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.


Read: Twitter’s Latest Hashtag Fights Back Against The Normalization Of Death And Violence Against Migrant Youth

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Woman Who Watched Her Mother Die Before Her Eyes While At Sea As A 9-Year-Old Reunited With Her Rescuers

Fierce

Woman Who Watched Her Mother Die Before Her Eyes While At Sea As A 9-Year-Old Reunited With Her Rescuers

Justin Sullivan / Getty

May 20, 1986, started out for Desireé Rodriguez and her family as an idyllic morning.

At the time, Desireé’s father (a 30-year-old construction worker by the name of Thomas Rodriguez) had taken her, her mother, and sister as well an aunt and uncle out to Catalina Island for a day of sailing. The plan was to go out, fish, and bask in the summer sun before heading back home. In the evening, just as they were headed home the family was impacted by a dense fog. Desireé and her 5-year-old sister Trisha awoke from a nap on the boat to calls from her father to abandon ship and within minutes the entire family was lost at sea. Out in the water and away from their boat that had capsized.

 The family of six was stranded in the chilly Pacific water for hours and Desireé watched as her father first went to swim for rescue and never returned. In the hours that slowly stretched by Desireé witnessed the death of her sister, her mother, her uncle and then her aunt.

Decades have passed since her family’s accident but Desireé has lived to tell of the story thanks to the two men who rescued her.

In a recent piece by The New York times, Desireé was reunited with the two men who were remarkably able to save her after she spent a nightmarish 20 hours in the ocean.

Only 9-years-old at the time of the tragic events, Desireé recalls believing that her father would return with help when he first swam away from the boat. “My dad was like the superhero to me. I actually thought he would get help,” Desireé explained before calling the desperate hours that followed. After watching her family members die, she found herself all alone.

“At that point, I just kind of made the decision, I need to get away from this boat,” Desireé recalled to the New York Times. “I need to swim away, somewhere else. … Where? I don’t know.”

Just when Desireé decided to give up hope, the skipper of a commercial sportfishing boat spotted her orange life jacket in the water.

The boat’s first officer leapt into the water and fished Desireé out of the water. Desireé was ultimately transported back to San Pedro and never saw her rescuers again.

“I don’t think I would have lived, I’ll be honest with you. I think at that point, I was just kind of done,” Desireé explained in a recent interview about the incident. According to an article at the time that described the incident, Desireé had suffered no major physical injuries and was “in good spirits.” She left the hospital in San Pedro the next time.

“I had even hoped that my dad did make it somewhere,” Desireé explained of her thinking of the time. “Maybe he is living on an island and just got amnesia and didn’t know that he has a family. You know, you always have hope. But you get older, and reality sets in, and you’re like, OK. He didn’t make it.”

Paul Strasser and Mark Pisano, the two men who rescued her, ultimately earned commemorative plaques for their bravery from Mayor Tom Bradley. Desireé Rodriguez, now Desireé Campuzano, was adopted by another aunt and uncle who raised her. She went onto attend junior college in Fullerton, built herself a career in criminal justice, married and had a son. Still, she always wondered what had happened to the men who saved her.

It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that Strasser and Pisano came into contact with Philip Friedman who launched a podcast about his hobby as a fisherman.

“Friedman Adventures” which launched this past December, shares incredible stories from fishermen. Ine one episode Pisano spoke about the 1986 rescue.

“It’s kind of a weird story, kind of like there are some supernatural qualities,” Pisano explained of the experience on the podcast.

Friedman felt motivated to unite the two rescuers and Desireé. Ultimately a friend of Desireé’s heard the episode when it aired and made the connection. He reached out to Desireé and then Friedman and ultimately she and her rescuers were reunited.

“I was nervous at first,” Desireé said of meeting Strasser and Pisano “just seeing [the] guys and putting kind of finalization to the ‘what happened.’” The three were finally reunited during another episode of the podcast.

“I feel like she’s sort of our daughter, in a way, because we brought her back to life,” Strasser said during their reunion. “Even though we never knew each other.”

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Bride Sparks Twitter Debate After Asking If It Was Rude To Serve Her Mother-In-Law Jersey Mike’s At Her Wedding

Fierce

Bride Sparks Twitter Debate After Asking If It Was Rude To Serve Her Mother-In-Law Jersey Mike’s At Her Wedding

MANAN VATSYAYANA / Getty

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when you get married you’re not just getting a partner, you’re getting a whole new family. Understanding this can mean all of the difference when it comes to the future of you and your new spouse. Those who get it will likely pursue their future with an understanding that compassion and love have to regularly extend to other members of their new family. Those who don’t… end up on Reddit with family woes.

One Reddit user recently posted a request for assurance that quickly went viral and comes with a pretty obvious family lesson to us all.

Reddit user, u/No-Permit-3219, recently posted in a subreddit in search of reassurance about a recent fall-out with her mother-in-law that occurred at her wedding.

“AITA for giving my MIL a Jersey Mike’s sub?” the user asked r/AmItheA–hole, a subreddit posters can use to get an opinion as to whether their behavior makes them the “a–hole” or not. In the post, the user detailed how her new family is being “torn apart” by her decision to provide her mother-in-law with a Jersey Mike’s sub at her wedding.

“I’ll start off by saying I don’t really have issues with my MIL. she can be a bit needy and demanding, but she isn’t a bad person,” she kicked off the post. “FIL on the other hand is horrible, and his main trigger is when he doesn’t think we ‘respect him’ or treat his wife right. We got married recently, and I wanted to serve my favorite foods at the wedding, lemon chicken and lemon cake. I was aware that not all guests would like that, but I felt that it was my day, and the less food options we had, the cheaper it was. For the average guest, I figured they could just live with it, but I didn’t want my MIL to starve and she HATEs lemon, can’t even put it in her mouth without gagging.

“I was trying to think of something she would eat that was cheap and easy. I know the buffalo chicken cheesesteak at Jersey Mike’s is her fave fast food meal, and I had a box of M&M’s for her. She did give me a weird look, but she ate it. Also I had it delivered, so it wasn’t just sitting there and getting soggy. FIL was furious. He said that I am selfish and disrespected him and his wife. He went on a rant about how tacky it was to have a wedding and not take the family into consideration, and that I wasted his money. MIL did tell him to stop yelling, but he called me a bitch on my wedding day.

“Now FIL is demanding an apology and his golden child isn’t speaking to me. Their other child is on my side, and MIL said she isn’t going to cause drama, but she does think it was disrespectful, and she would never do that with her own MIL. My husband is totally on my side, and I asked some bridesmaids, who feel like I did nothing wrong, and I was gracious to even get her something.”

Users on Reddit labeled the poster TA for her decision but Twitter users had a different opinion.

“It’s her favorite fast food meal, which is quite different from her favorite food,” one user on Twitter commented. “I prefer McDonald’s over Burger King or Wendy’s but would be pretty surprised to have a Big Mac and some candy served to me at my child’s FORMAL wedding that I paid for.”

The Daughter In Law with a Jersey Mike’s-loving mother-in-law went onto underline that even though her future parents-in-law were paying for the wedding she never broached the topic of a dinner menu.

Reddit User

Fortunately, the Reddit user has come to terms with the fact that she failed miserably and texted her mother-in-law an apology.

Reddit User

Here’s hoping that this Reddit user finds a way to turn her self-made sour lemonade into something sweet.

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