The Other Side of the Road

A guide to road tripping as a mother, an Other, and part-time explorer.

So, here’s the thing. I never saw myself as the kind of woman who would have kids biologically, let alone two kids before I turned thirty. No, my plan was to travel the world, write many books of poetry, and live life on my own terms. 

Life rarely ever works out the way we want it to, though. 

My name’s Michelle and I’m a Cuban-American 30 something learning how to parent two lovely brown babies with my partner in life, a native born Memphian named Louie. Our family is unconventional, multiracial, multiethnic, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Louie and I met about six years ago while I was a Teach For America corps member in Memphis. We quickly fell in love, and in about 6 months, I found myself pregnant. After many tears, laughs, and days of soul searching, we decided to start our little family and we haven’t looked back since. This isn’t to say things have been easy since that decision; raising two kids with minimal family support in a city where neither of you are from is no walk in the park. But, with a little planning, a strong budget, and a willingness to forgo some of the finer things in life, we’ve made some amazing memories and traveled to some fun places, both here in the US and abroad. 

So, to the thesis of it all. For most women, the idea of having kids and a life seem diametrically opposed. I’m here to tell you, that doesn’t have to be the case. A few summers ago, my little family did the impossible: a 10 day road trip across the South. We visited the following places: 

  1. Charleston, South Carolina
  2. Fisherville, Virginia
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Bardstown, Kentucky
  5. Southeast Missouri
  6. Memphis, Tennessee
  7. Birmingham, Alabama

Now I know you might be thinking, Two kids? 7 stops? 10 days? She’s out of her mind! But I’m here to tell you that it can be done, and I can’t wait to show you. As far as planning a trip like this, here are some steps I took to make sure we could a) afford it, b) find housing, and c) not lose our minds along the way. 

STEP 1: Figure out where you want to go. 

For us, this whole process started when we were invited to read at a friend’s wedding in Virginia. We figured, since we’re driving, might as well visit Louie’s family in Memphis. And since we’re going to Memphis, might as well visit my uncle in DC since it’s not too out of the way. Suddenly, many of the pieces started coming together once we were able to nail down specific locations/people we wanted to see. 

STEP 2: Think about the kids. 

Because our kids were really young (a three year old boy named Lito and a 6 month old named Violet), we knew that we would need to make frequent stops so they wouldn’t get too cranky. Hence the 7 cities. Louie and I are proud Road Warriors and once made the drive from Memphis to Miami while only making 3 20 minute stops. Fortunately, kids have a way of making you slow down and enjoy the moment. While making one of the final legs of our trip from Kentucky to Memphis, we noticed signs for Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, a national park hidden away in the mid-south. We decided to make a slight detour and had a blast! My son got to do a little hiking while I nerded out over the historical artifacts. Thinking about the kids means opening yourself up to new possibilities that aren’t on the schedule. 

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Lito taking in the views at the Great Falls National Park in Virginia

STEP 3: How will you get there? 

Because Louie and I have made paying down debt and traveling our two biggest priorities, we drive wonderfully functional pre-hoopty vehicles made in 2008. Both of our cars already have over 100,000 miles on them. We decided to rent a car for our trip rather than possibly burn out our own. We shopped around for deals and used some credit card miles we had to help make this happen. We also booked our car about 5 months in advance of our trip to make sure we were getting a good price. 

STEP 4: Housing

Think about the type of trip you’re taking. Are you a Grizwalds kinda family (from the Vacation movies) on your way to a theme park? Are you trying to take in the sights around you with no specific plan, stopping as needed? Are you a combination of both, like my family? Knowing where you want to go ahead of time will help you find great deals on hotels or get Airbnbs booked with plenty of time to spare if that’s more your thing. We decided to stay with family and friends for a majority of this trip (there’s no way my Cuban uncle would let me stay in DC without him), so we were then able to splurge on some cute Airbnbs in Virginia and Kentucky. The nice thing about Airbnbs is that they are much homier and often times provided random essentials that kids need, like toys, bassinets, kitchens, etc. Hotels can also be great though, especially if you know you’re not going to spend any time in them. A few months before your trip, take a minute to think about how you want to spend your nights. 

STEP 5: Food

Charleston Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and Waffles in Charleston

This one can be really tricky, especially with a 3 year old that has the metabolism of a hummingbird but the palate of a college student (seriously, who eats ramen for breakfast?). If you’re a foodie family, I would suggest saving for food a few months in advance of your trip. Think about your price point. Are you going to indulge in street food, sit down restaurants, chains, or fast food? All have their pros and cons, so it just depends on what you want. We did a combination of all of the above. By keeping breakfast and dinner simple,  we were able to take advantage of fancy restaurants at lunch time prices. We also didn’t have to worry about formula on this trip because I breastfed, but having used formula in the past, it saved me loads of headaches when I prepackaged the servings before a long trip. We estimated about $100 a day on food, and used cash to help keep us on that path.

Baby's first food

Poolside Watermelon in DC (this was her first taste of real food!)

STEP 6: But what will we do??

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Tour of the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Kentucky

I’ve taken my son on all kinds of trips: professional development opportunities for work, family trips to Disney, even overseas to St. Martin for a family vacation. At the end of the day, kids will be entertained no matter what you do as long as you pay attention to them (well, let’s be real, he’s not gonna enjoy any arthouse movies any time soon). Now that we’ve added a daughter to the mix, we do have to think about things like stroller friendliness, hands on activities, and noise (she’s a light sleeper and hates loud noises). The more moving you do, the more freedom the kids have, the better off you and they will be. National Parks are a great option if theme parks aren’t your thing. Beaches are also great, even with a baby. Children’s museums are ridiculously fun, even for adults. And if you and your partner need some adult beverage time, many breweries and restaurants will allow children. The more you bring your kids to these sorts of locations, the more acclimated they will be when they get older. There are so many more options than people realize. 

STEP 7: Help! [Insert child’s name here] is crying and I can’t do this right now. 

Expect the melt down. Kids are little people that are still figuring out how the world works. Sometimes they need some space, sometimes they need to walk around, sometimes they just need a hug and a kiss from their favorite person. Meltdowns are messy, and frustrating, but if you expect them to happen, you can catch them before they become too big, and even prevent them from occurring. 

VA Caves

Caverns were a great option for our family; Lito was able to run around and explore while Violet took a nap in daddy’s arms.

So in a nutshell, that’s how I went about planning out my family’s summer road trip across the south. It took a few months and some creative budgeting, but overall it was an amazing trip. I can’t wait to plan another road trip. I think the Dakotas are calling.

 

 

#ChileDespertó: Chile Has Awoken and We Cannot Sleep on Them

by Elisabet Raquel – @elisabet.raquel

(Traduccion en Español al final de este articúlo)

#Cacerolazo

Image from Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux’s music video to the song, “#Cacerolazo”.

There have been #cacerolazos since the ‘60s in Latin America when the people wanted a change in their government and society. People grab their cacerolas (aka pot & pans) and take to the streets to make their voices heard by banging loudly on them. Despite their short term wins, there has been a history of oppression of popular protests by government forces. One such example of this is Chile’s September 11, when a state building was bombed and a U.S. backed dictatorship was put in place – the other 9/11 that many people are not aware of. This was 1973, Chile while the country was under a democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende who seemed to not be able to undo the crisis that occurred when the elite class convoluted to create a scarcity of resources and provoke civil unrest. What ensued next was a dictatorship under Agustín Pinochet that lasted until 1990 and a series of state terrorism that had military and police in the streets kidnapping, torturing, murdering, and disappearing thousands and thousands of people. During this dictatorship, people never stopped protesting, but the cacerolazos became silenced and many people became frightened to take action. 


However, the #cacerolazos have returned to Chile, though so has the state terrorism. As of October 19th, 2019, President Sebastian Piñera announced a state of emergency with a curfew that started in Santiago and now has spread all throughout the country. What started in massive protests against an increase in the metro fare has ended in full-on state terrorism and Chileans are reliving the realities they had under the dictatorship of Pinochet. Military and police are back on the streets in their tanks and people are at their mercy – being attacked, kidnapped, murdered, and tortured. As of Monday October 28th, the same day that the United Nations human rights commission would come to investigate human rights violations, Piñera has called an end to the state of emergency, ridding of the curfew.  Despite this, the Chilean people are not giving up their fight for a better future, they are still out in the street protesting and creating a #Cacerolazo en Chile.

#LaTeleMiente

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“The TV Lies” Photo Source

I’m getting this information from my friends, family, and community organizations back in Chile because #LaTeleMiente and cannot be trusted. Of course, the media is not showing the truth of what is going on, but the Chilean youth are using the power of social media to record and share everything in hopes that the world pays some attention. Each day, I check in with all these people spread throughout the country that I built relationships with when I studied abroad there last year and met my family for the first time. One day I was watching friends and family share videos of massive protests in the metro stations and the next I was watching videos of police and military storming the streets. Every day I’m seeing videos of people being shot, taken from their homes, murdered and more. I feel the social responsibility to not traumatize people with these images, so I try not to share them on my social media, but I do want everyone to know what is happening. You can find on my story highlights everything that I’ve been sharing on Instagram @elisabet.raquel under the highlight called CHILE.

#ChileDespertó

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“Chile has Awoken” Photo Source

In Chile, the cost of living is high, the quality of life is low, the education system is privatized and health care is a joke. Not to mention that there are still so many people still missing from the last dictatorship, the state treats the indigenous Mapuche people as “domestic terrorists”, and Black and Brown immigrants as a plague. The massive protest to which Piñera called the state of emergency was just the tipping point of years of abuse from the state since the dictatorship and the implementation of a neoliberal economic system introduced to Chile in 1985 by the Chicago Boys, Chilean right-wing economists who studied in the U.S. Since then, Chile has been under a neoliberal transformation which has left the cost of living constantly rising while the Chilean people continue to make less than what is able to meet the expected standards of that livelihood. The minimum wage is between $400-$500 and the cost of living in Santiago is a little less than $1,000 a month. When I was living in Nuñoa, Santiago, Chile, I paid $500 for rent for a room in an apartment and the metro was more than $1 each way. I found the cost of living comparable to that of the U.S which is suffocating for people who are not living off of a U.S salary. With this increase in fares, the people said,  “ya po” and #ChileDespertó, rising in protest.

#ViolaciónesDeDerechosHumanos

“Hopefully the [loss of] lives of the people hurt you as much [the loss of your] supermarkets”. Photo Source uknown, viral image circulating Facebook and Instagram.

During metro fare the protest, there was property damage done and there are some people who are taking what they can from chain market stores. In these saqueos, stores have been emptied out completely and there has been more attention paid to this looting rather than the human rights violations occurring by the hands of the government. Many Chileans themselves (including some of my family) blame the violence and oppression they are facing on “looters” and believe that the Chilean military and police were sent out on the streets to set order, but it’s all a deepening plot of violence. Cities are in chaos due to the state terrorism, everyone is frightened, and if people are caught in these saqueos, they are taken by the military and police, left at the will of their mercy. One woman in a video I saw claimed that she was caught up in a saqueo and was taken away to a local police department where she and other people, including children, women, elders, and men, were forced to strip naked while they were hosed down and beaten. Some people, including come Chileans themselves, say that people doing saqueos deserve this maltreatment. However, what is occurring is pure violation of human rights in the name of protecting large corporate interests.

#NoEstamosEnGuerra

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“This isn’t a war. We have pots and you all have submachine guns.”
Photo Source: Mon Laferte

There are people protesting for their livelihood all throughout the country and military and police continuously attack pacific protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets, actual bullets, batons, and even their vehicles. On Tuesday, October 22nd, the military and police shot at a group of protesters.  My cousin was in the group that was shot at and he received a bullet in the leg. They are also barging into peoples’ homes, taking them away in public, and throwing bodies out of moving vehicles at night, leaving them in the street. And the president? He hasn’t addressed the issue of the brutality being faced by the Chilean people at all. He claims that the Chilean government is at war with a very dangerous enemy – its own citizens, who are armless by the way. The Chilean people are not armed with weapons, but merely with pots and pans and the will to fight for a better future. What the Chilean youth is sharing through these videos don’t lie – they are raw proof of what is going on and that this is being shared publicly is revolutionary. However, many of these videos continue to be taken down or censored. The horrors of what is happening are being openly shared and I refuse to let this happen in silence. 

#PresenteHoyYSiempre

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“Stop the abuse and military represion in Chile” Photo Source

This time last year, I was in Santiago during my second semester at La Pontifical Universidad Católica de Chile taking courses on Trauma and Political Violence, Migration and Human Rights, Chilean History and Culture, and more. I visited the Museo de la Memoria y Derechos Humanos and the secret torture centers like Estadio Nacional and Villa Grimaldi. I learned all about the oppression the country endured during the time of the dictatorship, finally learned the history of where I came from, and why my grandparents left.  Never did it cross my mind that this could have been my one and only opportunity ever to visit my country of origin and learn the truth. Now, I’m completely shattered because it very well could be. I feel that it is my duty to share this information and call an end to the violent oppression of my people by its government. This is after all, why my grandmother left in the first place, right? Her sacrifices granted me more freedom and with that comes a greater responsibility to fight for justice for all. Mi Chile lindo, estoy contigo #PresenteHoyYSiempre.

“What happens if I forget?”. Photo Source: @elisabet.raquel at the Museo de Memoria y Derechos Humanos in Santiago, Chile 2018

 

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#ChileDespertó y No Nos Podemos Quedar Dormidos

Escrito por Elisabet Raquel – @elisabet.raquel
Traducido por Jaime Guzmán Sánchez – @jgsanchez95

#Cacerolazo

Foto del video de música de la canción #Cacerolazo por Ana Tijoux

Los #cacerolazos han tenido una presencia en América Latina desde los años sesenta. Son una forma de protesta cuando el pueblo quiere cambio en el gobierno y la sociedad. La gente agarra sus cacerolas y se las llevan a la calle, golpeando las con cucharas para que sean escuchados. A pesar de sus victorias a corto plazo, ha habido una historia de opresión de las manifestaciones por parte de las fuerzas gubernamentales. Un ejemplo es el 11 de septiembre de 1973, cuando el Palacio de la Moneda — sede de la presidencia de la República de Chile — fue bombardeado, y la dictadura de Pinochet — apoyada por el gobierno de Estados Unidos — fue instalada. Este es el otro 9/11 que mucha gente no conoce. Ocurrió cuando Chile tenía un gobierno socialista bajo el presidente Salvador Allende que no podía deshacer la crisis económica  que aconteció cuando la clase élite se involucró para crear una escasez de recursos y provocar disturbios civiles. Lo que siguió después fue una dictadura que duró hasta 1990 que puso militares y policías en las calles. Este terrorismo patrocinado por el estado secuestró, torturó, asesinó, y desapareció a miles de personas. Durante la dictadura, la gente nunca dejó de protestar, pero los cacerolazos sí se silenciaron por temor de las represalias del gobierno.

En Chile ha vuelto el terrorismo del estado pero también el #cacerolazo. A partir del 19 de octubre de 2019, el presidente Sebastián Piñera declaró un estado de emergencia toque de queda que comenzó en Santiago y luego se extendió por todo el país. Lo que empezó como una protesta masiva contra el incremento de la tarifa del metro ha terminado como un tipo de terrorismo del estado y los chilenos están reviviendo las realidades que en una vez vivieron bajo la dictadura de Pinochet. El ejército y las policías están de regreso en las calles con sus tanques. El pueblo está a su merced — son atacados, secuestrados, asesinados y torturados. Desde el lunes, 28 de octubre — mismo día en que la comisión de los derechos humanos de las Naciones Unidas empezó una investigación sobre violaciones a los derechos humanos durante las manifestaciones — Piñera quitó la declaración de estado de emergencia y toque de queda.  Sin embargo, el terrorismo continúa y el pueblo chileno no para la lucha por un mejo futuro — sigue en las calles manifestándose y haciendo un #cacerolazo.

#LaTeleMiente

“La TV miente” Credito por la foto

Recibo esta información de mis amigos, familiares y organizaciones comunitarias de Chile porque #LaTeleMiente y no se puede confiar en los medios de comunicación. Por supuesto que los medios no están mostrando la verdad de lo que está sucediendo, pero los jóvenes chilenos están utilizando el poder de las redes sociales para grabar y compartir todo, con la esperanza de que el mundo preste atención. Cada día, me comunico con todas estas personas repartidas por todo el país con las que construí relaciones cuando estudié allí el año pasado y conocí mi familia por primera vez durante esta estadía. Un día estaba viendo a amigos y familiares compartir videos de manifestaciones en las estaciones de metro y después estaba viendo videos de policías y militares irrumpiendo las calles. Todos los días veo videos de personas que fueron disparadas, sacadas de sus hogares, asesinadas y más. Siento la responsabilidad social de no traumatizar a las personas con estas imágenes, así que trato de no compartirlas en mis redes sociales, pero quiero que todos sepan lo que está sucediendo. Puedes encontrar todo lo que he estado viendo y compartiendo en m perfil de Instagram @elisabet.raquel bajo el “Highlight” que se llama “CHILE”.

#ChileDespertó

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“Chile Despertó” Credito de la foto

En Chile, el costo de vida es muy alto, la calidad de vida es baja, el sistema educativo está privatizado y el sistema de salud es una broma. Sin mencionar que todavía hay personas que aún están desaparecidas desde la última dictadura, a los indígenas Mapuche se les caracteriza como “terroristas domésticos” y a los inmigrantes con ascendencia africana o con tez morena son tratados como una plaga. Las manifestaciones que provocó a Piñera en declarar el estado de emergencia fue el punto de inflexión de años de abuso por parte del estado, desde la dictadura. En 1985, se implementó un sistema económico neoliberal por los Chicago Boys, economistas chilenos de perspectiva a la derecha que estudiaron en los Estados Unidos. Desde entonces, Chile ha estado bajo una transformación neoliberal que ha dejado el costo de vida en constante aumento, mientras que el pueblo chileno continúa ganando menos de lo requerido para poder sobrevivir. El salario mínimo es entre cuatrocientos y quinientos dólares estadounidenses y el costo de vivir es un poco menos de mil dólares por mes. Cuando yo vivía en Ñuñoa, Santiago, Chile, pagaba quinientos dólares por el alquiler de una habitación en un departamento y el metro costaba más de un dólar por trayecto. Encontré que el costo de vida es comparable al de los Estados Unidos, que es sofocante para las personas que no viven de un salario estadounidense. Con este aumento en las tarifas, el pueblo dijo “ya po” y #ChileDespertó, levantándose en protesta.

#ViolaciónesDeDerechosHumanos

“Ojalá [la perdida de] vidas del pueblo te dolieran tanto como [la perdida de] tus supermercados”.
Credito de la foto desconocido, pero se hizo viral en Facebook and Instagram.

Durante las manifestaciones, hubo daños propietarios y algunas personas tomaron lo que pudieron de los grandes supermercados. Muchas tiendas han sido vaciadas y los medios han prestado más atención a estos actos que a las violaciones flagrantes de derechos humanos a manos del gobierno. Muchos chilenos (incluyendo algunos miembros de mi familia), culpan a las saqueadores por la violencia y la opresión que enfrentan y creen que el ejército y la policía chilena fue enviada a las calles para establecer el orden, pero todo es un complot cada vez más profundo de violencia. Las ciudades están en caos por el terrorismo del estado, todos están asustados y las tiendas de comestibles se están vaciando. Si la gente es atrapada en estos saqueos, los militares y la policía se los llevan, dejados a la voluntad de su merced. Una mujer en un video que vi, afirmó que la atraparon en un saqueo y la llevaron a un departamento de policía local donde ella y otras personas, incluyendo niños, mujeres, ancianos y hombres, se vieron obligados a desnudarse mientras fueron lavados a manguerasos y golpes. Algunos chilenos, dicen que las personas que participan en estos saqueos merecen ser maltratados. Estos actos son una violación de los derechos humanos en nombre de la protección de los intereses corporativos.

#NoEstamosEnGuerra

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“No estamos en guerra. Tenemos ollas y ustedes metralletas.”  Credito de la foto

Hay personas que se manifiestan por su sustento en todo el país, sín embargo el ejército y la policía atacan continuamente a los manifestantes con gases lacrimógenos, balas de goma, balas reales, porras e incluso sus vehículos. El martes, 22 de octubre, el ejército en conjunto con la policía dispararon en contra de un grupo de manifestantes. Mi primo formaba parte de ese grupo y recibió un disparo de perdigones en la pierna. También están irrumpiendo en las casas de las personas, se los llevan sin importar el lugar o la hora y arrojan los cuerpos de los vehículos por la noche, dejándolos en la calle. ¿Y el presidente? Piñera no ha abordado en absoluto el tema de la brutalidad que enfrenta el pueblo chileno. Afirma que el gobierno chileno está en una guerra con un enemigo muy peligroso — sus propios ciudadanos — que por cierto son inofensivos. El pueblo chileno no está armado con armas, sino con cacerolas, sartenes y la voluntad de luchar por un mejor futuro. Lo que la juventud chilena está compartiendo a través de estos videos no miente — son prueba de lo que está sucediendo y el acto de compartir esto públicamente es revolucionario. Sin embargo, muchos de estos videos están siendo eliminados y censurados. Los horrores de lo que está sucediendo se está compartiendo públicamente y me niego a permitir que esto suceda en silencio.

#PresenteHoyYSiempre

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“Basta de abuso y represión militar en Chile.” Credito de la foto

El año pasado estuve en Santiago, durante mi segundo semestre en la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile donde estudié varios temas como Trauma y Violencia Política, Migraciones y Derechos Humanos, Historia y Cultura de Chile, y más. Visité el Museo de la Memoria y Derechos Humanos y los centros secretos de tortura como Estadio Nacional y Villa Grimaldi. Aprendí todo sobre la opresión que sufrió el país durante la época de la dictadura, finalmente aprendí la historia de dónde venía y por qué se fueron mis abuelos. No se me había ocurrido que esto podría haber sido mi única oportunidad para visitar a mi país de origen y aprender la verdad. Ahora estoy completamente destrozada porque podría ser la última vez en visitar. Siento que es mi deber compartir esta información y poner fin a la opresión violenta de mi pueblo por parte de su gobierno. Esto es, después de todo, la razón por qué mi abuela se fue hace tanto tiempo, ¿cierto? Sus sacrificios me ha otorgado más libertad y con eso ha surgido una mayor responsabilidad de luchar por la justicia. Mi Chile lindo, estoy contigo #PresenteHoyYSiempre.

“¿Que pasa si olvido?”
Fuente de la foto: @elisabet.raquel en el Museo de Memoria y
Derechos Humanos en Santiago, Chile 2018

My Ultimate Travel Inspiration: Abuela

A note from the author: This is a tribute to my abuela who recently passed away on Friday the 13th, September, 2019. This article was made possible thanks to my family who shared their oral history, where I was able to match up parts of her story with photos and documents. She often would explain, “yo crucé montañas, rios, y oceanos para poder pasar tiempo contigo” to the grandkids in order to help us understand what kind of effort, distance, and sacrifice was invested in order for her to spend time with us. Clarita was a soul full of colors, love and forgiveness. She was magic with her unconditional love, like a poesía de alegría. She could lite up any room she walked into, filling a house with her energy resembling vibrant colors. To better understand why Clarita was the way she was, our greatest inspiration to keep going despite life’s obstacles, the following is her story.

Clara Beatriz Rey was born on July 29th, 1934 in Bogotá, Colombia, although the date is debatable. This stereotypical vivacious Leo personality argued that her real birth date is unknown since she has no birth certificate to prove it. Her family’s life took a turn when she was 4-years-old because her dad Guillermo Rey Chacón passed away due to Tuberculosis, leaving behind Clarita, her older sister of 7 years-old Maria Helena “Nena”, and their Mami Maria Helena Vazquez.

They moved in with her mom’s 14 siblings, 5 tios and 9 tias who helped raise the young girls. Her mom was the oldest of the 14, therefore she was known as el gran poder, or the mighty power, also due to her affability and kindness leading to a certain don, or gift, she had liaising with people. Clarita would later acquire this same don and impressive ability of connecting with people in a way that even a stranger on the street would love talking to her.  Furthermore, Maria Helena had a distinct ability to play the piano that her parents ordered from Germany.

Clarita finished up to 7th grade (2do de bachillerato), then went to work at a Kodak 100_4407shop that some of her aunts worked at, as well as a laboratory where she packaged medicines. Cue meeting her future husband Carlos Jaime Chavarriaga (pronounced Hi-meh) on a bus towards downtown, both of them on their way to work in 1954 when Clara was 19-years-old. Jaime worked at the Manhattan store, a clothing line for men. By the end of 1954, Jaime and Clara wed at the Iglesia Santa Teresita, and then by 1955 their first daughter Martha was born.

 

First Trip Abroad, 4 Kids, and Career

Clarita y Martha - Culver City, California

Clarita & Martha in Culver City, California

By the end of 1955, a tia of Jaime offered the family of three their first trip to the United States. They took a short stop in Cuba for a couple of days, and they stayed in the USA for about 5 months. Since they stayed in Culver City, California outside of LA, Jaime tried out for various roles as an extra for several movies searching for “Hispanic” actors. He wasn’t able to find a job, so they returned back to Colombia. However, this trip must have made on impact on her first born (and possibly the second born too since she could have been conceived in the USA), which later on it will make sense why.

Shortly after, the brood grew to a total of 4 kids with Maria Clara (1956), Carlos Jaime (1958), and Claudia Rosa “Rosita” (1960). In order to not confuse Carlos Jaime Jr with his dad, we will refer to Jaime Sr as “Don Jaime.” Most family trips consisted of long weekend “Puente” holiday trips to warmer climate and lower altitude pueblos outside of cold mountainous Bogotá a couple of times a year. Girardot, Melgar, and Utica were the most frequented spots. Don Jaime’s brother, Guillermo, was a pilot, therefore the couple or the whole family sometimes got to travel thanks to his benefit. By airplane in Colombia, they visited coastal locations like Barranquilla and Tumaco both on the Caribbean and the Pacific coast respectively. 

 

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Clara on her way to Tumaco, Colombia on the pacific coast in 1971. Her brother-in-law Guillermo was a pilot, so he let her take a quick photo opp.

Family Trips in Colombia:

Entrepreneurship ran through Clarita’s veins, as did her nurturing and healing essence. In 1962-66 she started a fashion design business out of their own house where she had a couple of seamstresses on her team. In 1964-69 she created a cake and dessert business overlapping with the other business. Fast forward a bit of time in 1983, she supported Carlos Jaime’s travel agency business which later turned into a catering and events business, Banquetes Pablo VI, which still continues to this day 36 years later. However, her love for working in the healthcare industry prevailed.

Clarita found an internship working as an instrument nurse at the Hospital San José in 1968. To the dismay of her husband Jaime, who like many men at the time felt she should stay at home to child rear and tend to housework, she went against his wishes as she discovered her passion for working in healthcare and continued with it. At the time, Don Jaime had been working at Abbott as a pharmaceutical drug salesman who visited different Doctor’s offices, a job he held until retirement when he created his own related company Disfarma LTDA. Throughout the years, Clara worked seasonally or part-time at several different hospitals: Clinica Palermo, Clinica de Marly, Hospital Militar, and Clinica del Country. She specialized in supporting heart surgeries from about 1968 until about 1988 usually on part-time or short-term based assignments. She took two separate breaks between those 20 years, once in 1977 and once in 1981.

Clara was always savvy to find or create opportunities anywhere. She landed a job as a live-in nanny for two Cuban girls in the Miami, Florida area (Coral Gables) in 1977. She was there for about 5 months, where she would send her earnings as remittances back home to the family. At the time, the eldest daughter Martha was 22, therefore she helped run the household in Colombia. She later had to go home for unexpected reasons the family does not like to talk about, however the experience served as preparation for exciting opportunities to come in the USA and abroad.

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Clarita’s Beauty Battle Scar

She took almost a year-long break in 1981 after she severely broke her right arm in a freak mini elevator accident at the hospital, when a small container (aka dumbwaiter or lift), that transported medical supplies and other materials between floors in the building, fell on her arm and broke skin and bone. Around the same time, Don Jaime and Clara separated since they spent most of their time fighting. It was a very tough year for Clara due to her arm, her failed marriage, and her eldest daughter had left to live in the USA for good. Once her arm was fully mobile again thanks to healing and physical therapy, she persisted with her seasonal work at the hospital. This is only one of the many examples of Clarita’s strength and resilience. It wasn’t until the birth of her first grandchild in 1988 that she decided to drop everything and leave Colombia for a while.

A New Chapter – Grand-parenting All Around The World

At the wedding from left to right: Clara, Richard, Martha, and Don Jaime.

Her eldest daughter Martha met a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, Richard Tracy, in 1978. They wed by 1980, and moved to the U.S. by 1981 after Richard completed his volunteer service. By 1988, they were living in Richard’s hometown Toledo, Ohio when Alexandra was born. Clarita decided by the time that Ale was 3 months that she was ready to be a full-time grandmother in the USA to help while both parents worked full time. A year later, and still the only birth of her grand kids she ever witnessed, Michele was born in 1989. Just two months after that, her 3rd granddaughter Diana Carolina or “Caro” was born in Bogotá to Carlos Jaime and his wife Diana Patricia. Because of this, Clara spent most of her time traveling between Colombia and the USA for the rest of her grand kids’ youth until the U.S. grand kids turned 18. For 19 years, her visits to the USA would usually span about 3-6 months each, about once a year, all depending on her Visa and who was able to cover her flights.

 

The most exciting birth of a grandchild occurred in the outskirts of Milano, Italy. Clara’s second daughter Maria Clara received a scholarship to study Opera in Italy, and she was there with her partner Carlos Yañez who was also studying his PhD from 1987 to 1994 for 11 years. In 1992, Clarita’s only grandson Andrés was born, providing her another way to explore outside of Colombia and help rear her 4th and last grandchild for a full year. In addition, she landed a job as a nanny for twin Italian girls. With her youngest daughter Rosita, who at the time worked for the Colombian airline Avianca, she was able to travel very easily due to perks and benefits from the job that were extended towards family. The two traveled throughout Europe together while they spent most of the time in Milano. They traveled to London, Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, and all around Italy. Maria Clara and her family lived in Italy until 1996, when they moved back to Colombia.

 

Rosita and Clarita always traveled together when Rosita worked for Avianca

Again thanks to Rosita and Avianca, Clarita got to travel all over Latin America for the rest of the 90’s and early 2000s. They traveled to Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, and Quito. Maria Clara and Rosita spent a lot of time going to visit the USA to accompany Andrés and Caro throughout their youth, but not as much as Clara traveled there with the them. Thanks to Clara’s dedication and guardianship, as well as Rosita, Maria Clara, Martha, and Jaime’s funding and hard work, the four cousins grew up like siblings and all became fully bilingual Spanish-English.

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The 4 primos/siblings: Alexandra, Caro, Michele, and little Andres all together for the first time ever at the Bogota Airport.

Clarita en Santiago de Chile

Clarita and Rosita visiting Maria Clara and Carlos when they lived in Santiago, Chile

In 1991-1997, Martha’s family was living in Texas for 7 years, therefore Clarita had visited enough times to establish relationships in San Antonio, TX. She was able to acquire jobs with her Visa at the time working as a maid at a hotel, as well as babysat from time to time. When Martha’s family left for Mexico in 1997, she decided she was going to try to acquire U.S. citizenship. She continued work at the hotel, found a job at McDonalds, and helped care for disabled people. Whenever she had some extra time, she traveled to Mexico and was able to see some of the states of Coahuila and Nuevo Leon with Martha’s family. Perhaps due to viewing the USA as a ‘superior country’, Clara worked hard to acquire U.S. citizenship. She studied for years for the citizenship test to prepare for once she qualified to actually take the test, especially this visibly worn list of 100 questions in English. Although Clarita had the help of Martha and family to bid for citizenship, benefited from white privilege, and she worked very hard at several jobs, sadly her dream did not come true. It could have been the political and cultural nature of Texas, it could have been her broken English, but unfortunately U.S. citizenship was not granted to her after her test in 1999.

 

 

An Adventurous Life

Clarita Passport Photos

Clarita’s Passport photos through the years

Nonetheless, Clarita lived the last 20 years of her life traveling everywhere with her family. It was always her family connections who made it possible for her to travel so much, and on occasion she was able to save her own hard earned money from different jobs in order to be able to travel. Martha’s family moved to the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan in 1999, Maria Clara and her family moved to Chile for a year in the early 2000s, and then her sister Nena’s family moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 2006, so there was still a lot of traveling. By 2012, all of the female grand-kids graduated from college, and so the family started traveling more together to new places. Alexandra moved to California, where it was the first time Carlos Jaime and Diana Patricia traveled to the USA in 2014 with the rest of the family. After that, different family members traveled with Clarita everywhere including an epically captured trip to Cuba.

Cartagena, Colombia:

Las Vegas, Nevada and the Grand Canyon:

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Clarita was very modern for an abuela, savvy with her cellphone, especially Whatsapp. Here is a picture she sent Alexandra about her piece of luggage she kept just because of the memorable trips Alexandra took with it.

Clarita was a resilient, independent, adventurous, and a vivacious soul. Her love for exploring new places almost matched her greater love for her family. For about 3 years, she begged Diana Carolina for a trip to Aruba. That trip did not occur because her 3 granddaughters thought they had way more time to plan and save up for the trip. Clara passed away unexpectedly in September of 2019 due to catching bacterial meningitis which sparked sudden rapidly deteriorating health. Thankfully, she did not suffer as she was in a coma for 11 days straight, 3 of which she was half-awake to what the family deems a miracle chance for her to say her goodbyes before she passed. The whole family was convinced she would live past 100+ years just based on her positive, magnetic, and vivacious attitude. Nevertheless, the family holds Clarita’s spirit in their hearts, and are currently grappling with how to move forward with this new void in their lives.

 

Stay tuned for our trip to Aruba which will pay tribute to Clara Chavarriaga Rey! Who knows when it will be planned, but it will happen!

Montañas, Rios y Oceanos

Possible tattoo inspiration found by Michele. Clarita, a Leo with the Sun as it’s ‘planet’ (star), would often say “yo cruce montañas, rios y oceanos para pasar tiempo contigo.”

Nerdy Thirty

A Celebration of the “Girls Trip”

Adeola and I have been friends for nearly 10 years now. We met through Teach For America. “We were randomly paired as roommates for Induction!” is one of our favorite facts to hurl at people when they ask us how we met. In our first meeting, I was already in our dorm room, unpacking every single item of clothing I owned (we were only going to stay in that dorm for a week, but I hate keeping my clothes in suitcases so…) when she walked in, glanced around the room, and immediately stated, “I need to lie down.” From that moment on, I knew we would be friends. 

As our 30th birthdays’ approached, we listed off a few places we might enjoy visiting– Islands in the Caribbean, cruises from Florida… when suddenly, London came up in conversation. I’m not sure who mentioned it first, but immediately, we joked about visiting the Harry Potter sets, taking the Hogwarts Express, and crossing platform 9 ¾. I had never been to London, and she had only really been to visit family. If we really thought about it, we met through travel, so it seemed only fitting that we would celebrate our 30th birthdays together, traveling across the Atlantic, to a little group of islands known as the United Kingdom. Like most 30 somethings who grew up in the US during the early 2000s, Adeola had one common obsession that solidified our friendship– Harry Potter. In fact, we independently wanted the same exact Harry Potter quote as a tattoo and decided to get this quote tattooed on our ribs together during our first year of teaching. And with that, nearly 8 months before our trip, we started planning, buying tickets, and scheduling events. Being teachers, we understood the importance of a healthy sense of imagination backed by a perfectly executed scope and sequence of events. 

Side note: I want to acknowledge that I’m extremely fortunate to have a partner who not only respects my independence, but also supports it. My fiance, then partner, happily watched our kids so I could take this trip. It was the longest I’d ever been away from them, and I didn’t know how it would work out. Thankfully, he’s an incredible father, so things went on without a hitch. 

Day 1: Arrival

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Regent’s Park

When I first arrived in London, I had a few hours to kill before Adeola arrived. I decided to store my bags at a train station for the day (at £6 it was a bargain) and walk around. I wasn’t expecting the Late May/Early June weather to be so chilly, so I made sure to bundle up. I first spent a few hours strolling Regent’s Park, taking in the beautiful sculptures and fences. I later stopped by the British Museum and fawned over historical artifacts like The Rosetta Stone and other incredible antiquities. It was strange, however, to see so many historical items away from their ancestral lands. I left the museum inspired but a bit melancholic. I continued to walk around the city, stopping for

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Rosetta Stone

some fish and chips for lunch. After a good meal, I suddenly felt an incredible urge to lie down. I made my way to our Airbnb and took a nap. A few hours later, Adeola arrived. We decided to try some delicious curry at a neighborhood restaurant, then spent the night in our room, like the true homebodies we are.

 

Day 2: A Market and A Play

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Leadenhall Market

Once we got a healthy night’s sleep, we felt ready to take on the day. We spent the morning in Leadenhall Market, the inspiration for Diagon Alley. It’s a breath a fresh air in a sea of similarly shaped modern, concrete buildings. The market features gorgeous Victorian touches and dates back to the Roman Era. The slatted ceilings, red and gold paint, cobblestone streets, and filigrees make any visitor feel as though they’re stepping back in time. We spent some time at a pub, enjoying some beer and desserts, then ate a quick lunch of fish and chips (yes, in that order).

After this, we headed off to the West End so we could watch The Cursed Child. I know

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We came to London for the tapas.

many Potterphiles have strong feelings about this play, but we personally really enjoyed it (though it should have been a musical!). We didn’t know much about the play before we watched it. I’m a firm believer that plays are meant to be enjoyed on stage, not through reading, though I recognize that not everyone feels the same way. But I think not knowing anything about the show worked in our favor; we were mesmerized by the effects, and sucked into the story line. Imogen Heap’s soundtrack truly set the mood for each scene. During intermission, we stopped for tapas at a tiny Spanish restaurant

Once the show was over, we wandered around Trafalgar Square, popping in and out of souvenir shops. When the sun finally began to set, we made our way back to the Airbnb, reminded of all the carefree nights we spent walking home in downtown Memphis, after a long week of teaching.

Day 3: A Studio of Magic and a Visit to King’s Cross Station

IMG_0864Early morning the next day, we ate a quick breakfast on the go and made our way to the WB studios where all the Harry Potter movies were filmed. Adeola surprised me with a Gryffindor blazer (she donned a matching Ravenclaw one). Both blazers contained hidden wand pockets, so we slipped ours in and headed to the studio. We took a bus (double decker, naturally) and made our way towards the suburbs. After we crossed the security check, we wandered through the sets, hitting peak nostalgia as we entered “The Great Hall”. The set was smaller than we’d anticipated, but it looked just as we remembered– long wooden tables lined up, stone floor, and wooden beams finishing out the view. The costumes of each of the professors stood at the head of the room, detailed and beautiful, just out of reach thanks to security guards and some velvet rope. 

Once we walked through The Great Hall, we made our way to the rest of the set pieces, peering into “The Burrow”, admiring the “Prefect’s Bathroom”, and eventually exiting through a replica of “The Forbidden Forest”. As we left the studio, we admired the model set of Hogwarts, a gigantic structure that put the entirety of campus into one room. We left the studio in the early afternoon, a bit of jealousy creeping in as we watched school groups and young children bask in the magic they were still young enough to wholeheartedly believe in. 

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We then made our way to King’s Cross station and attempted to cross Platform 9 ¾. Though we didn’t make it through, we took some amazing pictures and purchased more souvenirs to add to our ever growing collection. We then took a quick tour of “Little Venice” and rode a small boat with a Kiwi who taught us some slang while pointing out

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May we never grow up.

some sights on the Grand Union Canal. We then made our way to a pub, drinking pint after pint and reminiscing about the years we’d known each other, reminded of our first “date” in a bar in downtown Memphis so similar to this pub (it’s called Bardog, and they have stiff drinks and delicious sliders). With all the walking we’d been doing, we made up for the calorie loss in fried food and heavy beer. Sluggishly, we made our way home for the night, our last night in the Airbnb. 

Day 4: Scotland or Bust

No Harry Potter themed trip can be complete without a trip to Scotland, birthplace of Jo herself, and the true location of Hogwarts. We took an early morning flight to Edinburgh, excited to get a change of scenery. This is where our troubles began. I had booked a tour of Edinburgh Castle that came with an afternoon tea. We decided to get some tea before checking into our Airbnb. Armed with our luggage and purses, we hiked up Castle Hill, confused at how it had grown so much warmer in this northern climate. After finally making it up the top, we realized we weren’t allowed to bring our bags with us. I scrambled for our tickets and realized they said the same thing. After apologizing profusely to Adeola, I decided to go to the ticket counter and see if we could push back our tea reservation while she hiked down the hill, both bags in tow. After a few phone calls and a few trips too and from the ticket counter, we got our tea time rescheduled. We made our way through the castle, exhausted and clammy. Between the crown jewels and views of the city below, were were soon dizzy and ready for some rest. We sipped our tea and laughed about my confusion. We then made our way back down Castle Hill, then hopped on a train back to the airport to pick up our rental car. We had big plans for the next day that involved driving on the left side of the road. But first, we needed time to practice. 

Let me tell you. I already have a tough time driving, but add to that a complete reversal on every aspect of the practice… let’s just say driving was quite interesting this way. We survived our trip back to our Airbnb, parked the car, and turned in early for the night, sleeping beneath the gorgeous wooden beams in the attic of our hosts home. 

Day 5: The Road to the Hogwarts Express

We woke up early Saturday morning, fighting off the bitter cold (well, bitter for my Florida born and bred behind). We didn’t even eat breakfast, figuring we could just grab something on the road. We had 4 hours to make it to Fort William so we could check in to the first leg of our train ride along the Glenfinnan Viaduct. We’d both driven in other countries before, so even if we weren’t totally confident about driving on the left side of the road, we figured we’d make it to our destination with time to spare. 

We were wrong. 

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What’s an adventure without a few obstacles?

I took the first leg of the journey. Scotland is… breathtaking. Literally. We had to stop at one point just to admire the mountains and lochs we kept passing. I’m 98% sure I saw a unicorn at one point. Definitely some pixies. After a couple of hours, we stopped for some food, then Adeola took the next leg of the journey. That’s where things got tricky. The road noticeably narrowed. Soon, shipping trucks passed us by, dangerously close to our tiny car. With maybe an hour to reach our destination, we started to get nervous. We almost reached the city when another truck came and POP! went one of our front tires. Adeola looked mortified, but frankly, I was just glad we didn’t get into an accident. She apologized profusely as we waited for the tow truck. The rental agency didn’t give us a spare; instead they left us with a faulty compressor. We watched Ally Wong’s Baby Cobra special and laughed at how ridiculous our plan had been. Why didn’t we just drive to Ft. William the night before? But what’s a trip without some hiccups? At this point we realized we were even and just decided to roll with the punches. The tow truck picked us up, dropped off our rental at a mechanic, then took us to the train station. We didn’t get to ride the steam engine, but we did take an electric train to Mallaig. We saw all the sites we would have seen on the other train, though we didn’t get to hop off and explore some of Scottish towns that were the inspiration for Hogsmeade. 

Later, we arrived in Mallaig just in time to catch the Steam Engine back to Fort William. We found our train car and had a pleasant ride with two married couples. One pair was an older couple who purchased a tea service for all of us. The other was a younger couple; the husband was as big of a Harry Potter fan as us which made for great conversation. We relaxed and laughed during this second trip, enjoying some wizard inspired cocktails from the bar cart. 

Finally, we made our way back to the mechanic, picked up our car, and sped our way back to Edinburgh, this time mindful of the rocky edges of the road. We returned our car with no issue, picked up some pizza on the way home, and promptly stuffed ourselves while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, laughing at the ridiculousness of our day. 

Day 6: Potion’s Class is in Session

On our last full day in the UK, we ate a hearty Scottish breakfast, complete with haggis sausage, and flew back to London. We checked into a tiny hotel room near Victoria Station and made one last trek to a Harry Potter themed destination: The Leaky Cauldron. This pop up bar was the perfect mix of nostalgia and alcohol. We walked down a narrow, dim staircase. At the base of the stairs, we were given robes and wands, then offered seats at a high top table. We had 4 rounds of drinks. The first round involved a quick potions lesson where we made a color changing drink. The second one involved waving our wands at the “Tree of Life” so we could procure some beer and cider. The third involved rhythmic dancing and chanting. We then added a bonus drink which involved some fire (and prayer). Four drinks later, we were perfectly buzzed and found a tiny fish and chips shop. We made our way to the hotel for the night, vegging out and making sure we were packed for our flights the next day. 

Day 7: It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye

My flight left before Adeola’s. She graciously offered to eat breakfast with me and see me off to the train station. Though I was more than ready to go home and spend some time with my family, I was sad the trip was over. It’s so rare to find a friend like Adeola, someone you can easily travel with, someone who inspires you to be your best self, someone who gives so much and expects so little in return. I met her in the most difficult time in my life. My mother had just passed away, we both moved to a new city, and we both were adjusting to one of the most difficult professions– teaching. 

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The Ethnically Ambiguous Duo Takes on the UK

As I boarded my flight, I realized how privileged I was to live the life I do. I’ve never seen Buckhingham Palace in real life, I don’t know where Parliament is, and I’m not sure that I’ve heard Big Ben ring. But I got to live out a piece of my childhood with my best friend, and that is more than enough for me.

Living Under Irregular Status to Living Under the International Sun

#ViajerxsProMigrantes #TravelersProMigrants

This is the story of someone who arrived as a teenager from El Salvador to the U.S., spent his adolescence as an undocumented person, now turned international traveler. As I sit writing this piece just now, my friend Marío Delfín* is currently visiting his family back home in El Salvador for the first time since he had to leave his motherland for good when he was a young teenager. This is Mario’s story, as he agreed to share so we can bridge the communication gap between international travel communities and immigrant communities bounded by national borders. 

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Marío is from a rural area of El Salvador growing up under extreme poverty and conditions that left him eating dirt when there was no food. At just months old, he was left behind to be cared for by his father and grandmother when his mother left for the U.S.. As a young boy, he would work in agriculture in the morning, then be off to school for the afternoon.  When police and gang violence began to spread into the area where he was living, his family thought it best to send him to the U.S.. At eleven years old in the year 2005, he attempted to cross the border for the first time accompanied only by his older sister. They crossed through to the U.S., but were detained and after being held in a detention center for four months, were deported back to El Salvador. 

The poverty and violence back home was so bad, that four years later, at the age of fifteen, he crossed the border again – but this time with father, sister, and uncle. He and his father made it across, but his sister and uncle were detained and deported. He was reunited with his mother for the first time – someone he didn’t know well and could hardly recognize. Living in San Francisco, while attending high school he learned English and graduated with great standing. Despite the roadblocks he faced for being a Central American teenager with an irregular migratory status launched into a new culture and society, he earned a spot at the University of California, and the rest is history. 

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Travel in the U.S. as an Undocumented University Student 

During his undergrad, Marío participated in a U.S. Domestic Exchange program where he interned in Washington D.C. for a non-profit organization. This was before the Trump presidency and the end of Advanced Parole, which allowed DACAmented students to realize international travel for studies, research, and emergency purposes. He flew to Washington D.C. and there he lived for about three months under the quarter-long internship program. Although Marío felt kind of out of place surrounded by folks in fancy business attire, he claims not to have felt any discrimination for his racial, ethnic, or national background and nobody seemed to suspect him of having an irregular migratory status. As a double major in Political Science and Latinx and Latin American Studies, he got hands on experience working in his sector of interest and thoroughly enjoyed his time there

Domestic Exchange programs or travel programs and scholarships within the U.S. could be a great opportunity for folks who find themselves with an irregular migratory status, though you should always seek legal council and support before organizing these plans in order to mitigate risks. 

International Travel as an Immigrant with U.S. Residency 

After graduating from university, Marío finally received his residency and didn’t waste any time to travel internationally. Within six months after receiving his U.S. residency, he traveled to México, then to Bali! His experiences traveling to these places were so unique because of his background as a formally undocumented person living in the U.S..

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Marío traveled to Cancún, México with his partner at the time who is a non-white woman born and raised in the U.S.. They stayed at a resort type of hotel next to the beach, participated in some tours, and enjoyed the beautiful ocean scenery. While they enjoyed their time there, they experienced some clashes due to his and his partner’s differing perspectives about traveling and tourism. For Marío, having the privilege to travel internationally was new to him and he was very thankful for the opportunity. He felt that his partner did not recognize her own privileges of coming to México as a tourist from the U.S. with the spending power of the dollar currency. Furthermore, she did not understand his feelings about being in a Latin American country near his own, where Central American migrants are discriminated against. Moreover, due to his personal experiences with crossing through this country as a child immigrating to the U.S. himself, the thought of being out at night and the sight of police frightened him. It was an interesting experience for him to visit México as a person with the privileges of coming from the U.S., but living the disadvantaged realities of being a Central American immigrant in this country.  

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The next time he took a trip, he decided to take it alone. Not knowing where to go, he used a search engine to choose a destination. Lucky for him, Bali was chosen. He loved Bali and felt a sense of liberty there that he didn’t feel while in the U.S. or in México. Nobody could guess where he was from, and when he tried to explain to them, they didn’t know where El Salvador was. This whole situation got even more confusing for folks when he would try to explain that he is from El Salvador, but lives in the U.S.. Considering this, he settled with claiming that he was simply U.S American, from the U.S., to which people seemed to accept. He didn’t feel offended that people couldn’t identify his place of origin on a map, and for the most part, was happy that people weren’t so interested in finding out where he comes from, but rather who his is and what he does today. While in Bali for six days, Marío lived his best life despite the intense jet lag he felt after the sixteen-hour plane ride. He took some adventurous tours in the jungle, made friends with his tour guide, and spent days relaxing. As a young person just recently graduated from university, working two jobs while pursuing his passion as a calisthenics practitioner and avid gym goer, this was a dream vacation that was much needed for him. 

Words from Marío Delfín

Marío reflects on the time he spent internationally and is so grateful to finally have the opportunity to leave the U.S. and have his rights respected. While writing this piece (in 2019), he was visiting El Salvador for the first time since he left for good, and he was reunited with his younger sister who was celebrating her grand quinceañera – she invited him to be her chambelán.  Before going, he was very anxious and fearful about what might occur while he was there due to the nature of violence in the area where he was visiting, but he was pleasantly surprised with how great his trip was. He danced the night away accompanying his little sister and enjoyed wholesome time in the place where he grew up. So full of love from his family, he hopes to return and see them again soon (update: between the time I began writing this article and got around to finishing it, he did return and he had such a great time!).

Now, Marío has some words of advice for fellow international travelers: please check your international traveler and U.S. passport privileges at the door. As someone who just recently was able to receive his U.S. residency, he has experienced the reality of living in the shadows of fear and within the bounds of the U.S.. For folks who find themselves in situations of irregular migratory status currently, he stands in solidarity with them all and hopes for a future where nationalities and borders don’t hold people back from pursuing their dreams or being with their loved ones. 

 

Let’s Bridge This Gap :

#ViajerxsProMigrantes #TravelersProMigrants

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I met Marío briefly as an undergraduate at our university. We saw each other around campus, at protests, and at Latinx community events. We maintained an online friendship while I was living and studying abroad in México and Chile for about a year and half. I never told him where I was and never wanted to share my international travels so publicly with people in my Latinx community because I felt shame in my privileges. I know that there are so many people who don’t have the privileges to travel internationally, and don’t even feel safe doing so within the U.S.. I knew about his prior irregular migratory status because he had mentioned it to me once, and because of this, I shied away from sharing with him where I really was. I have always found this difficult, wanting to be enthusiastic about getting more Latinxs and all people of diverse ethnic backgrounds engaged in international education and in traveling, but also not wanting to rub it in their face or step on dreams that some can’t realize under an irregular migratory status. This story and interview was shared to build more conversation about these topics between communities of international travelers and those of folks with irregular migratory status. The grand question now is, what can we do to make international movement around the world a right for all? We, as international travelers with the privileges that come with the U.S. passport, should be working to make this privilege of free movement a right for all.

We have to be #ViajerxsProMigrantes #TravelersProMigrants!

A Call to Action: Let’s Get People Free and Advocate for Free Movement Across Imaginary Borders for All

Currently, there are thousands of people being held in immigrant detention centers (concentration camps) under extremely harsh conditions. Many of the people being held are Central American migrants, from countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which make up the Northern Triangle. These people are escaping the everyday violence they encounter due to the poverty in their countries that faced civil wars and civil unrest due to U.S. imperialism and political involvement.  

I would like to encourage each reader of this article to take action. The quickest way to get people out of detention would be to pay for their bail bond while they await trial. If you would like to help, I encourage you to donate to one of the immigration bail fund organizations throughout the country. Bail is set from as little as $1,500 to as much as about $80,000, which is extremely high. 

If you cannot make so large of a donation, I encourage each of you readers to create a fundraiser of your own with the goal of a minimum of $1,500 to be sent to one of the immigration bail fund organizations that corresponds to the state that you live in. The more of us that create these fundraisers, the more funds can be raised and they can be dispersed throughout all the different states that people are currently detained in. The more money we raise, the quicker we can get people free!

Here’s how you can get started: 

  1.  Donate $15 to an existing fundraiser where proceeds go to an immigration bail bond organization. 
  2. Then, create your own fundraiser, where all proceeds will go to an immigration bail bond organization that will aid people detained in your state. There are a number of ways to go about fundraising. You can crowdfund or come up with creative ways to raise funds. 
  3. Share and ask people to join you firstly donating to your fundraiser,  then by creating their own fundraiser where all proceeds will go to an immigration bail bond organization that will aid people detained in their state.
  4. If you would like, share your campaign under the hashtag:

 #ViajerxsProMigrantes  #TravelersProMigrants 

This way we can take a look at the movement across the country and continue this conversation about international traveler communities taking action to aid immigrant communities. 

I’ll go first : as someone from California, I hereby declare that have created this fundraiser, Help Post Bail for Detained Immigrants – Bay Area with a minimum goal of $1,500, where all proceeds will go to The Immigrant Family Defense Fund

If you are participating in this action of raising funds to help post bail for detained immigrants being held in detention centers/concentration camps, I urge you to be an honest participant and not hoard any of these funds for yourself. Please donate ALL proceeds to an immigration bail bond organization. 

Below you will find some resources about the information discussed here along with  the different immigrant bail bond organizations for the different states in the U.S., as found in the article Advocates say the fastest way to help immigrants separated from their children: Post their bail

Thank you for reading, considering what a privilege it is to be an international traveler with a U.S. passport, and taking action to help create equal rights and opportunity for freedom of movement for all. 

*I would like to the note that the photo used in the cover is not my own and that the name Marío Delfín is fictitious, as the interviewee who would like to remain anonymous*

Resources 

DIRECTORY OF IMMIGRATION BOND FUNDS:

National organizations across the U.S.

Freedom for Immigrants National Bond Fund

Haitian Immigrant Bond Assistance Project

LGBTQ Freedom Fund

RAICES Bond Fund

Arizona

Pima Monthly Meeting Immigration Bond Fund

California

Bay Area Immigration Bond Fund

Immigrant Families Defense Fund

Orange County Justice Fund

San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium — Borderlands Get Free Fund

Colorado

Immigrant Freedom Fund of Colorado

Connecticut

Immigrant Bail Fund

Iowa

Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project

Massachusetts

Beyond Bail & Legal Defense Fund

Michigan

Kent County Immigration Bond for Our Neighbor’s Defense Fund

Minnesota

Minnesota Freedom Fund

New Hampshire

NH Conference UCC Immigrant and Refugee Support Group

New York

LIFE Bond Fund (New Sanctuary Coalition)

New York Immigrant Freedom Fund

Ohio (includes Northern Kentucky)

3R Fund for Immigrants

Texas

Fronterizo Fianza Fund

Hutto Community Deportation Defense & Bond Fund

RAICES Texas Bond Fund

Vermont

Vermont Freedom Bail Fund

Virginia

Cville Immigrant Bond Fund

Washington

Fair Fight Immigrant Bond Fund

DIRECTORY OF CRIMINAL SYSTEM BAIL FUNDS:

National organizations funding bail across the U.S.

National Bail Out

The American Bar Association

Queer Detainee Empowerment Project

Freedom for Immigrants

Local organizations funding bail for immigrants

Arizona

Tucson Second Chance Bail Fund

Colorado

Colorado Freedom Fund

California

Bay Area Immigration Bond Fund

Immigrant Families Defense Fund

The Orange County Justice Fund

Connecticut

Connecticut Bail Fund

Immigrant Bail Fund

Florida

LGBTQ Freedom Fund

Hawaii

Hawaii Community Bail Fund

Illinois

Champaign County Bailout Coalition

Chicago Community Bond Fund

Iowa

Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project

Kentucky

Louisville Community Bail Fund

Louisiana

New Orleans Safety & Freedom Fund

YWCA Greater Baton Rouge Community Bail Fund

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Bail Fund

Minnesota

Minnesota Freedom Fund

Nebraska

Omaha Freedom Fund

Nevada

Vegas Freedom Fund

New York City

Bronx Freedom Fund

Brooklyn Community Bail Fund

Lorena Borjas Community Fund

WSLS Bail Fund

New York State

Columbia County Bail Fund

EOC of Suffolk Inc. Charitable Bail Fund

OAR of Tompkins County Bail Fund

Syracuse Jail Ministry

North Carolina

Southern Coalition for Social Justice Bail Fund

Alamance County Community Bail Fund

North Carolina Community Bail Fund of Durham

Oregon

Portland Freedom Fund

Pennsylvania

Dauphin County Bail Fund

Philadelphia Community Bail Fund

Philadelphia Bail Fund

Tennessee

Hamilton County Community Bail Fund

Memphis Community Bail Fund

Nashville Community Bail Fund

Texas

Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee Fianza Fund

Community Bail Fund of North Texas

Virginia

Richmond Community Bail Fund

Roanoke Community Bail Fund

Charlottesville Community Resilience Fund

Washington

Northwest Community Bail Fund

Wisconsin

Free the 350 Bail Fund

 

Dominican Heritage Tour by Gerry Isabelle

About Gerry Isabelle

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Gerry Isabelle is a Dominican-American traveler, writer, artist and tourism entrepreneur from the Bronx, New York. Her childhood dream of traveling has taken her all over the world, cultivating a particularly strong love and connection for the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Her writing and photography on travel, society and multicultural identity can be found on her platform: Dominican Abroad (website and Instagram).

About Dominican Abroad:

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Dominican Abroad is a digital media platform and provider of immersive travel services. On the digital side, that means articles, videos, and photography, related to travel and society. The content includes how-to travel guides and cultural insights through the lens of a multicultural, multilingual, and remote millennial from NYC.

The travel services provided include trips around the world with a focus on Cuba and the Dominican Republic, including a Dominican Heritage Tour that launched in February 2019 and was featured in the New York Times. Dominican Abroad values sustainable and ethical tourism, and strives to lead tourism business into the hands of local small business owners (including local women of color). 

About the Dominican Heritage Tour:

The Dominican Heritage Tour is a culturally immersive and holistic travel experience into different corners of the island. Rather than staying in a gated resort, we are taking you to experience an in-depth side of the country, from countryside rural living… to local hot spots in the country’s capital… to the island’s natural wonders. We’ll get a taste of everything DR has to offer.

untitled (6 of 38)-2This curated experience aims for travelers to more deeply understand and connect with the multicultural influences (African, Taino, and European) that make up much of the rich Dominican heritage. Travelers will learn about more about the complex history of the island while culturally immersing themselves through experiences like cooking lessons in Monte Plata and honoring our Afro-heritage with a Fiesta de Palo or los Congos in Villa Mella. Along the way, we will also meet local Dominican activists and community leaders who we can connect and share with.

For 6 days and 5 nights we’ll explore the following: 

Santo Domingo, Monte Plata & Villa Mella: 

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  • Take cooking lessons in the campos of Monte Plata
  • Afro-influenced Fiesta de palo dance ceremony or los Congos in Villa Mella (UNESCO)
  • Walking tours and visits to historic sights
  • Learn a less colonized version of Dominican history
  • Discuss topics in today’s Dominican society with local social activists, community leaders and researchersuntitled (4 of 5)
  • Engage in sustainable travel as we collaborate and work with local entrepreneurs, including WOC
  • Explore Monte Plata’s Socoa Waterfall

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  • Discover the Dominican southwest
  • Road Trip through the Dominican Riviera
  • Making stops along the way in Barahona for the best mangos in the world, larimar shopping (unique gemstone only found in Barahona, Dominican Republic), and epic views of the Dominican Riviera
  • Los Patos beach & river
  • Boat tour through Laguna de Oviedo + Isla Iguana + natural mud spa
  • Crystal clear Arroyo Salado natural pool
  • Private boat to visit Bahia de las Aguilas — ranked as one of the best beaches in the world

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Price & Payments

Cost: $900 – Everything included except flights, alcohol, travel insurance, and two meals.

2020 Dates: February 15 to February 20.

The non-refundable deposit is $200 in order to reserve your spot. 

A note on payments and Installments: Dominican Abroad accepts payments by installments, so pay the trip off as you go – the deadline to pay the full amount is January 15, 2020.

Optional Add-On: Wellness Retreat in the Dominican Alps

created by dji cameraSince the tour runs from Saturday (2/15) through Thursday (2/20), travelers will have the weekend to: fly back home, spend time with their families in DR, solo travel on their own, and/or join our long weekend wellness retreat in Jarabacoa. After the Heritage Tour, from Thursday to Sunday, we will be in the quaint Jarabacoa mountain town in the Dominican Alps; staying in a gorgeous hotel by the Jimenoa river. We will embrace wellness by: relaxing, getting massages, checking out the local gastronomy (including gorgeous mountain restaurants) and embracing the Dominican mountainous outdoors. 

Activities include: meditating, yoga, relaxing, horseback riding, hiking, visiting the many nearby waterfalls, paragliding or water rafting, and/or massages.

Early Bird Special

If you book before November 2019, you save $50 off using the code: TRAVELLATINA

Return Policy: The deposit is non-refundable. The rest of the payments are refundable up to 50% if you cancel before January 15, 2020.

For full tour details email isabelle@dominicanabroad.com for the booklet brochure. 

 

New Book: Cuentos from the Swamp

Michelle Lizet Flores is a native Floridian and current resident. A graduate of FSU and NYU creative writing programs, she currently works as a teacher fostering the next generation of U.S. American writers. Her poetry and nonfiction have previously been published in magazines and journals such as the Miami Rail, Freeze Ray Poetry, and Cosmonauts Avenue. She is a contributing blogger here on Travel Latina. “Cuentos” is her first chapbook. Find out more at michellelizetflores.com.

Cuentos from the Swamp is a compilation of poems, and can be pre-ordered through Finishing Line Press, where shipments are slated to release in October.

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Michelle Lizet Flores

Reviews:

“Michelle Lizet Flores’ poems, like the forces of nature and history that propel them, masterfully demonstrate that what we take for granted can be lost in an instant, but that calamity is as often a new beginning as an ending. Perhaps their greatest accomplishment is to sing, in every sense of the word, simultaneously of beauty and its dark sides, of griefs and the hope it takes to overcome them, and of what it means to live with intimate knowledge, but without fear, of loss.”
– Andres Rojas, Looking For What Isn’t There

“Cuentos from the Swamp made me feel like I had jumped on a plane to be with familia, but without the hassle or expense. Between mentions of abuela, mango trees, Cuba, Bingo cards, merengue, this book is easy for any U.S. Latinx to relate to. Michelle Flores’ poetry is like smooth Buena Vista Social Club wafting through Caribbean palm trees, her words enticing me to loose myself in my imagination. I love seeing Latin America’s influence on Florida in this way, with the stark contrast of two very different cultures, with a special focus on Cuban culture.”—Alexandra Tracy Chavarriaga, founder of Travel Latina

“From guava and mamey to banyan trees and bougainvillea, these poems are rich with the flora of Florida life, richer still in the people they portray: the friends, the lovers, the old folks, and, mainly, exuberant Michelle Lizet Flores herself, devouring a world her ancestors sought when they came to this country. You can buy a ticket and head south to experience this lushness for yourself, or you can just read this book—it’s all here.”
—David Kirby, Talking About Movies With Jesus and The House on Boulevard St.

Book Cover

Make sure to order your copy of Cuentos from the Swamp! The book can be pre-ordered through Finishing Line Press, where shipments are slated to release in October.

Low-Income Latinxs and Folx of All Diverse Ethnic Backgrounds: How You Can Travel-Study in the U.S. or Abroad

by Elisabet Raquel @elisabet_raquel

Studying abroad as a low-income, non-white person with an immigrant family background can be a thrilling and life changing experience, believe me! As a first generation college student with a low-income background, I grew up without much access to academic resources and opportunities. But, all that changed for me after I decided to apply for study abroad programs offered by my university.

I’m just a low-income girl from a little east of East L.A. who grew up with an identity crisis and feelings of imposter syndrome – this is how I would have described myself a couple of years ago. I am someone who now knows exactly who I am, where I come from, and what I’m made of since studying abroad three times – two of those three times in my countries of origin (and you can read about that here).

Prior to studying abroad, I had only been to México once as a little girl and spoke mostly English and very poor quality Spanish. I am now nearly fluent in three languages and have received almost half of my undergraduate education in some of the most highly esteemed universities and academic programs in Latin America.

Growing up, I never imagined higher education would have been an option for me, let alone such an esteemed international education! ¡Si se puede, todo se puede!

Fitting the Experience into your Busy Life

Fitting travel study into your academic experience is all about organizing your time, priorities, and resources. The sooner you start planning for your travel study, the better – but even if it’s later in your academic career, know that it is still possible!

If you are an undergraduate student at a community college or university, your school may have a study abroad office where you can reach out for more information about the kinds of programs and opportunities offered.

I studied abroad three times as an undergraduate under a five-year academic plan – all of which was covered by my financial aid and scholarships (though I did take out a small percentage of loans as a personal decision).

This was possible because of the following: I came into university with a sophomore credit standing; I applied for study abroad my first year and went abroad my second year; I studied a major in the humanities with not many requisite courses; and I extended my enrollment at my university for a full fifth year (since my financial aid package covered a full fifth year).

Now, this is my own personal experience and everyone’s situation is unique, but a general rule is that the earlier you start planning, the better! Once you travel study, you might realize that you would like to do it a couple of times (like I sure did). In the end, it is up to you to decide what you want out of your academic experience and prioritize from there on out.

If you’re unable to fit a travel study experience into your undergraduate experience, know that there are other opportunities available, such as the Fulbright program where you can apply for grants to teach English abroad or conduct Master’s level or Doctoral research.

You can even look into getting your TEFL certificate for Teaching English as a Foreign Language as there is a demand for English teachers all over the world. You can also consider Work Away or finding work that you can do remotely. There are many options out there for you to choose from!

Funding

If you are a low-income student, please know that there are funding opportunities for you out there! In some cases, the financial aid you receive for studying at your host institution may apply directly to your travel study costs. This is not the case in all situations, to which I recommend reaching out to a financial aid advisor, and/or advisors at your host institution who are in charge of Travel Study (also known as Study Abroad).

In the case that the financial aid you receive is not applicable to cover the costs of your travel studies, you could look for low-cost program options offered by a third-party company, such as CIEE and look for scholarships and grants to cover the costs, for example. You could even participate in Work Away or with a volunteer position in which you could be provided basic living accommodations in exchange for your volunteer work.

You should also make a little income, budget, and save.  Also, there are so many, many scholarship opportunities out there! So many people want to see students like us thrive and compliment our studies even further by participating in travel study.

I myself won about $12,000 total for all my study abroad experiences – I think I won every scholarship I applied to! One example of such a scholarship is the Gilman Scholarship, for students who are Pell Grant recipients, from which I won $5,000.

To find these opportunities, you just have to start doing your research and not be afraid to reach out for advice. There are many people out there with answers and access to more resources. Like me, I’m just someone sharing my inside knowledge of as someone who participated and as someone who interned at my school’s study abroad office.

Also, might I mention that there are plenty of travel groups full of people who have done this all before that you can join such as Travel Latina and Latinas Who Travel on Facebook and Instagram. Always feel free to look for answers and resources by asking questions!

Family

For some of us, we may be the first ones in our family to have the privilege to travel freely and they might not understand why or how you’re going to do it (at first). Coming from a cultural background where family is very protective and overseeing, having a conversation with your family about your desire to travel study might be a little bit daunting. They might be concerned about the costs, your safety, the general time and distance you’ll be away, among many other factors.

If you are worried about how your family might react with the news, be sure to do your research and make yourself well informed about all the concerns thet might have. Be sure to keep the conversation open and mature. You can be flexible with your options, but stand strong with your decision about going.

Hopefully they are supportive of you from the beginning and if they are feeling a little uncomfortable with you going, just be ready to provide them with reassurance, information, and compromise if needed. As an adult, you have every right to seek enriching experiences in your life – your family likely just cares about your well-being.

 

Travel Study Under the Circumstance of Having an Irregular Migratory Status

I would like to address that access to education in general is a privilege and access to international education is an even greater privilege – not everyone can participate in international travel study programs because not everyone can travel internationally.

For our friends and family who cannot because of unjust immigration policies, I want to let you know that we hear you, see you, and would like to support you and see you thrive just as well.

In the case that you have an irregular immigration status and would like to participate in travel study, you should take a look at internships, field studies, or learning opportunities in other states or territories of the U.S. offered by your learning institution.

You should definitely seek out legal support from an immigration attorney, hopefully one that is provided to you by your school. If your institution does not offer undocumented student services, you should seek for legal advice independently.

Historically, DACA students were able to realize international study abroad though Advance Parole. However, all students with irregular migratory status should seek legal support before decided to participate in a travel-study program.

There are also many travel study programs in the U.S. available to you – you just have to consider factors such as cost and safety, keeping in mind that you never have to disclose your status to anyone at any time.

Higher Education, International Education, and National Exchanges were not designed for students like us who may come from low socio-economic, immigrant family backgrounds, and/or communities of color. However, being college students from the U.S. gives us access to opportunities usually only open to the global elite. The opportunity is ours –  we just have to prepare well beforehand and take the chance!

How Thrifting Enhances My Travels & Experiences

Ever since most of my suburban classmates growing-up were wearing all the latest seasonal trends from Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, and American Eagle, I decided I’d embrace being unique rather than dwelling on the fact that I couldn’t afford the same clothing as them. I mean hey, I was already one of the only Latinas at my school so why does it matter if my style is different too? My Mami and Abuela taught us basic stitching, but starting in Middle School we had one of our close Mexican family friends, Luz Telleria, teach my sister and I to use a sewing machine. We mostly would make our formal school dance dresses from scratch with a lot of her help, not only saving us money but creating pride in such uniquely crafted fashion. I do consider making your own clothing a form of thrifting because the definition states “the quality of using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully.” Furthermore, I discovered from some alternative-styled classmates, who inspired me early on in High School with their quirky fashion from the Salvation Army, mostly comprised of unique used clothing for cheap. This helped to change the way I shop and dress myself for the rest of my life.

Some of the formal school dance dresses my sister and I made between Middle and High School with Luz Telleria’s help:

 

 

 

Here is a bag I made from retro pants found at the Salvation Army. The idea was inspired by an American Girl Doll book (since we never owned a doll, we had a book instead):

 

 

 

The 80s dress I bought at the Salvation Army for less than $9 for my Senior Prom. I won Prom Queen with this dress!:

 

 

 

Aside from the Salvation Army, I volunteered at the Catholic Charities Hispanic Outreach Services in Pontiac, Michigan that use to be located in an old mansion with an attic full of lightly used or vintage items that were donated to the Outreach for them to sell for cssfundraising. My abuela use to call that informal store attico-Kohls. Both of these locations plus my ability to make my own items, or tailor used items to my own liking, provided inexpensive alternatives to create my unique style that I will describe as Latina-Vintage-Chic. I loved mixing bright colors, off the shoulder tops, shimery or glittery, flowy or frilly, and/or vintage old school — all on a budget.

Vintage store finds and shots in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2011:

 

 

 

I made a necklace and headband from an old yellow t-shirt that I bought at the Goodwill for the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2012:

 

 

 

Thrift store finds in San Diego, CA in 2013-4. On the left is a bright fuschia shiny jumpsuit from the 80s, and on the right a green retro poncho from the 60s:

 

 

 

Fast forward 15 years, and I still do this to create a unique sense of style, but most importantly to save money. Moreover, I’ve learned the detrimental impacts that over-consumption of material things like clothing can have on the environment. Did you know that, the average person in the U.S. buys 65 articles of clothing a year, each item only to be worn a few times? According to Greenpeace, “global clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014. The average person buys 60 percent more items of clothing every year and keeps them for about half as long as 15 years ago.” This is not only a huge waste of money that could go towards building wealth or traveling, but also a huge waste of resources like vital water supply, overuse of gas for transporting of these goods that contributes to CO2 emissions, etc.  According to Forbes – Making Climate Change Fashionable – The Garment Industry Takes on Global Warming, “it takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.” The United Nations Climate Change News states that “the fashion industry contributes 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions due to its long supply chains and energy intensive production.” 

So who’s ready to join the #NoNewMaterialThings, #BuyUsedOnly, and/or #BuyNothing trend in order to save more money for building wealth, or more importantly for travel? One can argue that traveling can be as harmful to the environment as the clothing industry, so for our sake let’s hope that transportation & travel continues to become more energy efficient, conscious, and sustainable. Furthermore, I will continue to enjoy my more sustainable wardrobe, perfect for traveling the world, while advocating for a more sustainable textile and travel industry. In fact, I consult for my prima Carolina Chavarriaga’s small clothing & accessories business, and convinced her to recycle used materials, fabric, and/or clothing for her products from here on out. Follow her FB page and Instagram, and check out this video announcing her new sustainable business endeavor:

Above in this article and following I share some photography I’ve captured over the years during trips to the park, a nearby city, or to another country. Pay attention to how a homemade, used, or vintage outfit enhanced not only my photo, but the memory of my travels or experiences in general along with a subtle reminder that I saved money and contributed to sustainability by buying used or making my own item. At the end of the day, no material object matches the unforgettable experiences we share with our loved ones or with ourselves (self-care alone time).

I bought this sparkly top at a consignment store in San Diego, CA, but the photo was taken in Palomino, La Guajira, Colombia in 2016:

 

 

 

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Wearing a used dress bought at a thrift store in Portland, Oregon in 2016 while visiting Riohacha, La Guajira, Colombia in 2017.

For more Latina Thrifty Vintage fashion inspo, make sure to check out Bomba Estéreo‘s leading lady Li Saumet‘s venture as the co-owner of Soy Banana Life Tropical Vintage Store located in Santa Marta, Colombia (follow @soybananalife on IG):

Santa Maria Valley – On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway, look no further than the Santa Maria Valley. This hidden gem is nestled between the slopes and rolling hill slides of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. The valley offers an array of activities for nature enthusiasts, foodies, and people who delight in rest and relaxation. Just don’t forget your corkscrew!

For those in the Los Angeles area, hop in your car and hit the 101 North freeway. Soak in the lush green scenery and palm trees as you drive along the coast past La Conchita, Summerland, and Montecito. Once you make it to the 154 freeway you’re greeted with several vista points where you can make a pit stop. Bring your camera so you can capture the picturesque mountaintop views and be blown away by nature’s wonders.

Stay at the Historic Santa Maria Inn

A perfect blend of antique and modern; the history of this hotel dates back more than 100 years and is known for having hosted many famous guests such as Charlie Chaplain, Rudolph Valentino, Bette Davis, Bing Crosby, and President Hoover. The hotel offers several warm fireplaces, an outdoor swimming pool, and a wine cellar. Enjoy breakfast, brunch and dinner in the Century Room Restaurant or grab a drink at the pub. The hotel plays 1930’s music softly in the background, which makes for a very charming ambiance. It is also believed that ghosts haunt the hotel. Stories whisper of a sea captain apparently murdered by his mistress and has haunted the hallways of the hotel since 1917, particularly room 210. Alongside the sea captain, the ghost of actor Rudolph Valentino lurks through the Santa Maria Inn and reportedly frequents room 221. Many other spooky incidents have been reported inside rooms and around the hotel grounds. Phenomena such as the piano keys playing on their own, mysterious footprints, the opening and shutting of doors unexpectedly, unexplained perfumed scented smells, and spinning hands on a clock have all been seen by both guests and staff.

For the nature enthusiast

The Oso Flaco Lake California State Park provides everything from lush mountains, to a beautiful lake that leads to the ocean, and sand dunes. Walk or jog over dirt trails, wooded paths and bridges through several diverse natural habitats. Spot the various flora and fauna or bring binoculars for bird watching.

Visit the Dunes Center beforehand to learn about the conservation and restoration of the Guadalupe-Nipomo ecosystem. The center provides general information on local dune access points.

For the foodies

Three favorites that you can’t miss out on

Maya Mexican Restaurant

Family owned and operated by the Cadenas family, this colorful restaurant has been serving home style Mexican food for over 53 years. Offering everything from fresh mariscos (sea food) to tamales and award winning menudo, the menu does not disappoint. Walk in during happy hour every day from 2pm – 6pm and spend your day on the patio eating guacamole and chips while sipping on a michelada beer cocktail or fruity margarita. You might even decide to stay and catch the live mariachi band that plays on Friday evenings. Whatever time of day you decide to go in, you’re guaranteed a belly full of authentic Mexican food.

MOXIE Café

More than burgers. You’ll be surprised to walk into this eatery and feel as if you’ve been transported to a WWII air force base. The truth is, many people are unaware of the military history that surrounds the Santa Maria Valley. The local Allan Hancock College and Santa Maria Airport were once pilot training facilities opened in 1927 and 1942, respectively. In fact, Hancock Field was one of eight civilian aviation schools to provide training to future military pilots. The Santa Maria airfields became training fields for new fighter pilots prior to their immediate transfer overseas. And between 1942 and 1944 the airfield trained 633 fighter pilots that later took these skills to the forefront of battle. As a tribute to the servicemen and local military history, the owners of MOXIE café incorporated an aviation theme to their décor and menu. The B-17 Bomber breakfast burrito and P-38 Lighting breakfast burrito are just an example. The eatery also encourages local food sourcing and provides healthy options packed with veggies and fruit suitable for every dietary preference.

Far Western Tavern

Santa Maria style barbecue. This contemporary California ranch cuisine inspired by local traditions offers an array of barbecue dishes all prepared with fresh flavors from local farms, ranches and vineyards. For dinner, savor the world famous bullseye steak – 14 ounces of signature boneless ribeye. Not a meat eater? No problem! The menu offers the Portobello mushroom option with roasted vegetables and grilled polenta. Paired with your favorite glass of wine – or two – this restaurant makes for a wonderful fine dining experience.

Is it wine o’clock yet?

Known for high quality pinot noir, syrah, chardonnay and pinot blanc, the valley offers approximately 40 vineyards spread over approximately 7,500 acres of sprawling land.

Whether you are a wine connoisseur or still deciding if you prefer white or red wine, the expert staff at Cambria Estates Vineyards and Winery is ready to greet you with a warm smile and walk you through every wine tasting. Cambria offers two flight options – the Estate Flight – a deliciously crisp assortment of pinot gris and chardonnay which ends on a rosé pinot noir note. And the Pinot Flight – a tantalizing pinot noir assortment. You can sample wine or purchase a bottle and enjoy a beautiful view of the vineyards that stretch across almost 1,600 acres making Cambria the largest single-location vineyard in the area.

The Strawberry Festival

Last but not least, don’t miss out on the annual strawberry festival, which kicks off the valley’s strawberry season, supports local agriculture and healthy indulgence in strawberries while encouraging communal participation. Here you can sample strawberries from farms throughout central California. Vendors offer delicious creations that range from strawberry nachos to strawberry ribs and everything in between. This event is great for children and adults, alike and offers an array of activities from cooking demonstrations to wildlife showcases and fun carnival rides. This year, the festival took place during the last weekend of April. Check the Santa Maria Fairpark for future dates. Don’t miss out! People travel from far and wide to take part in this festival and accommodation books up quickly.