Mujeres & Mariachi Music

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife2020 

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This week we celebrated the International Day of the Mariachi (Jan 21st).   Mariachi music is still up there as the music of Mexico although one cannot ignore the immense popularity of Banda music.     The most iconic songs from Mexico are mariachi classics:  “El Son de La Negra”,  “Volver Volver”  “El Rey” “Guadalajara”  are not fully enjoyed unless accompanied by the voices, the strings, the horns, the harps, and the guitars that make up the mariachi.

I grew up surrounded by mariachi music.  My father has been a musician his entire life.  Before he had a band or a trio, before he taught Mexican music to college students and young children, before any of this, Mike Torres was a mariachi.  In fact, I remember many times that the mariachi would actually rehearse in the living room or the yard of our house.   Some dads go to work at an office, in the fields, driving trucks, and mariachi music was (and is) our father’s job.  We were those kids whose parents dressed up in traditional Mexican clothing at the fiestas and holiday celebrations.  Even then, I would have liked to sing with a mariachi.  Hmm…bucket list.

This week,  I also listened and listened to mariachi music sung by women.   Songs that were traditionally sung by men and, don’t get me wrong, the gentlemen work it but, then again, so do the girls!   I must have repeated some of these songs like 5 or 6 times and you better know that I was singing at the top of my lungs.   The really good mariachi songs cannot be sung half-ass, even if you’re singing in the car,  or in karaoke, or with a live mariachi, you’ve got to get into the emotion and put it all out there.

Mariachi bands are usually all-male with one or two women members.  Thankfully, there are some great all-women mariachi bands.  On this day, however, I wasn’t really concerned with the bands as the songs and you’ll likely recognize these classics.  I’ve only featured four songs when we all know that there are thousands that I could have chosen.   I dare you to listen and NOT sing out loud or let out a grito.  In my mind, I can sing just as good as these ladies, in reality, not even close.

Enjoy…and sing your heart out with these mujeres!

“Aca Entre Nos” — the classic Vicente Fernandez tour de force, where he puts down the microphone and sings loud and proud.  I never thought that anyone could touch this song.  That is until I heard this version by Las Tres Grandes (Guadalupe Pineda, Tania Libertad, and Eugenia Leon).  Same song, with a woman’s touch, and you can tell by the reaction at the beginning of the song, and all of the gritos, that this is a super classic, and I was hoping that these ladies would bring it, and bring it they did.

 

“La Cigarra”  another classic, sung only by the greatest female voices in mariachi music among them, Linda Ronstadt on ‘Canciones de Mi Padre’ – her groundbreaking Ranchera album that brought up the mariachi music profile so much in the US and in Mexico.   A few weeks ago, when Ms. Ronstadt was honored by the Kennedy Center Honors, THIS is a performance that should have been included with women’s strong mariachi voices and the full-on mariachi (yeah I’m still bummed about that).  This spectacular performance is Spain’s Natalia Jimenez and the great Lila Downs from Oaxaca, Mexico.  These ladies left everything vocally on that stage.

The GREAT Lola Beltran was one powerful singer and she worked it until well into her 70s.  Ms. Beltran set the standard for so many female ranchera singers – to be authentic, powerful, and to sing “con madres”, that is, letting loose with all feelings and vocals.  She starts this set with Juan Gabriel’s “Ya Para Que”.  His version is so great but Lola La Grande handles it easily live. “Paloma Negra” is classic Lola and you should also check out the Lila Downs version of the song, so powerful.  The legendary Miguel Aceves Mejia joins Lola on “CuCuRuCuCu Paloma”,  her signature song, and he too still works it, old as he is.

The exceptional Linda Ronstadt.  I was lucky enough to see this performance at the Orpheum Theater with my family and remember my father was so into it and wouldn’t let us even breathe LOL as the world class Mariachi Vargas de Tecatitlan was onstage, and, at that time, this mariachi was not performing that much in the US, so it was like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.  “Los Laureles”  is a very difficult song to sing and I was beyond emotional letting gritos out left and right watching Ms. Ronstadt, one of my favorite singers ever, who struggles with her Spanish as many of us do,  grab hold of each of these ranchera classics and NAIL it vocally after each song.  Love that she wanted to bring our music to the masses and she deserves all of the accolades she gets.  She now sets the standard for female mariachi singers.

 

FridayFinanzasChingonas — Alone with A Loan

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It’s hard to face.

It’s even harder to find the positive side of all of this mess.

Today, I hit the proverbial financial wall…AGAIN.

I had been telling myself to not refuse any work (my work is on-call) and this morning not one, but two, of my potential gigs cancelled.  It took everything I have to try and remain positive and to not think about the income lost and the bills piling up.

I just didn’t know how to move past this disappointing morning.  With about two weeks left until I get paid (I get paid once a month), and no real prospects for fast cash, it was important that I keep my promise of #FridayFinanzasChingonas and write this post.   It’s very important to acknowledge these types of days where one is on the edge of finding an easy way out/giving up or moving forward.

One thing I’ve learned the hard way is what NOT to do when you need money.   I took out a quick loan to cover event expenses a couple of years ago and have been paying on this loan for a lot longer than I would have liked.  While, at the time, it was important for me to cover the aforementioned expense, in the long run….aaaaay.   I have 3 months left to pay on this loan and, now that my funds are very tight, I’m pretty angry about it.  When I added up how much this loan was worth in these 2 years, I nearly fainted.   There is no way, that in my right mind, that I would have taken out a loan that is almost triple the amount that I signed off on.

These type of loans are also known as Predatory Loans.  Many financial experts warn against signing up for a predatory loan which include payday loans, car title loans, or advance-fee loans because, in the long run, these are among the most expensive ways to borrow.   Like me, you can get stuck with high interest costs that will only worsen your situation and could even hurt your credit.

Predatory lenders look for people like me, in need of quick cash, low financial self-esteem, who don’t read the fine print before signing on the dotted line.   My credit rating, while not the greatest, could have still done more for me had I had the confidence to check things out before getting cash.  Now I see that I might have had a better deal and a more positive experience had I worked with my bank instead of going straight to what I call the loan shark bank.  One knows that the interest fee will be high and that it’s important to pay it back as soon as possible as the interest changes the amount every day.

As crazy as you feel about wanting or “needing” money this instant, it’s important that you take your time with all things financial, research options, and don’t borrow money you cannot afford to.  Find that confidence to work for yourself as if you were counseling a very important client.  Don’t be afraid to find another solution that may work best for you.

I’ve already realized that this first quarter of 2020 is going to be a huge financial challenge for me.   The easy way out has not served me well in the past and, part of my growth includes letting go of things that no longer serve me.  What doesn’t serve me today?    Borrowing any (more) “easy” money.  Letting go of any extra expense items that I may want but do not need.  Living beyond my means. Being afraid to go through my expenses/income until they are a fair match.

For the remainder of Q1 2020, I’ve decided to work on getting other sources of income that are not loan-related:  putting the word out to colleagues and friends that I’m looking for extra work, accepting as many ‘gig’ opportunities as I can, exploring and expanding on other talents that I have that can be monetized.  Also, key is getting comfortable with looking at my expenses/income every day.

Staying prayed up and positive has worked for me so much within these past few months.  I’ve got to keep on keeping on.  Facing reality is not easy but, at some point in our lives, we have got to grow the eff up and live a proactive life instead of a reactive one.  Ya ni llorar es bueno.

Looking forward to seeing progress in April/2nd Quarter 2020.

 

 

Financial Abuse? Me?

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Financial Abuse is the unauthorized (or illegal) use of a person’s property, money, pension and/or other valuables and is a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control.  The forms may be subtle or overt but generally include tactics to control one’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain money by limiting the victim’s access to assets or finances.  This pattern of controlling, degrading or threatening behavior restricts a victim’s freedom and this silent form of abuse is not easily recognized.  It begins with small offenses that slowly become more controlling over time.

What happens when you are in a financial abuse situation?  It leads to unexplained bank withdrawals, unusual activity in bank accounts, unpaid bills, unexplained shortages of money, fraud, theft,  reluctance on the part of the person responsible for the funds to provide basic food, clothes, and life necessities.

I had experienced almost all the above and yet was stunned to find that I was a victim of Financial Abuse.  Me?  No way.  I thought that the counselor was straight-up crazy for even mentioning the subject.  I had been under so much distress from just trying to keep things together that I fell into the Financial Abuse trap.   Regular readers know that I was desperately trying to control the madness that this cyber/stalking individual was bringing to my life thus I asked him how much it would take for him to stop calling my job(s) and emailing/texting folks in my life.

I remember almost screaming that I needed to be 100 percent for my job, that I had to be confident to deal with clients, and I needed to make this problem go away.   I’m sitting there thinking that one thing had nothing to do with the other.  Spending that money almost felt like it didn’t matter, it was hush money, it was money meant to keep him from calling or emailing my place(s) of business, to stop harassing my family, friends and colleagues.  That money was a quick fix and it soon became apparent that it would never be enough.  I lived my life between looking over my shoulder to looking down, I had lost my power.

I’m trying to remember what the breaking point was, what it took for me to take that deep breath and say “no more”, that second where I knew that, no matter what, I had to get out of that situation, no matter what, that whatever he would do or say didn’t matter anymore.  All I remember thinking (and saying in therapy), that God couldn’t have brought be all this way…for me to not do my part, to just let go and let Him help me.

Hardest letting go of my life.  Stopping payment could prove dangerous, he could become unglued and come after me, he could continue to make my life a living hell.   Then again, I thought “let him”,  there was nothing else that he could say about me, my reputation, my body, my person, my intelligence, my professionalism,  nothing that he had not already said and here I was, STILL working, still getting a paycheck.

And yes, things got crazier, thankfully, all my employers knew what I was dealing with, so, as humiliated as I was, life moved on.   I had to change jobs FOUR times trying to escape the madness.  That any bills got paid at all was nothing short of a miracle and incredibly, I pretty much kept things on track. 

Or so I thought.

All the drama was over, and I was left with collateral damages.  I was so grateful that things were settling down that I neglected to go thru all the broken financial parts.  I had the money but I didn’t count on the fact that I had lost complete trust in myself, that on a certain level, during the crisis, I shut down on the taking care of my business part, and I stopped counseling when I changed jobs and cities. 

Fast forward a few years…and here I am…

I have got to learn how to take care of myself again.  I have got to learn how to live with less because I now make less, I have got to stop blaming him for the fact that I am in arrears with some of the bills.  Yes, the neglect of my finances started with me trying to survive, to get through the day.  However, now it’s time to take care of myself the right way, to stop thinking that I don’t matter, that my accounts don’t matter.  It feels like I’ve got to put my head down, not out of shame, but in just doing whatever I need to do to face the broken financial pieces of my life and put them behind me.  Dealing with money is stressful as it is, dealing with the remnants of financial abuse is scary AF.

I talk a good game about ‘knowing your worth’, now it will take everything I’ve got to remember how much I actually DO matter, how l must literally break out the books, crunch those numbers, lose that fear and learn how much I’m actually worth. 

And go from there. 

I want my power (and money) back.

The Road To Finanzas Chingonas

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It’s humbling to realize that I’m not all that where it comes to my money.   I’ve also realized that I-AM-NOT-THE-ONLY-ONE who lives like this old as my ass is.

There were a couple of serious situations where I know contributed to my financial life being out of control.  It has taken me YEARS, figuratively and literally, to pay for my mistakes.   Bottom line is that while I did make very good money, I had completely lost the trust in myself to administer it properly or timely thus I was always one step away from the red zone.

However, 2020 is the year that I will stop punishing myself and learn how to have a good relationship with my money.  I want to continue to take care of myself, get myself out of debt and get myself into saving.  I’m also very interested in learning WHY I let others control my financial destiny in the past.   It boggles my mind how easily I gave others control of my finances and livelihood.

It is my hope that I will be able to show a significant transformation with money and finances in 2020.  It is time to stop the blame game, time to stop being a victim, stop living my life with my hands full of money to “invest” in a company or a man or anything at the expense of my peace, joy, and independence.

Each Friday, I will present a new feature, Friday Finanzas Chingonas.  This will chronicle my journey into financial independence.  It will not be an easy journey for me.  I thought about not talking about my experiences.  Than again, sometimes you have to put it all out there in order to make a change in your life.

 

Here’s my first story:

Me:  “STOP calling my job.”  He would call for hours on end every minute.  I finally had to turn the ringers off on my direct lines so that no one else would hear the incessant ringing and ringing.

After this would go on for literally days on end, it was stressful and exhausting.  There was a restraining order and I had to then make reports for all of these calls.  When I picked up the phone,  I heard the same thing, “I need money for x or y”.

Finally one day, I said to him, “How much do you need so that you will STOP calling my job?”  I am not prepared to go into the exact amount that we “agreed” on, suffice it to say that it was a large amount.  I naively thought that it would stop the madness and bring me much-needed peace.  These “agreements” led nowhere and it was the beginning of a very ugly cycle of financial abuse.

Thankfully, that “giving” part of my life is over to this individual.   Now I have to finally sort through all of this mess to try and find the ‘why’ I went down this road.  I will likely “pay” for this mistake for a few more years.  I could sit here and bemoan my fate or I can learn from my mistakes.

I am ready.  It’s time to learn how to live a peaceful and life free of money worries.

 

 

 

First Friday Night Of The Year + The Road = Never Ends Well

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Had I even thought about it, I would not have been driving tonight.

A few years back, on the first Friday night of the New Year, I totaled my first Jeep in a tangle with a semi truck that left me with 2 broken hands and unable to drive for months.

Anyone who’s ever been in an auto accident will tell you about “flashbacks” while driving.   Mine always happened on a Friday night — feeling very jumpy when seeing lights of a car or truck, traffic noises would make me nervous as well.  I would usually get off of the road until the nervousness (or the traffic) subsided.

Tonight, I wasn’t feeling that type of anxiety and I was on one of the dark Rancho roads, close to home.  I was thinking about what I was going to make Dad for dinner and should I stop at the grocery store or not.  I was looking straight ahead and then I see them, a pack of bigger dogs crossing the roadway.  I barely had time to swerve but I felt and heard the loud thud and impact of one of the dogs hitting the front of my Jeep.   It’s the worst sound.

I pulled over and called CHP and waited until they got there.  I was too afraid to look back and was pretty sure that at least one of the cars behind didn’t have time to stop either.  Mr. CHP assured me that, while the dog was hurt, that he was still alive.

Y’all know that I am not an animal person but I certainly don’t wish them any harm.  Hope that the dog makes it.  My Jeep is a little banged up from the incident.  Mr. CHP says it could have been worse … for whom?

Needless to say, I drove home in full Friday flashback mode, nervous and thankful that my shaky butt made it home with no more incidents.

Note to Self:  No more driving on the first Friday of the New Year, it never ends well.

 

Spanglish. Si o No?

 

 

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As soon as I learned how speak and understand Spanish, an entire new world opened up to me.  I was able to make new friends, enjoy music and novelas, and really have fun with my tios and tias who were never going to learn English 🙂

Once I entered the professional world, and in Spanish radio no less, I was around Spanish forever, ¿or was I?  Segun yo, I knew how to speak fluently but it didn’t come out that way, I still had an accent when I spoke, a “pocha” accent, which meant I was born on this side of the border, and this was not something to be proud of back in the day.  And let me tell you, my mexicano friends in school never let me forget that my accent wasn’t real, ever.   I was used to the friends and family teasing, so to hear this from random radioeschuchas/listeners was so sad to me, because I was PAID to work in Spanish radio, how could they say this about me?   In order to shut up the haters, I would say jokingly, ‘aprenda inglés y luego bailamos‘, and this really helped break down cultural walls for me because no one could fault my “pocha” butt for TRYING to learn another language.

I have since come to Jesus with the fact that neither English nor Spanish is my official language, Spanglish is.

Go to any Spanish class in high school, college, or university, and you will be told immediately that Spanglish is not a language, that we would be doing our raza a favor by learning how to speak completely in Spanish.

So I went and did the raza a favor, and learned Spanish.  I learned to read it, write it, accents and all, and speak it in a professional setting and speak it in puro slang as la raza does.   I’ve also learned how to interpret it for the legal, medical, educational,and cultural fields.  And, if you hear me interpret, it is rare that I use slang in important interpretations, unless something is said to me in slang.

However,  I have come to Jesus with the Spanglish thing.  I love expressing myself in three languages, I am proud that I am able to do this as well.  No more reason to feel inferior for knowing more than one language.  Many of my mexicano colleagues will always push me forward to speak up “en tu inglés” which always makes me smile because, in a way, those tables have turned, they like the way I speak English.    I can move instantly from corporate to paisa in less than 10 seconds.

My Spanglish continues to open so many cultural doors for me, especially as I joke, that my “nopal is not on my frente” , which literally means the cactus is not on my forehead and figuratively, I don’t always look like I’m Mexican.   All I have to do is say a couple of words in Spanish and the ice is broken…if I’m around mexicanos, they’re like “ok, she understands me“, if I’m around folks who speak English, they are already good because they’ve heard me speak in English, and for the millions of us who speak and think in Spanglish, the Spanish words instantly bridge a cultural and linguistic gap, “ok, she understands us“.

Fast forward to radio and music in general:  how many on-air personalities have added Latino first or last names to their on-air handles?  how much Spanglish is found in the most popular songs in American (and Latino) radio?, how much Spanglish is spoken on radio in general?  how many artists are Latino (or claim to be Latino) in all genres of music.  The numbers don’t lie, my official language is now more ‘in’  than ever.

Spanglish is one great bridge to opening up your mind and heart to new things.   It’s all about losing that fear of sounding all mocho in English o en español!   It’s intimidating I know, but it is necessary that we strive to understand each other, no matter the language you speak or understand.

Yo hablo español, I speak english, and Spanglish, ni se diga.

 

 

There’s traffic and then there’s TRAFICAL

 

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For many years, my life consisted of moving…moving fast…moving forward…moving from one place to the next…moving from job to job…moving moving.  There had been days when I could honestly say that I had driven around the entire Bay Area in one day.  I was at the wheel of my Jeep more than anywhere else.  If my Jeep could talk…

As much as I drove, I also dealt with traffic and trafical.  Traffic is normal.  Trafical is Spanish for major heavy-duty traffic.  My life was ruled by traffic.  My routes were among the worst traffic jams in the entire Bay Area so I quickly learned to not leave my office until 6:30pm so that I could catch the tail end of trafical, didn’t always happen, especially as night construction is an everyday thing in California.  Many nights, I’d be one exit from home only to be stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for a half hour or more.  I was completely addicted to traffic radio while out on the roads.

These days, I find myself looking for the roads less traveled, back roads, and country roads.  Roads where there are no cars to my right, to my left, in front and/or in back of me;  roads where I can see fields, trees, cows, tractors, horses, trains, and where I can breathe fresh, peaceful, air.

The road less traveled has been a godsend for me.   I didn’t know it, but I needed a break from that mess.  It’s great not to stress about traffic every minute and my Jeep especially, has probably never had this much of an extended break from the stop and go traffic ever.  I use much less gasoline and if GPS says that I will arrive in 15 minutes, I can usually arrive in 15 minutes.  NOT the case in the Bay Area where 15 miles can take almost an hour depending on where you need to go and what time you need to be there.

The one thing that I haven’t been yet been able to quit is the addiction to Bay Area traffic radio … now when I listen, I smile and say a little prayer of thanks that I’m not up in that mess.

 

 

Ita: Ode to my Bonus Mother

 


Ita & the Torres5 Back In the Day

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We buried our beloved Ita yesterday.

It was a very difficult day.  It is beyond devastating to lose a mother, as it was when we lost Mama.  However bad as that experience was, it was all the more bearable because we had Ita to hold onto.  And hold on we did.  Isn’t is a trip that, as old as we are, that we are afraid of being left all alone, without an adult at home?  This hit me hard during her Mass, I cried and cried into kleenex after kleenex asking God to take care of us both – Ita so that she wouldn’t be afraid, and me, so that I wouldn’t fall apart without her.

Life today feels different.  My two mothers are now reunited and we are left here a little lost.  Who is going to answer those ‘Mom’ questions?  Who is going to comfort us when the cold world hits us hard?  Who is going to provide that special, unconditional, love that only a mother can?


Torres5 celebrating with Ita at her 70th Birthday

It’s amazing how much power this tiny woman had.  Ita was the last surviving sister of our Grijalva family, the last link to our parents, the one who knew them before we all existed.  In my case, Ita had been with me for my entire life.  I remember how I would cry whenever she left us at the Ranch to stay with my cousins in Yuba City, I felt close to her always.   To be able to have the gift of having a parent around us at all times was priceless — we never were alone -ever.  Maybe that’s why we #Torres5 are united in our love for OUR #TorresBabies and all we want is for them to be safe and happy.

Ita was that aunt, the one who never married or had children, the one who gave us all of her love, and there are so many of us cousins whom she cared for, generations of cousins.   She and I always seemed to relate to each other being that I’m not married nor do I have any kids.  The big difference between she and I was that, for many years, I chose career over family, it never really mattered to me whether I had a husband or children, I was happy with my family and being Aunty or Nina Carmen.  Ita was family-first, always.   When later in her life, Ita had her own room, her apartment I used to call it, I’d joke with her about how she was getting like me, where she always loved having and needing “her space“.

As I mentioned during her service, I wondered how on earth I could repay Aunty Cathy for everything she did for me, for taking care of me, for being there for me.  The only thing that I could think of was to be the “Ita” for our #TorresBabies, to help them grow up with that confidence that someone is always watching out for them and has their back.

This will be easy to do.  I had a great teacher as I watched Ita do this my entire life.  This is the best way that I can honor Catherine Juanita Grijalva.

Rest in peace my sweet Ita, I will never forget you.

Some of Aunty Cathy’s “children” and family at her Rosary.

 

Dia de Los Muertos Altar: Flor de Cempasúchil

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It’s that time of year, Dia de Los Muertos season is upon us.

Maybe it’s because I was supposed to be born in October, or because I love the Fall season, or because I want very much to see how Mama is doing en el Cielo, but Dia de Los Muertos has become my very favorite holiday and time of the year.

I participated in one of the coolest Dia de Los Muertos celebrations this past weekend where we showed people what an altar/ofrenda is, what is featured along with the meaning behind all of the items on an altar.  Everyone has a unique take on an altar, so know that there is no right or wrong way to honor your departed loved ones.

I’m going to feature some of the traditional items one will find on an altar with information on the “why” you see them.  Altars/Ofrendas usually feature Flor de Cempasúchil which are Marigolds, or flowers in general, also represent the fragility of life. It is also believed that the smell of Marigolds help lead our departed ones to their altars and to us.  Marigolds are native to North and South America, growing particularly well in Mexico and in the wild in the states of México, Puebla, and Veracruz.

It’s believed that Dia de los Muertos stems from an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl whose role was to guard the bones of the dead.  The Aztecs considered Marigolds a sacred flower so they bred them to create bigger and more attractive blooms. Aztecs used the sacred flower for decorative and medicinal purposes. The flowers are edible and thought by the Aztecs to cure hiccups and even heal those struck by lightning.

Normally, the Cempasúchil flower is placed on the floor, our Aztec ancestors believed that we have to make a road with the flowers, something like the royal carpet sort of way. We even haven a purple-reddish flower that looks like velvet (velvet flower) for this celebration. This road full of Cempasúchil flowers is made to “light” or “illuminate” the dead person’s way.  If any of you have seen “Coco”, you will see how prominent these bright and vibrant orange flowers are to the story.

Their use in these celebrations is believed to be tied to a romantic Aztec origin myth about two lovers, Xótchitl and Huitzilin. According to the legend, the lovers would often hike to the top of a mountain to leave flower offerings for the sun-god Tonatiuh, and to swear their love and commitment to one another. When Huitzilin is tragically killed in battle, a distraught Xóchitl prays to the sun-god to reunite them on earth. Tonatiuh, moved by her prayers and offerings, grants her wish by sending a ray of sun that transforms her into a flower as golden as the sun itself, and reincarnates her lover as a hummingbird. When the Huitzilin the hummingbird approaches Xóchitl the flower with his beak, her twenty petals bloom, filling the air with cempasúchil’s distinctive and powerful scent.  (Remezcla, October 2018 online edition).

Many churches all over the world celebrate this tradition:   Catholics celebrate “All Saints Day” on November 1st.  Anglican, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, Reformed churches and others celebrate “All Souls’ Day” on November 2nd, some religions and countries celebrate both.

I really love that el Dia de Los Muertos has soooo much tradition and ritual tied to it — especially as so many of our traditional holidays have become so commercialized.  Maybe you think that this holiday is destined for the same fate, however, I do not believe this.  We all want to honor our departed loved ones and we all have many unique ways that we honor their memory.  There’s no way that these memories can be duplicated, we are all unique.  I’d bet that if I asked any of my siblings how they remember and honor our mother, each one of us does it a very different way…this is the beauty of this holiday, no “right” or “wrong” way as I mentioned earlier.

This holiday allowed me to acknowledge my fear of death, my fear of never feeling Mama’s presence again, of never being able to reunite with her.  Where I mourned and feared before, I now celebrate my mother’s memory and the hope of seeing her during this beautiful season where we celebrate El Dia de Los Muertos.

I’m going to try and highlight more of this beautiful traditional from now to November 2nd.

Link about Flor de Cempasuchil:  https://remezcla.com/features/culture/cempasuchil-dia-de-muertos/

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife  #52EssaysNextWave 25/52

How many times have we looked at ourselves in the mirror?

What have we told ourselves as we looked into that mirror?    Some days, I’ll be nice to the girl looking back at me.  Most days, however, I tend to focus on what I think is wrong with that girl in the mirror:  ‘man I look old/tired”, “oh no, freakin canas”, “pinches wrinkles”, “look at this jacked-up hair”.   As it is, I’m not a morning person, and then here I go putting myself down and making it worse.

My Comadre was the first person that I ever saw make a conscious decision to be happy and to be proud of who she was, extra pounds and all, wild hair and all.   She was always a morning person.  One day, I heard her talking to someone at 6 or 7 in the morning.  When I got up to see who was at our house at that hour, I saw that SHE was the one talking to herself in the mirror.

“Ay Dios mio, que mujer mas buenota!”  “Porque me hiciste tan guapa?” “GotDam what a big, beautiful woman chingao!”  I remember that I starting laughing, I couldn’t believe that she would talk to herself like that.    You see, at the time, I looked at us and our curves, and our lonjas, and our imperfections as just that, imperfections, something to hide, something that “no one would ever want to see or touch”.    My comadre sees herself as an asset to any person’s life any business, any situation and I have been there to witness how people react to her,   Anywhere she goes, to this day, she lights up the room, easily the life of the party.

Another of my friends simply tells “Alexa, I’m home, talk to me” and Alexa proceeds to tell him that he is the most intelligent, handsome, funny man on the face of the earth, etc.   I died laughing when I first heard it.  But again, it hit me, there’s a reason that this man can walk into any place, light up a room, and worrrk that room.  He, too, talks into the mirror.

One doesn’t have to be perfect, have the perfect body, the perfect career, the perfect wardrobe, the perfect car, etc.  It’s all about being imperfect and EMBRACING the unique things about you, things that the world responds to, things that can open up any door for you, things that can bring your life up to the next level.

I’ve always wanted that.  However, I was never willing to do the work.   The very basic part of the work is looking at yourself in the mirror and, instead of tearing yourself down, build yourself up, recognizing what is unique about you and tell yourself how great that is.  This is an important first step.  If you do not or cannot love/accept yourself, it will be more difficult for others to do so.  No one, no man, no job, can do this for you, you need to step up to this one.

I’m now actively looking into the mirror and telling myself what I need to hear in order to make my day work to my benefit instead of against me.  The first person whom I need in my corner is ME.   If telling myself how beautiful I am, how great it is to have the energy of those half my age, how lucky I am to have survived ___ still smiling and working it, no one can do me like me, that it still takes 5 to 10 people to do what I do, I am the baddest chingona of them all, and on and on.

My hope is that, when I’m at a crucial moment, where I have to bring it, where I really need every ounce of my confidence, where Inner Chingona gets to come out, that I will be successful because the voice in my head tells me so…

…and because the girl in the mirror told me so.