Culture

In Miami, The Mayor Is Upholding A Pretty Cute Tradition Based On Cuban Celebrations And It Will Remind You Of Groundhog’s Day

We Latinx people tend to do things a little bit differently than the rest of the world. When we mourn the dead, we do it with colorful and lively celebrations focused on our loved ones’ lives. When we have a child’s birthday party, you better believe there’s going to be a good amount of cerveza and other alcoholic libations flowing for the tios and tias to enjoy. Even when it comes to other traditions not typically assigned to us, the Latinx community finds a way to make it all our own and do it up in style. 

That’s what Miami Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez did this morning when he participated in the 2nd Annual Pig Pardoning Ceremony.

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In the event held Monday morning at the Latin Café 2000 Brickell (an essential Cuban restaurant and involved part of the Latin community in Miami), the mayor spared the two pigs that would have otherwise faced slaughtering. Named Peppa and Petra, the pigs posed for pictures Mayor Gimenez and proved to be real hams for all the attention that we offered by the attending press. 

The celebration of Noche Buena is what encourages the yearly pardoning of these little piglets during this time of year. 

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Throughout Latin America, the night of Christmas Eve is celebrated with a large feast. During celebrations throuout the countries that make up the Latinidad, roasted pigs, or lechón, are at the center of these enormous parties. This is thought to be dated back to the 15th century when Caribbean colonists and natives joined together to celebrate by hunting down pigs and roasting them on open spits. While many places still embrace this rustic cooking technique, Peppa and Petra won’t be going anywhere near an open flame this year. 

This piggy pardoning mimics a very American turkey tradition. 

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The tradition of pardoning the presidential turkey is one that the White House has upheld every year since the days of President George H. W. Bush. The presentation of the Presidential Turkey dates all the way back to the 1940’s, however; presidential pardons weren’t as common for those birds back then. They were more likely to become dinner than to end up in a petting zoo or as someone’s pet.

“We’re a little different here in Miami-Dade. We don’t pardon turkeys, we pardon piglets,” Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, of Miami-Dade County, Florida, said during the pardoning. “They will live a long and happy life in the sanctuary.” 

It’s Mayor Gimenez’s partnership with the community that has made this pardoning possible. 

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This is just the second annual pardoning of piglets that the Miami-Dade County has performed but it’s far from the last. The event is a labor that is invested in by community staple, the Latin Café 2000 Brickell, as well as by the dedicated individuals at Aguacate Sanctuary of Love. 

A vegan cafe and animal shelter, Aguacate Santuary of Love is the organization that rescued the two lucky swine from a local slaughterhouse. In fact, Aguacate has promised to give the two rescued piggies a full life, complete with plenty of space to run and play and with no possibility of becoming someone’s Christmas Eve feast anytime in the future. 

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

Culture

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

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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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Would You Like A Piece Of Tomato On Your Bread? Or A Plain Bowl Of Rice?—These Have To Be The Saddest Vegetarian Meals To Ever Happen

Culture

Would You Like A Piece Of Tomato On Your Bread? Or A Plain Bowl Of Rice?—These Have To Be The Saddest Vegetarian Meals To Ever Happen

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Myth: All Vegetarians Eat Is Sad Salads And Carrots—Check Out 12 Of The Saddest Vegetarian Meals To Ever Happen

Would You Like A Piece Of Tomato On Your Bread? Or A Plain Bowl Of Rice?—These Have To Be The Saddest Vegetarian Meals To Ever Happen

Depending On Where You Live, It Might Not Be So Hard Eating Vegetarian, But You’ll Still Probably Run Into Meals Like These: The Saddest Veggie Meals To Ever Happen

The biggest misconception about being a vegetarian? That all we eat is sad salads and plates filled with carrots. It’s not true. There’s LOTS of stuff we eat. Most vegetarians are always stuffing their face with varied deliciousness. Because there are SO MANY things that we can eat. Hummus, pizza, fancy pasta. All the stuff regular omnivores eat, just without the bacon on top. So can someone please explain why when we tell people we’re vegetarian, they immediately prepare us something along the lines of these 12 sad meals? Stop the madness. Stop the carb load. Check out these 12 photos to witness some of the saddest vegetarian meals to ever happen.

Airplane Carbs 

Plane meals are always a bit disappointing — even for meat eaters. On this occasion, even the flight crew felt bad for the poor man.  If this isn’t a serious carb load, then what is?  

Broccoli and fries

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My share #sadVegetarian #stillYummy

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Many vegetarians have settled for a side order of fries as their main, but with this sad piece of broccoli to boot? Do better.

When the menu says “Toast with Mushrooms” 

You must always remember to BYOVB (bring your own vegan burger) to barbecues, otherwise you might get stuck with a piece of toast and literal mushrooms –no seasoning in sight. No thank you.

When the family forgets you’re vegetarian at Christmas dinner 

Another case of BYOVB* because there’s a near 100% chance that you’ll be stuck with 2 vegetarian sides at the family dinner.

A sad vegetarian breakfast

When your only viable option for breakfast is a hashbrown, you load up —and add lots of coffee. 

An epically sad vegetarian lunch option at school

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Tbh still thinking about this meal 😋👅💯💯

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Ahh, nothing like an apple, a banana and an empty hotdog bun to fuel you up after a morning of studies. NOT.

When there are no vegetarian options at the restaurant so rice is all you can have 

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A world without rice is no world at all

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Depending on where you live, it might not be so hard eating vegetarian. But you’ll still probably run into situations where your only option is a sad plate of plain rice. Sigh.

Soggy tofu and tomato sauce as the only vegetarian option when eating out

Isn’t eating out fun? The answer is, no, not always. I don’t really know what I would do if I was handed a sliced piece of bland tofu and some tomato sauce. Like, what am I supposed to do with this? 

When the only vegetarian options at Thanksgiving dinner are green beans and potatoes

Personally, this is the most tragic one. There you are, eating your green beans while the rest of the family stuffs their face with all the options. Cries internally.

When sweet potatoes are your only safe option

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Only sad vegans don't use seasoning #filetmignon

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Always carry a sweet potato, you never know when it might save you from starving. 

We’ve all had to settle for a side salad but COME ON

When grandma has her birthday party and everyone brings food to the barbecue —dang, not even a pasta dish?

Is this a sandwich or a hotdog or both?

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Is this a hotdog or a sandwich or both or neither

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This sad excuse for a sandwich –but at least this vegetarian learned his lesson and brought his own damn veggie dog to the cookout.