Culture

Día De Los Reyes Was The First Time I Allowed My S.O. To Experience My Culture

For many who regularly take part in the holiday season, Christmas traditions are strongly tied to religious beliefs and practices. The ways in which the customs around the holiday season are carried out often deeply rooted in cultural rituals and they often vary from family to family. For my Puerto Rican family, the holiday season is drawn out well past the first of January when radio stations reel back on the jingles and Mariah Carey classics. For us, the Twelve Days Of Christmas sales or songs we know of don’t relate to the days leading up to December 25, but rather the twelve days in between Christmas Day and January 6 The Epiphany, a biblical day that marks the final leg of the  Three Wise Men’s journey to deliver gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus Christ.

Día De Los Reyes has always been an especially important day for my family. The fact that “reyes” is my mother’s maiden name has only made the day a little sweeter.

Photo provided by Wandy Felicita Ortiz

A more popular holiday back on the island, my abuela and abuelo Reyes brought their traditions to the mainland with them in the 1950s.

On the evening of January 5, each member of my family from grandfather to my youngest sobrino pull out cardboard shoe and clothing boxes (all marked with our names, drawn on and decorated over the years with crayons, markers, and glitter pens) to take part in a tradition that we hold dear in our hearts. After we’ve filled the boxes with snacks like carrots, lettuce, and sometimes grass for the Three Kings’ camels to munch on as they pass through our town we stick the boxes under our beds. Finally, just as we would with Santa Claus, we write the Three Kings–Los Reyes–a handwritten note wishing them safe travels as the journey to see the baby Jesus hoping that as they did with him on that first Epiphany, they’ll leave a small gift or token of some sort under our boxes.

Dia De Los Reyes functions similarly to Christmas Eve in my family. We all wake up and check under our boxes to see if we were good enough this year to receive any gifts. We’d go to mass together, where as kids we’d hope that maybe Los Reyes stayed in town with their camels long enough that day to be at the church community center to pose for photos. We would visit family and eat pernil and arroz con gandules, dishes reserved for celebrations and holidays.

As I got older I went to mass only sometimes and stopped looking to get my photos with Los Reyes.

Photo provided by Wandy Felicita Ortiz

I never stopped checking my box for gifts though, or remembering each rey by the names older relatives taught me to write in my letters: Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. As an adult I focused on new ways to celebrate “being a king,” as my family would say, and took on the role of expert coquito maker.

When I started dating and began wanting to bring boyfriends home for the holidays, part of my new role during the holiday season also unintentionally became one of both gatekeeper and teacher of my Puerto Rican culture. As a sophomore in college, I brought my then boyfriend home for December for the first time. In my household, Noche Buena, Christmas Day, New Years Day, New Year’s Eve, and Dia De Los Reyes were all days set aside for family, exclusively. I knew not to ask for exceptions, and in the past had willfully or grudgingly passed up holiday and New Years parties to honor the expectation of being en familia.

But in my twenties I badly started to yearn for my first New Years kiss and wanted, even more, to share part of my twelve days of Christmas with somebody who mattered to me.

My parents, on the other hand, were hesitant. Dia De Los Reyes was about Los Reyes, as in my family.

My boyfriend was someone they saw a few times a year and knew of only from phone calls, letters, texts, and video chats. Someone so unfamiliar certainly wasn’t considered family, and moreover someone who wasn’t Latino couldn’t possibly understand the sanctity of the day we’d honored so lovingly all our lives.

Most concerning of all, Dia De Los Reyes is also known among some circles as “the poor man’s Christmas,” my grandparents’ explanation being that back in the days of Jesus, being a king didn’t mean wealth like it means today. It meant that the giftschildren and observers receive in their boxes today are small, like a $10 gift card, socks, some mittens, or maybe candy. The last thing my family needed was for some guy they didn’t know to reach into an old shoebox of all things, pull out socks, and think we were cheap. With some convincing and a little grumbling, my family allowed me to write my boyfriend’s name on a box, fill it with lettuce and put it under my bed on January 5.

That night as I lay in bed, I did feel nervous knowing that I was bringing somebody into such a special part of my life that no one had ever seen before outside of my parents. Earlier in the day, I made sure to explain to him how seriously my family took our family only traditions, and how it wasn’t just about the religious holiday but the namesake that ties us to one another. I felt silly as I highlighted decorating beat-up boxes as one of my favorite traditions, something I hadn’t ever admitted out loud. Quiet and reserved, he listened to my stories but didn’t ask any questions.

In the morning, I still had my family only morning mass and our opening of gifts, but later that day my boyfriend was invited over for pasteles, coquito, and the checking of his first and only Three Kings Day box.

My parents observed with critical eyes as he went through the motions of our traditions, seeming charmed by the gifts of a hat and gloves left resting on top of torn up shreds of lettuce, proof that Los Reyes had come through our house. As he followed our lead I sat hoping that by participating in the events himself, he might better understand where my love for my culture comes from, or maybe even briefly feel the same sense of childhood joy I do on that day each year. Admittedly, it was an awkward day for everyone involved and not filled with all the magic I had hoped for. Nonetheless, I still felt proud of myself for being able to break down a barrier that had long existed between myself and not only romantic connections but a friend, too.

I wanted the opportunity to show those outside of my family the part of my identity that I hadn’t always made transparent in my daily life, even if that meant that they didn’t understand or wouldn’t “get it” at first.

Photo provided by Wandy Felicita Ortiz

Even though the person who got to take the test run of my family only traditions and I aren’t together anymore, a few years ago he broke the mold for being able to bring others into a part of my life I was using to shutting so many close to me out of.n Maybe he did think that of us, our gifts, or the day we celebrate as cheap, but after the fact I, didn’t care. In the years that have followed, what has mattered most to me has been that I could start sharing Reyes, this name that laid down the foundation to who I am before I was ever born, and all the nuances that come with it with those I want to know me better.

This Dia De Los Reyes will be one of a few Reyes family festivities that my current boyfriend will be participating in, and another year where my family pulls out his box and welcomes his extra cheer into our holidays. While he’s still learning about my roots, I’m still learning that I can take these moments and use them to bring myself closer to my culture and my loved ones.


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This Latina Mom Moved Her Family From A Garage to An Apartment And The Tears Are Streaming

Things That Matter

This Latina Mom Moved Her Family From A Garage to An Apartment And The Tears Are Streaming

@meydii_ / Twitter

As many of us map out, work toward, and realize our dreams in this new year, a Latina mom literally gave her children a new lease on life when she showed them the new apartment they would be living in. Up until then, the family of three lived in a garage. On Jan. 1, 2020, Ana Manzo gave her children a tour of their new, empty apartment, not knowing her daughter Meydi was recording the entire reaction. Meydi’s brother walked around excitedly, smiled when he saw the bedroom and immediately started sobbing. Now, Latino Twitter is taking it upon themselves to relate to the lows and highs and ensure the Manzo family will struggle just a little bit less.

Meydi decided to film the momentous moment that their family had been saving for over the last 7 years.

CREDIT: @MEYDII_ / TWITTER

“After more then 7 years living in a small garage that was the only thing my mom could afford, we finally got a small apartment, this was my little brothers reaction,” Meydi Manzo captioned the viral video that now has over 4 million views. It seems like both Meydi and her mom expected to see a happy reaction from her brother, but didn’t expect the tears. When her brother walks into what looks like a one-bedroom apartment, a big grin swallows up his face. Then, he starts to cry, taking a sleeve to his face to dry his tears as Mama Ana gives him a big hug and asks why he’s crying. Anyone who has been there already knows why he’s crying. “It’s okay to cry papi 💕,” offers one Twitter user. 

Another offers her experience, tweeting, “This is so beautiful to see! It’s an incredible feeling.
When I was younger I lived in a small room with 3 of my other siblings and my parents. It makes you humble… but keep grinding for that better life!!” 

After the video went viral, Meydi took the opportunity to offer a lesson in gratitude.

CREDIT: @MEYDII_ / TWITTER

“Hi we didn’t expect this to blow up the way that it did, but thank you so much to everyone for your kind words,” she tweeted, adding that her brother has read all the comments and “is beyond happy that this blew up.” For the Manzo family, this moment is all about gratitude. “Those seven years in the garage have taught us to be thankful and to appreciate everything and anything we have,” she said in a follow-up tweet. “The simplest things, we may not have much but we have each others’ love no matter how much me and my brother fight lol,” Meydi added. 

If you’re not crying yet, just wait.

Meydi has a message for those of you who are in similar situations.

CREDIT: ANA MANZO / FACEBOOK

“For those of you in similar situations, it gets better, and god is good,” Meydi tweeted. She says that her mom “is overwhelmed with feelings” because Meydi has been reading everyone’s comments to her and vows to continue to read every message of support and pass it on to her mother. “She promised us she would keep us moving forward no matter what and she has done nothing but keep that promise true,” Meydi said. “Hug your parents and remind them how thankful you are for everything they do for you and everything they have given you no matter how little it is,” Meydi offers in her final message of hope and gratitude. “Sending love and blessings to you all, thank you once again.”

So many people asked Meydi for ways they could help that she started a GoFundMe that has raised over $3k for the Manzo family.

CREDIT: ANA MANZO / FACEBOOK

“A lot of people were asking how they could help and I couldn’t think of another way,” Meydi said in the GoFundMe, adding, “my mom is a little tight on money and I hate asking others for stuff like money, but I think this would lift a weight off her chest with the upcoming bills.” In less than 24 hours, Twitter has raised at least two month’s rent for the Manzo family, with folks donating from all over the world.

So many folks felt the tears that Meydi’s brother shed because they had been there too and were in a place to donate. “I grew up not having a lot and I know what It feels like. I cried when I saw your little brother cry. I hope this help a lot, one donor who gave $100 said in a GoFundMe comment. 

May Mama Ana Manzo’s besitos give you all the bendiciones you need to reach your goals this new year.

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A Mother Was Hospitalized After Her Daughter’s Bullies Attacked Her

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A Mother Was Hospitalized After Her Daughter’s Bullies Attacked Her

GoFundMe

A Latina mother was hospitalized after her two of her daughter’s bullies beat her up outside James Logan High School in Northern California. Maria “Lupita” Guadalupe Jimenez and her husband, Eder Rojas, are choosing to transfer their 16-year-old daughter to another school after their entire family was targeted by a group of bullies outside James Logan High School. On Tuesday morning, Jan. 7, Jimenez arrived with her husband, 16-year-old daughter and 3-month-old daughter for a scheduled appointment to meet with the school’s principal about her daughter’s bullies. Two girls ganged up on the family as they were getting out of the car. Rojas did everything he could to protect his daughter, so the girls began beating on his wife. Even after they knocked her unconscious, they continued to kick her in the head. Jimenez was recovering from a C-section just a few months prior and had to be hospitalized for two days. She underwent surgery to repair three fractures in her nose.

Police were called to the scene and one girl has been arrested. As Jimenez’s family plans to hire a lawyer, her friends are raising money for her medical expenses like true Americans: through a GoFundMe.

“I thought we were safe on campus,” Maria Jimenez told a local news station.

CREDIT: MARTHA ANAYA / GOFUNDME

Jimenez and Eder Rojas knew that their daughter was being bullied, but they never imagined that her bullies would go on to physically assault them both. They decided that they wanted to go inside and speak with the principal as they were dropping their daughter off at school. Their daughter had spoken with the principal several times over the last year but her concerns weren’t taken seriously. It got to the point where she was afraid to go to school and wanted to just stop altogether. That’s when Jimenez and Rojas decided to step in and inadvertently prove just how dangerous these “bullies” were.

Jimenez recalls how one of the teen girls brought her to the ground by her hair and started dragging her. “The girl was very furious, they grabbed me by the hair and dragged me,” she told ABC7 NewsI just wanted to talk to the principal, you’d never imagine a kid would hit an adult, I thought we were safe on campus,” Jimenez added. 

Jimenez was released from the hospital two days later with orders to return for surgery.

CREDIT: MARTHA ANAYA / GOFUNDME

Jimenez’s nose is fractured in three places and had to undergo surgery in order for her nose to heal properly. Jimenez reportedly saw the girls approaching ready to hit her daughter but she told them, “No te metas,” or “don’t mess.” That’s when she dragged her to the ground by the hair and hit her so hard she became too dizzy to even stand up again. 

Rojas wouldn’t allow them to hurt her daughter anymore. “They want to hit my daughter but I cover a lot that they didn’t they couldn’t get there so they grabbed my wife,” Rojas told KRON4. “She has the bones broken right here, she has the eyes all red a bump here.” The family may have not been outnumbered but they weren’t prepared to fight a group of aggressive teenagers. “I feel really angry, sad at the same time,” Rojas added about the whole situation.

One of the teens has since been arrested on charges of battery with serious bodily injury.

CREDIT: MARTHA ANAYA / GOFUNDME

Union City Police arrived at the high school at 8:44 a.m. along with paramedics. Because the suspects are minors, their names will not be released to protect their privacy. Police say that the suspect has been released under adult supervision and was assigned a court date. “The case continues under investigation and the names of the people involved will not be released at this time. We don’t believe there are more suspects related to the case, ” Lt. Steve Méndez said in a statement.

Thus far, the school has only responded by sending a mass email to parents to publicly state: “We are investigating and following up on this incident working directly with the Union City Police Department, and taking disciplinary actions. We believe this incident to be between the two Logan students and does not appear to involve any other Logan students.”

A friend of the family has raised nearly $10,000 to help the family with medical costs.

CREDIT: MARTHA ANAYA / GOFUNDME

The physical assault all happened while their 3-month-old baby was inside the car. Because Jimenez was recovering from cesarean surgery, her medical needs were more pressing. In less than a week, a friend of Jimenez has raised $9,154 dollars through GoFundMe to help the family pay another long list of medical expenses, just months after the hospital expenses associated with having a C-section.

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