7 Superstitions My Hispanic Grandma Taught Me

7 Superstitions My Hispanic Grandma Taught Me

Superstitions are crazy, but Cuban ones are even crazier.
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My grandmother, Tita, like most Hispanic grandmothers, was full of superstitions and words of wisdom, often giving off negative vibes with good intentions. She didn't speak a lick of English, didn't drive well at all, and was the definition of a strong woman.

After she passed, I knew I needed to do everything I could to keep her memory alive. I tattooed her birthday on my ribs, along with a gardenia, which was her favorite flower, and I looked for her in everyday experiences. Today, I carry her with me on my skin and in my heart.

Her influence on my life is still here today, and it has changed the way I carry myself. Here are seven things my grandmother loved to tell me to do:

1. "Para de hacer muecas," "Stop making faces."

"Your face is going to get stuck like that" was her reasoning behind this one-liner. Even if I was just chewing the inside of my cheek, she'd pop up out of nowhere and scold me.

2. "Ten cuidado con el sereno," "Watch out for the moonlight."

Alright, so this one was a little crazy. My grandma believed that the moonlight would get you sick if you went outside at night without a hat on. To this day, I still cover my head when the full moon is out.

3. "No te bañes si esta lloviendo," "Don't shower during a rainstorm."

So my grandmother had this fear that I'd be electrocuted if I showered during a rainstorm, not even a thunder storm. I cannot tell you how many times I waited for a storm to pass before I showered.

4. "No jueges con la perra cuando tienes la regla," "Don't play with the dog when you're on your period."

According to my grandmother, the dog could smell the blood and would try to bite me... so I couldn't play with dogs while on my period. So sad when all I wanted to do was cuddle with my dog when I had cramps!

5. "No te bañes despues de comer," "Don't bathe right after you eat."

If you took a bath after eating, it would paralyze your digestion and you'd get sick. Please don't ask for the science behind this one.

6. "No te aquestes a dormir con el pelo mojado," "Don't go to sleep with your hair wet."

If I went to bed with my hair wet, I'd catch an awful cold. This might be the only thing my grandmother said that's somewhat accurate. Nowadays, I'm more worried about waking up with serious bedhead.

7. "No camines sin zapatos cuando tienes la regla," "Don't walk barefoot on your period."

Walking barefoot while on your period was one of the worst things you could do, supposedly. It would cause cramps because the floor would be too cold and your body couldn't handle it... I didn't get it either.

Cover Image Credit: Elisa Nuñez-Rodriguez

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The Only One

A perspective on race, representation, and achievement in timeless America.
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Sidenote: This story and its characters are fictional.

“Mama, are you excited to see the play tonight? It’s West Side Story, and Alejandra is going to be in it!” I said loudly. Dinner was just served, and the Chile Verde was being passed around the table. “Mijo, yes, she’s been annoying me all day. She texted me 10 times today, saying ‘Did you get the tickets?’.

I can tell that she’s looking forward to it, and I’m very happy for her” Mother remarked. “Well, I just don’t understand how we are paying all of this money for her to be unemployed right after she graduates” Father scowled. “You know, if she was studying to be a lawyer or a doctor or something useful, then I would be happy to pay, but for acting, I feel as if I’m just throwing my hard-earned money away.” “Ernesto, it’s her passion, let her follow her dreams. Wouldn’t you rather her be happy acting on stage and rehearsing lines than seeing her miserable with her face in a book in medical school?” Maria responded.

I watched my parents go through this argument at least once a week, with my sister off at college in the city. While my mother encouraged Alejandra to follow her dreams and pursue a shining acting career in NYC, my father annoyed her [Alejandra] about finances. I mean, I personally and completely support Alejandra with all my heart, and she is a great actress and singer. However, I do understand my father’s point.

Going to college in this day and age costs more than an arm and a leg, and to go into a field where the employment is not guaranteed… That’s worrying. Plus, as minorities, we’ve always needed to fight harder and climb harder for everything, and my father didn’t see acting or theatre as doing that.

After taking the one hour train from Queens and navigating the transfers, my parents and I arrived at the college. We paid the altogether $20 fee at the door to get in, in spite of my father’s hesitation to do so. We finally sat down in the small and creaky seats and waited for about 10 minutes for the show to start.

As soon as the curtain rose and the first number started, my father started laughing. The entire cast, excluding my sister (who was dancing in the back), looked Caucasian. I scrambled through the playbill, skimming with all my might to find last names like Hernandez, Gonzalez, Vega, Garcia, Rodriguez, Lopez; but I only found Brown, Miller, Wilson, Smith, Jones, and Davis.

Throughout the whole show I watched in disbelief how they tried to imitate my culture, with their periodically bad Spanish accents, unrefined “Latin” dancing, and just overall insulting generalization of what the Latin culture is as a whole; it honestly irritated me. Even in the “America” dance sequence, with the Caucasian Anita and the rest of the Shark Girls, I felt a pit in my stomach as they teased my sister, Rosalia, on stage; something about that didn’t feel right to me, even though it was just a play and they were just playing their parts.

Everyone roared as the curtain rose, and the actors took their bows. My parents and I clapped as well, not only out of respect for the actors but also because we could all see my sister was doing her best, trying to make the small part of Rosalia her own. However, just as we finished clapping, and speeches about the show were made, I looked around the room.

For the first time in my life, I felt uncomfortable in a theatre, as I saw that my parents and I were visibly the only minority in the room; I literally felt goosebumps down my arm. From my sister’s face on stage, I could see that it didn’t sit right with her either. My parents also noticed it, however, they were used to being one of the only minorities in the room. In their worlds of Business and Law, one must simply get used to it.

Then finally after Alejandra took her second bow as Rosalia, my father started cheering loudly for his daughter. He finally admired her for what she was doing and saw what she was trying to accomplish in the world of theatre. And though she would have a long way to go, he knew she could do it. If she could stand the white-washed version of West Side Story, then she could get through anything.

After telling her this after the show, he continued his speech. “The saddest part about America is that the higher you go in success, in any field as the matter of fact, the less diverse it becomes until you don’t see America anymore. Whenever I lead a board meeting at work, I am used to being the darkest in the room. Do you know how many times I’ve been asked to speak to the janitors in Spanish? It’s a sad reality that I’ve already accepted, but it’s also one that you, unfortunately, must accept as well.

There will always be those who will drop out or quit because they can’t handle the pressure, that weight of representing their people. But I now know that you can handle it, in whatever field you choose to be in. All I ask is to make us, your family proud, because what you do from here, will set the path for others to follow. Be a leader mija, I know you can do it”.

After his speech, we took the hour subway ride home. It was April 4th, 1968, and after the events that occurred that day, including the riots, I knew that change would be coming soon, and my sister was going to be a part of it.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay (HolgersFotografie)

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On Lunar New Year, Ignorance Is Different From Racism

We should call it "Lunar," not "Chinese," New Year.
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The words “Chinese New Year” used to frustrate me; why does the name that refers to a holiday that Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese people all celebrate have to pick out one group? Is this just another form of “all Asians are Chinese” racism? However, I realized recently that “Chinese New Year” isn’t racist at all. So let’s talk about baseball, the difference between racism and ignorance, and how I learned to change my perspective on the words “Chinese New Year.”

On October 27, 2017, during Game 3 of the 2017 World Series, Houston Astros’ rookie first baseman Yuli Gurriel pulled back the corners of his eyes, made the squinty-eyed gesture, and mouthed the word chinito, or “little Chinese Boy” in Spanish. He directed these at Yu Darvish, a Japanese pitcher for the opposing Los Angeles Dodgers, whom Gurriel had just hit a home run off of. TV cameras caught the gestures, which spread like wildfire over social media. When I read about this and watched the incriminating video on Twitter, I reacted like a majority of fans did; I got angry and posted several emotional Snapchat stories exclaiming how racist Gurriel was, how unacceptable these actions were, and how he was setting such a negative example for kids to emulate.

A few days later, I listened to a new episode from a podcast called “The Basketball Friends” that I regularly listen to. On this episode, entitled “Special Edition: A Debate About Racism,” two Asian-American sports writers, Ohm Youngmisuk and Prim Sripipat, discussed Yuli Gurriel’s actions. Youngmisuk talked about how his Guatemalan and Ecuadorian friends would call him chinito when he was growing up and how he had to point out that “[they] wouldn’t want to be called Mexican...so I don’t want to be referred to as the little Chinese boy because I’m not Chinese. I’m Thai... I think they understood that, and I understood they meant it positively, in an endearing way.”

Youngmisuk’s friends had grown up calling any Asian person chinito, and they didn’t really understand why it could be offensive to him. By making it applicable to their situation and how obviously ignorant it is to call all Hispanics Mexicans. Ths process of how Youngmisuk’s friends learned what was offensive and not gave me hope that Gurriel could learn why this word is so inappropriate. But as the podcast went on, I still viewed him as racist. Maybe it made me angrier because I’m insecure about my small eyes, but Gurriel’s squinty-eyes gesture offended countless other Asian-Americans, including Youngmisuk and Siripipat. As such, I continued listening to the podcast, still considering Gurriel a villain.

The podcast then brought on their second guest, Joon Lee. Lee explained how he had empathy for Gurriel, explaining that the huge change Gurriel went through in the past year—defecting from Cuba to play in the MLB—was incredibly difficult, especially since the culture in Cuba is so different from ours in the U.S. Lee then said that Gurriel’s sincere apology and remorse showed his willingness to learn and grow, and that it would be better for people, including me, to show empathy and learn from Gurriel rather than stay angry at him. And from this, I learned that Yuli Gurriel was ignorant in his use of offensive actions. He was still adjusting to the decorum that comes with being a member of our heterogeneous American culture and made a dumb mistake.

Yuli Gurriel, however racist his actions were, is not racist.

From Gurriel, I learned the difference between ignorance and racism and learned to forgive the former while remaining furious at the latter. I learned that I shouldn’t have been so angry at him, especially after reading his sincere apology after the game. I learned to forgive those who are only ignorant and not racist, and accept that, as Darvish tweeted out that night, “What he had done today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him.”

Just like Yuli Gurriel, the phrase “Chinese New Year” isn’t racist; it’s just ignorant. Your intention in calling it Chinese New Year isn’t to invalidate other celebrations or insinuate that all Asians are Chinese. Maybe you just didn’t know that other groups celebrate the same holiday, including Korea’s Seollal, Japan’s Shogatsu, and Vietnam’s Tết. And all of these reasons make sense, and it’s okay. But, like Ohm Youngmisuk said on his podcast, I’m not Chinese. I’m Korean. And using a more inclusive, open term is a very easy and simple adjustment, and it would mean a lot for people like me that feel frustrated by the term “Chinese New Year.”

So, Happy Lunar New Year 2018. Happy Year of the Dog.

Cover Image Credit: aotaro

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