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!

The Latinx Traveler – A Latinx Heritage Month Virtual Presentation to TCS World Travel

I’ve never been invited to present anything like this before, which makes it exciting to witness in real time the way companies are taking issues of Diversity & Inclusion increasingly more serious. A representative from TCS World Travel located in Seattle, WA invited me to speak virtually to the company to commemorate Latinx Heritage Month on September 22nd, 2021. The part that I found most incredible was that she wanted me to present on the ideas from my article “Travel is Political.” Growing up Latina and as a WOC, especially during my college years, I was constantly told by mostly White Midwestern people I knew that I was being “too political” and “why do I always have to bring up race” when I brought up serious issues that impacted the most marginalized populations in our society, of diversity & inclusion, and/or of race & ethnicity. Usually they would say it in a way hinting at my moral inferiority, and/or to get me to drop the ‘taboo’ subject immediately. Never in a million years would I have thought someone non-BIPOC would be interested to hear my take on why travel is ‘political.’

The presentation started with an intro to the Latinx/Hispanic identity, data on the Latinx Wage gap, and market research on the Latinx Traveler. Unfortunately, the “Travel is Political” section was at the very end, and because of time constraints, I was forced to speed through. Nonetheless, I would love it if you would watch my presentation in the video below and give me some constructive feedback to improve.

I’m excited for and hoping for more opportunities like this in the future!

Introducing: Michelle Lizet Flores

Being a native Floridian and current resident, Michelle Lizet Flores is happy to have returned to the land where trees don’t sleep. She is a Cuban-American from Miami, a graduate of FSU and NYU creative writing programs, and currently works as a 5th grade teacher where she fosters the next generation of American writers. She has previously been published in magazines such as The Miami RailFreezeRay, and The Bookends Review. She has also traveled to over 16 countries and territories, 23 states, and is working on visiting every National Park in the US. You can find her on most social media with the name @shellyflowers. Find out more at michellelizetflores.com.

IMG_1289

Michelle, her daughter, and her cousin, Celene, before a hike to the farm.

Viajerx Spotlight: Lola Mendez – @MissFilatelista

Ever read travel stories which are so well written that you can clearly visualize and feel what the author is talking about?

Lola Mendez (@MissFilatelista )has been traveling the world as a writer since 2015 and it does not seem like she will be stopping any time soon. Her work has been featured in publications like InStyle, Lonely Planet, and Upworthy. Lola is ambitious, independent, and the ultimate go getter! I would not be surprised if we see her featured on Condé Nast and National Geographic next. I had the pleasure to chat with Lola and learn about what a bold decision, like leaving her NYC fashion job, has led her to!

L2

Lola in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I’m sure this is one of your most asked questions but I must begin this interview with it, what does Filatelista mean? And why did you choose that to be the name of your brand?

The day I decided to move to Spain I started a blog and social media profiles. I took out a pen and paper and started writing various travel-related words in English and Spanish. I wanted to create something that represented my Uruguayan-American heritage but also related to travel. I tried hard to avoid something cliche or offensive. I ended up thinking about how many pages I had left in my current passport which got me thinking about passport stamps. This led me to look up the Spanish name for a stamp collector, which is filatelista. In English a stamp collector is philatelist. The word for stamp collector is similar in other Latin languages, but funnily enough, hardly anyone knows what filatelista means, even native Spanish speakers! It’s quite an old-school word. This is the story of how Miss Filatelista was born!

The idea of stamp collecting and folding that into my brand identity is actually to honor both my maternal and paternal grandfathers. My maternal grandfather was a true stamp collector, of the postage variety and passport sort. He was also lifelong voyager which began during WWII when he was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He continued to travel after the war ended and I grew up hearing his stories of exotic places and adored the handicrafts he’d bring back. I traveled with my grandpa often, most memorably on a month-long cruise around Latin America during which I got to cross the Panama Canal with him, one of his favorite travel experience. My paternal father was a mailman, and although I didn’t know him as well, the symmetry in these two patriarchs of my families dealing with stamps felt important enough to honor it through my travels.

So essentially Miss Filatelista is about my collection of passport stamps. I do regret not going with something more simple and easy to say such as Livin’ La Vida Lola! But, if you want to say filatelista correctly you can watch the ‘Meet Lola’ highlighted story on my Instagram, @MissFilatelista.

Tell us a little about your background?

I was born in California but moved to Uruguay when I was a kid. We came back to the USA unexpectedly when my mom got pregnant with my sister and decided she wanted to give birth at home, Uruguay wasn’t even a decade out of a military dictatorship at the time and medical care wasn’t as excellent there as it is today. I spent most of my childhood in Kansas City with frequent trips back to Uruguay to see family.

Growing up in an international Uruguayan-American family exposed me to travel at a young age and sparked a sense of wanderlust which has percolated throughout my life. I left Kansas behind for good when I was 17 and moved to  Los Angeles. I never felt comfortable in the Midwest, it never felt like home, everything was just so…similar, there was no diversity. After just over a year in LA, I moved to NYC on a whim when I was 19. I became the woman I am today in NYC and enjoyed a fruitful career in the competitive NYC fashion industry. But, when I was 25 I couldn’t shake the feeling that my life wasn’t meant to be lived at a desk and that there was so much of the world that I needed to see. So, I resigned from the career I had dedicated a decade to and loved and made my way out into the great wide wild world.

How long have you been nomadic for?

I left New York City in March of 2015 and have been on the move ever since. The longest I stayed anywhere was 8 months in Madrid, Spain, which was also my first base and initial taste into living life overseas. Back then I would have never imagined my life would be nomadic the way it is now! I continue to surprise myself with the choices I make but they’ve mostly worked out so far!

How are you able to keep up a nomadic lifestyle?

Initially, I had a job in Spain, and then Italy. I had a few remote freelance communications clients but didn’t delve fully into freelance until about July of 2016. Slowly but surely my career started to shift from PR and marketing to journalism. Today I work as a full-time freelance reporter. I’ve written for various publications such as Lonely Planet, Explore Parts Unknown, World Nomads, Matador Network, and others. All of my published work can be seen on my blog’s published articles page. I usually write about travel, food, fashion, wellness, culture, etc.

What countries have you lived in?

I suppose that depends on how long you’d consider a stay to be living. I’ve spent extended time in many places. 4 months in Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2 months in Hoi An, Vietnam, 3 months in Jodhpur, India, 3 months in Florence, Italy, and 8 months in Madrid, Spain. Now I’m at a point where I prefer to travel for 2 months, then have a base for 2-3 months, and repeat.

From your background I get a sense that you grew up really close to family. I have mentioned the digital nomad lifestyle to my Latinx parents and they think I am insane! How does your family feel about you your travel lifestyle?

My parents have always been a bit underwhelmed by my professional decisions–they still ask if I want to go to law school! Luckily my sister is about to start law school this week. I’m so proud of her and am a bit grateful she’s taken that burden off of my shoulders. I left home when I was 17 with a full-ride to study fashion in LA, something they weren’t thrilled about and felt was a misuse of my intelligence. I worked hard to proved them wrong and thrived in my career as a fashion publicist–I had a team of 3-5 people who I managed and made a competitive salary when I was 25 and walked away from it all.

I don’t think any of my controversial decisions have ever been shocking to them. I’ve been financially independent since I left for college so I haven’t really been a financial burden for them as I’ve supported myself over the last 11 years which means they didn’t have much control over the decisions I made for myself once I left home. I think now they realize that I’m always going to march to the beat of my own drum and follow my passions. I’m fortunate that they raised me in a way that encouraged me to think critically and be able to find ways to monetize my dreams. They’ve taught me how to persevere and most importantly, the value of a dollar.  As they get older I do feel guilty about being away from home, but I know that they wouldn’t want to miss out on the life I’ve worked hard to create simply to be close to them. Fortunately, they’ve come to visit me in Europe and Asia and I plan to go back to the US in the fall of 2019 to spend a few weeks with them.

L4

Lola in Chiang Rai, Thailand

 

About your writing career, which topics do you write about that you think are important for people to check out?

My work centers around sustainable travel which also often parlays into culture and human rights. One of my favorite travel memories is the time I spent in the Chin state of Myanmar speaking to women with facial tattoos in Mindat. I’d heard so many awful rumors about the ink that I wanted to go there first hand to hear their stories, which was an incredible experience. I’m sharing the portraits I took in Mindat on Instagram now and think they’re some of my best work.

Lately, I’ve been trying to write from the heart more about certain things happening in the world that have impacted me, not all of which are travel related. In these personal pieces, I’ve written about my experience as a Latina and being the daughter of an immigrant, gun violence, sexual assault, women’s rights, and more. These have actually been my post read and shared posts. I’ve also started to get assigned more personal essays for mainstream publications so this form of writing has been really meaningful for me.

Suggested reading:

This is How My Immigrant Father Has Made Me a Mindful World Traveler

Why I Advocate for Women’s Rights Around the World

A Sexual Predator Changed the Way I Travel

Stop Questioning Me When I Say I Am Latina

This is the Awful Risk Threatening Travelers That Isn’t Being Discussed

Tell us more about your Responsible Travel Series. What does responsible travel mean to you? Why is it so important to be talked about?

Responsible travel is not a trend, but a necessity, if we want future generations to be able to explore the incredible corners of the earth that we’ve destroyed by disrespecting, polluting, and exploiting culture, people, animals, and environment.

I have so much to say about this that this year I’ve started a series Responsible Travel Challenges. Each month I write about 3,000 words dissecting one aspect of responsible travel. My hope is to make this topic more approachable and digestible by mainstream travelers who aren’t sure where to start when it comes to being more ethical as they explore. I’ll include links to the first seven below! I’d love to know if any readers have suggestions for other topics.

January: Ethical Animal Encounters

February: Booking Mindful Accommodation

March: Respect Local Culture

April: Ethical Beauty Products

May: Ethical Overseas Volunteering

June: Responsible Travel Operators

July: Plastic-Free Travel

L5

Lola in Chiang Rai, Thailand

What is your advice to other fellow Latinas whom may want to take on the digital nomad life but for whatever reason they have not taken the leap?

Congratulations! You recognize that you want to make a change in your life and that is a huge first step. So many people subconsciously know they aren’t happy with their lives but will never take the steps to make a major change as their fear full of leaving behind what’s comfortable for the unknown. You’re already halfway there to being a nomad by acknowledging that it’s something you want. My advice for aspiring Latina digital nomads is to find a niche within your industry. Hone in on your expertise and only take on clients that you feel passionate about. Without passion for the work you’re doing it will be impossible to skip out on a beach day or a night out to focus on remote projects.

Thank you Lola for sharing so much about your journey with us!

You can keep up with  Lola online at the following:

Instagram – @missfilatelista

Twitter – @missfilatelista

Facebook – @missfilatelista

Website: http://www.missfilatelista.com/

 

Introducing: Cepee Tabibian

Born a citizen of the world to a Colombian mother and Iranian father in West Virginia, Cepee spent all but 9 months of her childhood growing up in the Lone Star State and proudly considers herself a Native Texan. Although her parents were from South America and the Middle East, her passion for travel didn’t start until high school when she befriended a group of foreign exchange students.  Convincing her traditional Iranian father to let her travel solo the Netherlands for her 17th birthday was no easy feat. Little did they know that his support of her trip to visit a friend would become the most pivotal moment in her life. Her first trip abroad prompted a deep and magical love affair with travel and self-exploration that continues till this day, 20 years later.

Her education includes a bachelor’s in marketing and a master’s in international relations. In between her travels, she has worked in a variety of fields including marketing, sales, education, and travel. In 2015 she moved to Madrid, Spain and recently snagged her first remote job, a dream position that allows her to balance both work and travel. She is a running and yoga addict with a slight obsession for podcasts and social media. Cepee spends most of her free time building her brand Wanderlicious, a plant-based food + travel blog about Madrid and beyond. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, or reach her at (and send your podcast recommendations to) wanderlicious.es@gmail.com.

Introducing: Kayla Zapata Fory

Kayla is a native Californian of Afro-Colombian roots with family on four continents and cousins seemingly everywhere. Her passion for travel started after an amazing summer study abroad to Havana, Cuba. The more Kayla traveled, she realized the exceptional fluidity of identity within different cultures and environments. Kayla was inspired by these experiences to launch a bilingual travel blog called Tejiendo Experiences that curates content from the African diaspora and shares her adventures around the world.

Kayla is passionate about promoting international social enterprises and sustainable development. Since graduating with a B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University, Kayla now lives in Accra, Ghana where she works for an ethical fashion brand supporting local artisan communities. She hopes to apply for an MBA program to learn more about scaling social impact in emerging economies. When she is not solving international fashion crises, you can find Kayla drinking coconut water, hunting for new fabric deals or reading at the beach around Accra.

See her features on a vibe.com and melaninass.com and follow her on Instagram @kaylafory

20170305_121347(0)

Kayla in Busua Beach, Ghana

Introducing: Emely Roman

Emely R. is a first-generation immigrant from Costa Rica. She currently lives in Philadelphia, PA and loves food and masterfully done cocktails. She must watch anime and play video games every day – it’s her mantra. When not traveling, Emely is still traveling, exploring the Philly streets, looking for the next great treat in the many restaurants around town. Some things that she is passionate about are: Gender and LGBT rights and equality, cultural education and preservation, creative writing, photography and creating YouTube videos. You can find her many random musings about wine, Philly, her adventures, and thoughts on her blog: xcupcakezombiex.com

5b53787c30634320805e32b6bdb8397b

Emely in San Juan, Puerto Rico

 

Introducing: Raquel Cruz

Raquel Cruz is a Honduran-American and was born in Madrid, Spain. When she was still a baby, her parents moved to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She lived in Honduras until she was 18 years and she moved to Los Angeles, California for college. There, Raquel studied Fine Arts with a concentration in Drawing and Painting at Biola University.

Currently, she lives in Seoul, South Korea with her cat Chilaquil where she has lived and worked as an English teacher, and soon, Art teacher for the past 3 years. When she is on vacation she enjoys visiting new countries around Asia. She loves learning more about a continent that has always interested her and whose culture shares many things with the Hispanic culture she grew up in. You can usually find her hunting down new restaurants, eating her way through a city or checking out new galleries and museum exhibits. She likes to draw what she sees or am experiences to have a better connection and remember things better. Currently, she is working on creating more art, building her art portfolio and becoming more fluent in Korean.

Please follow Raquel on her blog the Cargo Collective and on IG @raaqueelc

 

Introducing: Danica Liriano

Danica is a 29 years old Dominican-Salvadorian, born and raised outside of New York City. Her love for travel began when she studied abroad in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Now as a NYC history teacher, she encourages her own students to go out of their comfort zones and explore other cultures as well. She taught Global History in New York City for four years before serving in Peace Corps Nicaragua for two years as a TEFL teacher trainer. Besides being passionate about education and travel, Danica also enjoys dance, photography, and FOOD! She loves food.