Frijoles and Piñatas and sweet, cinnamon Horchata – That’s what I’m made of

So, I know all little girls are supposed to be made of sugar and spice and everything nice… and maybe I was at one time… but I’m really more of a frijoles and piñatas and sweet, cinnamon horchata kinda girl. You get me? 24706_1382595317586_5855294_n

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I never got a Quinceañera party so when I turned 21 I had a Veintiunañera. 😉

I feel at home in Hispanic culture. It’s obvious. I am all about the gaudy decor, cheesy romance and dramatic emotion of the Spanish-speaking cultures of the world. It’s like I was born to be a part of it. (I am also all about that bass… but that’s another post for another time…) The Americana individualist and lover of witty, sarcastic humor in me can occasionally find itself at odds with the Latino lifestyle. But for the most part I am all in.

Afternoon naps in the hammock.

Fresh green mangoes with salt and pepper.

Getting dressed up in my platform shoes for a night out. Or an afternoon at the park. You know.

So I started thinking back to when it all began. It had to start somewhere. I have no Hispanic ancestors. I didn’t even grow up with Hispanic friends. (I had a pretty boring, monocultural childhood)

I had a professor who asked me one time, “You’re part Hispanic, right?” And there have been countless others who say things like, “Oh, let me guess where you’re from! Venezuela?”

So the earliest I can remember taking interest in Latino culture as a child was due to the following two influences:

1. Josefina Montoya, American Girl doll. I read these fictional chapter books and became intrigued by the lives of early Mexican Americans. 610YSYTYY9L 2. Feature Films for Families, Friendship’s Field movie from 1995 (I still cry when I watch it) 600full-friendship's-field-poster This movie is about a daughter of a farmer in the U.S. during the 1960’s befriending a Mexican boy who came to work the fields with his family. 

Then all of this inspired me to write (I was really into creative writing as a kid. This is what happens when you don’t have cable TV as a child) my own work of fiction called “Josie” when I was in fourth grade. I didn’t understand anything about immigration at that time but I wrote an innocent little tale of a girl who came from Mexico with her family to work. (And of course it was a love story because what 4th grader doesn’t know how to perfectly write a plot about a couple romantically meeting and overcoming their cultural differences? …what??)

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the actual, original manuscript, y’all, complete with illustrations on each page and some younger sibling’s pen scribbles

It ends with the two main characters marrying and living in a pretty little house they built in Mexico – on a hill by a waterfall. The usual.

Then I started to see the world beyond our neighbors over the border when I went on my first trip to Honduras at the age of 14. The rest is history!

As humorous and maybe strange as it was to always have had such a fascination with a distinct culture… I truly have felt the hand of God over my life as I look back on each of these defining moments. Things that stuck with me and shaped me to be who I am today – I would have never known where they would lead me!

Meanwhile (miscellaneous thoughts and updates)

Today marks my 3 month anniversary here in Honduras. On one hand, I feel like I have been here for a lifetime longer than that. On the other, I can’t believe that it is already November. I fear the time passing so fast in the next 7 months.

There are moments when someone back in the states mentions something like, “I heard that you’re living in Honduras,” as if it is unusual. And then I remember that it is… and all of a sudden I feel the novelty of it again. And it feels good. It feels good to know that I feel comfortable and at home here, so much so that I have to be reminded that it isn’t my home. Not really, not yet at least.

I am thinking and praying about the future. These grown-up decisions aren’t very fun and it is all kinda scary but it has prompted me to re-vamp my short-term and long-term goals. I just wanna do it all, is that so unreasonable??

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 Recently:

  • One of the girls at the children’s home where I am living turned fifteen a little over a month ago (ya know, the big quinceañera celebration they do) I helped with makeup and hair and photography of course. It was a fun little event.
  • My friend, Morgan, came to visit me! And we visited the biggest waterfall in Honduras. SO AWESOME. 
  • I traveled to Belize a few weeks ago and visited my Honduran-Panamanian-(and now)Belizean family that hosted me while in Panama last year. They moved to the small Central American country, Belize, a few months ago.

It was so interesting to learn about their distinct culture. I’ve never experienced the feeling of flying into a country on my own without having the slightest clue of what the people or customs are like. It felt pretty adventurous. They speak an interesting Caribbean Spanglish but most are bilingual in Spanish and English. They use the Belizean dollar but American dollars are accepted most places. The majority of the country is rural. Extremely rural. Like no McDonald’s, no movie theater, no mall rural.

It was a great trip but the next time I go I need to check out the islands. 😉 I hear that’s where it’s at!

Celebratory Weekend

This past weekend I attended two celebrations.

1. A girl who has been part of the mentorship program I’ve been involved in turned fifteen-years-old Saturday. As is customary in Guatemala, where her family is from, and in other Latin American countries, turning fifteen is a very important event in a young girl’s life. The quince años signifies coming into adulthood and this is usually marked by a large elaborate celebration, la fiesta de quinceañera. Oftentimes this event is as big of a deal and as expensive as a wedding. It takes months of planning and the guest list is extensive.

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La Quinceañera.

The quinceañera, birthday girl, was escorted by her cousin. One of her younger cousins asked me, “ella se va a casar con él?”

“Is she going to marry him?” It was a reasonable question and her confusion was understandable. 😉

I have heard the Perez family talk about this fiesta for at least a year. Mr. Perez and one of the quinceañera’s aunts shared with me this weekend how hard life was growing up in Guatemala. As children they weren’t even able to have toys. That is why it is so important to them that their children have better opportunities here in this country and are able to have things that they couldn’t. The love among the extended family members was evident and I knew that every small detail of that night’s celebration was a direct result of some hard sacrifices that many in her family had made. It was a dream day for sure.

2. Sunday morning, I attended a lovely wedding downtown that was held in a park. This was the most unique wedding I have been to and the most meaningful. The bride wanted to share this special day with friends, family… and strangers. I had never met her but I had heard her testimony. My grandmother has been involved in ministry with her and so I tagged along for the special occasion.

This ceremony was the most beautiful and symbolic picture of Christ’s redeeming love. I felt like I was reading the book of Hosea. The bride has an incredible story of how her broken past has been turned around and is now used to reach young girls who are in similar situations to that which she found herself years ago. She reaches out to those caught in sex trafficking and is opening a home for girls who want to get out of that lifestyle. Without even knowing her personally, I became emotional just thinking of that immense and scandalous grace.

After the ceremony, we shared soup and cake with the guests and passersby which included many who slept in that park. Each Sunday, she and her (now) husband minister to the homeless and bring them food. Times like these I sense that Jesus is more real than ever.