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!

La Hermandad of the Traveling Mochila fundraiser

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

Making the Mochila: A 3-Year Passion Project

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

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

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

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

The Fundraiser

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

Edermira worked on the mochilas this time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This includes:
-10 TL stickers

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

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

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

Travel is Political

I’m getting tired of people telling us to keep politics out of our page. Newsflash people, travel is political. Most things in life are inherently political, whether you want to accept it or not. Communities, schools, work, religious groups, sports, and even families all have some sort of political occurrences in their structures, interpersonal interactions, and more. Yes, it’s annoying and greatly concerning how much division and anger the uncomfortable topic of “politics” can create. We despise when people take sides, like sports teams, instead of seeing the need to help the most vulnerable or marginalized people.

So how is Travel Political? Let’s dive in:

1) Access to Resources: if a group has generational wealth or greater access to resources than other groups, they have greater access to leisure time to relax and more privilege and liberty to plan and pay for leisure like travel. Policies and laws established by politicians have historically impacted who has greater access to resources over others.

2) Immigration Status: people have traveled across oceans, mountains, and rivers to seek a better and/or safer life since the dawn of humanity. Animals do this to survive. It’s unfair to label someone as “illegal” and “criminal” when they may have had to uproot their whole family and life from one country due to war, poverty, environmental collapse, discrimination, disease, etc. The USA was founded by the colonization of European immigrant settlers who rampaged Native American communities and benefited financially from forced enslavement and migration of Africans. The USA has also created issues by meddling in other countries’ politics, like in Central America, or Palestine-Israel, of which has caused the huge waves of migration of refugees from those regions. People’s movement will never end so long as there are incentives and freedom to do so, whether it is for survival, or whether it’s for leisure. Topics of migration, immigration, refugees are travel-related and significantly impacted by policies and laws.

3) Saviour Complex: The idea of “saving poor unfortunate souls” is nothing new. Christianity wiped out indigenous tribes, their culture, and spiritual practices worldwide because they were deemed savage, inferior, and evil. European monarchies were closely allied with the Catholic and Protestant churches because together, they held greater power and wealth. Therefore, religion in those times was highly political. Nowadays, when most prefer to see a separation of Church and State, we still observe that people like to travel to feel better about themselves and get the feeling they are making a difference. Some examples of this can be seen by trips planned to convert Africans to Christianity or clean up trash with a non-religious organization. But how much are their efforts hurting versus helping and centering the more privileged person’s experience? Shouldn’t their wealth and efforts be used in political power to help sway policies that have a much more significant impact on people abroad? There are also highly political non-religious organizations that perpetuate the Saviour Complex, like the US government’s Peace Corps or the US Department Agency International Development (USAID). This mindset not only shapes a culture of what is seen as charitable giving through travel, but it also shapes foreign policy and laws abroad.

4) Passport Privilege: This one almost goes hand in hand with immigration status and access to resources. Are you a citizen who can afford to buy a passport and use it? Do you have legal status that allows you to receive a passport? Does your country passport allow entry into all countries? Or does your country’s standing in the world only grant you and your passport access to a select few countries? The citizens of Japan and Singapore have the most passport privileges as they are able to visit 189 countries each. In comparison, Afghanis have the worst passport privilege as they are only able to visit 25 countries. Politics shape the policies and laws that shape our passport privilege in the world.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that travel is political. We stand for ethical, sustainable, educational, and conscious traveling. We cannot stay silent about injustices, especially if they negatively impact our communities, vulnerable communities like BIPOC/ LGBTQ+ / low-income/ disabled, the environment, and ultimately ANY travel experience (whether forced immigration or for leisure). Many of us have a voice and ability to sway our political representatives, boycott unethical products or companies, and more. We remain a non-party affiliated platform with a strong desire to encourage holding our politicians accountable no matter which party – and even if one side needs accountability A LOT more often.

Did we miss any important subtopics to this topic? Please add your take on this subject in the comments below.

The Latina Helping Other Latinas Reach Their Remote Work Goals

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Remotifying!

Conexión Latinx: Salento Workshop Recap

It took us 8 months to finally recap on our amazing trip experience in Salento, Colombia with Scarlet Macaw Trips, but better late than never! Our first and so far only TL workshop collaboration trip was both a learning experience and a success. The following is a summary of TL’s role in the trip.

Our main objectives: Womxn were brought together for networking, womxn supporting womxn, healing, connecting with ancestral roots, using the fertile earth of Salento as a metaphor, and goal-setting during this space while exploring a new area together.

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TL offered 3 workshops in order to complete objectives and build relationships:

  1. Yoga Improvisation: Cici, a yoga-certified instructor, was unable to join the trip in the end, so Alexandra replaced her. Ale has more dance teaching experience, but she does like to incorporate Meditation and Yoga with dance. She didn’t know the names of poses, but she did great with everyone’s help! The important part is that the yoga session most definitely flowed. Ale made sure to do a lot of heart openers, bringing awareness to the fertile land with physical grounding exercises while on our bare feet or while our hands touched the ground, and releasing tension from our hips.
  2. Ancestral and Meditation Exercise: Ale lead into the grounding exercise where everyone was organized in a circle in order to face each other, and also the ancestral altar was organized with everyone’s items together in the middle. First, she lead them to close their eyes and perform a grounding exercise with the group where we imagine energy replenishing us from Pachamama with roots coming out of the bottom of our bodies, energy from above, and then we increased interconnectedness by passing the energy around the circle several times and counterclockwise too. After that, we each introduced ourselves and introduced each of our ancestors we wanted to bring on our journey. It was surprising to see each and every person share very intimate stories, therefore it was was wonderful to see that people felt it was a safe space to be vulnerable with each other. Due to unforeseen circumstances in the land of some of the greatest quantities of exotic flowers, we couldn’t find any sold in Salento! Next time: flowers and other ofrenda are a MUST!

flower-mandala

Example of a flower ofrenda we can organize for the next Ancestors & Meditation excercise

****Major Observations From This Exercise****

  • Adriana brought homemade essential oils for each person attending, like palo santo or lavender.
  • Lorena pointed out that there was exactly 11 of us together on the trip in total, a very spiritual number!
  • Michelle brought zodiac astrology sign erasers to share with everyone.
  • Two white butterflies entered our circle and flew through the middle, a symbol of purity (or a clean slate) and transformation.
  • Coincidentally, a total of 4 people who were in attendance are Therapists/Psychologists

3. Speed-Dating, Elevator Speech, & Goal-Setting Workshops: it was inspiring to see what people’s passion projects and future entrepreneurial goals were. Everyone shared, and also provided feedback for each other. We invoked our Ancestors in order to help further our goals. Some people even came-up with ideas during the workshops, including the recent #Healing4Healers trip initiative. Saturday, March 31st, coincidentally a Full Moon, people had to start reflecting on and writing their goals for a specific goal-setting workshop the next day Sunday. The full moon is a time to reflect on things that are blocking you from your goals. The new moon is perfect for setting goals, while the full moon is best for letting things go.

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Saturday, March 31st Full Moon

~*Nature Observations*~: There were two white butterflies that entered our grounding meditation circle and flew through the middle. Later on during that trip, Ale saw a white dove flying over us in the Salento pueblo plaza, a bird she had never seen in real life. Coincidentally, we had a full moon the night we had to reflect on what goals we wanted to set, reminding us that we needed to focus on letting go of the blockages. A lot of rainfall was observed, which served as a metaphorical cleansing for the group, and then finally on the last full day together, Sunday, we had the most amount of sun out of all of the days. Sahara kept saying she wanted to see a hummingbird the whole trip, and we finally saw one at the finca coffee tour. It was magical!

Our trip was unforgettable. Between the hike at Valle de Cocora, the leather making workshop, the finca coffee tour, and much much more, we had a wonderful time! We hope to work with Scarlet Macaw Trips again in the future, and/or provide more workshop collaborations.

Testimonials:
Through this workshop I was able to dedicate 5 days to myself and to support other women, no help create a no-judgement space and to be comfortable speaking my passions, dreams, fears, out loud. The workshops and the conversations with all the women help me realize that I can achieve certain things that seem unrealistic and silly before. Since the trip, I’ve been more verbal and enthusiastic about my intentions to start a business in Colombia, and people have been more receptive to this idea.”

“It was wonderful to meet others with similarities in background and identity markers and who also shared similar values. I appreciated the chance to candidly share about my personal and professional journeys and receive support from a group who really “got” it. I’m taking away a greater sense of confidence after experiencing that kind of support.”

“I think there was a perfect balance of planned activities and free time. I appreciate your efforts to make it fun and yet fruitful. I think there is so much potential for future workshops and other traveling ideas. Ale and Sahara, I have so much faith in your projects and cannot wait to see them blossom, I admire your work, tenacity and dedication to your passions and projects. This trip and all of its fruits are thanks to you […] THANK YOU.”

“It was really affordable which is great, I hope that you also get to make so profit from future trips because you are putting A LOT of labor into in. But in general the experience and the relationships I built no tiene precio!”

“You’ll see me at some of your future trips 🙂 and I hope that we also get to meet in other countries for workshops 🙂 Thank you for making this trip a reality! That’s in itself an inspiration to see a passion project modelled!”

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.

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

My Cuerpo de Paz Service Reflections

One of the proudest moments in my life was when I began Peace Corps training in August of 2016. I was still working on Travel Latina, however difficult it was to access the internet. I was ecstatic to share a very special article by Danica Liriano called My Narrative as an Afro-Latina Peace Corps Volunteer. Nothing could make me happier to publish and share this article on our blog and Instagram account. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I ran head-first into an unexpected comment made on her article that made me question everything I was doing. Name is changed to initials in order to protect identity:

“[DFV]: thanks for sharing this piece! i definitely validate the authors experiences, but i think their critique is incomplete, since they ultimately place faith and believe in the peace corps’ agenda. peace corps was a geopolitical tool designed by JFK and part of his alliance for progress to stifle anti-colonial revolution (following success of the cuban revolution) through reform that masked foreign, largely US, penetration of national economies and cultures across the third world, especially in latin america. i expect more of the author frankly. nameley, i expect them to expand their critique in order to indict the peace corps as a neocolonial, humanitarian, white saviour institution that inflicts violence on the countries and communities it interacts with. i believe we need to be more mindful of the need to center subaltern voices and stop believing the west can provide the answers, since it has only played, and continues to play, oppressor!”

I was floored. Not even 1 month into my service training, I questioned everything that I thought about my international development career, and everything that I thought about the Peace Corps (PC) ever since my Dad inspired me to do it. I began obsessing about the Saviour Complex, and how I could avoid any imperialistic, white supremacist, and/or neocolonial practices. I decided that I needed to try harder. To make sure to community organize and perform my work with integrity, with full support or in collaboration with the community, and with sustainability in mind. In international development, I truly believe that Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) is the best, most sustainable way to work with communities. The ABCD approach “builds on the assets that are found in the community and mobilizes individuals, associations, and institutions to come together to realize and develop their strengths. This makes it different to a Deficit-Based approach that focuses on identifying and servicing needs” (Nurture Development 1). In addition to that, it’s necessary to implement effective impact evaluation to see if an international development service or aid is actually working, or in order to look at ways to improve it.

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Our Peace Corps site placement in Dibulla, La Guajira

Moreover, there were even more problematic PC stereotypes to work through. There was a comment made when I announced on Facebook that I was about to leave the country to begin the PC:

AJ: Felicitaciones! Sabes que lo dicen Cuerpo de Pasear 
Translation: “Congratulations! You know they call it Travel Corps ”

Peace Corps in Spanish is Cuerpo de Paz. Pasear means “to travel or take a promenade out on the town”, so the play on words turns Paz, or “Peace”, into Pasear. In other words, my FB friend was poking fun at the infamous way that PC volunteers use their time in their assigned host-country to travel rather than actually do work.

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A bird friend in Montes de María, Colombia

I’m not going to lie, some of the most necessary trips I took out of my site placement was our official PC “Weekend Aways” to the nearby cities once a month. Never have I stared my privilege so closely in the face, and been so ruefully aware of my U.S. born & raised, U.S. passport-holding, light-skin Latinx, privileged self. Never had I felt so disgustingly and embarrassingly fragile, with my time in the PC having the worst impact on my mental health, which I believe had a direct negative impact on my immune system. I am wary to admit that my trips away were not only to “pasear”, rather to attend to my mental health. So much so, that I didn’t even realize the extent of my poor mental health state until PC doctors demanded that I pack up and leave site on an official ‘Medical Evacuation’ just two months shy of finishing my 27 month service.

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The view on Santa Marta and the Caribbean sea from Minca, Colombia

Don’t get me wrong, I got to know my motherland in a way that was unforgettable, especially when visiting other volunteers in their assigned sites, and visiting my family in Bogotá. Unlike most other volunteers, I did not have the budget to visit the USA as often as they did (read: once in 2 years, while most PCVs visited 2-3 times), which did not bother me too much except for being 30 meant I missed a lot of weddings. Unfortunately, I did observe that many fellow People of Color in the program struggled with not being able to visit their family as often as non-POC. WOC, in my cohort particularly, dropped out more often than everyone else, which I think is a sad, yet clear, sign at how difficult it is to complete service with little means or support, along with poor treatment. At the end of the day, most locals at my site did not have the resources to travel in-country the way we did, or even access to certain medical or psychological treatment that we had, and many times I allowed it to eat me up inside. On the other hand, I had to remind myself that I was a volunteer with no real income, and furthermore, that I could not have the pretentious saviour complex.

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A coffee farm outside of Salento, Colombia

I’m far from perfect, the Peace Corps is far from perfect, the United States is far from perfect, no one is perfect and EVERYONE is problematic. I’m willing to get called out, receive constructive criticism, and become a better volunteer and overall person. I needed to make sure to work in the best way that *I* could in order to avoid the aforementioned issues. At the end of the day, I taught, I had important conversations, I facilitated, I empowered, I led, and I did everything I could to share what I hope is beneficial knowledge in Dibulla, La Guajira with the utmost mindfulness. There is no true way to measure whether I was successful in any way, or whether I was *woke* enough. However, I feel satisfied when I observe the way people in Dibulla talk about race more positively, seeing past stereotypes (i.e. how US citizens are supposed to be), increasing savings and personal money management awareness, less bullying among students, and overall more interest in entrepreneurship. If I did anything at all, at least I am satisfied to know that I created connections that will last a lifetime.

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Trekking to a cacao chocolate farm in Montes de María, Colombia

Do I recommend the PC? It’s not for everyone, in fact I wonder if it’s best for those who have money or their families have it. Perhaps, it’s better for the fresh college grad who’s use to living on a very meagre budget. I was neither of these, but the reality is that I want an international development career, and the jobs I desired weren’t hiring me because I needed at least 2 years of fieldwork experience. It was my only option, even if I had giant student loans to attend to, even if I put my physical and mental health at risk. I was determined to struggle through it all, while trying my hardest to stay “woke”. The BEST part of it all? I got to explore my ancestral roots in a way even my family couldn’t guide me through.

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My altar honoring my ancestral roots in Colombia

 

Under the Knife and Under the Sun: Plastic Surgery While Traveling

By Camila Luna

Travel and plastic surgery. Yes, I traveled to where it’s sunny and warm (and cheap) and  got plastic surgery. Phew! There, I said it.

Like many of you, I, too, have struggled with self- image. I have looked in the mirror, and despite my best efforts to love myself, have told myself that I don’t like X, Y, or Z about my appearance. And, like many of you, some of those “imperfections” I’ve changed with surgery  (you’d be surprised who has had work done), and other “imperfections” I’ve learned to accept.

For me personally, two of my biggest insecurities have always been my nose and my breasts.  Nose too big, and boobs too small. I have done the typical girl things to cover up these insecurities with contour, bras, and flattering clothing, but at the end of the day when you’re bare-faced and the clothes come off, you’re faced with reality.

So, you’re probably wondering: what work did I get done, and how did I plan for it?

Well, I’ll start with the latter question. Honestly, I did not really plan for my surgery. I was at the beginning of my two-month trip through 3 countries and 5 cities, and I suddenly got the idea that while I’m in Colombia, I might as well get the work done that I have always wanted. Mind you, at the time of my decision, I was in San Francisco and was planning on being in Colombia in about a weeks’ time. I had one week to find a surgeon and schedule the surgery.  I was planning to target my two major “imperfections”: boobs and nose .

Right away I started researching surgeons in Bogota, and even reached out to a few, but then I remembered my dear cousin, who has had quite a bit of work done (and looks gorg, btw). My cousin put me in contact with her surgeon, who wrote me into her busy schedule right away.

While all of this was going on, I was sharing my plan with my close friends and family. Of course, all of them were trying to dissuade me from surgery, and my mom, being a scientist, managed to find some really interesting research on breast implants that ultimately changed my mind about getting them.

Although breast augmentation is one of the most common plastic surgeries in the world, it also has the potential for the most complications. Namely, breast implants are NOT lifetime devices. Although those silicone (or saline) pouches have improved dramatically through the years, if you’re in your 20’s, you must plan and expect to have AT LEAST one more surgery down the line to have the implants replaced or removed. Every extra year that you have your implants, the risk for complications increases, and after every additional surgery to fix or replace your old implants, the risk for complications increases even more. Top that off with the fact that I have a tendency for skin allergies (large foreign object implanted in body= unhappy allergies),  and I realized that breast implants were not worth the risk for me.  The absolute best case scenario was that they’d be great, last me a good 30 years, and then I’d need to have them replaced at age 50 (and then again at 80?? Uhhh…), and the worst case scenario is that I’d have a reaction and have to have them removed in a few years (with no guarantee of the condition of my natural breast skin & tissue after removal). I was not down for either scenario, so I decided against the boob job.

Rhinoplasty, on the other hand, is one-and-done. I knew the risk was not liking my new nose, and the usual complications that go along with surgery, but I trusted the surgeon based on the work she had done on my cousin, so I decided to go for it.

While in Bogota, I got all of my hospital tests done, booked my Airbnb for where I was going to stay (I wanted to have my own space while I was recovering instead of staying with family), and even arranged for someone to take care of me post-surgery when my mom wasn’t around.

I met with my surgeon three times before my operation to discuss what I wanted, what was realistic, and possible complications, and even got to sneak in a super intense 4-day trip to Medellin right before the surgery (not sure if my doctor would have advised that, honestly). Then, exactly one week after I landed in Colombia, I found myself laying on the stretcher, with an IV in my arm, ready for surgery. I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “This is a joke right now. Am I seriously doing this? Whoah this is crazy. Am I crazy? You’re kidding me right now”. Nevertheless, I went through with the surgery, and woke up 1.5 hours later groggy and with a big cast on my nose… but very happy nonetheless.

Buuut….as soon as I was able to look in the mirror after surgery, my heart sank. My nose was exactly the opposite of what I had wanted! 😱😱 It was upturned, and the space between my lip and nose looked huge. My lips looked thin. I looked like a cross between a chipmunk and a pig (pigmunk). I knew that the way my nose looked then was not going to be the final product and that my cheeks were all types of inflamed, but it was really hard to stay positive.

In the first few days after surgery, I think it’s safe to say I was depressed. Surprisingly, my nose did not hurt at all during the entire recovery process (although my doctor had cut both bone and cartilage), but emotionally, I was not in a good place. My face still looked like a pigmunk, my cast looked crooked, I couldn’t sleep because my nose was so stuffy, and now I was starting to get bruising under my eyes. I was terrified that I was going to have the nose of my nightmares.

I am generally a person who is positive and in a good mood. Even if I’m having a hard time at work or if I get my heart broken, I just cry it out, read some books on inner peace, and then I bounce right back to my normal, happy-go-lucky self (yeah, for my exes reading this… even if you screwed me over, I was SO over you in just a few days 💁💁💁😂) . But post-surgery, there were some days when I just wanted to lay in bed all day and feel sorry for myself. It was a kind of sadness/emotional numbness I hadn’t felt before.

Thoughts whirled in my head. Was I succumbing to unrealistic European beauty standards that weren’t even for me?  Was I minimizing my African and Muisca roots? Was I betraying everything I stood for? Do I love myself? Can I love myself and still risk my health by unnecessarily going under the knife???? And if I don’t love myself… will I ever be able to truly, deeply love anyone else??????

I didn’t want to see anyone, or even walk around the block as my doctor had instructed. I just wanted to lay in bed and think about how bad I looked and then judge myself for being so vain (talk about vortex of self-pity😩) Regardless, I had promised myself that even if I didn’t like my new nose and looked like a pigmunk for the rest of my life, I was not going to get revision rhinoplasty and would just accept myself the way I was. I had PROMISED myself that my nose job was one-and-done.

One week after my surgery, when the highlight of my day was being  able to breathe out of one nostril, I had my first follow-up appointment with my doctor. She removed my cast and immediately I started smiling- under the ugly cast and the tape holding up the tip of my nose, I saw my dream nose! It was smaller, had no bump, and still had the characteristics of my old nose that I liked: it was still long, like my Muisca ancestors, and still round at the tip, like my African ancestors. My new nose was perfect for me, and I knew that through the recovery it was going to look even better!

My doctor put on a new, smaller plastic cast on my nose, and for the first time in a week, I put on some lipstick, dressed up in my cute clothes and even left my house to socialize with family and close friends. Finally I was feeling like myself again!

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Before the procedure I had told myself that my surgery was going to be top secret. I felt ashamed, felt like a huge hypocrite (body- positive feminists don’t get plastic surgery?? 😰), and matter of fact, my biggest fear was returning to Shanghai (where I currently live) and having people realize that I had had my nose done. But with time, I found myself telling almost everyone around me. I told almost everyone except for my three best friends in New York who I would see in two weeks. These girls, who have known me for about a decade, were going to be the test reaction of my nose job. I was excited and nervous.

When I finally arrived to New York about two weeks after my surgery, no one noticed a thing. When I told my friends, all I heard was … *crickets*…. “wait, really?” “but where?” “but what was wrong with your nose?” “did it hurt?”. No one noticed a thing. My family joked that I had wasted my money since the difference was unnoticeable to others.

Despite this extremely anticlimactic reaction from my friends, I am very happy with my surgery and don’t regret it at all. When I look in the mirror, my nose is exactly the way I want, and I can absolutely notice the difference. I still contour my nose, but now it looks just the way I want when I take off my makeup. The difference is very subtle and natural, and I feel much prettier.

Now, for the big question many of you may be wondering about: how much did my surgery cost? The surgeon fee cost the equivalent of about $1,300, but with the hospital fees, anesthesia, medicine, etc, I would say the whole surgery cost about $2,000. This is freaking cheap AF. I paid it in USD, which probably thrilled my doctor.

I have decided to be open about my surgery because honestly, surgery is serious, it was as much an emotional journey as a physical one, and it is an experience that has changed me both inside and out. I know there is a lot of stigma and judgment around people who get work done, especially in the US. But honestly, I feel more comfortable and free when I’m open with others- even if they disapprove. I don’t want to normalize plastic surgery, but I want those of us who have chosen to go under the knife to be included in the self-love dialogue, just like everyone else. If you’re reading this and thinking terrible things about me (or even feeling “concern”/ “pity” for me), it’s ok, I honestly don’t mind- maybe you also secretly want to get some work done… hahaha 👀🙊.  Also, I understand it can be hard to wrap your mind around the fact that someone would get surgery just for vanity.

Either way I’m still me, and even though I changed one “imperfection” with surgery, I’m still on the journey of learning to tolerate/love my body. Will I have more invasive plastic surgery in the future? Honestly, I hope not. I’m happy with what I’ve done and don’t want more. Will I get little things like fillers or Botox? Honestly…. that’s a definite yes.

Mostly, I want to continue this journey of body acceptance/enhancement/modification with a prayer for myself and everyone reading this:

 “Universe, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

 

Oh, and one last thing. If you’re considering surgery while traveling, here’s what you should know:

10 things to know before getting plastic surgery while traveling:

  1. Unresolvable cognitive dissonance. But… but…I’m a body- positive, intersectional feminist who barely shaves her legs… how can I get plastic surgery??????
  2. No flying for at least 10 days after surgery. Nope, ya can’t leave right away! And if you’re in a mountainous place like Bogota, you need to be in the city at least three days before surgery while your body adjusts to the altitude.
  3. No sun. I know, the title is misleading. No matter how beautiful the beach is near you, after surgery, you need to stay out of the sun to prevent swelling and possibly permanent discoloration.
  4. You will probably feel depressed. This was big for me. You will probably be in your room, in pain/uncomfortable, questioning your life choices/ beauty standards/mental health/sanity, and feeling ugly as hell for at least a week after surgeryThis can be quite isolating, and you might be thinking of all the cool things you could be doing if you weren’t suffering from your own vanity.
  5. Kissing will hurt, and you need to curb the hanky-panky and any other form of exercise. Sometimes flings & things happen while traveling, so tell your new amiguito to chill because you just had surgery and can’t get too crazy with any type of physical activity.
  6. With your cast on in Latin America, people will assume you got a nose job. With your cast on in the US, people will assume you had an accident… LOL
  7. You will think people are judging you, and they probably are, but guuurl (or boy or they/them)….. do you anyways.
  8. No alcohol in the days before and no alcohol for at least two weeks after surgery. Yep, gotta curb the fiesta.
  9. You should definitely speak the local language, or find a doctor who speaks excellent English. Clear communication with your surgeon is SO important to get the results you want.
  10. RESULTS ARE NOT GUARANTEED!! There is a possibility you will not like your results or that there will be complications. Be sure you are very, VERY aware of this and be emotionally prepared to deal with this kind of situation if it happens.

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When I posted this photo from my room in Bogota, no one would have guessed I was laying in bed with a cast on my nose.

Check out more of Camila’s articles on the Travel Latina website, and check out her travel blog in photographs at @camila.lunaaaaa on Instagram!