I didn't consider my Latinidad when I was growing up in the predominantly Latinx enclave of Miami, Florida. But now that I live in Colorado, and with the current state of our country, I recognize just how important my Latinidad is to me and my family. I’m not alone, either. Between rising anti-Latinx sentiment and the risk of cultural erasure for second and third-generation kids, many immigrant and first-generation moms are passing down Latinx culture to their kids — myself included.
To me, passing down my culture means making sure my son enjoys a hearty plate of rice and beans as much as he likes pizza and burgers. It means teaching him Spanish (or at the very least, some Spanglish), so one day he can communicate with my non-English-speaking family members. It means that every time he gets a boo-boo, I don’t just kiss it, I also sing a little song: “Sana sana culito de rana” which translates to “heal, heal, little frog’s butt." It delights my son to no end. It means teaching him about the “bonus” holidays like Dia de los Muertos, La Griteria/La Purisima, Noche Buena, and El Dia de los Reyes Magos, among others.
But Latinidad means different things to different Latinx people, so Romper spoke with other Latinx moms on what sorts of customs they're sharing with their kids. Thankfully, they were more than happy to share their traditions with us, too.
“My maternal grandparents were first generation Mexican-Americans. My mom never really passed along any traditions; but from hanging around my Abuelita I learned how to make her beans. Never quite mastered how she seasoned her homemade tacos (mine are pretty close). I can get her beans (with chorizo) just right. Also, I’ve taught her to make huevos con chorizo like my grandmother made. And we have been celebrating Dia de Muertos, and why it’s important and not just ‘some spooky Halloween thing.’ I’ve also found myself saying stuff now and then that my grandparents used to say. ‘Sana, sana, colita de rana…’ or ‘a ver…’
And [my daughter's] taking Spanish in school. My mom never spoke Spanish to me when I was a kid, even though she was fluent, so I ended up taking it in high school. I’m trying to make sure my daughter at least learns the basics earlier than I did.”
“I say, ‘Sana, sana, colita de rana.”
“Cuando les hablo a mis hijos ellos responden con un 'mande' no WHAT oh QUE como todos los niños de hoy dia. Eso nos lo enseño mi abuelita que cuando un adulto te habla, contestas ‘mande’ por respeto."
Translation: "When I speak with my kids, they respond with, ‘Mande?’ and not, ‘What?/Que?’ like all kids say today. My grandmother taught me this is the proper response when an adult speaks with you, out of respect.”
Mary Ann, 43
“Definitely recipes! I've taught my kids to make guacamole, jamaica, refried beans, salsa, and pico de gallo. Guacamole probably stands out to me the most, although that's not because of the recipe — we keep it pretty simple, just avocado, lemon juice, a little salt and garlic, tomatoes, and onions. I grew up pretty poor, so guacamole was a real treat for us. I wanted my kids to learn to enjoy the luxurious mouth-feel of avocados and to remember that sometimes the simplest foods are the best. My kids are teenagers now and still prefer my guacamole to any you can get from the store or a restaurant.”
“My 8-year-old loves our tradition of making tamales every year with the whole familia. My girls are 27 and 8, and close to a dozen nieces! We’ve been doing this since I was eight.”
“La tradición de celebrar Los Reyes Magos. Es la tradición más especial todo el año. Hasta movemos nieve para agarrar grama para Los Reyes."
Translation: "The tradition of celebrating Three Kings Day. It’s the most special tradition of the year. We even plow snow to leave ‘grass’ out for the kings.”
“Noche Buena. It was my only Christmas celebration growing up but now my kids celebrate both. On Christmas Day they receive presents from Santa, and on Noche Buena they open gifts from the family at midnight. I’m not saying it’s easy, and it does leave a super small amount of time for turnaround for Santa, but it’s absolutely worth it. I love that they are growing up celebrating with both pernil and arroz con gandules on the 24th, and turkey and mashed potatoes on the 25th.”
“Too many to say, but most importantly the Spanish language. Quiero que mis hijos sean bilingües. Es muy importante para mí."
Translation: "I want my kids to be bilingual. It’s important for me.”
“I’m a mom to a fierce 11-year-old. I try to reinforce our collectivistic culture with strong family values. We try as much as possible to all eat together at the dining table for dinner. Also, our elders get the utmost respect. Every year for grandparents day, my daughter makes her grandma a card and a nice dinner.”
“I’m a mom from Mexico and we pass traditions and culture through food. I started cooking when I was 12 and now my kids slowly are learning how to cook and bake Mexican food. My 14-year-old learned how to make salsa when he was 13 and he felt very proud of it.”
“The faith and the food!”
“I have a 3- and 1-year-old. I talk to my kids in Spanish because I want them to be bilingual. They eat Mexican foods and they have to respect their elders. Use their manners like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at all times. If they don't, I'll say like my dad said ‘Asi no se piden las cosas, dime otra vez’ (Translation: That’s not how you ask for things. Ask me again.) I want to do more but they are still too little.”
“For us, we want to pass on our weekly family breakfasts. We are a small family, just my brother and I, and we want our girls to know familia es lo más importante (Translation: is the most important thing). We make sure to make that special time to spend with los abuelitos and primas (Translation: grandparents and cousins). And the other, like many, is Noche Buena, and how we make tamales y buñuelos y canela (a Mexican cinnamon beverage) to drink.”
“Both my daughters have the middle name ‘Del Valle.’ My abuela gave her daughters that as the middle name, my sisters and I have that as middle name, and both my girls have it. It is in honor of my abuela's Virgencita.”
“I’m passing down my love of traditional Mexican meals. I cook Menudo, Barbacoa, Tripas, and we eat Tamales every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our family is multicultural, so it’s important to pass these recipes down to my boys. I also teach them Spanish and make sure they know as much about their Mexican culture as possible. My boys are 11 and 24.”
“Language (Spanish), Los Reyes Magos ([my daughter] is 14 now, although they came last year), two last names, and authentic Puerto Rican dishes (arroz con gandules, pasteles, pernil, tostones, bacalo, etc.) even though we are landlocked in Colorado.”
“Dominican-American mom here with kids ages 17, 16, and 10. They all remember, ‘Sana sana rabito de rana’ when they had a booboo. And massive cooking and celebration for Noche Buena! Presents are opened at midnight.”
“Herbal teas for colicky babies, like manzanilla (chamomile), estafiate (Mexican wormwood), and yerba buena (peppermint). A little bit controversial in Western medicine but worked miracles on my very fussy first born.”
“Azabache: a jet black bead or fist and coral bead worn pinned to a shirt or on a gold necklace or a gold bracelet. It protects against the evil eye. Most Cuban babies in Miami wear one.”