Things That Matter

10 Fun Ways Latinos Celebrate Navidad

As the holiday season approaches, Latino families are gearing up to celebrate Navidad in many festive ways. From dramatic light displays, to feasting on favorite recipes, Navidad is a time that community and tradition join together. Always the welcoming hosts, Latinos share their homes, exchange gifts and set off fireworks to light up the night in style. Parties erupt with laughter and music. Navidad celebrations even continue into the new year with unique ways to bring good luck. Here are 10 fun Latino traditions to help you celebrate Navidad from early December all the way through the first week of January. Felices Fiestas!

La Quema del Diablo and Dia De Las Velitas

Credit: Instagram @virgiliof97

Depending on the area you are from, Navidad celebrations can begin as early as the first week of December. In Venezuela there is a special feast on Saint Barbara’s day, December 4th. In Guatemala, La Quema del Diablo kicks off the Navidad season with huge bonfires at dusk to keep Satan away from the festivities to follow.

Credit: Instagram @lalitaspics

In Colombia, the first official Navidad celebration is December 7th on Dia De Las Velitas, or Day of the Little Candles. This public holiday includes lighting candles and lanterns to honor the Virgin Mary. 

Parrandas and Villancicos

Credit: Instagram @mandarinascaracas

Nobody loves spontaneous group singing like Latinos do! The 9 nights leading up to Navidad, gather la trulla and surprise your neighborhood with Parrandas or Villancicos, traditional carol-like songs. In Puerto Rico, groups walk through town singing along with instruments like the cuatro guitar, maracas and drums. 

Credit: Instagram @luckygette

This tradition is so fun, it’s not unheard of for the group to continue singing and growing larger as they travel through town well past midnight. Of course there’s plenty of food and drinks served along the way!

Posadas Navideñas

Credit: Instagram @petter_romero

In addition to parrandas, the 9 days leading up to Navidad also include Posadas Navidenas. Children love to dress up as Mary and Joseph and reenact the events leading up to the birth of Jesus by traveling throughout their neighborhood. 

Credit: Instagram @eddy18sb

The Posada group is “turned away” from the host the first 8 nights representing the struggles of Joseph and Mary looking for shelter. On the ninth night, the host lets them enter, and a celebration follows. If you’re looking for fun the days leading up to Navidad, Latino neighborhoods are definitely the place to be!

Nacimientos

Credit: Instagram @marysolmezabenitez

Nacimientos are Nativity scenes created to help decorate Latino homes during Navidad, featuring Joseph, Mary, the wise men and animals. Our family had a very modest nacimiento but some include extremely detailed designs. 

Credit: Instagram @desyart

The figure of baby Jesus isn’t added until the night of December 24th, celebrating his birth. 

Niño Dios or Papa Noel

Credit: Instagram @expomanualideas

Who needs Santa? While some Hispanic areas do acknowledge Papa Noel, many Latino children write special letters to Niño Dios, asking for presents each year. 

Credit: Instagram @martincarazomendez

It is far more common in the Latino culture for letters to be addressed directly to baby Jesus himself. With millions of excited niños waiting, that’s one busy baby each Navidad. 

Nochebuena

Credit: Instagram @aruthlessworld

Nochebuena is the main event for Latino Navidad celebrations. Families and friends gather together on December 24th for the ultimate evening of celebration. Gifts, sparklers and piñatas are all part of the fun. If your family is like mine, the heart of the evening will be sharing a delicious feast of favorite foods. Pasteles, lechon, roscas, creamy natilla and tamales are all favorites. My family  would hide an olive in the middle of each tamale to honor the Virgin Mary. 

Credit: Instagram @cesarledon

Of course no Navidad holiday would be complete without fireworks! And if you’re looking to add a little more spice to your evening, be sure it includes coquito; basically egg nog but better…think rum! Many families will wrap up their celebrations in time for the traditional Midnight Mass and then it’s back to la casa to open more presents! 

La Misa Del Gallo

Credit: Instagram @marthadillen

If you haven’t been to this special midnight Mass before, put it on your bucket list.  This Catholic tradition dates back centuries. Latinos across the world gather at their local church at midnight on December 24th, sharing in prayer and reflecting on the birth of Jesus.

Credit: Instagram @santuariodocarmo

I remember the last one I attended was so crowded with people you could barely see the front of the church, but it didn’t matter because just being a part of that moment felt amazing. 

Ano Viejo

Credit: Instagram @podroznik_tom

Navidad celebrations extend beyond Nochebuena for Latino families. A favorite tradition takes place on December 31st when Latinos create scarecrow type dolls or muñecas out of old clothes stuffed with grass. 

Credit: Instagram @mini.anoviejo

Symbolizing the year that is ending, the muñecas range from doll to life sized. On December 31st, light your doll on fire to represent the old year ending, adios!

Feliz Año Nuevo

Credit: Instagram @cisouspitchoune

Quickly eating a dozen grapes as the new year strikes is another fun Latino New Year tradition. Don’t forget to make a wish for each month as you gulp those grapes! 

Credit: Instagram @mynanigans

If you’re looking for good luck in the coming year, join other Latinos in wearing yellow underwear to bed, or choose the color red if you’d like a year full of love.

El Dia de los Reyes

Credit: Instagram @nanamyalis

Navidad celebrations usually wrap up with Dia de los Reyes on January 6th. This is the day of Epiphany, in honor of the three Kings who traveled to meet baby Jesus. If you weren’t one of the kids writing letters to baby Jesus or Santa, then you may remember leaving your hay-filled shoes out for the three Kings’ camels, hoping the Kings in turn would leave you a gift too.

Credit: Instagram @olivia.reyees

My favorite part of this day was enjoying the sweet bread Rosca de Reyes, although I never did find the small plastic baby Jesus hidden inside. 

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

Entertainment

America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

It has been 20 years since America Ferrera’s dream of becoming an actor back true. She took to Instagram to reflect on the moment that her dream started to come true and it is a sweet reminder that anyone can chase their dreams.

America Ferrera shared a sweet post reflecting on the 20th anniversary of working on “Gotta Kick It Up!”

“Gotta Kick It Up!” was one of the earliest examples of Latino representation so many of us remember. The movie follows a school dance team trying to be the very best they could possibly be. The team was down on their luck but a new teacher introduces them to a different kind of music to get them going again.

After being introduced to Latin beats, the dance team is renewed. It taps into a cultural moment for the Latinas on the team and the authenticity of the music makes their performances some of the best.

While the movie meant so much to Latino children seeing their culture represented for the first time, the work was a major moment for Ferrera. In the Instagram post, she gushes over the celebrities she saw on the lot she was working on. Of course, anyone would be excited to see Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt hanging out. Yet, what stands out the most is Ferrera’s own excitement to realize that she can make money doing what she loves most.

“I wish I could go back and tell this little baby America that the next 20 years of her life will be filled with unbelievable opportunity to express her talent and plenty of challenges that will allow her to grow into a person, actress, producer, director, activist that she is very proud and grateful to be. We did it baby girl. I’m proud of us,” Ferrera reflects.

Watch the trailer for “Gotta Kick It Up!” here.

READ: America Ferrera’s “Superstore” Is Going To Get A Spanish-Language Adaptation In A Win For Inclusion

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

Entertainment

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.

Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.

When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.

While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.

As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”

“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.

The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.

“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”

For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.

After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.

Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”

Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”

Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.

Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.

“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”

“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.

In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?

The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”

That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”

“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”

The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.

Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”

As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.

Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.

Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.

“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.

“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com