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Mi Vida Loka: How Fantasy Football Brought a Group of Mujeres Together to Form a Tight-Knit Community

Across the nation yesterday, Americans camped out in front of their televisions surrounded by salty snacks and cold beers, and watched the Patriots smash the Rams at the 53rd annual Superbowl. Widely considered the great American pastime (though Dodgers fans may beg to differ), football is a huge part of our country’s culture– I mean, even Cardi B made an appearance during the eagerly-anticipated commercial breaks. Still, as popular as football is, it has long been dominated by male fans– which makes sense, given that boys are offered plenty of opportunities to participate in the contact sport from a young age, while girls are stuck on the sidelines. It’s no secret that many men seize football as an opportunity to bond with their buddies– but one group of badass, brown women are shaking the stereotype that only bros can connect over the game: meet the Lokas, a radical crew of 14 mujeres who started their very own fantasy football league five years ago, which soon turned into so much more.

Atop a hill in Montecito Heights sits a beautiful house surrounded by fresh flowers and lemon trees.

This is the home of Veronica Gutierrez and Laura Genao, (or as the crew fondly calls them, Lauronica), and it’s the “adult clubhouse” for the Lokas to party and watch football together.

Naomi Roochnik

Laura and Veronica were the original catalysts for the Lokas, and continue to be the “nucleus” of the group. They both have been football fans for years, and wanted to turn more women onto the game. “My wife, Laura– we call her The Commish, since she’s the league commissioner– started the fantasy football league because she wanted to learn more about football, and she wanted to learn it with people who wouldn’t be intimidated by it. That’s why she suggested it with all our friends,” says Veronica. Although some of the women knew very little about the game, they all came with an open mind. “We have different levels of knowledge of the game within the group. Some people came primarily for the cocktails but became football fans in the process, since it was a safe space to learn about football.” They even have a special name for the Superbowl. “We call it La Aguacateada because Laura’s mom, que en paz descanse, used to call it that since she knew we’d be eating guacamole that day. It just stuck.” Vero’s mom is also responsible for the origin of the Loka name. “Cuando vienen las Lokas? my mom would ask, because, you know, we’re a jovial group, and we have a lot of fun together. She started it, and we kind of embraced it with a K.” The Loka dedication to the game even spurred a renovation at the Lauronica house. “People like the cocktails. That’s why I put the bar in the back. I used to make the cocktails in the kitchen and we’d hear everybody cheering and we’d miss a big play so we ended up taking out our storage and moving the bar out there.”

The Lokas came together organically– it’s not as though all 14 grew up together– rather, it started out as a few women and grew as they brought like-minded friends.

Naomi Roochnik

Longtime Loka Martha Rodriguez (Lauronica’s neighbor, and, coincidentally, former grade school classmate) recalls she knew little about the game when she first began attending: “I didn’t know enough about the game to really get into it at first…but then once they started the league, things got bigger, and there was always a winner…now, I’m the one who shows up with ten different football pools. I’m an LA girl, so I gotta support the LA team, but I just want to win the freaking pool! So if I gotta turn against the Rams to win a thousand dollars, I’m gonna turn against the Rams,” she laughs. The league even has sweatshirts, t-shirts, and a trophy for whomever wins big.

Member Laura Luna “didn’t know anything about football” when she first began watching the games at Lauronica’s.

Naomi Roochnik

“I started going to the weekly games, and having such a good time. There was no judgement that I didn’t know much about football…It seemed like everyone else was an expert at that point; they knew all the plays, and everything about the players. And I wanted that community so bad, I ended up joining the fantasy football league,” she says. “I did horribly! I was literally just picking based on colors!” she laughs. The warm and welcoming energy of the group never made her feel bad, though.  “If I had any questions, it was never, like oh that’s so dumb. It was never like that.” This response was a welcome change from the usual annoyance or condescending tone from football bros. Martha muses that she doesn’t care what the bros think, though. “In general, the macho Mexicanos, they laugh at this. The idea of a bunch of women getting together, calling themselves Lokas– but I don’t care what anybody thinks. It is such an awesome time to hang out with these women, so me vale madre.” Member Judee Fernandez actually looks forward to being tested by men. “I thrive off of those moments. I got into it with a guy about his team and I think it really shocked him that I knew that much about football. Most men don’t think you know. They think that you’re stupid and the minute you’re able to make the call, or talk about the coaches or the record, or review the games, they’re surprised.”

Though it started out as a fantasy football league, the Lokas grew into an impenetrable female friendship and a “safety net”, as many of them call it.

Naomi Roochnik

Making friends in any big city is tough, but making friends in Los Angeles can often seem damn near impossible. But over the past five years, this group of women has become more than friends– they consider themselves family. “We’ve gone through marriages, divorce, deaths of parents, births; we’ve gone full circle and grown with each other,” says Martha. While the original intent behind the get-togethers was football, many viewed it more as an important opportunity to build community. “I just wanted to be around women who were cool, and, well, there’s not a lot of positive examples of queer women of color thriving,” Luna explains. “I was trying to find my own community of women of color who were successful, professional, and also into having fun. I’m not super close to my family of origin, so to me, having these women is so important. Yes, football for a lot of the women is very important, but what’s also important to all of us is community.”

In addition to the rules of football, Lauronica’s has also been a safe space for folks to share and learn about important topics, spanning from sexuality to race to finances.

Naomi Roochnik

The age gap between the women (the youngest Loka is in her early 30s, the eldest in her mid 50s) provides frequent learning opportunities. “They accept me and I learn a lot from them,” says Martha. “Luna would often talk about being queer– and I’m 55. When I was growing up, queer was a bad word. You never called somebody queer. But, I learned a whole new world from her! Is it ever awkward? No! Lauronica’s door is open to anybody. We have black women too, and they’re más Mexicanas que la fregada! We got Barb, she’s the white girl of the group, but it doesn’t matter! And that’s a beautiful thing. I mean, the world could use a lot more of that.” Judee mentions the importance of diversity in the group, and that even though it’s mostly queer Latinas, all women have a place here. “We talk about everything. It’s diverse, inclusive, and equitable, and everybody has a voice. The way we engage in conversation about what it means to be a white ally, and a white woman in this space and how we all learn from each other– that’s really important. We call each other out and instead of isolating someone, we do it with the intention of making someone better, pushing you to think deeper about what you’re saying or doing and that’s unique.” Judee explains that the younger Lokas often look to the elder ones as mentors: “The older Lokas own homes, but there’s some of us that are younger and barely trying to understand how to complete our FAFSA or tax records, and they literally mentor us in how to do it. The level of expertise and legal advice and mentorship is awesome. It’s almost like a think tank for problem-solving life, and enjoying it while we’re at it, and doing it with a cocktail or a beer in our hand.”

One thing all the women share in common is a dedication to social justice, philanthropy, and giving back, with Laura and Veronica leading the charge.

Naomi Roochnik

The couple actually started their own fundraising group, Mixology on a Mission. Veronica figured she could use her masterful bartending skills (“she’s a scientist!” gushes Martha about Vero) for good. They host events at their home where they prepare and teach others how to make craft cocktails, while raising money for causes they believe in, most of which are organizations other Lokas are involved in, including Las Fotos, East Yard Community for Environmental Justice, Mujeres de la Tierra, LA Center for Law and Justice, and, most recently, Dyke Day LA, of which Luna is a board member. Interestingly, Lauronica and the Lokas’ passion for equity and justice did create conflict with this season of football. While the group has still diligently watched games together and still had their annual Aguacateada, they actually forwent the fantasy league for the first time in years, in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. “The only time we didn’t do the league was this year, because we were kind of boycotting the NFL because of its position on, well, racism. We used to have season tickets to the Rams and we did not renew those. We told them we would not renew our tickets until Kaepernick was on the team, or until they rescinded the NFL policy where players could be punished for protesting racism.” The Lokas look up to Lauronica and see them as inspiration. “I call them my aunties, but the cool aunties that you go and tell them what’s up,” jokes Luna. “The relationship I have with Laura and Vero has really, to me, as a queer person of color, informed me how I show up for the younger queer folk in my life. They provided this really amazing blueprint on how to show up for folks. They taught me how to use the power and privilege that I have to support causes, community, and people whose work is making a change…Everyone has a different role in the revolution. Not everybody can, based on ability or mental health, be out in the streets, but those of us who have a little bit more privilege can fund the revolution or show up in this other way.”

So, who are the Lokas? Luna refers to them as her “chosen family.”

Naomi Roochnik

“You know how they say your boo is supposed to send you a good morning text? I wake up and some of these women are early ass risers and starting at 6am it’s like good morning, good morning, good morning! And how amazing is that? Especially in this world where we’re taught that only romantic love is important,” she says. Martha takes the name a little more literally. “The name suits us because as serious and professional as we are, we all got that crazy loca in us. As I tell people, there’s always a chola waiting behind the screen door. Don’t make her knock on the door. You don’t want to see that girl. We’re crazy!” she cackles. Judee also brings up the inner chola, and something she calls “chola politics”. “So many of us in this group really come from neighborhoods where you had to be ultra resilient to survive and have this chola demeanor– we were badasses, we weren’t afraid, we got shit done, we went out, not in a gang or violent way, but we respected the politics of having each other’s backs, not being a hater, being transparent, being there for what’s right and not what’s easy, and having girl code. We’re not really crazy, but we’re wild. Wildly intelligent and down,” she says. Smiling, Judee explains how the passion for football within the group has begun spreading to other sports. “It’s not even just football anymore, a lot of us now know stats about golf, and baseball, and tennis,” she says. “We’re taking over and reclaiming a space that would usually have been just for men. A space that should have always been ours, too.”


Read: How Bad Bunny’s Debut Album ‘X100PRE’ Challenges Machismo

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18 Superbowl Snacks To Make For Your Amigas This Weekend

Saborcito

18 Superbowl Snacks To Make For Your Amigas This Weekend

We’re just a few days away from the ultimate sporting event of the season– The Superbowl. Whether you’re rooting for the Patriots (um excuse me) or the Rams, every football fiesta needs some snacks. Ready to prove your cooking chops to your friends and make your abuelita proud? From the most simple recipes to the ones that’ll have you sweating in the kitchen here are 18 Latino-inspired game-day treats to get your mouth watering this weekend.

1. Guacamole for champions

Pinterest / isabeleats


What Superbowl party DOESN’T have chips and guac? There are a million variations on this recipe (greek yogurt? And peas, apparently?), but for those of you noobs that WEREN’T forced to help your mom cook all the things while your brother played video games (not that I’m bitter), I’ll help you out with the easiest recipe: literally just mash avocados with lemon juice together until you get the consistency you like (I’m a chunky gal myself) and add salt and pepper to taste. Now, bear with me, young ones– if you actually want your guac to have sabor, you need to stir in half a bunch of chopped cilantro, a diced onion, and a cut up tomato. I mean I can’t believe I even have to explain how to make guac but here we are.

For the comprehensive step-by-step click here.

2. Choclo con queso

Pinterest / Doris Jaime


Choclo is Peruvian hominy, and as a Peruana, I can assure you that it is da bomb. Hit the grocery store (I would do El Super or any latin market; they don’t always carry choclo at regular grocery stores) and buy some frozen choclo. All you have to do is boil it for about 8 minutes, (my mom always put a clove of star anise in the water to give it good flavor but you don’t have to) and serve it with a few slices of queso fresco.

For the authentic step-by-step click here.

3. DIY Fruta Bowls.

Pinterest / toriavey

Forget the weirdly flavored oreos (is Gatorade Oreo a thing? Because I feel like that’s something Nabisco would do for the Superbowl and it’s very upsetting) and the cheesy football-shaped cakes. Bring on the freshly cut fruit that keeps us feeling peppy all game-long and won’t give you a frosting mustache. Peel and slice up some pina, sandia, mango and oranges, and squeeze some lime juice on top. Have your guests make themselves a plate and sprinkle however much chile and chamoy and salt over it as they please. And feel free to get creative– you can do apples, papaya, cantaloupe– choose what’s in season or what looks good to you and get chopping!

This recipe teaches you how to make your own chile powder. Seems overly ambitious to me but don’t let that stop you. 

4. Pepinos con chile

Pinterest / mexicanmademeatless


While this isn’t some traditional, passed-down-for-generations thing, it is darn good and really refreshing. It’s literally exactly what it sounds like- cucumbers with chile or tajin seasoning. If you’re trying to avoid overly processed foods but are dying for limón chips, this is a pretty good substitute (no, it is not and never will be a chip, but it’s crunchy and sour and salty and at least it doesn’t leave crumbs on your shirt). Also, did I mention it’s hella easy and cheap to make? Cuz it is. Peel and slice cucumbers into medallions, squeeze lemon or lime juice on ‘em, sprinkle some salt and tajin on top and boom. Instant party favorite for the keto (and non-keto) folk.

Check it out here.

5. Quesadillas

Pinterest / goyafoods


There are many ways to make a quesadilla (Microwave! Oven! Toaster) but the most legit, tasty way IMO is on a hot pan. You take a tortilla (CORN tortilla, because we’re not animals), sprinkle a healthy serving of cheese on top (I personally love the combo of cotija and pepper jack) and place a second tortilla on top. Throw it on a hot pan with manteca on it. Grill until the cheese is melted and the tortillas have started to brown. Make sure you get both sides! You can slice it up into triangles to make easy finger food. Feeling secure with this recipe? Put some refried beans in there. Throw some rajas in the mix. The possibilities are endless. Do you, boo!

For the comprehensive step-by-step *and* for the go-getters who want to make their own tortillas check it out here.

6. Cancha

Pinterest / whats4eats


AKA elevated popcorn. It’s lightly toasted and salted corn and you can make a huge pot of it for the masses and feel proud for bringing something crunchy and satisfying to the game that ISN’T a chip (yawn). Serve it with a side of queso fresco. And if you have a spicy tooth like me, sprinkle a lil tapa-t on it for that added oomph. Check it out here.

7. Esquite

Pinterest / food52


Elote is great but who wants to get corn strings jammed in their teeth? Anybody? Didn’t think so. With esquite, you can enjoy the flavorful novelty of an elote without actually getting cotija cheese all over your cheeks and mayo on your chin, cuz it’s already cut off the cob for you! Check it out here

8. Pico de Gallo

Instagram / greenhealthycooking

Even though technically it’s used as a garnish, I grew up eating pico de gallo by the bowlful. The recipe itself is fairly simple (it’s just diced fresh tomato, onion, and cilantro marinated in lemon juice, salt, and pepper, but some people add garlic and jalapeno too), so as long as you’re down to do a bit of chopping, even the most cooking-deficient Latinxs of us all can whip up a decent pico de gallo. Serve it with chips and watch the party-goers come a-flocking. Just make sure you have a good amiga on hand to discreetly let you know if get cilantro stuck in your teeth.

Find the recipe here.

9. Tostones

Instagram / hardsnackswitharlo


COME. THRU. PUERTO. RICO. These things are so freakin’ delicious, especially when you dip them in some crema (but, really, isn’t everything better with crema?). Every bite is greasy, salty, crispy but soft yumminess with just a hint of underlying sweetness. And these days most grocery stores sell plantains, so you don’t even have to go out of your way to find some. Just make sure to get the green kind and not the ripe, black ones, unless you want to make Maduros, which are delicious too, but they don’t have that satisfying crispness that just feels right on Game Day.

Click here for the recipe.

10. Sopes

Instagram / caciqueinc


The ultimate bocadito. Imagine a small tortilla but…thicc. Now imagine putting crumbled cheese and refried beans and crema on it. Riquisimo. And, the size is ideal for a party food. It’s impossible not to love.

This recipe is for the sopes– what you decide to put in them is up to you! 

11. Arepitas

Pinterest / HispanicKitchen


Ah, Arepas– my Colombian/Venezuelan corn patties from another daddy. How I love thee! Scrumptious and the ideal vehicle for cheese or meat! And, unlike hamburger buns, your gluten-free friends can eat them too, since they’re made from corn. They’re sort of like really thick tortillas and they fill up your belly with masa magic. This recipe is the mini version with cilantro and cheese and it’s adorably snacky. Make sure you save some for yourself because guests are gonna be all up ON these babies.

Click here for the recipe.

12. Queso Fundido

Pinterest / bonappetitmag


I truly believe cheese will all bring us together. Like, who doesn’t love cheese? Literally no one, except my lactose intolerant girlfriend. Anyway, while everybody else is bringing their weird, radioactive orange cheese product in a jar (“KaySo”), you can make the bougie version. Think fondue with flair. This bowl of melted, stringy, seasoned cheese might eventually clog your arteries, but dang, does it taste good on a salty corn chip.

For the extra rich recipe with chorizo. 

13. Ceviche

Instagram / acomer.pe


The food of my PEOPLE! This is definitely one of the more difficult things to make on this list, but if you’re willing to put the time in, the pay off is delicious. Salty and zesty, this is great for munching on during the game– and, as an added bonus, it’s super healthy. Fresh seafood, onions, cilantro, lime, and garlic make for a light, protein-packed, and nutrient-rich snack– score for those of us that are doing the whole New Year, New Me thing. I like to put some ground up fresh ginger in mine, too, for an extra bite. You can eat it with a tostada or chips, or, if you really want to rep Peru (who doesn’t?), pair it with choclo or sweet potato.

Find the recipe here.

14. Salsa Bar

Pinterest / chefclaudiasandoval


Look, you can always hit the super and buy an array of salsas- red, green, quemado, avocado, you name it. There is no shame in store bought. It’s 2019 and we got business to take care of and some of us don’t have the time to make salsa from scratch. But, if you’re down to devote some effort in the kitchen (and possibly hack up a lung, depending on how sensitive you are to chile fumes– ftr, I am v. sensitive and had to evacuate the apartment), make your own salsas and showcase them in a row on the table. People will definitely tip their hats to you, and, let’s be honest, it’s just so much cooler than buying it from the store (no disrespect if you do, though).

Tomatillo salsa verde recipe.

Salsa roja recipe.

Salsa quemada recipe.

15. Tapatio Doritos con Crema Mexicana

Instagram / junkfoodmom


You might be wondering why this easy snack came last. That’s because it isn’t really so much a recipe as it is…a call to action. A way of life. A mystical, magical combination that will enchant your tastebuds and shake your world and everything you thought you knew about bocadillos. So, in case you’ve been living under a rock, crema mexicana is like sour cream but OHMYGOD so much better. It’s runnier, saltier, smoother, savorier, sweeter, and best of all, it doesn’t shock your tongue with that intense sour cream acid wave. And tapatio doritos are SO good, trust me on this. If y’all haven’t tried them yet, now is your chance. If you can’t find tapatio doritos, nacho cheesier flavor with tapatio sprinkled on it will do. You take the chip, you dip the chip in the crema, you put the chip in your mouth, chew, swallow, repeat. Thank me later.

And of course, the cocktails for any fresas skipping the cervezas:

16. Paloma

Pinterest / DrizzleandDip


OK, so I love cooking but bartending is a whole other animal. However, this drink is super easy to make and a huge crowd pleaser (sweet, sour, bubbles, tequila– yes please). All you need is lime juice, grapefruit soda and tequila–just make sure to get Jarritos and not Fresca for that authentic, nostalgia-inducing ooh-ah ah sensation. Perfect for the halftime show drinking game where we all inevitably end up bien pedas after taking a drink everytime Adam Levine does something obnoxious.

For the comprehensive step-by-step.

17. Capirinha

Pinterest / liquordotcom


So this drink is just classy and mildly laborious enough to impress the crew but not difficult or crazy enough to send you running for the hills. Lime, brown sugar and white rum (Cachaca, preferably) will have you feeling like you’re lying beachside in Brazil- just be careful cuz these suckers can sneak up on you and the next thing you know you might be professing your love for Tom Brady (hard no, ladies, hard no).

For the comprehensive step-by-step.

18. Pisco Sour

Pinterest / thesprucemakes


Just a heads up that I would really only recommend this recipe for the chicas that are up for a challenge. Yes, this libation is delicious af, yes, it’s from Peru so obvi that makes it fabulous, and yes it will wow the hell out of your amigas, but the mixology of it can get tricky. Lime juice, simple syrup, a fluffy egg white, and of course, pisco= just what you need when the Pats (I mean, the team you choose not to root for) score a touchdown. Second heads up- you probably won’t be able to get pisco at just any liquor store, so plan a BevMo trip.

For the comprehensive step-by-step.


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Cardi B Joins The Ranks Of Michael Jackson And Britney Spears With Her New Pepsi Ad For The Super Bowl

Entertainment

Cardi B Joins The Ranks Of Michael Jackson And Britney Spears With Her New Pepsi Ad For The Super Bowl

A year ago, Cardi B said she would not perform during the upcoming Super Bowl until the NFL rehired former San Francisco 49ers and social rights activist Colin Kaepernick. Then it seemed she had a change of heart. Rumors surfaced that she would perhaps be featured on stage at this year’s Super Bowl alongside Maroon 5 during their collaborative hit song “Girls Like You.” A source told The New York Post that “Cardi B is standing tough and holding out. She doesn’t want to do it unless they roll out the red carpet for her.” They added that she wanted “$1 million, plus a solo spot in the epic halftime show to make it worth her while.”

Despite the NFL not forking over a million bucks toward a Cardi Super Bowl appearance, it looks like another big corporation will gladly give it to her.

Cardi B will be seen during the Super Bowl 53 game in a Pepsi commercial.

View this post on Instagram

The team is stacked.

A post shared by pepsi (@pepsi) on

Pepsi released three teasers today featuring Cardi B, actor Steve Carell, and rapper Lil Jon. It’s not clear how much Pepsi is paying Cardi for this ad, but as we know, these commercials pay big bucks to get seen during the Super Bowl. It’ll be interesting to see how this commercial plays out, but we already love that the teaser ends with her signature “Okurrrrr.”

Some folks on social media expressed their frustration over the Bronx rapper making an appearance during the Super Bowl when she had previously said she wouldn’t citing the NFL’s treatment of Kaepernick.

“I just don’t get why Cardi B isn’t getting hate and only Travis, at least he’s donating his earnings to a cause while Cardi gladly accepted her check to be the face of Pepsi for the Super Bowl,” Daniel Mendez said on Twitter.

Another person on Twitter said: “This coming from a celebrity who turned down the Superbowl half time show to ‘support’ Colin K, yet was just fine running a Pepsi commercial in the prime slot during the game. She turned down the halftime show cuz Pepsi offered more $$. Fake fake fake.”

Adding another dollar sign to Cardi’s baller income this year is another high-paying gig. The 26-year-old will be performing her first residency in Las Vegas at the Palms Casino Resort club KAOS in April.

Here’s the Pepsi teaser ad below.

READ: Tomi Lahren And Stephanie Hamill Have Publicly Shaded Or Shamed Cardi B For Her Vocal Politics, And Both Were Left Annihilated

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