Christmas Foods in Argentina

When most people think about Christmas they think about cold climates and warm food but should you find yourself in Argentina during the holiday season you will experience a much different atmosphere.

As you probably already know when it is winter for us here in the Northern Hemisphere it is summer for those in South America and their winter cuisine reflects that fact.  The Argentines have a very unique tradition when it comes to Christmas meals.  They do not eat roasted turkey and ham like we do in the states.

Vitel Thone

Sitting around the dinner table for an Argentine Christmas meal, you are sure to see slices of meat topped with a whitish cream being consumed.  Vitel Thone is one of the most popular and traditional dishes for Christmas Eve in Argentina and it is a dish that is very unique.

First of all it has its roots in Italy.  As you also probably already know Argentina has a very strong German and Italian influence and Vitel Thone definitely comes from the old country.  Essentially it is a dish composed of sliced veal and topped with a sauce made of mayonnaise, anchovies and tuna.

The veal is roasted in a large ceramic pot and thrown in with quarters of onions and large slices of carrots.  Water is also added for steaming.  You cook this mixture for about three hours and then the veal is ready to be sliced.

The sauce is a mixture of onion, anchovies, milk cream and lots of mayonnaise. Tuna is traditionally added to the sauce but some leave it out depending on individual tastes.  Once you have the veal cooked and sliced and the sauce whisked, preparation is relatively simple.  Just arrange the slices on a plate and evenly spread the sauce over the flanks of meat and enjoy.

Christmas Foods In Argentina

Christmas Foods In Argentina

Christmas Foods in Argentina  –  Cool Foods for a Hot Climate

This is where Christmas foods in Argentina really start to differ from what we perceive to be typical of holiday foods.  Since it is so hot during Christmas in Argentina, Argentine Christmas foods include plenty of cold served dishes for the sake of refreshment.

Waldorf salad which is essentially a mixture of walnuts, apples, celery and peanuts in mayonnaise and served atop lettuce leaves is a common site for Argentine Christmas meals.  It is also common to see cold sandwiches served as part of the complete Argentine Christmas meal.

Drinks

What holiday gathering would be complete without a drink?  In Argentina the libation of choice for Christmas is Anana Fizz which is a sparkling mixture of cider and pineapple juice.  Of course Argentina makes some of the finest wines in the world so expect to see the vino flowing around the dinner table as well.

Sweets

The Argentine Christmas meal is topped off with a variety of sweets that include pan dulce or sweet bread that is baked with dried fruit.  Nougat is also popular in the hot Argentine climate and is shared during the holiday season.  Perhaps the most popular brand of nougat candy in Argentina is Mantecol so you can find it in any Argentine grocery store.

It seems that grilling is an year-round thing in Argentina so don’t be surprised if you see the parrillada, or grill all fired up and topped with meats like pig and chicken.  You can read a whole lot more about South American Christmas foods here.  Eat, read and enjoy!

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is a holy day in the Catholic Church that is celebrated every year on December 8th.  It is a day that shows just how important a figure the Virgin Mary is to Latinos and Catholics all over the world.  You may be thinking right off the bat that the feast of the Immaculate Conception is the day that Mary was impregnated with Christ but that is a popular mistake that people make.  In fact the feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates Mary’s own birth.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception – Reasoning

It seemed incumbent for the Catholic Church to stress the special way not only that Christ was born, but also the unique and holy way that his mother was born as well.  In 1854 Pope Pius IX made it dogma the concept of Mary’s birth: she was not born of a virgin birth but at her conception, she was absolved of the original sin that tarnished every human being upon conception.

This was necessary if she was to ultimately become the virgin mother of the messiah.  This exception not only made her conception holy, but her entire life as well because it was also accepted as Dogma that Mary never sinned a day in her life and was kept consecrated so that she could give the purest of births to Christ.

This is another reason why Mary is prayed to and seen as such an important figure in the Catholic Church. She is the only human being to have never committed one transgression against God.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception Day

Now that we have a bit of background on the feast of the Immaculate Conception let’s talk about how it is celebrated and why it is important in the Latin community.  Immaculate Conception day has actually been made a public holiday in many Latin countries. However, no matter what country you are in, if you are of the Catholic faith the feast of the Immaculate Conception is a day of obligation.  This means that mass must be attended.  The mass is the focal point of the celebration.

It is celebrated in different ways all over the world.  For example, one tradition of the holiday is The Dance of the Six which is essentially a procession of children dressed in especially bejeweled garments carry a likeness of Mary over their heads through the streets.

In Nicaragua, the day resembles what we Americans would see as a combination of 2 big holidays in our country.  They set up alters in front of their homes and neighbors come by and sing songs and to exchange gifts.  Kind of sounds like carolers on Christmas right?  When the evening falls, firecrackers are lit in the streets.  Sort of sounds like Independence Day doesn’t it?

At any rate, no matter where you are or how you celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, there is a very strong, spiritual unifying theme that is present.  At its heart the feast of the Immaculate Conception is a day to focus on one’s own spirituality and relationship with god.  This is why it is so important in Latino culture.

We are meant to draw closer to god by drawing closer to our family and focusing on being more like Mary and Christ.  For more information about the traditions of this holiday check out Little Candles Day in Colombia.

Virgin of Guadalupe Tattoos

Virgin of Guadalupe tattoos?  That, I thought was the last thing that would ever remind me of the beautiful Mexican culture.  I was wrong!

If you are at all engaged in Mexican culture then you may have come across an image of a woman standing on a crescent moon, light beaming from her body and looking very grave yet chaste.  You may have even seen this image as a tattoo.  This is the Virgin of Guadalupe and she is essentially the Mexican incarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary who gave birth to Christ.

The Story of The Virgin of Guadalupe

The legend of The Virgin Guadalupe, is one that holds a very special place in Mexican culture.  The story asserts that the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego an indigenous peasant.  She commissioned the man to build a church but had one very strange request: that he first gather some roses.  The story took place in winter so the man was confused.  He didn’t know where he would find roses growing in the frozen landscape.  Still, he took the request on faith and sure enough, he found pristine roses growing from a frozen hill.

The man was amazed and took the roses to a priest who declared it a miracle but there was a further miracle: the roses had left a holy imprint of the virgin in the man’s poncho which he used to carry the roses. bThat image would become the design for all tattoos of The Virgin of Guadalupe.

Virgin of Guadalupe Tattoos

Surprisingly there has not been much variation as far as the designs of the Virgin of Guadalupe tattoos.  Guadalupe tattoos will almost always be about the same shape; that of a standing woman.  She will almost always be depicted in the same manner; her hands held together in prayer while she casts a glance soberly downward.  She will also always have the same sacred light radiating from her body.

Virgin of Guadalupe Tattoos

Virgin of Guadalupe Tattoos

In fact the only common variation of the Virgin of Guadalupe tattoos is the bordering.  Some opt to surround the virgin with a canopy of other Mexican patron saints.  Some choose to envelop their Guadalupe tattoos in the sacred roses from the legend.  Some people even set the Virgin of Guadalupe to a depiction of the Mexican landscape.

The Cultural Symbol

Tattoos are not the only pieces of art that bear the likeness of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The symbol has become extremely important in Mexican culture both as a religious figure and a cultural one.  It can be seen emblazoned on flags, in churches and even banners calling for political action.  The Virgin of Guadalupe has donned street art and graffiti as well.

The Virgin of Guadalupe represents hope, a reminder to be virtuous and even a feminine deity figure as many Mexicans pray to her in times of need.  Virgin Guadalupe tattoos have even become a popular design for gangsters who see acceptance in the forgiving eyes of the saint.  They emblazon her likeness onto her body as a reminder that she will forgive all and act as their advocate to the Holy Father.

Whether she is represented as a tattoo, embroidered onto a t-shirt or sculpted to life by an artist, the Virgin of Guadalupe is inevitably a tie to the Mexican culture.  It spans religion, culture and art to become one of the most potent and revered symbols in existence in the modern world.

Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico

Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico, how is it?

Should you find yourself in Albuquerque New Mexico in between Halloween and the early days of November you may see some peculiar sites.  Women in brightly colored, long flowing dresses with their faces painted like a skeleton dancing through the streets. Skulls crafted from sugar and painted to look more lively than a skull should ever hope to look.

Alters erected on the street and signs reading “Silence is Death” and “Reclamando Nuestra Querencia” in the style of street art.  It is the Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico.  Consider yourself lucky to be in this southwestern city of the United States at this particular time in the fall because Albuquerque hosts one of the most elaborate and culturally relevant celebrations of the Day of the Dead in the country.

Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico

Obviously, the Mexican contingent is alive, well and is represented in great numbers in the state of New Mexico and the Hispanic population goes in this southwestern city go to great lengths and take much pride in throwing one of the most elaborate and thrilling day of the dead celebrations in the country.

The main attraction is the day of the dead parade which is also known as the Marigold Parade.  If you catch a glimpse of this celebration you will see people of all ages marching through the main streets of Albuquerque holding up photographs of loved ones who have passed.

The spirit of the festival is to celebrate and reflect upon the cycle of life.  It is not to glorify death but to acknowledge it as a natural part of our human existence.  Día de los Muertos is also a very important time of the year for Hispanic people because it is the time to remember and celebrate the lives of loved ones.  During this festival, the spirits of passed loved ones are invited to be a part of the family unit once again.

Day of the Dead In Albuquerque New Mexico

Day of the Dead In Albuquerque New Mexico

Cultural Icon

The Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico moved beyond the traditional incarnations of the holiday (although the traditional rites and means of celebration are in no way done away with) to become something of a cultural icon.

People from all over the country descend on Albuquerque in the fall to witness this spectacle for themselves.  Local organizations have been formed and committees have been dedicated to funding, promoting and organizing the Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico.

Local artists are invited to submit their creations and compete to have their work featured on posters, t-shirts promotional items and in the parade itself.  There is a theme that is selected every year that range from political calls to action to reflective mottos on Hispanic culture to coincide with the traditional themes of the holiday.  Local musicians and bands perform for the crowd, playing contemporary songs and ones that hearken to the meaning of this holiday which is meant to be at once somber and lively.

The Día de los Muertos parade and celebration continues to be focused on community and culture. Hispanics are not the only ones in attendance either; people from all walks of life enjoy taking part of this important festival.  Día de los Muertos is a very unique time so should you be in Albuquerque around October 31st, be sure to take in all of the sites and participate in this rich cultural tradition.

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Hispanic Heritage Month Fun Facts

Now is the time of year dedicated to reflecting on our Hispanic heritage even as we are living here in the States.  It would seem that everyone has their own way of celebrating Hispanic Heritage month which is the beauty of it all: everyone makes it their own. So this is how I celebrate as a writer; by bringing you some Hispanic Heritage month fun facts.  Let’s get things started at the beginning.

Hispanic Heritage Month Fun Facts

The Reason for the Date

The countries of Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Guatemala all have something in common: they all share the same independence anniversary date.  What date might that be?  You guessed it, September 15th the day that Hispanic Heritage month kicks off here in the States.

The Origins of the Hispanic Term

There has been a decent amount of web space dedicated to attempting to clarify the whole Hispanic vs. Latino debate but what many people don’t know are the deep down roots of the word ‘Hispanic.’  Originally (going back further than even the P.C. police were concerned) the term Hispania was used to refer to people from Portugal and Spain only.

Early Colonization

Everybody thinks of Plymouth Rock as the birthplace of American colonization but few people know that there are a couple cities in the United States that were founded way before the pilgrims landed on the East Coast. Santa Fe, New Mexico and St. Augustine, Florida were both founded, Hispanic cities before Plymouth, Massachusetts was settled.  Here you can test a bit of your Hispanic history knowledge.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

You have probably heard of the Mexican-American war of the 1800’s and you have probably even heard of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that resulted from the conflict but do you know how much the States agreed to pay for California, Texas and New Mexico for?  Approximately 15 million dollars.  What a deal!

Hispanic Heritage Month Fun Facts

Hispanic Heritage Month Fun Facts

The Unsolved Death of Oscar Zeta Acosta

Oscar Zeta Acosta was a lawyer, novelist and prominent figure in the Chicano movement of the 70’s but there is still mystery surrounding his disappearance and death.  His body was never found but he is believed to have been assassinated at some time during a trip to Mazatlán, Mexico.

Good Blood

Type O blood is the blood type that is most sought out by hospitals and guess which ethnic group has the most of it?  That’s right, Hispanics. It is estimated that type O blood runs through the veins of 60% of the Hispanic population.

Language

Did you know that Spanish is the 2nd most commonly spoken language in the world?  There are over 300 million native Spanish speakers in the world and that is just ahead of English speakers but Chinese still dominates in terms of how many people speak it as their native language.

Spanish Longevity

While there is some speculation it is generally accepted that Spaniards have been established in Europe in some form or another longer than any other European ethnic group.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed these Hispanic Heritage month fun facts and as you engage in various kinds of Hispanic culture traditions in the coming weeks, take some time to observe our rich history and learn something you never knew about us. Hopefully this was a good start.

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…

Marketing

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.

San Blas Festivity in Paraguay

While there may be a handful of worthwhile festivals held in Paraguay on an annual basis, none have more of a history or religious significance than Dia de San Blas. The San Blas festivity in Paraguay is rooted in Christian origins from a faraway land; Armenia.

Even if you know nothing about the patron saint himself, if you find yourself in Paraguay during the first few days of February, you are sure to be enveloped in lively festivities including parades, music and food.

The History of Saint Blaise

Depending on who you talk to about this martyred saint, you will hear his name pronounced as Saint Blaise in English and San Blas in Spanish. Since this is an English speaking blog we will refer to him by his English name.

Saint Blaise was a Bishop in the Armenian Roman Catholic Church but he was also a physician. It is purported that his main area of medical expertise was afflictions of the throat. People would come to him from all over Armenia and neighboring countries so that he could treat their physical as well as their spiritual ailments.

As his fame spread, many miracles were also credited to him. Saint Blaise continued to serve his people but in the year 316, he was jailed and executed by order of an Armenian governor who was acting at the behest of the emperor Licinius. Apparently Licinius, much like other Roman emperors of the time were keen on killing Christians.

While you can kill a man you cannot kill the impressions and influences he made in his life and that is why a day is set aside every year to honor this Saint in countries all over the world from Eastern Europe to South America.  Not surprisingly one of the grandest and most decadent Saint Blaise celebrations are held every year on February 3rd in Paraguay.

The Paraguayan San Blas Festival

The history of San Blas day is as much a part of the celebration as the festivities themselves. After all, this is a religious holiday and many devout Catholics consider this day one of the holiest of the year.

If you do plan to be in Paraguay in early February head to Ciudad del Este where the biggest and brashest San Blas festival is held.

Since Saint Blaise was a physician specializing in ailments of the throat, the San Blas festivity in Paraguay begins with the blessing of the throat by ranking clergymen. Once your throat has been blessed, you can begin filling it with delicious Paraguayan cuisine. Food is a huge part of the San Blas festivity in Paraguay so be sure to leave plenty of room in your stomach for delectable dishes.

In Ciudad del Este lies the Cathedral of Saint Blaise and it is form this cathedral that much of the festivities emanate. There are parades held in his honor that are made to depict some of his more notable acts as a Bishop and leader in the Christian community in Armenia.

San Blas festivity in Paraguay

San Blas Festivity in Paraguay

While the actual Dia de San Blas falls on February 3rd, the San Blas festivity in Paraguay is a week-long festival. In addition to magnificent parades, specialty foods and religious rites, you will hear much traditional Paraguayan music and songs that commemorate this beloved patron saint of the country.

The San Blas festivity in Paraguay should surely be on your list of Hispanic festivals to experience and to find out more about the exciting festivals that Latin America has to offer check out my article on Hispanic holidays.

Three Kings Day Traditions in the U.S.

For most communities in the United States, the Christmas season starts the day after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas Day. But for Hispanics, there really are twelve (more) days of Christmas. They end the season with Three Kings Day traditions on January 6.

El Dia de los Reyes Magos is the celebration of Epiphany amongst Latinos in the U.S. and is based on similar celebrations throughout Latin America and the rest of the Catholic world.

Epiphany is the day that the Three Wise Men, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, visited the Baby Jesus with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Three Kings Day Traditions and the Birth of Christ

Three Kings Day parade in New York.

Three Kings Day parade in New York.

As a commemoration of the gift-giving, and as the end of the Christmas season, Three Kings Day is a celebratory time with many traditions, particularly amongst Latinos.

Many Three Kings Day traditions have their roots in the Biblical story of the birth of Christ.

As a child, the most exciting part of the day starts the night before, when they put out their shoes for the Three Wise Men to fill. Children also can’t forget to put out hay and grass, since camels get hungry.

This tradition is a lot like leaving milk and cookies for Santa. Waking up the morning, kids see the hay spread around, often leading in a trail to the presents that the Three Kings left them.

Rosca de Reyes

Another delicious tradition is called the Rosca de Reyes (Ring of kings). This sweet bread, shaped into a circle and topped with candied fruits, is meant to resemble the crowns worn by the Magi.

Baked inside the bread is a figure of a baby, representing the Baby Jesus who had to be hidden after his birth. Whoever gets the baby in their slice has to host a party before February 2, El Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas).

If you’ve been to Louisiana, you might know a second cousin of the Rosca de Reyes: king cake, which is also eaten during the Epiphany season and has a plastic baby baked inside.

This tradition of rosca de reyes came from Europe and is still present in a number of countries.

Variations in Three Kings Day Traditions

Since Three Kings Day traditions in the U.S. generally originate in Latin America, they can vary based on the country of origin. It can also be hard to celebrate some of them.

Traditionally, kids play with their toys all day on the 6th, much like others do with gifts received on Christmas Day. But since Three Kings Day isn’t generally a holiday in the U.S., children open their presents and then head out to school.

In cities with large Hispanic populations, in recent years it has become easier to find Three Kings Day celebrations. Parades, complete with the Wise Men themselves and even live animals, are becoming more common, such as the annual parade in East Harlem.

You might also find children’s activities such crown-making at museums and community centers in Latino areas. Even Disneyland has gotten in on the festivities.

So even if your family doesn’t usually celebrate Three Kings Day traditions, remember: There’s never a bad excuse to have a party – or to give gifts.

Do you celebrate Three Kings Day? Tell us about your traditions in the comments!