Turning 22 may not be a special birthday, but there's something about it that makes you question a lot things. In the spirit of my 22nd birthday, I couldn't help think about all things I've learned in just 22 years.
Just a little background information; my dad was born in Mexico, came to the U.S. as a newborn and became a citizen when he was 25 years old. My mom was born and raised in the U.S. as were my grandparents and great grandparents, but my great-great grandparents did migrate here from Mexico. I am proud to classify myself as Hispanic but there are times when I feel like I’m living a double life and I don’t fit into either one.
I was raised in a Mexican-American household where I was taught to speak both Spanish and English but once I started elementary school, I lost my ability to speak Spanish altogether. I understand a fair amount of Spanish now but it’s still difficult for me to hold a conversation without stumbling over my words. It didn’t help that the elementary school I went to was majority Caucasian because then I started acted more American than Mexican. All of my little friends had pretty blonde hair and fair skin and I always wondered if things would have been different if I had childhood friends with long brown hair and tan skin like mine.
I thought my situation was unique but talking among my peers, so many of them also struggle to fit into both the American and Mexican lifestyle. I’ve realized that a good reason for this sense of isolation has a lot to do with not feeling good enough for either culture.
One of my favorite movies "Selena" (1997) written by Gregory Nava, includes dialogue that perfectly describes this issue of being Mexican-American and trying to please both cultures. Nava’s script includes a scene where the character Abraham Quintanilla (Selena’s father) is trying to have a very real conversation with his kids and what he says is spot on, "And we gotta prove to the Mexicans how Mexican we are, and we gotta prove to the Americans how American we are, we gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time. It's exhausting. Damn. Nobody knows how tough it is to be a Mexican American."
No one is ever pleased.
I chose to attend Cal State Long Beach because it is known to have a larger diversity of students and that is most definitely true but there is still this weird sense of cultural loneliness.
My first year in the dorms, there were hardly any other Hispanics around so I always felt out of place even though the friends I made were all very welcoming. There’s just something about meeting people with a similar background to yours that makes you feel connected. When I’m around my non-Hispanic friends, I speak English, eat wherever they want to eat even though I’m really craving my grandma's menudo and we only talk about topics that they’re familiar with like our favorite TV shows, celebrity drama, memes, etc.
When I’m with my family or with other Hispanics, I can understand if they have something to say in Spanish, we can talk for hours about the remarks Donald Trump has said about us, and we can all appreciate authentic home-cooked Mexican food.
Now what happens when these two worlds collide? I’ll tell you a little story about my most recent experience…
I love the Mexican culture I come from which is why I wanted to be part of clubs on my campus that celebrated Latino/Hispanic heritage. I am a member of The National Association of Hispanic Journalists and also the Latino Student Union. Both are amazing organizations and I am so happy to be a part of them but there are times when I don’t feel I am “Mexican enough” because my Spanish isn’t the best. Yes, I love being Hispanic but I never realized that wouldn’t be enough and that terrified me. Thankfully, everyone is so accepting despise my level of Spanish but It’s me who feels I cannot fully embrace my culture if I cannot speak the language.
If you’re going through a situation similar to mine and are also asking yourself “Where do I fit in if I’m exactly in-between two cultures?”, just know that knowledge is power. The more you know about where you come from, the more you will feel connected to your roots. Call your grandparents and ask them about a historical event they will never forget.
When your mom’s cooking a recipe she learned from her mom who learned from her mom, let her teach you. Learn all that you can about what your family went through to get you to where you are now so that when you do feel lost, you will always be reminded that you are exactly where you belong.
Dear College Football,
Hello. It’s me. As you know, our relationship with each other is something I cherish very much. We have laughed together, cried together, and made some unbelievable memories. I can even remember the first time we met and I heard your roar consume the air. You were my first love and I appreciate everything you have done for me.
I have to get some things off my chest, so I wrote you a letter to better express how I feel. We haven’t seen each other in a week and it's starting to affect me. It's not like us at all to go this long being apart.
Because I have not heard from you since last Monday, I feel it is appropriate that we take a break. It does not have to be a long break, but I think we can agree it would do us both some good. We can both use this time to focus on some other things and make sure we have our priorities in order.
I myself will spend the time we are apart focusing on my grades. I am not blaming you, but there is an odd pattern I have noticed, and it seems that my grades are lower when our time is spent together. Again, not blaming you, but that correlation of lower grades and our relationship is a little too coincidental.
While we are on a break I can also start that workout regimen I have been trying to get into. Whenever I am off for the weekend and I want to get out of the house to get some exercise, all you do is pull me back inside and force me to sit on the couch and do nothing. What we have is special, but this break we are taking will be good for me, and my health, as well.
My bank account will be grateful of this break, too, because (and I hate to say it) you are expensive. I can take this time to work on raising funds for when we decide to give this another shot. For both our sakes, you know next time will be way more enjoyable if I have more money to spend on us. Let me save up some money and I promise we will use it for more great moments together.
I love what we have and what our relationship is about, but you really do need to accept that we are taking a break. I can promise you right now we will be together again, but in order for that to work, this break has to happen.
Know that I will miss you every day as I work to focus on other things for now. I am doing this for you, but more importantly I am doing it for us. I’ll see you soon.
With hurricane season, it's always best to be prepared for it. It means having a plan for your family and home. Everyone in Louisiana should know the basics of preparing for hurricane season.
Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.Put together a disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate.If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads. Make a family emergency communication plan. Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications.To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word “alerts.”
Hurricane winds can cause trees and branches to fall, so before hurricane season trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe. Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property. Reduce property damage by retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors. Purchase a portable generator or install a generator for use during power outages. Remember to keep generators and other alternate power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture; and NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlets.Consider building a FEMA safe room or ICC 500 storm shelter designed for protection from high-winds and in locations above flooding levels.
Listen to local officials for updates and instructions. Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media. Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe. Watch out for debris and downed power lines. Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away. Avoid flood water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away. Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim. Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.
If you need any more information for preparing for a hurricane, please go to https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes for help. The website will tell you what to do.
On a weekend visit to Atlanta, I had to adjust to people being personable and congenial to me. Although I had lived in the South before, I had to get reacquainted with southern hospitality due to visiting from Brooklyn. Atlanta Uber drivers are very down to earth, offer snacks, and provide great genuine conversations. The opposite is the lay of the land from Brooklyn Uber drivers. The southern hospitality is provided not only from the Uber drivers, but restaurant servers, cashiers, or random people giving suggestions. Brooklyn is a dope and unique place to live, but short on the warmth more often than not.
I touched down on Friday night and visited the Clermont Lounge where Jack Black pulled up for some Pabst Blue Ribbon. The Clermont Lounge is the antithesis to the typical “Atlanta” strip club. You will not see Future or Gucci Mane in this spot like you would in Magic City. You are more likely to see Robert Deniro here. The crowd is an eclectic mix of bohemians, Patagonia wearers, professionals, and hipsters. The entertainers tend to be older. The inside of the venue had a country bar feel. Cameras are not allowed inside. On the outside of the establishment you can even grab a piece of barbecued deliciousness.
If brunch is your thing, Atlanta is the place. On Saturday I brunched at Buttermilk Kitchen in Buckhead. You can get some buttermilk pancakes or a buttermilk chicken biscuit with pepper jelly on the side. There may be a line before sitting down and feeding your face, but if you are into coffee grab a bottomless cup and wait before you show love to your taste buds.
Saturday night led me to The EARL. The EARL stands for East Atlanta Restaurant and Lounge. There I ran across the sounds of Athens, Georgia-based band Maserati. They are a based on instrumentals that remind me somewhat of Kraftwerk, Justice, and Daft Punk to a small extent.
Also on Saturday night within walking distance of The Earl is The Glenwood where I grabbed a beer and had some warm pecan pie. At this venue I took in the sights and sounds of a classic hip-hop night called “Boom Bap Saturday.” At the event one can partake in the classic hip-hop which ranges from The Roots, Fu-Schnickens, The Jungle Brothers, or even Ghostface Killah.
On Saturday evening I visited The Krog Street Market which is a great place to grab a Sweetwater beer, get a shot of whiskey, and watch your favorite college sports team battle it out on the gridiron. There are many brews on tap here and a very festive environment. I actually saw the club promoter from Episode 8 of Childish Gambino’s show “Atlanta.”
Not far from the Krog Street Market is the Atlanta Beltline which can connect one to many spots in the city of Atlanta which I visited also on Saturday evening. The Beltline is a great place to see views of “the city too busy to hate”, exercise, meet people, admire dope murals along the way and get to other places along the way. A location off the Atlanta Beltline is the Ponce City Market where you can grab a bite to eat, shop, sip your favorite brand of coffee, or have a festive social gathering. There are many eateries inside that can suit many different types of palates
Another brunch spot also in Buckhead called Another Broken Egg is where I patronized on a Sunday. There will be a line, but it is well worth the wait. You can feast here on an array of omelettes or eggs benedict. Personally, I got the savory shrimp and grits.
A Sunday stroll led me through Little Five Points where there are many unique boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, lounges, and music events going on. I had the pleasure of going to the Sevananda Natural Foods Market which is a co-op grocer that is community and consumer owned.
Aside from Beltline murals, there are also murals in Cabbagetown where I visited Sunday evening. There are many different murals inside the Krog Street tunnel. Around the corner from the tunnel are walls of murals by local artists. Shot out to the Instagram accounts of @thefairchild and @joekingatl who have art on these Cabbagetown walls.
On a cold fall day head to Taiyo Ramen where I had Sunday supper. You can get different types of ramen that range from kimchi beef to vegetable to duck. Add in your favorite flavor bomb for an extra kick.
After a good weekend, it was time to head back to Gotham. Although I felt tired I also appreciated the southern comfort I received from the “A.”
... in case you needed another excuse to eat empanadas and churros.
Like many of my wanderlust-ridden friends and family, I'll travel anywhere for the promise of good food. I once went to Thailand in pursuit of traditional massaman curry and Spain for authentic patatas bravas — neither of which let me down.
What usually ends up being the biggest letdown is coming home to miss the traditional, local cuisine. It may not have quite the same ambiance, but trying to cook authentic dishes at home can increase appreciation for the craft and culture behind them.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, making our favorite dishes from Hispanic countries has been top of mind — not to mention if you're anything like me, you've been looking for an excuse to eat more chilaquiles and arroz con maíz.
We could likely find hundreds of recipes online, but digging through the weeds to find one only to realize after you've bought the ingredients and cooked it to find out it's not turned well at all is one of the biggest culinary disappointments.
The recipes below are tried and true favorites from a blend of Hispanic countries, all paying homage to the culturally rich places they come from:
Naturally gluten-free, cheesy bread, think of it like Argentinian pizza.
The fried, stuffed, spicy dough can be easily adapted for vegan or vegetarian diets as a side or main dish with a variety of sauces.
Rice, fried plantain, and meat smothered in savory garlic and cumin.
Spicy beans stewed in a soothing blend of pumpkin, corn, and paprika make this the ultimate fall comfort food.
Cornflour-based pancakes fried and smothered in cheese make the perfect dinner party snack.
These buttery shortbread cookies with a tangy lime twist are begging to be dunked in some warm milk or tea.
Deep-fried carbs fit any mood, but these in particular pair idyllically with a garlic parsley dip or some seasoned rice.
The soul-soothing potato-based soup tastes so good, your guests will have no idea how easy it was to make.
The indulgent, creamy pancakes have a basis of crunchy potatoes blended with cheese, then fried and dunked in a savory peanut sauce.
This fluffy, bean-stuffed masa cake topped with fermented vegetables tastes so good, you won't believe it's actually super healthy, too.
These deep-fried sweet peppers stuffed with your choice of filling are made even more indulgent with the creamy tomato sauce you'll drizzle on top. Pair with some seasoned rice to make it a complete meal.
A fluffy, cookie-like pastry made from corn flour, rosquillas are a naturally gluten-free sweet-salty snack lover's dream.
These dough, fluffy balls are a coconut lover's dream
The beloved Mexican breakfast dish has been replicated many times over, but this recipe, in particular, is super authentic, right down to the seasonings and Mexican cream.
Creamy, tangy, and rich, this soup has an incredible depth of flavors with just a handful of ingredients you probably already have at home.
A traditional rice and beans dish eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Nicaragua, it's all about the seasonings with this one, often paired with eggs or steak and topped with cotija or a drizzle of tangy crema.
Soft potatoes smothered in a luxuriously creamy yet spicy cheese sauce, topped with an egg, you'd be crazy not to lick the plate — plus, you'll find yourself pairing the addictive sauce with nearly everything that comes out of your kitchen.
Probably everyone's go-to tapas dish at any Spanish restaurant or bar, this recipe, in particular, has a spicy brava sauce so good, you may want to double that part of the recipe.
The crispy, fried dough is so dangerously easy to whip in a couple of minutes, once you learn the recipe, you'll have to physically restrain yourself from making it all the time.
The preparation and ingredients of tamales vary in every region — Venezuelan hallacas are renowned for their tender filling, filled with a plethora of spices from cumin to cooking red wine served on fragrant plantain leaves.
1. Brittany Morgan, National Writer's Society
2. Radhi, SUNY Stony Brook
3. Kristen Haddox, Penn State University
4. Jennifer Kustanovich, SUNY Stony Brook
5. Clare Regelbrugge, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign