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Special Section: Latino Lifestyle

Visit our Spanish language publication, La Prensa Sonoma

We’ve talked to Latinos around Sonoma County about the traditions and parts of cultural heritage they’ve chosen to keep alive and why. Here are their stories.

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Anthelma Acevedo de Arellanes

Age: 53

Country of Heritage: Mexico

Occupation: Fashion designer

Years living in the U.S.: 27 years

What is a part of your cultural heritage that you choose to keep alive and share with your family and friends here in the U.S.?

I keep traditions such as the Guelaguetza celebration, where traditional clothing from my home state of Oaxaca are showcased and accompanied by its music played by a band where sones and jarabes awaken the soul and delight one’s dance moves and where the fabric, embroidery and colors mix to the rhythm of the music; Arts and crafts are enjoyed, as well as its varied gastronomy, so famous are its tlayudas, mole, quesillo, chile de agua, chocolate, pan de yema, and the drink of the gods — the mezcal. I enjoy this party with family and friends.

At home, I still cook Oaxacan style. My children and grandkids enjoy it. It’s a good excuse to gather (as a family), savoring chiles stuffed with cheese, minced chicken, a red mole, or the favorite meal — memelitas (fried masa cakes) with asiento and champurrado. My daughter-in-law already knows how to make them.

Another tradition I enjoy with my grandchildren is playing La Loteria. They practice their Spanish. We talk and share stories of our ancestors as they ask for more.

What is it about this thing that you still appreciate?

I appreciate spending time and showing my friends the customs of my homeland, my roots; and (showing) my children and grandchildren that they come from a free land with many traditions, joy and music and by embracing this country’s culture they’ll become bicultural, bilingual and love and respect both cultures.

I do it because it comes from the heart, and it’s a way to show my identity and feel proud of where I come from, which then encourages my children and grandchildren to learn about our origins and inherit that love and respect for our land.

When was the last time you experienced it?

At the Guelaguetza celebration on July 9 in downtown Santa Rosa with friends and the girls from #MissLatinaWineCountry. We participated in a catwalk, showcasing my colorful (clothing) designs, typical of Oaxaca.

On July 16 at the Guelaguetza at (Luther Burbank Center for the Arts) with friends, enjoying the food. And this past August, playing loteria with my grandchildren, eating peaches the grandchildren brought me from their orchard, and enjoyinig our family memelitas and champurrado breakfast.

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Maria Cañas

Age: 53

Country of heritage: El Salvador

Occupation: Artist

Years living in the U.S.: 32 years

What is a part of your cultural heritage that you choose to keep alive and share with your family and friends here in the U.S.?

Oral traditions and our favorite dishes are things that I keep alive in the U.S. I was raised with and through stories that were passed down generation after generation. Now, I share those stories with family and friends so as to share a part of who I am, and why I am the way I am.

Special Section: Latino Lifestyle

Visit our Spanish language publication, La Prensa Sonoma

I come from a family of organizers, so at a very young age, I learned to organize. My mother organized with the church, so I learned from observing her.

The traditional dishes that I continue to share with family and friends are pupusas and fried bananas with sour cream and beans. The dishes are memories and also a story, so I share with friends and family to honor and respect my heritage and bring a piece of me to this piece of land, especially on a full-moon night in Sonoma County.

What is it about this thing that you still appreciate?

The memories that take us back to times and places that do not exist in this time and place... it’s like traveling back in years to situations. Especially the connection to humans through love and not hate.

When was the last time you experienced it?

I experience these things daily. I am a natural-born leader, so I exercise that in memory of my mother and grandmother and my grandfather Juan. I tell people stories every Day. ... there is always something that takes me back to a memory, so I share.

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Ariana Aparicio

Age: 28

Country of heritage: Born in Mexico City, Mexico, and raised in Puebla and West Marin

Occupation: Academic advisor at Sonoma State University

Years living in the U.S.: 18 years

What is a part of your cultural heritage that you choose to keep alive and share with your family and friends here in the U.S.?

Part of my cultural heritage that I choose to keep alive is dancing or listening to cumbia and eating traditional food like mole Poblano.

What is it about this thing that you still appreciate?

The music of cumbia is lively and brings back memories of when I would walk through el mercado in my town in Puebla after attending mass. The music would be put on full-blast by local vendors selling casettes of popular songs. There would be colorful tents with people selling food and other goods.

The mole Poblano is a favorite dish of mine because it reminds me of my grandmother who raised me for the first four years of my life and continues to be someone I admire for her tenacity, and raising not only her seven children but also four of her grandchildren. We are still in communication and talk about our fond memories.

When was the last time you experienced it?

The last time I enjoyed cumbia is every day when I drive because I have cumbia songs as part of my playlist. Last time I enjoyed mole was probably a few months ago when my mom made it and we shared it with the rest of my siblings.

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Jorge Alcazar

Age: 28

Country of heritage: Mexico

Occupation: Owner of Frozen Art Gourmet Ice Cream in Santa Rosa

Years living in the U.S.: 10 years. Born and raised in Mexico

What is a part of your cultural heritage that you choose to keep alive and share with your family and friends here in the U.S.?

Ten years in the U.S. now seem like a long time, but (it’s) no time at all. While my family and I still hold most Mexican traditions, truly I could not pinpoint one that would be peculiar enough to be interesting for the readers. The one thing I can think of that I do share with Latino friends here, which I’m not sure is a tradition, is sharing literature in the Spanish language.

At the ice cream parlor, I have a small collection of books in Spanish that I share with friends, and with customers that may be interested in a certain title. This caught the eye of professor Ron Lopez from SSU; and he now has been bringing books about Latino history to add to the collection. While the selection has been declining as I cannot remember who has taken which book, I really don’t mind people keeping them. As the more people read literature in Spanish, the happier I am.

What is it about this thing that you still appreciate?

My girlfriend, who doesn’t speak a lot of Spanish (half -Swiss, half-third-generation Mexican), tells me that every time I speak Spanish, being here or when we’re in Mexico, I become someone else. As if speaking Spanish brings out another side of me, a more lively and engaging Jorge. I just find the Spanish language to be, in a way, very poetic and romantic; the way I can say something in Spanish that just doesn’t sound as deep in English. Thus, if I can have more people reading in Spanish, the better. The more exposure there is to our wonderful literature, the more I believe people will appreciate it, feel a deeper connection to the language and their heritage.

When was the last time you experienced it?

A few months ago, and this moment stuck with me, a customer of ours, a mother of two from Guanajuato if I remember correctly, noticed that we had “El Alquimista” by Paulo Coelho, an okay book, but popular. She mentioned that she had been staying at home for a while due to back surgery and that she was reading that book in English, trying to learn English. She said that she couldn’t find the book in Spanish around here, to which I told her that she could take ours. She was very grateful, saying that she was now going to read both, side by side, and that it would help her understand the book better. Looking at the inventory right now, it looks like I’m down a few books, Yuri Herrera, Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Cortazar. I can only recall where a couple of those are! But like I said, I do not mind!

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