Virtual Dance Class: Travel from Colombia To Mexico through Cumbia

It’s Fall season, when spirits are said to come back to roam our realm. In honor of the Mexican holiday of “Dia de los Muertos“, our founder Ale will be offering a virtual Rumbaterapia dance class on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021 at 8pm EST / 5pm PST to commemorate our ancestors through dancing Cumbia. This begins “Travel through Dance”, a new virtual dance class series where we explore different cultures in this unique way.

She will lead a 1.5 hour session beginning with a trip that starts in Colombia during colonial times when folkloric Cumbia was born on the Caribbean coast. Join her as she travels to land in Mexico to see the progression of the dance & music of Cumbia throughout Latin America. Of course, no such event can go without honoring La Santa Selena, Techno-Cumbia Queen.

Participants will be encouraged to prepare an altar honoring their ancestors (and/or Selena) before the dance class begins, and close to where they will be dancing. We will start with an introduction to the theme of the class, stretching, music & dance progression from old school Cumbia to modern Cumbia, and then we will end with a ritual to honor our ancestors, a breathing exercise, and then close out with a meditation. Feel free to dress in folklórico outfits, Selena impersonation costumes, and/or overall get as creative as possible to celebrate the dead through dance. It’s suggested to load up on incense, candles, sage, palo santo, or anything that you would like to incorporate into this dance therapy ritual.

There is a minimum $10 donation required for this class since all funds raised will go towards the Mochila Fundraiser to help us monetize our website. Send your payment with your email, and we will send you the virtual class link. Accepted forms of payment are: 1) Venmo @Travel_Latina, 2) Paypal aletracy4@gmail.com, or 3) Zelle aletracy4@gmail.com.

Conectando con Raíces Ancestrales en México: Las Queer Enamoradas

On April 19th, a photo of one of my favorite influencers, Brown Badass Bonita’s Kim Guerra wearing a vibrant red dress with the backdrop of a turquoise blue ocean, grabbed my attention because it was tagged as located in Mexico City, Mexico. BBB usually commands my attention with her colorful graphics and empowering poetry, but this was different. I was confused because I knew that there weren’t any beaches in DF, but I also know that many of us women don’t always like to immediately disclose our current location for safety concerns, especially for someone with such growing recognition like Kim. It suddenly hit me when I quickly remembered some of her recent posts in the past few months, “¡Kim está viviendo en México!” So of course I perused all of her recent posts, none of which I had realized where she actually was, or that she announced or explained outright what she was doing in Mexico with her partner Ana Sheila, the co-creator of Tamarindo Podcast. I was instantly determined to find out their story, as I felt it in my soul that they were living and traveling there to connect with their ancestral roots. And as a queer couple, how must that be for them? I had so many questions already! I can spot the radiating glow of not only empowered mujeres like them, but ones who further this empowerment by making the decision to go back to live in their motherland. Their story is a perfect addition to our “Conectando con Raíces Ancestrales” series, as we share inspiring stories of Latinxs who connect to their land in their own deeply personal way.

Kim’s Artesania Necklace

I had the distinct opportunity to interview Kim Guerra and Ana Sheila via Zoom while they were in their comfortable apartment in Coyoacán. Las Queer Enamoradas, their new joint IG account, provides a space to celebrate queer mujeres in love, the epitome of this perfect pair. I had to calm my fan-girl squeaking right off the bat. Down-to-Earth, free spirits, chingonas. I already knew I wanted to talk to them for hours about their experience in Mexico. Kim was wearing a gorgeous indigenous bright yellow beaded necklace sprinkled with other colors, reminding me of the Indigenous Colombian Embera Chami necklaces from my motherland. They sat comfortably next to each other, embracing with such burgeoning love for one another.

Kim and Ana are from the Los Angeles, California area, and met during the pandemic on a socially distant Zoom call. By January 2021, after dating 8 months, they both agreed that they wanted to live and explore México lindo y querido, something that was possible because of their ability to complete their work remotely. They took their dog Chanchito, and arrived in Mexico City (aka Distrito Federal, aka DF) with their adventurous yet COVID-conscious spirits ready to explore. Ana was actually born in DF, so going back was like a coming home to her roots to connect with her ancestors like her Dad who was raised there but unfortunately passed away just 2 years ago. She still has family in the Mexico City area, a tremendous resource to help navigate the city and travel outside of DF. Kim has family in Guadalajara, Jalisco who they plan to try to visit. Since arriving, they’ve explored 6 remarkable locations thus far: Tepoztlán, La Condesa, Coyoacán, Mazunte, Zipolite, and San Agustinillo.

Tepoztlán
Kim and Ana first visited a pueblo 1 hour outside of Mexico City, Tepoztlán, Morelos considered a Pueblo Mágico or Magical Town, awarded the label in Mexico for maintaining their original architecture, traditions, history and culture. These pueblos normally hold great relevance to the country’s history, and many times hold remarkable symbolism and legends. Tepoztlán is best known for the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec feathered serpent god. The town is also known for its weekly artesania market, and a hiking trail that leads to the Aztec Tepozteco pyramid.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, many of the public sites were closed, including the Pyramid,  but it was still possible to do and see many things out in nature and from afar. Kim and Ana spent the greater part of their short trip hiking. Kim describes this location as a perfect spiritual getaway to exercise on the trails, self care with massages, experience an indigenous Temazcal sweat lodge, and to learn about herbal practices via a tea cleanse. Ana described that she felt she connected spiritually with her deceased Abuela and Dad during the Temazcal experience, physically feeling their presence.

La Condesa
At this point, Kim and Ana were ready to figure out their long term living arrangement in the Mexico City area. They chose La Condesa, a colonial borough in DF just 4 km south of Zona Rosa. They booked an Airbnb only for a month to try it out. Although the area had its own charm, Kim and Ana felt that it catered towards the extranjero or tourist, and felt culturally disconnected. After one month living and working there, they decided they were interested in an area where they would be able to interact more closely with locals. This led them to the bohemian burrough of Coyoacán.

Coyoacán
I was not surprised that las Queer Enamoradas fell in love with the area that once was inhabited by Queer Diosa, Frida Kahlo. In Nahuatl, Coyoacán means ‘the place of coyotes’, known for its bohemian colonial style, open artesania market, and La Casa Azul – Museo Frida Kahlo. The burrough is located about 12 kms south of downtown Mexico City. They found an apartment, met with the landlords, and decided to secure 3 months up front. The place has a charming patio shared with neighboring apartments, and it provided a perfect comfortable space for both of them to work remotely. 

Anasheila and Kim at the Frida Kahlo Mural in front of the Mercado Artesanal de Coyoacán

They both reflected that they acknowledge their privilege in living there, expressed their gratitude, and explained that they saved money on rent and food alone by living there instead of expensive California. Even their black labrador, Chanchito, demonstrated having a higher quality of life as they enrolled him in incredibly affordable “doggy day care” every day during the week. As a dog mami myself, I was pleased to find out that Kim had also seen a psychiatrist to certify Chanchito as an “Emotional Support Animal”. She had to prepare to travel to Mexico with him by making sure he had his paperwork in order: a travel certificate, a health certificate with all his vaccines up-to-date, and the Psychiatrist’s note.

Kim explained how she purchased her gorgeous artisanal necklace at the local open market. I was in awe with some of the activities she already had planned, like that of posing as a muse for a circle of artists in the area. How much more of an experiencia Frida Kahlo can you get!? What was clear to me was that both Ana and Kim were interested in making deep connections in the area. They highlighted their desire to contribute to the economy there in a meaningful way, and these statements and intentions gave me escalofríos from the good vibrations. 

Mazunte, Zipolite & San Agustinillo
After a couple of months living the city life, Kim and Ana decided to plan a trip to the beaches of Oaxaca for 4 days. The flight was about 1 hour and 20 minutes from DF. Apart from relaxing in paradise, the most majestic part of the trip was whale-watching – so powerful for them, that both teared up at the sighting. Notably, they visited Zipolite as an LGBTQ-friendly nudist beach they felt welcomed to explore and be themselves. However, they observed that the area was overrun by White Hippies who have lived there long term but barely interact with the local population. 

Living and Traveling in Mexico as LGBTQ
Kim and Ana smiled bright as they explained to me how they loved taking up space as a couple. They walk around often holding hands, and they never feel unsafe. Furthermore, they did note that people do stop to stare often, including people who stop their conversation to stare, and people who nudge “mira” to point them out. Overall they feel proud to take up space as queer enamoradas, unapologetically queer and in love.

Living and Traveling Mexico during Pandemic Times
They made sure to get tested anytime before getting on a flight, wore masks when indoors and around place with people around, and followed the strict regulations enforced in Mexico. They avoided crowded places and destinations like Cancun, Cabo, Tulum, etc and made sure to stay at small, private boutique hotels to avoid having to deal with too many people.

I can’t wait to see where else this lovely pareja will travel to in their motherland. The opportunities are boundless, and I feel that they will make unforgettable connections, catalyze collaborations, and have life-changing experiences enough to write a book about. Let’s hope that in a couple of years we get the opportunity to interview them again to debrief. Who knows, maybe they will live in Mexico for the rest of their lives! May their story inspire you to connect with your native motherland in this unique and unforgettable way. ¡Que viva el amor, y que viva la oportunidad de conectar con tus raíces ancestrales!

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.”

Mijx: Sigue Tus Sueños, Listen to Your Gut and Go

 

 

by: Elisabet Raquel

Una noche, soñé con mi bisabuelo and only a couple of months later, I found myself by his side in the ranchito where he was born and recently returned to. This pueblo is where my paternal family originates from, a place that I had never known before, located in La Concepción, Jalisco, México. One hundred-and-four-years old, my bisabuelo returned back home to live out the rest of his years after having spent about two decades in the United States with us. A couple of days after I dreamt of him, I was scrolling on my Facebook newsfeed when I saw that a cousin of mine from México (that I had never met in person or really interacted online with) had posted pictures of her family celebrating his one hundred and fourth birthday with him. I commented on her post, mandándoles saludos a todos and asked her about him. She let me know that he was doing well – he still walks, plays cards, has an occasional beer, and even dances. She then invited me to her wedding that was to take place in the rancho and I accepted the invitation without hesitation. Two goals in my life were to meet my whole family and to attend a wedding in México. I was able to complete both aspirations at once with this experience.

Two months later, I arrived at the airport in Guadalajara, Jalisco where I met with my tío abuelo and tía abuela who flew in from Los Ángeles. We were picked up at the airport by my other prima (the sister of the bride whom I had never met before either) since she was heading from the city to the rancho for the wedding too. At the airport when I heard my name called, I looked to see her face for the first time and her resemblance to another cousin I have back home was so striking that I almost mistook her for this other prima. In that moment I knew that we were definitely related. During the two-hour car ride from the city to the rancho, I got to know my prima a bit and asked my tía abuela and tío abuelo about their stories and how they came to the U.S.. We see each other every now and then at family parties back in L.A., but I only recently became more fluent in Spanish and able to really converse with them. They are so pleased that I continue to dedicate myself to learning the language that allows us to communicate, and I am too, for it has granted me access to worlds across geographies and generations. They shared their stories with me guided by my never ending but careful curiosity and I learned so much about the sacrifices they made in the search of a better life and future for themselves and their families. Taking the risk of a lifetime by walking the desert from México to the U.S. in the 1970s, working as a janitor among other odd jobs in downtown L.A., my tío abuelo funded the studies of his youngest brother who chose to stay in the country. The first teacher arrived to the rancho in 1968 – that was only 50 years ago. Today the youngest brother of my abuelo’s siblings is a professional who studied at a university in the city, as are his children, and he is able to offer a comfortable lifestyle for his family in the rancho that is their origin and was able to throw an extravagant wedding for his daughter.

When we finally arrived to the rancho, family welcomed me with open arms and I seemed to be no stranger to them at all – at the immediate sight of me they told me that I am the mini version of one of my tía abuelas who has never returned back to the rancho since she had left to the U.S.. She was the first person in our family to leave in order to work as a caretaker, and she is the reason why we all ended up in L.A. as her younger siblings followed her steps and met her there later – I am honored to embody her gracefulness and courage. Everyone was excited to meet me – the little sobrina nieta from Los Ángeles they knew to speak only English a couple of years ago who now studies, travels, and speaks multiple languages – and I was just as excited to meet them too. I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity for the world – I took a week off from school and work and sacrificed weeks of sleep by late nights, early mornings, and drinking toxic amounts of caffeine to stay on track with my coursework. It was all worth it – this truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I knew I had so little time, so I had to make the most of it. Who knows when we will all be able to be together again in the same place on this earth. Each day I made the time to sit down with different family members and talk about our shared histories and personal stories. I also took down everybody’s general information to make a family tree. I was able to do this with my bisabuelo too, though because he is nearly deaf, I asked him one main question – to tell me the story of his life. I let him talk without interruptions while I simply listened and took notes. His memory is sharp and he spoke for a long time, giving me insight to his life and our shared family history even six generations back. This was such special and important work for me to do and all my family members were enthusiastic to share their stories and help me with the information for the family tree.

Between wedding errands and getting to know to family, the week flew by and the day of the wedding came. The wedding was incredible – elegantly set-up, in the open air, on a sunny day, accompanied by Mariachi serenades. There were 800 guests invited and about 1,000 people (or more) came to enjoy birria & cubitos to celebrate. Unexpectedly, mi prima la novia, whom I had just met a couple of days before, made me a bridesmaid in her court of 14 women who live on both sides of aquí y allá. We were all glammed up with hair, make-up, and nails done – all of which only cost me a total of about $60. It was the first time I ever got prettied up like this and I felt like a true princesa del pueblo. There was live music all night, food & drinks, beautiful decorations, and cakes. Everyone was dressed in their most elegant clothing and many different people came up to ask me who I was, who my father is, and who his father is. When I would tell them, they would respond “I haven’t seen your father in thirty years!”, or “I grew up with your abuelito!”. Everyone was a tía or tío or primx, from one generation or another. I even made friends with one person with whom we later realized at the trips’ end that our bisabuelas were sisters, making us related 4 generations ago – so we too are basically primas. My bisabuelo had told me that we were going to dance together at the wedding, but we both ended up falling asleep at the beginning of the night’s end.

The day after the wedding, a couple of hours before having to catch the bus, I said goodbye to all my family members. My bisabuelo gave me some dulces and a bendición –  I told him about the dream I had of him that brought me there in the first place. I cried in the garden, struck at the difference in which our families’ lives have unfolded though we share the same origin – this special place, the ranchito, la Concia, la Concepción Jalisco. My cousin, the bride, is now embarking on her own leaving of this origin place, moving to San Antonio, Tejas to live with her husband. She invited me to come visit her, and together with her siblings, we discussed the possibility of organizing a giant family reunion in the rancho for 2020. So many of us who live in the U.S. have never been to the rancho, and for the ones who grew up visiting every summer as kids, haven’t been back in over 30 years. We hope to unite our families across the two countries.

This coming home was truly una experiencia única and I am so glad my bisabuelo visited me in my dreams to call me home. We must follow these intuitive calls. Now is the time to listen closely to what our dreams, hearts, stomachs, and souls are telling us to do – to go home to our places of origin (if we have the privileges to do so because not everyone does) even if it is our first time. We musn’t be scared. Let us honor our families, our ancestors, and ourselves by knowing exactly who we are and where we come from. Also, there are people, earth, and culture that love us and have been waiting for us to reciprocate this love through action. People and places don’t last forever but what do are the seeds of love that we plant that can keep us connected to our homelands in life and in spirit.

 

 

 

Introducing: Elizabeth Garcia

Her name is Elizabeth Garcia, but she goes by Elisabet or Lisa. A young U.S. based multicultural Latina with family dispersed throughout the Americas, but originally from México and Chile. From East L.A. and coming from two consecutive generations of immigrant women, Lisa has travelled very little for just tourism, but more so for her studies and to meet her families, on a mission to connect herself to them and her roots. This mission has led Lisa on a journey of logging her families’ oral histories, and conducting genealogical research and ancestrological work, which she does as side projects that consume her interest in understanding and resolving intergenerational trauma on an international level. 

After two years in total of studying abroad in Brazil, México and Chile, this coming year she will be completing her fifth year in college and receiving her undergraduate degree in anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Lisa’s dreams and goals include becoming a novelist and published author, working to help others realize their right to move freely between invisible international borders, and someday coming back to permanently live in her countries of origin – ideally spending half the year in México, half the year in Chile and skipping winter altogether (or spending the winter holidays with her family in Southern Califoria, which is still skipping out on the cold). 

Follow her on IG @elisabet.raquel

Introducing: Zarina Citlali Guerrero

     Traveling has always been a part of Zarina’s life. Born in Mesa, Arizona to a Xicano, Indigenous American father and a Brazilian mother, traveling allowed Zarina to better understand her own diverse cultural background as well as experience many of the wonders the world has to offer. After graduating from college, Zarina moved to Los Angeles, CA to pursue a creative career, and also earned a Master’s in Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California.

            In addition to traveling, Zarina is passionate about writing stories, cultural preservation and sustainable fashion and lifestyle. Through her personal blog, Zarina shares stories about her experiences and culture, as well as tips for sustainable living. To learn more and follow Zarina’s adventure, follow her blog Estilo y Alma, or on IG @Zarina.Citlali.

Back to the Motherland

I haven’t been back to México in many years, since I was a preteen. The following is my account of happily exploring and learning more about my history and culture.

STARTING OFF IN THE YUCATAN:

PLAYA DEL CARMEN

Playa Del Carmen is located in the Yucatan Peninsula, pretty close to Cancun. The ocean waters tend to be much warmer on this side of Mexico since it’s near the Caribbean, and on my second day I took a group Catamaran snorkeling tour to visit Isla Mujeres. The small city itself is touristy but the beach is pretty.

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Snorkeling in Playa Del Carmen

The water is unimaginably bright blue! It was a bit cool in the morning but I felt wonderful in the hot sun. I stayed in a very affordable hostel in the center part of town, just a few minutes walk from the beach.

It’s a great place to sunbathe and lounge with a margarita, but if you are feeling adventurous you can windsurf, jet ski, kayak, or go diving. (If you’re into diving, check out the Underwater Art Museum!) 

Full day, bus group tours are available to the nearby  Chichen Itza, the famous site of Mayan ruins that’s a UNESCO site.  Seeing it in person was a dream come true for me because the ancient legends of perfectly aligned temples built by ancient aliens has always been fascinating. If you want something really unique, you can even swim with Whale Sharks nearby!

MERIDA

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Cathedral de Guadalupe

Merida surprised the heck out of me. I honestly hadn’t heard much about this town before going to visit and all I knew was that it had some ancient ruins. Naturally, I added it to my list as I made my way inland.

It’s a small town probably best known for the Mayan city of Uxmal. The ruins at Uxmal are an UNESCO-listed archaeological site in Yucanta, and you can take tours to the city during the day.

I had barely done much research before going to see Uxmal, and was in awe of this spectacular and HUGE place. It took all day to see the city of ruins. So glad I had comfy walking shoes with me.

Merida has an old world European feel and is often said to be the safest city in Mexico. Check out the Great Museum of the Mayan World for a massive collection of Mayan artifacts, or watch players reenact a Mayan Ball Game live in front of the Cathedral and Plaza Grande. The Pok Ta Pok, as it’s called, event in Merida is free and begins at 8 PM. If you enjoy leisure people watching, hang out at the Plaza Grande, a giant park in the middle of the square, where the city offers free wifi!

Local Dishes:

Cochinita Pibil – the most notable Yucatecan dish, this tender slow-cooked pork is marinated in sour-orange, achiote, and other spices. There is also a chicken version called pollo pibil.

Sopa de lima – a hearty soup loaded with shredded turkey in a deliciously tangy broth with lime juice.

PUEBLA

Being my mother’s hometown, I felt it was my duty to put this on the list of cities I passed through on my journey. It’s a colonial town with a rich culinary history. Well known for the Cathedral de Guadalupe, legend has it that after the construction of the Cathedral, engineers and architects wondered how to carry a bell of 8000 kilos. One morning, residents awoke to the news that it was already at the top. This legend is responsible for this beautiful city being called Puebla to los Angeles. I highly recommend a day trip to the nearby city of Cholula to visit all of the ancient churches in the city.

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Main square in Puebla

**TIP**

A great souvenir to pick up will be the famous Talavera tiles. I recommend supporting the small local street vendors, but be wary that your tiles are authentic by taking a coin and firmly striking the tile, if it’s legit it won’t break or scratch it.

LOCAL DISHES:

The MUST TRY local dish is definitely the Mole Poblano!

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Mole and mango con chili

Mole is a sauce made up of different spices and CHOCOLATE. It’s a fusion of Indigenous and European cultures. Mole is a time consuming and labor intensive dish to prepare that requires many ingredients such as different chiles, tomatoes, bread, tortilla, onion, garlic, chocolate, chicken stock, banana, lard, almonds, sesame seeds, salt and spices such as pepper, clove and anise.

Chiles en nogada is another popular dish which has a poblano chili pepper filled with “picadillo” and local ingredients such as “manzana panochera” and “pera de leche”. The chili is then dunked in egg batter and fried. Finally topped off with a creamy walnut sauce, pomegranate seeds and parsley. The dish’s three elements generate the colors of the Mexican flag: the green parsley, the white walnut sauce, and the red pomegranate seeds.

For a tasty street food try the Chalupas, lightly fried corn tortillas that are topped with salsa, onion and shredded chicken or beef. Typically an order comes with four chalupas.

MEXICO CITY

By now it’s been a couple weeks into my journey through Mexico and I have been traveling by bus with many stretches being over 20 hours long. Thankfully the buses are modern and well equipped with comfy seats and TVs.

La Ciudad is a wonderfully diverse and huge city with so much to see and EAT! My first couple of days there I stayed at an Airbnb near the central part of the city near transportation. The couple I stayed with provided a nice private room with a balcony in a local neighborhood. I spent my first night walking around the area and exploring where to find some yummy food and there happened to be a local outdoor market nearby with all kinds of goodies. They were mostly selling holiday decorations since it was the beginning of December, but they also had plenty of street food. I could smell the carne asada being grilled for tacos and the sweet smells of baked bread and my personal fav, churros.

Walking through the city brought back so many wonderful memories from my childhood. I was fortunate enough to have my older cousin meet me for a fun day of sightseeing.

We took a bus to the main square, the Zocalo. It was used as a ceremonial center in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. Today, it’s formal name is Plaza de la Constitucion. This morning, it was packed with tourists from all over the world and locals wandering around taking photos. Then we walked to begin our tour of some of the biggest museums in the area.

Tempo Mayor, according to Aztec legend, was considered the center of the universe, so naturally it was our next stop. A UNESCO site, the construction of this main temple first began in 1325 and it was rebuilt six times before being destroyed in the Spanish conquest. This site was thought to be the exact spot where the ancient god gave the Mexica people his sign that they had reached the promised land: an eagle on a nopal cactus with a snake in its mouth. The museum itself has a vast collection of artifacts for viewing. They also do short reenactments of certain ceremonies throughout the day.

The rest of my time in la ciudad, was spent visiting my cousins and telling them all about my travel adventures.

PUERTO VALLARTA

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Malecon in Puerto Vallarta

After all that culture and history I now wanted some more ocean views in my life so I headed to the port city of Puerto Vallarta. Time for some sun bathing and relaxation!

The beautiful beaches on the Pacific coast are less crowded than the Yucatan and there is nice mile long boardwalk to stroll down. It’s called the Malecon and it’s filled with lots of stores, restaurants and street performers. P.V. is well known to the LGBT community to be welcoming and feel at home to party. I certainly did.

Originally I planned a week long stay but I really felt at home there so I ended up renting an apartment, just a few minutes walk from the beach, for a month. I enjoyed the beach and has one of THE MOST BREATHTAKING SUNSETS I’d seen in a long time, but there were plenty of other things to do as well…

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Sunset in Puerto Vallarta

Whale watching, tequila tours, surfing, boat tours, snorkeling, shopping, festivals, and of course – day drinking.

I happened to arrive in P.V. on the week of a major holiday celebration – Guadalupe processions is a 12 day long event. On the 12th of December, “Guadalupe Day”, is when it all culminates and all those around the city walk in the parade to the main Cathedral de Guadalupe. There’s dancing and music and lots of celebrating.

Whale watching season is from December to Mid-March and I had the pleasure of going on my first whale watching tour. We saw about 7 different whales that day, it was amazing because we were close enough to not need binoculars.

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Whale watching in Puerto Vallarta

You mustn’t miss the shows! Even if you’re not a big fan of musicals or drag shows, just stop in for one show, I promise they won’t disappoint! If you are a fan of the gay culture, then you might even get to see a celebrity like Jay Rodriguez!

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Drag shows in P.V.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For an even less crowded and hippy feel, check out the tiny surfer town of Sayulita. You can take a bus from the mall in P.V. it’s about an hour ride to the beach town. Tell the driver where you want to stop and he will announce it once the bus arrives. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the center of the town, just follow the crowd and the smell of the ocean.

 

I had a blast getting in touch with my roots, drinking tequila, and gorging on all the fantastic local dishes. Have you been to México yet?

 

Featured photo credits to discoveryvallarta.com

An Immersive Summer in Mexico

Because my husband works from home, we decided to spend some of last summer away from the blistering heat of Austin. We figured as long as we had Wi-Fi, we’d be able to connect as if we had never left. In July, we picked up the family and set off for San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico.  

Summers in Austin are really hot, with daytime temperatures above 100 degrees. This past year, we decided we wanted a milder climate – and the experience of exploring a new city. We settled on San Miguel de Allende, a city located in central Mexico’s Guanajuato State. Surrounded by rolling hills, temperatures in the city are cool in the morning and rise throughout the day during the summer. And while July is the wettest month, we figured an occasional afternoon shower was still preferable to Austin’s high temperatures.

San Miguel has seen a boom in tourism recently, in part due to coverage in magazines like Travel + Leisure, which named San Miguel The World’s Best City in 2017. Its popularity can be traced back to the 1940s, when two art schools were established, Bellas Artes and Instituto Allende, which brought well-known artists and writers to the area. With a mild climate, a comparatively low cost of living, and a small-town feel, a large expat community now calls the city home. The colonial architecture is beautiful, and San Miguel is unique in its relative lack of streetlights. The narrow cobblestone streets, colorful doorways, and hidden courtyards make walking through town a pleasant daily activity.

So how did I prepare my kids for our big summer adventure? I didn’t! I told them we were going – and that was it! They’re young enough to have a limited concept of time, and I’ve discovered that if I don’t make a big deal out of something, neither will they. I did do some preliminary research into available camps (more on that below), but decided I didn’t want to make a final decision until we got there. We were winging it!

Housing and Costs

I was anxious about finding a place to rent, but locating a property through Airbnb was easy. The reviews, photos, and direct communication with property owners made the process smooth and pleasant. Once we made our reservation, our host was very helpful in recommending which airport to fly into, and she even recommended camps for my kids. I was really excited about staying in an authentic Mexican home – though I wondered how I would do without a dishwasher!

You may be wondering how we made our summer away possible from a financial perspective. I started by making a list of all of our monthly expenses, outside of our mortgage and monthly utilities, and compared the cost of one month in Austin to the cost of one month spent in Mexico. Because life in Mexico is simply much cheaper than in the United States, I realized we would actually come out ahead. Of course, if you want to offset some of your mortgage costs, there are also house swaps to consider, or renting out your home on Airbnb.

I can hear you asking, “But what about airfare?” We used our air miles for flights. If you’re able to plan ahead, there are definitely deals to be found on Frontier, Southwest, and Interjet. And because San Miguel is served by two regional airports, Del Bajio (BJX) and Queretaro (QRO), you also have more flight options.

 

 Traveling In and Around Mexico

Travel websites, the US consulate, and various blogs try to dissuade travelers from driving in Mexico. Lots of not-so-safe activities do occur, and driving between cities carries a risk. Since we decided that driving wouldn’t be part of our plan, I took to Facebook to try to learn the best way to get from Queretaro Airport to San Miguel de Allende.

I found two Facebook groups that were particularly helpful in planning our arrival and life in San Miguel: San Miguel de Allende Friends and San Miguel de Allende Kids. These groups suggested BajioGo as an airport shuttle service, but I was also connected to local drivers, and discovered the price difference was nominal. We paid $45 dollars for transit from the airport to San Miguel, with a driver who was both punctual and professional, and we were able to use our kids’ booster seats.

I also learned that the two most highly regarded bus lines in Mexico are Primer Plus and ETN. My sister-in-law, who lives in Mexico City, used Primer Plus when she came to visit us in San Miguel. (The bus lines are a good option if you’re traveling from city to city, but neither operates service to San Miguel directly from the airport.) She reported that the bus service, which ran about $30 per person for the four-hour ride, was comfortable, spacious, and even included a light snack.

When my cousin visited from the States, she elected to use BajioGo. The shuttle service picked her up from the airport (with a name sign), and brought her directly to my home in San Miguel de Allende. Because she was riding alone, the fare came to $100. (The company also provides tours and car rentals, and they operate a local office in San Miguel de Allende.) If you’re interested in BajioGo, I suggest calling them directly.

Communications

We didn’t set up a separate data plan for Mexico, which was rarely a problem, given that every coffee shop, store, and restaurant has free Wi-Fi. Tip: Be sure to learn to say, “¿Tienes Wi-Fi?” “¿Cual es la contraseña?” (Do you have Wi-Fi? What’s the password?) Those phrases will come in handy.

I highly recommend using WhatsApp as your primary means of communication on your smartphone. The phone and messaging app is the way most people communicate internationally because it doesn’t use data, and it’s the easiest way to message over Wi-Fi. (You can also create chat groups so that you can keep everyone back home updated on your vacation!)

Kids’ Camps in San Miguel

Those Facebook groups I mentioned were also instrumental in helping me find kids’ camp options in San Miguel. Two of the city’s largest hotels, the Rosewood and Real de Minas, operate kids’ camps. They also offer day passes for pool usage if you need some R&R.

 During the summer of 2017, the Rosewood hotel offered an art camp called Little Picasso (10-2pm). Real de Minas had an all day camp (9am-2pm) that offered a mix of arts and crafts, games, sports, and songs, and which included swim time.

Because my goal for our summer was for my children to use as much Spanish as possible, I decided to enroll them at Real de Minas when we discovered there would be more local kiddos in attendance. The hotel was also within walking distance from our house. My children enjoyed their three weeks there, and they definitely came away speaking more Spanish – and singing “Despacito,” which became the song of our summer!

I also highly recommend the art camp at Fabrica de Aurora, led by Hiru ArteStudios. (They also offer workshops for adults, which we didn’t take part in, but which looked amazing.) My children enjoyed their daily art classes (three hours/day), where they created clay sculptures, among other activities.

We selected camps based on the distance from our San Miguel “home,” daily duration, and cost. But there were many other camps that also looked fantastic, including Coyote Canyon, Gravityworks, Instituto de Arte y Español, Josefina School, and Luby Camp.

Getting Around San Miguel

Getting around in San Miguel de Allende is very easy: You either walk (Free!); ride the bus (7 pesos/person, children age 6 and under are free); or take a taxi (40 pesos anywhere inside San Miguel de Allende). Green taxis are easy to flag down during the day, though a little harder to hail in the evening. Streets are safe to walk even in the evenings, though as with anywhere, I recommend staying on well-lit streets. If you don’t want to walk and you can’t find a cab, Uber is also available. We used Uber for a few evenings out on the town, but most of the time we walked where we needed to go, or hailed a taxi from the main avenue.

Road Trips around San Miguel

There were times during our visit when we wanted to get out of the city and explore the outskirts of town. There are hot springs frequented by locals about 15 minutes outside of San Miguel, and we found that both Escondido Place and La Gruta were really nice. (Though the water at La Gruta was warmer.)

It’s possible to take a bus to the springs, but getting back can be a hassle. My recommendation is to book a round trip taxi ride for $15-$20. Our driver, Mara, was amazing.

I also recommend a visit to Santuario de Atotonilco, about 30 minutes outside of San Miguel by bus. If you want to go to Guanajuato City, which is about 1.5 hours away, you can book a tour with BajioGo or take a bus service to the city. Guanajuato City is very walkable, and all the main sites are close together. The only one you may have to take a taxi to is the Museum of Mummies – which we didn’t visit because my children freaked out when I mentioned it! We chose to use a driver to visit Guanajuato City, which ran about $200. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would consider either BajioGo or a bus ($15/person).

Canine Concerns

I knew spending a summer in a developing country would be eye-opening and likely give rise to a lot of questions from my kids. My children live in their comfy bubble here in the States, unaware of many of the harsher realities of the broader world. Their first surprise on arriving in Mexico was the number of dogs roaming the streets. They couldn’t understand why there were dogs out walking alone, or why I would tell them not to touch them. The reality is, the culture in Mexico is different from the U.S. when it comes to caring for pets. One big issue is the lack of sterilization. Even dogs with owners are free to roam, and they inevitably reproduce. There is a large effort to control the dog population, and sterilization services are offered at only 15 pesos (less than $1), but it has yet to become common practice.

However, even this issue had an upside for us during our stay. There was a dog in our neighborhood named Lucas. He was very friendly and spent his day walking up and down the main street. A couple of homes gave him regular handouts, and restaurants didn’t seem to mind his presence. Local diners knew him by name and would drop scraps for him on the floor, but when evening came, Lucas would head home. Even though he represented part of what we perceived as a problem, Lucas became a positive part of our experience.

Unfortunately, dog fights are still legal in Mexico, and many dogs are abused. You don’t often see people playing with dogs here; instead, they’re often perceived as a nuisance and shooed away. Being dog people, we decided to connect with a couple of canine rescue operations in San Miguel, and we got a glimpse of the ugly reality. I also joined a Facebook group of advocates and volunteers, Adopciones Perrunas SMA, who are addressing the issue. More support, education, and change is needed in Mexico to help these animals.

Privilege and Poverty

When living abroad, some challenges are greater than others. For our family, one of the biggest was seeing mothers and young, malnourished children begging for a couple of pesos in the streets. Poverty and lack of access to education are serious problems in Mexico, and we often felt that these women and children were entirely overlooked, as we watched people pass by without acknowledging them. While the United States has its own significant issues, this put into perspective how many of our seemingly important concerns are “first-world” problems.

When walking in the plaza one day, we encountered a young girl selling hand-crafted goods with her baby brother in tow. I invited her for an ice cream and later purchased a woven heart from her. When we sat down to chat, she told me she lived in Queretaro, where she did in fact go to school. She said she spent her summers in San Miguel, selling goods with her mom and taking care of her brother. This little girl didn’t have soccer practice or dance lessons on her schedule. Her job was to do her part to help her family survive.

Sometimes, it’s easy to look away and ignore what’s in front of you. But what do we teach our children when we do? I want my kids to appreciate everything they have – but also to learn humility. I want them to understand that we are all more alike than different, and that while some of us are more “fortunate” than others, we all deserve food, shelter, love, and an education. I hope to show – and inspire – acts of kindness, so that my kids might do the same, even if it’s simply in the form of an ice cream and a few minutes of conversation.

The People of San Miguel

I cannot say enough good things about the people of San Miguel de Allende. “¡Buen dia!” is the greeting people use when passing on the street. When you see the same person daily, you naturally develop a relationship. We stayed four blocks away from San Miguel’s main avenue, Ancha de San Antonio. But instead of a 10-minute walk from our house, it took 45 minutes to get there, because my children had developed relationships with everyone along the way.

Our mornings began with a stop at the bakery down the street, La Hogaza (off of Sterling Dickinson), which had the best almond croissants. My son would hand over his 20 pesos and take a croissant to go while we chatted with the owner. The next stop was the organic fruit stand where my daughter would ask to buy a banana. Next to that was the carpenter, a nice older man who always stopped to say hello, then the vet’s office, where we would greet the dogs.

Thirty minutes in, and we would still be a block away from the main avenue. The last block would go quickly, unless there were people gathered outside the yoga studio – which inevitably there were – and my daughter would start up a conversation. Our last stop was always El Mercado Sano, where we would purchase organic produce and a green shake to go. With their famous farmers’ market filled with great food, music, and authentic goods, El Mercado Sano is a great place to visit on the weekends.

Reflections on Community

In San Miguel, there were no self-checkouts and no drive-thrus. Instead, our one-on-one interactions allowed us to develop relationships within the community. And those daily interactions gave us so many opportunities to demonstrate to our children how to talk to adults with respect, and how to greet people and be polite.

While Mexico can be perceived as unsafe in certain ways – when there are four riders to one motorcycle, for example, or a mom holding three kids in the front seat of a car – we also saw another side to it: When an older gentleman offered to hold my kids while I tried to balance myself on the bus. Or when a man took off his belt to create a makeshift seatbelt for my child. And when a woman reached out to stop my daughter as she tried to run out of the museum. The authentic human interaction we experienced was perhaps the most important aspect of our trip.

Rules and regulations, modernization, and technological advancements can be great, but when they compromise human interaction, individuals and societies suffer. Since returning to the States, I’ve thought a lot about how we can take action to be more connected and develop our tribu – our tribe – right here at home. As a family, we’re working at it daily, one interaction at a time.

 

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Hermanas are the Best to Travel With

This is dedicated to my sister Michele Catarina Tracy Chavarriaga for her birthday

Gritting your teeth while sitting in the car during a long road trip, you would yell, “déjame en paz!” This was normal for you when we were young since I was usually the annoying one trying to bother you. You couldn’t sit still, loved shaking and moving in your seat…which we would find out was because you were holding your pee because Papi would get mad at us if we needed to use the restroom too many times.

We would play the road trip game “I spy with my little eye”, and sing “Cielito Lindo” or “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” in order to avoid annoying our parents with the constant restless question of “Are we there yet?” We would listen to Carlos Vives, Gypsy Kings, Gloria Estefan, Maná, all kinds of Classical music, and much more on the vehicle’s stereo system.

Despite all of the fights, the long drives, and the cranky attitudes, one of the best parts of growing up was traveling with my hermanita. There isn’t anyone else that has experienced the world almost the exact same way as me growing up. We both had the privilege of having humble parents that valued experiences and education rather than material things. I am so grateful for them.

Our trips were either to the park in our community, or to go visit familia in South America. We also moved all over the USA, lived in northern México, and visited our family in Colombia together. Every family trip was made together up until our college years. We were quite literally THE traveling hermanas.

Following are some of our most fond memorias I have explorando with you

Where visiting our Colombian family every couple of years was always a big deal:

Bogota 1995 - First time remembering Caro

The first time we remember meeting our prima Caro at the airport in Bogotá, Colombia in 1995

Living in Texas for almost 7 years meant exploring the U.S. Southwest:

 

Living in México for 2 years meant exploring a lot of this gorgeous country and receiving lots of visitors:

Moving up North to Michigan meant traveling became less frequent, but the few trips we did take became more extreme:

Bogota Airport Arrival 2001

The first time traveling to stay with family in Bogotá, Colombia for a whole summer without our parents was in 2001. This is our whole family greeting us at the airport.

 

Moving away from home means meeting up to explore together:

 

Michele, I truly hope we never stop adventuring together. When and where will our next trip together be? TE AMO MUCHO!

Anyone else LOVE traveling with their sister or siblings? Send us stories, photos, comments, etc!

I’m as Migratory as a Monarch Butterfly

Dear friends,

I wanted to share a journal entry I wrote in 2011 during a family visit to Morelia and Leon, Mexico. While I’m a little late, the message of migration still rings true, and most importantly, of embracing change. I’ve been back to Mexico a few times since, and one of the things I look forward to the most is staying with my grandma and enjoying her company and the delicious tacos, menudo, and pastries of León, Guanajuato.

When I think of my top ten favorite places in the world, I think of her kitchen. It’s a place where we can sit and peruse her family albums. It’s during one of our memory recovery sessions that I found one of my favorite pictures of my family (the cover photo). Having albums is a tradition I wish my generation continued with as well, but with facebook, we’re leaving our memories online, and who is to say they will be preserved there forever?

 

 

 

 

I’m dedicating this post to the Monarch butterflies which I was lucky enough to see in the state of Michoacan in November 2016. I was born in Morelia, Michoacan, but it wasn’t until I finished my Peace Corps Nicaragua service at age 26 that I ventured by land up to Mexico to finally witness the millions of butterflies swarming around and coating the trees in what at first glance looked like leaves–but no, they were butterflies.

 

 

 

Change has always been a part of my life. At three, I emigrated to Washington State. At 17, I moved across the country to Boston because that’s where it was the cheapest place for me to go to college. At 18, I came out as a lesbian. At 21, I became a U.S. citizen. At 24, I moved to Nicaragua. At 27, I swam at the edge of Victoria Falls, hiked Table Mountain in South Africa, and finally ran on Ipanema Beach in Brazil. I underwent top surgery due to gender dysphoria and am exploring the fluidity of my gender identity.  2017 was scary, but it taught me so much and I learned that I have much to look forward to. This month, I just took the GRE (after 6 years of self-doubt) and am considering getting an MBA.

 

This year will be just as stressful as it is exciting. I know it. The butterflies remind me of how easily they accept change and migrate with this intense, innate sense of purpose that I like to think that I share with them. My goal is to just accept things for how they are, and not as they should be, just as the Monarch butterflies do.

Enjoy!


December, 2011

I flew to Mexico and arrived in Morelia, Michoacan my birth town, at about midnight. Finally. It had been two years and I’m always restless to go back to Mexico. I stayed there for about 4 days and saw family, hiked, and basked in the sun that I missed so much. It was hard to believe that the beating, hot sun down here is the same one that teases us in Boston, where it begins to set at 3:30 pm.

One restaurant that stuck out to me was the San Miguelito, where my aunt and cousin went. It’s famous for basically being a museum to San Antonio, the saint that women turn over so that they can find boyfriends. There was even a life-sized one there, turned on its head, accompanied by several advertisements of women seeking good men to marry. All of my photos of the place seem annoyingly upside down. I looked at the menu and decided to try Huitlacoche, which is the cooked fungus that grows on corn. It’s a delicacy there, but after a bite of some in my quesadilla, it tasted and looked just like cooked spinach.

The day before I left, I took a stroll past the huge aqueduct through the historic downtown, which has been around since the 1500s. I really missed the concept of a town plaza where people go to sit and relax, as they listen to the constant flow of water ebbing from the fountains-or children crying loudly, asking their parents to buy them that unnecessarily large sized tweetie balloon. I was basking in the 70 degree weather, and everyone could tell I was not from there because I was making a conscious effort to sit in the sun while they wore their hats and long sleeved shirts. “No, I’m not cold,” I’d say to them. “Your winter is my summer!”

Then came the bus ride to Leon. I thought I loved to recline in my seat but these Mexicans had me beat. Halfway there, I turned and saw half of them knocked out, reclining one after another like dominos. There was a movie about a cave playing (the only actor I recognized was the man who blew the whistle at the end of Titanic in search of survivors) but I lost interest after the only female lead died. How Wellesley (my women’s college) of me.

My favorite part of the 2.5 hour long journey to León is the ride over Lake Cuitzeo. It’s this large expanse of grayish blueish water teeming with white herons all over it, and the road glides right through the middle of it. The environmental studies side of me wonders how badly contaminated it is at this point, as there weren’t many fishermen out there at all.

I should stop here in order to describe León in its deserved detail, but I’ll leave with one thought. This morning I heated up my egg, tortilla and salsa and broke my fast with abuelita (grandma). Somehow the topic of the monarch butterflies emerged, and she marveled at the way in which four generations of them migrate each year from Canada to Michoacan (the state I was just in).

She lamented at the fact that deforestation is leaving them with less places to land, and how blood has been lost over the land that these creatures deserve to call home. On a brighter note, she asked me “¿Como deben saber a donde ir, año tras año, desde Canada hasta aqui?¿Que maravilloso, no?” (“How do they know where to go, year after year, from Canada all the way here? Isn’t it marvelous?”).

Well, the monarch butterlfies are just like me, I thought. They always just want to come back to Mexico.

I don’t know why, but I’m as restless as any one of those Monarch butterflies to leave the North for a while and join family here and there, and ultimately to stay at my grandma’s house for a while. I thought by now this urge would die down, but it seems just as strong as ever.