What is Oaxaca Cheese?

If you just stumbled onto this article searching for some food articles you may be asking yourself what the heck Oaxaca cheese is. If you know what Oaxaca cheese is and are asking yourself the question “where do I find Oaxaca cheese?”  Fear not because I will share with you the answers. For now, let’s start with the basics…

What Is Oaxaca Cheese

Cheese lovers will rejoice over the mild and buttery flavor of Oaxaca cheese.  Although you will probably never see it being paired with wine, it is considered an artisanal cheese.  It gets its name from the region of Mexico where it originated.

It does not hit you as strongly as say a brie or a sharp cheddar and it is more akin to Mozzarella which makes it great for use in baked goods, for quesadillas and empanadas.  It has a stringy texture which makes it a perfect topping for the traditional Oaxacan dish known as Tlayuda.

The History of Oaxaca Cheese

The reason Oaxaca cheese has such a mild flavor is because it is a cheese that is made from cow milk.  The form of Oaxaca cheese that is most popular now is credited to Dominican monks who settled in the region of Oaxaca a long time ago.  The monks would typically make cheese from goat’s milk which would lend a stronger and more pungent flavor but when they arrived in Oaxaca and found that there was no goat’s milk readily available, they had to improvise.

What is Oaxaca Cheese?

What is Oaxaca Cheese?

The monks used cow’s milk and combined it with a method of cheese-making that is very similar to the process used to make Mozzarella from Italy.  Thus, Oaxaca cheese was born and implemented in many traditional Oaxacan dishes.  Since then it has become one of the most popular cheeses in Latin countries and is becoming increasingly popular with Anglos as well.

The Process

Oaxaca cheese is a curd cheese and it is kneaded and then stretched to give it its stringy consistency.  After it is stretched, it is usually wound up in a ball shape for packaging.  There is also a form of Oaxaca cheese called asadero and this incarnation of the dairy product comes in the form of a brick.

Asadero cheese is usually intended for slicing but it is made with the same ingredients as traditional Oaxaca cheese.  Oaxaca cheese whether in its brick or ball shape however will always be the same color; white.  Not pure white mind you but a very light, off-white.  It will also always be semi-soft.

Where to Get Oaxaca Cheese

Unfortunately you can’t just waltz into the national chain grocery store down the street and expect to find Oaxaca cheese. Unfortunately, the most readily available source of Oaxaca cheese is online.  There are very reputable sites where you can order authentic Oaxaca cheese such as MexGrocer.com and FoodServiceDirect.com.

For the freshest Oaxaca cheese you are going to have to do some digging.  Hopefully you live in a state with a fairly large Latin community because if you do, you can bet there will be a local Mercado that sells fresh Oaxaca cheese.  If you are south of the border you can also try a lecheria to get your fill of Oaxaca cheese.

Puerto Rico Facts

Puerto Rico facts was an interesting topic to research and an interesting piece to write and I hope that it will be an interesting article for you, the reader because Puerto Rico has a very rich history, geography and culture.

My main goal for this article was to come up with facts about the country that you would not normally know. Whether this incites a visit or simply further research into this archipelago country is entirely up to the reader but my hope is that it will motivate something inside you.

One of the more fun facts about Puerto Rico is that it boasts the world’s highest collection of bioluminescent waters.

What are bioluminescent waters? Well, in layman’s term, they are ocean waters that glow an ethereal blue. More technically, bioluminescent waters are the result of a gathering of dinoflagellates which are single-celled organisms that live in the ocean and have the bioluminescent ability to glow a bluish-green.

Some of the most astounding pictures of this natural phenomenon have been taken off the coasts of the Puerto Rican islands.

His Name is John?

Yes, or at least, his name was John. This is the motto of Puerto Rican and it comes from a Bible verse and more recently from the original name given to the archipelago that we know now as Puerto Rico, San Juan Bautista. For those who don’t know, Juan is the Spanish version of John. Hence the motto, “His Name is John.”

One of the more fun geographical facts about Puerto Rico (especially for those who live in the States and are use to a fluctuation in seasons and daylight hours) is that the country gets pretty much the same amount of sunlight all year round. Since the country is located so close to the equator, the sun sets at almost 7pm local time all year round.

Puerto Rico Facts

Puerto Rico Facts

Have you ever seen the James Bond movie GoldenEye? Do you remember the climax sequence when James is doing battle with the Bond villain on what looks like a giant antenna? That is actually the world’s largest radio telescope and it is located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico also served as the gateway to the Caribbean. It was discovered in 1493 and was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain and has one of the most frequented harbors in the Caribbean Sea. The Spanish resisted many invasion attempts by the French, Dutch and the British but today, if you are born in Puerto Rico, guess what? You are an American citizen!

Puerto Ricans first began migrating to the States (mainly New York in the mid-19th century but the country was still under Spanish rule. Then after the Spanish-American war, they were Puerto Rican Citizens. Today, Puerto Ricans are essentially Americans and can even run for office in the states.

Looking for more useful Puerto Rico facts?

Try these on for size: if you are thinking about traveling to the country you don’t need a passport just a valid ID like a driver’s license. You also have no need to exchange your US dollars because the national currency of Puerto Rico is the USD.

The national holiday of Puerto Rico falls on November 19th and is the day that it was discovered. There is much more to know about Puerto Rico facts in my Puerto Rican Holidays and festivals article.

Aside from these fun and interesting Puerto Rico facts, you may also find it useful to know that in Puerto Rico, the legal drinking age is 20 and the rum flows like water. Enjoy responsibly!

Celebrating Mother’s Day in Mexico

Since the dawn of recorded history, cultures around the world have recognized the value of motherhood and celebrating Mother’s Day in Mexico honors them. In ancient times, people celebrated with festivals and feasts honoring goddesses or fertility figures.

With the advent of the Christian church, some people began to take a day each year to honor the “mother” church that had baptized them. The idea for day to honor our human mothers came much later, but has since become a treasured tradition for many Latino families.

The History of Mother’s Day in Mexico

The first secular Mother’s Day took place in the US in 1870 with the goal of promoting peace and healing among families and communities after the Civil War. Soon this tradition had spread south of the border into Mexico.

Mother’s Day in Mexico

Thanks to the efforts of social activists who wanted to embrace a holiday to celebrate traditional family values, May 10 became officially designated as Mother’s Day in Mexico in 1922.

The Archbishop of Mexico endorsed the holiday and to this day Mother’s Day in Mexico retains a strong religious element. In fact, many Mexican Mother’s Day cards feature icons of the Virgin and Child.

Main Traditions of Mother’s Day in Mexico

Spending time with Mamá is of course the most important tradition of Mother’s Day in Latin America and throughout the world. But each country does have its own unique take on the meals, gifts, and cards that form the core of the celebration. You might incorporate the following main traditions into your own Mexican Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day Eve Dinner: On the evening of May 9, grown children return to their mother’s home for a special family dinner. Ideally someone besides Mamá will cook, but many Mexican moms take such pride in cooking for their families that they simply can’t be persuaded to take a break!

Morning Serenade: On the morning of May 10, children organize some early morning music to wake up their mothers. They might hire a mariachi band to play outside her window, or simply sing on their own.
Mother’s Day Mass & Breakfast: During Mother’s Day in Mexico the whole family accompanies their mother to a special mass and then they enjoy a community breakfast with other church members.

Mother’s Day Gifts: As in the US, Mexican kids give their mothers gifts to thank them for their love and support. Younger children might put on a little program of skits and songs organized by their school and give their moms handmade gifts, while older children typically give store bought gifts of cards, candy, flowers, jewelry, etc.

Family Lunch or Dinner: Mexican families always have at least one big meal together on Mother’s Day. It could be lunch or dinner. Many families make reservations months in advance so they can go out to eat, while others will bring dishes to mom’s house to enjoy together.

Phone Calls: Any family members that can’t be present at the Mother’s Day celebrations will call to wish all their relatives—not just their moms—a happy Mother’s Day.

How Mexican-Americans Celebrate

Many Mexicans can’t go back to their country of origin to celebrate a proper Mother’s Day in Mexico therefore most Mexican-American families celebrate Mother’s Day twice—once on May 10, and once on the second Sunday in May as American families do. With two days to honor mothers, it’s no wonder that Mexican-Americans tend to have such close-knit families and strong family values!

Tejano Music

Growing Up “Tejano” A Tale of Tejano Music Influence

Tejano music

Let’s talk about Hispanic music and culture to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. This is the true story of Yvette Riojas the daughter of Marcus Riojas Jr. better known as “Marky Lee”, a Tejano music hall of fame inductee who shares this honor with entertainers like Richie Valens.

Marky Lee is a popular “conjunto” band singer. He has become more popular lately with a band he put together called Marky Lee y Hache Tres. He is currently working on a cd that will incorporate his traditional Tejano sound with his more rhythm and blues or oldies type of American music. Here is her Latina story!

Like many Hispanics I was born into a very big family. Mom and dad were very different and grew up with different lifestyles but both came from very Hispanic families. My mother’s family was a more conservative well educated family and Dad’s well… a bit on the more “party” side!

My father was the only born son in a large all female household. My father had seven sisters and was treated of course like a prince. My grandmother, a traditional Hispanic stay home mom and my grandfather, worked the fields with all of his children at one point in their young lives.

I remember my father telling stories about picking cotton with his dad and how he and his sister used to sing together sometimes when they got bored. My mom tells similar stories about how the major highways in the city where I live were once playgrounds to her and her siblings.

Originally from the small town of Edna Texas, my paternal grandparents decided to take their very large family to the big city where they would make a new beginning. They experienced modern music and met many different people; they had more opportunities to expand on their dreams.

My grandfather chose Houston as his settling grounds. My father and his seven sisters settled into their new school on Houston’s north side and began “the city life”. My father loved to sing as a boy and followed his father into the local bars to sing.

My grandfather played Tejano music and his instrument of choice was the tololoche, a traditional instrument from northern Mexico that resembles the European Bass. His style of tejano music was very traditional to Texas, where musicians had a kind of German tone that came from the influence of foreign settlers upon Texas, except they sang the lyrics of old Mexican songs with a guitar, bass, and accordion.

In the 40’s and 50’s my grandfather says musicians played “conjunto” style music. Little would my grandfather know that a change to “conjunto” music was coming, and his son would have an impact on how it changed.

In high school my father and his friends devoted their time to music and started a small band where my father played the trumpet. His passion for la musica de nuestra herencia came from musicians such as Vicente Fernandez.

My dad was very young when he started playing in clubs, and one in particular called “The Pan American Ballroom” on Houston north side. This was a very popular teen hangout and the birthplace of some of Tejano’s greatest acts.

When my dad turned seventeen, he was asked to sing with one of the greatest artist of musica Tejana, Mr. Augustine Ramirez. In the late sixties Augustine and his band along with acts such as “Little Joe and the Latineers,” “The Saints and Sinners” were acts touring the nation singing the “Chicano” style music. With a big band sound they sang songs de nuersta cultura.

Old songs passed down from generation to generation were transformed into what was more hip and fun to the younger tejanos, and probably not so popular with the traditions of the Hispanic tejano culture older crowd.

My father joined Mr Augustine for the tour of a life time at such a young age. He was given the stage name “Marky Lee”. My father traveled from the east coast to the west coast with this new style in Tejano music. It was mostly known back then as “Chicano” music.

Where Does Tejano Music Come From?

La musica Tejano was born in Texas when the Germans and tejanos intertwined and made sounds with accordions and guitars or “bajo sexton.”

The music is made up of traditional Mexican lyrics however my father and musicians like him spiced it up with the influences of “rock and roll” from other genres of music. Just like Americans going crazy over the Beatles and Rolling Stones or Elvis, it was the same for Tejano music of this era.

The Memories – Latin Traditions

As far as I can remember my father would pack his bags on Thursday or Friday to get ready to hit the road. I have memories of my dad playing music during the week and hearing him sing from afar.

On Sundays after Catholic Church, we would meet la familia at grandma and grandpa’s house. It was barbacoa, frijoles, and tripas for everyone. I could smell homeade tortillas when we pulled up at the house, and I could see and hear all my cousins running and playing.

The best thing I heard, and I did not realize it then but it has become to be the fondest memory of my childhood (and my earliest remembrance of nuestra musica,) was my grandfather’s music! Grandpa had a bar in his house that had a stereo and it would play “conjunto” type music. At that time I hated that music, all I wanted to do is run outside and get dirty!

My mother was a more refined woman who loved music, singing and dancing but she was the one who worked a normal job and had normal dreams. My father was the one who always said “follow your dreams and work hard if you want them”.

Tejano music

Tejano music

We did not speak much Spanish in our house. Hearing my grandparents speak Spanish was just like I was hearing old people talk. I thought all old people talked that way! Little did I know it was my culture, a part of me that means so much to me now.

I remember my father buying a new van for the sole purpose of taking us on long road trips to his Tejano music gigs around Texas. He used to pack up all the equipment and make a space for me and my sister to lay or sit during the trip.

There are times that I remember sitting near the back stage with my mom eating popcorn and drinking a coke. My mother dressed us in nice dresses with pretty shoes and fixed our hair. She always said being around my father would make us who we are today. She told us “pay attention to your dad and watch him”…I guess she knew that one day dad would have an impact on Tejano music.

We were a pretty normal middle class family except for one thing… the weekends. I specifically remember asking my mom, “why can’t we stay out and play with the rest of the kids”? Her answer to me was, “Vette, you can’t because we have to go out of town, and how many kids can say that they are going to Little Joe’s recording studio”! At that time it did not mean anything to me.

That weekend I wanted to play with my friends and that weekend I heard the most beautiful duet of flutes! I remember sitting on the floor of a recording studio hearing two musicians play the flute to a traditional Mexican song so beautiful that it inspired me to do the same. I told my father when we got home that I wanted to join the band in middle school and play the flute!

All through the years my father played this music and I did not know what significance it would have for the world around me. My father sat night after night and practiced with musicians. Dad would tell us many stories and made us laugh. I am now forty one years old and I finally realize what and who he is.

I have come to realize that all those years of watching and listening to my father’s music has made me the person I am today. All of my values and moral come from grandparents and parents who took the time to sit with me and tell me those stories.

My father has been inducted into “Texas Tejano Music Hall of Fame” and I am proud of that. I feel blessed to have been able to experience this alongside my father. We are still very close and still carry on that tradition… my thirteen year old son will hopefully follow his grandfather’s footsteps.

My son has been sitting next to the stage like I was at his age. He has even performed some alongside my father and learned some small sound advice from a Tejano hall of famer! He may not know it now but it is a part of his culture… and it will be for years to come.

My father is still performing and still recording music de nuestra cultura. I am still learning and finding out more about our family and heritage. I am proud and honored to have spent time with some of Tejano’s best artists and of course to have the very talented father that I have.

Tejanos share many things in common with other Hispanic cultures, such as our sopas, arroz, frijoles, menudo, pozole, y carne asada. We are mostly Catholics. We believe in family and respect our parents but most importantly.. we all love nuestra musica. Tejano Music!

Pictures and article by Yvette JA Riojas

Shakira Biography

Shakira Tickets and Memorabilia

Name: Shakira Mebarak Ripoll.
Birth date: February 2, 1977.
Birthplace: Barranquilla, Colombia.
Breakthrough: Pies Descalzos, album released in 1996 by Epic Records.

Shakira released in 2009 her new single from the album She Wolf with great success. The single has a retro disco sound with lyrics that talk about “lycanthropy.” Listen to the lyrics while watching her dance moves.

Take me to Shakira Tickets

This short tale about Shakira’s life gives you a sense of respect and admiration for this wonderful singer and composer. Read this Shakira biography to learn about her beginning, breakthrough, career, her love life and how she helps others.

She was born in the coastal city of Barranquilla to a middle class family, although I read one Shakira biography that stated she came from a poor family. She has an interesting mix, with an American father who is of Lebanese descent -William Mebarak- and a Colombian mother, Nidia Ripoll.

Fans adore her and with good reasons. The interpret Shakira is devoted to her fans, and in spite of her success she remains humble, and proud of her origins and her country, althuogh now she speaks with an Argentinian accent instead on a Colombian one.

She once said: “Hay algo que me hace sentir más orgullosa que mis canciones, incluso más que los premios o el aprecio del público: mi pasaporte colombiano” –there is something that makes me feel more proud than my lyrics, even more than my awards or the appreciation of the fans, it is my Colombian passport. (Source: Shakiramania.org)

Shakira’s Childhood and Early Years

Many of her biographies talk about her high IQ (about 140), but not one Shakira biography cites where this statement comes from. What is well known is that at 18 months she knew the alphabet and spoke with great clarity, and at age three she was already reading.


Shakira Belly Dancing
Picture from the biography “Shakira Woman Full of Grace.”

The unauthorized Shakira biography: “Shakira Woman Full of Grace” says that her mother still has the first poem Shakira wrote when she was three “La Rosa de Cristal” –The Crystal Rose.

From a very young age she wanted to sing and dance. Since the early days she dreamed of becoming a huge star in her native Barranquilla, sitting by the sea every Sunday afternoon as she told Chirs Conley in an interview in 2006 for the television program “20/20.”

By the age of 5 she was already participating in Arab dancing and singing competitions. In an interview for “USA Weekend” in December 2005 Shakira said: “I was known in school as ‘the belly dancer girl’ because every Friday I would do a number I learned. That’s how I discovered my passion for live performance.”

The unauthorized Shakira biography: “Shakira Woman Full of Grace” says she attended “La Enseñanza,” a Catholic school run by nuns where she learned about Catholicism. Faith plays an important role in her life, and in 1998 the pope Juan Pablo II received her at the Vatican.

In an interview with “Revista Sermana,” her mother said that Shakira first became obsessed with science. Later on, she used to confine herself to her room to write what her parents thought were stories and poems. They soon discovered that she was writing songs.

No one Shakira biography tells you that besides her writing ability and playing the guitar, she also plays the harmonica. Nowadays we don’t see her playing the harmonica at all, but this instrument had a strong presence in her song “Dónde estás corazón” from her first famous album “Pies Descalzos”.

The Beginning

The unauthorized Shakira biography: “Shakira Woman Full of Grace” confirms her artistic career started when she was only eight by writing “Tus gafas oscuras.” a song inspired by her father.

Her next big step happened in 1988 when she was 10. The Colombian broadcasting station “Telecaribe” had the program “Buscando Un Artista Infantil” Searching for a Young Artist- in which several youngsters competed for first prize. She won first place for three consecutive years.

Believe it or not, at first Sony was not interested in signing Shakira but Ciro Vargas -an executive from Sony Colombia- made arrangements for top executives to go to a bar. Without them knowing the main attraction was Shakira. The performance was a complete success and it was at that moment that Sony decided to sign her.

It is ironic to know that her first two records were not successful. The first one “Magia” was released in 1991 when she was 13 and sold about 1,000 copies. The second record “Peligro” was released in 1993 when she was 15 and had less success than the previous one. Today Shakira has expressed her desire to keep these records off the market considering them very immature works.

The Breakthrough

After finishing high school and having mild success acting in a soap opera named “El Oasis”, the interpret Shakira decided to give music a second try.

Her strong personality coupled with persistence and a passion for music helped her come back with breakthrough material that placed her in top ten lists in Latin America. In 1996, the album “Pies Descalzos” opened the doors for her outside Colombia. “Pies Descalzos” hit number one in eight different countries and eventually went platinum in the U.S. She sold more than four million copies of that album, the best known songs were ”Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos” and “¿Dónde Estás Corazón?” Needless to say, she wrote them all.

“Pies Descalzos” hit number one in eight different countries and eventually went platinum in the U.S. She sold more than four million copies of that album, the best known songs were ”Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos” and “¿Dónde Estás Corazón?” Needless to say, she wrote them all.

Her next album “Donde Están los Ladrones” in 1998 had a more impressive success. By now Shakira was working with Emilio Estefan as her manager and producer. This was the album that opened the U.S. market for her with 11 weeks at number one on the Billboard’s Latin album chart.

When Gloria Estefan offered to translate to English her song “Ojos Asi” she realized she needed to learn English to be able to write her own material and make a crossover.

In 2000 her album “Shakira MTV Unplugged” compiled all her most important songs that were recorded live from a performance in 1999 in Manhattan. The album won a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album in 2000.

It’s Crossover Time!

After all these accomplishments, Shakira was craving success outside the Latin American market. She went to work on her next, mostly English-language album “Laundry Service” which became an instant hit after releasing her single “Whenever, Wherever” ahead of her entire album in 2001. “Laundry Service” went triple platinum.


Extensive touring to support “Laundry Service” left her exhausted, but in 2004 she appeared ready for battle again with about 60 songs she created in English and Spanish. The team chose 20 songs to be divided in two sets. “Oral Fixation” and “Fijación Oral” were born in 2005 from these 20 songs. Both albums were released, again with incredible success.

And, what is all that frenzy about “Hips Don’t Lie”? This was simply a genius move that Epic did on 2006 by reissuing the album in March with a bonus track that caused sensation. “Hips Don’t Lie” became one of the summer’s biggest hits and made sales of hip scarves fashionable everywhere!

In 2007 Shakira and Beyonce teamed up to participate in a one-time collaboration called “Beautiful Liar”. This invitation came from Beyonce. It is likely Beyonce is trying to appeal to the Hispanic market by joining efforts with Latin superstar Shakira.

The collaboration of Beyonce and Shakira has been subject to some mixed opinions, with some arguing the song does not have substance, and instead just contains great hip moves and two beautiful singers. It appears “Beautiful Liar” had high expectations amongst Shakira fans who were left a bit disappointed.

Love Life


Shakira and Antonio De la Rua Picture by PEOPLE en Espan(ol, 2007.

She was involved with Antonio de la Rúa from 2000 to 2011, an attorney and son of the former president of Argentina, Fernando de la Rúa. After splitting in 2011, she was the center of a scandal in 2012 when he filed a $250 million dollar lawsuit in NY.

In 2011 she officially introduced Gerard Piqué to her followers by twitting “Les presento a mi sol” along with a photo of the couple. In 2012 Shakira announced she was pregnant with Piqué’s baby, and baby Milan was born in January 2013.

Love did not come easy for the pop star. Her songs seem to reflect in their lyrics some deception about love that may have come through personal experiences, although no one Shakira biography can confirm this. I think this is one of the reasons why women all over the world love her music, as they can empathize with her lyrics.

Shakira Memorabilia and Products

The success of this petite Colombian goes beyond believe. She has her personal signature perfume in the market which was launched in 2010. Other items like shoes, ear budds, t-shirts, and Shakira memorabilia are becoming incredibly demanded items from this artist. Some of the best pieces are signed Shakira posters which are popular amongst fans.

Shakira the Humanitarian

She created the foundation “Pies Dezcalzos” –Bare Feet- named after her third album “to provide education, nutrition, health coverage and emotional and psychological support to children who have been displaced by violence and those living in poverty” as the foundation’s mission states.

In October 2003 UNICEF named Shakira a Global Goodwill Ambassador for the organization. At the time she was 26. She became the youngest UNICEF Ambassador in its history.

As Sony Music president Michele Anthony was quoted in the article “Love in the Time of Shakira” for Elle magazine in 2006: “Shakira’s really defining what it means to be a truly global artist.”

According to the Shakira biography on Mundoandino.com, Shakira is as of 2007 the fourth most successful artist so far from the 2000s based on United World Chart.

Shakira Tickets

With all her fame and glory now under her belt Shakira tickets are becoming a hot commodity. Any time she goes on stage Shakira’s fans go crazy, and with good reason.

Shakira tickets guarantee you a rewarding show. She is one of the most reknown dancers of today. Her movements and flexibility along her voice are always admired by fans all over the world.

I have seen Shakira’s VIP passes that when available are a good buy. They offer in most cases a personal meeting with the artist which is almost impossible with other famous stars, a group photo with her, official meet and greet laminate, a Shakira concert shirt, Collectible tour lithograph wich comes numbered and only for ticket package purchasers and very close sitting within the first 5 rows of the stage.

So go ahead and treat yourself and your loved one to an unforgettable life show with Shakira!

There is no doubt we will be adding more successes to the Shakira biography judging by her flourishing singing career and her youth. The interpret Shakira likely has a great future in front of her and this may be just the beginning.

Shakira Biography by MH

Make Tamales

Time to Make Tamales With Expert Sandra Vasquez

Yes, it is the time of the year to make tamales, and to help us in the process is Sandra Vasquez.

Sandra is a tamale making expert who guides us in our Tamale section. She shared her secrets on how to make authentic tamales, her tricks and the evolution of tamales as we know them today.

Sandra is an admirable entrepreneur who created the tamale masa spreader 15 year ago! She has learnt her tricks through years of experience, and has taught many people at malls, libraries and fairs the art of making tamales. Sandra helps you keep Hispanic culture alive!

Hispanic Culture Online talked to Sandra to know about her passion for tamales and her ingenious invention. Here is what she told us.

Who Is Sandra?

She is a business woman and inventor of the Tamale Spreader. Sandra was born, raised, and educated in Corpus Christi, TX. and her heritage is Mexican. Her mother was born in Paras and raised in Sabinas Hidalgo in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

Her Childhood Memories of Tamales in Her Own Words…

My grandmother, Nepomusena, would make tamales for Christmas and for Las Posadas. Every year all my aunts, eight of them, would gather around the table to spread masa onto cornhusks to make tamales.

I still remember the huge mountain of masa, and that it would take all day to make 50 dozen of tamales. They were cooked outside in a large copper cazo kettle, over mesquite fire.

Eight hog heads were cooked the day before. We would use a molino grinder, to grind the meat and a molcajete, the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle tool, to grind the spices and chiles.

I love the aroma of fresh spices. Mixing the masa and kneading the dough took muscles. It was an all day family affair. Before the end of the day the tamales were done.

I was about 10 years old when I started to learn to spread masa, and didn’t master spreading unitl I was 16 years old.

Grandma passed, then we continued making tamales in Texas. My mom, dad and my aunt would knead the masa with their hand…Now we can use a mixer.

How the Idea of the Tamale Spreader Was Born

After the death of my mother I wanted to carry on the family tradition of making tamales during the Christmas holiday.

Knowing that the traditional art of making tamales required an entire day of preparation and cooking, I was always looking for a way to make the process easier and faster yet involving the family.

Using the back of a spoon it takes a master spreader one minute to spread 2 cornhusks. Right there I saw there was a real need to create a faster and more efficient way to spread the masa. Using the Tamale Spreader anyone can master spreading in just a few strokes. Then they can spread a dozen of tamales per minute.

The Tamale Masa Spreader is equipped with tracks and angles, which are instrumental features to an even spread. The tracks contain the masa and the angles gauge the thickness of the dough.

Using the front end of the spreader you just have to pick up masa, place it on the husk, lock in place, and slide down towards the end of the husk.

The amount of pressure you apply at the angles controls the thickness. It is no longer an all day affair if you have a Tamale Spreader and a good recipe.

The spreading which is the most time consuming part of the process is now easy and can be mastered in jus a few stroke…More tamales in less time.

How Sandra Keeps Hispanic Traditions Alive

By revolutionizing the art of making tamales, so that we can hold on to a tradition. TamaleSpreader.com will help all future tamale makers to hold onto the tradition of making tamales!

Sandra also raised her children bilingual in Spanish and strongly believes in Latino Leadership.

Tools for Making Tamales

Here are the most recommended tamale pots that i have seen in the market. Call me old fashion but I love the simplicity of the stainless steel or old style tamaleras. The best is the size of these tamaleras, plenty of space to steem many tamales at once.

Sandra Vasquez is an inventor and a Hispanic entrepreneur. You can get Tamale Spreaders from HEB Grocery Stores, Fiesta Marts, Supermercados Wal-Mart, Wal-Marts, Food City, Bashas, Super A Foods, MexGrocer.com, and many other Hispanic grocers.

Other Tamale Articles You May Enjoy

Authentic Tamale Recipe
Chicken Tamale Recipe
Sweet Tamales Recipe
Cinco de Mayo Tamales

Video at the top by Mex-Sales

Lent Ideas

10 Lent Ideas to Spark Your Faith

Coming from a Hispanic background I have celebrated Lent many times in my life, although I must confess, today I celebrate Lent more away from my traditional Catholic upbringing. Nevertheless, La Cuaresma, how we call it in Spanish, is a wonderful vehicle to renovate your faith and spread excellent values to those around you.

One thing is for sure, this holiday is a very important one to many Latino communities, where faith is a vital part of daily life. While Lent is most commonly associated with Catholicism, anyone can use Lent to help them focus their prayers and energy on God in the 40 days leading up to Easter.

I started thinking about the meaning of lent and how could I bring back this tradition into my life in a traditional and non-traditional way and here I have these ideas for you.

Five Traditional Lent Ideas

1. Use Fasting. This is the most traditional and most common way to celebrate Lent. Fasting represents a commemoration of the roughly 40 hours that Jesus lay in the tomb after the crucifixion, as well as the fasting that the apostles did to mourn him.

The exact restrictions of the fast evolved over the years and are now different for various Christian denominations. You might fast all day and only eat at night, or eat a restricted diet that avoids “luxury” foods like eggs, meat, and cheese. Or, you might simply give up one favorite food like chocolate, coffee, or red meat as a penance during Lent.

We lit Candles Some Days of Lent

We lit Candles Some Days of Lent

2. Bake Lenten Breads. Baking Lenten breads like hot cross buns or pretzels is another traditional way to celebrate. The crosses in these breads represent a monk’s arms crossed in prayer.

3. Use Purple Decorations. The color purple is associated with the suffering Jesus experienced during the crucifixion. As the color of royalty, purple also symbolizes Jesus’ status as the son of God. Churches and homes are often decorated with purple during Lent for this reason.

4. Read About the Stations of the Cross. Lent is the most traditional time to perform the stations of the cross, which is a devotional that helps believers focus on each event in Jesus’ final hours leading up to the crucifixion.

Many countries in Latin America have a performance group that acts out the stations with full participation of the audience.

5. Practice Charitable Giving. God gave the world his only son in order to be our salvation. In recognition of this divine gift, believers traditionally step up their own charitable giving during Lent.

This giving act is one of the most perfect lent ideas because it gives you the opportunity to involve your children teaching them the power of giving and how it helps others.

We ask our son what percentage of his savings he is willing to share and we guide him from there. Believe me, it is not his favorite thing to do however, the idea is set in his mind as we have been repeating it over the years.

Five Creative Lent Ideas

1. Participate in Digital Fasting. Yup, giving up TV, video games, email, Facebook, or even the whole internet during Lent is a neat modern twist on traditional fasting. Without these distractions, you will have more time to focus on prayer during Lent.

2. Use Fasting for Charity. Don’t just give up something for Lent-use this act of self-denial to fund your charitable giving. For example, you might give up coffee and contribute the money you would have spent on your daily java to charity.

3. Give Up Negativity. This is one of my favorite lent ideas. In the spirit of fasting, try giving up a negative quality or emotion like anger, fear, or selfishness. Make a commitment to turn your thought to Christ every time one of these emotions tempts you.

4. Embrace Modern Lent Readings. Try reading the Catholic Church’s set of daily Lent Bible passages from a modern Bible translation for a fresh perspective on the scriptures.

5. Celebrate as a Family. Celebrating Lent as a family will create more opportunities for discussion of faith and it will also help all family members have the willpower to follow through on their Lent promises.

You can also set up a game where you use family accountability making sure all members help each other keep their promises for this time of the year. Here is how:

  • Set the goals for mom, dad and each kid.
  • Write the goals (what each person is giving up for lent) and make them clear.
  • Post them in a visible place in the house.
  • The one who cheats or breaks their sacrifice has to place certain amount of money for charity in the money pot.
  • Donate what you collected to your favorite charity.

Language Immersion Myths

This is a language immersion myths article that addresses five of the biggest misconceptions about bilingual immersion for children. It is simple, nevertheless enlightening.

So, after a lot of thought and discussion about bilingual education, you’ve finally decided to do it. You’ve decided to put your child in a language immersion program. Now it’s time to tell the extended family.

Instead of the expected reaction of support for your decision, you get bombarded with questions and advice from well-intentioned (albeit misinformed) individuals:

  • “Why would you want to do that? Everyone should learn English.”
  • “I heard that children who try to learn two languages develop slower than other kids.”
  • “They’re never going to be able to fully learn English now.

“Pretty soon, you wonder if you’ve done the right thing. Anxiety starts to creep in and doubts begin to surface. You’re not alone. Many parents at one time or another question their decision to put their child in a language immersion program. They begin to hear about so-called “research” that discredits immersion programs and questions your child’s ability to learn two languages.

Misconceptions abound (Wikipedia has a good reference section on bilingual education.) However, they can often be categorized as one of the following myths:

  • Language Immersion Myth: Children that grow up hearing two (or more) languages will experience language disorders and/or language delay.

This is probably the most widespread myth on the subject. It stems from the fact that research initially done in bilingual education for children was flawed.

The majority of the studies were done on immigrant children with impoverished cognitive language abilities to begin with. Much of the research was skewed and attempted to prove that bilingual education had an adverse effect on other cognitive language functions, when in reality, social conditions were the primary factor in poor second language acquisition.

REALITY: Current research has shown that there is no scientific evidence suggesting children learning a second language will suffer from any disorders or delays in acquiring either their first or second language.

  • Language Immersion Myth: Children who learn a second language will never acquire the vocabulary needed to master either language.

This is a common argument by opponents of bilingual education which is a variation of the above misconception.

REALITY: Vocabulary acquisition is roughly equivalent for monolingual students and bilingual students. Monolingual students initially might have a slightly stronger vocabulary in the primary language than bilingual students, but when combining the vocabulary of the primary and secondary language of the bilingual student, the amount of vocabulary is nearly equal. In fact, some research suggests that bilingual students often surpass their monolingual counterparts within a few years in terms of the amount of vocabulary they know.

  • Language Immersion Myth: When children use two languages in a single sentence, it is a sign that they are confused.

REALITY: Code-switching (using two or more languages in a single utterance) is a common phenomenon among bilingual speakers. Contrary to popular opinion, it is highly regulated by the rules of grammar of both the primary and secondary languages. The most proficient bilingual speakers code-switch.

When children (or adults) code-switch, it shows that they have assimilated the grammatical patterns of both languages and are able to differentiate between the two. I’d say that’s far from being confused.

  • Language Immersion Myth: Bilingualism is an exception; monolingualism is the norm.

REALITY: Some would have you believe that bilingualism and bilingual education is merely a fad. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Some reports suggest that nearly half of the world’s population is bilingual. Additionally, bilingual immersion programs are growing at an unprecedented rate as people have begun to realize the importance and the benefit of having their children learn another language.

  • Last Myth: Children learning two languages will be less creative than monolingual children and won’t be as good at math and science.

REALITY: Research has continually shown that bilingual immersion students do at least as well as, if not better than monolingual students in the areas of mathematics and science. Also, no scientific research supports the idea that bilingual students are less creative than monolingual students.

So what does all this mean? What it means is that your child is at no disadvantage for being enrolled in a language immersion program. Children have an amazing ability to adapt and learn when given the chance and a positive environment. Instead of focusing on outdated research and common misconceptions, parents should spend their time helping their child succeed.

The common thread of nearly all the research is that in order for immersion programs to be successful, parents must play an active role. The single biggest correlate to how well children do in an immersion program is the level of involvement by their parents. Without involvement, not only does the program suffer, but the children lose out on a tremendous opportunity to grow in ways that we, their parents, never dreamed of.

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