Growing up I looked forward to enjoying anything that included dulce de leche, which wasn’t always easy to find. Fast forward 20- plus years and you can find dulce de leche in everything from Haagen Dazs ice cream to Starbucks coffee. But there are still many “Latin” favorites that haven’t made it mainstream yet. For my fiancé and me, one of those yummy treats is guava bread. I love it, he lives for it. If you’re not too familiar with guava, don’t worry you’re not alone. Guava is an exotic fruit that is quite popular in South America and tastes very similar to strawberries. Last winter, we decided it would be fun to bake our own guava bread. Sure it would be fun, but where would we start. Well, when in doubt you hop online for help. That’s where we were rescued thanks to several Hispanic blogs that proudly shared their recipes. From blogs written by Colombians to Cuban Americans, I read several recipes that gave me tons of ideas. Some suggested adding pineapples or white cheese; others swore cream cheese made it better. There were strong opinions on the use of guava paste rather than guava jelly. Nearly a year later, we’re still reinventing the recipe and changing ingredients to make it our own. I’ve come to realize it’s important to expand on the old and try new things. Much as recipes help unite us and keep us connected to our Hispanic heritage, so do nursery rhymes. I vividly remember my grandmother putting my brother to sleep and singing him the classic Spanish nursery song, “Los Pollitos Dicen.” Now, as la tia (aunt) to my sister’s two little boys, it’s important to me to expose them to our Hispanic culture. When I’m tasked with babysitting duties, I make it a point to speak to my nephews in Spanish. But singing them the one Spanish nursery song I know would get old pretty fast. So, once again I looked to my Hispanic bloggers and did a little research on what bilingual parents were doing to make teaching Spanish fun. I found many Latina mommy blogs that offered a wealth of resources and tips. It’s on one of these blogs that I found, what would soon become a family favorite: “La Gallina Turuleca.” I dare you to watch just a few seconds of this video and not laugh! Needless to say, my nephews loved it as much as I did. It’s not only fun to sing, it also helps them learn their numbers, all while practicing their Spanish. For me, being bilingual has led to many opportunities — both professionally and personally. In many ways it has also provided me with a different perspective on life. I learned early on that family isn’t limited to just those who you see everyday. Family can include people you may only see once or twice a year, just as long as they care about you. Every summer my parents and us three kids would take a two-week vacation to Ecuador. My earliest memory of our yearly visits is being 6 years old and sitting in a crowded car next to my sister as we drove away from the airport. I remember feeling overwhelmed and awkward staring at these “cousins” who to me were just random girls I didn’t remember actually meeting before. My sister, being older (she was a 10-year-old at the time), did remember them and was eagerly catching up with them. In an effort to include me, one of my cousins asked, in Spanish, who was my favorite New Kid on the Block. I was shocked and turned to my sister and said, “They have New Kids on the Block here?” How silly of me to ever doubt Jordan, Jonathan, Joey, Donnie, and Danny’s world-wide influence. But just like that, we were all laughing and talking. For those two weeks every year, Spanish helped me communicate and create memories with my extended family. Whether it’s for relationships, work, travel or another aspect of your life, I believe learning a second language will broaden your horizons. In fact one of our partners at C360 has recently enrolled her 8 year old son in Spanish classes as an afterschool activity. Not a bad skill to have considering Spanish is the second-most widely spoken language in the world. Which, brings me to a great quote from Nelson Mandela that really speaks to me and can help describe the bond Hispanics share through language.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes
to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela
I’m grateful to my parents who made sure we spoke Spanish at home. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, why not try a new recipe with some Latin flair, take a refresher course in Spanish 101, or even learn some Salsa moves. Are you up for the challenge?