Culture

A Latina Author In New Mexico Is Delivering Books To Asylum Seekers On The Border To Brighten Their Spirits

It was a normal day at her New Mexico bookstore when author Denise Chávez was approached by a customer who needed help finding Spanish-English dictionaries. As is common in life, asking questions is what generates the most change, and the customer’s answer to her question of “Why?” sparked an idea. The customer wanted to help out the migrants who were passing through and finding refuge at the Peace Lutheran Church respite center. Understanding language as the vital life source to forming social bonds, communities, and basic navigation in society, Chávez decided to go a step further. In May 2019, Chávez started bringing bilingual storybooks to the Peace Lutheran Church shelter. Soon, word got around and she began to expand the project, initiating a soul-nourishing project called “Libros Para El Viaje” or books for the journey.

Chávez’s book drive has been promoted and supported by various bookstores across the country, including national nonprofit, the American Booksellers Association (ABA). Since then, Chávez has hand-delivered thousands of books to migrants on both sides of the border, offering the gift of exploring unknown worlds from the unacceptable confines of a tent, detention center or hiding.

Meet Denise Chávez.

CREDIT: @BOOKSELLERSOFAMERICA / INSTAGRAM

Chávez grew up in the border community of Las Cruces, New Mexico, the daughter of a teacher and a lawyer. “I was just inculcated from the very beginning with books, books, books,” Chávez shared her story on social media. “Growing up as a Chicana close to the Mexican border, my stories came to me in many languages, including Spanish, Spanglish, border language… I was filled with the beauty of spoken words. And I’ve always loved books,” she shared on Booksellers of America’s featured bookseller post.
“Bookselling means more to me every day,” Chávez shared on her experience of owning Casa Camino Real Bookstore, which serves as a community center and art gallery honoring border culture. “The stories of connecting, the people who come in—booksellers attract all sorts of people. To sell a book or to give a book away is a profound experience,” she added.

Chávez sees proof every week that giving a migrant a book is “a major healing experience.”

CREDIT: @RIVERDOGBOOKCO / INSTAGRAM

Libros Para El Viaje’s success is, in large part, thanks to Chávez’s presentation at an ABA conference that garnered national attention from booksellers. ABA has promoted her project, which has spurred many other community projects to help fund Libros Para El Viaje. For example, Minneapolis booksellers Red Balloon Book and Wild Rumpus created “Books for Border Kids” to host a two-month book drive. Those two independent booksellers alone sent over 3,000 book donations to Chávez in Las Cruces, according to The Salt Lake Tribune

“Every week, I distribute books in Spanish to families and children,” Chávez shared on social media. “So my work has deepened because we’re reaching out to people who arrive with nothing. To get a book means something. It’s a major healing experience. So when I see a tiny, little woman—and I wish people in the United States could see the people that stand in front of me with those ankle bracelets; they’re small people, they wouldn’t hurt anybody—I try to remember her face. She is on a journey. She’s going on a bus. She’s going on a plane. And she’s taking a book for the journey. I mean, wow! Right?”

“Books can heal us,” Chávez believes.

CREDIT: DENISE CHÁVEZ / FACEBOOK

Whether it’s a Guatemalan teenager looking for a Stephen King novel or seeing the beauty in a mother “hugging three Isabel Allende books,” Chávez has found healing in her project. Whether “somebody is picking up a Spanish language version of H.G. Wells’ A WAR OF THE WORLDS. Or to give a dictionary to an older man who’s learning English. It’s exciting. This is truly being connected with what a book does, which is to inform, empower, enlighten,” she testified in a social media post.
“My reason to be a writer is because I have been healed by books, and I do believe that books can heal us. It is a challenge to be a bookstore, but I continue because I know the power of a book,” Chávez attests.

You can support Casa Camino Real Bookstore‘s Libros Para El Viaje by purchasing any of these recommended bilingual books and mailing them to:

Casa Camino Real Bookstore
314 South Tornillo Street
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88001

READ: Lil Libros Finally Adds Musician Ritchie Valens To The List Of Icons Highlighted In Bilingual Children’s Books

Latina Writers On Twitter Her Upset About The POV The The Hunger Games Prequel Is Giving

Entertainment

Latina Writers On Twitter Her Upset About The POV The The Hunger Games Prequel Is Giving

Lionsgate Films

When news that beloved dystopian Hunger Games series was getting a prequel novel, fans were thrilled. After all, it had been years since the last of the Suzanne Collins trilogy had ended leaving devotees of the series with quite a few questions and heartbreaks. Welp, an excerpt from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is finally here and fans on Twitter are– well- unsurprisingly nonplussed. 

The upcoming science fiction novel by Suzanne Collins has already caught some fire for its content. 

Due to be released on May 19, 2020, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.”

Sounds all fun and good but fans are proving to be the exact opposite of tickled by news of the prequel which was confirmed back in October. At the time,  author Suzanne Collins said that “With this book, I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival,” she said in a press release. “The reconstruction period 10 years after the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days — as the country of Panem struggles back to its feet — provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity.”

Set 64 years before the first Hunger Games novel, the book won’t see characters like Katniss Everdeen.

In fact, as readers learned on Sunday, via the excerpt shared by Entertainment Weekly, the protagonist for the prequel ill be the villainous President Snow.

According to Entertainment Weekly, at the start of the book Coriolanus Snow is “a teenager born to privilege but searching for something more, a far cry from the man we know he will become. Here, he’s friendly. He’s charming. And, for now anyway, he’s a hero.”  In the excerpt shared by EW, Snow is seen becoming a mentor to a girl tribute from District 12,. 

Of course, the concept for the book has not boded well with fans on Twitter. 

Fans of the original series are expressing their outright contempt for the book which erases all of the work the original series did to inspire young female action heroes. Author Aiden Thomas of Cemetery Boys summed up the sentiments best saying  “I couldn’t be more disappointed by the next HUNGER GAMES being about f*cking President Snow and trying to paint him as a ‘misunderstood hero’ are you kidding me. the very last thing i’m interested in is humanizing a fascist dictator because he has a tragic past.”

Welp. That’s it for the prequel, here’s hoping that it all turns out way better than we had expected. Until then, at least we can ohh and ahh at the hope of one day seeing one of our very own represented in the series.

When Hollywood doesn’t have the courage to cast women or people of color in new films, they make reboots of older box office hits starring women or a more diverse cast. While we’d like to suggest that Hollywood simply make original films starring Latinos, especially since Latinos buy the most movie tickets than any other demographic groups in the US, but we also wouldn’t mind seeing a few reboots with a full Latino cast and not just playing token roles. The Hunger Games, a movie about children who grow up in extreme poverty who are taken from their families to a an opulent city that appears to be full of happiness and promise, but where they have to fight for their lives, is a good start, especially if Yalitza Aparicio played Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss Everdeen (originally played by Jennifer Lawrence)

Credit: The Hunger Games/Lionsgate

Little girls all over the world wanted to be like Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, after The Hunger Games released in theaters. Vulnerable, tough, and caring, Katniss was the female hero we all needed in 2012, but as a young Xicanita, my niece wanted to be Katniss years before when she read all the books all the books in the The Hunger Games series written by Suzanne Collins

Katniss played by Yalitiza Aparicio

Credit: Pinterest

Freshly nominated for an academy award, Yaltiza Aparicio who can rock a braid like no other, could easily inhabit the role of Katniss, who volunteers a tribute when her sister Primose’s name is drawn at the reaping, is a great shot with a bow and arrow, and is no nonsense about doing what’s right. We can’t wait to see Aparicio in a less quiet role, and playing the scrappy Katniss shouldn’t be a stretch for her at all.

Gale Hawthorne (originally played by Liam Hemsworth)

Credit: The Hunger Games/Lionsgate

Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth, is Katniss’ faithful friend who also, of course, has romantic feelings for her, which complicates matters when she allows to go along with the fabricated love story between her and Peeta to gather attention from viewers.

Gale played by Juan Pablo Di Paci

Credit: Pinterest

Juan Pablo Di Paci’s smudge-print eyes alone are enough to get him the role, but he also resembles Liam Hemsworth, the square jaw, the thick head of hair, the movie-star good looks. His looks, however, won’t be enough to win Katniss over who ultimately winds up marrying Peeta. None of this will hurt, Di Paci, the Argentinian actor who played Fernando on Fuller House and who can also sing, dance, and direct.

Primrose Everdeen (originally played by Willow Shields)

Credit: The Hunger Games/Lionsgate

In order to protect her younger sister, Primrose, or Prim, Katniss volunteers to fight in her place. The sensitive Prim is spared fighting at a young age, but is still tormented by the fact that her older sister and stable member of the family must leave her side and go to the capital.

Primrose Everdeen played by Juliana Gamiz

Credit: juliannagamiz / Instagram

Up and coming child actor, Julianna Gamiz, would make a great Primrose, and hermana to Aparicio’s Katniss. A role in the Fierce by Mitú production of The Hunger Games could help Gamiz, who plays the adopted child of a white couple inInstant Family, broaden her roles.

Peeta Mellark (originally played by Josh Hutcherson)

Credit: The Hunger Games/Lionsgate

Peeta, also from District 12, is the male tribute chosen to fight in the Hunger Games with Katniss. As per the cruel Hunger Games’ rules Peeta and Katniss should have fought one another until the death, two teens from the same district, but they outsmarted the Capital with their manufactured love story.

Peeta Mellark played by Diego Boneta

Credit: Pinterest

Diego Boneta from Rock of Ages and Pelé could play Peeta Mellark, whose name we’d have to change to Pedro Mellark because this is our reboot. Like Hemsworth and Di Paci, Boneta and Hutcherson look similar, Boneta the Mexican version.

Cinna (Originally played by Lenny Kravitz)

Credit: The Hunger Games/Lionsgate

Lenny Kravitz is great in the role of Cinna, Katniss’ stylist and confidant who makes it possible for the taciturn Katniss to be likable by the masses.

Cinna played by Oscar Issac

Credit: Pinterest

With the kindly, wise Cinna, it’s all in the eyes, and as Oscar Isaac, certainly has the eyes. As much as we’d hate to replace Lenny Kravitz, especially when he wears leather pants, replacing Kravitz for the internet’s favorite boyfriend totally works for us.

Effie Trinket (originally played by Elizabeth Banks)

Credit: The Hunger Games/Lionsgate

Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket is a great character, frivolous and self-absorbed but also a shrewd business woman and no nonsense.

Effie Trinket played by Salma Hayek

Credit: Pinterest

Salma Hayek, who isn’t afraid to fully inhabit a role, would make a great Effie Trinket, she looks great in pink and pastel pallets and is great at no-nonsense characters. Like Hayek, Effie Trinket has penchant for fashion and having moved to Paris and married a François-Henri Pinault who heads a company that represents luxury designer clothes, Hayek has plenty to choose from.

Haymitch (originally played by Woody Harrelson)

Credit: The Hunger Games/Lionsgate

Mentor to Katniss and Peeta, a former winner of the games, Haymitch, now an alcoholic, seems to believe that it’s futile to train young people to kill when they have very little chance of winning. Clearly scarred by his own experiences, Haymitch vacillates between apathy and wisdom

Haymitch played by Eugenio Derbez

Credit: Pinterest

Eugenio Derbez has been making Latinos laugh for years, but he can also play it straight like he does as the skeptical Enrique in the Latinx favorite Under The Same Moon. Enrique’s skepticism in Under the Same Moon, is not unlike that of Haymitch toward Katniss and Peeta and the whole barbaric process that is the annual Hunger Games.

President Snow (Originally played by Donald Sutherland)

Credit:The Hunger Games/Lionsgate

President Snow is a classic totalitarian who believes he knows better than his citizens and has no care for the will of the people. His primary concerns are power and his image, sound familiar?

President Snow played by President Trump

HuffPost
Credit: Pinterest

Let’s face it, the current state for Latinos in the US, or those hoping make the US a home in order to escape extreme poverty, violence, and failed states, is pretty dystopian. As much as we hate his face, Trump would make a great President Snow, especially because Snow says this:  “Why do we have a winner? Hope. It is the only thing more powerful than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine as long as it’s contained.”

Portia (originally played by Latarsha Rose)

Credit: The Hunger Games/Lionsgate

In The Hunger Games, Portia is Peeta’s stylist. While she does not speak many lines in the first movie of the trilogy, the distinctive style of her make-up and costumes cause her to jump off the screen, so to play her we choose Tessa Thompson, duh.

Portia played by Tessa Thompson

Credit: Pinterest

Tessa Thompson’s Afro-Latina beauty and smoldering eyes are perfect reasons to put her in the role of Portia. In our Latinx version, Portia will definitely rebel against The Capital by using her knowledge of the inner workings of the games to dress Peeta in items that will send messages of hope to District 12.

From Spain To Latin America, How A Mass Migration Created A Thriving Latino/Jewish Community

Culture

From Spain To Latin America, How A Mass Migration Created A Thriving Latino/Jewish Community

Unsplash

The days of stereotyping Latinos are over, dead to 2019. We are an ethnicity, not a race, which means we have every range of skin tone and practice every major religion. The arc of Latinidad is so entrenched in imperialism and immigration that it makes sense we would be so diverse. To be Latino has often meant being a native Latin American indigenous person or ancestry that, at some point, hailed from somewhere else in the world and landed in Latin America. The Spanish Inquisition is largely responsible for the present-day stereotype of Catholic Latinos, but the Inquisition is responsible for the mass immigration of Spanish Jews as well. During the 16th century, the Inquisition mandated that all Jews convert to Catholicism. Many of them did and were known as conversos, but many of them continued to practice their religion in secret, becoming known as crypto-Jews. The rest were expelled from the country and would eventually make their way to Latin America.

Today, an estimated half-million Jews live in Latin America, with Argentina having the second-largest Jewish community in the Americas, at an estimated 300,000 total. 

Studies have revealed that almost 25 percent of Latinos have Jewish DNA.

Credit: Unsplash

Immigration has long been the defining mark of non-Indigenous Latinos. Historians have long wondered how many descendants were produced from those original Jews expelled from Spain to Latin America. What’s more interesting is understanding that conversos offered a whole other lineage of people with Jewish heritage hatefully stamped out by an empire–an erasure of identity that can now be found through genetics research. A Nature Communications study from December 2018 has concluded, based on the research of dozens of professors around the globe, that 25 percent of Latinos have Spanish or Portuguese Jewish DNA. Today, 20% of the 60 million people in the Iberian peninsula have significant Jewish ancestry. Researchers suspect that the total number of descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities range in the 200 million.

In a world without anti-Semitism, would Latinos be more widely known as Jewish because their ancestors weren’t forcibly converted?

Credit: Unsplash

Given the shocking estimates, it seems likely that there could have been as many as 1 in 4 Jews in the Latino community. In Miami Dade County, a third of all Jews identify as Latino Jews, and many Latino-American Jews have begun advocating for their Latino culture within the Jewish community. “[Although we] don’t generally inhabit the same spaces, we have to come together and become aware of the commonalities, the linguistic, cultural and historical ties the two communities have. Latino Jews could play an important role in being the link between Jews and Latinos, so what we’re trying to do is create more and more spaces for this interaction and cooperation to happen,” Dina Siegel Vann, Director of Latino Affairs at the American Jewish Committee told Aish.com.

Even though anti-Semitism and radical political ideology have erased the Jewish heritage that could have been passed down to the existing Latino population with Jewish DNA, many Jewish customs and traditions have prevailed in Latino culture without due credit. Por ejemplo.

Puerto Rican Sofrito came from the Sephardic Jews.

CREDIT: @IZZY_MONEY85 / TWITTER

That’s right my fellow Boricuas, sofrito might be the ultimate symbol and base of our cuisine, but Spanish Jews had long been using the garlic, onion, pepper, tomatoes, cumin, and olive oil base salsa to slow-cook chicken, veal, beef or lamb by Spanish Sephardic Jews. In fact, we owe it to the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition for bringing their recipes with them. Their cultural influence made an impact on Spanish cuisine, which then had a ripple effect on Latin America as it became colonized by Spain. Originally, sofrito was most often celebrated in the Balkans, the Levant, Turkey, and the Maghreb before making its way to become a Puerto Rican staple. Whatever you decide to make for your Hanukkah meal, including sofrito is a no-brainer crowd pleaser.  

Lachmazikas, a meat-stuffed pastry, is quite similar to empanadas.

CREDIT: UNTITLED. DIGITAL IMAGE. TABLETMAG. 20 DECEMBER 2019.

While most Latino-Americans are unified in speaking Spanglish, Latino Jews speak Ladino. Israeli Jews delight in sufganiyot, while American Jews often see it as an afterthought, just a jelly-filled donut. Spanish Jews made lachmazikas, which were filled with everything from lamb and mushrooms to ricotta, herbs, and whitefish. A meat stuffed bread might sound familiar to you *cough* empanadillas *cough*.

Looking for more Latino-Jewish foods for your Hanukkah celebration? Look no further.

READ: Disney Is Debuting Their First Jewish Princess And Surprise! She’s Also Latina