Author: Frances

Mission of Love: Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Effort Trip

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On September 20th Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria.  On October 27th, exactly one month and a week later I traveled to Puerto Rico to bring provisions to family and friends on a Mission of Love: Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Effort Trip. 

Puerto Ricans in the diaspora with a mission of love.

At the airport, I realized I wasn’t the only one lugging boxes and suitcases of provisions.  I spoke to a few people who were on the same mission that I was on!  To bring to their loved ones some relief.  We joked about how heavy our bags were, and how batteries are a hot commodity in Puerto Rico.  We weren’t strangers talking.  We were Puerto Ricans in the diaspora sharing one thing in common: to help our families.

What we saw…

That Friday afternoon when I arrived in San Juan things “looked normal.” The city has power.   I waited for my cousin who was flying in from Connecticut, and we both rented a car.  We started our journey to the north western side of the island towards Florida my hometown and where all our family lives.  In San Juan the traffic lights were working, and traffic was crazy.  

A few things we saw along the way,  was a sense of patriotism and love displayed with flags on cars, buildings and homes. Billboard signs with “Puerto Rico se levanta”, “Oraciones para Puerto Rico” and “Unidos por Puerto Rico”, and on street corners there were vendors selling flags.

However, things were far from being normal as we left the “area metropolitana” (city area) behind us and we were getting closer to home.  Out in the countryside there’s a stark contrast from the city.  Things looked different.  There is no power, trees are bare, and there are damaged homes, and piles of furniture, mattresses, and trash along the sidewalks waiting to be picked up.

We saw many electrical poles hanging sideways, trees pulled from their roots, and policemen at main road crossings directing traffic.  At sunset they leave,  and there is no one to help. Of course, except for the various tow trucks parked on the corners waiting for an accident to happen.  It’s scary trying to get across with no working traffic lights, and everyone trying to get through. We continued to see electrical poles slanted on the side, some barely being held up by the electrical cords.  We saw some houses without roofs with only a blue tarp covering them. Others were abandoned by their residents.

How is life in Puerto Rico now?

For the 70% that are still without power they are adjusting to a new way of life.  In Florida as well as other towns without power, they wake up at the crack of dawn to go to the grocery store to get in line in order to get a “number” for their turn to get one bag of ice. Then around 11 a.m. they return to pick-up their bag of ice.  Many of them are strangers who have become friends. This is the place that they get their “news” or find out where they are “giving out free food or provisions.”  

For the lucky ones with gas stoves they are able to cook at home.  For others, “al fogón”  (open fire) or on a grill.  

Grocery stores are open but with a limited schedule they open at  11 a.m. and close before sunset.  Meats that are purchased at the grocery store need to be cooked right away, and eaten on the same day. Against my wishes, my Mom cooked some chicken and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas).   

Washing clothes by hands is a chore in itself!  Many have wash boards, and others like my Mom have a washing area that my stepdad made for her (it’s a bunch of empty sinks set up on wooden boards).  

When the sun sets many sit out on their porches or go out and talk to their neighbors. Others sit inside their homes with a flashlight or candle light read a book or just simply sit around to chat. A little while later they go to sleep with the humming sounds of neighbor’s generator, and the chirping sounds of the coquís. Outside it is pitch black!  

Businesses are often taken outside on the sidewalk. We came across barbers working outside of their shops, and just enjoying the occasional passersby like us yelling from the car, “Smile for the camera!”

All in all, they are living day-by-day.  

Our mission of love.

My cousin and I had both collected donated items. We made “goody bags” that included personal care items, sanitizing wipes, water purification tablets, mayo packets (you would not believe how excited they were about these), coffee, oatmeal, batteries, and  more!   

We donated to a total of 10 families!   All thanks to the generous donations of many. 

It lifted our hearts to see the reaction when they felt the breeze of the fan for the first time in weeks, the grinning smile of the unexpected gifts, the “ooohs and aaahs” of how the solar panel can charge a cell phone or a solar bulb, the sense of relief of receiving a much needed mosquito net to sleep at night, and the tears of joys because someone,  a stranger had remembered them.

An elderly lady who happens to be my mom’s neighbor asked “How much do I owe you for all of this?” and it gave me great joy and pleasure to tell her, “It’s a gift.”  

Every single one of them were truly appreciative and expressed their gratitude with hugs; and a message to all the donors: ¡Gracias! Thank you!

Reflections

Puerto Ricans are altruistic by nature.  Kind and compassionate even in the face of adversity.  They are resilient people, with a strong spirit, and even greater faith.   

Although the trees are bare we saw new leaves sprouting with a beautiful green color … a sure sign that things will be all right. That after the storm the sun always comes out and shines.

There is still so much work to do.  

In spite of the fact that help has been slow,  there are emergency crew members, and linemen flying in every day to help our beloved island.  I pray the government and the powers that be can reestablish power very soon.   

We crossed the ocean to bring some relief to families and friends back home, but what we  really gave them was HOPE. Hope that they are not forgotten.  

 

Categories: Puerto Rico

Spanish Resources for Kids

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Thanks to technology and the worldwide web we have at our fingertips tons of resources on raising a bilingual child.  For instance, in my case I am raising my child to be bilingual in Spanish.  When I started our language learning adventure I scoured the web for resources, and many of the links listed here are blogs that I follow and admire.  With that being said,  I’m truly excited to share with you my favorite links on Spanish resources for kids.

I’ve broken down this post in various sections: Songs in Spanish, vowels, preschool, early elementary and elementary for easy access. Read More…

Q is for Quito’s Middle of the World Monument Kids Craft

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The equator is an imaginary line drawn around the earth equally distant from both poles, dividing the earth into northern and southern hemispheres and constituting the parallel of latitude 0°.  Although there are continents and some countries that are in both the eastern hemisphere and the western hemisphere Ecuador takes pride in having a Middle of the World Monument in Quito.

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Cooking with Kids DIY Spice Seasonings

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There’s one thing that I really enjoy doing with my son, and it’s cooking!  We recently made a batch of spice seasonings to gift.  Nothing like homemade spices instead of the store bought ones.  You also save a ton of money, too!
We gathered our materials measuring cups, spoons, mason jars and the seasonings.  Then we got started!  Just an FYI it will get very messy!   I also had raffia to decorate and labels for each jar.  We made taco, ranch, Italian, chili and adobo seasonings.

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Categories: Cooking with Kids, Food

Taíno Petroglyphs for Kids

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If you’ve been following me for a while you’ve probably read my series  Discovering our Taíno Ancestry.  It is a four part installment series that you can find here:  El Cemí y Dujo: Discovering Our Taíno AncestryDo It Yourself Petroglyph: Discovering Our Taino Ancestry, and Story Time with Kiki Kokí: Discovering Our Taíno Ancestry.

So today, I have a treat for you I’m over at Kid World Citizen sharing our experience on a family visit to the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center (Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes) and a fun activity for kids!

Taíno Petroglyphs: Rock Art for Kids

 

 

 

 

Categories: Taíno Ancestry

Celebrating Peru’s Independence Day

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July 28 marks Peru’s Independence Day also known as Las Fiestas Patrias. To celebrate this day,  I am honored to share with you a lovely essay from my friend, and author Mariana Llanos.  It’s a short essay on her love for Peru.

You will also find some quick historical facts, and activities to do with your kids for Peru’s Independence Day.

 

Peru in the Heart by Mariana Llanos 

Not long ago, an acquaintance who doesn’t have any ties to other cultures  besides the United States told me how he didn’t mind people migrating to this country for a better life.  However, he truly didn’t like these people celebrating their culture.

“They’re in America.” he said, “They should celebrate what Americans celebrate.”

Imagine my face as he said this to a Peruvian immigrant who proudly celebrates her traditions and culture. The conversation could have turned sour; instead, I chose to understand his point of view and explain mine.

“The fact that we celebrate our traditions doesn’t mean that we don’t love the United States or its culture. It just means that we want to keep our cultural identity alive. We’re merely adding another ingredient to the melting pot. Celebrating keeps us connected with the world we left behind, and helps us bear with this constant adaptation process. I imagine if you lived abroad, no matter how much you loved your new country, you would be the first in line to celebrate 4th of July.”

“Well, that’s true.” he said cocking his head, but we quickly changed subjects. I only hope that some of what I said had an impact in him.

In spite of my acquaintance, this July 28th, as Peruvians around the world commemorate the anniversary of our independence from Spain, I’m planning on celebrating with my friends as I do every year. We’ll cook our food, we’ll listen to some “música criolla”, and just rejoice in the fact that are lucky to had been born in a country with such richness of culture, history, and traditions. We’ll cherish our red and white flag, while we’ll remain grateful to the land that fosters us and allows us to be free to embrace our cultural identity.

 

Historical Facts about Perú:

  • One of the most important civilizations of the American continent developed in Perú: The Inca Empire. It extended from the south of what is now known as Colombia through Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia, Chile and the north of Argentina. It was called TAHUANTINSUYO. The capital of the Tahuantinsuyo was the city of Qosqo, or Cusco, now in Perú. One of the most impressive remains of the Inca Empire is located in Cusco. Machu Picchu attracts tourists from all around the world who rejoice in the mysticism of its history.
  • The story of Perú doesn’t start with the Incas. Prior to the Inca expansion, an array of cultures lived in what is now the Peruvian territory, including Nazca, Moche, Tiahuanaco, Wari, Recuay, Chimu among others. These cultures were absorbed by the dominant warrior spirit of the Quechuas, giving origin to the Inca Empire founded by Manco Capac, the first Inca.
  • The Inca Empire was conquered and invaded by Spanish conquistadores around 1532, when they captured Inca Atahualpa. The Spanish brought horses, swords, guns, and diseases the natives had never known.
  • The Spanish conquistadores, led by Francisco Pizarro chose the valley of Lima (called Rimaq at that moment) for the capital of the Spanish Viceroyalty. The city of Lima was founded by Pizarro on January 18th, 1535. It became the capital of Perú after the War of Independence.
  • In the late 1700’s, Tupac Amaru an indigenous leader, descendant of one of the Incas, led a rebellion that shook the core of the Spanish Viceroyalty. Tupac Amaru was not successful, and eventually him and his followers were decimated, but his rebellion left open an important window for future independence movements.
  • On July 28th, 1821, José de San Martín, an Argentinian general and prime leader of the independence movement in South America, declared the Independence of Perú (after declaring the Independence of Chile and Argentina). His words were: “From this moment Perú is free and independent by the general will of its people and by the justice of its cause defended by God. Long live our Land! Long live our Freedom! Long live our Independence!”
  • After several wars led by valiant Peruvians and their allies, Perú was finally free from the almost 300 years of Spanish occupation. A new Republic was born, one as diverse, rich, and culturally colorful as the flag of the Tahuantinsuyo.

Mariana Llanos is a Peruvian writer who has published several children’s books in English and in Spanish. She studied acting and has worked as a preschool music and art teacher for the past years. She advocates for literacy and the inclusion of multicultural characters in children’s literature. Mariana visits schools around the world through virtual technology.

To learn more about author Mariana Llanos you can visit her website Maria Llanos and her Amazon author page for more information. Follow Mariana on Facebook and Twitter!
You can also read my review on her newest poetry book Poesía Alada here.

Books about Peru (aff.links)

Kusikiy a Child from Taquile, Peru

Maria Had a Little Llama / María Tenía Una Llamita

The Children’s Book of Machu Picchu: The Amazing Story of the Mysterious Inca City in the Clouds

Kids activities and resources:

Discovering Peru with Kids

 

Peruvian Bird Gourd Craft for Kids

 

Lomo Saltado: Beef Stir Fry from Peru

 

Sprouted Quinoa Milk and Resources to Study about Peru {Around the World in 12 Dishes}

Machu Picchu with Kids: Step by Step Tips

History of Peruvian Potatoes, A Recipe + Link-Up

Llamellín, Peru’s Colorful “Fiestas Patronales”

Peru with Kids: 10 Things to Do with Kids in The Sacred Valley

 

 

 

 

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Montessori Inspired Language Learning Resource for Toddlers

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If you’ve been following me for a while you will know how hard it was for me to find reliable resources on raising a bilingual child.  I spent hours on the web looking for ideas on how to teach my toddler Spanish.   Oh! How I wish back then I had the Montessori Inspiration at Home  Language series e-book!  Teaching my toddler Spanish would have been so much easier!

 

What I love about this e-book is that it is inspired on the Montessori method of an education that  is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. This wonderful resource created by an amazing group of women: Vanessa from Mama’s Happy Hive,  Isabel from Uno Zwei Tutu,  Amruta from Mumma Diaries,  and Yuliya from Welcome to Mommyhood will give you all the tools to help your budding linguist learn Spanish!

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Categories: Bilingualism