Growing up in Miami, surrounded and immersed in Latino culture, I never realized how different my upbringing was from that of your average American kid. While I did recognize that my mother was no Carol Brady (or Peggy Bundy or Marge Simpson), I didn’t put too much thought in all the special qualities that she brought to the table, courtesy of her heritage. Now that I'm a mother and a healthy dose of nostalgia comes with the territory, I'm realizing that there are things only Latina moms do, and those things are (for the most part) absolutely awesome.
I'm unbelievably proud to be raising a multicultural child, which makes me even more appreciative of all the awesome things my own mother did while raising me. While I don't that you have to be Latina in order to be a great mom (obviously) or think that only certain people from certain cultures are capable of certain things (also not true) and I'm definitely not trying to say that every Latina mother is the same (because there's absolutely no way that's true), I do see how our individual cultures can shape our personalities, how we view the world and, eventually and if we decide to procreate, our parenting. Honestly, I think it's wonderful. I was able to have a different experience than some of my peers, and not only am I thankful for that experience, I am thankful that my experience could exist side-by-side with someone else's.
So, even if some of the things my mother did were a bit strange or seemingly unnecessary, they were all things that were done out of love and to raise me in the best way she knew how. Fellow Latinas, you may recognize some of these from your own childhoods. Let’s use it as a checklist to keep the traditions alive!
Even if you’re in a bad mood and even if you hate whoever is coming over to visit, Latina moms will always make you put in an appearance and greet your guests. To do otherwise would be rude and, frankly, this really does make a difference later in life.
Doesn’t matter if it’s your actual aunt and uncle or your mom’s best friend, her own cousin, her old roommate, a work colleague, or pretty much anyone else; you will undoubtedly end up calling a lot of folks "Tio" and "Tia." The good thing, though, is that all these tios postizos (fake uncle and/or aunts) will often feel the need to give you gifts on the holidays since they’re, you know, your relatives (in a way.)
Latino culture dictates that you greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek (and depending on your country of origin, it may be a kiss on both cheeks), and sometimes even a hug.
Latina moms tend to be incredibly affectionate with their kids, holding their hand long after they've entered their early teen years and, probably, start to feel embarrassed. Rest easy, though, because the embarrassed you endured when you were in high school and at the hands of your mother's affection, might help with your relationships later in life.
I am a pretty terrible cook, but I know how to make arroz y frijoles (rice and beans) thanks to my mom. We grew up eating the stuff almost every single day (as do most Latinos, especially growing up in the old country), so to say I have acquired a taste would be an understatement. Thankfully, it’s also one of the few meals my toddler son will devour without a problem.
It often feels like Latina moms have an special preoccupation with keeping everyone fed. Honestly, there isn't a single time during the day when something isn't cooking or stewing or being fried or baking in the oven. Your friends will (usually) appreciate this.
Latinx moms are, usually, pretty thrifty. They’ll teach you to save on tupperware by buying things like deli meats in plastic containers and cleaning out salsa jars to later save things like sofrito or leftover picadillo.
I’m not talking Starbucks here, but rather the cafe con leche we all grew up drinking. Add some tostada (toasted, buttery bread) to dip in your coffee and you’re set for life.
My entire life, I’ve been called both gorda (fat) and flaca (skinny). Latinx nicknames are like that, or they’re the same nickname 50 other people you know have: Tito, Memo, Nini, Chelo, Meche; the list goes on.
If they’re just referring to a random person, they’ve got a nickname too: Fulanito de tal.
While your white friends have to wait to start the Christmas celebrations on the 25th (or any other holiday they celebrate on the specific date or dates that holiday takes place), you’re already stuffed with your mom’s relleno opening a gift from you Tia the night before. That’s because latinxs celebrate Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve, by cooking a big meal (think Thanksgiving sequel), inviting all the family and friends over, listening to Eydie Gorme and unwrapping some (if not all) your gifts.
Every Latinx kid, even the ones that don’t speak Spanish, knows the, “Sana, sana, culito de rana” song, which literally translates to, “heal, heal, little frog butt.”
Our non-Latinx friends may think this is bizarre as hell, but it’s really an awesome lesson in "Distraction 101," a skill all parents must have if they’re to survive.
Latinx mothers will never allow you to be cold. That’s why the minute it’s anything below 70 degrees, her child will be covered in 3 layers of clothing, plus a parka. Had I grown up in, say, Boston, my mother would surely have just homeschooled me every winter.
Latinx moms seem to have a very big, very real problem with seeing their kids running around with no shoes or socks, or watching their child go outside with wet hair (even if their “child” is 25 and it’s 90 degrees out). I don’t know if pneumonia was that huge a deal in the tropical climate of Nicaragua where my mom grew up, but I’m guessing it was because she is so terrified of me catching my death. I still don’t like walking around barefoot much.
Many of our mothers (and fathers) had to leave their entire lives behind to come give us a “better life” in the United States. Many of them definitely didn’t grow up with as many luxuries as we have here; the luxuries we tend to take for granted. They will teach you to always be thankful for everything you have, an important value to pass on to our own kids.
Latinx moms are usually known as alcahuetas, or "big softies." That’s because, at the end of the day, their children are still their babies. As such, even if they don’t like what their child is doing, or if they know someone else won’t approve of what their kid is doing (e.g. if my dad didn’t want me going to a show one night), they will do what they can to cover for you. Thanks, mom!
My mother never, ever scolded me in front of friends. Instead, she just dug into my arm and said, “Wait until we get home.” The ride home, of course, was awful, but at least not enduring that humiliation in front of friends are a plus.
You all know that chair or that sofa that’s still wrapped in plastic. Some of us even had an entire second living room you weren’t allowed to sit in (except for holidays, when you'd pose on the fancy couch or around the fancy table, pretending like you do it all year long). Someday I hope to have a fancy something-or-other no one’s allowed to sit on or touch, too.
Nothing like a Latinx mom to remind you that you look a fright before going out. Sure, the constant nitpicking about our appearance sucks, but now and again, it’s nice to have the reminder to maybe brush your hair a bit or throw on a little lip gloss on and, even more important, to stand up straight (because Latinx moms don’t let you slouch).
A Latina mother won’t let you forget that your home also needs to look its best. Latinx moms never tire of telling you to clean up and can tell if your house is messy from hundreds of miles away. You can be sure that, left alone for even a few minutes in your bedroom, they will clean and organize the hell out of it. I am still waiting to see if that skill kicks in for me.
At some point in life, it is up to the Latinx mom to show her child the pure WTF-ness that is the telenovela. Shows like As The World Turns and Days of Our Lives are just no match for Spanish soaps. If you don’t believe me, please see this clip of one of my all-time favorites: Maria la del Barrio.