Cinco de Mayo

11 May

I know. I am not Mexican. But having lived there till I was 5, I always say my soul is Mexican. And for whatever reason, this soul gets all ticked on Cinco de Mayo. Is it because so few of those people are Mexican? When I lived there, almost no one but the people from Puebla celebrated.

In Mexico, May 5 celebrates a victory over the French. It is not the Mexican Independence Day. That would be September 16.  I know it’s a way to celebrate a culture, or country — one that is really under fire right now. But do you really have to celebrate it by getting sloppy drunk, wearing a sombrero and sounding like Speedy Gonzalez?

This makes me wonder. Why do cultures celebrate themselves by drinking to excess. And why do people suddenly become “Mexican” when drinking margaritas and acting like fools. It’s what has made me hate St. Patrick’s Day.

On Saturday, walking home with my daughter we saw a girl on 14th Street, up on the 4th floor fire escape, with a serape and flashing the people across the street. Of course, she was spilling her drink on the people below, like it was Mardi Gras. I guess it didn’t help that it was also the Kentucky Derby. But this was early, and post time wasn’t even close.


The Dreamer by Pamela Munoz Ryan

29 Apr

The Dreamer won the Pura Belpre award for 2011. It’s a lovely book, a biography of Pablo Neruda ne Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto the Chilean poet and politician. The book focuses on his childhood, which despite his father’s ruthlessness seems magical. His stepmother allowed him to find the magic. His brother, who showed promise as a singer, had his spirit crushed by his father. But Neruda, despite his frail build, had the wherewithal to stand up to his father, to survive his childhood in the sparse Chilean city of Parral, in the Linares province.

Ryan focuses on highlights of his childhood – a summer at the beach, his struggles in school, his facility with writing, and his stepmother and step-uncle who show him love and affection. Neruda happens to be one of my favorite poets, and I love the Italian movie, Il Postino (in Italian with English subtitles). As an adult, I was very interested in this book. However, I can see the limitations to this beautifully written book. It’s about an author that most children are unfamiliar with, even Latino children. Being able to identify with a sickly, extremely literate and scholarly child from 100 years ago might be a stretch. Be that as it may, it is a wonderful book. The book is lush and full of imagery. It could be interesting to read about a child from a different time, who is bullied and picked-on as so many children today are. And it could awaken a love of poetry and words and language.

His poetry is wonderful. And if this book is a stepping stone to that, that is enough.


13 Dec

Yeah, Latinos are still under represented in movies. But if the characters are not, often the actor and actress is. There are old movies, like West Side Story or actors and actresses like Ricardo Montalbán and Rita Hayworth. Now there are Latin American actors and actresses, as well as ones from Spain, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, among many others.

Robert Rodriguez is a director, who is Mexican-American. He also writes and produces movies. He is famous for his Spy Kids Series. They’re great movies. Spy Kids IV comes out summer of 2011, starring Jessica Alba.

Tuck Everlasting has no Latino characters, but Alexis Bledel (Argentina/Mexico) plays Winnie the main character who has some tough choices to make after she meets Jesse Tuck.

Real Women Have Curves. America Ferrara plays Ana, who has a full scholarship to Columbia. Her mother is ashamed of Ana’s curviness and says so. Ana, who can give as good as she gets, when she and her sister join their mother at the sweatshop where she works.

If you want to check movies by their stars, go to, type in the name, like Vanessa Hudgens, or Antonio Banderas, and get a list of all the movies and TV shows they’ve done.

If worse comes to worst, you can always watch the Shrek movies with Puss ‘n Boots:

How Tía Lola Learned to Teach

13 Dec

Tía Lola has been embraced by Vermont. A place she is learning to love even though it’s cold and far from her home.

Nita and Miguel love her. Until Bridgeport Elementary School decides that they want her to teach Spanish. Miguel freaks out. It’s okay to have his Tía at home, but not at school.

Tía Lola continues to work her magic at school as she has everywhere else. She helps Nita and Miguel and their classes. Until Homeland Security writes — her visa is expiring. And everyone rallies around to keep Tía Lola right there in Vermont.

How Tía Lola Came to (Visit) Stay by Julia Alvarez

13 Dec

No kid wants to feel different. And lately, Miguel is feeling very, very different. His family just moved to Vermont from New York. His parents are getting a divorce. No one at his school has a name like Miguel. No one speaks Spanish or even Spanglish. No one is brown like his family…at least not in the winter.

To top it all off, his mother’s Tía Lola is coming up from the Dominican Republic to visit and to help care for him and his sister, Juanita. Tía Lola, who raised his mother after her parents died, doesn’t speak any English. She practices Santería. She’s a force of nature. A tropical wind in the midst of a cold Vermont winter. A force of nature Miguel is trying to hide. Because his Tía Lola is certainly not going to help him fit in or make friends. He can’t wait for her visit to end. But will it?

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

13 Dec

Leo Valdez is Jason’s best friend at their camp for kids with “issues” or is he? Because all of a sudden Jason can’t remember anything but his name. Leo thinks Jason’s playing a prank while they’re on a bus to the  Grand Canyon. But really Jason’s mind is Swiss Cheese.

Then things start going crazy. And Leo, Jason and Piper (Jason’s girl friend) are ferried away on a Pegasus to Camp Half Blood. What’s going on? Leo, an orphan, who goes from foster home to foster home, is a loner. Suddenly, he finds himself a demi-god. The son of Hephaestus and Esperanza Valdez. A real-life Handy Manny, who can summon fire.

The three friends find themselves on a quest to find the Lost Hero and Jason’s memory.


13 Dec

There are ton of latino athletes nowadays. Many Latino athletes have faced prejudice not just for their ethnicity, but also for their raced.

There were probably many Latinos before the hyphenization of America and before scouts regularly head South of the Border to recruit players.

Latino’s in baseball are legendary, starting from Ted Williams (his mom was Mexican) to Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. But Ted Williams was not the first Latino Major League player. That would be Esteban Bellán, 1871, Troy Haymakers, In 1919, Adolfo “Dolf” Luque, 1919, relief pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, against the infamous “Black Sox.” (He later pitched for the New York Giants in the 1933 Series and was credited with the win in the final game.) The first Latino Hall of Fame Player (not counting Williams) would be Roberto Clemente. Today it would be hard to name a team that did not have at least one Latino born or player of  Latin descent.

Football’s first professional Latino player was Cuban, Ignacio Saturnino “Lou” Molinet, a halfback who played for Cornell and then in 1927 played for Frankford Yellowjackets. He was followed by Jesse Rodriguez, a fullback/punter, who played for Salem College and then in 1929, the Buffalo Bisons. Today some of the more famous players are Luis Catillo (San Diego Chargers), Robert Garza (Chicago Bears) and Mark Sanchez (NY Jets).  Chad Ochocinco doesn’t count. He was born Chad Javon Johnson and changed his name to the Spanish word for his jersey number, 85.

There are not as many Latino basketball players as there are track and field stars, tennis or boxers.  There are even Latino Hockey (Scott Gomez of the NJ Devils) and figure skaters (Rudy Galindo).


13 Dec

Latinos are also a bit under represented in television but gaining momentum. But we’ve come a long, long way from Speedy Gonzalez

Glee’s own Lea Michele (nee Lea Michel Sarfati), who is half Italian and half Spanish. Her character, Rachel Barry,  isn’t Latina but she is. And she’s awesome.

There’s Ugly Betty. Or make that was. Since the show was canceled in January 2010. But Ana Ortiz and America Ferrara are pushing for a movie version. Betty is a young woman from Queens who is long in good nature and short on fashion sense. She lands a job at a fashion magazine. It’s based on the Colombian Telenovela, Yo soy Betty, La Fea, which Salma Hayek brought to life in the US. Here’s a link to the original, but you really have to be fluent to get it.

Disney has give us The Wizards of Waverly Place. The family is a little nuts, half wizard, half Mexican. Both characteristics are a big part of the show. Clearly. For a change, some of the stars are actually Latino. Not like in the movie, West Side Story. Selena Gomez (Mexican & Irish) is the daughter and María Canals Barrera (Cuban) plays the mother.

Disney also has Camp Rock, about Mitchie Torres whose mother is a cook. Mitchie wants to attend Camp Rock, but her family cannot afford it. Until her mom agrees to cater there. This TV movie series stars Canals Barrera as the mother, Demi Lovato (Mexican, Irish and Italian) and also Anna Maria Francesca Enriquez Perez de Taglé (Filipino, Chinese, Irish and Italian) is Ella Pador, one of the richy, ditzy girls.


13 Dec

Want some more links about Latinos?

You can read some Hispanic American Firsts here: Famous Firsts by Hispanic Americans —

Here are links on more books…

plus most authors also have blogs, here are some:

Spanish Theater:

Best food in NYC (doesn’t include cart people who sell awesome tamales):

Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan

13 Dec

Naomi Soledad León Outlaw hates her name. She’s not much of an outlaw. She’s not much of a lion either. She’s more of a mouse. She whispers. Her brother Owen has some disabilities but is super smart. He puts tape on his clothes. He gets teased a lot. They are both half Mexican but only Naomi looks the part, with dark olive skin, brown hair and brown eyes. Owen takes after the other half, with fair skin.

Their great-grandmother (Gram)makes most of their clothes. Out of scrap polyester. Actually they both get teased a lot. Naomi is part of the left over crowd. She eats lunch in the cafeteria with the rest of the left over bunch.

They live with Gram at the Avocado Acres Trailer Rancho, in their trailer, Baby Beluga. Owen plays checkers. Naomi carves soap into animal shapes. It’s a gift. Gram sews  with their friend, and neighbor, Fabiola. All is fine till her mother Terri Lynn, now knows as Skyla, comes into town like a tornado and shakes everything up. Skyla is an unknown to Naomi and Owen. And even their Gram doesn’t know what’s going on, or what Skyla and her boyfriend want.

But when Skyla shows her hand, the Outlaws have to go on the run. To Oaxaca Mexico. And Naomi needs to abandon her inner mouse and discover and develop the lion inside of her.