The Ultimate Latina Toolkit

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Want to reconnect with your Latinidad, but not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of everything you need to know—history, movies, art, sayings, recipes, etc.—to get back in touch with your Puerto Rican, Mexican, Colombian, what have you side. Consider it a cultural toolkit!

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Plan a Movie Marathon

As the fall chill begins to set in, maybe it’s time to cozy up indoors and plan a movie marathon. We’ve selected 12 films, by Latinos, for Latinos, starring Latinos that even a non-Latino would enjoy. See Salma Hayek in her breakout role opposite Antonio Banderas in Desperado. Sing along with Jennifer Lopez in Selena. And whet your appetite with Tortilla Soup. All of these flicks (and more) are waiting for you to hit “play.”

Appreciate Art

If the name Diego Rivera doesn’t ring a bell, then you need help in the art department. Enter Latin American Art, a website that lists hundreds of artists along with some of their most recognizable works. Also, check out the news section for cultural happenings around the world.

Brush Up on Your History

What Mexican-American union leader started the United Farm Workers of America? Which Puerto Rican actress has won a Tony, Grammy, Emmy and an Oscar? Which Costa Rican astronaut was the first Latino to enter the space program? Not sure? Scholastic celebrates 25 Latinos in history. For a more comprehensive survey, pick up The Penguin History of Latin America.

Hit the Library

Go down the list of everyone who’s ever won a Nobel Prize for Literature, and you’ll find plenty of familiar names—Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mexico’s Octavio Paz and Chile’s Pablo Neruda, among them. Surprised? Don’t be. Latin America’s many idiosyncrasies breed the kind of creativity that makes great writers. So, do yourself a favor and add these 25 books to your reading list. 

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Take a Meaningful Trip

The National Register of Historic Places lists sites around the United States that are worthy of preservation. And during Hispanic Heritage Month, they highlight places significant to Latinos, such as Casa Amadeo, a Latin music store connected to New York’s postwar salsa scene. Maybe it’s time to plan a trip?

Give Back

One of the best ways to truly connect with your culture is by taking those two weeks vacation and volunteering in your mom or dad’s native country. Not only will it help you get to know the locals on a different level, but it will also give you a chance to give back. Volunteer Latina America matches do-gooders with a range of opportunities, from building a school in Guatemala to mentoring children in an orphanage in Ecuador.

Master Español, Once and for All

Learning Spanish on the internet is as easy as uno, dos and tres. The language experts at Rosetta Stone offer online subscriptions for all levels. After you’re able to string together a few sentences in the mother tongue, find a pen pal at My Language Exchange, a service that connects people practicing 115 different languages in over 133 countries.

Go Shopping

When we were growing up, it always seemed like our grandmothers’ had a dicho, or saying, for every situation: A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda” (God helps those who get up early); crea fama y acuésta a dormir (first impressions go a long way); el que busca encuentra (look and you shall find). Remember abuela’s wise words with a t-shirt emblazoned with your favorite refran from Hecho Latino Clothing Company or T-Shirts Without Borders

Raise Bilingual Babies

Encouraging bilingualism among our kids is no easy task, especially when English-speaking parents try to get their children to speak in this other funny language. Luckily, there are a bunch of mami-run blogs that help us teach our kids a second language by offering advice, tips and even a virtual shoulder to lean on. Check out Modern Mami, Bilingual in the Boonies, Spanglish Baby. And when that doesn’t help, count on Dora.

Recreate Mom’s Cooking

Visiting relatives in Latin America often turns into an eating frenzy for most of us, who would love to replicate our favorite dishes once we’re back in the states. Well, take your pick. My Colombian Recipes features techniques for preparing chicken sancocho, pork stew and other traditional meals. Taza de Chocolate and Muy Buen Cookbook are loaded with instructions for making huevos rancheros, snapper with cilantro cream, frozen margaritas and other Mexican specialties. Flanboyant Eats is run by a Cubana, who makes everything from drunken buñuelos to flan.

 

 

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About this author

Grace Bastidas, Deputy Editor

Born and raised in Queens, New York, where more languages are spoken than anywhere in the world, Grace Bastidas is Latina’s Deputy Editor. She oversees lifestyle content, including topics as diverse as career, health and relationships, and occasionally writes about her own experiences in The Good Life section. As a writer, Grace’s work has appeared in The New York TimesNew York magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Travel + Leisure. She is fluent in Spanish.

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