identities

The Alcohol Rub That Generations of Puerto Ricans Swear By

“Tráeme el alcoholado del cuarto, Bianca”; “Bianquita, tráeme el alcoholado que está en el ‘clóset’ del pasillo”; “Ay, tengo que comprar alcoholado que se me acabó” were a few of the phrases I grew up hearing my mom say on the regular. The alcohol rub with bay leaf extract and witch hazel that we call alcoholado, inside a 11.8 oz plastic bottle with a blue font that read, Superior 70, and a lighthouse carefully integrated in their logo, was (and is) a magical elixir that our household should always have in stock.

In our house, it’s up there with Vicks.

You know how we’ve all seen the countless (and true) memes about how Latinxs love using Vicks VapoRub for almost everything? Well, this light green liquid is just like that for Puerto Ricans. However, even though I own a jar of Vicks in my apartment in NYC, alcoholado was nowhere to be found —until recently.

This past September, when I attended the MoMA PS1: Printed Matter Book Fair with the intention of buying books and prints, I left with none of the latter, but I also didn’t leave empty-handed.

I bought alcoholado. It may not have been the commercial type, like Superior 70 that is manufactured in Arecibo, Puerto Rico since 1911, and you can find at your local pharmacy, but it did its trick. As soon as I opened the bottle from Brigada Puerta de Tierra’s Alcoholado Reforzado, the scent threw me off — in the best of ways. It smelled like my mom.  And so, I left in awe and tweeted about it (as one does).

For my mom, and her mom, and many generations before them, alcoholado was the Holy Grail when it came to relieving topical woes. From headaches, vertigo, to calming mosquito bites or itchy skin, and soothing your muscles, alcoholado saved the day. And if Superior 70 wasn’t as potent, you would simply add your own bay leaves to amplify its curatorial power.

Some used it as their perfume of choice and even the secret to avoiding the appearance of grey hairs.

“For my grandma and my mother, alcoholado was more important than perfume. There was always a bottle on their nightstand. It was the only constant thing on it. Their books and the lamps changed, but alcoholado was always there. They used it on their head and hair, their arms, and legs. One friend recently told me that her 78 yearold abuela chalks up her head full of black hair to the product. Another said that her own abuela used it to sooth overly hyper grandchildren.

However, for my generation, whether part of the diaspora or in the island, alcoholado seems to go beyond its functions.

For those who grew up surrounded by its strong but soothing smell, it’s a liquid that takes form as memories. Also, a liquid that overpowers Vicks (sorry, not sorry).

When you move from your home country, there are standard things you instantly yearn for. That’s a fact. Whether it’s the food, your family or what had become your daily routines, you can’t help but desire what once was. But being away can also make you feel connected to your roots and help you embrace every conscious or uneventful moment that formed who you are today. Whether it be rediscovering your love for gold hoops, curating a reggaeton playlist, or stacking up your new found home with physical products that remind you of home, there’s something about making space and looking for things that are irrevocably yours that only make sense in your current climate. And that’s where alcoholado falls for me, for so many Puerto Ricans. It now has a place on our nightstands and vanities as our grandmas and moms have, and some like Frances Estrada from The Pecking Order, even travel with a TSA friendly bottle filled with alcoholado. That being said, alcoholado soothes the pain just as well as a hug from your mom or your grandma would and that’s all you need no matter where you are.


Read: Learning How To Cope With The Conflict Of My Mother’s Strong Belief In La Calladita And My Autism Spectrum Disorder

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20 Photos That Document The History, Vibrant Past, And Uncertain Future Of Cuba

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20 Photos That Document The History, Vibrant Past, And Uncertain Future Of Cuba

It doesn’t take a photo to fall in love with the rich culture and historical background the island and country of Cuba has to offer. These photos of the country, however, will give you insight into its complicated history, passionate people, and uncertain future.

Martí y María Mantilla


Beloved Cuban poet, essayist and professor, José Julián Martí Perez became a symbol of Cuban’s bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century. Amongst Cubans he is considered the “Apostle of Cuban Independence.” In the photo above, Martí is pictured with his daughter María Mantilla, daughter of Carmen Miyares de Mantilla, a Venezuelan who ran a boarding house in New York.

Celia Cruz Cuba circa 1950s.


The Afro-Cubana sings with Ester Borja and Isidro Camara.

Babies flee Cuba

George Barilla / Pinterest.com

Operation Peter Pan (or Operación Pedro Pan) was a mass exodus of over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors to the United States between 1960 and 1962. Father Bryan O. Walsh of the Catholic Welfare Bureau created the program to provide air transportation to the United States for Cuban children. It operated without publicity out of fear that it would be viewed as an anti-Castro political enterprise.

Fidel Castro in Hemingway Museum

(Photo by Jorge Rey/Getty Images)


Havana, Cuba- November 11, 2002. An old manual typewriter sits in Finca de Vigia, the villa where author Ernest Hemingway lived from 1939-1960. Cuban President Fidel Castro and an American group led by U.S. Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) signed an agreement to collaborate on the restoration and preservation of 2,000 letters, 3,000 personal photographs and some draft fragments of novels and stories that were kept in the humid basement of the villa.

Maria Colon

Tony Duffy/Allsport


July 1980. Olympic Champion Maria Colon of Cuba throws the javelin at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, USA.

Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine

hollywoodreporter.com / Pinterest

Backed by Miami Sound Machine, Cuban singer Gloria Estefan does the conga during the 1988 AMAs.

1991 International Basball All-Star Game

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)


Los Angeles – August 24 1991: Cuban baseball player Omar Luis steps up to bat during the International Baseball All-Star Game on August 24, 1991 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.

Boxing Legends

(Photo by Jorge Rey/Liaison

January 1996. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali (left) playfully spars with beloved Cuban boxer Teofilo Stevenson, a 3-time Olympic gold medalist in the Roberto Balado boxing gym in Havana, Cuba. Ali toured the island as part of a mission to bring aid to Cuban hospitals.

Federal agents seized Elián González.

bruce_wayne11/ Instagram

April 2000. Cuban citizen Elián González is held in a closet by Donato Dalrymple, in Miami as Federal agent Jim Goldman retrieves him from his relatives home. Elián was returned to his father’s custody four hours after the raid but only returned to the U.S. seven months and one week after he left Cuba.

Concierto Para Los Heroes Benefit

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.


September 14, 2001. Celia Cruz perfoms at the ‘Concierto Para Los Heroes’ benefit sponsored by The Recording Academy at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, Ca. The benefit was given for the families of fallen firefighters and police officers of New York City of the September 11 attacks.

Jimmy Carter Visits Cuba

(Photo by Jorge Rey/Getty Images)


Havana, Cuba- May 12, 2002. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalin Carter tour the Center of Old with Havana City historian Eusebio Leal (L). Carter is on a six-day visit to Cuba and is the first American president to visit the communist island since Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

Cubans Manage Despite 40-Year U.S. Embargo

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Pinar Del Rio, Cuba- October 5, 2002. A person holds out a food rations card October 5, 2002 in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba. The “supplies booklet” or “rations booklet” as Cubans call it has come to symbolize the failure of Cuba’s agricultural sector and the communist government’s stubborn demand for an egalitarian subsidy for each one of its 11 million people. Cubans play less than $2 for the items they receive under the ration card whose supply only lasts up to 20 days out of each month.

With the booklet, each Cuban is meant to receive a monthly ration of seven lbs of rice, half a bottle of cooking oil, one sandwich-sized piece of bread per day, a certain ammount of eggs, beans, chicken or fish, spaghetti, white and brown sugar and cooking gas.

Children get one liter of milk and yogurt while diabetics get special booklets for their diets. For those celebrating special occasions, there are also rations— cakes for birthdays, rum and beer for weddings. Students also recieve rations for uniforms, pencils, and notebooks for the start of the school year. Soap, toothpaste, salt, and liquid detergent have been cut from the rations for years.

Cuba Holds First Cuban Olympic Games

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)


Havana, Cuba – November 29, 2002. A Cuban athlete performs the high jump during the first Cuban Olympic games at the Panamericano Stadium in Havana, Cuba. The 11th Pan American Games were held in Havana.

Celia Cruz’s Funeral

(Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images)

New York – July 22, 2003. Fans of Celia Cruz attend a public ceremony held in her honor at Woodlawn Cemetery after her death and before the casket was taken for a private burial July 22, 2003 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

Cubans Try To Defect In 1951 Chevy Truck

Photo by Gregory Ewald/ U.S. Coast Guard/ Getty Images


AT SEA – JULY 24, 2003. In this U.S. Coast Guard handout, Cuban migrants trying to reach the U.S. coast in Florida take a makeshift boat made out of a 1951 Chevrolet truck with a propeller driven off the drive shaft. After making it within 40 miles of Key West, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo returned the 12 Cuban migrants from the vessel back to Cuba.

Cuba Economy Struggles After Row With Europe

(Photo by Jorge Rey/Getty Images)


Havana- August 29, 2003. A woman sells newspapers in front of a market place. The island nation endures an extreme economic crisis in a dispute with the European Union, Cuba’s most important trade and investment partner as well as a major source for its tourism. The EU cut back on political contacts with Cuba in June 2003 after the mass arrest of 75 dissidents and the executions of three ferry hijackers trying to reach the U.S.

Cuba Celebrates Legacy Of Its Revolution

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


Havana, Cuba December 2006. Fireworks explode over a el morro as a boat carries a sign that reads “Viva Fidel’ at midnight in honor of the dictator and the 50th-anniversary celebration of the forming of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Pope Benedict XVI Holds Mass in Plaza de la Revolución ‘José Martí’ Havanna

(Photo by L’Osservatore Romano Vatican-Pool/Getty Images)

Havana, Cuba – March 29, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI holds Mass in Plaza de la Revolución ‘José Martí.

Gloria Estefan Receives The Golden Medals To The Merit In Fine Arts

(Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

Madrid Spain- July 23, 2019. Singer Gloria Estefan receives the Golden Medal to the Merit in Fine Arts from Spanish Minister of Culture Jose Guirao at the Royal Theater.


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Cast For Titanic Director’s ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Begs The Question Of Whether Or Not It’s Okay To Change The Race Of Minority Characters

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Cast For Titanic Director’s ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Begs The Question Of Whether Or Not It’s Okay To Change The Race Of Minority Characters

It’s no secret that Latinas are severely underrepresented in television and media. In fact, the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that only seven percent of 2017’s top 100 films featured Latina actresses. For this reason, a film like “Alita: Battle Angle” should be a big deal but the movie’s Latina casting has many claiming Asian erasure. “Alita: Battle Angel” is a futuristic cyberpunk film produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau. The movie adapted from the popular Yukito Kishiro manga “Gunnm” is set in a sci-fi-filled future, cyborg Alita struggles to find her place in a world she has no memory of. Out February 14, 2019, this film has been in the works for years. Pre-production began in the early 2000s but was delayed due to Cameron’s work on “Avatar” and its sequels. The film is directed by Sundance Festival Award-winning director Robert Rodriguez.

With a pack of creative behemoths at its back, the new film brings a mass of brilliant storylines and stunning visuals.  However, it’s the cast behind “Alita” that’s creating buzz.

The role of the film’s main character and futuristic cyborg is played by Peruvian-Canadian actress Rosa Salazar of “Bird Box”.

Kodansha Comics

Using motion capture technology, the film uses CGI to depict Alita in her robotic form. Despite the fact that so many minorities often see the occurrence of a Latina star in a major motion picture as cause to celebrate, there are concerns over the issue of non-Japanese women taking on the role of a character from a Japanese source. Erasure of Alita’s Japanese background has been met with criticism and backlash since the film’s early production days. The controversy was first sparked back in 2016 with Salazar’s initial casting. Critics were quick to say that the casting of a non-Asian as Alita was another example of Asian erasure in Hollywood. The debate gained new life after the first trailer for the movie was released in December 2017.

This time, it was Alita’s overwhelmingly large eyes that gave viewers pause. Large, expressive eyes are a stylistic element used in Japanese anime and manga. Some viewers felt that keeping this characteristic but with a non-Asian character was tantamount to whitewashing the film.

“It signals to the audience, ‘Yes this is Japanese and we’re not trying to erase the source material,’” Vice contributor Carli Velocci wrote of the new movie. “Yet that’s what they’re doing. Alita’s eyes are the only thing that is distinctly Japanese about the movie, which features no main Japanese actors or characters.”

Whitewashing has been an issue before in major Hollywood films such as “Ghost In The Shell” and “Aloha.” In both of these examples, characters confirmed to be Asian were played by white women. Marvel’s “Iron Fist” and “Doctor Strange” are also guilty of this casting error.

These examples make it seem like “Alita” is a clear case of whitewashing but the situation is more nuanced than that.

Twitter / @unnecesarus

To better understand the controversy of this claim, we need to explore the origin of the film’s story. Yukito Kishiro created “Gunnm” in Japan during the 1990s but the manga doesn’t take place during that same era. Instead, “Gunnm” is set in a futuristic world in a city called Iron City. This dystopian city is located in what is essentially the midwest. Despite heritage, Kishiro didn’t write a story with explicitly Asian characters.

“The author, Yukito Kishiro, did something very different: He wrote manga that is not set in an Asian world,” producer Landau shared. “He wrote it set in a place called Iron City, which is a melting pot. He actually set it in Kansas.”

It’s not unusual for creators to set their worlds in places unique or foreign to their own homes. Manga and anime especially have entire subgenres that set stories in far off places. For example, the “Gundam” series and many other titles of mecha Animation are often set in outer space or a futuristic society. Other subgenres of sci-fi animation also follow this pattern.

Still, some fans argue that “Alita: Battle Angel” is a Japanese product which means there is an expectation of race.

Twitter / @nico_nothere

Julian Abagond, a New York blogger who writes about race and culture, explained this way of thinking.

“If I draw a stick figure, most Americans will assume that it is a white man. Because to them that is the Default Human Being,” he wrote. “Americans apply this thinking to Japanese drawings. But to the Japanese the Default Human Being is Japanese! So they feel no need to make their characters ‘look Asian.’ They just have to make them look like people and everyone in Japan will assume they are Japanese – no matter how improbable their physical appearance.”

Understanding this cultural position adds another layer to the question of Alita’s race. Still, if she is Asian, explicitly or not, this raises a new debate. Replacing marginalized people with white actors has been an issue in Hollywood since the beginning of the film. White characters in “yellowface” were used to represent Asian characters in media. It’s an act that is overwhelmingly panned in today’s society.

So, if we’ve established that it’s not okay for white characters to play minorities, where do we stand on the subject of minorities playing other minorities?

20th Century Fox

Taking traditionally white characters and reimagining them as people of color has become a recurring trope in media. In “Deadpool 2,” fan favorite Domino – who is white in comics – was played by black actress Zazie Beetz. “Spider-man: Homecoming” featured Zendaya as white character Mary Jane Watson. These changes bring a much need dose of representation to products otherwise lacking diversity

However, is it okay to make similar changes to a character who may also be a minority? With Alita’s unknown, possibly Asian ethnicity, does casting her as a Latina add representation or erase her true culture?

Since the situation is so nuanced, there’s no clear answer when it comes to Alita but the general answer would be erasure. Changing characters from one underrepresented group to another doesn’t further the cause of seeing our stories depicted in media. Instead, it just perpetuates the deletion of narratives that need to be heard.

Regardless of this controversy, early reviews of the futuristic “Alita: Battle Angel” say it’s sure to be a blockbuster thriller. As a result, maybe a big box office will lead to even more movies featuring Latina star power. Only, next time, hopefully, our characters will be featured in stories of our own.

Read: ‘West Side Story’ Casting Does It Right By Giving Us Rachel Zegler As Maria And Afro-Latina Ariana DeBose As Anita

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