How Hispanics are Redefining the US – Hispanic Heritage Month

As we observe Hispanic heritage month this year and reflect on what it means to be Hispanic in America, it is almost getting hard to see a defining line.

What I mean is that Hispanics are becoming so ingrained in the American culture and way of life that it is getting tricky to see where one culture starts and the other begins.  In truth, they are the same but where there were once clear markers between the two there are now only vague intimations.

This is because with things like Hispanic population growth and other factors, Hispanics are redefining what it means to be American.

How are Hispanics redefining the Unites States?  I’m glad you asked that question.  First, let’s take a broad look at the situation. Hispanic people account for half of the U.S. population growth over the past 10 years.  Without going into any more detail than that one has to assume that such a population growth will have far-reaching effects into all aspects of American life but let’s get into the details, shall we?

Hispanic Heritage Month - How Hispanics Are Redefining the US

Hispanic Heritage Month – How Hispanics Are Redefining the US

How Hispanics Are Redefining the US

Internet Presence

In this day and age one cannot deny the influence and impact that the internet, namely social media, has on our daily lives. Having established that fact let me point you to another statistic: Hispanic adults account for 72% of people active on social media.  You can interpret that fact as you will but you cannot deny that social media influence leaks into other aspects of American culture which leads us to…


Major and niche markets have responded to this huge population boom and Hispanic social media presence and are scrambling to market to the Hispanic demographic. Ads are in English and Spanish and agencies are throwing more money at getting inside of the mind of the Latino because of…

Latino Spending Power

It is projected that by the year 2050 Latinos will comprise about 30% of the U.S. population. This means that our dollars will be that much more important to the U.S. economy.

As our presence increases so too will the amount of money we contribute to the various markets of our economy. Our contributions to the economy inherently leads to…

Political Influence

For better or worse, political candidates have to pander to the Hispanic population especially presidential candidates who are looking to secure California and Texas (the states with the most electoral points) which have the highest Hispanic populations in the country.  All of this amounts to the main way how Hispanics are redefining the US.

Cultural Influence

All of the aforementioned factors are only solidifying our place in this country.  It is obvious to anyone who lives in the U.S. that Hispanics are not going anywhere and we have already made our indelible mark on the American culture. You see it everywhere; in food, in music, on the Latino News Sources in the US  and on Television.

You see people sipping on Margaritas in bars and Anglos practically begging to learn Spanish from the Paisas in Echo Park and the Mission District and in Jackson Heights in Queens.  And it should be of no surprise to any American that Hispanic culture and influence has become so engrained in this nation that was billed as a melting pot of culture.

Our mark can be seen in everyday life.  People understand us more, they fear us less and we continue to branch out and make our presence felt.  That is how Hispanics are redefining the United States.

Latino or Hispanic – Which One is Politically Correct

There are fewer culturally relevant questions in modern America more polarizing than this one: Latino or Hispanic-which one is politically correct?

There are also few questions that simply lead to more questions than this one does. The truth is that as time goes on, each term becomes as equally politically correct as the other.

Some people prefer Hispanic and some prefer Latinos but there was a time in America, more specifically in the southwestern states, that this wasn’t the case.

The Civil Rights Movement

It didn’t get as much press as the African-American civil rights movement did but during the late 60’s and early 70’s there was another struggle going on within the Hispanic community. The term Hispanic was coined around this time but there was a burgeoning community of forward-thinking, young activists who were born in the states to immigrant parents that was ready to cast off this government assigned term.

Figureheads during the Brown movement of the early 70’s like Oscar Zeta Acosta shunned the term Hispanic opting instead to call himself and all like him Chicano. But the term Chicano was meant to denote an enlightened, thoughtful and sometimes radical person of Hispanic decent living in America. Thus, Chicano became the moniker for the Brown movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s and Hispanic was deemed politically incorrect by this group.

The Terms Today

Nowadays, it matters less what someone refers to you as especially with my generation.  The Brown movement is over and we have made enough strides to be able to call ourselves whatever we want. The mood is not so tense or serious as it was back then so we can essentially laugh off each term and not take offense one way or another.

Still, there are defining lines which you can read more about in the article What is Hispanic but essentially the difference between Latino and Hispanic is that Hispanic is an umbrella term for anyone of Latin descent (Mexicans Spanish, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Peruvian etc.) and Latino generally refers to a person of Latin decent but who is living specifically in America.

Latino or Hispanic - Which One is Politically Correct?

Latino or Hispanic – Which One is Politically Correct?

Especially in today’s amalgamated culture, Latino is emerging more fluidly but not because of political correctness.  More and more the term Latino not only refers to people but to a culture.

Hispanics born and raised in America take part of the Latino culture which has heavy influences from the American culture as well.

Today, Latino can mean so many different things but it is more unifying for younger Hispanics because it seems to hint at an American upbringing.

Latino or Hispanic

Unfortunately the appropriateness of using the term Latino or Hispanic will depend greatly on who you are talking to.  For Anglos reading this, try not to worry so much about which you use so long as you use each term respectfully.

If you are talking to a younger person, you are probably safe with using Latino. Some of the older generation-those who remember the Brown movement-might actually take offense if you use Hispanic but their numbers are dwindling every day.

For me, Hispanic is a more biological term which does not offend me in the slightest.  Hispanic is what I am as far as race goes. I am of Hispanic descent so why should I be offended by it?

Latino is more of a cultural term.  In truth I don’t feel more strongly tied to one term than the other.  If I hear Latino I assume that the person saying it is also Hispanic and probably around my age.

When I hear Hispanic I tend to think the person saying it is Anglo and of an older generation.  At any rate, the lines of political correctness are very blurred at this point but the good news is that it matters less and less which you use with each passing day.

Grandparents or Abuelos Importance in Hispanic Family Traditions

Unfortunately my grandmother passed away before I was born and my grandfather has lived in a different state than me for most of my life but I have seen firsthand my own mother become a grandmother and I have noted that her role in our family is conducive with that of grandparents of other Hispanic families.

The abuelos importance in Hispanic family traditions is far-reaching as they are involved in everyday family life matters.  The image of a granny and grandpa in rocking chairs on the porch riding out their golden years in peace doesn’t necessarily apply in many Hispanic families.

Instead Hispanic grandparents take active roles as leaders of the family and in households.  For one thing, most Hispanic grandparents opt to stay close to their children and their grandchildren.  I don’t think my mother could bear the thought of not being able to see my nephews any time she wished.

The paternal and maternal instincts of Hispanic grandparents don’t seem to dwindle with age.  In fact they only seem to get stronger.  As a result many Hispanic grandparents take an active role in raising their grandchildren-a role that is all the more pronounced and vital especially if both parents work.

How Does the Latin American Culture Value Grandparents

By and large Hispanic grandparents are relied on heavily in the child-rearing process, as providers of sage advice for all aspects of life, the anchors of the family support system, as authorities and links to our heritage and the conveyors of Hispanic traditions. Grandparents are absolutely indispensable in Hispanic families if only for the experienced advice they have to offer.

Grandparents or Abuelos Importance in Hispanic Family Traditions

Grandparents or Abuelos Importance in Hispanic Family Traditions

Generally, Hispanic grandparents are seen by their grandchildren as the kinder and gentler authoritative alternatives to their parents.  This can work against the entire family unit however since there seems to be an inherent urge for Hispanic grandparents to spoil their grandchildren.  Still, grandchildren tend to grow extremely attached to their Abuelitas and Abuelitos as a source of comfort and nurturing.

To their children, grandparents are counselors and mediators.  I couldn’t count on my fingers and toes how many times my brother-in-law sought my mother’s counsel regarding his fiery Latina wife (my sister, read my article Why Do latinas Marry Gringos).  I also couldn’t even begin to tell you how much my nephews have benefitted from my mother’s experience.

Where my sister is confounded with her 2 son’s behaviors, my mother recognizes them and knows how to deal with them.  That is not to say that my sister is incapable of handling complicated family matters (in fact quite to the contrary, after all she has one of the best examples to draw from) but there is a certain degree of experience that all mothers who are not yet grandmothers will gain in time but have not yet attained.

Abuelos Importance in Hispanic Family Traditions – Steering the Ship

In my mind at least, grandparents or abuelos importance in Hispanic family traditions can be assimilated to a captain of a ship-righting the course when the gales threaten to cast it into oblivion and quelling internalized mutinies and upstarts. They are anchors in the strongest sense of the word and images of stability, warmth, wisdom of love within Hispanic families.

Retiring in Ecuador

Why retiring in Ecuador?  Because when one thinks of the phrase “golden years” I believe it would be safe to assume that no one conjures up the image of being huddled under a thick blanket, shivering in the cold. Not that anyone spends the twilight years of their life intentionally staving off freezing temperatures but I think that the “golden years” of one’s life should be spent in a golden climate.

For those who agree with me, they should know about retiring in Ecuador and the many benefits it holds for senior Americans. Ecuador retirement living for Americans can be pretty cushy but there are some important things to keep in mind.  It is not all cheap living and sunshine.

Retiring in Ecuador Pros and Cons

Since I am the kind of person who prefers to be hit with bad news first and good news (if there is any) later to act as a salve, I will begin with a few of the cons that go a long with retiring in Ecuador.

First of all do not be fooled into thinking Ecuador is like Cancun where almost everybody speaks English and there are a lot of familiar sites to remind you of America.

If you are thinking of retiring or living in Ecuador, always bear in mind that you are moving to a truly South American country. English is not the first language and while it is a beautiful, culturally rich and fast developing country, there will be very little to see on a daily basis that reminds you of home.

Secondly, not everywhere in Ecuador is a great place to retire.  If you plan to retreat to Cuenca which many people do, diligently search out a place congenial to your lifestyle.  Some areas of Cuenca can be very congested with traffic, noisy and “urban-smelling.”

Retiring in Ecuador

Retiring in Ecuador

Now that we have the bad stuff out of the way here are a bunch of reasons to retire in Ecuador:

It’s cheap!  All of the rumors you have heard about living comfortably in Ecuador on a retiree’s budget is true.

It’s gorgeous.  Not far from Ecuador is the Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos islands which boasts some of the most breathtaking natural sceneries in the world.

It has a great culture.  It is easy for even an expat to get assimilated in Ecuador because the locals are friendly and there is much music, food and culture to immerse one’s self in.

The weather is great.  Did you know that the average temperature near inland Ecuador is about 77 degrees Fahrenheit?  We’re talking about year round too, not just the summer and spring months.

Cuenca Ecuador is bog but it’s not too big.  In other words, if you opt for Cuenca, Ecuador as your retirement destination you will not be bored in a year or two because there is enough to explore in a long-term sense.  On the other hand it is compact enough that you can see and do everything without much of a transportation hassle.

Stylish Retirement Living

Retiring in Ecuador has become such an attractive notion for Americans because almost every detail of it seems tailor-made for us.  They use the American dollar, there is an established expat community there and there are easy real-estate options available for retirees.

From the popular images of walking on the beach drenched in warm sunlight to the lesser considered aspects that the transition to Ecuador is easy, there are few foreign countries that present a better argument as a retirement destination.  For more info on South American countries and travel, check out the section of Travel to South America.

The Strange Tale of Oscar Zeta Acosta

When I pose it to others, even Latinos, if they know the name Oscar Zeta Acosta, the answer is usually no. My next question is invariably “have you seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?” to which many people say yes. Then I tell them that Oscar Zeta Acosta is the character portrayed by Benicio Del Toro known as Dr. Gonzo. This is usually more familiar to people but there is so much more to the man Oscar Zeta Acosta than how he was portrayed in that movie. Oscar Zeta Acosta was a self-made man. A proud Mexican American, author, lawyer and most importantly an activist.

Humble Beginnings

Oscar Acosta was born in El Paso, Texas a border town that doesn’t have a whole lot of prospects for young students. So Oscar went west to attend San Francisco State University and eventually earned his law degree at the San Francisco School of Law.

It was around the late 60’s and early 70’s when Los Angeles was a hotbed of political unrest and activism and soon Acosta found himself in L.A. in the thick of it all. He became heavily engaged in the Brown Pride and Chicano movement and fought tooth and nail in Los Angeles courtrooms to fight discrimination against Mexican Americans.

Hostility in the Streets

These were very tense times for everyone. African Americans were fighting for equality and Mexican Americans, who felt disenfranchised by the government, harassed by the LAPD and generally unheard in local politics, were fighting for a fair shake at the American dream. Oscar was a typical figure at many Chicano protests in Los Angeles and took the cases of many Chicano activists who could not afford legal counsel.

The Chicano contingent was galvanized and came to a head when in 1970 a Hispanic reporter named Ruben Salazar was sitting peacefully in a bar in the Whittier area when he was struck in the head by a tear gas can fired by an LAPD officer and killed immediately. The Chicano community was outraged and it was none other than the fiery Oscar Acosta who demanded persecution of the officer and even subpoenaed every single judge of the Los Angeles Supreme Court.

He was a leader and unifier of the Chicano movement and took the cases of other high profile Chicano figures such as Rudolfo Gonzales who founded the Denver based Chicano organization “Crusade for Justice.”

The Strange Tale of Oscar Zeta Acosta

The Strange Tale of Oscar Zeta Acosta

The Man Vs. the Myth

To say that Oscar Acosta was a man of conflicting interests would be an understatement. He was so zealous that he wouldn’t think twice about taking a ridiculously impossible case so long as it afforded him the chance to rail against the Anglo government system that he saw as the enemy. He fought vehemently and often too vehemently-taking cases of violent offenders who claimed to be Chicano. He was always in the barrio talking to and organizing the Mexican population in Los Angeles and this sometimes meant being in the company of unsavory characters.

He was a man of the people, even criminals. That fact coupled with the caricature based on Acosta known as Dr. Gonzo created by the author Hunter S. Thompson have overshadowed the accomplishments and noble endeavors of Oscar Zeta Acosta. It is kind of sad that I have to point out that he inspired the character of Dr. Gonzo in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for people to even begin to know who I am talking about but that is how much Acosta’s legend has outgrown his reality.

Acosta disappeared mysteriously off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico in 1974 and has long since been presumed dead. People have suspected political assassination, a random argument spurred by politics that got to heated and resulted in his death and simply hanging out with the wrong people. At any rate, the fact that his death still remains a mystery seems fitting for a man who has since become more of a legend.

The Famous Evil Eye Amongst Latinos

Have you heard if the famous evil eye amongst Latinos?  To say that Latin America can be a place to find all kinds of wild superstitions would be an understatement.

In fact it may be more accurate to think of such superstitions as a basis for many Hispanic cultures.  The famous evil eye amongst Latinos holds varying degrees of validity and clout depending on which country you are in and who you talk to but there is no denying that this superstition has permeated Hispanic culture to the point that it is still relevant to this day despite its archaic roots.

What is Evil Eye

I remember hearing of the dreaded evil eye as a child but it was mostly in jest as my family didn’t give much credence to the superstition-at least not in any medical sense.  Instead my mother and her sisters would talk about the evil eye when someone gave them a cross gaze (usually from another woman).

The superstition has much deeper roots and some believe it to be an actual medical condition.  So what is mal de ojo?  The history of the evil eye can be traced as far back as ancient Babylon and Egypt.  In fact Egyptians used to paint their eyes with something like eye liner to protect them from the condition.

For Hispanics the idea that you can become ill from an envious stare or from the gaze of someone much more powerful from you came from Spain and South America ran with it.

The famous evil eye amongst Latinos refers to a gaze that is given usually unintentionally to someone and that intent look has the power to make the subject physically ill.  It is usually prevalent amongst babies and small children and can occur when someone simply looks upon a small child with admiration.  The child becomes ill, may vomit, may lose appetite, may incur a fever or engage in unstoppable fits of crying.

The condition is usually cured by passing an egg over the one inflicted with the evil eye in the shape of a cross.

The Famous Evil Eye Amongst Latinos

The Famous Evil Eye Amongst Latinos

The Significance of the Evil Eye Among Latinos

The superstition of the famous evil eye amongst Latinos most likely rose from the fear of weak or poor individuals for the strong and empowered.  The evil eye usually afflicts the weak, feeble, elderly or very young and just the malevolent look of a powerful and feared person was enough to curse an entire household.  The eyes after all have always been very telling of a person’s intent and have significant mental attachment to our spirits and thoughts. In many cultures it is a warning against envy as well.

The Practicality of the Evil Eye

In my opinion, people picked up on this tradition for valid reasons.  The eyes convey more information than we give them credit for and negative energy and the effect of ill intentions, even if not acted upon, have very real effects.

For me the evil eye is something that can be harmful in the way that surrounding yourself with negative people and being in a negative environment can be detrimental to your mind and body.

Can a person become medically ill form the evil eye?  Probably not.  The fact that symptoms accredited to the evil eye include sadness and fear is probably evidence that people who believe in the evil eye are grasping at straws and looking for any excuse to attribute their woes to.

However, I do believe that the evil eye has more of an impact on our psyches than we would like to believe. Surround yourself with ill and ill will come to you.

There are many other strange and culturally rich traditions in Hispanic culture, to know more about them check the section Hispanic Traditions.

The History of Tango Music

Breaking down the history of any musical genre is a daunting and near-impossible task.  Genres of music are not like physical inventions that can be traced to a singular point in time.  Rather, music is an amalgamation of moods, attitudes, social circumstances, emotional states and even geography.

It is impossible to pinpoint the birth of any genre because music is ultimately collaboration between people and it takes many shapes even in the infancy phase.

The History of Tango Music

So, what is Tango and how can its origins be traced?  For this we must turn our attention to late 19th century Argentina.

Argentina is widely considered the birth country of Tango music as we know it today but the truth of the matter is that the genre owes its style to influences that stretch far beyond the borders of Argentina.  Just upon hearing traditional Tango music, you will see what I mean.

You will be able to pick up on the exotic rhythms of Africa in the almost staccato nature of the 2/4 and 4/4 time signatures. Again, we may never know who incorporated African rhythms into Tango or how they were influenced by them but the infusion is undeniable.

Tango music also owes some debt of gratitude to Spain.  Spanish musicians were simultaneously developing what would ultimately help to shape the definitive Tango style in their Flamenco Tangos.

Spain and Italy play a further role in the formation of Tango music in the 20th century when European instruments were introduced in Argentina and subsequently integrated into the Tango ensemble.

An Argentine by the name of Angel Villoldo is credited with the very first Tango recording.  He played guitar and sang by himself and helped solidify the characteristics that we associate with Tango today.  One might say that he is the Godfather of Tango but who knows who he borrowed from and was influenced by.

That was back in 1905.  Somewhere around 1910, more instruments were being used to play Tango music which fleshed out the Tango sound and gave it a greater level of distinction as a genre of music.

The History of Tango Music

The History of Tango Music

The Music of the Lower Class

In the beginning Argentine Tango music was relegated to street hoods and young thugs.  The music was often played in brothels and other unsavory establishments where the “riff raff” of society normally convened.

The upper class outwardly disdained the music as it was seen as a bad influence.  This quarantining of Tango music to the poor and working class Argentine was not to last very long.  By 1913, the influence and aesthetic appeal of Tango music had reached as far as France and what was once taboo among the blue bloods of Argentina was now an acceptable and much enjoyed form of entertainment.

Influential Tango History

As with any genre of music, Tango was helped along thanks to landmark songs, recordings and artists.  Mi Noche Triste was a Tango song written by Pascual Contursi but sang by indelible Tango icon, Carlos Gardel.  The song became the blueprint for subject matter in Tango songs: heartbreaking tales of love and loss.

La Cumparista is widely held as the most famous Tango song of all time and was written by Roberto Firpo back in 1916.  To this day the song is recorded by Tango bands and orchestras and has been arranged in almost every conceivable style.

Tango Today

The history of Tango music shows us the mighty wave that Tango rode to popularity in the early 20th century eventually hit the shore and rolled back but it regained popularity once again in the 1980’s thanks in part to the TV show, Tango Argentino.

Today, Tango is experiencing a resurgence around the world as evidenced by radio stations, cable TV networks and new recordings dedicated to Tango.

Tango history intertwines itself with the history of Argentine culture.  While the history of Tango music requires a greater study than what I can get into here, and while a definitive point in time can never be named “the birth of Tango” for any music lover, it is a labor of love to seek out the roots of this enticing genre of Latin music.



Punta Del Este Uruguay Beaches

South America boasts a bevy of beautiful beaches and there are many countries you can visit to spend a relaxing time in the warm sun but few have the concentration of stunning beaches that Uruguay does.

Furthermore, few South American countries blend so perfectly the natural draw of sun-soaked playas and the man-made draw of nightlife than Uruguay does. If you are looking to enjoy warm waves and sun rays during the day but replace them with strobe lights and thumping beats by night, Punta Del Este Uruguay may be the perfect South American locale for you.

Punta Del Este Uruguay beaches draw people from all over the globe every summer.  While the rest of the year, the population of this city is pretty modest, when the temperature turns up in the summer months Punta Del Este becomes one of the liveliest regions in Uruguay.

It is a hot spot for rich celebrities and modest travelers looking to play amongst the waves and take in the exciting night life in Punta Del Este.  There 13 main beaches in Punta Del Este and they are divided into 2 regions: the Mansa and the Brava or the tame and the fierce referring to the nature of the waves.

Punta Del Este Uruguay Beaches

The great thing about the beaches of Punta Del Este is that they offer something for everyone.  If you are a surfer you are going to want to head over to either Playa Chileno or El Emir or both.  The intensity of the wind on these beaches is perfect for those looking for some “tasty waves” to use the vernacular of noted fictional surfer and burnout Jeff Spicoli.

If you are feeling adventurous or simply want to get an “all-around” tan you can head over to Chihuahua beach which is the destination for sun-loving nudists.

Many celebrities vacation in Punta Del Este and you can see them lounging at Playa Manantiales.  Just make sure you don’t get too start struck and you should blend in just fine.

With great beaches there is usually great salt water fishing and Punta Del Este is no exception.  You can cast your line right off the Punta del Este port or you can join a sea fishing charter.

Punta del Este Paraguay Beaches

Punta del Este Paraguay Beaches

Nightlife in Punta del Este

There are many things to do in Punta del Este that have nothing to do with the breathtaking beaches.  La Barra is a stretch of bars and nightclubs and offer familiar cocktails and local favorites.  Sioux and Splendido are two clubs on La Barra each offering their own unique flavor: the former a more modern dance club and the former a great place to mellow out and hear some cool jazz.

The Buddha Bar is one of the new restaurant-nightclub combinations and serves delicious sushi and has an Asian décor motif. There is a bar or a club for the mood of every different traveler in Punta Del Este but be warned: some clubs are very exclusive and difficult to gain access to.


It’s not all about nightlife and beaches in Punta del Este however.  If you want to take in some culture you should check out the Catedral de San Fernando which is one of Uruguay’s most celebrated churches.  It was built 1895 and took an astounding 94 years to construct.

Punta del Este is also one of the fashion capitals of the world and the most popular fashion show is held at the Conrad Hotel in January. For more information about Uruguayan culture, take a look at La luz Mala Legend in Uruguay.