Located on the outskirts of Houston, Texas, Centro Islámico is a mosque unlike any others in the United States. Thanks to its largely Latino congregation, services at the mosque are conducted in Spanish. As the Los Angeles Times points out, both Muslims and Latinos have faced harsh political and religious scrutiny in the past, and this is why Houston’s Latino Muslim community has only further embraced their faith. Members of the mosque share stories about receiving the “stink-eye” from strangers, and they share their fears of the future. But they also turn to their faith to find the positive, seeing the negatives they face today as a chance to thrive.
As Bolivian Susan Barrientos told the Los Angeles Times, “For us, I think it’s helpful because it really changes your behavior in public because you want to represent Islam in the most positive way.”
The Los Angeles Times has just written an article that really captures both the highs and lows the members of Centro Islámico have faced since President Trump has come into office. As bad as it is today, they remember, it has been worse in the past.
Not everyone has the privilege of growing up surrounded by their cultura, with parents there to pass on knowledge of traditions and customs from home. That, combined with heavily opinionated internet trolls, has led to many people struggling to feel confident in their identity. In a digital world that tries to force us all to fit into boxes, what does “Latino enough” mean and how do you know if you’re there?
Recently, we asked our Instagram community “what does being Latino mean to you?” and although some responses had details in common, for the most part they were as unique as every member of the community itself. There is no one definition of Latinidad, and therefore there is no way to measure what exactly makes someone “Latino enough.”
We got the chance to talk to Alaina Castillo, musical artist and TikTok Queen, about how she identifies with Latinidad and what this TikTok video means to her.
What does being Latina mean to you?– mitú
“It means that I have something to identify with and be proud of because of my family members, my culture, and the things that I participate in as a Latina.” – A.C.
Side note, this was a personal reminder that we represent the community wherever we occupy space, whether we realize it or not. We are all participating in things as members of the community.
What’s something that, as a Latina, you are proud of?– mitú
“The strength and endurance that we have. I’ve seen it in my dad, his family, and so many others and it makes me feel proud as well as encouraged to achieve my goals with the same mindset as them.” – A.C.
While they may not be perfect (and let’s face it, who is?), our parents are the definition of hard working. Remembering that their blood runs through my veins always keeps me going when the going gets tough. Si se puede!
What Latino figures inspire you? – mitú
“Selena, even though she was an artist that I didn’t really grow up listening to. When I found out who she was, she was someone who I related to because she was a Mexican-American learning to speak and sing in Spanish, while breaking a lot of barriers that people had set up around her.” – A.C.
La Reina del Tex-Mex was a trailblazer indeed! Who else could forget Selena’s iconic “diecicuatro” blurb when she appeared in an interview with Cristina Saralegui? The important thing to focus on is that she was TRYING! As long as we’re all working on improving and being the best versions of ourselves, that’s the best we can do, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way.
Name one meal that, no matter where you have it, always reminds you of home. – mitú
“Homemade tamales!!!! 100%” – A.C.
You know we love some good tamales, so naturally our next question was…
Where is your family from? – mitú
“My dad is from Mexico and my mom is from Ohio.” – A.C.
Mmmm…Mexican tamales 😋
Have you ever been to those places? – mitú
“Yes, both places. I went to Mexico when I was really young, maybe about two times, and then I’ve traveled to Ohio on various occasions to see family. I was young each time I went to those places so they’re little memories I think of when I miss my family.” – A.C.
What would you say is the most “Latino” item in your home? – mitú
“We have these blankets from my grandma that I grew up using. I thought they were normal blankets but then I saw on social media that almost every Latino household has some and I was like hmmm, what do you know?” – A.C.
What would you say to people who think that not speaking Spanish makes you less Latino?– mitú
“I think it’d definitely be nice to know the language fluently but some people aren’t taught Spanish growing up and that’s not their fault. Not speaking the language doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same customs or should be rejected from the culture that their family is from. I decided to learn on my own because I’ve always been interested in Spanish, and also so I could speak with my family and I see that’s what a lot of other people are doing too.” – A.C.
One more time for the people in the back: not speaking Spanish doesn’t make you any less Latino.
How do you celebrate your Latinidad? – mitú
“With pride. I wouldn’t be who I am today without influences from my family so it’ll always be something I carry with me and proudly show throughout my life and career.” – A.C.
What do you hope people take away from this trend? – mitú
“That Latinidad is something you’re born with and it can’t ever be taken away from you,” – A.C.
So forget about the opinions of other people! All they’re doing is projecting their beliefs onto you and that is not an actual reflection of who you are. We hope you are inspired to embrace your Latinidad on your own terms, and that you walk more confidently in your identity. So duet us on TikTok and don’t forget to use the hashtag #AreYouLatinoEnough to join in on the fun!
Did we mention quarantine has not stopped Alaina Castillo from dropping new music? Check out her latest single, “tonight,” below!
In a story that’s becoming all too familiar amid the global Coronavirus pandemic, one man’s taco truck was on the brink of going out of business.
Many small business owners throughout the country continue to struggle through the pandemic. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, more than 100,000 small businesses have not survived – and that number is on the rise.
However, one woman came up with an idea to help her father’s Houston-based taco truck and thankfully for them – and us (we all could use some good news right now!) the idea has seemed to work. Proving that the phrase “Hey Twitter!!” might just save the economy — one taco truck at a time.
It all started with a Tweet that ended up saving one man’s business.
One daughter, who was trying to help us her father’s struggling taco truck, turned to Twitter for help. And it delivered better-than-hoped-for results for Elias Aviles after his daughter, 21-year-old Giselle Aviles, posted a simple plea after learning that her hardworking father had made just $6 in a day, his business slammed by the pandemic.
“Hey Twitter!!” she tweeted of her dad’s Houston-area business, Taqueria El Torito. “I wouldn’t normally do this, but my dad’s taco truck business is struggling. He only sold $6 today. If you could retweet, I would appreciate you so much!!”
Thanks to Twitter, they could — and so could thousands of others. In fact so many people streamed in — he found people waiting when he arrived to open up at 8 a.m. the next day, on a line that had started forming at 6 a.m. — that he had to close down twice, once to restock and again when he simply ran out of product, CNN reported.
Gisele knew she had to do something to help out her father – who had put six years of his life into the taco truck.
Thanks to the Coronavirus, things have been tough for Elias Aviles and his truck, Taqueria El Torito. Some days earnings have been as low as $60, sometimes even just $20.
But one day he earned just $6 for a full 12-hour shift, and his daughter was shocked into action. She told CNN, “I just said well we have nothing to lose and I decided to make the tweet that day.”
Her plea to the world worked. Her Tweet has since been retweeted more than 10,000 times and has 9,800 likes.
But neither of them were prepared for just how much of an effect the Tweet would have.
Although Gisele admits she did warn her father to get ready for some new customers, nothing could of prepared her for the magnitude of support from the community.
By 8 a.m. the next day, Elias had a line of customers waiting for his fresh tortas Cubanas—and some had been waiting there since six in the morning. It was such a busy period that Elias even had to close the truck for a short while in order to restock. Luckily, Giselle was able to help out with orders that day.
During her Monday shift, Giselle estimated that more than a hundred customers came through for Mexican specialties.
“I’m so moved because finally people know that his food is good,” Giselle told KHOU. “There were so many people, and [my dad] was kind of shocked because he didn’t think there would be a turn around that quickly.”
Gisele has since helped modernize her father’s business by helping him setup an Instagram account.
She told KHOU, “I’m so moved because finally people know that his food is good. There were so many people, and [my dad] was kind of shocked because he didn’t think there would be a turn around that quickly.”
The string under her original tweet lists a photo array of offerings so mouthwatering that people from around the U.S. are offering to contribute. One commenter even offered to buy out his entire truck to feed a hospital staff.