Culture

Here’s Why Everyone Should Celebrate Nochebuena At Least Once With Their Latino Friends

While many families around the world will be setting out cookies and milk for Santa and promptly sending the kids off to bed to wait until Christmas morning to open their presents, Latino families will be gathering with their tíos, tías, abuelos, and primos for one of the biggest parties of the year; Nochebuena —and it definitely outshines Thanksgiving, New Years, and Christmas Day, combined. 

For Latinos, Christmas Eve is even better than the actual day. 

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Nochebuena literally means ‘good night’ or ‘holy night’, and it’s a time for family, friends, food, presents and chisme, of course, We all know that there’s always chisme. 

Nochebuena parties usually happen at the reigning matriarch’s home.

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Every Christmas Eve, entire families flock from every part of the city —sometimes different countries— all the way to Grandma or Grandpa’s house, to meet the entire family. It’s the one time of year when you get to see your long lost primos or that tío you can’t stand; all to celebrate the birth of Jesus —And to open presents tbh. 

Everyone dresses up to sit in grandma’s house and eat up a feast. 

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Nochebuena is a time to serve up a fashion clinic for everyone present. Tías turn up looking extra af, los tíos are sometimes forced to wear ties, and all the primos and primas are selfie-ready as soon as the clock hits midnight. 

Depending on your family’s nationality or background, your Nochebuena experience might vary. 

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From the menu to the ancient traditions to the religious aspects, everything may be different depending on your family’s nationality. For example, if you attend a Cuban or Puerto Rican Nochebuena, you’ll find yourself face to face with a lechón, which is a deliciously large roast pig with face, feet, and everything else intact. Traditionally, the lechón is prepared inside something called a caja China and some times buried underground. 

If you’re attending Nochebuena in a Mexican household, you might find yourself enjoying homemade tamales and pozole.

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The menu might also include flan or buñelos for dessert, and maybe even a little tequila. Colombian Nochebuena dinners might include ajiaco Bogotano, a type of potato soup, and natillaa dessert made from cornstarch and milk that’s way more delicious than it sounds; while Venezuelans enjoy pernil (pork leg) and panettone (a sweet bread loaf) as their traditional Nochebuena treats.

Get ready for ‘el intercambio.’

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Just as the clock strikes midnight, everyone gets ready to eat their traditional dishes. Once the food gets eaten and the cafecito has been drunk, it’s time to gather around the Christmas tree and Nativity scene to hand out regalos. The ‘intercambio’ which literally translates to “exchange” is a Secret Santa of sorts, but it involves your whole family. Everyone gets a present and some families use the occasion to pick at each other by gifting ‘prank’ presents as well as real, meaningful ones. 

Nochebuena is even celebrated in the Philipines.

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The Phillipines was also a colony of Spain. The Spanish influence on Filipino culture is still pretty much present, and so Nochebuena is still celebrated on the islands. Over there folks indulge in everything from hamonado, a pineapple juice-infused chicken or pork, to sotanghon soupa type of hot noodle soup, and tsokolate (hot chocolate) to end the meal.

If the family celebrating Nochebuena is Catholic, there will be more events lined up on the night before Christmas.

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For many Catholics of various nationalities, dinner is often either preceded by or followed by a trip to church for la Misa de Gallo, or the midnight mass. In many Latin American cultures, there’s a baby Jesus tribute that takes place before exchanging presents or eating dinner. Days, and sometimes weeks, before Christmas eve, when the tree gets set up, so does the family’s nativity scene. Every piece and character gets set up as part of the Nativity scene, everything except baby Jesus. This key character joins the rest of the crew at midnight on Dec. 24, right after his birth. 

After eating, exchanging gifts, catching up on the latest family gossip —and putting baby Jesus to sleep, many families make their own traditions.

In many Latin American countries, playing dominos, lighting fireworks, and releasing paper lanterns into the sky are also fun traditions for the evening. And once the coquito, tequila, or Aguardiente gets flowing, you’ll probably end up dancing along to “Mi Burrito Sabanero” or Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad,” just some of the many songs you’re bound to hear at least once at a Noche buena party.

READ: We Are Already Craving These Delicious And Decadent Noche Buena Dishes

California Man Is Using His Culture To Create Hilarious And Super Relevant Mexican Greet Cards

Culture

California Man Is Using His Culture To Create Hilarious And Super Relevant Mexican Greet Cards

paper_tacos / Instagram

Jesus Ruvalcaba was an artist looking for more creative freedom in his life. Even after getting a job as an art director at eBay and Hewlett-Packard in Silicon Valley, the then 36-year-old felt complacent. It was a stop at a grocery store when he went to buy his mother a birthday card that a light bulb flashed in his head. 

“I looked at all these cards but couldn’t find something that resonated with my Latino culture,” Ruvalcaba said. “I felt that an entire population group was being ignored.”

That night planted the seeds of what would eventually become Paper Tacos, a greeting card business focusing on Mexican culture and traditions. From get well soon messages that read “sana sana colita de rana” ((heal, heal little frog) to birthday cards that read “sapo verde,” Ruvalcaba had tapped into a demographic that wasn’t typically represented in the greeting card business. 

“I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt like this,” he said. “This was more than just about a greeting card but seeing my culture being seen.” 

Ruvalcaba, the son of two Mexican immigrants, got most of his inspiration growing up in the Central Valley fields of California. He worked alongside his parents in the isolated artichoke fields where he learned to draw. 

Credit: Jesus Ruvalcaba / Paper Tacos

Ruvalcaba knew he wanted to be an artist at a young age and says growing up he would usually be found carrying around a sketchbook full of drawings. He didn’t grow up with much as his parents were Mexican immigrants who worked tirelessly as fieldworkers in the central California valley in cities like Castroville and later in Salinas. 

“My parents didn’t really know a lick of English so my drawings did a lot of the talking for me,” he says. “We didn’t have much growing up but they would buy me art supplies and always encouraged me to keep drawing.”

Those drawings would pave the way for a career in animation as Ruvalcaba became the first in his family to graduate college obtained a degree in graphic design at California State University Monterey Bay and eventually his Master’s degree. Shortly after, he would find himself in Silicon Valley working for companies like eBay and Hewlett-Packard as an art director. 

Ruvalcaba knew he could still do more with his talents. After attending a Dia de los Muertos art event in 2016, he met another artist selling Spanish prints with Mexican slogans. He was then reminded of that night at the market when he couldn’t find a Spanish greeting card for his mom. 

“It hit me right there and then that if I could come up with greeting cards that have Mexican sayings like “sana sana colita de rana,” I could tap into a market that was never really acknowledged prior.” Ruvalcaba said. 

After receiving encouragement from his girlfriend, Ruvalcaba put his illustration skills and graphic design experience to work as he produced his first set of 15 cards for 300 dollars. In Fall 2017, Paper Tacos became a reality. 

Credit: Jesus Ruvalcaba / Paper Tacos

About a year after the idea of Paper Tacos first came up, Ruvalcaba attended the same art festival from the year prior and sold his first greeting card for $5 apiece. The response to the cards was immediate and customers told Ruvalcaba about what it meant to see their culture on a product like this.

“It felt like my idea was validated in a way and seeing everyone respond so positively to Paper Tacos was just the cherry on top,” said Ruvalcaba. “From there it only got even bigger.”

In the following months of 2017, Paper Tacos made its launch and by the end of 2017, he had made $2,000 within just three months of launching his site. In 2018, he had made over $12,000 in sales and today has over 20K followers on Instagram alone. When he started the business, there were only 15 card designs which have now grown to over 100. He’s also branded outside of California and is currently selling his greeting cards at 25 stores throughout the country.

For Ruvalcaba, Paper Tacos hasn’t been just any business move or a little extra income revenue. It’s a tribute to his Mexican background and a reflection of his culture that he feels is being celebrated every time one of his cards is given. 

Credit: Jesus Ruvalcaba / Paper Tacos

When asked about where his inspiration for his greeting cards come from, Ruvalcaba says his parents. Those long days working along with them in the artichoke fields and holidays where all they had was each other. 

“Every card is a reflection of me growing up in a Mexican household and other people have connected with that,” said Ruvalcaba. “When I brainstorm ideas I just look back to my childhood.”

That connection is something special he says. While Ruvalcaba still has a full-time job as a designer in Santa Clara, if things keep going the way they are, Paper Tacos will become his main focus. 

Through Instagram, Ruvalcaba has begun working with more freelancers to keep growing Paper Tacos and get more artists opportunities. His business plan is to expand to other Latino backgrounds to work and reach out to Salvadoran and Nicaraguan artists so that they too can see representation.  

“This business has shown me how powerful this product can be and every time someone tells me the impact that these cards have had on a family member or a friend, it sticks with me,” Ruvalcaba says. “It’s a special thing to know a simple greeting card can do this.”

READ: Patty Delgado Is Changing The World Of Latino Fashion With Her Own Store Hija De Tu Madre

Throwback: Remember When Disney Tried To Trademark Día de los Muertos?

Entertainment

Throwback: Remember When Disney Tried To Trademark Día de los Muertos?

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Since Disney Plus launched on November 12, people have been swept up in all the family-friendly chaos, indulging in a long list of classic Disney favorites. While the streaming service also plans to offer new original content, the company is definitely taking advantage of our generation’s lust for nostalgia, providing exclusive access to the Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and National Geographic franchises (and reminding us how much Disney dominated our youth with films like The Lion King, The Cheetah Girls, and Gotta Kick It Up). Honestly, the list of iconic feel-good films is outrageously long, and it’s easy to understand why everyone’s so excited.

But it’s no secret that Disney’s wholesome image has been blemished by a long, varied history of controversy and criticism. While Disney has been accused of sexism and plagiarism numerous times, one of the most notable topics of discussion in recent years has been the company’s tendency to racially stereotype its characters, a propensity that is  especially notable in early Disney films (though many scholars and film critics argue that this has carried into the 21st century, despite Disney’s attempts to be more culturally sensitive).

On many occasions, Disney has acknowledged the racist nature of its older animated films, like Dumbo, The Jungle Book, and The Aristocats. In the descriptions for several programs on Disney Plus, there is a brief warning about the “outdated cultural stereotypes” contained within each film, and while several people view this disclaimer as a sign of progress, Disney has been criticized for making a bare minimum effort toward addressing the problematic elements of its past.

And speaking of the company’s past, how could we forget the time that Disney tried to trademark the term “Día de los Muertos” / “Day of the Dead”?

Credit: Pinterest / The Walt Disney Company

Back in 2013, Disney approached the US Patent and Trademark Office with a request to secure “Día de los Muertos” / “Day of the Dead” across many different platforms. At the time, an upcoming Pixar movie with a Día de los Muertos theme (read: the early stirrings of Coco) was in the works, and Disney wanted to print the phrase on a wide range of products, from fruit snacks to toys to cosmetics. Por supuesto, Disney received major backlash for trying to trademark the name of a holiday—what is more culturally appropriative than claiming ownership over an entire celebration? Especially one with indigenous roots?

“The trademark intended to protect any potential title of the movie or related activity,” a spokeswoman for Disney told CNNMexico at the time. “Since then, it has been determined that the title of the film will change, and therefore we are withdrawing our application for trademark registration.”

But prior to withdrawing their application, Disney received extensive backlash from the Latnix community. Latinos all over social media expressed their disdain for Disney’s bold and offensive attempt to take ownership of the holiday’s name, even starting a petition on Change.org to halt the whole process. Within just a few days, the petition had garnered 21,000 signatures.

Although Disney didn’t acknowledge whether the online uproar had influenced them to retract their trademark request, they were clearly paying attention. Lalo Alcaraz, a Mexican-American editorial cartoonist, had expressed open disdain at what he called Disney’s “blunder,” creating “Muerto Mouse”—a cartoon criticizing said blunder—in response.

Credit: Lalo Alcaraz / Pocho.com

This wasn’t the first time Alcaraz had criticized Disney with his cartoons. After the trademark fiasco, Disney definitely caught wind of Alcaraz’s position, and in an effort to approach the upcoming Día de los Muertos movie with sensitivity, the company hired him to work as a cultural consultant on the film.

Although several folks celebrated this development, Alcaraz was widely denounced for collaborating with Disney—many people called him a “vendido,” accusing him of hypocritically selling out to the gringo-run monolith against which he had previously spoken out. But Alcaraz stood his ground, confident that his perspective would lend valuable influence to the movie and ultimately prevent Pixar from doing the Latinx community a disservice.

“Instead of suing me, I got Pixar to give me money to help them and do this project right,” Alcaraz said. “I was let down because I was hoping people would give me a little bit of credit for the stuff I’ve done; to give me the benefit of the doubt.”

And, sin duda, Coco emerged as one of the most culturally accurate films that Disney has ever produced. Employing an almost exclusively Latino cast and crew, Coco seamlessly captured the beauty, magic, and wonder of Día de los Muertos, depicting the holiday with reverence and respect. And after becoming the top-grossing film of all time in Mexico, it’s safe to say that Coco helped Disney bounce back from its trademark mishap, even if more controversy is bound to emerge in the future.