¡Chinelas con estos huercos!

We had Nintento.

Kids today have Vine.

We had VCRs.

They have bluetooth and DVD players.

We had cassette tapes and then CD players.

They have iPods and iPhones.

We had beepers.

They have iPads and tablets.

We had watches with cartoons and superheroes on the wristbands.

They have smartwatches with cameras and touch screens.

Today, Edgar saw me playing with Vine and said “hey, is that Vine?  One of my friends in class is on Vine.  She asked me if I had a Vine too.”

Sigh… they’re in elementary school.

I know.  That’s kind of hypocritical of me considering how much I employ social media and networking sites on a constant basis… and considering the fact that sometimes Edgar is in my pictures and videos too.  But come on!  Elementary school!

I tried to deny it, but he didn’t believe me.

Oh well, he’s still not getting an account.

¡Ya mero!  ¡Nomás lo que me faltaba!  

Bilingual Living: Why Language and Culture Matter when Parenting

hola! by Salil Wadhavkar juanofwords

hola! by Salil Wadhavkar

It’s no secret that I’m not the most structured when it comes to teaching bilingualism.  We’ve talked about it before, in past blog posts.  It’s not that fluency in English and Spanish for Edgar is not important to me.  It is.  For more reasons than I can explain, pero desde luego not the least of which is his own personal benefit in the future.  I’ve read a lot of the statistics.  I’ve heard and discussed the meticulous methods one can ensure a child becomes bilingual.  They are great, believe me.  But I wish I could be that disciplined and good about sticking to a plan.

The reality is I’m not.  And the more time I’ve had to think about it the more I’ve come to the realization that I don’t want to be.  The thing is the more we’ve stopped pushing and instead have let Edgar discover and learn Spanish on his own, as well as understand his own culture and identity, the more he seems to have embraced all of it.  Of course, we do have the added benefit that a large part of our families only communicate with him in Spanish.  And that certainly cannot be discounted as anything less than a HUGE HELP!

Still, whatever your method, I honestly believe there are not any right or wrong answers when it comes to teaching bilingualism and culture to our children.  The important thing is to do it and to do it because it will help them out more than anyone else in their futures.

And speaking of that, here are some pretty cool statistics from Univision that I’ve been aching to find a reason to share for quite some time now:

  • 62% of Hispanics between the ages of 18-34 have a high to medium cultural connection
  • 66% self-identify as Hispanic
  • 29% of the total Hispanic population are defined as Millennials (18-34)
  • 1 out of every 5 Millennials today is Hispanic
  • By 2020 that number will be closer to 1 in 4

This was also the main subject of discussion at last month’s Austin AdFed Hispanic Marketing Symposium, which I had the pleasure of attending and speaking in.

Their study carries a lot of other cool data, but the message that resonated the most with me was this one: That language and culture are less about defining what it means to be Latino and more about connecting and communicating with each other in authentic ways.

Who knows what that will mean for Edgar’s generation in the years ahead?

No, I was not compensated by Univision or anyone else.  I’m just kind of a dork when it comes to statistics and data about Latino culture and identity. 

Edgar Chose Selena Quintanilla Perez For His Social Studies Project: We’ve Got Material For That!

selena quintanilla perez social studies project juanofwords

Se los prometo that he made the selection entirely on his own!  En serio.  For reals.  No, but like for reals.  Yesterday when I got home the first thing Edgar told me when I got off the truck was “guess who I picked for my social studies project?”  I was a little confused and wasn’t entirely sure what he was talking about.  “Selena.  Selena Perez!  I picked Selena Perez,” he shouted excitedly smiling and looking directly at me to evaluate my reaction.

“You mean Selena Quintanilla Perez,” I responded slyly.

“I know… I forgot the Quintanilla part when I put her name down on the sheet,” he responded.

I’m not even gonna try to front.  My immediate reaction – ya saben in my panzota – was excitement!  Immediately I thought about how relieved I was that he had not said Selena Gomez instead.  Y’all know what I’m talking about.  There are actually kiddos walking around right now thinking that Selena Gomez is the biggest Selena there ever was.  That’s just wrong!

“Selena was named after Selena Quintanilla Perez, mijito!”  That’s always my reaction to such an offense.  The kids just kind of stare at me blankly like “what?…”

My brain started working, and churning, y dando vueltas y vueltas.  “I interviewed her widower last year,” I bragged to Edgar.  He didn’t really understand the significance of that.  Later on Anjelica told me too who Edgar had selected for his school project.

“You have that Selena doll,” she says to me.  It’s true I do.  It’s a collector’s item.  Don’t laugh at me!  “He can take it to school…”

“NOOOOOOO!!!!! Not my Selena doll,” I yell.  Then I kind of embarrassingly retract and explain more calmly and “logically” why there ain’t no chance in hell my Selena doll is walking out of the house and into a school full of curious and careless huercos!  Who knows what those kids would do to my 17 year old Selena doll that’s still neatly stored away in her original box.  I also have tons of magazines from when she first passed away that I collected.

ADM!  I am ridiculous!

Oh well, at least Edgar knows Bidi Bidi Bom Bom has absolutely nothing to do with Selena Gomez!

Now to make his social studies project Reina del Tex-Mex worthy!

My Mamá Is Gangsta: Sending Tamales Via USPS!

my mama is gangsta tamales by mail usps juanofwords

Tamales by mail = Gangsta! Who knew??

I wouldn’t normally say this about my mother, much less in front of her, as she would either: a) be insulted by the use of the word “gangster” to describe her, even if it is in slang form and very loosely used; or b) kind of confused and probably insulted still too that any one of her seven children would find humor in the hard work and back aching process it takes to slave away making tamales for all of us to enjoy on special occasions.  My mother sometimes takes requests as to what kind of tamales everyone wants before she even starts to soak the elote leaves or prepare the masa.  There are the chicken tamales, the pork ones, the ground beef ones, the cheese only tamales, the cheese and jalapeño strips, and even as of late the corn only tamales.

Those corn only ones are pretty versatile as side dishes to all kinds of other main courses.  Think fajitas of beef, chicken and sausage with corn only tamales on the side, covered generously with a hefty serving of guacamole, pico de gallo and molcajete made salsa.

¡Mmmm… se me hace agua la boca!  But I digress.  My personal favorite are the cheese and jalapeño strip tamales.  They are especially tasty one day after originally being cooked in what we mexicanos like to refer to as the recalentada.  If you don’t know about the recalentada my suggestion to you is that you find out about it as soon as possible, preferably from a mexicano of course.  It’s basically reheating all of the delicious fixings from the major feast you just had more than likely a day or two ago, since we can’t ever seem to measure appropriate serving estimates for our gatherings or fiestas, and making a major feast out of that.  My own jefita always cooks up a storm when we are all coming over for any occasion.

She can send us all home with bags of food and still have leftovers for herself the entire week!

Anyway, back during the Christmas break at the end of last year, my was making tamales.  She had recruited the help of my sisters and anyone else able-bodied enough to spread masa across elote leaves with a spoon who just so happened to walk in her home at that precise moment, and of course had already stocked up on all of the different ingredients she would need to make everyone’s favorite kinds of tamales.  I, of course, happened to show up after all the tamales were done and refrigerated.  She would cook them the next day so that they would be fresh for all of us to enjoy.  This year, I promise my intention was to help.  It just didn’t work out that way… LOL!

Bueno, pues I thought it would be funny to gloat a little to my one sister who lives out of town and who was not going to be able to join us for our holiday meal this year.  If memory serves me correctly, I took a picture of the tamales and sent her a text message with the message “we’re about to pig out on mom’s tamales.”  I thought it was bien clever, albeit a bit mean too, lo reconozco – we’re like that with each other sometimes.  Pero el que se quedo boqueabierto fui yo.   Very nonchalantly and cool her response was simply “oh, we already ate the tamales my momma sent me!”

I couldn’t believe it!  Days earlier, before any of us had even begun thinking about what we were going to eat at mom’s house, my mother had made a special batch of tamales for my sister and mailed them to her!  Via the US postal service.

¡D-A-Y-U-M, Mamá is Gangsta!

That’s all I could think.  I think I text my sister that.  I know I told everyone of my brothers and sisters in the room just that.

I still think mamá is gangsta for doing that!

What wouldn’t a madrecita do for her children?

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Starting This Sunday PARADE Magazine Promises More Latinos In Their Weekly Issues

Parade magazine how latinos are changing america juanofwords

PARADE promises more Latinos in 2013.

Starting this Sunday, PARADE Magazine, the nation’s most widely read magazine in the US with a reported circulation of 32.5 million and readership of nearly 60 million, promises to feature more Latinos than ever on their weekly publication.

Why?  Why now?  You might ask. 

Because, as the press materials that were sent to me earlier today explain:  “As Barack Obama prepares to take the oath of office next week, it is worth reflecting on one of the major factors that impacted his reelection last November: the strong support of Hispanics, America’s largest minority group.  That’s why, starting with this Sunday’s issue and continuing throughout 2013, PARADE magazine will be exploring the ways Latinos are reshaping America in a series titled “PARADE of Voices.”

What do you think?   Are you looking forward to this new series in PARADE Magazine?

To kick off the special, the publication sat down for a roundtable discussion with San Antonio mayor Julián Castro; Republican state representative Larry Gonzales; Linda Alvarado, president and CEO of Denver’s Alvarado Construction and a co-owner of MLB’s Colorado Rockies; Cristina Jiménez, managing director of United We Dream; and NBC Today anchor Natalie Morales.

Here is a preview of what they had to say:

When I think of what Latinos are going to mean to the United States as the population grows, it’s going to be a replenishment of exactly what made the United States a great nation: a great work ethic, faith, aspiration, community. —Julián Castro

It’s about opportunity and access. Those are American ideas, not just Hispanic ideas. … What we’re looking for in America—like in baseball—is the opportunity to try [to find] that level playing field.” —Linda Alvarado

There’s a certain brain drain in this country. When these undocumented students are graduating in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—we want them to stay.  We need that kind of brain trust.” —Larry Gonzales

I grew up here as an undocumented student. Everything around me said, No. No scholarship, no fellowship, no internship, no access to higher education. What makes me proud is the community and my family around me really pushing me, with a lot of courage and faith, to continue moving forward.” —Cristina Jiménez

Will you be picking up an issue?

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Raising a Bilingual Kid: One Generation at a Time – Progress

Raising a Bilingual Kid One Generation at a Time Progress juanofwords


Every once in a while, if we’re lucky, and it doesn’t happen all that often at all, we kind of get a glimpse at ourselves that we normally wouldn’t otherwise see.  I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.  It happened to me just the other day.  A local university student was interviewing me for a class assignment about something that somehow had something to do with my background and my being a blogger now.  Don’t ask me why or how, I really don’t know.  Anyhow, I was running my mouth and blabbering about a million things all at once – come to think of it, I wonder if she was able to pull anything useful from her notes? – when it happened!

As I was saying what I was saying I realized just exactly what I was saying.

I started to choke up, but managed to play it off like it was just a cough or something in my throat.  We were talking on the phone so she couldn’t see that actually my eyes were in fact a little watery.

I think the question had started off with her asking me something about how I became a writer.  I told her how growing up my parents had always worked either outside (my dad) or cleaning houses (my mom), how for me gaining an office job like the ones my sisters had at the time was the ultimate level of success because it meant I didn’t have to clean houses or work outside, how I had always enjoyed writing since I was a kid but had long ago then told myself I would not be a starving artist trying to sell my words, and that in the irony of life that was precisely what I ended up doing after college.

I told her about how lucky I have been along the way to meet such compassionate and giving mentors.  How my entrepreneurial spirit is the product of my mother, and my love of words the product of my father.  Who despite both only having an elementary level education have taught me so much more about life than I could have ever learned in any classroom.

Then I started talking about Edgar.  It hit me in that moment that the plans he has for himself are so much more sophisticated than mine were at his age.  That the doors of opportunity – excuse my being corny for a bit – available to him are so much wider than they were for me.  That perhaps for him the limit is not an office job away from the sun, a broom or a mop… and here is where I kind of lost it for a bit.  I know.  Soy bien chillón.  It’s true.  I guess I had just never processed this truth, about him, about me, about our family.  It made me wonder what my own parents must have thought when they made this realization about us.  And in a very rare and honest way it kind of gave me an “aha” moment I hadn’t experienced before.

There will be brighter days ahead for him, for me, and for us!

There will be for you as well.

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