and that I love her? I tell her many times a day how much I do, but do my actions strengthen or weaken her belief in these words?

I’ve always rolled my eyes and clicked my tongue at moms who are so worried about being a friend to their kids that they refuse to discipline their children or deny them anything. I’m always saying "they’ll have plenty of friends over their lifetime, but they’ll only have one mother." But I wonder if I am being too strict and critical. I think that I need to work harder to find a middle ground. I want to be a good advisor, but I don’t want to be telling her what to do all the time. I want her to make her own choices – and hopefully they will be wise ones.

While researching this, I stumbled upon the Circle de Luz Giving Network. It is a wonderful operation that is working to "inspire and empower" young Latinas to pursue higher education by providing scholarship funds. The recipients are selected while they are still in the 7th grade and are awarded scholarship funds to pursue an educational program of their choice. They also enter into a 6-year program that includes "book discussions, cultural and educational events, and reflection groups."

The organization was created by Rosie Molinary, author of the book, Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina, a collection of commentaries by over 80 Latinas about their experiences of growing up in the U.S. When repeatedly asked what people could do about the problem, Molinary came up with one way for people to help.

Donors may sponsor a young girl by committing to donate a minimum of $90 a year for six years. For those not wanting such a long term commitment, artist Mary Alice Mitchell has designed three different necklaces (one is shown above) whose purchase will benefit Circle de Luz. They are beautiful and each one is priced differently. Click here to take a look.

And if you would like to nominate a school in your area from which the Circle will choose its scholarship recipients, click here for the requirements and directions.

There is so much more I have read and could write on this topic, such as the poverty and dependence that most often results from dropping out of high school. About domestic violence and the importance of self-image. But I better wait and save these for another day.

However, as a Latina mom, I would highly recommend reading the article I mentioned above. You can find it here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In the News...

I am on cloud nine. Both Latin Baby and the new book club have been in the news quite a lot lately. I thought I would just share a couple of the feature articles done recently.

First of all, a big, giant thanks to Fashion Mannuscript for the wonderful article. It came out really well and I appreciate the opportunity. This magazine really is a wealth of information and I have a few leads for some upcoming posts on Mi Cielito Lindo. So stay tuned!

And thanks to a certain amiga (you know who you are) for thinking of me and suggesting my name. I hope I can return the favor someday.

Second of all, muchisimas gracias to Marisa Treviño from Latina Lista, for not one, but two posts. And they came out magnifico! You work so hard - and it shows. And thanks for the information about issues affecting Latino families that you occasionally write about. I reference it a lot!
With a big, fat, giant abrazo to everyone,

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Frijolitos Book Series has Arrived!

From the LBBC Blog-

"Prior to having children, I used to spend every weekend in a bookstore. And the proof is here in my new house. Our library is filled with boxes of books patiently awaiting the construction of built-in bookshelves. However, since my journey into mamihood began, my genre tastes have shifted from a little bit of everything (nature, mystery, crafting, fiction…) to mostly children’s literature.
The arrival of a new book in the mail never fails to lift my spirits and fill me with excitement. And I’ll even admit right here that I am a bad critic because there are very few books that I have read that I haven’t liked. And, hey, I’ll even admit that with the birth of mis niños, it is like having the chance to relive my favorite part of childhood – the books!

But let me tell you, amigas, this week my excitement was fully justified, when I received my first order of books from Frijolitos Inc. Dedicated to creating educational toys that celebrate the traditions, folklore and culture of Latin America, their first two books do not disappoint. Filled with culturally relevant illustrations and themes, both books present the text in both English and Spanish.

Picadillo the Armadillo/Picadillo el Armadillo is the first book in the series and follows the mischievous antics of Picadillo when he is found and taken in by an excited young girl named Lilia. He is accompanied by Albondiga, the Mariachi dog, who at first tries to keep Picadillo out of trouble, but finally winds up joining in on all the naughty fun. The ending is warm and sweet and teaches a good life lesson about not judging a book by its cover.

But my favorite book is the second one in the series, Tuguita Tere: A Home for My Books/Un Hogar Para Mis Libros. The book centers around (surprise!) Tuguita Tere as she celebrates her 5th birthday and eagerly applies for her very own library card. Tuguita is an imaginative bibliophile, always dreaming up adventures based on the books that she reads. I really like how the book references historical figures (ie, Frida and Sor Juana Inés to name a few) – this would be a great way to introduce your children to other historical children’s books, too.

The back of Tuguita’s book even includes a history of the piñata (Did you know it was originally an Italian game? I didn’t!) and a nice little section with tips about reading to your child. Both books even include lesson plans for teachers and parents in the back.

So if you’d like to pick up your very own copy of one (or both!) of these fun books, click here.

And be sure to visit the Frijolitos web site to learn more about their whimsical characters!"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Bolsa Chica - Creating Beautiful Accessories

I have discovered that I have FINALLY reached the point in my mamihood where I just want a small purse. Una muy bonita, feminina y chiquitica. My youngest is now old enough that all I really need to do is carry one extra diaper for emergencies. This is a miracle. Right now my purse is mainly filled with crayons, kleenex, empty wrappers from juicebox straws, pencils, notepads for emergency picture drawing, a couple of horse dolls, and one headless rider (not the halloween kind, but rather the "oh-you-played-too-hard-and-now-its-broken" kind).
The purse itself was perfect at the time that I bought it from Target. Now it is showing the wear and tear that is my daily life - the straps are fraying, the bottom is scratched and there is a strange smell emanating from one of the side pockets (sounds just like me on a good day.) A switch has been flipped! I want something girly, and I WANT IT NOW!

Enter my latest etsy find. Don't you love this little purse from the Bolsa Chica? She has so many to choose from, but this little number is definitely my favorite. It seems very sophisticated and feminine - which is the exact opposite of my clunky brown leather job.

And to make the whole shopping experience even sweeter, the Bolsa Chica (who, incidentally, is also named Monica - no wonder I like her!) is having a summertime sale! Yippee! You can visit her etsy shop here.

And for all you crafty mamis out there, be sure to check out the Bolsa Chica's blog here. She has some great tutorials.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Panama Gourmet's Perfect End-of-Summer Recipe

It is so hard to believe el verano is almost over. My kids are running me ragged and we are all looking forward to school starting. Despite a cool front that has moved in (50’s tonight – woohoo!) the days are still muy caliente!

And while surfing the internet looking for cool down recipes, I found the most wonderful site!

Chef Melissa de León is the founder of The Panama Gourmet. The ultimate Cooking Diva, one look at Melissa’s resumé will make your head spin. She has studied cooking all over the world…esta chica must be busier than the columpios at recess! At any rate, her blog is filled with wonderful recipes that I think many mamás would be eager to try. I had a hard time narrowing down my recipe choice for today, but I think I have found the perfect one for the end of the summer…

Papaya Nieve
(recipe and photo taken from
3 cups fresh, ripe and sweet papaya, cubed
2/3 cup light brown sugar or light corn syrup
3 tablespoons fresh lime (or mandarin orange) juice
a pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Puree papaya in the blender with enough water to make 24 oz.
Combine papaya puree with the other ingredients and transfer to the ice cream maker. Then, follow the directions of the ice cream maker to freeze and finish this nieve.
For better taste store the nieve 3-4 days in the freezer.

To check out the Cooking Diva’s recipe-filled blog with its , click here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"Sing Abuelita Sing" Contest

So last week I was surprised to find a DVD from Baby Abuelita in my mailbox. I had forgotten that I had signed up for their DVD promotion. They sent me a complimentary episode from their first DVD, appropriately titled, "Family Fiesta." The next day, I popped it in the DVD player for my kids while I had an important phone call - I figured it was a good opportunity seeing as how they are the ultimate judges in most Latin Baby reviews.
It went over huge.

All I have heard since then is "Please, may I watch the 'buelita show?" I'd rather they be outside running around and discovering the world, but their pleading got my curiosity up. SO, naturally, I did what most mamas would do and late one night, after the kids and my hubby were asleep, I watched it.

Bingo! Very cute, the voices of some of the actors reminded me of some of the friends my Nanita (grandmother) had when I was little. The episode centered around the trajes or clothing found in different Spanish-speaking countries. Very informative and entertaining.

Then I found the little note that accompanied the DVD and found out about the "Sing Abuelita Sing!" contest that runs July through September.

The contest has two components: a sing-a-long and a look-a-like.

For the Sing-a-long, all you have to do is submit a video of you or your familia singing a traditional lullabye or nursery rhyme.

For the Look-a-like, just submit a picture or drawing of you or anyone in your family who resembles one of the Baby Abuelita characters (Abuelita Rosa, Abuelito Pancho, Baby Andrea or Baby Tita).

So what are you waiting for? There are many prizes fabulosos to be won! So get out your José-Luis Orozco books and brush up on your folksongs, gente!

You can find a full description of the contest rules here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

It's Official! The Latin Baby Book Club and Blog are Live!

Ta-da! Well, things sort of snow-balled on the Latin Baby Book Club, which officially launched today. I had quite a few offers of help/partnerships, lots of suggestions, and before I knew it the LBBC's Blog had been born. We currently have 5 contributing bloggers to the blog, but there is room to grow. I have some great plans for the blog, but for now we are focusing on bilingual children's literature/songs and are starting with book reviews, author interviews, el Libro del Mes/Book of the Month, updates about special events at local libraries and bookstores, as well as suggested reading for parents.
Our first few posts are up and running and more will be added from all of our contributing bloggers before the week is done. I am especially excited to have this great group (all Latinas for the moment!) of blogeras. If you'd like to learn more about them and the LLBC, pop on over to the LBBC's official blog here.
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