La Hermandad of the Traveling Mochila fundraiser

They are finally here and ready to sell! 3 years in the making to get to this point: to save, to heal, to organize, and finally to procure. Travel Latina began in 2015 as an idea that has grown into an international community of amazing viajerxs. As we grow we’re always trying to take things to the next level, which means so many different creative options. We are working on hiring someone to help us to configure the sustainable monetization of the website since BIPOC deserve to be paid fairly for their labor, because our travel bloggers and contributors deserve to be compensated for the tremendous work they have put into TL. Even better if we can create full time job opportunities for Latinx. If you believe in our mission, and love the progression of TL and the Mochila Viajerx through the years, please buy one of our products listed below to support our fundraiser. Our goal is to fundraise $2,000 USD from selling these products to cover the cost of the materials, and to hire someone to work with.

Making the Mochila: A 3-Year Passion Project

Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez (second to the right) and her friends with their Sisterhood of the Thotty Red Suit

After seeing Prisca Dorca Mojica Rodríguez’s IG post back in April 2018, “Sisterhood of the Traveling Red Thotty Bodysuit”, it gave me another inspiration. What can TL create in order to more strongly bring us together through an ‘hermandad‘, but also to collectively help us move forward not only in our own lives, but with TL too? From 2016 to 2018, I was living in La Guajira, Colombia, a Caribbean coastal department/state known for it’s Wayuu indigenous population and cultural influence. It hit me that I could design a Wayuu mochila in order to create the first prototype for the “Hermandad of the Traveling Mochila”.

Ale, the founder of TL with the mochila in Palomino, La Guajira, Colombia

The orginal mochila was made by a Wayuu woman, Genny, in the Mercado Nuevo in Riohacha, La Guajira for the price that was asked without bartering. I decided to include a journal, local Colombian sage, and 5 locally made cloth bracelets in the bag to share with the hermandad. The Wayuu have one of the last matriarchal societies known on Earth, where the people do not settle in villages, rather matrilineal clans where the woman is the center of the organization. They are spread out between parts of Colombia and Venezuela, many holding dual citizenship in both countries. These resilient people managed to keep their culture and traditions mostly unscathed despite Spanish conquest, and are the largest Indigenous group in Colombia. The Wayuu women have become recognized worldwide for their handmade knit mochilas, hammocks, and more. I am gracious and continuously thank the Wayuu for allowing me to connect with my Indigenous Colombian roots, although my roots are more particularly Chibcha roots from the interior of the country. Furthermore, we experimented with the pilot mochila, as a group of us TL contributors took it all over the world, from Colombia, to Ghana, Guatemala, Spain, and Italy.

The Fundraiser

After two years spent healing and saving back in the US, I finally started to save up for and procure more mochilas starting about a year ago. I sent the initial payment to Riohacha, La Guajira, Colombia on December 24th, 2020 during a global pandemic. I had no idea what to expect with the constant and extremely strict lockdowns in Colombia, but the mochilas finally arrived to my house 7 months later after many delays.

Edermira worked on the mochilas this time

At the same time, I was working with Ashley Garcia from Brown Girl Travels to order some zines and stickers from her to include in the mochilas. In addition, I wanted to include small coin pouches from El Salvador to represent our social media manager Cindy Medina’s huge contribution to Travel Latina as a Salvadoreña. This pouch also makes it easier to share trinkets, souvenirs, consumables, dried herbs, and more with the hermandad. Finally, I decided to include a branded eco-friendly mini notebook, as well as stickers of our brand.

Mochila package – 17 mochilas in total, each for a minimum $100 donation:

We have 17 mochilas in total to sell, 5 of them green, 6 of them blue, and 6 of them magenta. Each mochila includes:
-1 mochila Wayuu from Colombia (green, blue, or magenta)
-1 Brown Girl Travel mini zine
-1 artisanal coin pouch from El Salvador
-1 eco-friendly TL mini notebook
-1 Brown Girl Travel sticker
-5 TL stickers (not pictured in above photos)

We are also selling several other smaller packages for those of you who want to contribute to our fundraiser, but don’t have so much to spend:

Brown Girl Travel Zine package – 3 in total, each for a minimum $50 donation:

This package includes:
-1 Brown Girl Travel mini zine
-1 artisanal coin pouch from El Salvador
-1 eco-friendly TL mini notebook
-1 Brown Girl Travel sticker (not pictured in above photo)
-5 TL stickers

Artisanal Coin Pouch & Mini Notebook package – 4 in total, each for a minimum $25 donation:

This includes:
-1 artisanal coin pouch from El Salvador
-1 eco-friendly TL mini notebook
-5 TL stickers

TL sticker package – 20 in total, each for a minimum $10 donation:

This includes:
-10 TL stickers

Payment Process
If you’d like to make sure a product color or package type is available before donating, please check with us via our TL Instagram DM, this blog’s “Contact Us”, and/or our email info@travellatina.org.

We will be taking donations via Venmo @travel_latina, Paypal aletracy4@gmail.com, or Zelle aletracy4@gmail.com.

Your full name, last name, address, and email are needed in order to complete the shipment. The minimum donation requested for each item includes shipping & handling.

The Latina Helping Other Latinas Reach Their Remote Work Goals

  • It’s been 3 years since we interviewed Andrea Valeria, Remote Work Expert from It’s a Travel O.D. How incredible to observe her progress with her own business, and most importantly how she’s helping people land remote jobs. Recently, she helped 6 Latinas land a remote job after they took her new course. SIX! Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has reached it’s 1-year anniversary, many have had the luxury to work for an employer that has enabled a fully remote work environment. Unfortunately, there are still many non-essential workers who had to attend their jobs in person perhaps because of inflexible and traditional employers, or some were laid off because their employment went out of business with the economic downturn triggered by the pandemic. Andrea wants to help these people land a remote job, and set you up for full time nomadic remote work success for when the pandemic ends and you’re ready to travel all over the world. 

Andrea started with one full-time remote job in 2015. With all the flexibility remote jobs provide and all the time saved in commuting, she had time to begin her platform AND work on her brand. While Andrea is now a self-employed remote worker, she didn’t begin like that and she wants you to know the easiest way to start is by landing a remote job by working for an employer. Andrea shares remote jobs in her directory, including full-time, part-time, for different levels, in different industries. Furthermore, her virtual course will help you prepare and search to actually land a remote job.

Andrea offers a course called “Land Your First Remote Job” for those who have no previous remote work experience and have no idea where to start. There are currently 90+ students enrolled to learn how to land a remotified job. This course is not for people who want to start a business or to be self-employed. The registration to this course includes:

-One year access to all of the videos and course content materials
-6 modules of video lessons
-Workbooks to complete along with the videos
-Templates for remotified resumes (text & design), cover letters, and pitches for email & social media
-Community in a private Facebook group (lifetime access)

It’s possible to either pay this course in full, or pay by installments. If you pay in full, students will receive personalized feedback on resumes created after completing module 5. Andrea will send a video while reviewing your resume with edits and suggestions. This course can be completed at any time and at any pace you choose. If you’re still not sure if you want to take this course, check out Andrea’s free Introductory Training video on how to land a remote job to get a better idea of what you will learn in the course.

Happy Remotifying!

Scientist Series: Facing Fears while Scuba Diving in Colombia & Panama

Science terms to know:

Salt wedgeoccur when the mouth of a river flows directly into salt water. The circulation is controlled by the river that pushes back the seawater. This creates a sharp boundary that separates an upper less salty layer from an intruding wedge-shaped salty bottom layer..

 Refraction: the bending of a wave when it enters a medium where its speed is different. The refraction of light when it passes from a fast medium to a slow medium bends the light ray toward the normal to the boundary between the two media.

I have spent most of my life living in fear. An inherent fear that lead to extreme caution in all situations. Upon arriving at the University of Michigan this portion of my psyche did not go away. It grew. It snowballed into something bigger and bigger every day as I walked around campus. Science had always been something I was extremely attracted to. I remember being a child and pretending I was a chemist by mixing all my shampoos together like a mad scientist. Later I would start collecting rocks and read children geology books, sticky notes with my third grade handwriting littered the pages. Ya, I was born to be a huge science nerd from Day One.

In Ann Arbor, everyone warned me about the difficulty of the science classes. My fear kept me away from something that I loved. The fear was only multiplied when I believed everyone who told me that the only reason I had been able to enroll at Michigan was because of my minority status. I believed them every moment that I was a student. My fear and belief that I was not qualified were enough to hold me in a place that lead to unhappiness. I did not fit in with my Communications classes. I did not fit in with my Political Science classes. I did not fit in with my Psychology classes. This is normal for college, I get that, but fear was keeping me from exploring what I truly loved.

Thankfully due to some course requirements, I was forced to take an introductory Oceanography course. I am not going to lie, I did horrible on my first exam. Mainly because I came down with Scarlet fever, but that is neither here nor there. After I did horrible on that first exam I decided to delve deep into this class to make sure I ended it on a high note. The more I studied for this class, the more I realized that I was not working so hard because I wanted a good grade. I was working so hard because I truly enjoyed studying for this class  and I was genuinely so engrossed with the subject matter.

At the end of this course, I knew I had to take more Oceanography/geology classes in the fall semester, maybe dabble with a minor in Oceanography. Summer vacation quickly came and I decided to move in with my grandmother and my aunt in Colombia. I took a literature and writing class at the Universidad del Rosario while I lived in Bogota, the capital city. Working out was  a top priority while I studied. Swimming has always been my exercise of choice and my wonderful aunt found an outlet for me. She got a little dramatic with it though (thankfully) and she signed me up for a two-month-long Scuba and Free Diving course. We met every day for two hours, it included a yoga session and swim work out on top of SCUBA certification lessons and free diving instruction. In a nutshell it was heaven.

At the conclusion of the SCUBA class, I was sent on a trip to Capurganá, Colombia. A little town nestled between the border of Colombia and Panamá. Only accessible by plane or boat. The airplane I had to take was so small, I watched the pilot eat his ham and cheese sandwich as he maneuvered the flying metal tube of death. Awesome. Capurganá was unlike anywhere I had been in Colombia. The jungle was thick and the humidity was unforgiving. A biologist had accompanied the trip and she was pointing out exotic ferns, Leafcutter ants, and a boa constrictor among more exicting biology.

Our first dive came and I was once again consumed with fear. As much as I had practiced getting into water with all the equipment I could not help but panic as I descended into the ocean. The sound of bubbles bombarded me and my scuba buddy also began to panic. She had forgotten how to equalize the pressure in her face mask and her frantic gestures put us both in a frenzy. After I froze I motioned to my nose and tried to show her what she was forgetting. When she gathered her composure we were finally able to descend and that is when I saw it. The salt wedge. A very simple term in oceanography.

I had a flashbacks to sitting in class answering questions about estuarine environments. But there it

figure-14

A salt wedge is created when the freshwater and saltwater meet. Image from: biodiversitybc.orgwas. In person. I could see it with my own eyes and feel it with my exposed hand. I was mesmerized. Tears welled up into my eyes. It was simple, almost too simple. A salt wedge is where a fresh body of water meets ocean water. The division can be seen with the human eye because of the refraction occuring between the less saline warm water at the surface and the colder saline water below the surface layer. Both bodies of water have different densities so light travels through it at different speeds causing a refraction. A similar phenomena  occurs when you place oil and water together in a glass. The division between each liquid can be visibly seen.

was. In person. I could see it with my own eyes and feel it with my exposed hand. I was mesmerized. Tears welled up into my eyes. It was simple, almost too simple. A salt wedge is where a fresh body of water meets ocean water. The division can be seen with the human eye because of the refraction occuring between the less saline warm water at the surface and the colder saline water below the surface layer. Both bodies of water have different densities so light travels through it at different speeds causing a refraction. A similar phenomena  occurs when you place oil and water together in a glass. The division between each liquid can be visibly seen.

112

While having lunch on a deserted island off the coast of Panama, I found this small microscope. At the time I felt it was a sign that I needed to pursue science.

 

I still get goosebumps recalling my first real life encounter with a salt wedge. From that moment on, I knew I had to take every single Oceanography/Geology class Michigan had to offer. My fears of failing were not as important as learning everything possible thing about the ocean. That fall, I summoned the courage and told my parents I would be majoring in Geology focusing on Oceanography. I would later learn that they jumped for joy when I finally choose to study a science.

This all leads back to fear. As a minority, you are constantly being told by the media what categories you fit in. I fell into that trap. I only saw myself as a failure before I even gave anything that I was truly passionate for a try. This is why representation of minorities in STEM fields is so vital. Thankfully for me, after some academic requirements, support from my family, and real life experience, I faced my fears. I jumped in fins first into a geologic abyss and I have not regretted it for one moment since.

Traveling to Guanajuato – What This Trip Taught Me About My Parents

My parent’s nostalgia for Mexico during the trajectory of their lives instilled a love in me for the country that they longed to be in. Every time my mom would tell me a story of the time she lived in Mexicali or when she would mention how hard it was for her to adapt to living here, I felt her nostalgia. I also felt it when my father would take me on weekends to el mercadito in Los Angeles and the way his eyes would light up every time we went to Mexico during our summer vacations.  It was as if his eleven months of working hard during the year were meant for the moment in time when he would be able to escape for one month to Mexico with my mother, brothers and myself. For those of you who have never been to el mercadito, it is a market that has everything you can imagine from Mexican  clothes, dulces, herbal medicines, toys, y peliculas Mexicanas. Our yearly road trips to my father’s home town, and monthly getaways to Tijuana during my teenage years, made me aware that my parents were very much longing for the country they once lived in.

On these trips, my mom would tell my dad in Spanish,”vete por el otro lado para que los muchachos conozcan”, meaning take the other road because I want the kids to get to know the other side of Mexico. I believe my parents wanted my siblings and I to get to know as much of Mexico as they could expose us to.  At one point my parents said we are taking a side trip to see the Mariposas Monarcas in Michoacán. My mother had mentioned she always wanted to get to know Janitzio, the town were Juan Gabriel was from in Michoacán . My family and I headed out on this ten hour bus ride at night from Guadalajara all the way to Michoacán. On another Mexico trip my parents took us on la rumorosa, the road leading to my mother’s home town of Mexicali. This long and winding road showed tons of cars that had fallen over to the bottom of the cliff because the road was so narrow and dangerous. Through these experiences, my parents taught my brothers and I that adventure was an essential part of living and if you work hard then you should also play hard.

There wasn’t much to do on these trips but sleep, wake-up, poke my head out the window. Then, I would fall back asleep until it was time to either arrive at our destination, get off to eat, stay at a hotel for the night, or fight with my siblings for a little bit. These short trips were common in my family and continued until I became a young adult.

I was amazed at the beauty of Mexico on each of my short trips to Michoacán, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta. They all made me curious to visit other parts of Mexico. Even our short weekend trips to Tijuana made me realize that a completely beautiful and different world existed so close to the U.S / Mexico border. When we would cross over, all of a sudden we had access to the most amazing tacos and candies, and everything was way cheaper. This made me deeply curious to discover what the rest of Mexico looked like. It was not until my early thirties that I decided I was going to visit a different part of Mexico every year. It became ironic to me how I learned to play Son Jarocho, a typical folkloric music from Veracruz, however I had never to this day experienced visiting that state. The past four years I have traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Islas Mujeres and have also traveled with my parents to Mexico City, and this past month to Guanajuato. All of these places have been beautiful in their own way and I can’t say I like one more than the other.

Traveling with my parents is different now. Time has become more essential and I have leaned not to take my time with them for granted. I am grateful that my parents sparked a curiosity in me to seek adventure at a young time in my life and I continue to try and apply this to my every day life.  After traveling to Guanajuato with my parents, here are a few observations I made now that I am older and have learned about traveling with them:

  1. They will not leave at sunrise. The hardest part about traveling with my parents during my youth was the meticulous preparation that started weeks before we would leave. The night before our departure, my parents, siblings and myself would be running around packing, prepping, and making sure nothing was left behind. Sometimes we would leave immediately the day after school let out for the summer vacation, creating even more stress and havoc in our household. My parents would say, “ya acuestense que nos vamos a ir tempranito.” Meaning, go to sleep because we are waking up at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning. Traveling with my parents now is much different; we wake up, drink coffee, pack in the morning and leave once we feel like it. Our new motto: the less we stress, the better. Time is not an issue anymore. If we get there we get there. If not, oh well. I can appreciate the fact that my parents are no longer as rushed as they use to be. My parents get up and head out on trips at around ten in the morning rather than before the sun rises.
  2. We will no longer drive for fifteen hours straight.  Our road trips to Mexico became harder and harder every year. My dad would drive for up to fifteen hours straight without stopping. After fifteen hours of beings stuck in a van with three hormonal adolescent teenagers, I am sure my parents would be secretly wishing they weren’t stuck in the car with us. A total of five hours is what they drive now and they stop to rest often for restroom breaks and snacks. They now also take turns driving instead of having my dad be the only driver.
  3. They will tell you if they are not happy instead of the other way around. My siblings and I would complain about the most insignificant things on these trips-yes, I know, I think we were spoiled. We often complained about the hotel not being what we wanted, the drive being too long, or waking up too early to head out on the road. Now, my parents complain to me if they don’t like the hotel we are staying at or if they are too tired. The hardest part about traveling to Guanajuato this past May was the fact that I booked a room with no air conditioner and loud traffic noise. My poor parents woke up sweating in the middle of the night and reaching for the bottle of water every fifteen minutes. I even saw my dad at one point pour water on his hand and pat it on his neck in the middle of the night. The following day they didn’t hesitate to tell me how badly they had slept the night before. My parents worked so hard to give my siblings and I an adventurous youth that I felt guilty they had to experience a horrible hotel stay after a full day of activities.
  4. They will no longer lead you, you will lead them. The main goal when driving from Guadalajara to Guanajuato was to have the process go as smooth as possible, with little to no backtracking. Before, my only job during our family trips  was to get in the van, have fun and then complain to my parents if my brothers pissed me off. I never realized the amount of work that went into finding directions, managing the moods of three teenagers and having a good time all in the same trip. Most of these tasks are now left up to myself and  it makes me realize what a big responsibility it was for my parents back in those days. Especially in an era where there was no Iphones for directions or Yelp to find good hotels and restaurants. I now realize how spoiled we are with all our new technology. Even with all these applications, I still managed to get us lost for a few minutes and book a hotel room that kept us up all night. So, let’s not be fooled, even the perfectly planned vacation can go wrong.
  5. They will get annoyed if you push them too hard. Since it was my first time visiting Guanjuato, I was on an adrenaline high. As soon as we drove into Guanajuato we were surrounded by vibrant colors and beautiful music. I hardly felt like resting. How could I if I felt all my senses were activated to the max? I wanted to see as much as I could, taste all the candy they had, and visit all the sites around me. Both my parents were just as excited to be there, but they finally told me that they needed to get some resting time in between. Whereas when we were growing up they were the ones pushing us most of the time. It has taken me a while to admit to myself that my parents are getting older. I often times find myself trying to push them harder and harder, avoiding the fact that they are inevitably getting older.
  6. They will become your personal tour guides. This was the part that I loved the most about traveling with my parents. My parent’s knowledge of Mexican history was like having my own personal tour guides with me. They told me about the tunnels in Guanajuato they told me about buildings and why they meant so much to Mexico. And it made the experience just that much more special to me.
  7. Their happiness is more important to me now. Now that I am older I realize all the sacrifices my parents have made for me. My parents have struggled with experiencing their loved ones pass away, and my father has had to battle with cancer  and various small operations. Thankfully, he is fine now, but they have had a few stressful years recently. Seeing that things are much better and they are able to enjoy things more now is more important to me. Making sure that they are comfortable and having a good time is one of my top priorities. As a child, I never really took the time to stop and wonder if they were having a good time . I am glad that I have had a shift in perpective now that I’m older.

Overall, I believe it is important to take time to be with family if they live far from you. Even if they live close to you, family, especially immediate family, should be nurtured and appreciated because one day we may feel it is too late to spend time with them for whatever reason. I wish to take a trip with my parents again soon- hopefully this time we can get a good nights rest . So go, and plan your next trip with your parents before it is too late, especially to the motherland.

A Colombian Road Trip Adventure

These series of posts are about Latina travel bloggers connecting with their ‘motherland’, also known as the country that one or both parents are from, where they were born but only spent their childhood there, where close or extended family still live, and/or they have visited throughout their life.

This is a continuation of my last article about Embracing my Sangre Indígena in Colombia. 2010 was an incredible time to be in Colombia because safety and security was at an all time high, and this kind of trip would have never happened prior to that year. This trip served to help me learn about different cities and regions in my mother’s country (aka the ‘motherland’), some brief history of certain Indigenous groups, a look into my own privilege, my inner dialogue, and more. I introduced the nine stops we made during my road trip in Colombia starting in Bogotá with the longest stop being Santa Marta on the coast, and then back:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 2.04.06 PM

The Adventure
Zipaquirá is a salt mine frequented by many who want to visit the extensive caves, carved out ruins, and a historical location that used to be a salt trading center before the arrival of conquistadores. The salt was a hot commodity for the Muiskas because of it’s purpose to preserve food. It is located outside of Bogotá, so it was a perfect location to stop while on the way out to begin our journey.

Bucaramanga was a small city/ large town that we visited about ⅓ of the way to our destination. We stayed with my Uncle’s wife’s cousins (try saying that three times). It was hotter than Bogotá, and humid but not uncomfortable. It was close to the next three nearby spots we visited while we stayed, a central location to these incredible must-sees.

Parque Natural el Gallineral, a beautiful forest area with incredible biodiversity. It was called a “Gallineral” because the unique trees allowed the gallinas (chickens) to lay and walk on the sideways growing trees. One of the oldest trees to exist is located in that park.

I also got to try hormigas culonas, literal translation is “fat ass ants.” They tasted crunchy and salty like peanuts. I can’t believe I actually liked it:

Barichara. After the Gallineral, we stopped by the beautiful pueblo of Barichara. In this town, painted the same kelly green throughout, there were breathtaking views of the mountains. We ate a delicious lunch (just like almost everywhere else we went) and relaxed. I tried delicious sabajón for the first time, which is a Colombian style eggnog spiked with aguardiente.

Parque Nacional del Chicamocha, known as Panachi, was the highlight of the road trip. We stopped there on the way out of Bucaramanga because it is very close by.  Located in the department of Santander, Panachi is an adventure park with breath-taking views of miles beyond miles of the surrounding radius of the “Gran Cañon de Chicamocha”. The meaning of the name Chicamocha is unknown, though it is known to be a Guane indigenous word for the river that flows through the canyon. The national park offers a long list of outdoors activities like kayaking, fishing, camping, or paragliding.  We went zip-lining and walked around the whole park. I drank Chicha which is a corn drink fermented in a clay pot with corn, pineapple, and panela (hard brown sugar). The beverage is also known as piloncillo.

100_4603

Panoramic view of the Panachi statue

Santa Marta. We finally arrived to the coast after almost 4 days on the road and stopping everywhere we could. The last day of traveling was the longest because we didn’t stop anywhere. Santa Marta was more about relaxing rather than sight seeing there (unfortunately but fortunately). We stayed at an all-inclusive resort Decameron with delicious fresh fruit piled high everywhere food was served, with ever flowing beverages. My cousin Carolina flew in from Bogotá to join us just for our time in Santa Marta. My Uncle Jaime actually left for 2 days to be back in Bogotá for the weekend since he runs his Events & Wedding business Banquetes Pablo VI, so weekends are always the busiest. Do you see how bad ass my Uncle is for doing so much for us?!

My Tia and Abuela were too nervous for us to leave the resort because certain areas were deemed unsafe at the time. I think they did not feel as safe with me the “foreigner” there without a man there with us. They live in fear because of horror stories, especially since a friend of my Tia was kidnapped on the nearby island of San Andrés and murdered. Somehow, my cousin and I snuck out one night to go out into town to a recommended discoteca where we had a blast. We were lucky because her and I shared our own room, and the other two shared their own room. They both conked out to sleep early, so it worked for us. We had a great time, and I danced with some girls from “El Chocó” region, which is a primarily Afro-Colombian population. We came home around 4am unscathed and happy to have made rebelde decisions.

Though all-inclusive resorts aren’t my thing due to how separated I feel from local life, and how expensive they are, the food at Decameron is the best I have ever tasted compared to any hotel or resort I have ever been to in the world. And the shows!? There is a dance show EVERY night, nothing short of spectacular. I actually tried out for their dance group because I somehow convinced myself that it was what I wanted to do. The women were all half my size in body weight, so that wasn’t going to work. I also noticed most of them were mestizas or mulattas. The reality was also that the dancers didn’t have a college education if they finished high school at all. Though I am aware of my privilege as an educated able-bodied US American middle class light-skinned Latina woman, it was even more apparent to me when I “tried out”. I didn’t have a job lined up at the time, but I knew I had many other opportunities available to me that the other dancers did not. Their boss also made sure to make it clear that the job wasn’t as glamorous as it seemed. Inherently, he knew I was too privileged for that job. It forced me to check my privilege, so to speak.

Manizales. It took us 1.5 days of straight driving to get to my Tia Maria Clara’s town of Manizales, a mountainous and foggy quaint town. I have visited my Aunt there 2 previous times since her family moved there from Bogotá in 2000. She is an Opera singer and professor at the Universidad de Caldas en Manizales. Her husband Carlos is a professor at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia – Manizales. They have a beautiful apartment with a grand view of the snow capped mountain Nevado del Ruiz. Driving in, out, and around this town can be eerie because there is always a fog that hides the bottom of the mountains. It’s always a pleasure to visit them since they take us to all of the museums, yummy restaurants, and to see the beautiful buildings sites. I was able to debrief the whole trip with my Tia since the last time I saw her was in Bogotá when she welcomed me back with the new family news.

Honda. One of our last stops during our 6-hour trip back to Bogotá was in Honda, a small vacationing spot. Bogotanos love to vacation 1-2 hours outside of the city where there is tierra caliente, and away from the overcrowded and polluted city life. My great aunt Olga was at her property, so we stopped to see her for lunch. She is also known as a bruja (in another way, but similar to my Tia), and she looked into my eyes as if she was reading my soul. I remember her telling me that I had a deep sadness in my eyes, though I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. I still remember that to this day for reasons beyond me. Maybe I was sad I didn’t live closer to my family? Because I didn’t have a job right out of college? Because I was missing my Boricua boyfriend at the time? Because my family didn’t accept or embrace that we have indigenous roots? Who knows! However, it was a very reflecting time in my life and this I know to be true, so maybe I didn’t notice it until she pointed it out.

Nocaima. All I have to say about this amazing rural area is that I wish to own a small piece of land around there with my own Finca to share with my family. It was relaxing and invigorating at the same time. We stopped by because my uncle was telling me he was trying to convince my Mami to buy land with him and my aunts. It is about an hour outside of Bogotá. Maybe one day I will be able to accumulate enough savings to invest in something like this with my uncle and other family members.

I recommend every Latina who still holds strong connections to their “Motherland” visit and connect as a part of understanding your identity and your inner voice. This road trip served to provide me time to think about the news presented to me, and to connect with everything in sight with a new perspective. Whether only one or both parents were born in Latin America or the Caribbean, or whether each parent was born in two different LATAM countries, or if you were born there and have not returned since you were young; do your family tree, blood, and DNA a favor and connect to the motherland in a deeper way. Some important factors to note:
1) Safety may be a concern (due to media sensationalism or true risks), but listen carefully to your local family members and government officials since they know best and conditions are always changing.
2) Staying with family is always much cheaper than staying at hotels, and you connect with them and the land in a way that you never would be able to as a regular tourist.
3) Study and learn to understand your Indigenous or African roots, especially in terms of bringing up difficult topics of conversation with older family members. Don’t make the same mistakes as they did, and don’t perpetuate a system and society that continues to hurt those groups.
4) Be mindful and aware of your own privilege; whether it be your greater opportunities as a Latina living in a western country (aka your western country passport privilege), if you have lighter or white skin, are more educated, able to accumulate wealth easier, and/or etc.
5) Does your visiting or interacting with locals have negative impacts on them or their environment? It’s important to always ask yourself this question. 

Though I by no means can claim that I am an Indigenous woman, I am proud of my roots. I am proud to be Mestiza, and connecting with this part of me has changed me for the better. Because of this, I will continue to fight against injustices, inequality, and ignorance in the Americas in all ways I am able to.

For more photos of this trip, click on this link.

What was your most favorite road trip you ever took? Did a road trip ever lead to self-discovery or getting more in touch with your inner self? Comment below!

Next up: a look into my next adventure in the Peace Corps Colombia! I have been accepted as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and somehow got my first choice of serving in Colombia. I will be introducing this opportunity as I prepare to embark on this journey on August 1st, 2016.

Read, Book, and Explore Machu Picchu!

I didn’t know that booking a ticket to explore Machu Picchu will enable my eyes to see the revealing beauty and indigenous mystery that lies within this great wonder of our world. So many people describe Machu Picchu as a philosophical voyage that serenades you with so much history and breathtaking views like no other. Many regard this destination so major that once checked off their bucket list, other must do’s are just accessory items on their travel wish list. I’m sure all this hype must tickle a nerve within you and makes you wonder, what is all the fuss about? Why is Machu Picchu a travel stamp high in demand for every passport holder? I had to book a flight to Peru and go on this expedition to discover this South American jewel. The Travel 101 experience was the only way to answer these questions and reason why the world is so in love with Picchu!

Behind the Mystery of Machu Pichu:
A masterpiece dating back to 1450’s, this mountain burghal was once the home of the Powerhouse Inca Empire. Upon researching the origin of its discovery, I concluded the facts with the explanation of many urban legends of who, when, why Machu Picchu exists? But there is one story which stood out the most: the voyage of American historian and lecturer, Hiram Bingman. It is recorded that his actual experience to Machu Picchu led him to collect many artifacts of the Incas Empire, which led to its cultural explanation and one of the reasons why Machu Picchu is one of the most visited places in the world. I just wanted to delight you with some history treats, but let us move on to the fun part of making this visit come true.

 

Getting you there:
There are hundreds of tours, website, and airlines which take you to Peru, where the historical site is located. But one website where flight deals are thrown at you like confetti is Skyscanner. This site offers you many options as to where and which airlines accommodates your budget. The most popular airlines flying to Peru are Avianca, Lan, and Taca. One way to beat the price boogie man is flying to Lima, Peru and then take a local flight to Cusco. Some people stay in Cusco then take a Railroad to Machu Picchu and some fly direct to Cusco, which tends to be more expensive. I flew into Lima then took another flight to Cusco for under $600. Once in Cusco, you have the option to reach the mountain via Railroad which is a 3-hour scenic ride of nature’s treasures or a challenging hike which takes a few days. My favorite website of booking the train ride is called, Perurail. Their service is royalty and the picturesque glass view strokes your every emotion. You must book the Vistadome ride so your eyes are taken hostage by the scenery surprise.


Where to rest?
Well, the good news is that you have many options whether to stay in Cusco or Aguas Caliente. If you want a local feel and witness the colorful life of the people in the warm town of Cusco, then book your stay there. For the budget traveler, one good place to stay is Pariwana Hostel (website). It’s clean, friendly, and has a close proximity to main attractions. Also, they host nightly events for their guests. For a more luxurious stay in Cusco, there are places like Belmond Hotel Monasterio (website) and Aranwa Boutique Hotel (website). Websites like http://www.bookings.com, http://www.hotels.com, & http://www.jetsetter.com offer lots of choices to rest those exploring bones.


Visiting the site:
Don’t let Machu Picchu be one of those places you wish you would have visited, because quite frankly, you are going to regret it! One of the most enchanting and curiosity booster is when you hop on the bus, which takes 15 minutes to the entrance of the site. The ride is a slow-motion slideshow of the Peruvian Andes. You witness how each layer of the hills unveil photo worthy landscape features, which brings you to agree that this path to the mountaintop is a beautiful way to greet its guests. The average cost for the bus ride is $20 USD. Things you need to know when planning your visit: book your tickets ahead of time, wear appropriate clothes for hiking, drink plenty of water, and wear sunscreen during the hot season. Also, you have different options as to which level of the mountain top you will like to visit: Picchu or Wayna. I chose Wayna, the most challenging route but the view from the top is heavenly. Once you reach the top, the experience feels like the most intimate moment you will ever have with nature. Please note** not recommend for the elderly, children, and physically disabled. For more information please visit Machu Picchu’s (website) and please note, you can book the ticket with confidence on their site.

 

Best time to visit
While I personally believe Machu Picchu is always a good idea, you must know its weather seasons in order to plan wisely. Rainy season is usually between October & April, and Dry season is usually May & September. If you don’t mind the crowd, then you know you have to visit Machu Picchu during the dry season as it is peak time for tourism. Want to skip the crowd? Then visit the site during the rainy season. FYI Cusco tends to be a bit on the cooler side in comparison to Lima due to its high elevation.

Want to add more flavors to this post? If so, share any questions or travel tips regarding Machu Picchu below.

 

Latina Women Travelers: Documenting Our Stories

Travel Latina was featured in Hip Latina’s article about “Latina Women Travelers: Documenting Our Stories.”

“HipLatina is dedicated to talking about inspirational women in all the topics we discuss such as food, beauty and the arts. I, of course, wanted to write about historical Latina women travelers. As soon as I started researching, I easily found plenty of articles and books online about American and European female travelers such as Amelia Earhart and Nellie Bly but none about Latinas. It became clear, very quickly that this part of history has been seldom documented for various reasons of which I will speak about.

In order to get the information I was looking for, I had to sort through many books at the biggest library in New York where I was lucky to find one book – Magical Sites: Women Travelers in 19th Century Latin America, a compilation of travel journals from women who traveled in Latin America.

The book’s introduction clearly explains that throughout history traveling for women was forbidden, unimaginable, and outside of social norms. At the same time, traveling was considered a metaphor for women’s true liberation. The “traditional gender roles” of women maintaining the home and men being the ones that could travel made this camouflaged oppression acceptable.

Although these ideals were accepted by the masses, a few brave women counter-cultured, such as Mary Read who disguised herself as a man to board a ship and enter the business of piracy. However, little is known of them because the women’s point of view was never recorded.

While at first I wanted to talk about the greatest Latina women travelers, it struck me that talking about the importance of documenting our stories is a much more prevalent topic today—one cannot exist without the other. We want to make sure we are telling our own stories instead of others telling it for us because most likely they won’t get it exactly right.

Here are four women, then and now, who made and are paving the path for female perspectives to be heard and respected by writing about their travel experiences.

Then

Juana Manuela Gorriti was born in Salta, Argentina in 1818 and became a writer, traveler and feminist after her separation with Bolivian dictator, Manuel Isidro Belzu. After her separation, she left Bolivia for Peru where her literary life took off. Always restless, Juana would travel back and forth between Buenos Aires, Lima and La Paz documenting her travel experiences along the way.

Maria de la Merced Beltrán was born in 1789 in Cuba into privilege and aristocracy but left at the age of twelve to Paris. She became a writer and opened a well-respected literary salon in Paris. Her greatest work was La Havane, written in 1844 as epistolary letters about her childhood memories in Cuba, her Creole heritage, and her upbringing in Europe.

Now

Nomadic Chica is written completely by Gloria Apara Paillas who is of Chilean descent. She shares her adventures and experiences from around the world in hopes of inspiring female travelers. She writes about her favorite foods, hotels, restaurants and fun activities from various countries. Her blog is also available in español here.

Travel Latina a blog by Alexandra Tracy Chavarriaga, born of a Colombian mother and Anglo-American father, features women of Latina American and Caribbean diaspora who travel the world. In addition, she opens up the blog to other Latina contributors to talk about their unique travel experiences. To help promote positive Latina role models by writing about your own travel perspective, contact Alexandra here.

Just like the women travelers of yesterday and of today, you too can spread your story or the stories of other amazing women you know or have read about. Here are a few ways:

– Write in your journal(s) you can pass down to your children and then they can pass it down to their children

– Post your stories on social media (most may be reluctant to do this because of privacy but if it’s a story that can inspire or help others, why not?)

– Word of mouth: Tell your or another female’s story to your friends and family

– Get your stories published by a blog or any other publication

– Write a book about yourself or of an unknown inspirational female

– Print images and make a collage of your story

Damaly Gonzalez is the Founder of Backpacking the Caribbean. Follow her #travel journeys on Instagram @damaly.”
Check out the full article on Hip Latina’s website.

 

5 Latina Explorers You Should Know About

Travel Latina is a collective of women seizing what the world has to offer, and globe trotting is our way of breaking the mold and pursuing the things that we are passionate about. All around us, history is in the making as more and more Latinas make their mark on our planet with their incredible accomplishments. Women’s History Month is about celebrating remarkable individuals and I’m here to highlight some Latinas who made seeing the world part of their life’s work.

Finding Latina travelers who left their mark on our planet in extraordinary ways was not easy, and I invite readers to share any others that we should know about. These women are few and far between in our history books, and it begs the question of who has been written out of them completely, their memory lost to time. Who knows…maybe one day it’ll be one of us!

Ynes Mexia
Botanist

Ynes was more than just an early women in science, she was the premiere plant collector of her era and traveled all over Mexico and South America to collect samples. She gathered over 150,000 specimens, discovered more than 500 new species, and even uncovered a new genus of plant. You could say she was a “late bloomer”…her career didn’t start until she was 55. Many of her finds were named after her, Mexianthus Mexicanus, and her contributions to botany are still praised to this day. Talk about sowing some deep roots!

Dr. Ellen Ochoa
Astronaut, First Latina in Space

She’s in every list you see of famous Latino explorers… and usually the only woman! Ellen’s claim to fame is her nine day mission on the space shuttle Discovery in 1993 and being an incredible Astronaut. During her Discovery mission, she studied the impact of the sun’s cycle on earth and how it changes the earth’s climate. She also brought some music to her zero gravity environment for fun; a flute that ended up being suspended in the air as she played it.  Ellen is currently the Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Cristina Mittermeir
Conservation Photographer


Cristina’s work is dedicated to documenting the relationship people have with nature, particularly indigenous groups around the world. Most of it focuses on the Kayapo tribe in the central Amazon who are struggling to conserve their way of life and territory, an area the size of NY State. She’s spent considerable time with them and believes that people are “inspired into action and compelled to care for nature when they see beautiful images“, but also thinks “the public needs to see the devastation around the world and not just the pretty parts”. She’s considered one of the World’s 40 “Most Influential Outdoor Photographers“, and is the founder of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

Elsa Avila
First Latin American and Mexican Woman
to Climb Mount Everest
AND
The Chilean Women Everest Expedition
First South American Women Group
to Climb Mount Everest

Training to conquer the highest mountain in the world is a HUGE undertaking; it requires patience, ideal weather conditions, and lots of physical and mental preparation. The task is something only the bravest of climbers attempt, a consuming goal that takes no small amount of willpower and strength to complete. It’s also extremely unpleasant. Climbers can expect to lose up to 20% of their body weight, hallucinate, and deal with loads of physical ailments on their way to the top…if they even get there. Elsa Ávila (left) became the first Mexican and Latin American woman to reach summit in 1999, and was followed by the first group of South American women (right) in 2001.

BONUS:
Carmen Sandiego
V.I.L.E Ringleader, International Heist Master

Carmen-sandiego
Sure, she’s a cartoon villain…but for many children growing up in the 80s and 90s she was the biggest exposure they had to the world (not to mention the root of this author’s travel bug!). My research shows that she’s probably the first Latina cartoon character on American TV that eschewed the awful stereotypes, so YES she deserves a spot on this list!

The franchise taught geography and history through an amazing TV show, computer games, and books that had a distinct humor full of word play and memorable puns. “They’re rowdy in Saudi Arabia”, “They never Arkansas her!”, and “She had an urge for sturgeon from the Caspian Sea” charmed players into eagerly recovering stolen landmarks (the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Great Wall of China, the Trans Arabian Pipeline) swiped by Carmen while piecing together her whereabouts.

…and lucky you, here is a photo of the author as Carmen Sandiego in 2007!

carmenn

Got any other Latina explorers we should know about? Let us know in the comments!