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How Abuela Taught Me To Love With My Hands

We sit at the dinner table in abuela’s house, our heads down. Focused on the task at hand, it would look like we are praying if it weren’t for the steady sounds of plátano to guayo, the crinkle, and tear of aluminum foil, the “pásamelo pa’cá” and “échale más, sin miedo”. Hands sticky with plátano, moving in unison, following a muscle memory so old it’s holy, 11 of us Cortés Acevedo women make pasteles. I am achingly aware that this moment will not happen again for a long time and yet, we’ve been here before: we are sitting at a threshold and there are other timeless women making pastels with us. Abuela catches my eye and smiles like she knows.

Abuela tiene mano santa, is what mami always tells me.

Stephanie N. Stoddard Cortés

Anything she touches grows. If a tree doesn’t bear fruit, Abuela places her hands on its trunk, talks to it, and has even been known to stick a nail into it too. A few weeks later, we have cerezas, the West Indies Cherry. Now, a month shy of turning 92, Abuela’s hands tell the story of her life. They are brown, mapped with thick protruding veins, swelling scars, and calluses that can be traced to el campo de Moca, Puerto Rico, Barrio Naranjo, where she was born and raised. Abuela is the second of 13 children and because of this, was never allowed to go to school. Her eyes always seem to drift whenever I ask her about this, like she is reliving all the times she begged her parents to let her go to school. “Yo lloraba,”  she tells me, sometimes elongating the second syllable and others, a dry, cutting utterance signaling the conversation ends there. Her parents never relented, not even when teachers came to ask on her behalf. Abuela was to help with daily chores like cooking, tending to her younger brothers and sisters, and sowing the land because whatever they farmed, they ate: Arroz criollo, plátano, yautía, yuca, batata, ñame, malanga, habichuelas, maní, maíz, café, frutas…“de to,” she says with a smile. I thought that because she wasn’t given the opportunity to go to school, she might resent the land, but instead, she found solace in it; learned its sacred language and translated its magic through cooking.

Una jíbara del campo, Abuela took her love of land and cooking wherever she went.

Stephanie N. Stoddard Cortés

One of my fondest memories is seeing her donned in a half apron and a bandana, holding a big bowl to her hip while picking gandules fresh off the tree, under a relentless sun. When the time came to peel them, my eyes would follow her hands’ every movement, which was monotonous, but comforting. Wanting to participate in what I deemed a very adult activity, the next time I saw Abuela heading outside with a bowl at her hip, I asked if I could help. After picking the gandules, we sat there to peel them mostly in silence, a nod of ascent that I was doing it right, an occasional humming or Ave María slipped from her lips, and always the rhythmic process of grabbing a Pigeon Pea pod, feeling its rough almost hairy shell, putting my nails at its center and gently pulling it in opposite directions. Inside, I’d see 4 to 6 green little gandules; they looked cozy in there like they were sleeping.

After the wonder of la cosecha, came the magic of cooking, Abuela’s domain. She soaked the rice for quite a while and then washed it thoroughly. Later, in a series of quick motions, she’d put it in a pot, with water, olive oil and salt. No measuring cups, only the muscle memory her hands inherited from her mother and her mother from her mother before her and so on. After all the ingredients were in, she’d disappear for a moment and return with a leaf from the plantain tree, wash it, and put it on the rice before covering it. At this point, kid me was either watching TV or reading when suddenly Abuela called me to the table to eat fresh arroz con gandules. I’d help with the dishes and that was that: Barriga llena, corazón contento.

When Abuela cooks and overfeeds me, when she teaches me things without saying a word, I know she is telling me she loves me in the ways she knows how.

Stephanie N. Stoddard Cortés

I feel it with every bite, every motion in the kitchen she slows down so that I catch it, the dollar she sneaks into my hand “pa que te compares un dulce”.

In a way it is hard to write about her. Like visiting her these past few years, it feels like I am saying goodbye, that she is dancing on that fine line we are thrust upon the moment we are born, and her physical body will one day—a day a lot closer to this one than I would like to admit or think about— vanish from the chair in la marquesina where we used to peel gandules together. Abuela is the pillar of my family: her house is the center that holds, a beating heart with rooms as ventricles, and the blood as us—as her, coming and going and coming and going. Going. This too might be a love letter to her, mi Abuela Natalia. La corazón de niña y mano santa.

Somehow, I always come back to her hands: their weight on my shoulder; tucking her short hair behind her ears; holding and praying the rosary; her small wave as she waits by the front door after we’ve left until she can’t see us waving back or mami’s car anymore. It’s always the details with Abuela. Growing up, at some point, I stopped being verbally affectionate towards my father and mother. I stopped saying the “te quiero” that marked, or at least in my imagination marked, getting out of the car and into school. But now that I think about it, Abuela taught me that sometimes you don’t have to say it if it’s too hard. Your hands speak for you too. Hands can be gentle, nourishing, loving–and they can hurt too (she knows this well). And so for all the drama that comes with being a teenager, for all the despair and isolation that comes from growing up in a dysfunctional home, I still went to tennis practice with Papi and gripped my racket, one of the most important things to him. I still baked Mami brownies or cake whenever she wanted something sweet. I still woke my sister up in the middle of the night because I’d had a nightmare but pretended it was “ants on my bed again”, only to squeeze together in a twin bed, all lanky arms and legs bumping together. Not to mention how important my connection with nature is, which I inherited from Abuela and our jíbara roots.

I don’t know if Abuela knows she is a Ceiba tree, that her roots are so big and long and strong they transcend space and time; that she taught me so many things without having to utter a word or go to school. The next time I see her I will tell her: Abuela, I love your hands and I know your hands love me.


Read: Bad Money Managing Habits To Break In The New Year And How

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

There’s no denying that the world looks a lot different now than it did in 1947. And while the list of all of the positive changes that the decades stretching between now and then have done for the world and minorities, a recent campaign is also highlighting the ways in which our current president could take some notes on certain values the United States held dear during this time. Particularly ones that had been pressed for by one of our former presidents.

As part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” effort, he worked to promote positive and healthy relations between the United States in Latin American countries.

At the time Rooseveltaimed to ensure that the North, Central and South American countries avoided breaking under the influence of Axis countries during World War II. As part of this campaign, Roosevelt comissioned a Spanish and a Portuguese version of the U.S. national anthem. According to Time Magazine he also “recruited Hollywood to participate in this Good Neighbor Policy; Walt Disney went on goodwill tour of South America, hoping to find a new market for his films, and ended up producing two movies inspired by the trip: Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944). The Brazilian star Carmen Miranda also got a boost, and her role in The Gang’s All Here made her even more famous in the U.S. And alongside these cross-cultural exchanges, the U.S. government decided it needed an anthem that could reach Spanish speakers.”

According to NPR, Clotilde Arias, wrote wrote the translation at the end of World War II, was born in the small Peruvian city, Iquitos in 1901 and moved to New York City to become a composer when she was 22-years-old. Her version of the anthem is now part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Now in an effort to support Latino communities affected by the coronavirus, the non-profit We Are All Human Foundation’s Hispanic Star campaign commissioned the a remake of the song.

Hoping to raise awareness of its Hispanic Recovery Plan and efforts to help to connect Hispanic small businesses and workers with resources during the pandemic, the campaign brought the old recording from obscurity.

For the song, the 2019 winner of the singing competition La Voz,  Jeidimar Rijos, performed “El Pendón Estrellado.” Or, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

The song has already received quite a bit of comments and support on Youtube.

Hang in there, fam. We can only get through this together.

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These Online Botanicas Will Satisfy The Bruja In You

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These Online Botanicas Will Satisfy The Bruja In You

With young Latinxs reclaiming the bruja identity, the demand for access to novenas, herbs and other specially crafted ritual tools has grown tremendously. Luckily, these Latinx-owned online botanicas have made it easy for brujas, or anyone who wants to dive deeper into the practice, to get their hands on the goods. Whether you’re looking to conjure up more cash flow or secure some extra protection from those pesky mal de ojos, these shops have the magia you need.

1. The Flowerchild Bruja

You know you’ve received some real tesoro when you open your delivery and see the holographic cellophane. Unmistakable and unique products are what make The Flowerchild Bruja’s shop un cielo de flores. Garden Smudge Sticks adorned with colorful flowers and loose herbs packaged in clear hearts make this online botanica a must-visit if you’re looking to manifest more love and beauty into your life.

2. Brooklyn Brujeria

No forlorn-looking saints and pale stricken Marys here! Brookyn Brujeria offers a fresh and modern take on the classic bruja necessity of novena candles. At $10 a candle, you can enhance the vibrations and style of your space without blowing all your chavo. With intentions like Boss Bitch and F*ck Outta Here, these ain’t your abuelitas’ novenas.

3. The Hoodwitch Store

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Thank you for all of your love & support to those who have been readers and customers of @thehoodwitch over the years. ♥️You know truly how hard I work and that this is my livelihood and culture. Visual art and magic ARE my life and practice. Not a peach flavored “turquoise” glitter drink. My magic is in my blood, my magic is in my ability to bring life to my visions, it is creation & destruction. Over the last 6 years, I have been so honored and lucky to be featured in some of the largest media publications internationally not limited to Instagram. This is bigger than that and the creative team for Starbucks knew that. I have personally worked on consulting large companies in their design concepts this work comes naturally to me. “So what’s the big fuss?” My personal style has become synonymous with the visual aesthetic of my brand. No, I absolutely did not “invent” the crystal balls nor acrylic nails but What I created was a space for myself along with other POC to feel represented and have visual imagery that was representative of us. The colorful candles of my local botanicas, my gold jewelry, and my long nails clutching my crystals are certainly not “new” but to see them presented in a manner that I shared visually in this space was. Katherine de Vos Devine @devosdevine is a lawyer and art historian who wrote a powerful and insightful look as to what exactly is happening with this situation and we are sharing it in our story today because more than anything she truly gives the full tea of the situation. I can strip away the crystal balls, the nail art, and delete all of my beautifully curated photos but I will always be me, I will always be my grandmother’s voices and wisdom. I will create, and I will always know my value and my worth. I trust and believe that my ancestors and my guides are looking after me. These giants may have the money to bully artists, creatives, and small business but we know the truth and absolutely must not allow it. As a small business owner, I appreciate you standing with us in this uphill journey and even if it goes nowhere, at the end of the day I can laugh to myself knowing that Starbucks made a drink inspired by HW 🔮

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If you’re in the market for an obsidian scrying mirror, unique tarot decks or nail polish for your mystic manos, then The Hoodwitch Store is your one-stop bruja shop. Be sure to also check out the Bruja Bookshop tab, where you’ll find vintage, one-of-a-kind libros to up your witchy wisdom. The shop offers some rare finds en español as well. However, make sure you stay up to date on the latest inventory. These goods sell out fast!

4. House of Intuition

If you live in LA, you’ve most likely heard of House of Intuition. With four brick and mortar stores throughout the area, plus an online shop, it’s probably a wise investment to grab one of their “Success” intention candles. Their beautifully colored novenas aren’t the only reason to check out the shop, though. Seriously, this casa is staked with everything from crystals skulls, cauldrons and wands to a line called “Hair Mystics” featuring crystal-infused hair mists. You’ll be glad your intuition led you here.  

5. Lunar Magic Shop

Lunar Magic Shop is the super affordable and super thoughtful shop with some of our favorite bruja apparel. You will for sure want to grab the “My Mom Will Hex You” tee for the little one in your life or the “I Am My Own Sacred Place” one for yourself. While you’re at it, you might as well secure the “Motherhood”and “Student” crystal kit bags. This small shop definitely has the whole family’s brujeria needs in mind.

6. Curandera Press

While this shop is currently taking a small hiatus, they will re-launch on August 1. This gives us time to save up for a big vela haul. We could all use some divine intervention with lazy lovers and bad hair days, right? With Curandera Press’ “No Mas Amante Perezoso” and “Good Hair Day” velas, your prayers are answered. We’re excited to see what intentions they roll out next.

Read: In These Trying Times, Boricua Bruja Emilia Ortiz Provides A Digital Space For Healing

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