Culture

This Blind Latina Didn’t Just Become a Chef, She Also Opened Her Own Restaurant in Chicago

Laura Martinez is not your typical chef. She is blind.

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Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

When Martinez was a baby, doctors discovered cancer in eye. It led to vision loss, and, eventually, the removal of one eye. She was only a year old.

During college, she began to miss her mother’s homemade meals. So she began to explore cooking.

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Credit: Araceli R. / Yelp

The university cafeteria’s bland food had no appeal to Martinez. She then started to use her sense of smell and taste to explore foods and create her own dishes. She soon abandoned her degree in psychology and moved to Chicago to attend the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

How does Martinez deal with using knives? She says she has plenty of experience.

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Photo Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

“I always loved knives. In fact, when I was a child, they were my favorite toy,” Martinez told NPR.

In 2010, Martinez was hired by a renowned Chicago chef, Charlie Trotter.

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Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

Soon after graduation, Martinez secured a job with Chef Charlie Trotter. His restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s, was a mainstay in Chicago in the ’80s and ’90s. In 2013, Trotter died of a stroke.  Martinez had no job leads after Trotter’s death.

Martinez spent the next two years working on a new goal: opening her own restaurant.

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Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

With the help of her husband, Maurilio Ortega, and her mother, Josephina, Martinez worked tirelessly to achieve her dream.

READ: These Latin American Dishes Aren’t as “Latino” as You Thought

Earlier this year, her dream came true. She opened La Diosa restaurant in Chicago.

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Credit: La Diosa / Facebook

Martinez hosted a soft opening in January inviting media, friends and family. La Diosa is Spanish for “Goddess.”

Martinez got to showcase her culinary skills.

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Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

Despite not having sight, Martinez’s dishes are beautifully crafted. Martinez is building her brand on a fusion of Mexican and French cuisine.

She’s even created her own signature dish.

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Credit: La Diosa / Facebook

Looks like a pizza, right? Almost.

“I call it tartizza because it’s kind of between a tart and pizza, but the dough is delicate and light, but flaky at the same time,” Martinez told NPR.

Martinez’s story has become a beacon of hope for the blind community.

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Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

“I don’t think there’s another blind restaurateur who’s opened their own restaurant in the country. I think it’s a feather in the cap of Illinois and Chicago to have her,” her adviser Andrew Fogaty told DNAInfo.

READ: What Would Mama Cook? How to Prepare Classic Latino Dishes

Martinez has used her story to encourage youths to follow their dreams.

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Credit: Laura Martinez / Facebook

Martinez has spoken for The Maryland School for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, and numerous small engagements for other blind organizations around the country.

But, Martinez wants diners to remember one thing: her cooking.

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Credit: La Diosa / Facebook

Martinez may be the first blind chef to open a restaurant in the US, but she wants people to remember her food.

“Now that I’m known for being the blind chef, I want people to look beyond that,” Martinez told NPR. ? ?

Are you inspired by Laura Martinez’s story? Don’t forget to share on Facebook and Twitter. 

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

Entertainment

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

We all know by now that is no “one way” to be Latinx. Latinos come in a variety of forms, from Black to white, tall to short, descended from Indigenous, African, and European populations. And while Roman Catholicism may be the dominant religion in most of Latinidad, it goes without saying that Latino culture is not a monolith. Latinos practice a variety of religions, from Islam to Buddhism to, yes, Judaism. 

And while most people don’t necessarily think of Judaism when they think of Latin America, there is, in fact, a small but proud population of Jewish Latinos who keep their culture alive through tradition and a strong sense of community. But being a part of such a small community within an already-marginalized community can feel isolating at times. Especially when there are no public role models to see yourself reflected in.

That’s why Tuesday’s news that Disney is debuting a Jewish-Latinx princess sent shock-waves through the internet. 

Walt Disney Television Animation News announced via Twitter that an upcoming Elena of Avalon episode in December would be featuring a “visiting princess” from a “Latino Jewish kingdom”.The as-yet-unnamed princess will be voiced by Jamie-Lynn Sigler, the actress famous for her portrayal of Meadow Soprano on HBO’s seminal masterpiece, “The Sopranos”. 

The Tweet also revealed that the princess would also make an appearance in Elana’s “royal coronation special” next year. Although we do not know any further details of Sigler’s character or her storyline, “Elena of Avalor” writer Rachel Ruderman gave a small preview of what’s to come. “A little over a year ago, I had the honor of writing an Elena of Avalor episode featuring Disney’s first Jewish princess,” Ruderman said via Twitter. She continued: “Jamie Lynn Sigler knocks the role out of the park (wait ’till you hear her song!) Can’t wait to share this one”.

In a move of conscious-casting on Disney’s part, Jamie Lynn Sigler herself happens to be both Latina and Jewish–a giant step for a media giant that can sometimes miss the mark with casting.

Raised by a Jewish father and a Cuban mother, Sigler grew up in New York City as part of a multicultural family.In the past, Sigler has talked about being raised Jewish–attending Hebrew school, having a Bat Mitzvah, and even going on a Birth Right trip to Israel in 2008. 

This episode can serve as an educational experience for many people (including those of Latinx descent) who are unaware that Jewish Latinos even exist. In fact, what some people might not even know, is that the term “Sephardic” (a term used to describe Jewish people of European descent) literally means “of Spain or Portuguese descent” in old Hebrew. In other words, it’s not a stretch to imagine a character of both Latin and Jewish roots on our TV screens. In fact, it’s completely historically plausible!

Naturally, both the Latinx and Jewish Twitter population is super excited at this groundbreaking news.

As we mentioned before, the acknowledgment of Jewish Latinos in popular culture is such a rarity. When the media shines a spotlight on such a marginalized group of people, the advent is worth celebrating. And even though changes are slow in the making, any progress on the representation front is a step in the right direction.

Jamie Lynn Sigler herself expressed her excitement at the news, calling to attention the novelty of her position:

Yes, it’s exciting that the Jewish Latinx population has finally gotten some princess representation, but it’s still a little bit frustrating that we had to wait until 2019 for a Jewish princess. We have a long way to go.

This Latina Jew was incredibly excited at the prospect of having the chance to see her own unique lifestyle reflected onscreen:

The self-styled “Jewyorican” is one of many New York-based Puerto-Rican Jews who identify fully with both cultures. It’s not as rare as people think.

Some Latinx Jews took to Twitter to give some suggestions on how Disney could go about bringing the new character to life:

This Hispanic Linguistics Professor suggested incorporating the ancient Judeo-Spanish language of Ladino into the show. 

This multi-cultural woman celebrated the inclusion of multiple cultures in one character:

Families like hers are the way of the future–at least according to statistics. Although many media outlets still see American families in black and white, the rest of us living our lives know that our identities are increasingly a hodgepodge of cultures. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

America’s First Latina Fighter Pilot Was Rejected Twice Before The U.S. Air Force Accepted Her

Culture

America’s First Latina Fighter Pilot Was Rejected Twice Before The U.S. Air Force Accepted Her

airandspace.si.edu

Before Olga E. Custodio became the first Latina Air Force pilot, she faced a slew of rejections in life for being a Puerto Rican woman. Even though she was an enrolled college student at just 16 years old, her application to join ROTC was rejected because she was a woman. She always knew she wanted to become a pilot, and worked in aviation in any capacity she could–even in accounting for Puerto Rico’s International Airline. She applied to the U.S. Air force three times before she was accepted.

When she finally was accepted into the training program, Custodio’s father, a military vet, called the governor of Puerto Rico himself to tell him the news.

Olga E. Custodio’s family moved so often, she went to schools in Taiwan, Iran, and Paraguay.

Credit: @JLANSolutions / Twitter

Her father was a sergeant in the United States Army, which meant that Custodio grew up as a ‘military brat.’ The whole family would relocate as her father was assigned to different military stations around the world. “I started kindergarten and 1st grade in Taiwan,” Custodio told Fox News Latino. “From there we moved to New Jersey, followed by a move to Iran then Paraguay before my father retired. I saw the world before I was 15 years old. I liked the feeling of being in the air.”

Custodio was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and their family returned to the island when she was 15 years old. She graduated high school a year later.

Credit: @flyLAXairport / Twitter

She was immediately accepted into the University of Puerto Rico, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree at a young age. She applied to join the ROTC program at the University but was rejected for being a woman. Only men were admitted into the program at the time. 

“Why aren’t the women leading?” Custodio asked herself at every job before entering the military.

Credit: @TheFogHornNews / Twitter

She worked a lot of different jobs, and at every one of them, she told the Daily Mail, “I always saw men in the leadership roles. I asked myself: “Why aren’t the women leading? I could lead that!” She met her now-husband, Edward Custodio, and had two children. 

Custodio applied to become an Air Force officer three times before she was accepted.

Credit: Olga Custodio / Facebook

“When my daughter was three years old, I had all the DoD regulations available to me,” Custodio told Fox. “I knew the rules and applied to be an officer for the third time.” Custodio brought her husband and marched into the Headquarters for the Air Force Military Personnel Center to apply to the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School. She was accepted. There, she talked to a sergeant who asked her to name three career choices she would like to have for herself. “I told him I would be a pilot, a pilot and a pilot,” she told Fox.

It took her two years of training to become the first Latina to complete the U.S. Air Force military pilot training program.

Credit: @JMA_Solutions / Twitter

She first had to complete the Flight Screening Pilot Officer Training program before she could enter the Officer Training School. There, she was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Finally, that qualified her for Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. A year later, she graduated, making her the first Latina to complete the U.S. Air Force military pilot training.

Her first assignment was also historic–she was the first female flight instructor at her base.

Credit: @NATCA / Twitter

At that base, she trained others to fly the Northrop T-38 Talon, which is a two-seat supersonic jet trainer. Custodio was actually awarded an Aviation Safety Award during her time as an instructor after she safely landed a plane that had been compromised after a bird flew into the jet’s engine during bad weather. 

Custodio served our country for 23 years and 10 months before retiring.

Credit: @SISOKlahoma / Twitter

She retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in October 2003, after spending the bulk of her career teaching others how to be effective Air Force pilots. Today, she says she flies for free and for fun. When her friends who own planes ask her to take them for a ride, she happily accepts.

“My mantra is ‘Querer es poder,'” she said.

Credit: @iamalatinogreek / Twitter

“I believe everyone has the potential to do it. They just have to believe in themselves enough to actually do it,” she tells Fox. She also said that she “was not out to prove anything.” She didn’t even know she was “the first anything.” She worked hard for herself and her family, and the accolades followed.

Today, she runs a documentary production company in San Antonio, Texas.

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She is also the Vice President of the Hispanic Association of Aviation and Aerospace Professionals (HAAAP). The organization takes young Latinos in the San Antonio area into the cockpit and into control towers to offer more opportunities for growth in the field. Oh, and she also directs a Puerto Rican folk dance group, just for fun.

READ: The First Latina In Space Wants To Use Her Experience To Produce More STEM Graduates